Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Big Wet, a (post?) apocalyptic hack setting thing

Inspired by STALKER, Metro, Waterworld, that one BehindTheScreen post, some discussions on #glog-spillway, and a handful of other post-apocalyptic media. The phrase "the Big Wet" comes from the Wasteland graphic novel, which I know almost nothing about otherwise. The official soundtrack is anything by Protomartyr.

Also, I'm writing this on my old laptop, which likes to skip H's and add extra S's. So forgive that, please.

"Strange Places" by Artem Chebokha


About ten years ago, maybe fifteen or twenty, the world went to shit. Temperatures climbed higher, the ice caps melted, the sea levels, and the weather lost its head. Crops failed, coastlines flooded, cities were abandoned. At some point, the US of A invaded some country less than half its size, a missile or two got fired, and well, you know how that goes.

The important takeaways are this: most governments and nations are fragmented and gone. Lots and lots of valuable stuff is half-submerged in the ruins of the coastal cities. It never stops raining, and everything is always very wet.


I'm working off of the rough assumption that the global average temperature rose about 4° C (which, relatively speaking, is a shitton), and essentially all of the ice caps have melted. Water levels rose about 30 meters, give or take. Plug that into, and choose a favorite coastal city: that's the main setting of your game. Use google maps to fill in the details.

There are still people around. Lots of them died, from dehydration or filthy water or being killed, but lots of them are still alive. They live in inland communes, overcrowded and more than a little lawless, but still very much kicking. Most towns and villages have kept their names; lots of infrastructure has failed (power grid, internet, most indoor plumbing), but the buildings are still there. Most cities are ruled by a combination of their pre-apocalyptic administrators, newly-risen leaders, and good old-fashioned warlords. 

(Way, way inland, up in the mountains, there are whole cities, fueled with coal and dams. They're where new manufactured goods come from, and it's where lucky people end up. You aren't one of those lucky ones, though, so those distant mountain cities are mere backdrop to the main game.)

Most crops do not very grow when it's raining all the time; all bodies of water have grown, reducing available arable land significantly. Fungi, insects, fruit that grow in wetlands, weird trash-fish—all staples of the modern diet. Water is harder to come by; most reservoirs are contaminated, and most rainfall is toxic. Communes either keep purifiers running around the clock, hoard well-water carefully and ration it, or risk disease and drink from the poisoned seas.


(I'm hacking Mothership here; it's my go-to for more modern/non-fantasy systems, it's free, and I like the d100 for some of the stuff here. Most of these rules should translate relatively cleanly over to other OSR stuff, though.)

You have the same stats as normal. Roll-under. 

When you get wet, you add to your Wet score. When you roll the dice, you want to roll under your stat, but over your Wet score. If, say, your Strength is 35 and your Wet is (currently) 7, you would need to roll between an 8 and a 34 to succeed. Roll a 35 or higher and you fail, or roll a 7 lower and you fail. 

There are three basic states of "wetness:" damp, dripping, and drenched, from least-wet to most-wet. 

Being damp is just a little wet: standing in a drizzle with no overcoat, brushing across some waterlogged plants, getting sprayed with mist.

Being dripping is rather wet: falling into a puddle, standing in the rain in just your shirt and pants, getting water poured on you, catching some spray from a hose.

Being drenched is quite wet: swimming underwater, getting caught naked in a downpour, having a bucket of water dumped onto you, lying facedown in a deep puddle.

(You can also use these as a rough percentage: if your boots are full of water but the rest of you is dry, call that damp. If you wade waist-deep but your arms, head, and shoulders are totally dry, called that dripping. These are flexible categories.)

You don't need to track your gear to the same level of detail, but consider: if you spend several hours handling wet bags, rope, guns, and gear, you're going to get at least a bit damp yourself. Keeping your gear as dry as possible is important.

To add to your Wet score:
  • For every hour spent damp, add +1 Wet
  • For every hour spent dripping, add +2 Wet
  • For every hour spent drenched, add +3 Wet
For every hour you spend completely, entirely dry, subtract 3 Wet. 

Generally speaking, clothes take about an hour per level of Wet to dry: damp takes an hour to dry, dripping takes two hours, drenched takes three. The exceptions to this are shoes, boots, and socks, which take two or three times that long (unless you take them off and let them hang, when socks go a bit quicker). If you strip down, you'll dry off in about half an hour. If you have a heat source, it takes ten minutes or less.

(If you're on a d20 system, gain Wet every 4-hour watch or maybe every day, rather than every hour. Everything else should carry over fine.)


Bullets are currency. Paper money has long since rotted away, and you can't eat or drink with gold or jewels. The old world left behind lots of guns and plenty of bullets, though, so they have become the new de facto currency. 

All bullets, regardless of caliber or make, are worth the same. The deadlier bullets might seem more valuable, but A) their guns are rarer and harder to use, and B) deadlier isn't always more useful.

Exactly how into-detail you want to get with tracking and comparing calibers is up to you. If you want total realism you can use the big list; I personally will probably track 5-8 of the most common calibers and call it a day. You honestly don't even have to track caliber, if you don't want, and just hand-wave it to say that bullets are universal. This system will work fine regardless.

Point is, every shot counts. If you get in a gunfight, you're burning cash—both your own and your enemies'. Bullets are currency.

As for actual, like, gun stats, I'd just steal them from Mothership. Add in some more, if you need them, but they provide a good enough framework to be going on. (If you're on a d20, use Vayra's, or whatever else you want.)

Do guns work underwater? No, not really. It's not that the guns themselves don't work, just that the water resistance is too high. You can stick a gun in water and pull it out again and it will shoot fine, but literally shooting underwater is basically impossible.


For the time being, that's everything I've got. In later installments (which are hopefully forthcoming), I'll dig into wet gear, wet vehicles, swimming wet, skills for wetness, and maybe some wet classes or strange wet artifacts.

If you were part of the discussions when I first was talking about this—or if it's caught your attention—feel free to come up with your own stuff.  

"Post-apocalyptic River" by Leo Nuutinen

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

GLOG Class: Stretch Thompson

Today's been weird. 

GLOG Class: Stretch Thompson

A: Alter Size
B: Variable Specificity, Explosive Expansion
C: Gastronomic Scaling
D: Adjustable Density, Independent Dimensionality

Background: [1d3] 1 = giant-kin, 2 = witch's child, 3 = severe pituitary malfunction

Starting items: an exceedingly large lightweight robe,  (if regular nudity is embarrassing for your table, you also get a set of magic underwear that changes to fit you no matter what, but comes only in a drab color)

You gain +1 HP per template. 

(A) Alter Size
You can increase and decrease your own size; this takes about 5 seconds. None of your items or gear transform with you. Your HP doesn't change; any damage scales accordingly, so if you get a small cut while small, it'll become a big cut when you get big.

There's no equation that feels as good as these numbers, so:

Here is the table of the maximum and minimum sizes you can reach by height, per template:
  • A: max of 8 ft., min of 3 ft.
  • B: max of 12 ft., min of 1.5 ft.
  • C: max of 20 ft., min of 6 inches
  • D: max of 36 ft., min of 1 inch
You can increase or decrease to any given size within the maximum and minimum. 

