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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Ghosts In My Home Game

A few months back I posted about the origins of various monsters in my home setting. For ghosts I gave the following:

Ghosts are the psychic imprints of the dead, the personalities and consciousnesses of creatures the deceased given an incorporeal form and magical abilities. Some believe that only certain people possess the psychic capability become ghosts after death, while others believe that anyone who dies with enough emotional energy can come back as a spirit. Still others believe that ghosts are not human at all, and are simply demons hijacking the psychic energies of a deceased person to manifest themselves on earth.
But what traits do ghosts have, really? I absolutely don't agree with D&D's traditional interpretation of ghosts, as 10 HD powerhouses that are most easily able to be slain by phasing into the ethereal plane, and whose principal attack either takes away agency from a player (magic jar) or has a neat effect but no real explanation as to what it does (aging the character 10-40 years).

I like simple monsters, at least from a mechanical standpoint, and to me, a ghost should be no different. Sure, a ghost will have some special abilities seeing as it is the quasi-physical shadow of a dead human being, possibly being used by a demon as a vessel, but its attacks will still do damage, and it will still be able to be harmed (though magical weapons are required).

A typical ghost might have the following stats:
HD 5
AC light + shield
ATK 3
DMG 1d6+1

More importantly is the following; all ghosts should be a little different. One ghost, for example, may have the weakness that if their bones are found and given proper burial rights, the monster is dispelled, while another may only be put to rest if immersed in running water.

Generally, however, ghosts should be incorporeal, allowing them to walk through walls and take no damage from non-magical means, as well as turn invisible at will. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.

Here are some d6 tables to help come up with a ghost:

How Does The Ghost Attack?

  1. Cuts are formed in the flesh of its victim without any logical reason behind it.
  2. The victim is frozen to death, suffering from acute frostbite on parts of their body in the shape of hand marks.
  3. The victim is burned to death, with scorch marks appearing on parts of their body in the shape of hand marks.
  4. Nearby objects are hurled at the victim at high velocity.
  5. Blood simply disappears from the victim's veins, causing them to feel tired and light headed before eventually dying.
  6. The victim appears to visibly age.
What Does The Ghost Look Like?
  1. Like a corporeal image of what the ghost looked like immediately after death.
  2. A translucent image of what the ghost looked like immediately after death.
  3. A hideously distorted version of what the ghost looked like in life.
  4. An amorphous, sheet-like entity that drifts as if it is submerged in water.
  5. A vague, glowing outline of a person.
  6. Nothing, the ghost is always completely invisible.

What Can The Ghost Do?
  1. Give its victims hallucinations.
  2. Paralyze its victims with its gaze.
  3. Teleport short distances.
  4. Cause small fires to start.
  5. Control peoples' bodies whilst they sleep.
  6. Communicate telepathically.

What Is The Ghost's Weakness?

     1-2. It must haunt a specific person, and can only act within a 1 mile radius of them.
     3-4. It can only haunt a specific location, and cannot leave the area.


     5-6. It can only manifest at a certain time or day.

How Can It Be Dispelled?
  1. By giving the ghost's corpse proper burial rites.
  2. By immersing the ghost in running water.
  3. Prove to the ghost that it is dead.
  4. Perform a costly and dangerous ritual.
  5. Take a large amount of hallucinogenic drugs and combat the ghost on a different plane of existence.
  6. Fulfill a task that the ghost wants, but cannot directly state.

Using these tables, here is an example:

This is the ghost of a man named Henry Rice, who died in a fire. Its attacks cause the flesh of his victims to be scorched and burned. It appears as an amorphous sheet-like mass, and communicates telepathically. It can only manifest at night, and the only way to dispel it without killing it through magic is to prove to the ghost that it is really dead.

Happy haunting!

