The Serpent Blade

At first glance the weapon appears to be a +1 short sword with a blade fashioned to appear as a venomous asp.  When any of the following conditions are met, the blade’s unique qualities activate.

1.  A successful attack with the Sneak Attack/Back Stab ability

2.  The attacker rolls maximum damage.

3.  A “critical” hit is rolled.

The blade of the weapon transforms into a venomous snake and burrows into the flesh of the victim.  The snake does 1d6 damage every round and the victim must make a save versus Poison (each round) or suffer an additional 2d6 of damage.  During this time the attacker will need to use another weapon since his blade is inside the victim. Once the victim dies or the snake is removed The Serpent Blade returns to normal.

Yeah, I just watched Conan.

Spite Sprite

Spite Sprites are mischievously deadly beings. They thrive on conflict and blood shed. They routinely seek out small groups and turn them against each other. A pair of Spite Sprites will each choose a champion for fight for them. Each Spite Sprite’s champion will fight the other sprite’s champion to the death without regard to any other targets. If one of the sprites or the champions is killed then other sprite will leave the area.

Spite Sprites are small (4 inches in diameter) glowing orbs. They are often mistaken for Will-O-the-Wisps.

Number Appearing: 2

Armor Class: 3 [16]

Hit Dice: 2

Attacks: None (Battle Charm)

Saving Throw: 16

Special: Immune to non-magical attacks, Battle Charm, Evasive

Move: 40 FT

Challenge Level/XP: 6/400

Battle Charm: Spite Sprites have a unique form of domination. The Sprite’s chosen champion gets a saving throw against Battle Charm. If the target fails his save then he is under the control of the sprite until he either wins or dies while fighting another Spite Sprite’s champion. The sprite has full knowledge and access to his champion’s skills and abilities.

If the target makes his save then he is immune to that Sprite Sprite’s Battle Charm for 24 hours.

Evasive: Spite Sprites zip around the head of their champions. Any attacks directed at the Sprite have a 20% chance of hitting the champion. Spite Sprites will not direct their champions to attack the other Spite Sprite.

The Pit of Despair

Magic-user, 3rd Level

Range: 30 FT

Duration: 2d6 Rounds (See Text)

Spell Resistance: Yes

The Pit of Despair attacks the target’s self confidence and will to fight. If the target fails his saving throw, this spell creates the illusion of a 30 foot deep pit with mirrored walls. The target sees reflections of himself in the mirrors. These reflections constantly berate him and admonish him for each and every mistake the character has made his entire life. The images will shout each every short coming the character has either real or imagined. This verbal abuse is spawned from the target’s own subconscious. All the target can do for the duration of the spell is to defend himself against the verbal attacks and will probably reveal an embarrassing secret from his past in the process. When the spell’s duration ends, the character’s confidence is still shaken and is at -2 to attacks and saves for another 24 hours.

If the target succeeds his saving throw, he is filled with self doubt and takes the -2 penalty to attacks and saves for the duration of the spell.

Potion of Spell Retention

A simple potion that has saved the life of many an arcane caster.

A magic user drinks this potion when prepares spells for the day. Whenever he casts a spell he rolls a Saving Throw against Magic. If the save is successful then the spell is retained in the magic user’s memory and the effect of the potion ends. If he fails the saving throw then potion does not activate.

Note: The magic user has no control which spell, he must save against. It is whenever he casts a spell, whether it be a simple cantrip or a powerful ritual.

My Frankengame: Hey, you got weird Sword & Sorcery into my High Fantasy

There’s a little RPG blog meme that started last month (Thanks to Mike at Wrath of Zombie and Anarkeith at Telluric Currents). So I’ve been busy getting this blog off ground but it is a great place to start.

I’ve dubbed my Frankengame Home Brew Hack and most of the notes have been moved over here. Originally, it was based around Castles & Crusades with a dose of Pathfinder thrown in. But like many things, as time passes it evolves and changes. I decided to base the game on Swords & Wizardry instead.

Swords & Wizardry (and it’s Sword & Sorcery offspring Crypts & Things): That’s the basis for the core rules. The simple classes and general mechanics make it prefect for kit bashing.

Lamentations of The Flame Princess: Yes, another retro-clone. This game is a great source for some good new takes on spells (looking at you, Summon). I’m also working on a skill system inspired the Lamentations d6 system but using a d12 as a base.

Castles & Crusades: Oh no. I didn’t forget about this one. The number one thing that I like with C&C is a save for every stat. Yeah, a dump stat can kill you. Now this may sound like it goes against S&W one save to rule them all. But not really. It just takes a little tweaking. Each class still would get the base One Save. My rough estimate is to increase it by 1 from the base number as written in S&W. Any save modifiers based on class and race should be divided by two (rounded down, minimum of +1). Characters would get their ability modifier as bonus (or penalty) to Saving Throws based on what they are saving against.

So there you go the basic crunchy bits. Yes, I know I really don’t post the exact wording that often. There’s a reason for that. I’m kind of lazy. My huge working document for my Frankengame is largely just copy and pasted bits from the various of games with some minor edits. I just don’t feel right posting copy and paste material freely on the Internet. But I don’t mind saying that I’m using X from Y game, so go check out that game (and maybe buy it).

So where do I want to head with the fluff? Well, I haven’t done that much work on it yet but I do have some ideas and these ideas will influence some of the crunch. First and foremost is magic. I tend to like magic as mysterious and dangerous. It should be useful and key point in the setting and rules but spellcasters shouldn’t be superheroes compared to the other characters. I tend to lean more towards a Swords & Sorcery/Lamentations of the Flame Princess style magic.

