My Games

Monday, July 29, 2019

Three "10 Superhero Fantasy Species" Settings

This is inspired by the 10 Monster Setting Challenge, except instead of building a setting out of 10 monsters, they're settings built out of 10 randomly-selected entries of my 100 superheroes and villains as fantasy species table.

I had to get a little creative with how I interpreted some of the categories, since the categories weren't really designed for this, but hopefully I'm capturing the spirit of what they represent.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with how these turned out. Marvel, DC, if you're reading hmu ;)!

Marvel's Weirdworld

Setting 1:

Semi-intelligent humanoid: Living Ghosts (49)
Undead: Sinister (80)
Ancient Fey: Flash (28)
Giant/Ogre/Troll: Bane (9)
Great Wyrm / Lizard: Despero (24)
Aerial: Torchborn (95)
Lurks in the Water: Penguin-Folk (70)
Extradimensional: Jeanists and Genoans (47)
Mythological: Dark Knight (21)
Foul Crawly Underworld Thing: Faceless (26) (Play on words, this is more the "seedy noir underworld" than a literal underworld :p)

Humanity may be gone, but they've left behind their legacy, the Torchborn; human-like warforged covered in flame who take to the skies like jets of light. They have developed an alliance with the Genoans, indigo-blue dwarven refugees from the Denim Dimension who settled onto this world after the fall of their own civilization under circumstances recorded only in legend. The Jeanists, the highest denim-smiths of the Genoans, have created a super-denim capable of withstanding and containing the flames of the Torchborn, allowing them to build a new civilization. They also wear the jeanist containment suits symbolically, as atonement for the responsibility they feel for their role in the fall of humanity. The Denim Alliance are guided by the Flash, angelic creatures manifesting from the Speed Force, who use their supernatural speed to facilitate a high-speed communication network along the denim roads.

Despite their "Denim Road" network and powerful abilities, the Denim Alliance faces many threats. The Torchborn are vulnerable in the water, even with the most water-resistant jeanist containment suits, and the Penguin-folk are indomitably nefarious. The Penguin-folk have formed a Bile Axis with the Banes, monstrous ogre magi whose veins pulse with powerful venom, who are as cunning as they are strong, and their "survival of the fittest" libertarian beliefs run counter to the ideals of the socialist democracy of the Denim Alliance.

The Sinister stand alone. A living neural network of a species, each pale-skinned undead humanoid with an iconic red gem on their forehead acts as an independent thinker, yet is also consciously aware of its role as part of a larger system; a larger, distributed intelligence. They appear mostly content to develop from within, only occasionally extending their borders, in slow and careful iterations. But their borders are expanding, without fail. When encountered on the battlefield, their soldiers dress in black armor, bat-like helmets, waving their flag with the symbol of a bat. It is said that the Sinister Intelligence is in fact the Dark Knight, a demigod-like force from a war outside of spacetime known as the Fourth World, precariously balanced between justice and vengeance.

There are two information-brokering factions who operate independently of any other organization. The Living Ghosts, uncanny humanoids capable of invisibility and intangibility, and with knowledge of advanced techno-magics, are often summoned from their mysterious realm as assassins and saboteurs, although their price is high and often the buyer receives more than what they bargained for. It is rumored that the Living Ghosts were created by Darkseid himself, perhaps to keep tabs on the Dark Knight as part of his Black Glove. The Faceless come from a netherworld, another magical plane. They are a spiritual and obsessive species with the ability to mimic any face, but lack faces of their own. They can often be found in more densely populated cities working as private investigators, although some have taken up the cause of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas and serve the Sinister.

However, with the arrival of the Flame of Py'Tar from the celestial beyond, the three-eyed psycho-dragons known as Despero, former alliances and enemies are being challenged. Their psycho-flames burn the earth and corrupt the Torchborn, enticing them with power, only to dominate their will. Even the Sinister appear vulnerable to the psycho-flames, and some Sinister have been severed from the system-intelligence. If the Denim Alliance, the Bile Axis, and the Sinister hope to survive, they must come together to force the Despero from whence they came.

Setting 2:

Semi-intelligent humanoid: Collosi (17)
Undead: Frozen (30)
Ancient Fey: Green Goblins (35)
Giant/Ogre/Troll: Grundies (40)
Great Wyrm / Lizard: Annihilus (4)
Aerial: Robins (75)
Lurks in the Water: Starro (86)
Extradimensional: Plex (72)
Mythological: Templars of the Green Lantern (91)
Foul Crawly Underworld Thing: Symbiotes (89)

In this world of gods and monsters, humanity cannot survive alone. Most humans have developed symbiotic relationships with other organisms, sometimes socially, sometimes biologically, sometimes amicably, and sometimes not so amicably.

To the north are the Frozen, cryogenically frozen undead wights, dominated by the Lich King Fries, who wishes to destroy all emotion. They are held at bay by the Starro, a race of deep ocean (and deep space) psionic starfish-like creatures. They have brokered an alliance with the Templars of the Green Lantern, wielders of the holy green light. With the consent of the Templars of the Green Lantern, the Starro have mind-controlled the human tribes of the Northern Pole, creating a hybrid psionic super-force against the Frozen. The Starros' long-term motivations, however, are unclear.

