Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Flaamff for Far Away Land

Flaamff (1)
"It's me, Barney the Flaamff!"
Archetype: Monster
Size: Small (0)

Flaamffs are rubbery floating jellyfish who worship the Cosmic Wanderer. These good natured creatures live in dungeons, ruins, and other out-of-the-way locations where adventurers tend to frequent. Small cloisters of flaamffs patrol dangerous rooms, passages, and chambers looking for wounded heroes to heal with magic and medicinal fungus. If attacked, these peaceful creatures defend themselves with their stink spray and try to flee. They only lash out with their tentacle spikes as a last resort.

HP: 13, AC: 0, ACT: 5
BRT: 1, DEX: 1, WIT: 2

Tentacle Spikes (1): 1d3 damage, Stink Spray (1): Makes target nauseous, Magic (1): Equal to LVL, Flight

Flaamff PCs
Boons: 2
Abilities: Tentacle Spikes (1d3 damage), Stink Spray, Flight

Monday, March 23, 2015

Non-Human PCs in Far Away Land

As I’ve said before, I really like Far Away Land. The system is simple but the setting is weird and awesome and surprisingly complex. Hopefully I’ll get to play or run it soon (maybe after my Fate superheroes games is wrapped). The Far Away Land G+ community is so active, I’ve barely been able to keep up with all the posts.

In Far Away Land, the basic assumption is that the PCs are all humans. Humanity is a new and alien species in Far Away Land, with only one large city. As strangers in a strange (far away) land, this gives the (presumably human) players an immersive perspective as they explore and uncover the mysteries and strangeness of the world.

But humans are boring, right? Who wants to play a jive old human when you can play a gourd-headed Poomkin or a bear-riding Agnun? The general vibe I’ve picked up from the FAL community is “You want to play a non-human? Sure, go ahead, have fun!” That’s cool.

I’m not a big proponent of “game balance”  but I often feel like you have to tweak rules for non-humans a little to make humans at least somewhat desirable. Here, then, is my hack for how I’d allow non-humans in a Far Away Land game that I may or may not eventually run.

The basic jist of it is that special abilities replace starting boons. Joe Vanilla human gets four boons; Gump the Poomkin only gets two boons, but can regenerate ands see in the dark.

I’m not a numbers guy, but I mostly assumed that most abilities are worth one boon. Some (like better senses) are worth half a boon, while others (the Blonin’s Teleportation) are worth more.

Some of the races below also include an extra flaw, either as a further pseudo-balancing measure, or to maintain the “flavor” of the race. This flaw is required in addition to the 1d3 flaws all starting PCs take.

Here are the races from the Creature Index in the Tome of Awsome that I would allow as PCs. Use them as you will.

But seriously though, why would you play anything but an Orka? Those guys are badass. I mean Gruun, man...

Abilities: Animal Bond (Grizzle Bears), Night Sight, Telepathy (with other Agnuns)
*Note: While an Agnun PC can communicate with Grizzle Bears, she does not start play bonded to one. She will have to find and befriend the beast, who will probably want some service first before agreeing to act as her mount. Sounds like an adventure to me!

Boons: 2
Abilities: Teleportation (50’)

Boons: 3
Abilities: Night Sight, Nose for Ore, Alcoholic Strength
Extra Flaw: Mean Drunk

Boons: 3
Abilities: Better Hearing, Better Sight, Night Sight

Boons: 4
Abilities: Resistance (half damage) to Cold
Extra Flaw: Frosty

Mushroom Folk
Boons: 3
Abilities: Spore Cloud (1d3 damage, causes hallucinations for one round per point of damage inflicted), Night Sight
Extra Flaw: Primitive

Noog Noog
Boons: 4
Abilities: Claws (1d3)
Extra Flaw: Cowardly

Boons: 4
Abilities: Night Sight

Boons: 2
Abilities: Healing Factor, Regeneration, Resistance (half damage) to Poison

Boons: 3
Abilities: Night Sight, Better Smell

Boons: 3
Abilities: Water Breathing

Boons: 3
Abilities: Better Hearing, Better Smeall, Night Sight

Boons: 4
Abilities: none
Extra Flaw: Surly

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gnomes with Guns

I've always liked guns in my fantasy worlds. The guns in LotFP are gritty and dangerous and cool. My hunter in WoW used a gun. I love the mountain-man gunslinger I play in my friend's Pathfinder campaign. I even made an Artillerist playbook for Dungeon World.