When you transform, in addition to height, you change your weight accordingly. The equation to calculate weight is as follows: [current height / standard height]³ * standard weight. That's a scary-looking equation if you're like me, so here's some fast references, assuming you're 6 ft. tall and weigh 200 lbs.:
  • 36 ft = 43,200 lbs. (a grey whale)
  • 20 ft = 7,407.41 lbs. (a medium elephant)
  • 12 ft = 1600 lbs. (a large polar bear)
  • 8 ft = 474.07 lbs. (a big lion)
  • 6 ft = 200 lbs. 
  • 3 ft. = 25 lbs. (a beagle)
  • 1.5 ft = 3.125 lbs. (a rabbit, ish)
  • 0.5 ft. = 0.11 lbs. (a very long mouse)
  • 1 inch = 0.0005 lbs. (about 10 grains of rice)
Roughly speaking. Most adventurers are not precisely 6 ft. tall and exactly 200 lbs., but this is a good chart for estimation.

When you transform, your Strength score increases or decreases accordingly, equal to +/- [templates * 2] per size shift: at 8 ft., you'd have +2 STR, at 12 ft. +4, and so on. At 3 ft. you'd have -2 STR, at 1.5 ft. -4 STR, and so on. There's no real basis for this, it's just what feels reasonable.

(B) Variable Specificity
You can alter the sizes of each of your body parts individually: you can increase your hands while decreasing your head, say. 

Internal organs match their closest exterior counterparts, and your circulatory system (heart, lungs, veins, etc.) can account for any such discrepancies as if you were one evenly-ratio-size person.

(B) Explosive Expansion
If you expand while inside of another creature (like, say, you crawled down their throat), that is smaller than the size to which you are currently growing, make an STR check. On a success, they rupture at the seams and suffer catastrophic damage. On a failure, they manage to force you out of themselves before reaching the critical point: they take no damage. 

(C) Gastronomic Scaling
Any objects wholly contained within your stomach transform in size with you, maintaining their exact relative dimensions. Their density doesn't change; just volume and mass.

This means, for example, that you could swallow a toothpick, grow to 20 ft. high, hork it back up again, and have an ordinary-sized baton.

(D) Adjustable Density
In addition to your general size, you can choose to either have your own weight fit according to your size, or you have it remain at 200. This rapidly changes your density: a regular 6 ft. 200 lbs. human, blended down, is about 2 cubic feet, giving you a density of roughly 100 lb/ft³ (extremely rough, I'm not a physicist).

For reference, here are some common densities:
  • Water: 62.25 lb/ft³
  • Air: 0.0765 lb/ft³
  • Feather: 0.156 lb/ft³
  • Iron: 491.5 lb/ft³
  • Oak wood: 45.57 lb/ft³
  • Granite: 103 lb/ft³
  • Gold: 1204.86 lb/ft³
  • Osmium, the densest element: 1410.24 lb/ft³
And here are some densities you might want to know:
  • At 36 ft. tall while weighing 200 lbs.: 0.46 lb/ft³: a large sail, essentially, able to be pulled by the air
  • At 1 inch tall while weighing 200 lbs.: 74 million lb/ft³: a super-ultra-turbo heavy bullet
(D) Independent Dimensionality
Rather than change size, you can now change a single dimension: length, width, or height. Thus, you could: change solely height and transform into Slenderman; change solely width and become Flat Stanley; change solely length and you become the best goalie in the world. 

Rather than cubing weight, you now just multiply it once (since it's only one dimension). 

Anything you swallow keeps the same relative dimension.


This one's a real wild one. There's a lot of math involved, so decide upfront how in-depth you want to get with the number-crunching. 

If anyone asks where the extra mass goes or comes from, say it's the Astral Plane.

Let me know how it goes.

Using Δ Templates

I've seen a few questions, so I figured I'd just make a big post.


Δ templates are template features that only come into effect after a specific condition has been fulfilled. 

(They're pronounced as "delta templates," and sometimes written that way, too, if you don't want to wrangle with unusual keyboard inputs.)

There are three basic parts to a Δ template:
  1. The name. All templates get a cool feature name, like "Blade-Monger" or "Smite the Unworthy." Δ templates are the same (though it helps to link the name of the Δ template to the specific action associated with it).
  2. The trigger. This is the necessary condition you have to fulfill in order to gain the associated benefits. 
  3. The effects. These are the perks, benefits, abilities, bonuses, and other associated effects tied to the template as a whole.
Written, out a Δ template looks like this:

(Δ) Covenantor

Δ: enter into a formal, binding covenant with an extra-planar patron, such as a demon prince or lesser deity.

You can recognize other servants of your patron on sight as well as their sworn enemies. You gain 1 MD to channel your patron's energy.

I like to use the bold / standard / italics format, just for ease of reading (especially in a big list), but that's not necessary if you don't want it to be.  

That's it, really. They might seem scary, but really, Δ templates are pretty straightforward.


I have two answers to this: first, they build objectives and goals straight into a class from the get-go; second, they allow you as GM-designer to directly link player advancement to specific diegetic actions.

First, Δ templates build objectives and goals straight into a class. Ordinarily, a player has to wait for the campaign to get started and get used to the world to start pursuing their goals—which might not even have rewards associated, necessarily. Usually, a player's goals will be their GM's goals for their players, not necessarily what a player might want to be doing otherwise (this isn't bad, usually, but it is restrictive in a way that's always felt oddly antithetical to the old-school ethos).

With Δ templates, the second a player reads their class, they can instantly see the new shiny toys they get to play with, and the exact tasks they have to achieve to earn those shiny new toys. It gives them motivation, drive, and a clear objective—exactly what players just starting new characters will need.

For the GM, Δ templates are a way to do a little backdoor adventure-planning: because you know what classes your players are using (and thus know what Δ templates they want to unlock), you should have a good idea of what goals your players will have before the game even begins. Obviously, Δ templates are not the end-all be-all of player rewards, but in terms of building content that your players will be interested in, having an easily-referenceable list of goals your players will be hunting is exceedingly useful.

Second, Δ templates are a way to directly tie mechanical, systemic advancement to specific narrative moments and beats. 

Think about the ordinary XP-level loop (regardless of how you earn XP): you start at level 1, you earn some XP, and eventually you hit level 2, which comes with new benefits, based on your class (or whatever else you're using). The actions you take to level up—acquiring gold, beating monsters, exploring regions, completing objectives, following your beliefs, whatever you do—are almost never directly correlated, on a diegetic level, to the benefits you gain. It's an odd dissonance that most players have just gotten used to overlooking, but it's still there.

Δ templates avoid this dissonance: there are specific goals that you have to achieve to gain specific benefits. The designer can decide precisely which achievements and goals they want linked to according benefits; Δ templates remove the otherwise-dissonant abstraction so common in RPGs.

That's a lot of lofty words, but basically: Δ templates mean you can give your players goals that make sense, and then they get benefits according to those goals.


A bunch of ways. Go wild.

