The Coming of the Triphibians

The triphibians have their origin in a delightful Japanese film with numerous titles, the most common in the U.S. of A. being The Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. Another title (Gappa: The Triphibian Monster) refers to the monsters in question being triphibians. I really dig that word, so I decided to make them into more useful monsters for the average fantasy/sci-fi game – i.e. I resized them as humanoids rather than uber-massive kaiju. Here then, are the triphibians, compatible with Blood & Treasure and other OSR games.

Triphibian

Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 15
Attack: Slam (1d4) or by weapon
Movement: 30′ (Fly 90′, Swim 30′)
Save: 16; +3 vs. poison
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d6*
XP/CL: 200/3

SD—Immunity (electricity), resistance (fire)

Triphibians look like beaked humanoids with scaly skin and large wings which they can fold onto their backs, nearly hiding them. They are emotional creatures, and their scales change colors to match their emotions. They are not desirous of contact with other species, and do their best to maintain a wide buffer between their lands and those of other creatures. In their own territory, they are highly aggressive towards intruders, especially when they are protecting their eggs and their young. In battle, they fight with swords, spears, bows and javelins, and sometimes use shields.

Triphibians can fly and they can breath underwater, making them a triple threat. Nations that have gone to war with them find their skies blackened by their warriors dropping heavy stones or bombs, and their boats falling prey to their attacks from underwater. Triphibians do not believe in fair fights, and use their abilities to the fullest to get an advantage.

Triphibians dwell in tribes of 1d6 x 60 warriors and twice as many noncombatants. They usually make their home underwater near thermal vents or in secluded mountain strongholds near lakes. It is not unusual for 1d6 tribes to live within a mile of one another, forming a confederation.

Triphibian tribes are commanded by a 6 HD king or queen who can breath a 10′ cone of electricity (2d6 damage) three times per day. These kings and queens undergo a secret ritual that increases their size to Large and their intelligence to High. The king or queen is attended by a bodyguard of 3d6 warriors with 2+1 Hit Dice. There is a 36% chance that a tribe has a spell caster, usually an adept (roll 1d4 for level). This philosopher, as the triphibians call them, is a spiritual teacher to the people, attends the king or queen on matters of state, conducts public rituals (including coronations) and joins the tribe in battle.

NOTE: These monsters would work very well in a PARS FORTUNA campaign, substituting for the larger humanoids like gnolls and bugbears that appear in traditional fantasy. By adding ray guns and such to their weaponry and putting them in serene bubble architecture above or below the sea, they would also work in a sci-fi setting such as Space Princess.

Bloody Basic (Revised) Stats

Size: Medium
Type: Humanoid
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 16
Movement: 30′ (Fly, Swim)
Attacks: Slam or Weapon
Saving Throw: 16
Alignment: Neutral
CL/XP: 3/300

Rediscovering Pars Fortuna

Bo’al, Ilel, Caledjula and Cakrol

It was about seven years ago that I published Pars Fortuna, my first game. It used the Swords & Wizardry engine, with a few alterations by myself just to test out ideas for alternate mechanics. Seven years, and now it’s time for a little revision.

Revising seems to be my main hobby at the moment. I’ve just done a 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure, so I’m now working on revising the two B&T supplements, the Monster Tome (to be re-titled Monsters II) and the NOD Companion (to be re-titled Esoterica Exhumed). That goes on apace, one piece at a time. Now I’ve started delving into Pars Fortuna, and it has been fun to explore that weird little book.

The idea at the time was to make a random RPG. This meant removing the races, classes, spells, monsters and magic items that we all knew and (mostly) loved, and replacing them with things that had their genesis from random generators. At the time, I described it as reminiscent of Talislanta (“no elves”). For the most part, that’s what I did. Random classes just were not workable at the time, though I later developed a random class generator. To deal with classes, I went the race-as-class route. Random spells had the same problem, so I just rolled randomly on some lists of OGL, but non-SRD, spells.

Now I’m revising, and that means re-reading, and I’m amazed at how much I wrote that I do not remember writing. A couple of the races receded from memory and were nice surprises to me now. Many of the monsters were forgotten, and now I’m realizing how much monster art I’m going to need.

In Pars Fortuna Revised, I’m going to bring the rules more in line with what will be, next year, a revised Bloody Basic. Mostly just messing with saves and skills – nothing earth shattering. The race/classes will get some more options (essentially a warrior, skill monkey and magician class for each race). Pars Fortuna’s spell system will remain intact, and I’ll add in a few extras that I created after it was published and maybe a few things that have been bouncing around my head for a while.

Speaking of art … art was the weak spot for me when I wrote Pars Fortuna. At the time, I had zero budget to work with, so I convinced my wife that sinking $120 or so of our money into this silly project was a good idea. I contracted with Jon Kaufman to give life to the bizarre races in the setting, and I still remember the feeling of absolute delight when I got that first illustration (at the top of the post) from him. It’s still one of my favorite things ever from my years of commissioning art for games.

