Three Monsters Mild

I’m kinda sorta working on a little book called Monsters Mild, which will include 12 to 15 monsters that are not so much intended as foes to fight as they are to be things characters might meet and maybe even befriend. They are intended to be fantasy color. The first one showed up on Google+ a little while ago, and has been illustrated by the ever-wondrous Joel Priddy (blessed be his pen). The others will get their own illustrations somewhere along the line …

Man-Wort

Medium Plant

Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 16
Attacks: Fist (1d6)
Move: 20’
Saves: F12 R14 W14
Intelligence: Average
No. Appearing: 1 usually, but 1d6 in the wilderness
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 300 (CL 4)

Resistance to weapons, immune to poison, ESP 1/day

These monsters look like roughly humanoid-shaped turnips, with bushy green stalks on their head and beady black eyes and thick fingers and toes on their hands and feet. They can summon up herbs of any kind in their hands, three times per day, including poisons, medicinal herbs and cooking ingredients. They are somewhat slow-witted, though not stupid, and often take a liking to children and the elderly. Many appear before the hovels of abandoned elders and become their servants and caretakers. Man-worts do not speak (they have no mouths). They need to root themselves in soil for at least one hour per day to survive, and need as much water as human beings. They will fight when people they love are threatened.

Granny Woman

Medium Fey

Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 11
Attacks: Rolling pin (2d6)
Move: 20’
Saves: F15 R13 W12
Intelligence: High
No. Appearing: 1
Alignment: Lawful (CG or NG)
XP: 100 (CL 2)

Magic resistance 25%

A granny woman is a fey creature that appears as a very old – an impossibly old – woman with large, knowing eyes and withered hands that hide a powerful grip. Granny women live in the woods, near enough to settlements to be helpful, but not so near as to be annoyed by all the nonsense and going’s on. They usually live with a familiar in the form of large, furry cat. These cats are ill-tempered to folks who deserve it, but quite charming (if not a little bossy) to the good-at-heart. Acceptance by a granny woman’s cat means acceptance by a granny woman.

Granny women can use the following spells as inborn abilities: At will-animal messenger, calm animals, detect invisibility, detect magic, discern aura, pass without trace, speak with animals, speak with plants; 3/day-goodberry (baked into tarts), magic stone, sleep; 1/day-cause fear, daze monster, geas/quest, mending, smoke image (from her own pipe only), summon nature’s ally IV.

There is a 1 in 12 chance that a granny woman lives with a man-wort (q.v.), and a 1 in 6 chance they live with an orphaned child they are bringing up. If threatened, they have only to scream or whistle and one of the following creatures appears to aid them:

1. Grey Render (who likes its head to be scratched)
2. 1d4+1 brownies (who appreciate good cooking)
3. 1d6 wood elf, gnome or halfling warriors (who need their socks darned)
4. 1d4+2 cooshee (who will hang around for an ear scritch and soup bone)
5. A curtal friar (cleric or druid, 1d4+2 for level, old friend of the granny woman)
6. A ranger and 1d4 outlaws (ranger level 1d4; he and his men look after the old girl when they’re not being chased by the sheriff)

A granny woman will never turn away folk in need unless they are thoroughly wicked, and even then she will help but also place a geas on them with her touch that forces them to perform three acts of pure goodness in a fortnight.

Goop

Small Ooze

Hit Dice: 0 (1d4 hp)
Armor Class: 14
Attacks: Slam (1d3 + constrict)
Move: 20’ (Climb 20′)
Saves: F17 R16 W17
Intelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1d3
XP: 50 (CL 1)

Resistance to weapons, immune to acid, surprise (1-4 on 1d6)

Goops are small oozes with highly variable colors (and sometimes swirls of color). They lurk around corners and creep up on people, crawling onto them when they aren’t looking. Goops are terribly insecure, and desire the warmth of humanoid contact. When they are clinging to people, they give off a telepathic purr that only the person they are touching can hear. The purr is calming (+1 bonus to save vs. emotional manipulation and fear).

Unfortunately, goops are extremely sticky (takes a combined strength of 28 to remove them, and there’s a 50% chance anyone involved gets the goop re-stuck on them), and they can ruin armor, clothing and weapons with the mild acid they secrete when frustrated or afraid (item saving throw at +2 for metal items).