Here are some of the more common methods for designing triggers:
  1. Single Achievement. This is the most standard, basic way of doing it: the player completes some specific objective ("slay a dragon" "win a game of chess against a wizard") and gains an according benefit. Those are very boring examples, but you get the idea.
  2. Big List of Stuff. This is the same thing, but instead of a single achievement, it's a laundry list of small goals ("kill 100 undead" "earn 10,000 gold" "survive three blizzards"). The advantage of these is that players can make slow progress on them over the course of a campaign, rather than being one-and-done. The downside is they take a lot of tracking.
  3. Odd Conditionals. More of a modifier than a pure trigger unto itself, but these are highly specific requirements attached to more mundane tasks ("kill 100 undead using a spoon" "win a game of chess against a wizard while blindfolded"). Fun and interesting, especially in a more sandbox campaign.
  4. Narrative Beats. If you're writing more structured, story-progression-oriented classes (like my Heresiarch or Rightful Heir), you can make triggers be narrative beats that fit the common story arcs of your class ("meet a master who will teach you fire magic" "get exiled from your homeland").
With those in mind, there are four basic kinds of benefits you can gain from Δ templates:
  1. Basic Power Features. These are, essentially, the same kinds of perks you'd see on any other class ("you now critically hit on a 19 or 20" "you can run along walls as if they were flat"). Those are both boring examples, but you know how to write these.
  2. Scaling Power Features. Also known as "Notches clones," since the Notches feature fighters get in the original Goblin Guts is the prime example of these. Basically, as you hit a list trigger, you get increasing benefits ("for every 10 undead slain, gain +1 save against necromancy spells" "for every blizzard survived, you can travel 1 hour further without exhaustion"). These have the advantage of being nifty substitutes for ordinary class benefits, but have the downside of needing to be easily-quantifiable. 
  3. Boosting Current Features. If you have some regular feature you got from levelling up the normal way ("you have a 2-in-6 chance of turning invisible in darkness"), a Δ template can increase that ranking further ("after eating a giant demon bat, your chances of turning invisible increase by an additional 2-in-6"). Alternatively, it can modify an existing feature ("you can smell gold from up 100 ft. away") to something slightly different ("you can smell gold, silver, gemstones, and nervous merchants from up to 100 ft. away").
  4. Narrative Perks. Rather than attaching a specific mechanical benefit to hitting a trigger, it might just be something narrative-y and more situational/less crunchy ("you gain access to all Academy libraries" "trainee monks will begin to follow you as disciples"). These ones can be finicky, but can be a ton of fun.
Mixing and matching all of those together can be fun and interesting, and will serve you well for quite a while.

Here's some less-conventional ways you might not have thought of to use Δ templates, just because I'm on a roll here:
  1. Consumable, Repeatable Benefits. A list that scales, but instead of scaling, you use up temporary perks ("get struck by lightning" to "gain 3 MD to use on your storm magic"). Basically a class resource that has narrative triggers. You can also do this where instead of gaining a repeating feature, it gains you another entry on a list (like my Sage's Wizardly Tricks, or Lexi's Thief Guild ability ranks).
  2. On/off Triggers. Basically, there's a trigger to gain a benefit ("marry into royalty" to "gain +2-in-6 chance of commanding lesser nobility"), and then an associated trigger to lose that benefit ("if you get divorced or your spouse has a public affair"). 
  3. Bad Effects. Instead of giving you benefits, the trigger gives you penalties ("pass out due to drunkenness" means "to not a take drink when offered, you must first pass a save vs. addiction"). Very fun if you're making a class that deals with dangerous forces (like, say, any magic-user). Anti-goals are less conducive to player progression and goal-setting, but do make for hella tense moments.
    1. Combining These. Take a trigger ("seal one of your eyes shut with goat's blood"), give it both good and bad benefits ("you can read demonic text and spot hidden demons, but witch-hunters can smell the foul magic on you and will hunt you"), and then have a way a player can get rid of it later ("bathe your eye in a mix of absinthe and maiden's tears").
  4. Gated Templates. In order to hit one trigger ("swear a Brass Oath" "slay an executor angel") you must first hit a different, previous trigger ("forge your own brass gauntlets" "slay a dozen praetor angels"). You can also gate the trigger behind other stuff, like level or wealth or whatever. 
  5. Exclusive Triggers. In short, if you do one trigger, the other locks itself out ("sign a contract with a demon" OR "slay a demon who offers you a contract") to gain opposing benefits. 
    1. Combining These. Multiple gated triggers that branch can be used to essentially allow a class to split into subclasses. A bucket of work, and some tables might hate it, but it can be a ton of fun if your players are into it.
  6. Campaign Templates. Rather than tie Δ templates to one specific class, make them just a big list of things that any character can do (here's a big list of those). Achievements with mechanical benefits, basically. You can also have them be party-wide triggers that are completed as a group (you can even make the reward for a party-wide trigger be that the whole party levels up, if you're feeling clever).
I am absolutely 100% sure that if you spend some time mucking around with Δ templates, you will come up with more interesting variations and tweaks and adjustments than I have here. Like I said, go wild!


No. Well, not really.

Δ templates are a fancy name I came up with for a system of hit-the-trigger-to-get-the-benefit that tons and tons of other people have been doing for a long time. 

Here's a non-exhaustive list of games and systems that do something similar that I took inspiration from:
  • Keys from Lady Blackbird, by John Harper (which in turn come from Clinton R. Nixon's Shadow of Yesterday). These influence the on/off ideas and hitting them more than once.
  • Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits from Burning Wheel by Luke Crane—more systematized and less case-by-case, but Crane's system is the granddaddy of "do what your character would to earn stuff."
  • Pasts & Traumas from Zombie World, by Mark Diaz Truman and Brendan Conway. Like, almost beat-for-beat.
  • Notches, from the Fighter from Goblin Guts, by Arnold K. I mentioned them earlier, but they're the basis for basically all the big-list-of-stuff-that-scales triggers.
  • Basically any OSR system that doesn't follow quite the standard gold-or-monsters-for-XP. There's a bunch of these, so I won't list them all. 
I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting. 


I hope you feel a little more informed and comfortable on how Δ templates work. 

You can and should put them in the stuff you make. If you need help with brainstorming or design or writing, hit me up (here, @HeadOfTheGoat on Twitter, or SquigBoss#1353 on discord) and I'll do what I can to help you.

Honestly, this is not that innovative of a system, it's just a cute name for them (it's a delta! because change!) that I hope will catch on in my little corner of the GLOG scene.

Let me know how it all goes. 


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Retrofitting the Zouave: a List of Achievements

So we all know and love deus's Zouave, the grizzled old fighter that's seen too much. It's signature "thing" is that it randomly gets three Tall Tales, which are maybe-true stories that the Zouave claims to have done, which in turn gets it mechanical bonuses. It gives the feeling of the Zouave having been around the block, like an old soldier should.

In this post, I'm going to retrofit all 32 Zouave Tales (plus a few of my own) using delta templates. The idea here is to have fairly specific mechanical tasks that, if done, grant you a mechanical bonus.

