Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Primordial Cleric

The other side of the coin to the Warlock. I wanted to focus in on the idea that clerics represent more of an organised religion than the individualistic bargaining of the Warlock or the looser affiliations of a Druid. 

Crafts are perhaps more suited to a cloistered monk type, but I wanted to draw on that side of things while maintaining the more heretic-smiting and miracle-performing side of things. So the result is something mashed together from those three archetypes. Let's see if it works. 


Cleric

Devotion

You are devoted to an organised faith until death, after which you hope to be rewarded. You will never receive concrete evidence that your faith is justified, but you have found some feeling or philosophy to justify your faith. 


Equipment - Choose 2

Rod: Proudly bearing your icon, inspiring the faithful and daunting your enemies. An impactful but clumsy weapon if needed. 

Sword: Highly decorative scabbard. You fight with fervent righteousness rather than martial skill.

Censer: Spreads a purifying incense or a concealing smoke. 

Ring: Your touch alone can soothe the faithful and cause sudden pain to those you deem unholy. 

Lantern: Never runs out of oil, and light intensity adjusts to your will. Holy oil is explosive in desperate situations. 

Shield: Utterly unbreakable by those that you consider to be enemies of your faith. 


Craft

Part of your worship is serving the community through your craft, and passing knowledge on to future generations. The products provide great comfort, relief, and even miraculous healing, to those that partake. 

Choose 2 for yourself, and 1 that is strictly forbidden. 

Brewing, Calligraphy, Carpentry, Horticulture, Pottery.


Icon

The symbol of your faith, which is marked on all of your personal equipment. You can mark this Icon onto products of your craft if you truly dedicate your full efforts into them. This enhances their beneficial effects further and creates a negative effect on unnatural enemies of your faith. 


Miracles

The effects of your crafts and services can seem truly miraculous, but they never appear outright magical. Effects take hold overnight when nobody is watching, or manifest through events that could be coincidence. 


Despite this subtlety, there is no upper limit to these miracles, though the will of the gods is never a reliable force. They may have other plans for you.





Services

These take an hour to prepare and the same to perform.

Judgement: You call down a condemnation of somebody that has wronged your faith. If they are present they may beg for forgiveness, which you decide whether or not to grant. Otherwise, they are considered an unholy enemy of your faith. 

Oath: One or more people make a lifelong promise, or reinforce an existing bond. Increases morale and dedication when enacting this promise.  

Prayer: You call for support in a particular course of action. If your faith is strong you will notice a guiding hand when you act in that direction. 

Consecration: A person, place or object is purged of unholy presence or sin, often through fire or water.  


Relics

Remains of the most revered martyrs of your faith. You do not wish to possess these, they belong under sacred protection.

Choose 2 that you know the location of, one safe and one not. The others are lost. 


Tome of ______: Encased in bones and lined in skin. Contains an order of service written in a mostly-forgotten dialect. When a Service is performed while reading from this book, the effects are enhanced by an order of magnitude. 

_________’s Halo: A lantern containing skull parts. When its light fills a room the walls become indestructible.

Eyes of ________: Preserved in frosted glass. If used in a Prayer ceremony, the Cleric receives visions of possible futures. 

The ________ Shroud: Rumoured to have the ability to return the dead to life.

_________ Urn: The combined ashes of martyrs slaughtered in vast numbers. Their vengeful spirits can be awoken in times when your entire faith is under threat.






Thursday, 24 June 2021

Mattering

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

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You might think I'm anti-lore, based on some of the ways I've talked about those long sections of background prose that we've come to expect from RPGs. Timelines, pantheons, maps.

Well, I sort of am, but only when it just doesn't matter.

If the world was created millions of years ago by Elemental Titans then I don't really care what their names are... unless I can invoke their power by speaking them.

If the great city of Notlantia fell into the ocean in the great age of disaster then I'm sort of disinterested... until the drowned armies emerge from the seas for vengeance.

If the calendar of this land has a special leap-day every five years, where any remaining debts are claimed with blood... well if you're telling me about that then you'd better follow it up with "...and that day is today!"

