Tuesday, 22 September 2015

OD&D Cacozealot Class






A new class: the Cacozealot. This class was written for OD&D, however it is entirely useable with Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry (Moldvay etc.). If you are using Swords & Wizardry's ascending armour class system, simply deduct 1 from the listen armour class values. For example, 11 would be 10. Simple.

This class was developed when one of my players wanted to play a winged demonic fey. He linked me to the 3.5 fey'ri (mixture of elven and demon). He liked the idea of a monkish character also. With these as a guideline I developed the Cacozealot. This class has many Arnesonian (is that right?) features, taken from the Blackmoor supplement. In addition, they have the dark twist of growing leathery wings, claws, or a barbed tail, as their devotion to the fiends of the underworld grows to fruition.

Hope you enjoy.

Note: this has not been playtested yet, so any feedback you have would be valuable. I have considered bumping up the hit dice, but have not made up my mind. 






Cacozealot


The putrid blood of the underworld courses through the veins of the Cacozealot. They are offspring, devotees, and dervishes of demons, imps, and other unwholesome beings. Initially, the Cacozealot is weak, but over time their minds and bodies become warped through their chaotic dabbling. Some grow claws, fangs, barbed tails, and even wings. Whether this is genetically endowed, or whether the disciple gains these powers through meticulous dark devotion, depends on the zealot. It is not uncommon for the Cacozealot to be a “half-blood”, born of a malignant spirit’s interference with humanity.

Prime Requisite: Wisdom.
Alignment: Chaotic.
Fighting, Hit Dice, & Saves: The Cacozealot fights and saves as a Cleric of the same level. They progress in hit dice as a Magic-user.
Bonus Experience Points: A Cacozealot with 13+ wisdom receives a 5% bonus to any experience points earned, while those with 15 or above receive a 10% bonus to any experience points earned.
Equipment & Armour: Cacozealots cannot use armour and shields. They may use any weapon. Many choose to fight unarmed however, as they possess an unnatural strength and speed as they gain levels.

During character creation Cacozealots may subtract 2 points of charisma or 1 point of intelligence in exchange for adding 1 extra point to their raw wisdom score. This may be repeated as many times as desired but these lowered scores must not drop below 9.

Experience: The following table illustrates the experience point progression for each level.

Level
Title
Experience Points*
Unarmed Damage**
Damage Reduction
Armour Class
Speed
1
Deviant
0
1d4
1
9 (11)
12” (40’)
2
Scourge
2,500
1d6
8 (12)
3
Fiend
5,000
1d8
2
7 (13)
4
Demonkin
10,000
2d4
6 (14)
15” (50’)
5
Demonologist
25,000
1d10
3
5 (15)
6
Infernalist
50,000
1d12
4 (16)
7
Demonmancer
100,000
2d6
4
3 (17)
18” (60’)
8
Low
Cacozealot
200,000
3d4
2 (18)
9
Cacozealot
300,000
2d8
5
10
High Cacozealot
450,000
2d10
21” (80’)
* Each additional level above 10 requires an additional 150,000 xp.
** If playing 3lbbs, use the extra damage rule under “Demonhide” as a replacement for unarmed damage.



Abilities:

Unarmed Damage: The Cacozealot is a weakling, yet over time they may grow very powerful as their soul becomes increasingly corrupted and warped. The table above indicates the damage a Cacozealot will deal if they are using no weapons. “Unarmed” can mean hands, knees, elbows, headbutts, etc. Additionally, if the Cacozealot rolls 18-20 on an unarmed attack roll (unmodified) they have a 50% chance of stunning their victim for 1d4 rounds. If a 20 is rolled on an attack dice (unmodified), there is a 25% chance of killing the victim outright.

Demonhide (Damage Reduction & Armour Class): The Cacozealot’s skin appears sickly and deformed. It may thicken like the hide of a reptile or beast, and they have a preternatural ability to avoid blows. When damage is dealt to the Cacozealot some is absorbed by their grotesque skin, and by the unwholesome fortune of their bloodline. Optionally, if a weapon is being employed (rather than going unarmed), the Cacozealot receives their Damage Reduction in the form of bonus damage (on a successful hit). For example, a 3rd level Cacozealot (Fiend) would receive a +2 damage bonus on a successful hit.

Skills Chart:
Cacozealots have a preternatural ability to move silently and avoid detection. These abilities are resolved by rolling 1d6. Success is indicated when the number on the dice equals, or is less than, the number listed on the chart below.