Some Inspirational Illustrations From The Compendium Of Demonology And Magic

The Compendium Of Demonology And Magic, or, to give its proper latin name, Compendium Rarissimum Totius Artis Magicae Sistematisatae per Celeberrimos Artis Hujus Magistros, which loosely translates to A Rare Summary of the Entire Magical Art by the Most Famous Masters of this Art*, was a book published by an unknown author at some point around 1775 (though the book claims to be much older). While I don't speak latin or German, and therefore I am unable to read the text, I am able to appreciate the excellent watercolor illustrations contained within.

The copy I downloaded was from Holybooks.com, which is a very good source for grimoires and other occult texts if you are on the lookout for them.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite illustrations from the tome, along with possible applications for use with D&D.


I wanted to point this one out for I believe it depicts sinners being destroyed by the wrath of God, here represented by a triangle (presumably representing the trinity) with the tetragrammaton written within it (YHWY, a 4 letter name of God written in the Torah). This use of symbolism to represent a deity is much more interesting than, say, Jesus or some bearded white man in robes, and I could see potential in depicting a cleric's deity in this way, rather than through a more humanoid avatar.


Protective circles against summoned demons are a very interesting concept, and the story I interpreted from this picture is that the 3 men have hung someone to summon a demon, which the central man in the blue robes is fending off while trying to bind the fiend or dismiss it.


This image just screamed out "botched polymorph", and I love it. Can you imagine the party wandering the wilderness, only to encounter this strange beast, and then discovering that the creature was once a human being?


I love me a good grim reaper, and this one certainly fits the bill. I especially like how tired and emaciated the horse looks, as though it is literally and metaphorically near death. Alternatively; skeletal warrior riding a zombie horse.


I don't know who are what this demon is supposed to be but something about it just screams orc to me. I love it


My immediate thought when seeing this was "Chaos vs. Law", and the idea of using a black triangle to represent chaos and demons, and a blue pentagram to represent the natural order.


This is what a magic-user should look like. Also, I find his skull and crossbones pajamas hilarious.


And, finally, as a bonus, here are the sigils of some angels.

If you would like to check out this tome for yourself, here is a link. I hope you enjoyed!

*Source: https://horrorpedia.com/2017/12/10/the-compendium-of-demonology-and-magic-book-1775-guide-to-demons/

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Some Items From Heretic

Heretic is a nice little first person shooter released in 1994, essentially a fantasy version of Doom. Though the gameplay isn't anything particularly innovative beyond what Doom had already achieved, it did add a number of magical items for the player to use. I've picked a handful of my favorites to be used for old school games, and detailed them below. I hope you enjoy!

[Note: For the interests of good gameplay, these items may be slightly modified from their original depiction in Heretic. All images from doom.fandom.com]

Morph Ovum
The Morph Ovum appears to be a large egg, crackling with green energy. When broken, 1d6 enemies within line of sight of the person who broke it must make a saving throw or turn into a chicken (HD 1 point, AC unarmored, ATK 1 bite, DMG 1 point). Creatures with 5 HD or more cannot be transformed in this manner, but instead take 1d6 damage from feathers bursting out of their skin.

Chaos Device
The Chaos Device is a small sphere with the star of chaos inscribed upon it in lines of red energy. If the star is pressed upon, anyone touching the device is instantly transported to the safest area within 1 mile of their original position, and the Chaos Device disappears. 

Mystic Urn
As a small clay pot full of dust with an ankh molded onto it, the Mystic Urn does not initially appear to be very powerful. However, when the dust is poured out onto the hand of the user, a wave of healing energy washes over them, restoring the user to their maximum possible HP as the pot crumbles to dust. This dust can even be used on the recently dead, provided they have only been deceased for 5 minutes or less.