In the southern jungles, humanity has entered an alliance with the Robins, tengu-creatures who soar above the jungle, scouting for rogue Grundies, monstrous corrupted jungle elementals that threaten the human tribes. In this region, the human / robin alliance is led by the Supreme Intelligence and its council, an extradimensional, slime-like intelligence that hybridizes with other species, turning them into blue-skinned, white-haired supermen. They work to build a cosmic, psychedelic, techno-utopian jungle civilization. The council members, known as the Plex, are treated as divine nobility.

In the western plains, there has been an incursion from the Negative Zone, an underworld like an inversion of reality. From the Negative Zone pours the Annihilation Wave, a hive species of cosmically-powered insectoids which threaten the entire world, spurring even the Frozen to consider a temporary truce with the Templars of the Green Lantern and the Starro. The effects of the negative zone have turned some humans into Collosi, super-strong metallic-skinned humans. Fortunately, the Collosi have thus far all been good-natured people who wish to be heroes in the fight against the annihilation wave. The Symbiotes, those who have merged with inky monsters leaking from the negative zone, are more ambivalent in their motivations, but have mostly served as a boon against the powerful Annihilation Wave.

The effects of the negative zone incursion have also reached the eastern mountains, where some of the technocratic goblins have begun to mutate into the cosmically-powered Green Goblins, hobgoblin-sized engineer-warriors who have begun to develop technology rivaling the Plex. At the moment they fight with the Templars of the Green Lantern against the Annihilation Wave, but neither the Plex nor the Starro will have anything to do with them.

Setting 3:

Semi-intelligent humanoid: Grimmlins (38)
Undead: Noumu (64)
Ancient Fey: Key-Men (48)
Giant/Ogre/Troll: Hulks (43)
Great Wyrm / Lizard: Black Mistlings (11)
Aerial: Angels (3)
Lurks in the Water: Pinkies (71)
Extradimensional: The Fog and Danny the Street (92)
Mythological: Wonder Women (99)
Foul Crawly Underworld Thing: Ferals (27)

A world trapped in a liminal metaphysical state; rather than day and night, it passes through dream and nightmare. In dream, The Fog rolls through like rainbows and cotton candy. Everything is connected by Danny the Street, the consciousness that makes all travels short and sweet and always leads to where you want to go. In nightmare, the Black Mist consumes, a negative-space like fire consuming film from the edges and spots from within. Nothing is connected, consciousness is fleeting, things disappear, are forgotten, never were.

All things are subject to dream and nightmare, except the Key-Men. Gray-skinned fey whose ten "psycho-chemicals" super-senses allow them to see through the metaphysical barriers and "unlock" alternate physical and metaphysical planes. Unfortunately, they seem content to play tricks and cause a little mayhem, rather than use their abilities for anything good.

The Wonder Women, divine demi-god clay golems created by the gods, live safely on their island of Themyscera, immune to the effects of The Fog and the Black Mist so long as they stay on their island, protected by a network of golden lassos of truth. They arrived from the stars on cosmic rays sent by the gods, although some were corrupted upon arrival, mutating into males known as Grimmlins, large brutes of cracked rock. However, even this may have been the gods' plan, as the Grimmlins, for all their brash and ill-temperedness, are often the only protection against the Hulks, green-skinned monstrosities even more violent and powerful than the Grimmlins, who exist only to SMASH!

In this liminal world, humans take several forms. There are the aforementioned Hulks, who embody the frustrations and impotent masculine rage of humanity. Then there are the Angels, winged humans whose civilization is like a techno-magical baroque painting come to life. They utilize a divine metal known as Nth metal to power their constructs, and the Archangel elite lace Nth metal flachette-feathers in their wings, carry Nth metal maces, and wear lightweight Nth metal armor. Whereas the angels reflect austerity, propriety, and the seriousness of humanity, the pinkies live in the Octopus Gardens in the Shade, reveling in fun and lightheartedness. They are pink-haired, lilac-skinned, fuzzy-headed humanoids with cute satyr horns, black eyes and gold irises, who secrete their acidic fluids in spurts of fun and whimsy. The Ferals are druidic beast-men who live in the Dark Forests, and live more like animals than humans. For as dangerous as they are, with their supersenses, superhuman physical abilities, regeneration, and claws, for as much as the Angels like to paint them as boogie-men, the Ferals are generally not interested in hurting anyone, and merely wish to be left alone and to do what they must to survive. However, the pretense of their threat has led to Ferals being captured and experimented on by Angels, having "cold-iron" adamantium implanted into their skeletons, and thaumaturgically-willed into supersoldiers.

Finally there are the Noumu; vantablack bird-like tengu-humans with sharp teeth lining their sharper beak, their near-empty brains exposed to the world. They exist in a state of True Neutral, but were alchemically manipulated by some Dark Lord long ago into beings of pure destruction, like Null Elementals. The Hulks may destroy, but their rage comes from emotionality and feelings of inadequacy, whereas the Noumu destroy for No sake. The leader of the Noumu is the High Noumu, a rare being with human-like intelligence that has ascended to a nirvana-like state of detachment from the material plane. It is said that the High Noumu's right-hand agent is a Black Mistling, a child of the Black Mist itself. It appears as a vaguely humanoid, black and purple fiery essence, and appears to have teleportation abilities, but it is said that the Black Mistling holds significantly greater power, and is manipulating the High Noumu towards the aims of the Black Mist.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Minigame: Dueling!

