Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Project Updates and General Rambles

Hey folks! After a few months picking at it like a fussy eater, I think I need to table my Ghostwalk work for now. It's not coming together quite like I'd hoped after multiple iterations, and long gulfs between when I can work on it are certainly contributing to its splotchy implementation. The perils of the day job, I fear.

Nevertheless, I am intent on doing more conversions, even if this one didn't pan out. After how well Birthright and Council of Wyrms went, I guess two out of three ain't bad. Unless you're being graded in American school systems, in which case that's still a D, depending on state.

For my next trick project, I am actually a bit adrift. I'm not sure what else is speaking to me, so I'll happily take suggestions. Something may spring out to me in the meantime, but really, the sky is the limit.

Recently I've also become enamored of Robert Schwalb's "Shadow of the Demon Lord" product line. To friends, I have likened it to Warhammer Fantasy without the heavy doses of self-parody and bombastic insanity that it enjoys. And well, as a child of the 80s and 90s, grimdark and edge are still part of my gamer DNA, and I don't know that modern sensibilities will ever really change that.

The fact that I enjoy it should not come as too much of a surprise to me, since I also loved his Song of Ice and Fire RPG that he did for Green Ronin. The games don't have much in common with one another, in terms of completely different focus and challenge resolution; in SIFRP you are navigating the political landscape of Westeros and spending most of your time in roleplay and intrigue, while in SotDL you start out as level zero commoners in a world on the brink of a demon invasion apocalypse.

I also find the system quite kitbashable into other things; I briefly fiddled with a Mass Effect RPG conversion over the course of a weekend, but one of those already exists using FATE. A canny traveler can still find it floating around in the archives of the internet in a post cease-and-desist world. I'm no fan of FATE, but the effort was sound before it got the hammer dropped on it. Let that be a warning to the enthusiast who uses the intellectual properties and copyrighted artwork of notoriously litigious companies. They don't care if you're doing it because you're a mega-fan, sadly.

Additional time investments of late include the Kickstarter for the Heroic Fantasy and Barbarian Conquerors handbooks for Autarch's Adventurer Conqueror King System. The teased content is rich and delightful, and though ACKS's adherence to ye olde systemes makes it challenging to rope groups into playing it, the expanded content offered by the new Kickstarter is going to be wonderful and I look forward to giving it a spin.

That's all I got for now. Since the day job is consuming most of my creative energies over the last month or so (and into the next one), it'll be a little light over here until, say, July. Not that it's been particularly busy or that I have a vast and demanding viewership or anything.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Magic of Torment

Like many, I am a huge fan of Planescape: Torment, which was recently released as an Enhanced Edition by Beamdog Studios.

Having finished my nineteenth playthrough of the game (really) with this new Enhanced Edition, which makes the game more bearable to play on modern PCs without needing to download a bunch of mods and get them working properly, I felt inspired to whip up a document that imports many of its unique spells into 5th Edition.

Playtesting is non-existent at this point, but if you ever do mess around with these, let me know what you think. Or if you see immediately bizarre formatting or balance issues. I tried to keep them in line with other spells of their level, but a few (Enoll Eva's Duplication and Tasha's Unbearable Derisive Laughter, for example) may be crazypants or not good enough.

In addition to the spells, I wrote up some flavor stuff in the front half of the document for giggles. And because I love the game. A lot. A whole lot. It's my favorite.

Hope you enjoy it. You can get it here, for free as always, as well as on the links bar.

Special thanks to Harbinger of Doom and Aryxymaraki for sanity checks and feedback. :)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Birthright Bestiary

Have another Birthright thing. I've been distracted by work and life, but managed to do this in my spare time between sessions agonizing over Ghostwalk mechanics.

I intend to expand upon it, particularly the Unique Creatures section (which at present features only a 5E conversion of the Gorgon). One of these days I may get over my hangup of using public domain art; even credited it feels like theft even if it's really not.

I may also have a serious grump-face when I see homebrew products featuring stolen artwork. There's too much of it out there. Harumph harumph.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Birthright Archetypes

I polished off and collected my first series of Birthright character options this evening and placed it up in the links bar for everyone to consume. Contained herein are the following options:

  • The Bloodline domain for clerics
  • The Knight-Errant archetype for fighters
  • The Umbral Warden archetype for rogues
  • The Mebhaighl Scholar tradition for wizards

As well as three spells usable by aforementioned spellcasters. Enjoy, feedback welcome, etc.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Dark Sun 5E in Links Bar!

