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.

Teleportation shouldn’t be too easy

Teleportation has always seemed too easy for me.  I’ve always thought that it was sort of a easy out and cheesy way to get around withour actually having to travel (and run into those wonderful random encounters). So why not just make it a little riskier.  Hehe.  I fully admit that much of inspiration for this came from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. You’ve got wizards ripping holes int reality just summon an insane monstrosity from an equally insane dimension so why not this concept one step further.
I wanted to keep this as rules neutral as possible. GM’s should use this as means to make the party’s life “interesting”. Wizards should know that very bad things could happen when teleporting and GM’s just shouldn’t throw this in as a surprise.
When a wizard casts a teleporation spell, he’s just creating a short cut through a forgotten dimension.  Each character (including the caster) must make a save versus Magic (Tweak to the rules you happen to be using).  If they fail then roll on the following chart:

1-The character is replaced with something else.  It may look like him and even act a little like him but it’s something evil and will abandon, kill or betray the party at it’s earliest convenience. The original character may or may not be able to rescued. If the character is some how rescued then roll 1d10+10 on this chart for any additional effects.

2-There are now two of the character.  One is the character and the other is evil as above. (Note: For a really good way to handle this see the adventure A Stranger Storm in Lamentations of the Flame Princess). The evil knows everything that good one knows.  It’s up to the party to figure out a way to deal with it.

3-There are now two of the character.  One is all the good and sensitive parts of the character’s personality, the other the dark and evil parts.  For the character ever to whole again, the party needs to figure out a way to put the halves back together. (Ref: The Enemy Within from the original Star Trek)

4-Something extra comes through with party. A hideous monster slips through with the rest of the party and attacks them immediately.

5-The character’s arrival is delayed. (Roll a d6. 1: 1d6 rounds, 2: 2d6 rounds, 3:1d6 minutes, 4: 1d6 hours, 5: 1d6 days, 6: 1d4 weeks).

6-The character gets displaced from the rest of the party in a random direction. (Roll a d6. 1: 1d6x5 feet, 2-3: 1d20 x 5 feet,  4: 1d6 x 100 feet, 5: 1d6 x 1,000 feet, 6: 1d4 miles)

7-The character has been infected with a horrible extra-dimensional parasite. The character will be fine for a few days and then start showing ill effects (strange cravings, weight loss, eating too much, always hungry). Then the character will be sick and so weak that he is bed ridden.  If the situation is not solved in another week then a ravenous creature bursts out of the characters chest and goes on a killing rampage. (Yeah, you know where I got the idea for this one.)

8-The character didn’t quite make the transition.  He and his gear is insubstantial for 1d4 hours. He is not invisible but just a ghostly apparition.

9-The character’s passing has damaged the veil between realities and left a portal open.  Many unpleasant things come pouring through.

10-The character really missed the mark. He materializes 1d6 x 10 feet above the ground and then takes falling damage.

11-The character looked into the abyss between the worlds. He permanently loses 1 point of Wisdom and gains a random insanity. There’s a good chance that the character’s hair turns white from the horror’s that he has experienced.

12-The character’s mind has been jarred by the trip. For the next 3d6 rounds, the character acts as if he is under the influence of a Confusion spell.

13-Something lashed out at the character during the trip.  The character takes 3d6 damage.  This wound leaves an odd scar that will never go away.

14-  The character loses a random item.

15- A random item the character is carrying becomes enchanted. Considering where this happened the enchantment probably won’t be a very pleasant one.

16-The character is plagued by nightmares of what he thinks he might have saw. For the next 1d8 days the character cannot get a good night’s sleep.  He is never considered rested and won’t regain spells.

17-The character is possessed by an entity. It generally hates the character and wants to go home but that doesn’t mean it won’t torment the character or cause some death and destruction while it is in this dimension.  The character may have strange dreams or wake up in strange places covered in blood.  Getting drunk til the character passes out won’t help.  If properly motivated, the entity may even help the character if the price is right and the character is willing to pay it.