What I don't like is needlessly complex rules that make firearms overly powerful while “balancing” them with clumsy complications. I'm quite happy with reskinning a crossbow and calling it a rifle. For me, fantasy firearms are more about style than trying to get an advantage. That's why I like the rules for firearms in the 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. They do slightly more damage than crossbows but have worse range and are a bit more expensive. That's it. No weird misfire or reloading rules. Perfect. Just what I want.

Gnomes with Guns
The Gray Gnomes of Pangloss have a proud tradition of gunsmithing. Each weapon is an individually crafted work of art—a deadly mix of clockwork and alchemy. Gnomish firearms use glass cartridges that contains gunpowder and a catalyst liquid. Spring-driven triggering mechanisms break the glass cartridge, allowing the propellants to mix. The resulting explosion fires the heavy metal slug through the barrel towards the target. Gnomes jealously guard the secrets of crafting gunpowder and catalyst. No other race has mastered the mechanical intricacies required to craft firearms, although the Hobgoblins have tried with limited results.

Gray Gnomes are a race of hard-bitten survivors. They long ago lost their subterannean kingdoms and their god to the forces of the Underdark. Now, their adopted island home of Gnomeria is under siege by the armies of the Ashen Queen. Gnomes have fled Gnomeria en masse, forming small communities wherever they can. Their tenacity, marksmanship, and grim humor has kept them vibrant no matter where they settle.

The Gray Gnomes of Pangloss
Gray Gnomes conform to the Rock Gnome subrace found in the Player's Handbook with one change:
  • Gnome Weapon Training (replaces Tinker): You have proficiency with the pistol and the musket.
  • (Note that you still have to purchase your gun, which won't be cheap).

The Refugee background from the Glitterdoom adventure from Goodman Games is very appropriate for many Gray Gnomes.

Other Rules
Pistols and muskets are martial weapons. A non-gnome character who has proficiency with martial weapons can become proficient with firearms by training (PHB p.187) under a gnomish tutor (250 days at 1gp a day). A character may also use the Weapon Master feat to become proficient with the Musket and the Pistol (each count as a separate weapon).

Ammunition can be readily purchased in any gnomish community, although merchants are usually reluctant to sell to non-gnomes. Any Gray Gnome proficient with alchemist's tools can craft gunpowder. Other races will have to learn the formula through research, gnomish tutelage, or other sources.

New Feat: Gunslinger
(It's just Crossbow Expert re-skinned, I won't lie....)
Thanks to extensive practice with firearms, you gain the following benefits:
• You ignore the loading quality of firearms with which you are proficient.
• Being within 5 feet o f a hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
• When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded pistol you are holding.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pratchett's Blade

Terry Pratchett was a man of wit and compassion, of anger and insight, of reason and whimsy. He was my hero. No other writer, save maybe Douglas Adams, had such an influence on my writing and narrative and dialog style. Every bickering goblin mob, every brash and bumbling cop, every sass-mouthed cosmic entity is a thank-you note to Terry Pratchett.

His sadly-not-unexpected death has broken my heart.

Did you know that after he was knighted, Sir Terry Pratchett forged his own sword out of meteoric iron? Did you know he hid it afterwards? I can only hope it's in a trap-filled dungeon under his home.

This is my best way to honor his memory.

Pratchett's Blade
Weapon (shortsword), Legendary (requires attunement by a good-aligned character)

This legendary weapon was brought to this plane from some distant and unknown world. Pratchett's Blade was the favored weapon of a much-loved adventuring bard from Times of Old, known for his biting wit and unwavering sense of justice. The blade has passed in and out of many hands ever since, always bringing a spark of light to a darker world.

Pratchett's blade is a simple, but well-made shortsword forged of star-metal that glows with a dim octarine light in the dark. The hilt is wrapped in worn black leather, similar to bookbinding.

When attuned, the shortsword grants its wielder a +3 bonus to attack and damage. The sword also grants its wielder immunity to fear. On his or her turn, the wielder can cast Vicious Mockery as a bonus action (save DC: 13). Lastly, once per day (recharging at dawn) the wielder can cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter as a bonus action with a save DC of 15.

Phandelver Session 3 (Plus some praise for combat) -- [D&D 5th Ed Actual Play]

The session report below was written quickly and poorly, with bad sentence structure and wonky spelling. It's not glittering prose, but I think it does a decent job of hitting the important points of the session.