Any player of any class should be able to earn these. Some of them can be earned by the whole party at once, theoretically. Benefits kick in more or less immediately.
  1. Cross the Deserts Bare
    Δ: complete a month-long (or longer) journey through a desert (hot or cold) without footwear, proper warm- or cold-weather clothing, or socks of any variety. 
    You and the party travel at full speed over rough terrain.

  2. Breathe the Mountain Air
    Δ: spend at least a month at an elevation higher than one mile, survive at least three rockslides or avalanches, and travel at least 100 miles off-trail.
    You and your party travel over impassable terrain as if it were merely rough.

  3. Travel Every Road
    Δ: visit at least 10 cities, 15 distinct regions, 20 villages, and pass through 30 different cross-roads. To count as visiting, you have to spend at least a night there.
    You can read road-signs in any language, and you and your party move 1.5x as fast when on actual roads. You know how to say "hello," "good-bye," "where is the privy," "hands up," and "fuck your mother" in a dozen languages.

  4. Lose an Eye
    Δ: in combat or through treachery, have one (or both) of your eyes gouged out.
    You cannot be surprised. If you lift your eyepatch to show the hole, you can really spook someone.

  5. Hunt the Dead in the Hills
    Δ: kill 100 undead, delve into at least a dozen infested crypts/barrows/mausoleums/cellars, spend a night on desecrated ground, and almost die to at least two of those things.
    You can smell a human corpse from 200 feet. If you stand completely still for a full minute, you can hear the difference between a dark room which is silent and a dark room in which someone is not making a sound. 

  6. Get Caught Unawares
    Δ: survive a night-time ambush when you were totally unprepared, without armor or weapons ready.
    Unless strip-searched, you always have 1d4 knives hidden somewhere about your person.

  7. Ford the Great River in Flood
    Δ: before dawn, cross a huge river during the wet season—when it rushes the fastest and its banks overflow—and almost drown. If more than 75% of your group makes it through this challenge alive, none of you get the perk.
    You have a +4 bonus against being unwillingly moved.

  8. Kill an Evil Wizard With Your Bare Hands
    Δ: kill an evil wizard with your bare hands. No weapons, no tools, no magic.
    You can tell the difference between magical and non-magical items by licking them; you have advantage against any command/mind-control spell.

  9. Laugh in the Face of G_d
    Δ: be struck by lightning, and live.
    One time, if you take enough damage to instantly die, you instead take that much damage minus 1, thus barely surviving. If you get struck by lightning again afterwards, this ability resets.

  10. Wade Ankle-Deep in Blood
    Δ: participate in and then survive a six-month (or longer) siege, and the ensuing brutal massacre and sack of the city (from either side).
    You can identify the value of a mundane item in a real damn hurry, as a first-level thief.

  11. Dance the Finger-Dance
    Δ: play at least a dozen rounds of the knife-game. Keep both thumbs and at least four fingers.
    When wielding a bladed weapon, you can never fumble. If you would ever lose more fingers from a death & dismemberment roll (or similar), ignore those results.

  12. Ride Beside a Hero
    Δ: spend at least a month riding alongside an attractive young person with a strange birthmark, a mysterious weapon, and an odd sort of air about them. Help them rescue at least one person in daring, reckless mission. Later, find out they fulfilled some prophecy.
    Maybe worth a free drink or two? Until you find that kid again, though, it'll be hard to actually make this particular achievement worth anything.

  13. Stroll Through a Blockade
    Δ: while in the middle of a siege lasting at least one month, slip out a postern gate and walk through the enemy line. No combat, no challenges, no getting caught.
    Outside of combat, everybody just assumes you are where you belong, unless you give them a compelling reason not to.

  14. Listen to the Good Word
    Δ: unironically take up religion. Go to church, say your prayers, and try to be better. If you ever give up on faith, you lose this perk.
    You gain one knowledge of one holy book. If you hear a prayer, even in a language you don't know, you can piece together its basic meaning.

  15. Kill Three Foes With One Shot
    Δ: with a single regular projectile (i.e. not a cannonball or ballista bolt), somehow cause the death of three enemies. 
    If you roll a critical hit with a ranged weapon, the target you hit can move up to 10 feet in any direction you choose.

  16. Win a Game of Riddles With a Giant
    Δ: win a game of riddles (at least three rounds, each) with a giant, or giant-ish creature. Ogres and trolls do not count.
    NPCs take your riddles very, very seriously. This probably won't stop them from trying to kill you.

  17. Narrowly Evade an Angry Spouse
    Δ: after bedding a married person, escape their armed and angry spouse by leaping from a window that is at least three stories high—then, survive and escape.
    You treat every fall as if it were 10 feet lower.

  18. Complete an Anabasis
    Δ: cross a hundred miles of wilderness to reach the coast, with armed foes behind you, without stopping for food or rest—then escape.
    You are not exhausted by forced marches, and your comrades are not affected by exhaustion until it kills them.

  19. Fall Deep in Love
    Δ: fall hard and fast for someone, and spend at least a month together in romantic delight. If you fall out of love, you still have this perk.
    You have advantage on saves against charms, hypnotism, and magical enthrallments.

  20. Escape a Cave of Treasures
    Δ: when faced with the classic "take the money and die, or leave the money and live" dungeon scenario, do both: take the money, then survive.
    Your carrying capacity is doubled if you dump all of your useful gear first.

  21. Sleep Through the Falling of the Gates
    Δ: intentionally or not, completely miss a dangerous event by sleeping. If all of your comrades, survive, you do not gain this perk.
    You can fall asleep at will; if you spend a moment setting your mind to your wake-up time, you'll wake up then, perfectly. You have advantage against magical sleeping effects.

  22. Survive a Hanging
    Δ: survive a hanging through means other than being rescued by your friends in the nick of time. Lead pipes, unfriendly rescues, magic crows—all fair and valid.
    You can hold your breath for thrice as long. If something would break your neck instantly, you miraculously survive instead.

  23. Live Among the Wild Hill-Folk
    Δ: after narrowly surviving something extremely dangerous and being separated from the main force, spend at least a month among the "barbaric" peoples that live in places the ordinary maps deem as wilderness. 
    You have a huge horrible scar somewhere on your body, and you gain one barbaric advantage.

  24. Pursue the Piper
    Δ: give in to the piper's tune, the nymph's laughter, the siren's song. Travel to their strange domain, lose yourself for a span or three, and somehow return to the mortal world.
    NPCs who could plausibly be attracted to you will ignore their daily tasks to chat. In every language you speak (and some you don't), you can fake the most posh accent.

  25. Outlast the Court-Martial
    Δ: get court-martialed, and then manage to avoid punishment not because you weren't guilty but either because: A) there was some absurd technicality in the handbook that meant you technically didn't qualify, or B) the camp was attacked and they needed every body they could get, and then nobody bothered afterwards.
    If you spend a day in deep study with proper legal resources at hand, you can come up with enough bluster, legalistic bullshit, and jury-splitting arguments to evade punishments for most lesser crimes. For bigger crimes, if you can somehow avoid sentencing for 1d6 days (rolled secretly), something more important will come along and the trial will have to be delayed.

