Friday, January 31, 2014

Random Dungeon Generator Woes

After a long week of back breaking labor I was inspired to do some mapping to ease up, relieve some tension and get the creative juices flowing.  I busted out the Random Dungeon Generator Poster by Paul Hughes and got to work.  After a series of unfortunate rolls over the course of an hour I ended up with a very small, very empty dungeon.  After the initial onset of giant rats players can expect to run down a number of dead ends, find no secret doors, walk down an empty hall of giants leading into an equally empty room and one day encounter a fire beetle the treasure chamber.  Inside they can look forward to 100 pp, 1000 copper in metal urns and treasure chests guarded by a gas trap and a poisonous needle.

For anyone else planning on following the Random Dungeon Generator Poster I recommend you avoid starting near an edge of the page.  If you end up unlucky like me start rolling a few d20 at each junction and pick a result that doesn't result in a completely barren dungeon.  Next time I think I'll handle the layout and let the poster determine the contents.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Avatars & Annihilation: Introduction

Precursors and Avatars

Where are we?
We are in the aether between worlds and ages. The world went dark and everything you know has faded away. Your world was destroyed. You have failed.
Who am I?
You are a Precursor.
What is an Precursor?
You are the spirit of a past age. When the world needed you most you failed. With the Will to Power in hand you could not avert the catastrophe that devoured your world. Time passed and the world has come calling again. It is up to you to prevent that from happening again.
How can I do that?
Find a worthy mortal vessel to be the host for your restless spirit. You will inspire them to new heights, to succeed where many fail. They will be your Avatar and together amidst the strife of ages and the nihilistic populace you will stop this cycle of annihilation.
And if I fail?
Then the cycle repeats itself. Across dimensions the multitude of worlds are heading to a singularity of nothingness. A void across space and time. We are approaching the final cycles.
And who are you?
I am the Grand Maestro, the events are all in place as I have dreamed, I merely set them in motion. One domino at a time. That is my purpose, an impartial referee with the hope that something here will last.

Atma and Mortality

Much of the world is populated by mortals, as you once were. When a Mortal becomes your vessel you become one. No longer are you adrift in the sea of Aether, instead you may perceive the world as you once did. You and your mortal have the power to change things, together, as an Avatar.

Atma is within each mortal, it is the purest expression of self and soul. For a Mortal to become a Precursor’s Avatar one of three things must happen. In the first the Precursor appears to them in a dream; hearing their plight the mortal's heroic soul wishes to avert the cataclysm poised to annihilate their world and so the two join forces. In the second case the mortal ally of an Avatar has died and a Precursor may replace the mortal's Atma with themselves giving new life to a fallen friend and forming a new Avatar, albeit one with a melded personality. Should the unthinkable happen and your Avatar dies you must find a new vessel using the above methods.

The third transformation is most abhorrent; the mortal’s Atma is subverted or worse, destroyed as the Precursor steals their vessel. Only one devoted to nihilism can do this, these Precursors are called Annihilators. For what purpose they act is beyond my breadth of knowledge but know that at one point you will encounter them. Avatar’s know when they have met one another after they have crossed blades, but an Annihilator never reveals their true form until it is too late. The Avatar’s around the table today are to be trusted but be wary of those you meet in your travels. Treachery hides behind false friends.

Avatar's & Annihilation R&D Update: January 2014

January is coming to a close so it's time for me to assess how much I've accomplished in the limited time I have remaining.  This proved to be a hectic month for me, work hit crunch time and my project came into full focus with an encroaching deadline and fixing the many mistakes and delays of people who have dropped the ball once or thrice.  Design engineer, project manager, facilities engineer, security planning, I'm wearing a lot of hats right now but I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Unfortunately, 11 hour days, being on call throughout most the night and generally busting my ass at work and maintaining my relationships doesn't leave me a whole lot of time.  One of the things I wanted to do to keep myself on track was to finish up the spell list which had been a perpetual thorn in my side for quite some time.  Expect a post explaining spell casting soon.  Creating rather than editing really enlivened me and has given me some semblance of hope that I'll get this done on time.  Well, I have faith in my layout editor, we'll see what he comes up with.

In the follow-up post to this I'll be putting up an excerpt from the books Introduction explaining the name of this book patterned after numerous other retroclones that came before it.