The other is races. To put it bluntly, I’ve grown weary of Tolkien inspired fantasy RPG’s. What was once considered the archetype for a fantasy world has become more of a stereotype. There’s no reason we shouldn’t take things in new directions. Break the molds. Twist the tropes. Like I said, I haven’t done too much work on this part but then that’s fodder for future posts.

Raise Dead: It’s not a spell. It’s not a ritual. It’s an encounter!

I posted earlier this week about the D&D Death Tax when I was talking about our Kingmaker campaign and this got me thinking about Raise Dead.
Let’s face it. In you standard D&D style game, it just becomes a minor financial burden once you reach a certain level.  Knowing that it will just cost a few thousand gold pieces to bring back your character should something nasty happen really destroys any sense of adventure or danger.  When the worst thing your brave hero faces is basically a medical bill, well, that’s just not very heroic.
I spent a little time thinking about this and wondering what to do. There’s the simple approach ala Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Just say no raising of the dead. That’s great for the weird fantasy genre in Lamentations. But for a more standard High Fantasy game, I think it should still be available as an option but with consequences. It doesn’t matter if you are Good or Evil bring some one back from the dead upsets the natural balance of the universe.
First of all, let me mention Druids and Reincarnation. Drop it entirely.  You’ll see why in a little bit. Second, let’s look at the Cleric. For my own home brew campaign, I’m looking at a world level cap of tenth. That’s right no PC/NPC is going to be higher than 10th level.  I think it’s just a good point but that’s not what this post is about. So I’m setting the minimum level for the Raise Dead ability at 6th level.
So what happens when a cleric attempts to raise a fallen companion?  There will be a price. A big one. He’s calling on his deity for a major boon.  First, the cleric summons a major agent or avatar of his god. This will cost him all of his spell slots for a month. That’s right the cleric uses up his allocation of divine good will for a month. When the avatar arrives things get interesting and as a DM here’s your chance not to be a dick but still add a little bit of drama to the game.
The avatar is going to ask or demand something. And here is where it gets interesting. As DM, it’s a good place to insert a new quest or a new villain. As a DM, you can set up an interesting moral crisis. “You must kill this child who will someday threaten the world if you don’t” Perhaps, the avatar will ask for a temple or shrine or perhaps a ritual to be performed. Racial gods may just go ahead and change the dead character’s race. See drop I said not worry about Reincarnation.  The avatar may change the character’s alignment or possibly even class if it’s appropriate. And it doesn’t have to stop there. The avatar could ask something of the rest rest of the party as well. Conversion. Repentance for past sins. Go ahead be creative just not a dick. Here’s a little trick to put on your players. Ask each character to give up a level to bring to back their fallen friend.  It looks like they’re getting screwed. But those who agree get a major boon. Replace that lost level with a level of cleric or clerical spell casting abilities.
The thing is that bringing character back from the dead should really be a major event and not just a hand wave. There should be some interesting consequences and a price.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Inspired Skill System

When I started to think about skills for the Home Brew Hack, I looked at a lot of games. The modern system used by Pathfinder/3.X, 4th Ed and Star Wars Saga Edition, Swords & Wizardry and the Castles & Crusades just to name a few. But this was a case where I decided simpler was better, so decided to take up Lamentations of the Flame Princess for inspiration.
In case you don’t know, the Lamentations skill system runs off a simple X in d6 system.  So if you have a 2 in a skill, on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6 means you succeed.  Simple and to the point. But since this all about home brewing, hacking and tweaking, I just couldn’t quite leave it as is.
The first thing I looked at was which die to use. The d6 is clean and simple and looks really cool on a character sheet but I wanted something with a wider range so there’s more room for the characters to grow and more differentiation between the characters. The first knee jerk response was use a d20. Well, I nixed that.  Just on some sort instinctual level, I decided on using a d12. Hell, we really should use d12’s more often. Using a d12, also allows for a better variation on starting skills and an easy way for class skills by having the starting skill score equal to an appropriate Ability Modifier.
But that’s not all. I decided to try to keep a simple and short skill list: Academics, Arcana, Climb, Disguise, Healing, Lore, Locks, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Survival and Traps. Additionally, players may add Wild Card Skills (like from the Unisystem). That’s basically some sort of other skill that isn’t covered by the list. Good examples of this are the Trade, Profession and Craft type skills. But there’s another trick here, too. Custom skills for classes. Instead of some class abilities being X number times or rounds per day just make them skills. A successful check means the ability activates.  Prime examples would the Barbarian’s Rage or the Paladin’s Smite.
Getting better at skills.  I decided to bend the rules again here. We roll randomly to see how tough a character is.  So why not roll to see how much a character has learned. It breaks down pretty simply. Low skilled characters gain 1d3 skill points per level, the skilled characters would get 1d6.  This starts at 2nd level. First level characters get their starting skills plus any modifiers for race or any other house rules (like backgrounds or life paths).  A skill can be only raised by one point each level.
What if you have a 12 in a skill? Just like in Lamentations, if you max out on a skill you can still fail. If you have a 12 in a skill you can still fail. If you roll a 12, you roll again and will fail if you roll another 12.
Opposed Rolls:  The prime example of this is Stealth versus Perception. And once again, I’m trying to keep things simple. Both characters roll. The one with the higher roll and is still successful wins. Simple.
Here’s how a Rogue looks from my perspective:
SKILL POINTS PER LEVEL: d6
STARTING SKILLS: Academics (1), Climb (Dex Mod), Disguise (Cha Mod), Healing (1), Locks (Dex Mod), Lore (1), Perception (1), Sleight of Hand (Dex Mod),  Stealth (Dex Mod), Survival (1), Traps (Int Mod).
And if this is your first time checking out the Home Brew Hack posts, this is very much a work in progress and feel to critique.

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