  26. Languish in the Leviathan's Belly
    Δ: after having your entire ship and crew swallowed whole by some gigantic hideous monster, spend three days in its belly, have some kind of revelation or change of heart, then escape.
    You know one priestly miracle-spell, which you can cast once per week at 1 MD.

  27. Earn Your Stripes
    Δ: go unconscious 10 times, get critically hit 10 times, have at least 10 suitably gruesome scars, have at least one permanent wound that's never healed all the way.
    Soldiers, fighters, and warriors inherently respect you. If you show someone your scars, you can intimidate them into free drinks, letting you into a fancy club, or not trying anything stupid.

  28. Go By a Terrible Name
    Δ: spend at least six months acting under some terrible name, like Sue, Eugene, Tabitha, or Herbert. Maybe it's your own name you were born with, maybe it's just a name you had to assume.
    Once per day, if the name's mentioned, you can enter a rage, as a first-level barbarian. You gain three levels of exhaustion when you do so.

  29. Study in the Ancient Libraries
    Δ: spend at least a month in some ancient place of learning, like a magic academy or ruined sanctum. Read at least one book cover-to-cover, and dabble in at least a dozen more.
    You learn a single wizardly trick (or two). You can kind-of-sort-of figure out what written spells do, as on a scroll or in a wizard's grimoire.

  30. Get Rich
    Δ: acquire a big fat pile of gold, then buy at least three of: a big house in town, a handful of servants, luxurious clothing, beautiful people to hang on your arms, a dancing bear. Then, in less than a week, lose it all.
    You technically own a mansion, but it is in a city at least 500 miles away and is currently occupied by a gang of usurers and their pet bear. 

  31. Crawl Through the Black Mud of Spring
    Δ: travel five miles on your belly, without ever walking on your own two legs. Get utterly filthy in the process.
    You crawl twice as fast as normal. With a waterskin and a rag, you can take yourself from covered in shit to clean as a whistle in less than a minute.

  32. Meet Your Double
    Δ: meet your strange counterpart: looks like you, talks like you, smells like you, with all your scars and tics and tones and gaits. Maybe it's a demon, maybe it's your twin separated at birth, maybe it's just dumb luck.
    Somewhere, there is another person that people always mistake for you. When you're accused of a crime, there's a 2-in-6 chance that you can blame it on your double. When you enter town, there's a 2-in-6 chance that the law shows up with a fistful of unpaid fines and a big stick.

  33. Rival the Mad Monk
    Δ: survive being shot, stabbed, drowned, poisoned, and burned alive.
    Royalty will find you irresistibly attractive. Your children will tame lions. When you die, your genitalia will be pickled and displayed. 

  34. Save the Royal Issue
    Δ: when the castle gates come crashing down and enemies swarm, escape with some member of the royal family (or equivalently powerful position) on your shoulders. If they could have survived without you being there, you don't get this perk.
    If a party member is unconscious or dying, you make every attack with advantage.

  35. Walk After Bedwyr
    Δ: return a long-lost artifact to its rightful location, like a sword to a lake or a ring to a volcano.
    You gain a ghostly, spectral limb to replace one you've lost. It can do everything a regular arm can, but can also become incorporeal at your will.

  36. Survive an Infamous Massacre
    Δ: survive a massacre of at least 500 people by seeming dead (intentionally or not).
    If given a minute to find a hiding place, you are as difficult to find as a secret door.

  37. [REDACTED]
    Δ: Perform a... "favor" for someone or some... "organization." Get... "well-compensated." If you tell anyone about this and don't immediately kill them, you lose the perk.
    You can always tell when another person is being uncannily manipulated, or if they've been replaced by Someone Else. You can tell when you're being followed. You can tell when the birds are spying on you.

  38. Find the Dark Tower
    Δ: have dreams of an ancient, accursed site, all black rock and carved runes; then, find it.
    When you die, you cannot be resurrected and you will never rise as an undead. You are invisible to all forms of supernatural detection.

  39. Commit Regicide
    Δ: assassinate a monarch, or someone of greater power (like an emperor).
    When you deal damage, you deal +1 damage per 10 followers/minions/underlings the target has.

  40. Earn a Wish
    Δ: save the life of a strange, supernatural creature, who in turn offers you any one wish.
    You can make a single Wish.

  41. Bareknuckle Box a Brown Bear
    Δ: get into a boxing match with a bear (of at least three one-minute rounds). You don't have to win, necessarily, but you do have to not die.
    Bears will never attack you unprovoked. Your unarmed attacks deal 1d3 damage. 

  42. Gamble with a Devil
    Δ: play at least ten-minute game of luck (cards, dice, knucklebones, etc.) with a devil. Survive with your soul intact.
    When you roll a die and the result is a 7, immediately roll another die of the same size and add its value to the total.

  43. Drop Out of the Sky
    Δ: survive a fall of at least 1,000 feet. Maybe that's in a falling balloon, maybe it's using some kind of fancy parachute, maybe it's pure luck. If you ever get that high off the ground again, you lose this perk.
    You can always retrace your steps, even in darkness or in a panic, and you can't get lost in a place you've had a good view of (like, say, from a balloon or mountaintop).

  44. Take Part in a Doomed Expedition
    Δ: at the last second, turn back from an expedition that will never return. Beg at least two of them to turn back with you.
    Once per day, your GM will warn you if you're about to do something truly, monumentally stupid.

  45. "Commit No War Crimes"
    Δ: loot 50 dead bodies, rob 20 people, rifle through 10 wealthy locales (manors, temples, guild-houses, etc.) and smuggle out at least half the proceeds.
    You can nick things as a first-level Scavver.

  46. Wander the Labyrinthine Wastes
    Δ: after boldly proclaiming that you definitely know where to go, spend at least a month lost in a single region or location, then eventually find your way out.
    You always know which way is north, even deep underground and blindfolded. If someone gives you false directions, you know it.

  47. Lynch a Sorcerer
    Δ: at the urging of at least a dozen other people, lead an expedition to the residence of a nearby magic-user, break down the doors, kill everyone inside, then burn & bury the bodies.
    You are cursed. You are immune to healing spells and your blood glows in the dark. You are also immune to all other magical effects, and have advantage against damaging spells that call for a save. 

  48. Out-Drink a Dwarf
    Δ: win a drinking contest with a dwarf, and stay conscious for at least ten minutes afterwards.
    When you drink, you decide how drunk you want to get: one drink can get you buzzed for the evening, or you can put down ten shots and walk in a straight line.

  49. Catch a Big Fish
    Δ: catch a fish of any size, and then convince at least one person that you actually caught an enormous fish, as long as your wingspan is wide.
    As long as you can't be immediately disproven, you can lie through your teeth and be believed for 1d6 minutes. Afterwards, whoever you lied to will likely be furious.

  50. Garner a Reputation
    Δ: earn at least 10 other achievements.
    When you meet a stranger, there's a X-in-6 chance that they've heard of you; X is equal to the number of achievements earned divided by 10, rounded down. On a 1, they've actually met you before, though you may or may not remember them.  

While a lot of these are kind of goofy, this kind of thing could potentially serve as the template for a classless OSR system using exclusively delta templates. 

Let me know what you think.