I read this article on Chocolate Hammer about the TTRPG En Garde! and found it fascinating. It seems really crunchy and not a game I'd want to play directly, but I think a more streamlined version of it could be a cool game in its own right, or maybe ideas from it could be embedded as sub-systems into other RPGs. I have not read the game, so this isn't that (maybe I'll do that eventually), but it did get me thinking about a dueling sub-system. I also recently played Sorcery! on steam, based on Advanced Fighting Fantasy, and the combat system also inspired this.

In particular, I want dueling to be something unique, not just regular combat, and I like the idea of simultaneous resolution, and the idea of rock-paper-scissors, semi-deterministic outcome over dice-roll probabilistic outcome.

There needs to be a balance, where it's more sophisticated than literally just rock-paper-scissors, but not so complicated as to be mired in minutia.

These rules are meant to be an abstraction that can be applied to sword duels, western stand-offs, samurai showdowns, etc., and not in any way a "realistic" version of any specific kind of dueling. My intention is for duels to be short and sweet, but playtesting would be needed to see how long they go on. It wouldn't be the end of the world if they were a bit longer, as long as they're fun...

Finally, before getting into the mechanics, I'm designing this minigame with TNT in mind, but my intention is for it to be something that could be relatively straightforwardly be ported to other systems.

  • For each round of combat, pick a number between 1 and 6 without revealing it
  • Both participants write down their numbers and reveal them simultaneously
  • Start with 10 stamina as the default maximum
    • Actions 2-6 cost that much in stamina
    • Defend (action 1) recovers as much stamina as the opponent's action (up to maximum).
  • Unless otherwise noted, damage is the number of damage dice of the dueling weapon multiplied by the difference between the two sides' chosen values (for the winning side). 
    • In another system such as OSR, it may simply be the product of the average damage for the dueling weapon by the multiplier.
  • For STR, DEX, SPD, and LK, add +1 max stamina for each attribute >= 20, +2 for >= 30, etc.
  • Certain action sequences can trigger special abilities (suggested list below).
    • Each character only has one special ability by default.
    • For each level of talent in dueling, gain +3 max stamina or a special ability.

Example: If each character wields a 2d6 dueling sword, and Player One makes a Heavy attack (5) and Player Two makes a Lunge attack (3), then Player One deals 2 (damage dice) * 3 (Heavy (5) - Lunge (3)) = 6 damage to Player Two.

Dueling Attack Actions
  1. Defend: Take only half the number of opponent's damage dice, rounded up to a minimum of 1.
  2. Jab: A low-cost attack.
  3. Lunge: Reach into opponent's space.
  4. Forward: Attempt to take ground from opponent.
  5. Heavy: Go in for a strong hit.
  6. Assault: All in power-attack!

Special Abilities List (Suggestions)
Special abilities can only be used once per duel unless otherwise noted.
For any special ability requiring an SR, unless otherwise noted, the SR level is the difference between the two actions, except for defense, which is always 1. Whether to take high-low or low-high will depend on if the trigger is for losing a round vs. winning a round.

  • Lucky Dodge: If you would be defeated in the round, you can make a LK SR to dodge. On a success, you avoid all damage.

  • Parry: If you take damage in a round and the opponent made a Lunge (3) or lower, you can make a DEX SR. On a success, you take only half damage rounded down (if you defended, you take 0 damage).

  • Riposte: If you take damage in a round and the opponent made a Forward (4) or greater, you can make a SPEED SR. On a success, your next action counts as +1 in power without triggering higher-number abilities (e.g. a defend is still a defend, but against another defend it would deal 1 damage to the opponent).

  • Blitz: If you made a Forward (4) or higher-level action and succeeded, add 1 to your damage multiplier. If the opponent defended, instead deal 2x damage dice in damage.

  • Suicide-Run: Before the actions for the round are revealed but after they are chosen, you can declare a suicide-run. Make a CON SR (take whichever difference would be positive for the SR level). Both duelists deal number of damage dice times multiplier damage to each other. If either player defended, the suicide-run is voided (and the special ability cannot be reused).

  • Feint: Before the actions for the round are revealed but after they are chosen, you can declare a feint. Make a CHA SR (in whichever direction would be a positive level). On a success, if you would have taken damage or both duelists defended, your action counts as one level higher than your opponent's and they take damage instead. If you would have won anyway, your action is one level higher. This may trigger special abilities.

  • Tactical: You've simulated events in your head and don't like the results. Make an IQ SR to re-do the round. You and your opponent both may choose new numbers. If you would have won the round, the SR is 1 and your new action counts as +1 without triggering higher-number abilities (e.g. a defend is still a defend, but against another defend it would deal 1 damage to the opponent). If your opponent had declared a special ability before you activated tactical, they recover the use of that special ability.

  • Force of Will: If you would be defeated in the round, make a WIZ SR. On a success, you can last one more round, possibly taking your opponent down with you. Your next action counts as +SR level in power without triggering higher-number abilities (e.g. a defend is still a defend, but against another defend it would deal SR level damage to the opponent).

