Capitalism in the Heroic Sword and Sorcery World

Originally posted by Brianna Heine on the other (now defunct) version of this site.

by Miggs69

For those of you keeping score this post is a non-Conan topic though it is exploring facts I plan on incorporating into the Hyborian Age.

I have a HUGE problem with buying magic items in a fantasy game. I’m specifically speaking in d20 / Pathfinder rules.

Now let me start off by saying that I completely understand that in d20 a character’s ability to combat a threat is partially related to the magic items she has at her disposal. Technically speaking it doesn’t really matter all that much what equipment said character has but in the unlikely event the party Wizard winds up with a suit of full plate mail +2 he should have the opportunity to exchange it for something he can really use. Personally I think this problem can be combated by careful placement of treasure but players like customization as well. As I’ve said in previous posts players LOVE hundreds upon hundreds of options. In a future post I will discuss min/maxing and how it’s actually pointless in the d20 system but back to the matter at hand.

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Grisly Incantations

Originally posted by Brianna Heine on the other (now defunct) version of this site.

Since I plan on writing a post concerning magic in the Hyborian Age at a much later time I want to start collecting some opinions on the topic. I’m going to save my opinion on how the system should work until later but in the meantime I want to discuss some of my thoughts on magic.

deviantART by Benito Gallego

In “The Tower of the Elephant” the being Yag-kosha explained to Conan that he “…came to this planet (Earth) with others of my world from the green planet Yag, which circles for ever in the outer fringe of this universe.”

Yag-kosha further explains that the sorcerer Yara captured him and used him to do his bidding. “But he [Yara] was not satisfied with what I taught him, for it was white magic, and he wished evil lore…”

Yara is described as “… versed in dark knowledge… with guile gotten among the dusky tomes of dark Stygia…”

This one story reveals some pretty interesting possibilities. In fact I didn’t really pick up on this until I started looking at it from a position of game development. Yag-kosha makes reference to “White Magic”.  In the context of the story it implies that magic is not all “evil lore”. Therefore I would conclude that magic exists that is not evil.

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Holy Shit: Let’s Talk about Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 3

As previously noted, I am writing with two particular assumptions in mind: One, that alignment represents allegiance, and two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral.

deviantART by diablosdemie

I would say that Turn Unholy poses the biggest problem for me in regards to Chaos clerics. Last time I mentioned the anti-cleric, who completely lacked any version of Turn Undead. Considering what the power represents in the fiction, it makes sense that it would be exclusive to Lawful clerics. It’s Peter Cushing rebuking Christopher Lee with a cross; it’s a holy man passing unharmed through the valley of the shadow of death. When I first started playing D&D, the fictional truth behind Turn Undead instantly made sense to me, even if the rules for doing it didn’t. But where does the Chaos cleric fit in that fiction?

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Holy Shit: Let’s Talk About Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 2

As I noted in Part 1, I am writing with two particular assumptions in mind: One, that alignment represents allegiance, and two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral. Also, this topic will now be split across three posts instead of just two, as I previously expected.

Chaos Knight by Ian Miller

In little brown book OD&D, all clerics are Lawful in alignment, and the priests of Chaos are “anti-clerics.” This distinct class lacks any power over undead, not even AD&D’s command variation for evil priests. Also, the anti-cleric spell list lacks any healing spells. Now, DCC comes together from an amalgamation of ideas across all editions of D&D, along with a lot of excellent original material. But I think there’s still a lot of value in looking back at the anti-cleric when considering Chaotic clerics and how they are distinct from Lawful and Neutral clerics, both fictionally and mechanically.

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Holy Shit: Let’s Talk About Clerics in DCC RPG, Part 1

There are currently two cleric characters in my DCC game. One is a 1st-level Lawful cleric of St. Trebor of the Gavel, whose holy words are “Judge others as ye too shall be judged.” The other (and original) cleric of the group is the Chaotic former gong-farmer Sherman Funk, filth-priest of Nimulrun the Unclean. With both ends of the spectrum at the table, it’s gotten me thinking about how the rules and the fiction jive up for clerics (especially on that chaotic end).

deviantART by DKuang

The DCC cleric is obviously rooted in the tradition of the D&D cleric, which is itself arguably an amalgam of implied psuedo-Christianity and Hammer horror films. From this we get a DCC cleric with Lay on Hands, Turn Unholy, and deity disapproval that resets every day in a manner similar to Vancian-casting clerics praying for spells in the morning. Before I get into some thoughts on each of these class abilities, know that I am making two assumptions about the fictional setting: One, that alignment represents allegiance and therefore the overwhelming majority of non-spellcasting humans are Neutral; two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral, with only gods of icky things and brutal savagery falling into the Chaos camp.