GLOG Class: the Middleman

Bards do a lot: sometimes, they're about magical music (or musical magic); sometimes, they're about legends and tales and stories; sometimes, they're just about playing a genuine face class; sometimes, they're like skaldic battle-troubadours; sometimes, they're clowns and jesters. It varies a lot, and so I think trying to cram all of that into a class is a flawed premise. 

Deus just posted his Villieur bard class, and I was part of a few conversations leading up to that, and it got  me thinking. This class draws a lot from the Villieur, my own Sage, Lexi's Jack, Arnold's post about bards, some of the social mechanics from Cartel, and probably a smattering of other stuff I'm forgetting. 

This particular bard class is about the social angle: truth, lies, people, and everything in between.

GLOG Class: the Middleman (aka the Circus, the Mastermind, the Songbird)

A: Town Crier, News-Broker, Eye for Secrets
B: Lies Do Not Become Us, Easy Come, Easy Go
C: Informal Summons, Rumor-Pushing
D: Voice of Reason, Friends in High Places

Starting skills [1d3]: 1 = banished spymaster; 2 = overambitious scribe; 3 = failed troubadour

Starting equipment: a large leather-bound notebook, a small black notebook, quill & ink, a bell, a crier's uniform, and an indescribable air of one who knows the world.

(A) Town Crier
You're a professional crier, meaning you are licensed and expected to carry official missives, announcements, proclamations, and other news, and then announce it whenever appropriate. When you ring your bell and call out "Oyez, oyez!" people will stop whatever they're doing, listen to what you have to say, and then spread the news around to their neighbors and friends. News will eventually spread farther than that, probably, but it will be much slower (given that they're reliant on people like you).

Anytime you enter town, there's a 3-in-6 chance that somebody important (an alderperson, mayor, high priest, noble, guild master, etc.) will have some piece of news they want you to distribute. In a hamlet or village, the odds are only 2-in-6; in a large city, it's 5-in-6. For any of those, if you roll a 1, the news is not for public distribution, but instead some kind of message or letter to be delivered only to other important people, or possibly one specific important person. 

To be clear, you don't have to do any of these things; it's expected of you, socially, but criers are generally only answerable to the crown (or appropriate), so most local government officials can't force you. If you haven't rung your bell and delivered news, though, people will definitely stop you on the street and ask.

Being a crier also means that, as long as you're either bringing news to share now or collecting information to deliver elsewhere, you can get in almost anywhere, at any social level, pretty much at any time. It also means that, because you work for the crown, you have a [templates+1]-in-6 chance of being able to requisition free basic goods and services, like traveling gear, maps, a bed, that kind of thing. 

(A) News-Broker
You're a dealer of information and secrets, with all the weight that carries. When you enter town, there's a [templates]-in-6 chance that somebody will come up to you on the street and ask for a piece of information that you already have. If you give it to them (which you don't have to do), they'll pay you with one piece of information that you don't already know the answer to. 

If you ask for specific information that's plausible for this person to know, there's a [templates+1]-in-6 chance that they can give it to you. Otherwise, it'll just be some random tidbit that this person thought was interesting, relevant, or newsworthy.

If you spend a while sitting in some public meeting place (the tavern, the green, the temple steps, etc.), people will come to you: 1d6 + templates of them, each with their own questions and their own news.

GM, the random bits of news that people bring should be a blend of flavorful setting stuff ("the Festival of Limes is coming up!"), adventure/content hooks ("nobody's seen Lady Harlowe in days!"), and mostly-useless trivia ("my cat Muffin is having kittens!").

(A) Eye for Secrets
You're good at reading people. Every template you take, including this one, roll on the Secrets table, and gain the benefits accordingly. 

(B) Lies Do Not Become Us
When you talk to someone, either casually or to get information, you can force them to make three saves over three minutes, one minute per save, in any order:
  • A save vs. deduction (probably INT): on a failure, they can't twist and muddy the truth to mislead you.
  • A save vs. insight (probably WIS): on a failure, they can't omit key details or leave anything important out.
  • A save vs. raw social pressure (probably CHA): on a failure, they can't lie or otherwise just start making up falsehoods.
"Can't" here doesn't mean that they physically can't get their vocal chords to make the sounds—rather, if they try it, you'll know instantly, and they will almost certainly break under pressure if you push them on it. 

As usual, this works on people, but definitely won't work on other stuff, like demons or dragons.

(B) Easy Come, Easy Go
You've just got one of those faces. When you need to get past social barriers, like a party invitation or secret club meeting or royal ball, you can always get in. How this works isn't pre-decided: maybe the guards turn a blind eye, maybe you cook up an invite, maybe somebody vouches for you, maybe you just kind of, you know, show up.

If you need to make a fast exit, you have a [templates]-in-6 chance of doing so successfully. 

(C) Informal Summons
When you need somebody in town, you can put out the word that you want to talk. Unless they have very good reason to avoid you—like, say, you've tried to kill them before—there's a [templates+1]-in-6 chance that they'll show up to meet (unless they're, like, the king or something, in which case you'll have to go meet them). 

If you want to meet someone privately, without anyone else knowing, you have a [templates]-in-6 chance instead. If you fail this roll, word gets out that you tried to meet in secret.

(C) Rumor-Pushing
If you cook up a rumor and then spread it somewhere public, it has a [templates]-in-6 chance of spreading how you need it to and then provoking the appropriate response. Those chances are modified by the following:

Take +1-in-6 for each of the following:
  • You happen to know somebody nearby who loves gossip
  • The rumor is particularly spicy, juicy, wild, or scandalous
  • The rumor concerns people, rather than stuff
  • The rumor has a basis in truth, is mostly-kind-of-maybe-true, or actually is true
Take -1-in-6 for each of the following:
  • The rumor is readily verifiable by any rando off the street
  • The target of the rumor/intended effect location is far away
  • You need a really big response, something intense, with muscle behind it
  • You don't know anybody at all in this town
Examples might include, say, spreading the rumor that Lady Harlowe and Sir Godfrey were caught in bed together, hopefully with the intent that Lord Harlowe will fire Sir Godfrey from his post. Or, say, that there was a secret meeting of the Twelve Knives Gang to discuss taking over Razor Alley, with the goal that the Razor Alley Rooks take action against the Twelve Knives immediately.

(D) Voice of Reason
People believe you when you talk. News, advice, counsel, suggestions, whatever—people take you at your word, and even the most hardened doubters will believe you. 

Obviously, if you spout immediately-disprovable obvious falsehoods (green skies and all), people won't believe it, but they'll kind of semi-nervously chuckle at how easy it was to trust what you said, even if it was complete nonsense. It's less about the literal words you say or your actual voice, and more about how your listeners feel. (Channel your inner Saruman.) 

This doesn't work on PCs, unless they want it to.

(D) Friends in High Places
Your network of information has spread far and wide, to the degree that the rich and powerful of the realm specifically contact you. When you enter town, in addition to the normal news-broker effects, you also receive 1d6 letters from people in high places (nobility, wizards, merchant-princes, popes, underworld bosses, and so on) that follow the same rules. They ask you for a piece of information you already know; if you send the letter back, they'll have a letter for you in the next town with something new and juicy. It's the exact same thing as news-broker, except that it's via letters and the scale is way, way larger.