18-The character suffers from hallucinations for the 1d10 days. He will hear voices or even his companions say things.  He will see things move in the shadows.  Of course, sometimes there might really be something in the shadows.

19-The character is struck blind for 1d8 days or until cured.

20-Arcane Knowledge.  Somehow the character gained the ability to cast a random 1st level wizard’s spell once a day.

Ten Dumb Things We’ve Seen on RPG Forums

Paraphrased of course.

1. Your game says I need dice. What are dice?

2. My DM says that my half-demon half-Drow paladin assassin ninja isn’t a legal character. I think he’s just being jerk. I know I say a rule somewhere. Does anybody know where?

3. My players are complaining that I’m too stingy with XP. Heck, the campaign has only been going on for a year and they’re already second level.

4. How can I make Lolth my sex slave?

5. I’m really broke. Could someone please scan the book post it on the Internet?

6. The rest of my players are mad that I give my girlfriend extra XP when she puts out. I’m afraid if I stop giving her the XP then she won’t like me anymore. What should I do?

7. So the players gave an NPC a thoroughly logical and well thought out argument. But none of them had any social skills. So I told them that they failed. They got mad but rules are rules.

8. I can’t find character generation in rule book where is it?

9. I’m working on a home brew RPG. I need play testers. (Then this person is never heard from again.)

10. I read that a katana can cut through anything. It’s true because I’m an ex-Navy SEAL ninja.

Evil Adventurers Aren’t That Different

We tried a campaign with an evil party. They did a good job at not being your average high school-screw the other character- evil, the players were totally who cares about about collateral damage and ends justify the means evil. And they were  off to save the world. I know it sounds odd. But Evil folks like the world too and dang it if somebody is going to screw it up, it’s going to be them not some tentacle faced aberration. They actually started to role play and then this little scene played out:

Evil Wizard: I just learned that there is a powerful magical artifact hidden in a Good temple.

Evil Bard: Why don’t we just ask them for it? I’m sure they want to save the world too.

Evil Cleric: No way! Remember last time. That they saved the world. Did they ask us for our artifact? NO! They just stormed the place. Killed everybody, took our artifact and anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

Evil Fighter: He’s got a point. I think they even stole the furniture. What were they going to do with that?

Where do summoned monsters come from

So where do all the summoned animals come from? This came up in our little gaming group a while back. I mean just think about the Summon Nature’s Ally spell for Druids. Is there a room somewhere filled with animals just waiting to be summoned? I bet it looks like a bizarre cross between Grand Central Station and Noah’s Ark. I can just see a group of dire badgers sipping on double mocha lattes; just waiting for their number to come up.
”So, Bob. You heard what happened to Frank the other day?”
”Wasn’t he summoned by that druid Urban Spawl-Killer?”
”Yeah, he never came back. Just like that bear the other day.”
”Joe was such a nice guy.”
”We could ask Tom the Weasel. He came back.”
”Are you kidding? Tom went bat shit insane. He keeps screaming that the Orcs are gonna get him.”
”You ever notice that most of us never come back after being summoned. And the few that do, just don’t come back right.”
”Wow. It really sucks to be us.”
”Yeah.”
”Paging! Bob the dire badger. Bob the dire badger! You’ve been summoned by Urban Sprawl-Killer. Bob please report for summoning.”
”Shit.”

Old School @ Will Powers

Those fancy “at-will” powers in 4th Ed D&D ain’t nothing new. We had those back in the good old pure days of the One True White Box. Now it was simpler back then we didn’t mess with all those fancy Feats or “Skills” but each class had it’s own “at will” powers. Let me break it down for all you youngsters out there.

Fighter kill shit.

Thief steal shit. (There were no sissy Rogues. They were thieves. Dammit.)

Cleric heal shit.

Magic User blow up shit. (No, emo goth sorcerers. Just Wizards and we called them Magic Users.)

Now, get the hell of my lawn.

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