Before we get to the recap, though, I want to comment on how fun D&D 5th Edition combat has turned out to be. On my side, monsters have been easy to run. Each monster or NPC has a couple of tricks that make them interesting (two attacks per round for Redbrands, or the goblins' attack-and-hode routine, Bugbears' extra damage, etc.) but remain simple enough that I, the DM, can focus on creating an evocative combat environment. Thanks to the whole “bonded accuracy” thing with 5th Edition, monsters and PCs both hit a lot, keeping fights tense and exciting.

On the other side of the screen, my players are good at using tactics in combat without turning D&D into a “tactical” game. The party has turned into a very effective SWAT team. The rogues and ranger use their stealth skills to slip into the shadows, where the rogues can use their powerful sneak attacks to pump out a lot of damage in the first round. The war-cleric and paladin rush into combat and draw enemy fire--not by using any special “draw aggro” power, but through pure roleplaying. “Raar raar raar! I'm a vicious iron-clad dwarf IN YOUR FACE swinging a howling sword at your boinloins! COME AT ME, YO!” With the “tanks” in the middle of the fight, the rogues can continue to use their sneak ranged attacks against any monster within arm's length of their armored allies. Meanwhile, the wizard directs his owl familiar to swoop in, use the “help” action, then fly away safely using it's “flyby” ability. This gives the next hero to attack the distracted monster advantage on their roll.

It's cool to see these tactics work even though we only use maps and minis about 50% of the time. I can't wait to come up with some scenarios that monkey-wrench this routine.

Now, onto the session report...

Our Heroes:
Bramble (Green Gnome Rogue/Charlatan)
Kokiri aka “Cookie” (Wood Elf Rogue/Sailor)
Atticus Digby (Half-Wyrd-Elf Bard/Wizard/Noble)
Roanvine (Human Ranger/Outlander)
Skeld (Hill Dwarf Cleric/Sage)

Absent Heroes:
Vandalar (Dragonborn Paladin/Noble)

NPC Buddies
Pietor “Pete” Rabbitslayer (Halfling fighter, in town guarding prisoners)

The heroes continue their assault on the Redbrand hideout. Vandalar's player couldn't make it, so we deiced that the paladin went back into to town to make sure the civilian posse got home okay. We assume she got distracted helping an old lady carry groceries or helping a cat out of a tree—y'know, paladin stuff.

Having already discovered a couple of secret passages in the bandits' base, the team investigates the Redbrand's workshop for hidden doors and finds two. Bramble sets up some bell alarms near one door, and the party continues down the other.

This passage turns out to be the Glasstaff's secret escape route. The heroes stumble into the evil wizard's bedroom, startling the Glasstaff as he sits at his desk. The team is shocked to realize that the infamous Glasstaff exactly matches the description of Sildar Hall's missing friend Iarno Albrek! Wasting no time, the team attacks quickly, beating the wizard into unconsciousness before he has a chance to cast a single spell.

The heroes roll the wizard in a curtain and tie him to the bed then search the room. Digby claims the wizard's Staff of Defense for himself while Skeld searches his desk. Among the wizard's papers, Skeld finds a letter to Albrek from the Devil Spider!
For any letters or notes the PCs find, I try and make handouts like this.
Bramble peeks under the bed and spots the wizard's rat familiar. She tries to talk to it, but the fiendish rodent tells the gnome to “Fuck off and die!” then scampers away through a crack in the wall. Digby uses Mending cantrips to seal all the rat holes he can find.

The Glasstaff's laboratory is in the adjoining room. Along with the wizard's alchemical gear, they discover his spell books and the journal of a dwarven adventurer, Urmon Fellhammer, that describes the history of the Phandelver Pact and the legendary Spellforge.

Fellhammer was a paladin on a personal crusade against the vampire Xyxor. While in Uruth, he heard stories of the mace, Lightbringer. This magical weapon was commissioned centuries ago by priests of Brahma but was lost when Wave Echo Cave and the Spellforge were destroyed. He set out to find Lightbringer with his companions—Jase Gumbleputty (a gnomish ranger and marksman) and Bolinda Plum (a human wizard).

Fellhammer's last entry indicates that his party intended to consult the “Ghost Witch of The Woods” for information.

While the team is busy looting the wizard's room, there's a sudden knock on the door. “Boss!” shouts a rough, thuggish voice, “There's something weird going on. You'd better come out for a moment!” The Redbrands must have found all the iron spikes the team has been leaving in their doors.