GM, make these secrets big and juicy: who's planning war with who, what the priestly auguries say, what new sanctions and tariffs will be imposed, what new laws are going into effect—that kind of thing. The news they ask for should be along the same lines; don't be afraid to push your middleman player to actually have to think about whether or not they want to respond.

Roll one of these every template. Choose the one above or below if you roll a duplicate. It usually takes a  minute or two for these to kick in after meeting someone.
  1. Profession
    You can always tell what someone's job is, to a broad degree. You might not know a duke from a count, but you always know a noble; likewise, you might not know a scout from a sergeant, but you always know a soldier.
  2. Hatred
    If you meet someone and they really just fucking despise someone else, you know it. If you meet the target of their hatred, you instantly make the connection (this might include you, too).
  3. Wealth
    If somebody you meet has significantly more or less money than they seem to, you can tell (and you know if it's more or less). 
  4. Romance
    If you meet someone in love (or lust, or even just a crush), you can tell. If you meet two people who are supposed to be in love (or other romantic relationship) but one or both of them isn't, you can tell.
  5. Religion
    If you meet someone who professes one faith but actually believes another (or believes none at all), you know it, and have a strong hunch what they actually believe in.
  6. Identity
    If someone claims to be someone else that they aren't, you know. You can't necessarily tell who they actually are, but you know it isn't who they say.
  7. Magic
    If someone is inherently magical, either because they're a wizard or because they're cursed or because they're secretly a faerie or something, you know it.
  8. Vice
    When you meet someone, you know their nasty vice. Not a little thing like nose-picking or nail-biting, but the big ones: booze, drugs, sex, adrenaline, and so on.
  9. Promise
    If someone makes a formal promise—like in an oath, vow, or contract—and they know then and there they intend to break it, you know. If you meet them later and they've decided to break their promise, you can spot the change.
  10. Physique
    When you hear a statement about someone's physical body—like, say, "I can bench 200 lbs.," or "I was sick last weekend, sorry"—you know if it's a lie. You don't know the actual truth, but you can spot the lie.
  11. Struggle
    If someone claims that they're doing fine and well and dandy, you know if that's actually true. Maybe in the context of a soldier being stabbed and hiding how bad the wound is, maybe in the context of someone grappling with work at their first year at university. 
  12. Serial Liars
    If you meet somebody who just lies their ass off all the time, you know them at first sight. 

Not 100% sure about this one. It mostly hangs together, I think, but might need some revisions. In a really social campaign, I think it would be tons of fun; outside of that, it'd be a little more niche. 

Partially I think that's because there's not any single source of inspiration. There's some Shakespearean clown, some Sam Vimes, some private eye, and a smattering of other stuff. 

Let me know if you get a chance to try it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

First pass at Zakharos


This is a setting I'm tinkering around with for a war campaign and/or ruleset I'm tinkering around with. It's tentatively called Zakharos, but that might change. This is honestly more for my benefit than it is good reading; as Skerples says, it's got a whiff of the dolphin. 

1d6 measures the Brevantine Imperials has taken to put down Zakharone uprisings in the past:
  1. Working with bandits and organized crime to strike against revolutionary elements. Foreign smuggler outfits or local racketeers are more than happy to do so, if the Bureaus turn a blind eye.
  2. Arresting street preachers and public speakers, usually with no charges: the Dérobés just take them away in the night, not seen again for months—sometimes they end up executed on order of the Synod. 
  3. Framing possible uprising-leaders, usually by planting heretical religious iconography on them, or else just cooking their otherwise-legitimate books.
  4. Capturing a whole village, and threatening to put them to the sword if the leaders do not come peacefully; only twice have the Zakharone not relented.
  5. Paying out substantial rewards in silver écus if any Zakharone report on their neighbors' possibly-subversive activities to the Dérobés. 
  6. Breaking any caught revolutionary leaders on the wheel, and blinding any of their more prominent followers.
1d6 reasons why this particular revolt has been more successful (so far):
  1. An influx of drafted Zakharone veterans returning home after the Moth Wars (if they went south) or the Drowned Man's War (if they went east), who both know how to fight and how the Brevantine Legion operates in hostile territory.
  2. An uptick in raids from the Kreitene and Freags, on the Brevant's southern and eastern borders, pulling the Legion's attention and resources away.
  3. A poor harvest in the hills around Dessecaire (Dyskar, to the Zakharone) and the eastern plains, leading to many people out of work and out of food—eager to join the Revolutionary Guard and raid Bureaus' caches.
  4. It's the first Year of Red Skies, which only come once every 120 years, since the Brevantines took Zakharos. Whether or not the festivals will be banned remains to be seen.
  5. Smugglers from Synnius and the Grasp supplying the Guard with arms, food, and supplies—in exchange for looted Brevantine silver, naturally. 
  6. A roster of icognito Dérobés was stolen, leading to some rapid house-cleaning among the Guard's ranks.
1d6 holy sites the Brevantines have defiled:
  1. The Triptych Shrine, which housed the remains of a hundred saints; the Brevantines literally toppled it during the Seventeen Day War, almost eighty years ago at this point.
  2. Our Lost Sister's Hall, the largest temple in Dessecaire; Brevantine soldiers stand guard, in their boots, both in the literal Hall and in the square outside.
  3. The great River of Rats; during the high feast days around the summer solstice, the Brevantines fished in its waters for their dinner.
  4. Carrousse (Kharos, in Zakharone) the Anointed, the great statue of Zakharos' founder, was draped in Brevantine colors on order of the Synod, and has been every year at the start of the month of Anointing.
  5. The ruins of the Temple of Nails, to which pilgrims travel every year, had a Synod church built over part of the ruins; that church's walls are literally made of the stones of the Temple.
  6. The Deadking's Arch, illegally destroyed by drunken Brevantine artificers; the Bureaus punished the artificers and paid for Arch's repair, but the Zakharone have never forgiven it.
1d6 otherwise-innocuous symbols of Zakharone resistance:
  1. A sprig of rosemary, usually either tied around the wrist or attached to the belt; it was worn by some of the preachers in the Date Riots earlier in the year, who then were executed.
  2. The loon, specifically a red-throated loon; they've always been common symbols in the Zakharone mystery cults, and so to wear the icon of a loon is to resist the Synod's cultural grip.
  3. "Rafi," the common given name; Rafi Iron-Palm was the first Zakharone commander to die in the Seventeen Day War. Among revolutionaries, referring to "our friend Rafi" is a term for a fellow revolutionary.
  4. The melody to "Laud to Thee," arguably the most-popular hymnal among the Zakharone; some revolutionaries have sung it while fighting. It's been banned in Dessecaire, and other Bureau lords-mayor are considering the same. 
  5. A Brevantine silver écu split in half—both because good-and-proper Brevantines aren't supposed to accept defaced currency (while Zakharone don't care), and because of the obvious symbolism of cutting the Emperor's face in two.
  6. The color red—in traditional Synod mysticism, it denotes evil, villainy, and chaos. As of six months ago, the quasi-official uniform of the Revolutionary Guard includes a red beret.
1d6 revolutionary hotbeds:
  1. Dessecaire, specifically in Old Town, where the Date Riots happened—the first link of the chain of events that led to the revolution.
  2. The Jackal's Flats, the catch-all name for the wide eastern plains where most of Zakharos' food is grown—between Bureau mismanagement and several unexpected spring storms, there was a poor harvest, leading to many farmers fighting in riots.
  3. Talais (Zakharone: Tel-Vay), the deep northern city on southern coast of the Seas of Sand; it's always had ties to the Free Cities, and thus was more prone to revolution anyway, but it's also where most of the Synniot smugglers have been arriving, pushing it further.
  4. The Osteoclast Hills, in the center of Zakharos, craggy and steep and labyrinthine. Every outlaw, criminal, and exile from any of the major cities flees to the tiny villages of the Osteoclast, plotting their return.
  5. The Dust Quarter, a stretch of gritty scrubland desert running north towards Talais. The Legion has only twice tried to cross it, with disastrous results both times, and thus hidden oases allow for far more independence than elsewhere.
  6. Damiens (Zakharone: Daniyyan), a southern port city on the Lesser Sea. Other than Dessecaire, Damiens has suffered the tightest Bureau regimens, and the most abuse at the hands of the Dérobés, pushing it further and further towards open revolt.
This was posted for GLOGtober the 9th: Region.