Tome Of Power
If anyone who can practice magic opens this leather-bound book and reads even a word of its contents, they instantly and completely understand the true nature of the arcane, and are immediately a master of spell-casting (though the book immediately bursts into flames and crumbles to ash). Every spell cast within the next 1d3 minutes after reading the book work perfectly. If any saving throws are required by the target, they fail, if any dice are needed to determine the length of the effect or damage dealt, they are automatically assumed to be the maximum roll possible. However, the memory of the Tome fades fast, and after these 1d3 minutes, the power ends. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Zachariah Clement: Vampire (A Hunter And Adventure Seed For Survival Horror Scenarios)


(Kurt Barlow from the 1979 adaptation of Salem's Lot)

During the American revolutionary war, something inhuman scourged the countryside of New England, taking advantage of the chaos to do some killing of its own. Bodies were found, drained of blood, floating through the rivers of Massachusets, Conneticut, and Rhode Island. At first, the killings went unnoticed, but after the war ended, people began to notice the strange murders.

A small cabal of wizards, sorcerers, and other occultists deduced that the killer must be something other than a human being, and tracked down the monster to its lair in the hills, finding that the vampire was one Zachariah Clement, a merchant who had gone missing some 10 years prior. During the ensuing battle, the occultists were unable to kill the unholy creature, which slew half of their party. However, they were able to seal the monster in a well in the basement of the abandoned farm-house it lived in. Zachariah remained imprisoned there for over 200 years.

However, recent construction work and renovation of the area into national park and campground has resulted in the old farm house being turned into a visitor center, and in the process, Zachariah has escaped.

Zachariah Clement is an emaciated and nearly feral vampire, desperately hungry after over 200 years of isolation. He has pallid skin like that of a corpse, and moves stiffly yet quickly, like a marionette. His teeth are sharpened and elongated, like needles, and his eyes glow yellow in darkness. He has no hair, and his body is cold to the touch. If he chooses to talk, his voice is hoarse and soft, and he speaks using colonial era English. He wears tattered colonial clothing.

Zachariah Clement
HP: 48 (4 for every hit die the players have as a whole)
AC: unarmored
ATK: 1 weapon or bite
DMG: weapon damage +2 or 1d6+1
Special

  • Zachariah's bite causes him to heal hit points equal to the damage he deals. 
  • He may climb on the walls and ceiling like a spider. 
  • Zachariah cannot be harmed by any non-silver weapons, though fire can burn him. 
  • He can smell blood and hear the pulsing of human hearts, and knows if there is a living human being within 1000 feet of him at all times.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Is Doom A Megadungeon?



For those of you who don't know the rich backstory of the Doom franchise, let me catch you up on some of the lore;

  • There are demons
  • You have guns
  • Bullets + Demons = Dead Demons
  • Repeat
The main gameplay loop of doom is as follows;
  • Arrive at a level
  • Try to find a way to the next level
  • Find keys, avoid traps, and kill monsters to successfully reach the next level to continue the game
Does this sound familiar? It seems awfully close to a standard dungeon crawl, minus the treasure of course. "Treasure" in Doom is mostly ammunition, health kits, armor, and power-ups. In addition, there is no gaining levels, and you can respawn at the start of a level when you die. But at its core, Doom has the makings of a megadungeon game.

Lets take a look at one of the maps for Doom


This is The Hangar, the first level of the game. Its a little hard to read what is there, just from the map to the untrained eye, but it contains 2 traps (pools of acid), 3 secret doors, and some combat encounters, along with "treasure" in the form of ammo, health, a shotgun, and armor.

If I wanted to, I could modify this to fit a fantasy setting and run it as the entrance to a demonic temple. The monsters in this level are possessed soldiers (zombiemen), and spiky demons that shoot fireballs (imps). If I just change the soldiers' equipment to be leather armor and swords instead of rifles and a combat vest, suddenly they could easily be zombie guards animated by the demon cult to protect their secrets. The shotgun could just be a magic item of some sort, such as a wand of magic missile.