Each goop has one important, inborn piece of knowledge. In any “sticky situation” the adventurers find themselves in, there is a 1% chance that goop has the answer they are looking for, and will release it to the adventurer with which it has bonded.

Back from Vacation

After a week away from work (the real job), I’m back delving into the wonders of the Las Vegas real estate market. Over the past nine days, I managed to almost finish NOD 29 and got some heavy work done on my World War II supplement to GRIT & VIGOR. I also watched some B-movies, did some yard work, got the hard copy of MYSTERY MEN! Second Edition created and ordered a proof copy (it’s going to be in color), found some cheap old AD&D artifacts at a used record store, watched my daughter in her first Shakespeare play (she played the nurse in Romeo & Juliet) and didn’t shave.

I also didn’t do any blog posts, though I did keep in touch with the gaming community via Google +. For those who didn’t see that, I present two characters for GRIT & VIGOR, one a character from an old movie, the other an actor. For those who did, I’ll throw in a third character – a dangerous lady.

Vince Kane – A Character You Probably Do Not Know

Vince Kane is the main character in an old George Raft picture called A Dangerous Profession (1949). It’s not a great movie, but a movie doesn’t have to be great to inspire usable game material. The beauty of B-movies and simple stories is that they’re usually easier to adapt into modern game scenarios. Much of what makes a movie great – strong characterizations, interesting character relationships, etc. – does not always translate well into a game, or at least should come from the interaction of the players and game master, rather than be programmed and forced on everyone. A good game often revolves around a good plot that is not too hard to follow, since players are usually grasping around in the dark during game play. Vince Kane is also an interesting idea for an detective who isn’t technically a professional detective, much in the way that Matlock and Perry Mason are detectives who are technically lawyers.

Vince Kane is an ex-cop turned bail bondsman. Things heat up when a buddy of his from the police force, Lt. Nick Ferrone (played by Jim Backus) picks up Claude Brackett, who skipped bail a few years back for an embezzlement charge. Checking Brackett’s room, Kane discovers that he’s in town with the woman who broke his heart, who turns out to now be the embezzler’s wife, Lucy Brackett. When Claude Brackett turns up murdered, Kane investigates and discovers a web of lies.

N Private Eye, LVL 8, HP 36, AC 11, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R7 W9

Str 10 Int 12 Wis 15 Dex 14 Con 13 Cha 8

Special: Detect clue (2 in 6), detect lie (4 in 6), get a clue from Venture Master, back stab, note concealed items, +2 save vs. fear

Knacks: Cant*, Influence People

Skills: Cant*, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand and Track (humans only)

Feats: Grappler, Iron Will, Lighting Reflexes

* Cant in this context is the tough talk of old Hollywood gangster movies

Hoot Gibson, A Man More Interesting than His Characters

Now we shift from a character to a real person who was, himself, quite a character. It’s not too often you come across an actor’s biography which is more interesting than the characters he played. Hoot Gibson is one of those fellows.

Hoot started riding horses as a boy in Nebraska, and after the family moved to California he started working on ranches. He showed a talent for it, and soon started competing in rodeos, winning several honors. It was during his rodeo days that he started acting in silent movies. After a stint as a sergeant in the Tank Corps in World War I, he went back to rodeo and movies, usually as a bit player and stunt rider. In 1922, when demand was high for cowboy pictures, he moved into starring roles and made a whole slew of pictures. Hoot also learned to fly planes and even got injured in a crash while racing planes.

Like I said, he was an interesting fellow.

N Cowboy/Fighter, LVL 7/3, HP 39, AC 12, MV 40, ATK +4, SV F9 R8 W12, Str 13 Int 9 Wis 11 Dex 16 Con 13 Cha 13

Special: +2 save vs. trample attacks, rope (add half horse’s HD to lasso attacks), select exceptional horses, surprised 1 in 8, no penalty when grappling large animals, extra attack against opponents with fewer HD

Knacks: Don Disguise, Handle Animals, Pilot Aircraft

Skills (Cowboy): Appraise value (livestock), endure, gamble, handle animal, jump, ride mount, survive outdoors, track

Skills (Fighter): Bend bars, break down doors, endure, gunnery, jump, lift gates

Feats: Dodge, Knack, Pugilist

Weapons: Colt Single-Action Army (1d6), Winchester M1894 repeating rifle (2d4)

Ma Barker

I don’t know how much cache’ the gangsters of the Depression have these days with the young people, but they once had a standing approaching folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde, ‘Baby Face’ Nelson, John Dillinger, etc. And then there’s Ma. Ma Barker. Ma Barker had four criminal sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, and served as their ring leader … or did she?