I've put together my Dark Sun homebrew stuff into the Links bar for consumption, applying some feedback I received to the finished product. I do reference that you need Volo's Guide rather than reprinting that information in the document. I doubt WotC would have a freakout in the astronomically remote chance somebody there drives by this silly blog, but better safe than sorry and reprinting it is kind of a dick move.

Enjoy, additional feedback welcome as always.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Knight-Errant

Another of my Birthright archetypes in development is the knight-errant. I wasn't too thrilled by the Purple Dragon Knight/Banneret introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, and wanted to try a more Cerilian-themed archetype. Playing to the systems I converted and/or created is another added bonus.

Of course, fighter archetypes tend to be pretty annoying to design. They usually end up shackled to the idea of superiority dice or act like a hybrid of other classes. I wanted something that felt like a traditional knight, even if it could also be one that isn't necessarily a landed lord. With a bit of surgery, I sliced and diced bits of the Witch Knight I made into this, reflavored accordingly.

Plus, a squire. Everybody likes squires!

Knight-Errant


The knight-errant encompasses any titled warrior with a knowledge of the upper echelons of society. As representatives of their respective regents (or themselves regents) they can take the role of questing knights, warrior-emissaries, or bodyguards to prominent nobles.

Right of Sanctuary


When this archetype is selected at 3rd level, you may request sanctuary for you and your allies when visiting the abodes of titled nobles or other influential entities. The right of sanctuary is a long-respected Cerilian tradition, though certain human cultures (particularly the Vos) do not necessarily pay it heed. Your hosts may request service of you in exchange for their hospitality, but to do so is often considered bad manners.

Sanctuary includes lodgings (though they need not be comfortable) and food (though it need not be palatable) for a period of 24 hours. While under sanctuary, you are expected to obey the rules of the host and not disrespect or dishonor them in any way. Your allies are also subject to this expectation. Breaking the right of sanctuary is a grave insult to the host and word of the knight-errant's iniquity will follow them for a period of no less than one month (unless such word is prevented), during which time no other hosts will provide sanctuary.

Squire


As a titled warrior, you gain the service of a squire. This individual accompanies you on your travels and is primarily suited to tending your gear and steed, as well as helping you into your armor each day.

Your squire is of a race and gender of your choice, and uses the ability scores and starting equipment of a Guard (do not modify ability scores for race). You replace their proficiency bonus with your own (affecting their attack rolls, skills, and saving throws accordingly), and apply your proficiency bonus to their AC and damage rolls. Their hit point maximum equals their normal maximum or four times your fighter level, whichever is higher. When you gain an ability score increase through level advancement, your squire also gains an ability score increase to be distributed to your liking. Your squire rolls for initiative like any other creature, but you determine its actions and behavior.

If your squire is slain in battle, they may be returned to life normally, or you may petition a regent for a new squire. After a period of one month traveling with you, this prospective squire gains all of the abilities granted through this feature.

Armor Specialization


At 7th level, choose one type of armor (light, medium, heavy) with which you are proficient. While wearing armor of this type, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Mandate of War


Upon reaching 10th level, the knight-errant can call for special dispensation to levy troops. When the knight-errant attempts to muster armies as part of a domain action (whether as the regent or as a lieutenant) they halve the Gold Bar cost for mustering non-mercenary units.

When attached to a unit as a commander, the knight-errant grants the unit an additional +1 bonus on battle resolution checks.

The knight-errant, and allies fighting alongside the knight-errant, gain advantage on initiative checks.

People's Champion


When the knight-errant reaches 15th level, they inspire those around them to greater heights by virtue of their deeds and skill. As a bonus action, the knight-errant may grant proficiency with any one skill in which they are trained to any ally who can see and hear them until the end of the knight-errant's next turn.

Furthermore, the knight-errant gains proficiency in any one saving throw of their choice.

Strength of Arms


An 18th level knight-errant lives and dies by the sword in the name of the quest. Whenever the knight-errant of this level successfully strikes an opponent in melee, they gain temporary hit points equal to the better of their Strength or Dexterity modifiers. If the attack is a critical hit, you gain temporary hit points equal to your fighter level.