The heroes rush the door and beat the bandit into submission. Down the hall, they can hear the telltale sounds of men putting on armor and readying weapons. The team is once again on the move, readily falling into the commando-like tactics that have served them so well. The two rogues and the ranger slip into the shadows with their formidable stealth skills. Skeld kicks in the door to the next room, surprising the four Redbrands inside. The fierce, mail-clad, sword-swinging dwarf draws the badguys' attention while the rogues and ranger take them out with sneak attacks. Digby's owl familiar swoops in to distract enemies with its “flyby” ability—moving in, making “help” actions, then flying away. The Redbrands lie dead or unconscious before they can mount an effective counter-attack.

When the heroes return the Glasstaff's room with three more hog-tied prisoners, they find the wizard's familiar (who had slipped under the door) trying to chew through its master's bonds. Digby's Chill Touch spell quickly dispatches the fiendish rat.

Lego heroes against lead villains!
Continuing through the hideout, the party hears several rough, brutal goblinish voices and one squeaky, whiny goblinish voice. Taking up familiar positions, the party approaches the room. Bramble tests the door to see if it is locked, but botches her Stealth roll. The rattling door handle causes the voices beyond to pause for a moment. Wasting no time, Skeld tries to kick in the door... and rolls a 1. The door holds, and the voices inside fall eerily silent. Sighing in resignation, Skeld opens the door via the handle and is (not very) surprised to find a massive bugbear waiting for him, filling the entire door frame.

The battle begins! Our heroes focus fire and take out the first monster as they rush into the room. They spot a second bugbear, lurking in the shadows near a bed, while a scrawny, terrified goblin watches form the far side of the room and faints dead away. The party engages the second bugbear and are quite shocked when a third bugbear (who got a 20 on his Stealth roll) steps out from the shadows and drops Roanvine the ranger with a single sneak attack. Things are desperate, as the giant shaggy goblinoid has bypassed the designated “tank” and is among the much squishier rogues and bard. Kokiri bravely lunges at the bugbear and wounds the monster deeply but not fatally. The bugbear swings it's great morning star around and slams the elfin rogue, dropping her to 0 hp. Kokiri slams against the wall and slides down to the floor, leaving a smear of blood behind. With two PCs down and bleeding out in as many rounds, the fight turns tense. Skeld slays the Bugbear he was fighting with a natural 20, and Aces, the sword of Druuj the Slayer, starts wailing alien war hymns (which sound a lot like Motorhead). Finally, with a combination of spells and swords, the third Bugbear goes down. Healing potions revive the unconscious heroes. The team is glad they convinced Gundren Rockseeker to throw some potions in with their payment.

When the goblin (whose name is Droop) revives from his faint, he freaks out at the sight of Digby. “Oh please, most powerful wizard, do not put Droop to sleep again. You spared Droop's life once, spare it once more!”

Digby is confused. “Do I recognize this goblin?” He makes an Intelligence check, and rolls a 2. All goblins look the same to him. “When did I cast a spell on you?” the bard-wizard asks.

“On the trail, when we attacked your wagon. You killed my friends but spared me. You left me tied up with the halfling.”

A look of shock crosses Digby's face. “You're supposed to be dead!”

The goblin wails in fright once more, but the party manages to get the whole story out of the terrified goblin with a couple of Charisma rolls and a well-placed Friends spell.

When the party was exploring the lair of the Cragmaw goblins a couple of days ago, they left their goblin captive (this very goblin, Droop) under the watch of their halfling hireling, Pete. A couple of hours after the party left, “the clayskin came and killed the halfling. It took his shape, and I was able to escape. I ran here, where the Devil Spider's human minions live.”

Roanvine the ranger specializes in monstrosities and recognizes the creature the goblin is describing—a doppleganger. The party realizes that they have left a murderous monster in town, watching their prisoners.

The heroes want to get back to town quickly, but are afraid of leaving the Redbrand's base unexplored. They quickly investigate the couple of rooms they had skipped over. After battling a handful of skeletons and some Redbrand guards, they rescue a captured townswoman and her two children. They have been beaten a bit but don't seem too badly injured. They are, however, quite eager to get back home and bury their father, who was murdered by the Redbrands.

The session ends with our heroes, their prisoners, and rescued captives returning to town, speculating on what the dopple-Pete-ganger has been doing in their absence.