Ritual Elements in GLOG Magic

This is an adaptation of some bits from my Slow Ritual Magic I posted a few months ago.

In base GLOG, wizards get extra Magic Dice from wearing a wizard's robe or using a magic wand. This is fine, in my view—it adds incentive for wizards to not just be wearing armor all the time—but I think it can be done one better. This is a post about using rituals in your GLOG game: ceremonial, performative procedures done to increase magic power. 

There are three things that contribute to the power of a ritual: the site, the trappings, and the performances


Sites are physical locations, or aspects of a location, that contribute to the ritual of the spell. For each of the following that's true, add +½ MD:
  • You are on hallowed or desecrated ground
  • You are in a circle of standing stones (or a square of carved obelisks)
  • You stand under the light of a full moon, or the dark of no moon
  • There are mystic runes and glyphs permanently etched into the floor beneath you
  • The ritual is performed in front of an abnormal plant, such as a tree with a face carved in it
  • The ritual is performed as part of a longstanding and important festival, holy day, etc.—one that's been occurring regularly for at least 100 years
  • It is the witching hour
  • You are at a significant physical natural landmark, such as the top of a mountain or at a spot with river on three sides
  • You stand in the midst of a crossroads of at least four roads
For each the following that's true, add +1 MD:
  • It is any of the solstices or equinoxes
  • The moon is any color or shape other than normal, such as during an eclipse
  • You are at a truly standout natural landmark, such as the top of the highest mountain in an entire mountain range or an island on a lake on an island
  • The ritual is performed as part of a longstanding and important festival, holy day, etc.—one that's been occurring regularly for at least 1000 years
  • You stand in the midst of a crossroads of at least seven roads
All of these can, of course, combine. If you're casting a spell during the witching hour of the solstice while at a fourfold crossroads etched with ancient runes that's been hallowed, that's a free +3 MD. 


Trappings are objects, items, accouterments, and other magical bits and bobs that contribute to the ritual of a spell. For each of the following that you spend at least 1 minute properly setting up, add +½ MD:
  • Fat yellow candles and burnt incense
  • Circles of salt, sand, and earth
  • Glyphs and runes drawn in chalk
  • Auspicious parts of a spooky animal (like adder's fork or blind-worm's sting)
  • Some bit of the intended target(s), like hair or nail or blood
  • Strange arcane implements made of silver
  • A huge stone basin or black iron cauldron
  • A cloak, robe, or coat worn by another magician previously
  • A human skull
For each of the following that you spend at least 1d6 minutes properly setting up, add +1 MD:
  • A genuine crystal ball
  • A cloak, robe, or coat worn by seven generations of magicians previously
  • An entire spooky animal, still alive
  • An entire human skeleton, plus its heart
As with ritual sites, these combine, but no double dipping (i.e. the skull does not count for an additional bonus ½ on top of the skeleton).


Performances are ceremonial procedures, the literal acts taken to perform the spell itself. For each of the following that you do as part of casting the spell, add +½ MD:
  • You spill fresh blood, either your own or another person's
  • You read aloud (or recite from memory) several sentences in an obscure language (from a spellbook, from runes on the wall, from scriptural prayers, etc.)—I would recommend each spell have its own sequence(s) that must be read aloud. You can take this one step further and require this as part of a spell, thus gating spells known in a more traditional way.
  • You purposefully and ceremonially destroy one of your ritual trappings; if it was a +1 MD-tier trapping, get +2 MD instead
  • You spend a minute or two drawing complex shapes in the air, using your hands, a staff or wand, bones, a length of silken scarf, or something else similar. 
For each of the following that you do as part of casting the spell, add +1 MD:
  • You kill a living creature with a soul and a human level of intelligence; if it's something deeply magical or intelligent, like a wizard or dragon, add +2 MD instead
  • You and 2d4 others all stand in a circle and read/recite the same several sentences in an obscure language in perfect synchrony
  • You and those same 2d4 others draw one enormous complex shape in the air, using the same implements, in perfect synchrony
  • You invoke the name of G-d, the Devil, an outer-realm-void being, or a similarly-powerful extraplanar being, with all the weight and binding that that carries with it (GMs, if your players do this more than once per year-ish, there should be contracts, covenants, and deals made, with appropriate punishments if the terms are broken)


As you've noticed, these rituals are both powerful and significant; they can get your spellcasters a lot of extra MD if they do it right.

I would recommend using with one or more of the following caveats/modifications:
  1. You can't get bonus MD from wands/robes/etc.
  2. Ritual MD do not return to your MD pool.
    1. You could also say that +½ MD triggers don't return to your pool, but +1 triggers do.
  3. Ritual MD are smaller, like a 1d4, both so that they're less powerful and more likely to cause mishaps/dooms
    1. You could also say that MD from +1 MD triggers give bigger MD, like a 1d8
  4. Every ritual step used, be it site or trapping or performance, takes at least 1 round to set up, if not longer.
  5. Each spell requires it's own unique combination of site/trapping/performance (or maybe just 2/3 of those), so "learning spells" means organically finding the info for each of those for each spell.
  6. There are no wizards or other people who have innate MD—this is just how magic works, and so "wizards" are just nerds who carry around a ton of random magical crap, have memorized a bunch of secret words, and know where all the best random magic locations are. This goes very well with some of the "non-magical magic" classes, like my Sage or Gun Priest, Arnold K's Cleric, Skerples' Monk or Philosopher, and so on. 
You could also just slam this into your game without any of these changes, if you want to really emphasize big elaborate spells with big elaborate rituals. Remember that ritual MD still contribute to mishaps/dooms, so there's always a cost.

As always, these are untested. Let me know if you try them out!

This was made for GLOGtoberfest the 10th: Mechanic.