And then came the monsters. I tapped a fellow named Michael Stewart for a few pieces (gongthrottle over to the left is among my favorite, but the hamazak and qward are also awesome), as well as Russ Nicholson (who I’m proud to say is now working on a cover for B&T Monsters II) and Rhiannon McGuiness (who did the delightful illustration of ouphs). All great illustrations, but … there were so many more monsters to be illustrated! Almost all of the monsters in the book are original (to some extent), but I didn’t have the money to commission more art for them. Seven years later, I have a bigger budget to play with, so I plan to commission quite a few more monster illustrations. Here are a few that are on my list of potential targets for illustration:

Arahkhun – giant racoons, as big as bears and excellent grapplers

Armadillox – armadillos the size of oxen and used as draft animals; a cakrol (pangolin man) mounted on an armadillox would be just dandy!

Bebb – bears with curled goat horns

Gangarou – glossy black giant kangaroos, sometimes used as mounts

Haloot – owl-lions – quadrupedal raptor, with cheetah speed

Jumart – horned horses with shaggy hair

Mursa – furry, white walruses with bear-like legs

Olph – carnivorous sheep with wide faces and toothy maws

Opur – penguins the size of orcas, filling a similar niche

Woin – sleek wolverines with skin membranes that allow them to glide

Abominid – a giant spider stitched together from humanoid arms and legs by a vivimancer

Fulminator – five bronze spheres joined together by arcs of electricity and moving like a humanoid

Mercurial – animated mercury in the vague shape of a rat

Ningyo – animated wooden puppets with demon faces

Retriever – clockwork dingo

Sanctus – animated statue of a saint

Skeloid – animated skeleton bound in silver and gold wire with its head replaced by a wooden raptor or crow head

Tinker King – mechanical man with gemstone eyes

Nine – furry humanoids that look something like otters or seals, but with four eyes; extremely fast

Nizzertit – slimy burrowers with big eyes; keep guard cats

Nurg – short, hairy men with savage tempers; have large fists

Spenwanan – spider people of dungeons and grasslands

Zimbad – humanoid pterosaurs

Goon – evil underground humanoids who wear crowns and cause trouble

Ingalas – amazon nymphs of the jungle

Meagle – stunted moor-folk who like like a combo of hedgehog and bat

Osk – golden humanoids with sharpened teeth; covet jewelry

Tomb Robber – tiny men with grey skin, white eyes and oversized black claws

Azimok – towering crimson humanoids with protruding foreheads; urbane philosophers in daylight, raving madmen at night

Booglemoon – bear-sized wingless turkeys with crushing beaks

Cavern Crawler – terrestrial octopi

Crystalline tree – can throw beams of searing light

Dreak – look like polliwogs with the faces of human children; lake predators

Floating Horror – floating eyeball formed of protoplasm

Hyari – feathered carnosaurs with long snouts and who can leap like fleas
Idekel – cross between alligator and boa constrictor with illusion powers

Lady-of-the-depths – plant that uses illusion to look like a dainty woman; enslaves people with tendrils, who then serve as her handmaidens

Nanc – coppery capybaras with spiny tails

Oroboros – worms with lamprey mouths on either end; Pars Fortuna’s answer to color-coded dragons

Palasm – look like faceless baboons with distended bellies

Pellucid – colonies of translucent crystals

Pyroceros – stone rhinos with cores of magma

Sand rat – scaled rats with sapphires embedded in their foreheads

Sagebane – large frogs with psychic powers

Snurl – mastiffs covered in lobster-like armor

Wyveroon – like little wyverns; they adore magic rings

Zavvo – body of giant serpent, head of bat, wings of vulture; surrounded by darkness

Archfiends – Haaqugo the Burning One, Ac’ishlath the Elder Goddess and Y’dhortshagg

Lunarch – slightly amorphous silvery bear with a cluster of spider eyes on its head

Malhora Swarm – tiny moths that accelerate time

Nokt – evil spirit that looks like a five-headed green crow

Pillar of Fire – ’nuff said

Volp – crystalline wolves

Zax – energy creatures (look something like 9-bit designs from old arcade games)

If I can manage to commission a third of these, I’ll be pretty happy. If I can do more than that, I’ll be ecstatic. If you have any favorites from the list above, let me know in the comments.

I’m thinking of doing a separate setting book for the game, and both rule book and setting book (if I do separate them) will have adventures in them as well. Should be a fun project, and a nice chance to resurrect one of my first attempts at making games.

The Caves of Llosh [Pars Fortuna]

The Caves of Llosh is a multi-part dungeon for the Pars Fortuna rules, for characters level 1-3 that I decided to publish here, piece by piece. I’m going to start doing the same for Space Princess and the Catacombs of Old Mars soon … let’s see how it goes.

[No Map Yet … Been busy but wanted to get this ball rolling, and the intro area is pretty straight-forward]

Well beyond the city of Viacrux and the Pyroxist Mountains, past the steading of the cyclopeans and to the west of the Titan’s Door, lie the Caves of Llosh, one of the many entrances to the infamous Spire that lies at the center of creation and, they say, offers one a chance to rewrite that creation if only they can climb to its pinnacle.