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Melt: A Space-Age Sorcery Spell for DCC RPG

Space-Age Sorcery is a free PDF stuffed with flavorful OSR-compatible spells of a strange science-fantasy bent. If anything about that sounds close to your game, it’s well worth your time to head over to Hereticwerks and download it.

Here’s a DCC RPG conversion of one of the spells from that PDF using the spell conversion article in Crawl! Fanzine #1 as a guide. This one could have a lot of potential dungeon crawl benefit. I may go back later and expand the effects range to more closely mimic the 1st-level spells from the DCC rulebook.

Melt

Level: 1 (Wizard)
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous
Casting Time: 1 action
Save: None

General: The caster gains the ability to liquify metals and alloys on touch, manipulating their form and causing damage golems, automatons, and metal-based lifeforms.

Corruption: Roll 1d8: (1-3) the caster’s hands transform into a gleaming, cold chrome; (4-6) minor corruption; (7) major corruption; (8) greater corruption.

Misfire: Roll 1d6: (1-4) all of the caster’s metal possessions immediately melt away into liquid; (5-6) all metal possessions of a random person within 30′ of the caster melt away.

1: Lost, failure, and worse! Roll 1d6 modified by Luck: (0 or less) corruption + misfire + patron taint; (1-2) corruption; (3) patron taint (or corruption if no patron); (4+) misfire.

2-11: Failure, spell is lost.

12-13: The wizard can use a finger to carve symbols and messages into the metal as though it were wet cement. This ability lasts for 1 turn. Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d4 damage.

14-17: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 1 pound of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard may attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d4 damage per CL.

18-19: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 1.5 pounds of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard gains a +2 bonus to attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d6 damage per CL.

20+: On the next round, the caster’s touch liquifies 2 pounds of metal per CL. The metal will re-solidify in 1 turn; during that time the caster may sculpt and manipulate the metal with his hands, though the quality of the final result is dependent on the caster’s artistic ability. The wizard gains a +1d bonus to attempt to grapple with an opponent to melt their weapons and armor.

Alternately, on the next round a metal-based creature attacked by the wizard takes an additional 1d8 damage per CL.

Vassals to the Lords Unending: Elves of the Age of Ruins

Two blogs which I respect and enjoy the hell out of had some semi-recent posts about elves that got me thinking about how the pointy-ears fit into my own setting.  Adam Muszkiewicz of Dispatches from Kickassistan detailed a bit more of the history of elves in his Ur-Hadad setting, and I love his twist on the “elves leaving this world” concept: the elves already left a long time ago (a lot of them at least), and then came back (relatively) recently. Tom Fitzgerald of Middenmurk mused beautifully about elves in general before detailing several evocative types of elf. Really great stuff that inspired me; check it out.

In deep forests and forgotten valleys lie places where the border between the world of men and the realm of the elves is weak; around these hidden paths the Fair Folk have established footholds of dominion in the lands of mortals. This is not to imply that the intent of elves is sinister, nor is it certain that their will is benign. The minds of elves are not easily understood, being alien in thought as they are in birth.

'The Meeting of Oberon and Titania' - Arthur Rackham
‘The Meeting of Oberon and Titania’ – Arthur Rackham

While all elves ultimately owe allegiance to Oberon, the King of Elfland and First Among the Lords Unending, each is also sworn to the court of a lesser lord, the princes and princesses of the Unending Reign. More than mere allegiance, elves have distinct physical and metaphysical characteristics dependent on the court from which they hail. Different courts tend to also be associated with certain natural features in the world of men, and the paths between worlds near those features will often lead to the domain of a particular Lord Unending.

The very first elves to cross over into the mortal world did so in ancient eons, when mighty forces were still shaping reality itself. The wood-watchers of Prince Fyonheil’s court became fast friends to the servants of the Great Bear, so much so that they too marched to war when the Great Bear’s wrath stirred and brought about the First Ruination.

deviantART by bridge-troll

The lore keepers of Prince Arcanus also dwelt in the world in those early days and some shared the secrets of magic with the first men to practice the art of wizardry. Even the prince himself crossed into this realm, establishing a great citadel on the large moon that bore his name. The Court of Arcanus took little interest in most affairs of the world; the elves’ looked instead to other worlds that lie yet beyond the mortal realm, for despite their ancient and strange magics, it is impossible to summon entities of other realms into the land of elves. By way of the land of men, however, many an elf established allegiance with godlings and demons of all sort. And once brought into the world of men, such beings can follow the paths to Elfland with a guide to show the way.