Designer Notes


The Squire is the answer to who is taking care of the horses and helping the fighter into their full plate armor every day. You ever try to put that stuff on? You're not getting into it by yourself even if you are pretty well trained at wearing and maintaining it. Best I could ever do is a mail shirt without help, and that was back when I was ten years younger.

Don't look at me like that. I was a young nerd, you think I didn't try to put armor on whenever I got the chance at various festivals and fairs?

The Squire could be a bit of a hindrance/extra annoyance to track in combat, as it is a fairly weak combat pet. Of course, if it dies under focused assault, you probably won't be getting a new one any time soon unless your party is capable of raising the dead.

Right of Sanctuary might have some redundancy problems.

Armor Specialization seems boring and stacks with the Defense fighting style, so it may need rethinking. But then, having something not-complicated is kind of nice. I left it open in case there were Dexterity-based knight-errants that wore light or medium armor (as could be the case with Brecht or possibly Khinasi knight-errants). There's some redundant wording in there as well (of course the fighter is proficient with all armor), but it might be worth calling out in the case of multiclassed fighters.

Mandate of War is mostly there for mustering and battlefield boosts, but the initiative advantage is a solid party-wide boost. It might be too good and I might need to pare it down to just the knight-errant. In fact, I'm almost positive I will in version two.

People's Champion really only comes down to two choices: Dexterity or Wisdom. Until Wizards starts stuffing additional monsters with Intelligence and Charisma saving throw abilities, they will remain the most common saving throws (up there with Constitution, with which the fighter is already proficient).

Strength of Arms isn't as punchy as some of the other 18th level fighter archetype abilities, but by this point the knight-errant's squire is a pretty reliable damage boost on a given round, provided it's with the party.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Birthright Interlude: The Bloodline Domain and New Spells

Taking a brief break from Ghostwalk to churn out some more Birthright content that I've been tinkering with on the side. Today I present the Bloodlines cleric domain, a religious sect that can be part of any faith whose adherents attach themselves to blooded scions as advisers, chroniclers, and bodyguards. Alternately, they hunt and slay blooded individuals in accordance with their god's ethos.

Naturally, this domain only works in the Birthright setting, and most specifically with the conversion I made.

Bloodline Domain


The Bloodline domain is available to any deity of Cerilia. Its exact tenets vary from faith to faith, but those who follow this religious doctrine are sought out for their expertise in matters of lineage and inheritance. Some are scholars of the divine bloodlines, and others are holy (or unholy) champions venturing forth to battle blooded foes.

The domain's mandate means that even clerics of opposing faiths and gods will meet to share knowledge and records of the scions they meet in their travels, or catalogue the affairs of powerful blooded entities, the awnsheghlien and fabled ersheghlien.

Bloodline Domain Spells

1st - amanuensis, detect divine blood
3rd - enhance ability, zone of truth
5th - clairvoyance, tongues
7th - death ward, locate creature
9th - blood boil, legend lore

Archivist of Lineages


Your clerical order is extremely proficient in the histories and relationships of noble bloodlines and keeps a quasi-religious text with them at all times known as the Archive of Lineages. Each cleric maintains their own copy of the Archive, which contains abbreviated family trees and major historical events regarding some of Cerilia's most storied families.

It is the duty of each Archivist to catalogue the affairs of scions they encounter, and expand their copy of the Archive. If the cleric's copy of the Archive is damaged or destroyed, their first priority must be to repair the book or create a new copy to take with them on their journeys. Without it, the cleric cannot prepare any new spells.

Bonus Proficiencies


When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency in History. If you are already proficient in History from another source (such as being Anuirean) you instead gain proficiency in Persuasion.

You also gain proficiency in heavy armor.

Bloodbane


At 1st level, you possess the knowledge of how to more effectively engage blooded foes. You gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with weapon attacks against creatures with a bloodline score. Additionally, you have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track blooded individuals, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. Furthermore, you have advantage on saving throws against effects from a scion's blood abilities.