I love lore and magic and religion in game settings, but I don't love them more than the game itself. I want it to matter, and while so much of that comes down to the specific way the GM is prepping, I've read enough lore that just feels incompatible with the reality of the game table.

I still largely prefer games that deliver their world through Tone, but when I want to dive into that rich well of Lore, I want it to really matter.


Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Primordial Warlock

Another Primordial Class. This time voted for by those of you on my Patreon, who are clearly accustomed to throwing in their allegiance with unsavoury entities.

When I get around to the Wizard I want there to be a big focus on spellbooks that you can actually print off and fold. Like a bunch of miniature version of Wonder and & Wickedness.

So for the Warlock I wanted to focus more on your relationship to your Patron, drawing a bit on the whole Chaos Gifts angle of the Warhammer. You can watch me going through the first half of the process over on last night's Bastionland Broadcast.


Playbook - Warlock

In a moment of desperation or ambition, you pledged yourself to a demonic force in return for unnatural power. 

From your past life you have a simple weapon and a tool of your former trade.


Fiendish Patron

Choose two titles for your Patron. These dictate their rules. Breaking them invokes your Patron’s wrath. 

  • The Beast - Never show mercy.

  • The Deceiver - Deny the existence of the Deceiver.

  • The Fallen - Always respect a holy site. 

  • The Conqueror - Never pass up an opportunity to show your superiority.

The remaining two are the rivals to your Patron. You can earn your Patron’s favour by carrying out a deed that majorly acts against one of their rivals’ rules. 


Eldritch Gifts

Choose two gifts from your Patron. You can swap them at any time by engaging in a ceremony of pleading or sacrifice to your Patron. 

Imp Familiar: A small, troublesome imp serves your every word, but ultimately serves your Patron. They can fly clumsily and start small fires.

Hellblade: A longsword that burns in the chaos of combat. Spooks animals and weak-willed people. When you kill another being with this blade your body is reinvigorated.

Book of Shadows: A grimoire of minor curses and incantations. 

Inferno: You can conjure bolts, blasts, and walls of fire, but cannot control the blaze once burning. 

Fiendish Resilience: When you receive this gift, choose one of the following to be immune to: Fire, Cold, Poison, Mundane Missiles, Arthropods.

Many Faced Mask: You can alter your appearance to any other humanoid you have met at will, but the illusion is only visual. 

Shadowform: You are invisible in dim light while stationary. 

The Cold Chains: Your touch infuses any chain with dark energy, its touch causing pain and feebleness to any spirits or otherworldly beings. 



Rituals

The Sculpture of the Flesh

  • A living subject is placed in the centre of a circle of fresh corpse ash.

  • The warlock and five others perform a chant lasting around six minutes. 

  • The subject is twisted into a lesser physical form until the Warlock releases them or dies.

The Congress of the Crawlers

  • The Warlock performs a loud, physically strenuous ritual lasting an hour.

  • Insects and worms are summoned to share their knowledge of this place. 

  • They speak in a tongue that only the Warlock understands. Their memory is poor but they know the land well. 

The Twisting of the Word

  • The name of a recently deceased being must be written in their blood surrounded by infernal sigils.

  • The name is infused with sinister power. 

  • The next time it is spoken by the Warlock, all who hear it are compelled to kneel in submission until their mind can break free.

The Counsel of the Universal

  • You must present a worthy sacrifice of one of your Patron’s enemies.

  • At least twelve others must chant in exaltation of your Patron. 

  • A greater servant of your Patron appears for barely a moment, answering one question with a single answer. They know all. 

The Eye of the Clouded Water

  • Two cups are filled with water from the same impure source. Sewers or swamps work well.

  • Both cups are placed in separate locations. The water must remain within, and an eye must be gouged at a point between the two. 

  • The Warlock drinks from one cup and is able to view the area around the other cup as if they were there.







Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Primordial Trickster

More work on this Primordial thing. This time thinking about a combination of Thief and a little bit of Illusionist.