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

r/d100 Let's Build Appreciation, Prompts, and Compilations

r/d100 is consistently one of my favorite reddit communities; I believe it's where I met semiurge, and where I've received probably the largest and most reliable positive feedback and readership. I would love it if the SWORDDREAM unofficial subreddit could become a community like r/d100. I've shared my Weird & Wonderful Tables on r/d100 plenty of times, in fact I was posting there before I even started this blog, but up until recently I only rarely contributed to the various [Let's Build] community posts. I've been finding that they're a fun way to get the creative juices flowing when I don't want to commit to a larger idea, not unlike what I did with the 5 minute challenges. Below is an up to date as of posting compilation of my contributions, with links to the r/d100 [Let's Build] tables they were written for.

Before that, I've posted two let's builds of my own, neither of which has gotten any contributions other than from myself yet, which is really disappointing :(, so please give them a look and share your ideas!!!!

One is loosely inspired by Skerples (Coins & Scrolls) recent post Sci-Fi: Space 1977. It's a micro-settings prompt for settings that diverge from big franchises, like an alternate Star Wars that branches off from Empire Strikes Back, or a Marvel comics that branches off from the Bronze Age.

[Let's Build] d100 Parallel Micro-Settings based on big franchises

An alternate Star Wars universe, if Episode IV hadn't made enough money to do Empire.

The second I unfortunately titled Monster Hunter Special Forces, implying a connection to the Monster Hunter videogame series, but that was not intentional. This list is just a prompt for characters, classes, species, or equipment suited for hunting specific kinds of monsters common in fantasy and tabletop. If anything, it was more so inspired by the Vampire Hunter D novels which I've been working my way through (I'm roughly halfway through the ~30 book series). I'm pretty happy with how my ideas on that table are shaking out so far, but I'd love to see what other people think!

[Let's Build] d100 Monster Hunter Special Forces

Vampire Hunter D!

And here are my contributions to other people's Let's Builds

d100 D&D encounters inspired by art

I would put this vanillamare in every post if I could justify it.

d100 Gribble-worthy fantasy conspiracy theories
While these were supposed to be wacky Dale Gribble (King of the Hill)-style conspiracy theories, I think mine were a little too straight; some of them I think would be cool as actual world concepts and not just conspiracy theories haha.

  • The Castle is an illusion created by the Mage Guild. The real "castle" is a subterranean base at a hidden location.
  • The Dark Lord is a puppet for the emperor. They pit humans and [orcs / demons / undead / etc.] against each other to keep the peasants from recognizing how they're being exploited by the nobles.
  • Zombies are still alive, they've just been fed drugs by a witch doctor that makes them obedient and uncommunicative.
  • Demons are hyper-advanced humans from the far future; their infernal plane is just the universe in a highly entropic state, the final flicker before heat-death. For humanity to transcend the universe, they must allow themselves to be consumed by the future. The church is covering it up because they would rather die than admit they were wrong (or maybe they have another plan...).
  • Dwarves aren't actually all that good at engineering. They've just gotten good at finding ancient ruins and salvaging them for parts. In fact, probably they're destroying valuable relics that could provide much greater utility, or at least knowledge of the past, if they were maintained and studied carefully.
  • Elves claim to be the first race, but this is false. They've been hiding records indicating that elves were actually an offshoot of humanity as a result of an arcane accident long ago.
  • Halflings aren't as defenseless and ignorant of the world as they appear. It's all for show. In fact, each halfling is trained from birth to be an elite warrior, spy, and assassin. They're basically an entire race of super-ninja, so competent that they've managed to keep it a secret for all of history.
Dale Gribble of King of the Hill infamy

  • Lamentok, Demon Lord of Regret and Recursion. He can only be seen in hindsight, or in daydreams of what could have been. He feeds on parallel timelines, consuming them at the moment of divergence, traced backwards through memories and forwards through daydreams. He encourages poor decision-making, whispering in the ear of the gambler to place a larger bet to recoup his losses, or for the investor to buy into a scheme too good to be true. By consuming the parallel timeline, the memory of regret and the daydream of what could have been, he brings temporary ease of mind, but without the memory, one is prone to making the same mistakes. He'll nest in ones hindsight for their entire life, letting them make the same mistake over and over, never the wiser, until they've run themselves into an early grave, and then he follows the paths of those affected by his host, repeating the cycle.
The anime Kakegurui, about gambling. Haven't seen season 2 yet but I enjoyed season 1 a fair bit. It's about gambling, partially inspired Lamentok.

  • Bag of Booze: A drinking competition. The competitors each drink from a bag of holding containing a seemingly infinite quantity of booze. Whoever stops drinking, chokes, or passes out first loses. Loser has to take a swig from the mystery bag...
  • Floating Beer Pong: Like regular beer pong, except as a floating 3-dimensional pyramid of cups held in place with magic.
  • Karaoke+: It's karaoke, but the bard uses bardic magic to change your voice randomly. You won't know how you sound until you start singing, so you'll need to figure out quickly how to make your new voice work for the song.
  • Monster Meal: It's an eating competition where the food bites back! Race to see how many black puddings (or other monsters) you can eat within the time limit, but you've got to defeat them yourself if you want to eat them.
  • Prestidigitation Games: Tavern games of skill such as darts or pool, with a twist. Each "athlete" is paired with a "mage", who can use prestidigitation or some other cantrip to assist their athlete or distract / impair the opposing athlete. Each round (one turn for each athlete), the mage can only intervene once, either on their athlete's turn, or the opposing athlete's turn. They can't do anything that damages or physically targets an athlete, nor anything that would make it impossible for the opposing athlete to succeed or that makes it impossible for the mage's athlete to fail. If a mage has not acted yet, they can attempt to counter the actions of the other mage.
Not familiar with the Magic Tavern podcast but I like this image. The Alexandrian has a good Tavern post for things like this as well.