A&A School of Magic: Witchcraft


Witches and Witchcraft are a staple of fantasy literature and idioms.  When making a spell list for Witchcraft I took it as an opportunity to consolidate numerous silly and unfortunate spells as well as a few that were extremely detrimental to whoever they were targeting.  Debilitation whether it be physical or social were given high priority.
Future Spells: Hobart's Interminable Hunger, Eyes of the Beholder, Dodon's Complete Lacking Verve

  • Hollis’ Redolent Trick
    • This trickery makes the target smell of a particular food.  Whether that food is appetizing or not towards the nearest predator is entirely up to the caster.  If it backfires the caster is infused with the aroma for the next week. 
  • The Spell of Transient Gills
    • Gills spring up on the target's neck allowing them breathe freely underwater.  Frog suit is optional.  Outside of water the target has difficultly breathing air and will begin suffocating.  Fortunately the spell only persists longer than a minute when fully immersed in water.
  • Feldoon’s Added Hump
    • Eccentricities abound in Feldoon's collection of scrawled scrolls.  This spell gives the caster a camel's hump to store water.  With the added hump even the desert of death can be crossed.  If fortune is on your side that is.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A&A School of Magic: Chronomancy

Poster Punch: Chrono Trigger by ZeroCartin

Time travel is a fun concept but often a difficult one to wrap your head around.  Still there are many avenues to approach when dealing with the flow of time.  There are several spells that already deal with time, haste, slow, time stop and similar but I wanted to look at different ways of altering time.  Borrowing time, altering one's perception of the flow of time, altering times lines, reversing aging, tearing the space time continuum and creating time paradoxes.  All of that within reason of course.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A&A School of Magic Illusion


This impeccable picture fits almost all these spells
Conceptually illusionist are one of my top favorite classes.  When it comes to playing one, or even worse running one, I find them very worrisome.  Illusions have the unchecked power of imagination.  Most standard illusion spells are pretty free form and can do or create almost anything.  The limiting factors are how far the DM is willing to let you go and any constraints (if any) imposed in the spell description.  Rather than add some more freeform "it's your problem DM" spells I decided to keep things in line with the rest of my design ethos.  Spells are for niche areas or very specific effects based on their name.  Below you'll find a number of illusions, glamours, nightmares and phantasms to stoke the imagination without giving your DM a headache.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A&A School of Magic: Conjuration

Atomic Breath by Tankor89

Conjuration didn't so much as change with each new source of inspiration but instead grew and grew until my vision of it changed with it.  I didn't care much for conjuring forth damaging dealing arrows of various elements, in fact you may have noticed that spells in general have shied away from damage dealing.  Spells are as fantastic as they are useful but their use in the art of killing has rarely been pioneered.  They may be defensive but wizards in their ivory towers crafting their arcanum still cling to highbrowed notions such as pacifism and force when necessary.  Some of course are more sinister than others but few deal with outright death rays.  Besides with Conjuration you can call a creature to do that for you.

Conjuration started off with a lot of spells meant for utility.  You would likely keep little on hand if you could conjure forth anything or perhaps you'd conjure something to find what you're looking for.  It's also meant to provide for situations where in ordinary circumstances you would simply not have and item or enough of something.  Further down the line I really took to the idea of summoning forth traps rather my previously held to beliefs that Wizards somehow had enough mechanical aptitude to install their own traps or the lack of foresight to hire someone else to do it.  Another thing I wanted to explore was that in addition to summoning forth creatures a magic-user could summon a spirit into inanimate objects which you'll see in the Marionettes below and a beloved spell Chiseled Champion that didn't make the 5 only Lesser spell cut.  Lastly I needed to address the iconic Magic Missile.  In my system HP is extremely limited, three six sided dice maximum in order to recreate the feel of your favorite Samurai film.  This means that a spell that unerringly deals an automatic d6+1 at a minimum is quite powerful and often lethal spell to someone with only 3d6 for hit points.  So Magic Missile is now a most formidable spell with added decimation ability.  Forgive my long-winded devdiary here are the spells I promised.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A&A School of Magic: Transmutation


Super Science in your School of Magic

When I was devising spell lists I wanted to keep Enchantment and Transmutation very distinct from one another.  I decided that Transmutation would mean physical alterations whereas Enchantment would deal more with stupendous changes often affecting the target's mind while trying to avoid stepping on the toes of PSI.  Canopied Caboose is levitation whereas Whimsied Flight involves a change in density.  The spells below for the most part deal with changing an objects physical parameters, volume, density, viscosity, and in the case of Vaporize and Disintegration we're dealing with localized high speed energy deposition blast waves and atomic fission.  Super Science in your school of magic.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A&A School of Magic: Enchantment