It's hard to show this in a blogpost format, but when I get these ready for printing I definitely want there to be blank spaces left in some of these sections, encouraging the players to add as they discover more about the world and their character.





Playbook - Trickster

Gear - At any time you can produce one of the following from your person. If you have had your possessions removed, then you know where to get a makeshift replacement nearby.

  • Dagger

  • Rope or Wire

  • Hood and Mask

  • Any tool that fits in a pocket

Alter-Egos - Choose 2 and name them. You have a good disguise and any papers required.

___________ the Guard: An upholder of the law. 

___________ the Servant: A loyal worker to a powerful employer.

___________ the Wretch: A pathetic nobody. 

___________ the Merchant: A wealthy business owner.

___________ the Traveller: A respected visitor from a neighbouring land.


Contacts - The remaining entries above are real people that you know and owe you a favour. 


Secrets - These apply to your own city, but after a day of immersion in a new settlement you pick up the local equivalents.

Thieves’ Cant: A code of slang used in criminal communication. Speaking in this dialect opens certain doors and lends you some credibility in unsavoury circles.

The Underground: Both literal and figurative. A network of organised criminals, often hiding secrets in the cellars and sewers of the city. 

Backdoors: Every building has a secondary entrance that few people know about, and a more secret way that’s risky even for experts.


Tricks - Nothing fancy, just old-fashioned ploys that can be taught to anybody pretty quickly.

Confidence: Speak in such a way and people will believe what you say, as long as they don’t get too long to think about it, or have disproving evidence staring them in the face. 

Stab: Every piece of armour has a weak point that a blade can slip through, easy to find if you can study it closely. 

Release: There’s a trick to every lock, knot, or binding method that lets you release it. Sometimes it just takes a little time. 


Shadowplay - Techniques that require an intimate understanding of misdirection and deception. 

Tranquillity: In dim light you can effectively become invisible and silent. Any sort of bright light dispels this effect. 

Distraction: You can make somebody look over their shoulder for a moment, or even compel them to take a few steps away to investigate. 

Transpose: You can reliably swap the positions of any pocket-sized items unseen, as long as they are in the same room as you for a few minutes. 


Illusions - For now you have only scratched the surface of this arcane art. 

Figment: You can trick somebody’s senses or memory for just a moment when you address them by name. For example, if they turn around expecting to see a fire then they see it, and even feel the heat. The illusion only lasts a moment, but the victim immediately acts as if it is real.

Haze: Requires an hour-long ritual, which gives you a hazy appearance for the rest of that night. Even if you’re caught red-handed, witnesses are never able to fully recall details about your identity, or even exactly what you were doing. 

Apparition: Through careful mixing of oils and powders, available in any criminal underground, you can manifest an illusory image that acts in a convincing manner for a few moments. Larger or longer-lasting apparitions require more concentrated reagents, which come with a heavy cost.


Thursday, 10 June 2021

Vanilla

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

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Anne and Richard have both written about the idea of French Vanilla and, this week especially, I've been feeling that appeal. Essentially the idea is that a setting can work really well if you accept some clich├ęs, do them really well, and include just enough twists on that recipe to keep things interesting.

Electric Bastionland was written long before I'd heard this idea, but there's a lot of crossover with how I wanted to have relatable anchors to every bit of the world. Bastion feels like a city, ideally your city of familiarity, but weird. Same for Deep Country, and even the Underground has some familiar elements for anybody that's ridden the Tube or their subway of choice.

But I obviously leaned away from traditional D&D fantasy tropes, while keeping some of the structure. Yes, you hunt treasure and find magical items, but there aren't orcs to murder, dragons to flee from, or elves to buy bread from.

So perhaps it's all the time I've spent in that world that leaves me craving a little bit of that vanilla. I picked up the Young Adventurer's Guide after reading Sam's post about them, which sent me back to the D&D5e core books that I'd forgotten I still had. I've complained about how the game runs too slow for me, and I don't like some of the design of spells, class abilities, monsters, the adventures don't really appeal to me and... well, lots of things.