Channel Divinity: Blood Augment


When you reach 2nd level, you may use your Channel Divinity to boost the effects of a bloodline's power. As an action, you may choose one target within 60 feet of you that possesses a Bloodline ability score. For 1 minute, that target adds their Bloodline modifier to the result of attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws. If you are a blooded scion, and your target either lacks a Bloodline score or their Bloodline score is weaker than your own, you may instead apply your own Bloodline modifier in place of the target's modifier.

Shared Glory


Starting at 6th level, when either you or an ally within 60 feet uses a blood ability, you and all allies within 60 feet of you gain temporary hit points equal to three times the Bloodline modifier of the individual activating the ability.

Divine Strike


At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 radiant damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Bloodline Transference


Upon reaching 17th level, the cleric gains special powers as they relate to the ebb and flow of bloodlines. By spending at least 1 hour with the corpse of a slain scion that has been dead for no longer than 1 week, the cleric may transfer that scion's Bloodline to a new unblooded recipient. This recipient must be present for the rite, and the departed scion cannot already be divested of their divine blood by another source (such as being slain by a tighmaevril weapon). The recipient immediately gains a Bloodline score of 11 with the same derivation of the slain scion. If the slain scion's Bloodline score was less than 11, the recipient's score is equal to that value. If the dead scion is later returned to life, they will do so without their bloodline!

This does not give the recipient stewardship of the scion's holdings or provinces, though the recipient may later attempt to lay claim to them as the "blood heir" of the departed. The ceremony of investiture must still be performed to formalize the transference.

The cleric may not use this ability more than once per week. Some faiths view this as a masked form of usurpation if used irresponsibly and will react accordingly.

Designer Notes


There's a few places I see improvement needed. Bloodline Transference is an "in-the-field" version of basic investiture mechanics, but comes very late in the domain's progression and thus I didn't see this as a huge danger. It's not a combat benefit, which may make this domain lag a bit behind in raw power compared to some others.

Also, Bloodbane's damage bonus doesn't scale well as-written, so I also tinkered with it adding the cleric's Wisdom modifier to damage. It still might not be good enough, so I am considering improving it at level bands (+4 damage at 6th, +6 damage at 11th, +8 damage at 17th).

Archivist of Lineages is a pure ribbon. I loved the idea of the wandering priest with the huge tome bearing the names of every noble family tree from Anuire to Vosgaard and having the sacred duty of chronicling every offspring, legitimate or otherwise. Whole adventures could arise from the need to learn the truth about a given regent's progeny, or urging (after first finding) a bastard scion to take up the mantle of rulership to vanquish a corrupt parent.

New Spells


These were made to support the above domain. There's also like a thousand versions of amanuensis out there. Mine's probably too stingy for a first level slot, so I'm leaning towards increasing its duration to an hour, adding it to the wizard spell list, and making it a ritual.

Amanuensis

1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a quill with a silver point worth at least 10 gp, plus adequate parchment or paper to complete the copy)
Duration: 10 minutes

By means of this spell, you may copy written texts from any non-magical book, parchment, or other written medium. The quill that is the component of this spell animates and rapidly transcribes the text as a perfect copy of the original over the course of the duration, completing one page per minute (up to ten pages per casting of the spell).

The spell cannot copy diagrams or illustrations, nor can it transcribe magical texts, duplicate spell scrolls, or create glyphs of warding. Where such banned items occur, only a blank space will be revealed in the copy.

Blood Boil

5th-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (a small vial of snake venom)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

This spell, created as a bane to blooded scions and awnsheghlien everywhere, ravages the body and cripples the victim's divinely-gifted abilities. Choose a target that you can see within range that is not undead. The target must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or suffer 5d6 points of fire damage and 5d6 points of poison damage as their blood becomes a burning toxin within their veins. If the target is a blooded scion, the damage is increased to 5d8 fire and 5d8 poison.

On the initial round that the damage is suffered, the victim cannot activate any blood abilities or use powers related to their divine heritage. At the end of each of its turns, for as long as you concentrate, the victim can attempt another Constitution saving throw to end the secondary effect.

Detect Divine Blood

1st-level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

For the duration, you sense the presence and location of individuals possessing a bloodline within 30 feet of you. If you sense a bloodline in this way, you may use your action to pinpoint individuals with a bloodline of any strength, determining its derivation and relative strength (tainted, minor, major, great, true).

The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet or wood or dirt.