As part of this Let's Build I used my Weapon Hack.

Beauty and the Beast 
Heavy: 1d8, Two-handed Plastic: Made of hard plastic. Concealable: Can be hidden from view.
Heavy: 1d8, Two-handed Anthropomorphic: Has features vaguely reminiscent of a humanoid face or humanoid body part. Bonded: Weapon only usable by owner, cannot be removed from person without consent.

Beauty is a sleek, modern staff made from a hard and surprisingly light plastic that can be compacted and stored on a utility belt. It is ornately painted, as much a work of art as a deadly weapon. The Beast is a grotesque organism like a massive human finger, which sprouts from the side of the torso opposite the non-dominant hand. It is bonded to Beauty, and whoever wields Beauty develops a tumor in their side, usually within their kidney, that opens an extra-dimensional portal, sprouting Beast. Because Beauty and Beast are magically connected and Beast extends from the torso, medium sized creatures who would normally not be able to wield two heavy weapons may wield both Beauty and Beast simultaneously. So long as neither Beauty nor Beast are disarmed or disabled, both weapons gain +1. If either weapon is disarmed or disabled, both become inoperable.

Min and Max 
Light: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality Fungal: Made of or contains elements of fungal life or is a living fungus. Elemental (Fire): Has properties related to fire (e.g. produces heat/light, can cause burning).
Medium: 1d6, One-handed Laser: Made of hard light or projects beams of light. Large: Designed for large-sized creatures. Medium-sized creatures take -1 AB, small- creatures cannot use this weapon.

Min is a spade-shaped fungus that oozes a noxious fat that combusts in the air, setting it alight. Max was a spore of Min, which through mysterious circumstances mutated or evolved into a higher life-form of pure energy, and now takes the form of an over-sized lasersword. They are beyond mortal comprehension, but one gets the sense when wielding Min and Max that the pair are having fun and making inside jokes at the wielder's expense.

I used this image in my old Weapon Hack post.

  • The mimic isn't just the treasure chest, the entire dungeon is the mimic, and we're inside it...
  • Your warforged companion is actually a mimic (or was replaced by a mimic)
  • The "wizard" is a huckster with a mimic wand- the mimic itself is the actual wizard.
  • Sometimes the oasis is a mirage, and sometimes it's a mimic...
  • The Dark Lord, fully concealed in his full-body black armor, is just a calcified corpse wrapped in a mimic (or maybe the mimic is just his body double...)
There's just something about mimics that I love.

  • The party are surrounded; on one side, Tweedle Dee, the unstoppable force, on the other side, Tweedle Dum, the immovable object.
  • The party reach a fork in the path, with no obvious indicator of which way leads where. A magical talking cat taunts them, telling them that there's nothing to find and that they should turn back. Whichever path they choose, they reach another fork. At each fork, they hit a monster encounter, and the further they go, the monsters become slightly more powerful, more numerous, and more cunning. After each encounter, the magical cat returns, teasing them and telling them to turn back. In fact, the only way to proceed forward is to turn back (turning back at any stage of the path will take them forward to the next area).
  • A massive sleeping ogre blocks the party's path. A man-sized talking caterpillar smoking a magic looking-glass hookah tells the party that the ogre will never move, that it suffered some trauma in childhood and has been completely unmotivated ever since. By smoking the looking-glass hookah, they may enter the ogre's dreams and change his memories. If they can resolve his emotional trauma, he will move. External forces like the ogre right where he is, and will attempt to stop the party both in the real world, and within the dreamworld. Within the dreamworld, the party may encounter additional looking-glass hookahs, and may need to enter other dream-creatures dreams. Within each dreamworld, time moves an order of magnitude slower than in the preceding world, such that a moment of real-time can be like an eternity in a deep enough dreamworld.
  • A magical draconic creature, an immortal, unstoppable, nonsensical force of super-nature, the Jabberwocky, has gone on a rampage. The Jabberwocky's wife claims that a woman has stolen her baby and refuses to give it back. The Jabberwocky will go on a rampage until the baby is returned. The woman's husband is a fey protector, magically shielding the baby from any thieves. The only thing that can pierce the shield is the Vorpal Sword, and only by slicing through the baby. If the party threaten to use the Vorpal Sword to fairly split the baby between the Jabberwocky family and the fey family, the true parents will acquiesce to the false parents, whereas the false parents will accept the split (GM can decide who is telling the truth).
  • The party find themselves at the table of the Mad Hatter at Tea Time, whom they must appease in order to proceed in their task or get some critical piece of information. The Mad Hatter insists they drink his tea, a necessary component to receive that which they need. The magic mushroom tea warps spacetime, and they "change places" with another character or NPC. No pair can swap bodies more than once, so as per the Futurama Theorem, they must find two more participants who were not present at Tea Time in order to return to their original bodies. These two individuals will inadvertently provide what the party was looking for in the first place.
I took a very Alice in Wonderland approach to my Feywild entries in this Let's Build.

This dimension was generated using the Hubris plane generator. I rolled once on all tables except the type of plane table, which I rolled on twice. I think this plane could use some cleaning up, it's mostly taken as-is from the generator, but I think with a little tweaking it could be really interesting.