But I've sort of blocked those things out for this readthrough. I'm treating the three core books like an expanded version of those Young Adventurer Guides, which appealed to me through their utter removal of anything resembling game rules. So I'm reading through with an imaginary black marker in my hand, slapping mental REDACTED bars over anything that tries to introduce numbers or mechanics. Under that method, I actually quite enjoyed it!

I like the way planes are described in the DMG. It actually got me a bit excited to try and use them.

I like the way monster descriptions are broken down into little subheadings so that you can almost ignore the text underneath. Sahuagin get Devils of the Deep, Way of the Shark, and Elven Enmity? Okay, those three things give me something to work with.

I even like all that character fluff like traits, ideals and flaws if you remove the inspiration mechanic that's attached to them.

So what, I'm going to run some ultra-light FKR D&D?

Yeah. If I can flesh out this idea enough, I think I might just do that. Like a pallet-cleanser after so long away from the table.

French Vanilla Sorbet.

Monday, 7 June 2021

A Primordial System (and its Fighter)

Continuing on from this and the monsters I made here, I've given a bit more thought to this extremely stripped-back, qualitative system, drawing on a lot of FKR inspiration.

A key thing I want to emphasis here is that this text is not the game. These barest rules and guidance are just a tool to allow the game to happen. It isn't a game until you've got the actual moving pieces to bang against each other, typically some interesting characters in an exciting situation. 

So really, this is the easy part. Let's look at it.

PRIMORDIAL SYSTEM

Characters

Player Characters are defined by words, not numbers. Typically this consists of one or more of the following contained in a playbook, with blank spaces left for expansion:

  • Tags: Words or short phrases that help you to remember key qualities of your character. These may come and go as the game progresses, especially through injuries and other temporary conditions. 
  • Facts: Truths about the world that your character knows, and may be in a unique position to exploit. These can be techniques, contacts, maps, or really anything that can be written/drawn.
  • Gear: Important pieces of equipment, though your character can be assumed to carry other common items based on their Tags.

Action

If your action is Unchallenged, then there is no need to roll unless you are pushing for an extra benefit. 

When there is opposition or risk to your action, weigh up whether you have an Edge. Generally this means you have the upper hand through careful preparations, innate capabilities, or specialist tools. If the obstacles or opposition facing you outweighs these, then you do not have an Edge. 

Roll 2d12. Keep the High die if you have an Edge, and Low if you don’t. Consult the chart for an answer to the question “Do I get my desired outcome?”.

Whatever the outcome, things move forward.


Who has the Edge?


This is left down to the GM’s adjudication after discussion with the players. If it is unclear then consider the following rules of thumb:

  • Fear the Unknown - If the players are heading into an unknown situation or taking on an opponent they do not understand, it is difficult for them to have an Edge. 
  • Reward a Plan - If the players are carrying out a carefully prepared plan based on good information, favour them. 
  • Favour the Active - If all else appears even, give the edge to whichever side is currently taking action.


Failure


When you suffer harm you can Ask the Stars for the fallout or go with the narratively appropriate result. This is marked as a tag and affects your future actions. 


Typically when something goes wrong, the GM does one of the following:

  1. Threaten - Create a new problem

  2. Escalate - Amplify an existing problem

  3. Impact - Have a problem deliver on its threat


These do not need to be performed in order, but problems must be established as a Threat before they Escalate or Impact. 


Threaten - Create a new problem

At this stage the problem is really a threat. It’s something that will cause permanent fallout if left untended. 

The Troll pins your Ranger up against a wall.


Escalate - Amplify an existing problem

The stakes of a problem are raised, now posing a higher threat or making itself more difficult to address, but still not fully realised as a permanent consequence. 

The Troll squeezes the air out of the Ranger, they start to black out.


Impact - Have a problem deliver on its threat

An existing problem transforms into a permanent consequence. 

The Troll throws the seemingly lifeless Ranger down to the ground.



Success


When you succeed with an action you typically get the outcome that you were aiming for, but the actual level of impact should be considered.