The experiments of the Court of Arcanus surely played some role in the onset of the Second Ruination, for all elves fled from the world in those days, and the gate from the lunar citadel to Elfland was destroyed behind them, shattering the moon.

Shattered Moon

Elves remained apart from the mortal world for countless millennia until the Sixth Ruination, the Maelstrom of the Chaos Lords, opened many new paths into the elven realms. Drawn forth by the surging magics of the last Ruination, elves from all manner of courts entered the world of men and have remained here in the centuries since — a mere blink of an eye by their accounting of time.

Elf Characters: The elf class remains unchanged from the DCC RPG rulebook, though the physical appearance of an elf varies based on which court they come from. 0-level elf characters already have infravision, heightened senses, and iron sensitivity per the rules; in addition, they know and are able to cast one of their 1st level spells based on their court. For example, all elves from the Court of Arcanus know and can cast Read Magic at 0-level, while those from the Court of Fyonheil know Animal Summoning. This counts as one of the 3 spells the elf knows at 1st level, it is not a bonus spell.

Also, regardless of occupation, all elves begin play with either mithril scale mail or a mithril short sword; this is in place of the rule in the book that allows them to purchase the items at regular price once at 1st-level. Elves do not begin with any coins or randomly determined equipment.

Magical Research and Consequences

Goddamn amazing image is copyright Patrick Meehan and its use is now way intended to challenge that.
Goddamn amazing image is copyright Patrick Meehan and its use is in no way intended to challenge that.

Last week, I posted about some additional gold for xp options I’m going to try out for my DCC game. I’ve put together a document for magical research (which I’ve also added to the downloads section). Most credit should go to Brendan and Jason, as my consequences are mostly hobbled together from things they’ve done previously. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Making it Rain (without casting Control Weather): Spending Gold for XP in DCC RPG

FabianConanpl
Stephen Fabian

A couple weeks ago I posted a version of Jeff’s carousing for xp rules, adapted to reflect the DCC RAW experience scale. So far in my DCC judging, I’ve awarded experience while adventuring using the guidelines in the rules, which are mostly centered around surviving threats. I’ve also stuck to Luck awards for good role-playing and such, as the rules suggest. However, I wanted players to have the option to spend gold on xp-gaining activity for two reasons: One, my group doesn’t meet super frequently (every 3-4 weeks), so I wanted to bump up the xp curve a bit to make mid-level play attainable within a somewhat reasonable amount of time. Two, I think it’s very much in keeping with the style of Appendix N to encourage players to spend large amounts of hard-earned coin on things other than practical adventuring gear.

To further encourage that sort of spending, I’ve decided to incorporate a couple additional class-specific gold for xp options into the game. I’ve also made a few tweaks to my take on carousing, as noted below (and in the updated download document). Each activity requires at least one full week of downtime between adventures, and characters can’t gain xp from engaging the same activity again until they’ve gone out and done some real adventure-type stuff in between.

Consecration: Clerics can spend their gold constructing altars, shrines, and temples to their gods, or otherwise engaging in ritual consecration of sites if the god doesn’t go in for the flashy stuff. (But really, if they don’t, why is your cleric worshipping that lame god?)

Clerics earn 1 xp for every 100 gp thus spent, to a limit of 5 xp at a time — this can be from partial construction of a much grander structure, though it should start with the actual altar and move out from there.

There are no immediate consequences for temple construction, but over time there’s a chance that your great work will be desecrated by heathens, and the gods don’t like that. For every month that the cleric goes out adventuring (even if they are only gone for a week or two out of that month), there’s a 5% chance that one of their constructions is desecrated in some way. The cleric gains 1d6 to their permanent deity disapproval range until they spend the d6 result x 100 gp re-sanctifying and repairing.

Magical Research: Not to be confused with learning new spells, this is the sort of miscellaneous weird and dangerous magical research that results in tiger/giant centipede hybrid creature that destroys three blocks before being taken out. Wizards and elves earn 1 xp for every 100 gp thus spent, to a limit of 5 xp at a time.

When engaging in such research, the caster must make a spell check against DC 15 or suffer consequences. I’m still working on the table for that, but it will combine some things from Brandon’s list with the Corruption tables in DCC rulebook and a couple other sources.

Carousing: All characters can carouse for xp, but some know how to have a good time better than others. You must have at least 100 gp of wealth to try carousing for xp. Roll 1d5; you gain the result in XP and spend the result x 100 gp. If the cost of carousing is more than you possess in coins, gems, and luxury items, you are now indebted to someone who expects to be paid back the difference plus 1d6 x 10% interest. If you then roll a “lose all your stuff” consequence, double the debt. Thieves, warriors, dwarves, and halflings may choose to double the XP earned and gold spent, provided they have at least enough wealth to cover the initial result’s cost. Any additional cost incurs debt as normal (so if a warrior or thief rolls a 4 and has 400 gp, they can take the 4 xp or choose to earn 8 xp and have 400 gp debt with 10-60% interest).