The Plane of Chaos and Death
  • You emerge from the portal dry, sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted.
  • However, the plane appears to be in Winter.
  • Any liquids you are carrying turn to ice (potions receive a save).
  • You arrived in an electrical storm that has ravaged a small town.
  • The local denizens are creepy living dolls.
  • Time functions faster, one hour in this plane is like a minute on your home plane.
  • On this plane, the young are revered, and the elders become servants and slaves.
  • The entire planet is in a solar eclipse-like state. Creatures that fear and hate the sun now move unimpeded.
  • This was the result of the last cataclysm, the plane saved only by the unique planar religion (which is also the basis for the reverence of the young and enslavement of the elderly).
  • Because of the solar eclipse, the Six Nightmares have risen to power, bringing death and chaos to the plane. They are opposed by Lucifer, a 20ft glowing orb, a mysterious eldritch being which has become the sole source of divine light remaining on the plane.
  • To travel to and from the plane, you must seek forgiveness from someone you've wronged.
Hubris is an excellent world and worldbuilding tool!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Aquarian Dawn: The Whitemare

The Whitemare is kinda-sorta the equivalent of Mordor for Aquarian Dawn, the realm of the Dark Lord, by way of Beetlejuice, Vampire Hunter D, and the Cancerverse. It also incorporates several of my ideas from the micro-setting Record of Machine Goddess, one of my four 10 monster settings, into Aquarian Dawn. I think that's a cool micro-setting in its own right, but thematically it seemed similar to what I'm already doing with Aquarian Dawn. Last but certainly not least, the concept of the Whitemare was heavily inspired by this artist, and specifically this piece:

It's rare that a single piece of art influences me so directly, but this piece is so unique and evocative that I just couldn't help but incorporate it into Aquarian Dawn! It reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Zdzislaw Beksinski.

Michael K could tell you I've probably spent way too much time thinking about all of the particulars of this idea, and I've also discussed it a bit already on reddit such as on the SWORDDREAM_unofficial subreddit, so I hope it's actually coherent and interesting, and not just an overwrought mess 0.o.

It also draws some parallels to some of the ideas I had for the anti-mutants in Phantasmos, but I don't quite think they're compatible. I had always wanted to come back to the anti-mutants, I thought and still think there was a kernel of a cool idea there but I never got to explore it as far as I'd like. Depending on how I feel about the Whitemare / Cancerverse down the line, I may come back to the anti-mutants eventually as well.

If you are a player in my current Aquarian Dawn Campaign, this contains SPOILERS! PLEASE DO NOT READ!!!

So with that:

The Whitemare

Beware the Whitemare.

Our legends are endless dead dreams. I awaken, and rest.

To die is to dream. May your dreams be ever pleasant. Sleep well.

What do undead dream?

The Machine Goddess Athena, The Dark Lord

Her skin is twilight like the cosmos, dotted like a ginger with the violet-hot light of stars and nebulae. Lines like shooting stars course over her skin, thinning and branching into symmetric fractal patterns, vein-like, violet-whiteness fading into her forearms and hands, and ankles and feet. She has three pairs of arms that move in tessellation. She is covered in metallic armor, smooth and seamless, with lines that reflect and refract in a geometric manner; chitinous. A series of violet-white tubes arch along her back, always bending in uncanny ways, appearing the same when viewed from any angle, appearing detached from space-time when she moves or when one moves around her, or like a dimension unto herself. Her hair is violet-white and composed of straight strands that split into branches, each splitting into self-same branches; frizzy, but in an unnaturally symmetric, perfect way. The upper half of her face is kaleidoscopic, like many shifting spidery eyes, each a reflection of her whole face in miniature, with kaleidoscopic eyes reflecting the whole again, ad infinitum.

Machines, undead dreams, fractals, cancer metastasization; infinite, recursive, unchanging life. Athena had intended to create paradise, designing crafts to better society, and brought knowledge to the peoples. Somewhere along the way she grew angry, resentful; disgusted with mortals, with what she was creating, and with herself, creating only in defiance. Or perhaps she had been sabotaged, her works twisted in unexpected ways by petty and short-sighted mortals, or other dark gods.

Whatever the case, the fomoire, the remains of her Unseelie Court, grow increasingly mad and wish to die, as do all in the whitemare. The beings of the cancerverse themselves, the mutates, pteraghuls, and so on, are like idiot godlings, even in their brilliance, overwhelmed by the genuine euphoria, beauty, and symmetry of infinite recursive existence. One could argue that with the cancerverse Athena succeeded in her goal, and really did make a better existence, and it's only the whitemare itself, her twisted nightmare dream of endless self-loathing, that needs to end. The cancerverse has a will to life above and beyond anything else, even the mortal world. Perhaps the cancerverse and the mortal world are compatible, different but containing a piece of each other.

Servants of the Dark Lord

Whereas the Fey represent the beauty, majesty, and wonder in things, an abstract "magical" force in the universe, the fomoire are like bestial proto-fey or anti-fey; representing that which is ugly, disturbing, painful; or mundane, defeating, or hopeless. They are fewer in number than the fey, but generally more powerful. Each is unique, as if to embody the torment of one person, except there are so few of them; a reminder that You are not special and neither are Your problems. There was once an Unseelie Court that served the Machine Goddess at the highest levels, but they were defeated or displaced in the last war against the Empire of the High Age of humanity. 