  • Miere’s Assuaging Effulgence
    • A simple cantrip from one of the first magicians, although many will say she did naught but dabble.  This spell grants a soothing glow when those around are most anxious.  A fail-safe for when sudden winds blow out your torch or when the sun fearing beasts of the Wyld are upon your trail.
      In recent years many an unscrupulous Wizard have adapted what was once a pristine spell into a trifling set of mood lighting.  The old farmer's adage still holds true today, never leave your daughter round any that don a robe and wizard hat.
  • Dodon’s Curious Guiding Somnambulism (Concentration)
    • This spell allows the caster to take guide the movement of any sleeping, upright target.  If the spell backfires the caster is trapped in the subjects dream until they lead them out of it.
  • Dyne’s Canopied Caboose (Concentration)
    • While developing his repulsive field Dyne spent a great deal of time on levitation endurance training with a linguistically backwards goblin riding on his back. Able to maintain this levitation for long periods of time he adapted it into carrying his otherwise burdensome belongings behind him and well out of reach of most.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A&A School of Magic: Warding

Spells of Warding

Spells to protect seekers of arcane knowledge and mystical secrets.  They allow one to pass by unhindered through realms both physical and mental.  They confer protection from both spell and steel.  They are traps for the foolish and glyphs that strip the potency of the even the most fearsome foe.  They require preparation and foresight but their benefits are worth the planning.

Arya Burrito by Ybee

  • Burrito Bedroll                                                    Save Negates: Guts, Concealed Weapons
    • The caster spies the unsuspecting sleeper comfortable in their woolen cocoon when suddenly the bedroll springs to life, rolls over and over until the unfortunate sleeper is trapped in their rolled bedroll. 
      • Some Intrepid Casters have managed to activate this spell on an exceptionally long Cape, Mantle or Cloak.
  • Clef’s Proven Dreamwalker Dweomer
    • The caster or a willing target is able to enter the dream of a nearby sleeper perhaps to acquire sensitive information, implant an idea in their head or rescue them from a nightmarish curse. They must tread carefully for the sleeping mind is a dangerous thing and the sleeper is the god of their own dream, provided they realize it.
  • Spell of the Lonesome Road                             
    •  So long as the caster or intended recipient sticks to the road they will not be bothered and go unnoticed by most bandits and fell beasts.  This has no effect if the caster is traveling with companions or on a mount.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A&A School of Magic: PSI

Mentok by InsomniaArtist
Psionics are a touchy inclusion for a lot of D&D connoisseurs.  Understandable, most Psionic handbooks published so far don't fit my image of a Psionic.  For me when I think Psionics I think controlling things with your mind so the School of Magic involving Psionics is one part mind push, another part Mentok the Mind Taker.

Lesser spells are narrow in scope, some provide fine control others are sudden surges of force both of which are endemic to the untrained Psionicist.  Formidable spells stretch the limits of what the body and the mind are capable of, allowing for mental domination, superhuman prowess and reality warping.

A&A Spell List Table of Contents

I've been putting off writing and revising for the last month.  Every time I opened that mammoth of a document I got so caught up in fixing minor errors and preserving internal consistency from previous tweaks it happened to suck all the fun out of writing and designing.  Turns out all I need to get my Muse back in action is to take a break from the editor's hat (and god help me Layout) and exert a little creative expression.  I took my exhaustive spell list and narrowed it down to 3 Cantrips, 5 Lesser Spells and 3 Formidable spells per school.  Taking the best and most peculiar available I've arrived at this point.

Naming conventions and design drew heavily from Vance as outlined in this post (fair warning, I was much more eloquent 2 years ago).  The names like many of the effects are often very silly, which I happen to enjoy but is not for everyone so there are great deal of straightforward spells.  

One things I always enjoyed in playtesting was giving the player's the name of the spell rather the mechanics.  I would marvel when a player's internal interpretation of a spell turned out different than mine, and often times much better.  Over the next week I'll be looking through each Spell School and explaining what each of these mysterious and often inscrutable spells do.  Although some have already been touched upon

Feel free to provide your own guesses in the meantime.