In addition, after each carousing die is rolled, you must roll d100 on the consequences table; subtract your permanent Luck modifier x 10% from the d100 roll.

You Will Taste Man Flesh! Orc Summoning for DCC Player Character Wizards

In Tuesday’s post, I made a few references to orcs being organized into evil armies by chaotic wizards. There is probably nothing in role-playing less in need of mechanical support than how a villainous wizard gathers an army of orcs. You want a bad wizard, you make a bad wizard; you want him to have orcs, he has orcs. The only time you could possibly have even the most remote need for a system to support this is if that foul mage is one of the player characters.

But why shouldn’t she be? We’ve had spells in D&D for a long, long time implying that other party members wouldn’t automatically turn on the wizard if he raises a few undead servants. Isn’t it equally possible that the party might be willing to put up with a little orcish brutality if it gives them a few more meatshields? So just in case that comes up, here’s a 5th level wizard spell for DCC RPG. I don’t know if this is really balanced with other 5th level spells, but hey, orc army!

Summon Orcs
Level: 5 (Wizard)
Range: Varies
Duration: Special
Casting Time: 1 week
Save: None

General: The caster calls a band of orcs to serve his sinister plans. The orcs summoned will serve the wizard until they die or until their master suffers a decisive defeat in battle (judge’s discretion). However, the wizard must set the orcs about some task that shows the promise of regular bloodshed and savagery.

To cast the spell, the wizard must have a permanent dwelling worth at least 10,000 gp. Once successfully cast, the wizard must be at the dwelling when the orcs arrive or they will wander off. The wizard need not wait around for new orcs if he already has orcish servants residing in the area around the dwelling. The orcs that arrive will be equipped with the equivalent of leather armor and a long sword.

Neutral wizards suffer a -4 spell check penalty when attempting to cast this spell; lawful wizards cannot cast it at all. If the wizard’s patron is strongly associated with orcs, they gain a +4 spell check bonus. A +1 spell check bonus is gained for every full 100 orcs already under the wizard’s command as the strengthening horde attracts ever more minions.

Manifestation: Roll 1d3: (1) The area around the dwelling grows foul, as foliage falls from dying trees and water becomes brackish; (2) A sigil of balefire appears in the sky above the dwelling; (3) Thunder clouds darken the sky above the dwelling, rumbling and crackling with lightning and dropping acid rain.

Corruption: Roll 1d6: (1) The caster’s nose transforms into a pig-like snout; (2) The caster grows boar-like tusks that just out from his lower jaw; (3) The caster’s skin takes on a sickly green-gray palot; (4) The caster permanently loses 1d4 Intelligence and begins to speak in simpler, cruder manner; (5) The caster develops a strong craving for raw meat, and will eat it at every opportunity; (6) The caster’s develops an aversion to bright light, suffering a -1 to all actions in direct sunlight.

Misfire: N/A

1: Lost, failure, and worse! Roll on the corruption table.

2-11: Failure, spell is lost for one month.

12-15: Failure, spell is lost for one week.

16-17: Failure, but spell is not lost.

18-19: The wizard summons CL in orcs. They arrive in 1d3 weeks.

20-23: The wizard summons 1d3 x CL in orcs. They arrive in 1d3 weeks.

24-25: The wizards summons 2d3 x CL in orcs. They arrive in 1d3 weeks.

26-28: The wizard summons 2d3 x CL in orcs, one of which will have 3d8 HD, along with 2d3 dire wold mounts. They arrive in 1d5 weeks.

29-33: The wizard summons 2d3 x CL in orcs with 2d3 dire wolf mounts; one orc will have 5d8 HD. They arrive in 1d5 weeks.

34-35: The wizard summons 2d6 x CL in orcs with 2d8 dire wolf mounts. One orc will have 5d8 HD, and another will have 3d8 HD. They arrive over the course of 1d6 weeks.

36-37: The wizard summons 2d12 x CL in orcs along with 1d10 x CL dire wolf mounts (there cannot be more wolves than orcs, however). One orc will have 5d8 HD, and two will have 3d8 HD. They arrive over the course of 1d6 weeks.

38+: An orcish horde of 2d16 x CL orcs are drawn to the wizard, along with 2d10 x CL dire wolves (again, no more wolves than orcs). One orc will have 5d8 HD, and four will have 3d8. They arrive over the course of 1d6 weeks.