From the sound of it, Ma Barker as criminal mastermind of her sons’ foul play is the bunk. One gangster, Alvin Karpis, described her as “superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding.” She was clearly an accomplice in the criminal activities of the gang, helping them before and after crimes, but probably was not the gun-totin’ mama of popular culture. When J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”, he was probably full of shit. I know – J. Edgar Hoover, an agent of the federal government – lying is hard to believe.

But in GRIT & VIGOR, when truth isn’t stranger than fiction, we slap it around a little until it is. Our Ma Barker is the gangster of the movies, engaging in gun play and maybe even chomping on a cigar while her minions rob banks.

NE Rogue, LVL 8, HP 28, AC 10, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R9 W10, Str 8 Int 15 Wis 13 Dex 11 Con 11 Cha 12

Special: Backstab for +2d6 damage, note concealed items

Knacks: Gather Intelligence*, Treat Injury

Skills : Appraise Value, Cant, Don Disguise, Gather Intelligence*, Hide in Shadows, Influence People, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Exploit Weakness, Improvise, Iron Will, Leadership

Weapons: Thompson sub-machine gun (1d6)

Mystery Men! Let’s Go!

Perhaps one of the saddest departures from television in the last few years, for me, was the Aquabat Super Show! The Aquabats are not just the greatest band to ever punch a tortilla monster in the face, they’re also bona fide superheroes, clashing with the likes of Cobra Man and Space Monster M.

In addition, they’re the perfect superheroes to stat up for Mystery Men! Second Edition, on sale now as a PDF at both Rpgnow and Lulu.com! The second edition cleans up a few errors in the first edition and streamlines the powers a bit, all while keeping character creation fun and easy, and game play just as fun and easy. It’s an old school take on superhero gaming, with a sample setting – Shore City – a sample adventure – “All Fall Down” – and skads of heroes and villains all ready to be battled. All for $6.99!

And now … the Aquabats!

M.C. Bat Commander (Super Hero)
Christian Jacobs, Lead Singer

The M.C. Bat Commander is the ever-brave, ever-pugnacious leader of the gang. While not the world’s greatest tactician, he is supremely skilled at winging it. His distinctive face decoration is designed to thwart ne’er-do-wells who would vandalize his face on posters.

Like all of the Aquabats, the Bat Commander has the following pieces of gear: An anti-negativity helmet, radioactive rash guards, and a power belt to allow him to enter “stealth mode”.
The ‘bats also have their Battle Tram, a hi-tech RV capable of flight and survival in Outer Space!

STR: 3
DEX: 3
CON: 5/+1
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,850

Powers
Weapon Master (meta-, fists)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Battle Tram (RV + rocket launcher, fly, immunity to vacuum)

Crash McLarson (Super Hero)
Chad Larson, Bass Guitar

Crash is a man-child, strong and sensitive and prone to becoming a giant when he becomes emotional. He’s the heart and soul of the Aquabats, and once met a genie that looked surprisingly like Rip Taylor.

STR: 6/+1
DEX: 2
CON: 4/+1
INT: 2
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 12
HP: 54
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,075

Powers
Enlarge (cosmic; but only when emotional)
Weapon Master (meta-, fists, vs. sharks only)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Jimmy the Robot (Super Hero)
James Briggs, Keyboard and Saxophone

The most logical and mature of the band, Jimmy the Robot was built by a farming scientist to pick apples, but instead went to the big city and joined a superhero band.

STR: 4/+1
DEX: 3
CON: 4/+1
INT: 12/+3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 3

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 14
XP Value: 5,000

Powers
Invulnerability (meta-)
Power bolt (lasers)
Sense vibrations
Super science (10,000 XP)
Super intelligence (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Ricky Fitness (Super Hero)
Richard Falomir, Drums

Teenage heart-throb Ricky Fitness loves the ladies, but not as much as he loved fresh veggies!