And now, here is a list of reasons why Doom might not be a megadungeon:
  • No role-playing whatsoever, with no NPCs (this changes in Doom 3 and Doom 2016 to a certain extent, as well as the two Doom RPGs for mobile devices)
  • The player character grows more powerful through acquiring items, not upgrades to health and attacking.
  • The player character cannot leave the "dungeon", rest in town, and come back later. 
  • You can't pay hirelings to accompany you to act as meat shields.
To finish off this mess of a post, here are some demons from Doom (and Doom 2) converted to my house rules (Images taken from doomwiki.org):

Imp 
HD 1
AC light
ATK 1 claw or 1 fireball
DMG 1d6+1 or 1d6
HDE 1

Imps are brown, furry humanoids with bony spikes protruding from their bodies. They may shoot small fireballs as projectiles, but prefer to tear their victims apart with their claws.


Pinky/Spectres
HD 3
AC medium/heavy with shield
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6+2
HDE 3/4

Named for their skin color, pinkies are violent, gorilla-like demons with a maw of sharp teeth. Some pinkies have evolved to be transparent, resulting in a higher armor class and the ability to hide in darkness without being noticed 5 out of 6 times. These nearly-invisible pinkies are called spectres.


Lost Soul
HD 1
AC medium
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6
HDE 1

These lesser demons are large, flying skulls with horns that are on fire. They are not particularly intelligent, and some believe this is what happens to the souls of sinners after the demons torture them over the centuries. 

Pain Elemental
HD 5
AC heavy
ATK none
DMG none
HDE 10
Special: Each round, a Pain Elemental may vomit up one Lost Soul, which may make its action immediately after the Pain Elemental. If killed, a Pain Elemental explodes into a group of 1d6 Lost Souls.

These demons take the form of one eyed, brown orbs with tiny vestigial arms. Their mouth can unhinge, allowing them to disgorge Lost Souls at will. It is thought that Pain Elementals act as living portals to Hell.


Archvile
HD 7
AC heavy
ATK 1 flaming gaze (automatically hits as long as the target is within line of sight)
DMG 1d6+2
HDE 10
Special: Each round, an Archvile can choose to restore a dead demon within melee range of it back to life (with full HP restored) instead of attacking.

The archviles are foul demonic necromancers, capable of bringing their fallen allies back from the dead. Their very gaze can set their victims on fire.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Stimulated (A Hunter For Survival Horror Scenarios)

"If you are not very careful 

Your possessions will possess you
TV taught me how to feel
Now real life has no appeal 


It has no appeal 

It has no appeal 
It has no appeal 
It has no appeal 
It has no appeal 


I know exactly what I want and who I want to be 

I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine 

I'm now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy 
Oh, oh no, oh no, oh no"

 -"Oh No", by Marina and the Diamonds
Goons with probes inserted into their pleasure centers; wired up so when they kill someone, they get paroxysms of ecstasy. In essence, customized serial killers.
-Quake Instruction Manual 

It stands at around 8 feet tall, with muscles grown unnaturally large due to steroid use. Metal cords like ropes of steel stick out of the thing's flesh. Covering its eyes is a bulky VR headset, with a small camera mounted above. The ears are covered by cubes of black plastic.

It was human once, a young man who spent most of his life staring at a screen, ears plugged up with headphones to blot out the world around him. His parents didn't know what to do, and when they found the ad talking about a summer camp for curing video game addiction, they jumped at the chance to get their son back to them. So they sent him away. He never came back.

The camp was a front for a cult, one that worshiped the union of technology and flesh. They were searching for a suitable subject to turn into the ultimate super soldier, a being that is half-human, half-machine, and for whom bringing death and destruction causes pleasure and joy. The young man was promised an eternity of fun and leisure, free from responsibility and worry, just endless fragging. Of course, he accepted. He didn't know the killing would be real.

After the injections, the surgery, the augmentation, there was barely anything left of the man. All it knows now is the joy of destruction, free from inhibition and remorse. As far as it knows, its just playing a very realistic, very fun game. And the player characters are the monsters it has to kill to get to the next level.


(Taken from Terminator 2)

The Stimulated
HP: 36 (3 for every hit die the players have as a whole)
AC: Heavy
ATK: 1 Fist or Melee Weapon
DMG: 2d6
Special: Every time the Stimulated kills a character, the massive amount of endorphins and dopamine produced results in it regaining 1d6 HP. In addition, the Stimulated can see perfectly in the dark due to its augmented camera for an eye.