Levels
Move Silently
Hide in Shadows
1-3
1
1
4-6
2
2
7-9
4
3
10+
6
5

Bodily Corruption: At 5th level the Cacozealot’s body becomes even more depraved and mutilated. Roll 1d6 on the table below:

1d6 Result
Corruption
Effect
1-2
Claws
+1 bonus to unarmed damage.
3-4
Barbed Tail
Tail whip deals 1d6 damage.
5-6
Leathery
Wings
Cacozealot
can fly.

This corruption can be disguised at the whim of the Cacozealot. Only a 10% chance exists for being detected, although magical spells can bypass this deception entirely.


Speed: The Cacozealot is supernaturally fast. Their speed increases as they become more powerful. Winged Cacozealots can fly at their listed movement speed.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review: Weird Adventures




Trey Causey's Weird Adventures is a work of wonder. I say this on a number of levels. Firstly, it is long. It makes me wonder how long it took to write such a voluminous and inspired piece (see what I did there?). Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it is incredibly imaginative. I was somewhat cheeky and asked Trey for a copy of his Strange Stars for review. Trey not only obliged graciously, but actually suggested Weird Adventures may be more aligned with my predilections — hinting I review this instead.

At first I was not quite sure what he meant. Sure, I'm a fan of pulp tales. I like my 1930s weird fiction as much as the next nerd, but I didn't fully click on why I may enjoy Weird Adventures especially. Before delving into specifics, let me first identify what Weird Adventures most reminds me of: Deadlands Noir. Deadlands Noir is a Savage Worlds setting is based on a fictitious rendition of North America circa-1930 in an alternate future. Think hardboiled detectives in New Orleans and you're on the right track. It's pulpy. Weird Tales is highly suggestive of the same, yet extends this idea (in my opinion) much further.

Mechanically, there is little to suggest any particular system over another (the exception is the "Weird Menaces" section which I will discuss later). Rather than being problematic, this is instead a boon. One of my key gripes with Deadlands Noir was that it contains enough mechanical information to shoe-horn the reader into a particular conception of the setting, or an understanding of how a Deadlands Noir game could play out. Weird Adventures, by contrast, is purposefully broad and insinuating. It never quite locks the reader into a hard-and-fast "this is Weird Adventures". Rather, and fortuitously, it leaves a lot of things unsaid. I do not mean to suggest this book is devoid of assertive content, not at all, but the information and the ideas it does present are like adventure hooks rather than stat blocks. See the difference? One gets the imagination fired up, allowing linkages between your own game and the piece you are reading. The other tells you the system you'll be using, and how a particular scenario may go down.

By and large, Weird Adventures proposes an alternative reality to our own. It is kind-of Europe, and kind-of Africa, and kind-of America, but it's also not. It hints at a world-shaking event, containing enough catastrophe and apocalypse to dismember our "real" world, while retaining identifiable semblances to our own reality. The mood of Weird Adventures is successfully reflective of the various pulp tales I have read. It contains excitement, adventure, notions of "other", malevolent forces, turbaned sikhs, weird dimensions, and the astonishment and over-the-topness of every good pulp tale. Other prevalent themes throughout Weird Adventures include: progress, technology, innovation, sexuality, bureaucracy, the optimistic booming of economy, mysticism versus thaumaturgy (intuited magic versus applied magic), planes and the supernatural. In this sense it successfully melds the tropes of sword & sorcery (and therefore D&D) with the "real world" — albeit in a fictitious time period some 70-80 years past. It taps into the collective unconscious of the pulp tales: the economic concerns of the depression, the devastating effects of the Civil and World Wars, the proto-future and golden age of the Art Deco era, the unsuppressed optimism and faith in industry, mass production, consumerism, and finally, the ideals of Fordism. 

But why is this important or desirable? Serious gamers who inject cultural- or self-examination and retrospection into their games will surely enjoy the ability to navigate these themes within a unified game world. By contrast, those who prefer the frivolity and entertainment of role-playing games — the murderhobosim, misadventure, excitement, and the ability to roll some dice with friends — will enjoy the potential of this setting. It is the sort of location, that while making suggestions, invites and stimulates the imagination. It gets me thinking: "That's cool, but imagine if I..." or: "Whoa. If I changed that organisation into a cult, and this city was situated here...".

Causey maintains the pulpy vibes throughout the book, extending to the visual nature of Weird Adventures. He has (presumably) commissioned artwork for this setting, and it matches the appeal of the setting perfectly. Public domain artwork has been used, which I've repeatedly discussed my own disliking of. Like Dark Albion however, I think this is entirely topical and appropriate. In fact, except in a few instances, I could not determine which art was public domain, and which was commissioned. At times there were some slight visual inconsistencies — the style of the maps contrasted with certain illustrations, or two "menaces" were composed by different artists. The layout, the organisation, and the aesthetic was all purposeful and effective. The cover is reminiscent of the iconic demon statue painted on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook, yet could just as easily be found in an Indiana Jones-esque tomb. 