STR: 3
DEX: 6/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 5/+1

LVL: 10
HP: 35
ATK: +8
AC: 13
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Super Speed (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Drum-Copter (mini-helicopter with the equivalent of a non-lethal heavy machine gun)

Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (Super Hero)
Ian Fowles, Guitar

Perhaps the most determined member of the band to right wrongs, Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk has an evil brother called Eagleclaw and enjoys a relationship with the Sun Spirit, Lou Diamond Phillips. His eagle, The Dude, is an invisible spirit eagle. So he has that going for him.

STR: 3
DEX: 5/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 11
HP: 39
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Conjuration*
Sense Vibrations

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Electric guitar (power bolt-electricity)

* Falconhawk can summon The Dude, an invisible eagle. The eagle hangs around long enough to perform one task, and he probably can’t do it more than once per game.

Side Note 1: If you have the chance to go to an Aquabats show, do it. Fun shows, chill music, crazy audiences, a fight with a man in a rubber suit on stage … you cannot miss with these guys.

Side Note 2: How many other superhero games are there that have published stats for the Aquabats, Action League Now AND Fonzi? Go buy the game, for crying out loud!

Found HERE

 

Alignment as Religion

 

 

This is something that has been kicking around in my head for a while, so read this as nothing more than me tossing around a few ideas.

When alignment first reared its soon-to-be controversial head, it was in the form of factions for war gaming. There was Law and Chaos – they opposed one another – and then Neutrality. The neutrals would fight for either side, and thus neither favored Law or Chaos. The terms “Law” and “Chaos” came from either Michael Moorcock or Poul Anderson – I’ve heard both get credit, and haven’t researched it enough to have my own opinion on the matter. They may have already had the good vs. evil vibe, but I think the main point was in building fantasy army lists, not modeling ethics and morality in a fantasy game.

With the addition of the Lawful cleric (and later paladin), and the Chaotic anti-cleric,  alignment seemed to become a stand-in for religion. Instead of treading on the dangerous ground of Christians vs. Satan, they used Law vs. Chaos.

Eventually, alignment was expanded from the original three factions (or two factions plus neutrals) to five alignments and then to nine. Once you get to nine alignments, with sometimes vague divisions between them, the alignment as religion scheme starts to fall apart. Is Chaotic Good more aligned with Chaos or Good? Is it player’s choice, or does one override the other?

The Notion

What if you stick to three main religious/philosophical factions – Law, Chaos, Neutrality (or Good, Evil, Neutrality to be more precise) – and use the smaller divisions as sects within those three great factions.

For example, Lawful Good and Chaotic Good may argue and fuss with one another – they might even come to blows on rare occasions – but they’re still ostensibly on the same side, and will always rally to one another when Chaos comes marching over the hill. Both are part of the Good faith, they just differ on the details.

So, how might we characterize these alignment sects?

First and foremost, let’s assume that the main divide is Good vs. Evil. Why focus on the good/evil divide? Because I think it’s more pronounced and contentious than the law/chaos divide. Oscar and Felix managed to live together without killing one another. Superman and Lex Luthor … just not going to see eye to eye (you don’t believe me? Click HERE. You just can’t trust the guy).

I’m pretty sure they inspired Moorcock’s Law vs. Chaos

Good supports virtuous action, self-discipline (i.e. telling yourself “no”), kindness, justice and law – not tyranny, but rather the idea of “natural law” or God’s law – no murder, no theft, etc. The basics without which people cannot live in relative peace and tranquility.

Evil, on the other hand, scoffs at these ideas. It is interested in power for the sake of power. It might work within a system of law, but will always seek to distort and manipulate the system for its own benefit. Evil loves technicalities. Evil doesn’t think of itself as “good” – it knows it is not, and it doesn’t care, but it also doesn’t see itself as wrong. Evil is okay, because the universe rewards it. Everyone is evil at heart. Good is naive. Good is nonsense. Good is a chicken waiting to be plucked. You good guys can deny yourselves pleasure and wealth and all the rest if you want to, but don’t try to force me to deny those pleasures and power.

Simplify, man!

Neutrality is somewhere in between. Maybe pragmatic, maybe a dogmatic resistance to pick sides, maybe it just doesn’t think much about it. For druids who actually need a functioning philosophy, perhaps it is something akin to Taoism. We probably need to separate True Neutral (the philosophy) from Neutral (a cow chewing cud in a field). On the other hand, maybe druid’s just serve the immediate, practical needs of their parishioners OR nature without worrying about whether what they do is good or evil. Perhaps they have an ideal held higher than moral and ethical concerns.