Typically when the players succeed at an action intended to solve a problem, the GM does one of the following:

  1. Advance - Move in a favourable direction. 

  2. Disrupt - Lessen the threat of a problem.

  3. Resolve - Put the problem to rest. 


These do not need to be performed in order, but major problems may require an Advance or Disrupt action before they can be Resolved. 


Advance - Move in a Favourable Direction

Turn the situation in the players’ favour in a long or short-term way. 

The Troll is preoccupied with rummaging through the Ranger’s backpack, letting the Fighter move behind it undetected. 


Disrupt - Lessen the threat of the problem.

The stakes of a problem are lowered, now posing a weaker threat or making itself easier to address, but still not fully resolved. 

The fighter stabs the troll through the back, leaving a gushing wound. It  staggers back, lowering its guard.


Resolve - Put the problem to rest. 

The threat is removed, usually on a permanent basis. Characters may have one more chance to lessen the harm caused, but it cannot be nullified. The fighter plunges a lit torch into the Troll’s wound, causing it to scream and shrivel into a broken heap.




Playbook - Fighter


Calling - Choose 1:

  • Money - Start with a heavy purse of coins.

  • Duty - You always have one more breath of fight within you.

  • Bloodlust - You are unaffected by the horrors of battle,


Physique - Choose 1:

  • Strong - You can perform acts of prodigious strength. 

  • Swift - You always get to attack before your opponent. 

  • Scarred - You have a number of war stories to inspire or terrify. 



Weapons - Choose 3 that you are carrying: 

Shortsword: Built for quick, precise thrusts at close range. 

Longsword: A versatile weapon with no real weaknesses. 

Greatsword: Heavy and slow, but able to cause massive damage. 

Battleaxe: Can be wielded clumsily in one hand, or confidently in two. Best against slower, armoured enemies. 

Mace: Good balance of speed and armour-breaking impact. 

Flail: A heavy, clumsy weapon that is difficult to block with a shield or parry with a weapon. 

Warhammer: An impact weapon designed to break through even heavily armoured enemies. 

Spear: The king of weapons if you can keep your enemy at a safe distance or set against their charge. 

Halberd: Unwieldy, but ideal for keeping armoured enemies at bay and tackling larger foes. 

Shortbow: A quick and combat missile weapon.

Crossbow: Heavy but accurate, with an armour-piercing punch.



Armour - Start with a Shield and either Leather, Chain, or Splint Armour:

Shield: Good all-round protection, shattering under especially heavy blows. 

Leather: Light protection but high manoeuvrability.

Chain: Good protection against bladed attacks. 

Scale: Medium protection and good manoeuvrability, but still heavy over long distance. 

Splint: Heavy protection, but clumsy and heavy. 

Plate: The ultimate protection, and surprisingly good mobility, but loud, expensive and requires fitting. 



Manoeuvres

These are but a few manoeuvres that can be learned. Add those you learn to this list.


Bull Rush: If you can catch an opponent off-balance, or overpower them, you can push them backward or down onto their back. 

Cleave: When you kill with a decisive blow you can follow-through to immediately attack another nearby enemy. 

Deathblow: If you can wear down an opponent beforehand you can deliver a brutal killing blow.

Duel: You are in your element when you isolate an armed enemy and give them your full attention.  

Grapple: When you have at least one free hand you can grab an enemy, making yourself difficult to dislodge and potentially taking them to the ground. 

Second Wind: Once per fight you can take a moment to recompose yourself, returning to the fight with renewed vigour. 

Sword Spell: If you ever discover means of using spells you can channel their power into your weapons.



Formations

When fighting as a group of 3 or more, formations may grant an edge in certain situations.


Column: Allows swift and agile movement. 

Echelon: A recessed line that can drive the enemy toward the recessed side.

Lance: If you hit hard enough on the charge you break through the enemy formation, splitting them in two. 

Line: Allows you to fire as one in a volley, which can leave the targets shaken. 

Pincer: When you outnumber your enemies you can round their flanks, with devastating effect. 

Square: 1-in-5 of your formation can hold the centre of the square, protected from outside attack. 

Wall: If half or more of your formation have large shields then you gain an edge against charging opponents.