"Weird Menaces" is a section relegated to the end portion of the book. It describes "fearsome creatures and strange encounters" within the Weird Adventures paradigm. This portion is really the only section which presumes the reader will be using one type of gaming system over another. By implication, a vintage edition of D&D or a comparable retroclone is assumed. This may be limiting to some readers, especially those expecting a d20-type write up. For most of the readership however, I think this decision will match their expectations.

I do not have anything negative to say about Weird Adventures. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. That said, there was one small issue worth mentioning for prospective buyers. At times certain wordings or coined expression, unique to the setting, became detractive. As in Strange Stars, Causey makes no hesitations injecting his own unique vernacular into the setting. In principle I have no issue with this (quite the contrary). However, at times these peculiarities could be clandestine or obfuscating.

Anyone with a love of pulp fiction/fantasy would not go amiss by obtaining a copy of Weird Adventures. It's an inspiring piece, brimming with fun ideas. Because I'm in the middle of a Savage Worlds campaign, I can see how nicely Weird Adventures would work as a standalone setting for an alt-reality pulp game, or in conjunction with Deadlands Noir. Those running fantasy games will probably find something useful about this work too: maybe the characters are switched to another dimension and end up in the Weird Adventures milieu. Otherwise, there are new monsters (or "menaces") to be pilfered for existing fantasy campaigns. Those with a strict adherence to one genre or another may not find the pastiche of ideas to their tastes; it gathers ideas broadly. Me? I like it. Trey Causey's Weird Adventures gets a big thumbs up. I highly recommend it, not only for its applicability, but also as an interesting narrative. Sure, many of the ideas have been purveyed from other literature, but Causey is original in his interpretation, amalgamation, and expansion of these ideas, creating something unique and fun in the process. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

White Box

Original Dungeons & Dragons White Box — Corey Ryan Walden

Ever since buying the Wizards Original Dungeons & Dragons Reprint I've been itching to get my hands on an actual White Box. Today is the day, because this finally arrived. It's in awesome condition too, which is a bonus. More and more, I'm finding this ruleset is my go-to as far as simplicity and attaining a quintessential D&D experience is concerned. It's easily adaptable, has everything I like about D&D. For some reason I find it the most inviting edition to tamper with.

Although I think Wizards did a great job with the reprint, the original feels and looks quite different. I didn't quite click on how brown the "little brown booklets" actually are (the reprints are white). The interior pages of the White Box booklets are far more delicate, and although the font has been emulated pretty impressively, there are differences with layout and formatting. Of course, the box is completely different too.

For those who may be interested with this edition, but have yet to try it, I would recommend the Wizards of the Coast version simply because it comes with the additional supplements. There is something pretty special about owning an original though, and I'm very glad I was fortunate enough to have the spending money available when the opportunity presented itself. Although I probably shouldn't, I'm going to game the heck out this. It's too awesome to sit on a bookshelf, or be a "collector's" piece. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Adventures

In my inbox today, were links to the three ASSH adventures from the recent Kickstarter. I have pledged for the physical copies, but it was nice to take a peek at the digital versions. The titles include Beneath the Comet by Ben Ball, Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes by the master himself — +Jeff Talanian, and Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess by +Joe Salvador. This is not a "review" per se, because I have not spent sufficient time to make any weighted or informed comment about the adventures, but I will say that first impressions matter. These adventures are all beautifully presented, and exceedingly topical to Jeff's Hyperborean setting. +MonkeyBlood Design have provided some excellent cartography, and the ink and colour work of Jonathan and Daisy Bingham is very distinctive. I like that each adventure expands on the core setting in their own way, presenting additional perspectives and intrigue to an already flavourful milieu (particularly the eastern slanting of Joe's Forgotten Fane adventure). While I really enjoyed running Jeff's previous offerings — Rats in the Walls and Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent — these new adventures feel distinctively more ASSH. What do I mean by this? I mean the brand and the setting seems to have come of age. Both previous adventures had the grimdark grittiness of Jeff's Hyperborea, but these new adventures widen the scope and intention of the ASSH game into something greater and more diverse. Of course, these games can be run with your poison of choice (AD&D, S&W, OSRIC, whatever) but I feel like they provide a distinctive Hyperborean experience on their own. Pick one, or all, up from North Wind Adventures





Wednesday, 2 September 2015

OD&D Werecat Class

As I have previously stated, I am running an upcoming OD&D campaign using mainly White Box rules, and custom classes (if the players want something divergent).

Besides my recent Warlock class, another of my players requested a custom class: a wizard who could transform into a house cat. Developing this idea, further I present you with: The Werecat.

Available from my "Downloads" section, or by following this link HERE