You can play with those definitions, but I think they make enough sense to inform the way a character behaves in a fantasy game environment.

Now, let’s examine how the alignment sects might work.

Within the Good alignment faction, we have Lawful Good, Neutral Good and Chaotic Good. I can see Lawful Good as being something like the Catholic Church or similar religious organizations. It believes in virtue and civilization, and believes that the only way to preserve virtue and civilization is through hierarchical organizations and institutions. Its members also believe that the institutions are only legitimate, be they religious or political, if they uphold virtue. They hold their institutions to a high standard, and though they will rarely destroy an institution outright, they will work against its leadership to put a more virtuous person in charge when the institution appears to have lost its way. They believe in reformation rather than rebellion.

Chaotic Good is not so big on institutions. Human freedom and liberty are the key to maintaining virtue and civilization. Institutions are about power, and power corrupts. Give a Lawful Good institution enough time, and it will become Lawful Neutral or even Lawful Evil. The individual must not be run over by the institutions. They would probably prefer a republic over a monarchy, and would be loathe to join with others except on a temporary basis.

Neutral Good

Neutral Good can, like most neutrals, see both sides of the argument. There is value in institutions – they can do things individuals cannot, things that must be done. On the other hand, they can also lose their way, and thus must not be depended on overmuch. A thriving civilization needs institutions, but it also needs freedom and dynamism. Neutral Good also makes me think about some of the Christian sects that wanted to go back to a more “primitive” faith. They were often nudists, trying to recreate Eden, and not entirely unlike the original hippies. Neutral Good hippies could be fun in a campaign, annoying Lawful Good and Chaotic Good alike.

The divisions might be similar on the Evil side. The Lawful Evils worship the devils and imitate their evil hierarchy. The Chaotic Evils worship demons and believe that no creature in the cosmos is more important than themselves – you might call them psychopaths. Neutral Evil seeks to forward itself on the backs of Lawful and Chaotic Evil – maybe they see themselves as the true faith, the puppet masters of the other sects, using and abusing them as events merit.

Neutrality is a little tougher. I would think Lawful Neutrality is conservative, while Chaotic Neutrality is radical. Both favor a balance – either locally among personalities or cosmically between factions – but Lawful Neutral thinks that change might throw things out of balance, so one should be wary of change. Chaotic Neutrality likes change for the sake of change. It rushes here and there, always looking for something new. By spinning the top, it balances. If the top is left at rest, it does not. Neither Lawful Neutral nor Chaotic Neutral want to be enmeshed in a wider struggle between Good and Evil. One faction is too preachy, the other is too scary, and why don’t they just leave us the heck alone?

Yes, Evil can work together … for a while

To recap – Europe’s Catholics and Protestants were at odds, often at war, but would have likely joined forces against the Ottoman Turks had they launched a major invasion. Likewise, the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman hate one another, but they’ll form the United Underworld if they think they can get rid of Batman and Robin.

One More Lame Alignment Idea Before I’m Done

I also thought about characterizing alignments in a string, rather than a square. One is permitted a certain number of vices at each alignment “level”. The good alignments are permitted vices that hurt themselves but not others, while the other alignments permit more active vices.

The breakout could be something like:

Lawful Good: 0 vices (the toughest alignment to adhere to)
Neutral Good: 1 vice
Chaotic Good: 2 vices

Lawful Neutral: 3 vices (but only personal vices, as with the good alignments)
True Neutral: 3 vices
Chaotic Neutral: 4 vices

Lawful Evil: 5 vices
Neutral Evil: 6 vices
Chaotic Evil: 7 vices

So Chaotic Evil is permitted to glory in all seven deadly sins, while Lawful Good has to be perfect all the time. If a Lawful Good character sins, but only hurts herself, she becomes Neutral Good. If she does something sinful that hurts another, she drops all the way down to True Neutral (at best), and can feel free to dabble in a couple other sins as well. Reformation might come one level at a time, as the character swears off of different vices and proves their virtue by keeping away from that vice for some period of time set by the GM or through some other meaningful way.

This is what the planes should look like, right?