The marauding armies of the Machine Goddess, once organized under the Unseelie Court. While Athena rebuilds her forces in the Whitemare, remainders of her forces, who went into hiding during the peak of the High Age of humanity, have since resurfaced. The firbolg consist of fomoire warlords, drow, trolls, hobbs, machines, and denizens of the cancerverse. Firbolg are often mutated with cancerous growths and teratoma eyes, literally embodying the all-seeing panopticon of the Machine Goddess. They wear armor and weapons of blacklight stone, with linear and fractal patterns carved into their armor or on their skin; a Mandlebrot "eye" equivalent to a teratoma. Those firbolg hordes under the direct influence of the Machine Goddess carry her emblem; an aegis shield, within which is an interwoven multitude of ouroboros with repeating patterns on their scales replicating the pattern of the interwoven ouroboros.

The exact origins of the drow are uncertain, but it is believed that they are either an offshoot of elves who chose not to leave for the higher realm and instead joined Athena, or they are the natives of what became the Cancerverse, or a hybrid species. They have grayish-purple skin, black, white, gray, or purple hair, large eyes, long pointed ears, thick humanoid body hair, and prehensile tails. They mostly worship the Machine Goddess, representing her machines, lines, and fractals with spider symbology. The tsuchigumo are their divine-military mystic corps, who wear blacklight stone or psionic masks like a spider-face. Their scout corps are driders, who ride mutated or biomechanical spiders. Some have even been fused into their spiders. Oni are drow with a teratoma horn, like a psionic third eye. They contain massive raw psionic power, but over time their psyches unravel, and they split into two monsters known as Yoma and Ashura, usually ogre-like creatures, one red-skinned and the other blue-skinned.

Cyclops (Starborn Golem)
Massive giants of blacklight stone, with linear patterns and fractals carved into their stone skin. They are powered by a large blacklight stone eye in the center of their face, capable of projecting beams of blacklight energy that split in fractal patterns. It is unclear if they were created by or discovered by the drow, or the Machine Goddess, or were creations of the elves that later became the drow. They are revered as demigod constructs by the elves, who believe they were created during the High Age of the elves. The name "starborn" is a misnomer; although the elves believe they were created in the celestial bodies, they were actually created or summoned by the science-witches who found the astrological equations hidden in the stars, inadvertently divining the Whitemare.

Massive, spindly humanoid creatures that can move bipedally but often choose to move like a spastic quadruped. They move freely between the Whitemare fractal dimension and the cancerverse. It is not clear if the dimension was named for them, or they for the dimension; if they were created by the Machine Goddess, and if so, if she created them intentionally, or how much control she has over them. They have extra-dimensional properties; crawling, compressing, and gyrating through spaces they should not possibly fit. They generally serve the Machine Goddess, but don't seem to be innately malicious or have any discernible intelligence or motivation.

The Twilight Treasurer Black Tom, and the Twisting Terminus

Twisting Terminus 
The mind-castle of the Machine Goddess within the Whitemare. A gothic, psychedelic, symmetric, kaleidoscopic spacetime of lines and fractals. It is full of Athena's machines and firbolg, but also independently operating fomoire, denizens of the cancerverse, and numerous other beings of independent allegiance and unknown origins, lost as in limbo. One is always being watched in the twilight terminus; most at first modifying their behavior as in the panopticon, until they reach a point of madness in which they care not at all for their privacy, or for any allusions of decency or proper behavior. Even if one could escape the Twisting Terminus, they would find themselves lost in the dreary Whitemare, or the vast flesh-desert of the Cancerverse.

Djinn (Daemon)
The djinn are something "else", metaphysical forces like the Fey or Fomoire, but lacking an intrinsic "moral nature", or a material form. They are more like robots, things that can be programmed or manipulated. Servant djinn are sometimes referred to as daemon in ancient texts. The Machine Goddess has built biomechanical cancer machines powered by djinn energy. These daemons maintain her castle, the Twisting Terminus, and serve as its panopticon-wardens.

Black Tom
An extraordinarily powerful, mischievous, and arguably malicious or at least narcissistic leprechaun trapped in Twisting Terminus. He has been trapped for so long that none know his origins, not even the Machine Goddess, or Black Tom himself. Although powerful, he is quite mad, aimless, and has a tendency to get in his own way, and is seen by Athena as more of an annoyance than a true threat.

Those who meddle with Dark Lords in extra-dimensions may find a twilight token, a black coin with a four leaf clover on one side, and the face of a leprechaun on another. By rubbing together three twilight tokens in one's hand, a mortal may summon Black Tom to serve them. However, one often gets more than what they bargained for when dealing with Black Tom.

Friday, July 5, 2019

BONUS: My prompt is on All My Fantasy Children!!!

One of my "All My Fantasy Children"-style prompts was the prompt for this week's episode! It's episode 109. Sor Velfast: The Baseless Crest (after this week it won't be on the "latest" section of the front page but just subscribe it's a great show!). Check it out!!!!!

They used this prompt:
A world-weary lich decides to re-integrate their soul into their body, but finds that they are no longer in sync with their own soul. They must learn to love themselves if they truly wish to be whole again.
They used this world-building TTRPG, Ancient Stones by Jessica Osborne, to facilitate the prompt, so give that a look as well!