If the Stimulated's VR headset is somehow removed (it is surgically implanted, so this will take some doing), it will realize what it has done. If this happens, there is a 3 in 6 chance it will go on a berserk rampage before committing suicide, otherwise it will immediately die from shock.


(My attempt at making the Stimulated using Heroforge)

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Basement (A Level 3 Raven Hill Dungeon)



Background

It is assumed that the party is trying to get out of Raven Hill. Somehow, they have figured out that in order to escape the cursed town, they need to drink an odd potion. After much other exploring, they discovered that the location of this potion is the basement of a crumbling old house. If the house is explored, it is bare and empty, with nothing interesting save for some claw marks and blood stains. There are stairs leading down into the basement, where the true adventure begins.

The Fogworld/Otherworld

When the party first finds the key in room 8, the world rapidly transforms from the Fogworld to the Otherworld. It only will change back after they grab the potion in room 10's Otherworld.

Dungeon Key (Fogworld)

1. Basement Entrance
Creaky wooden stairs lead down into a dirty, damp room. There are some sacks lying on the floor.
The sacks are filled with crude stuffed animals, all without eyes.

2. Wine Casks
A half dozen sealed barrels of wine lie in the southeast corner of the room.
The wine tastes sour, and has a blackish coloration. Anyone who drinks any of it, even a taste, must make a saving throw or take 3d6 damage due to the poison.

3. Wine Casks, Continued
More barrels lie in this room, but these ones are empty and unsealed, except for one.
The sealed barrel contains the corpse of a Satyr (see bestiary).

4. Jars Of Preserved Food
Shelves line the eastern wall, covered with murky jars. They seem to contain fruit preserves.
Wet footprints lead north.

5. Sleeping Quarters
A couple beds lie against the walls in this room, but the more pressing feature of this room are the 4 headless monsters standing stock-still in the room's center.
4 satyrs (see bestiary) are here, and will attack as soon as the party enters.

6. Corpses In Sacks
There is a pile of canvas sacks in the room's center, with unpleasantly humanoid outlines.
If an attempt is made to cut the sacks open (there doesn't seem to be any way to untie the sacks), blood will leak out, and the sack will begin wiggling and making faint squeaking noises.

7. Cesspit
A stinking pit full of old human waste is the main feature of the room. There is a wooden walkway that leads across the pit, or one could walk along the side of it to reach the door at the end of the room.
If one tries to walk along the side of the pit, they must make a saving throw or fall in. This isn't dangerous, just smelly, unless the person who falls in is carrying a torch, in which case everyone in the room immediately takes 2d6 damage from the ensuing fireball caused by the pit's noxious gases.

8. Empty Cages
Cages of all kinds hang from the ceiling and rest on the floor. 2 of the cages appear to be large enough for humans. 
In one of the hanging cages is a silver key. If picked up, the dungeon transitions into its Otherworld form.

9. Storage Crates
Boxes are piled high, some nearly touching the ceiling. The room is practically a maze of wooden cubes.
A note can be found among the boxes, reading; "Don't look away from them, I've cut out my eyelids so they can't hurt me, but they're starting to dry out, please forgive me". 

10. Well
[Note: Both entrances to this room are locked and require the key from room 8]
There is a well in the room's center, crumbling and old. It appears to be long since dried up.
There is an inscription on the well that reads "The caged key unlocks the truth of the well".

Dungeon Key (Otherworld)

1. No Stairs
The stairs to the outside world have ceased to exist. It is clear the Otherworld doesn't want you to leave.
The stairs are gone, ad won't reappear until the party are out of the Otherworld.

2. Scattered Wood And 4 Armed Men
2 bizarre, headless humanoids with 4 arms are frozen in place, their forms in a parody of dance. Pieces of wood and sawdust cover the floor.
Two 4 armed men (see bestiary) attack when the party enters.