Phantom Limb from Venture Brothers, the conceptual reference they used for the Lich, Sor Velfast.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

All My Fantasy Children-Style Prompts

All My Fantasy Children is currently one of my favorite podcasts. They focus primarily on their Fantasy setting, but they've taken a novel and interesting approach to how they develop it. They intentionally try to leave things abstract and non-specific, and leave openings to fill in details as they go, which is an approach I really appreciate. More than that, what makes the setting so fascinating is that rather than developing locations or concepts, they come up with characters, and then they build the world around rationalizing what needs to exist in order for that character to do what they do. It's a novel approach and makes the world feel rich and lived-in, almost right from the beginning. The setting is reminiscent of Adventure Time, exploring heavy themes while maintaining a mostly optimistic and whimsical tone. Also both Aaron and Jeff are clever and entertaining people, and the podcast is just a treat. I know that Actual Plays are all the rage, but I actually think this is an interesting medium for audio storytelling that deserves further exploration.

Anyway, with that in mind, here's a list of 1d20 "All My Fantasy Children"-style prompts:

  1. An "unknowable" Lovecraftian entity has begun to develop a humanoid consciousness.

  2. A world-weary lich decides to re-integrate their soul into their body, but finds that they are no longer in sync with their own soul. They must learn to love themselves if they truly wish to be whole again.

  3. An artificer-wizard going through a mid-life crisis has built a bachelor pad within a person-sized bag of holding.

  4. After witnessing an adventurer steal from their pot of meager savings in plain site, a stunned villager has chosen to go on a quest to find this adventurer and make them answer for what they've done.

  5. Through some shenanigans, a powerful warlock has accidentally made a pact with an angel or "good" deity. The pact may only be broken if they meet some very specific and personally challenging requirements.

  6. A ranger or druid has developed major allergies to the things in nature.

  7. An inn known for its extraordinary ability to heal wounds overnight. The inn is managed by a former hero cleric.

  8. A cleaning service run by a former adventurer. They have a trapped gelatinous cube, and use the digestive enzymes of the cube as a cleaning agent. 

  9. The elder dragon that has terrorized the kingdom for ages has mysteriously died. It has bequeathed it's entire treasure hoard to the kingdom, but the dragon's family challenges the legitimacy of the will. The dragon's family takes the will to court, and over the course of the proceedings, much is learned about who the elder dragon truly was.

  10. A machinist with humble origins and no wizard training has created an easily producible and affordable new technology that makes magic available to the masses. The wizard's guild is attempting to suppress this technology.

  11. A peasant turned fighter wanted to go to wizarding school but never received any positive reinforcement. They're exceptionally bright, but their anxieties and self-doubt make them slow to respond to intellectual challenges and appear dimwitted. After years of applying to wizarding school and being rejected, they have finally been given a chance. However, their fighting career has just started to take off, and everyone in their life is telling them not to throw away their future.

  12. Torch Boy the hireling has had enough of the disrespect and abuse from adventurers. After years of dungeon-running while carrying a heavy load, and nothing but a torch to defend themselves, they've become exceptionally quick and clever, and they deserve equal treatment. They've founded the Torchbearer Hireling Guild, and host all-hireling dungeon runs to show what hirelings can do. The dungeon runs have become something of a phenomenon, and it is not uncommon for festivals to break out around a dungeon-site.

  13. A Dark Lord and the nearby kingdom have been in "conflict" for ages. However, nobody has ever died or been seriously injured in these conflicts, and it's become more ceremonial than anything else. In fact, DL is something of an icon in the kingdom, and DL and their hordes are regular members of society and contribute to the economy and well-being of the kingdom. Of course, the adventurers who just strolled into town aren't aware of any of this...

  14. A baby mimic hatched in front of an adventurer and imprinted on them, and the adventurer spared them. The mimic now wanders throughout the kingdoms, doing the best it can to be an adventurer, but it doesn't always quite understand what it means to be an adventurer, or a member of society, for that matter.

  15. An undead creature has inexplicably found themselves with a new soul. It's definitely not the soul they had in life, and they're not sure what to do about it. It's all very confusing for them.

  16. A  "monster" village far removed from the affairs of the world exists in peace and isolation. One villager decides to journey out and explore the world, but they are often driven out from the places they discover. Every once in a while, they find a place that doesn't reject them on-sight, and they've made all sorts of friends and positive experiences in  those places.

  17. The Dark Lord vanquished the kingdom's armies and reigns as the new king. As it turns out, DL has some good ideas and seems to genuinely want to do right by the kingdom, and the quality of life for the average citizen is actually getting better under the new leadership.

  18. A city druid known as the Rat King has been engaging in peaceful protest against the kingdom's treatment of wildlife in the cities. They have become something of a folk hero (or menace, depending on who you ask).

  19. A cleric has suddenly lost their connection to their deity and divine magic, and they have no idea why. They set out to continue to do good in the world, even without their deity.

  20. A roguish "gentleman thief" has been captured. Instead of prison time, the rogue has been offered a position as Chief of Tactical Security for the kingdom; devising new means of thwarting thieves, tracking counterfeiters, encrypting vital messages, and so on. They feel surprisingly good about doing honest work, but also yearn for their former life as a rogue and adventurer.