3. Giant Centipede
You see something slither in the darkness, and hear a sound like tap dancing. Whatever it is, it appears to be hiding behind some barrels.
The giant centipede (see bestiary) hides behind some wine casks, waiting for prey to move closer.

4. Crumbling Floor And Writhing Things In Jars
The floor is made up of rusted grates, and below is nothing but a black void. Some jars on shelves on the eastern wall contain writhing, malformed fetuses.
Crossing the floor requires a saving throw, otherwise the floor gives way. An additional saving throw is allowed to catch oneself and avoid falling. If this saving throw is failed, the player character is never seen again, lost to the void.

5. Satyrs And A 4 Armed Man
Lying on the beds in this room are 3 headless humanoids, one of which has 4 arms.
2 satyrs and a 4 armed man (see bestiary) pretend to sleep in this room, waiting for characters to get close so they can strike.

6. Satyrs In Sacks
A pile of sacks is in the center of the room, 4 of them writhe as if alive.
4 satyrs are in the cloth sacks, visibly moving since they cannot be directly seen beneath the canvas. They will break out and attack in 1d3 rounds after the party enters.

7. Spiked Pit
A deep pit full of rusted, blood-covered spikes dominates the room. The door out is at the other end of the pit.
If one wants to skirt around the edge of the pit to get out of the room, they must make a saving throw to avoid falling down. Anyone who falls into the pit will take 3d6 damage.

8. Occupied Cages
[Note: the door leading south becomes locked as soon as the dungeon transitions to the Otherworld]
Two 4 armed, headless creatures are now in the human-sized cages. They don't appear to move.
The two 4 armed men (see bestiary) will open their cages and attack as soon as the party doesn't think they are a threat, or they are attacked.

9. Lidless Corpse
Piles of blood covered boxes fill the room. Among the wooden crates is a corpse, horribly clawed, with shredded clothing and exposed bones.
If the corpse is examined, one can tell it has no eyelids.

10. Well With Potion (empty)
[Note: Both entrances to this room are locked and require the key from room 8]
There is a well in the room's center, filled with dirt. On top of the dirt is a wine bottle, full of a red fluid.
The potion contains enough for the whole party to have a dose. Drinking the potion removes all guilt and remorse from the person, forever. They will never be able to feel bad about what they do. This breaks Raven Hill's hold on them, and returns them to the real world, where they can escape.

Bestiary


Satyrs
HD 3
AC Light + Shield
ATK 1 claw attack
DMG 1d6
HDE 3

The "satyrs" are headless, rubbery humanoids with goat-like legs. Their bodies are covered with disgusting pustules, which pop instantly when struck. It never seems to move, it just suddenly is somewhere else, your eyes seeming to look away from it against your will. They make no sounds, even as you cut them down, all you hear is the ringing in your ears.

4 Armed Men 
HD 6
AC Light + Shield
ATK 2 claw attacks
DMG 1d6+1
HDE 6

These creatures, like the satyrs, are rubbery humanoids that lack heads. They have an extra set of arms extending from their shoulders in addition to the first, and their bodies are covered in wet lips, out of which continuously slither long, serpent-like tongues. The sound of an infant crying fills the air near these creatures, along with the ringing that all of Raven Hill's monsters emit. Like the satyrs, they don't seem to move, you just involuntarily look away and suddenly they're somewhere else.

Giant Centipede
HD 8
AC Medium + Shield
ATK 1 "bite"
DMG 1d6+2 + saving throw or take 3d6 additional damage due to venom
HDE 12

The giant centipede regenerates 1d3 HP each turn unless burned.

This giant centipede has rubbery human-like flesh, and its legs end in bleeding stumps. Infantile human hands grow from the beast's back, twitching and grasping at nothing. Despite its horrifically disfigured limbs, it moves like a ballerina, dancing and spiraling gracefully. It has no mouth, yet somehow it manages to bite, making a wet slapping sound as it does so.