The caverns are accessed via a small cave in the base of a mountain shrouded in spiny ygoraa bushes that drip their maddening sap when the moon is full. The upper reaches of the mountain are stark and on the rocky ledges perch beady-eyed hraeths (giant ravens), who often attack adventurers making their way to and from the caves (3 in 6 chance, 5 in 6 if laden with treasure).

HRAETH (1d8): HD 1; AC 15; ATK 1d4 (talons); Move 3 (Fly 18); Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

1-1. The entry cave measures about 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, and the ground and ceiling both angle downwards from the entry. The floor and walls have been worn smooth by dozens of adventurers who have dared the caves, and bits of graffiti are to be found chiseled into the walls, including a large admonishment to “Never Bite an Oort” and a plea to “Bow to The Dam”.

There are three exits from the cavern. One is a sinkhole with glistening walls (not wet, just a characteristic of the rock). The sinkhole has an opening about 15 feet in diameter – a sort of cone – with several iron spikes driven into the rim, and usually (2 in 6) a rope tied to at least one. About 20 feet down, the air becomes foul and difficult to breath (save or suffer -1 penalty to attack and save for 2 hour; or simply cover mouth and nose with a thick cloth), and about 40 feet down you might come across additional spikes driven into the walls, where people made a perch for themselves and tied off additional ropes. In all, the sinkhole is 80 feet deep and leads to chamber 3-1.

The next exit is a rather large cave mouth at the back of cave 1-1. The air in the mouth of this cave is quite chilly, and one can even see crystals of frost on the ground leading into it. This cave leads into a tunnel about 40 feet long, that winds back and forth gently and descends at a 15-degree angle to chamber 1-2. The tunnel is guarded by four cavern crawlers with mottled, white skin that allows them to blend in with the frosty tunnel (surprise on 1-2 on 1d6).

CAVERN CRAWLER (4): HD 1d4 (4, 2, 2, 2 hp); AC 12; ATK suffocate (drop); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Suffocate (see monster description).

The final exit is hidden by an illusion, making it look like part of the east wall. It is a stone portal, large enough to be carved by bo’al, and bearing the tell-tale signs of their aesthetic (i.e. boring, angular, sturdy, etc.). Beyond the illusion (not the work of bo’al, but of a party of caledjula who long ago met their demise within the caves) there is a hallway about 10 feet long and an iron door (locked, trapped with an acid spray that deals 1d6 damage and has a 13% chance of ruining a thief’s lock pick). Beyond the iron door there is a spiral stair that leads down about 30 feet to chamber 2-1. This engineering feat was a result of a party of bo’al being guided by a prophetic dream, and breaching the second level of the dungeon from a pathway its inhabitants never quite expected.

Nomes – New Race [Pars Fortuna]

Illustration by John R. Neil, 1921

The nomes are akin to the fey oumphs, and dwell underground with them, sometimes cooperatively, but just as often in opposition. They are natural miners, with eyes that can pierce the blackness of the underworld as easily as human eyes can pierce the daylight; however, in light they are just as blind as a human is in the dark, and must shroud their eyes or use spells of darkness to see even dimly.

Nomes are short, standing only 2 to 4 feet in height (1d3+1). They have spindly arms and legs and skin that ranges from flinty grey to rust brown in color. Their eyes, like little black beads, sparkle in light or dark, and give them a look of conspiracy. Nomes are easily agitated and can fly into a rant or a rage at the drop of a hat, though the more adventurous of the race are moderately better at controlling their temper. They cover themselves with tattoos (really more akin to engravings), and from these tattoos they draw mystic powers.

Nomes adventure in search of “the mother lode” that will make them wealthy and powerful. They adventure with a mind to one day constructing a grand fortified mine, settling down, having children and amassing an army of nomes to do their bidding. They call this “the plan”, and most things they encounter are either “all part of the plan” or “not part of the plan”. When a nome is happy, they’ll muse that, “oh yes, the plan is coming along nicely”. The fact that most folk do not know what “the plan” is, paired with the conspiratorial look in their eyes, makes most people suspicious of nomes.

NOME ADVANCEMENT
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Level Experience Hit Dice Hit Bonus Save
1 0 1 +0 14
2 2,000 2 +0 13
3 4,000 3 +1 12
4 8,000 4 +2 11
5 16,000 5 +2 10
6 32,000 6 +3 9
7 64,000 7 +4 8
8 128,000 8 +5 7
9 256,000 9 +6 6
10 350,000 9 +2 hp

+7 5
11 450,000 9 +4 hp +7 4
12 550,000 9 +6 hp +8 4

RACIAL ABILITIES
As mentioned above, the nomes can see without light, but do not see well with light. In bright light, they must fight blind unless they have their eyes well shaded, and even then suffer a -1 penalty to hit. Their skin is tough and thick, and provides them a +2 bonus to AC. Nomes have a knack for noticing odd stonework and construction, as well as a knack for finding more cunning traps, picking locks, and sniffing out deposits of copper, silver and gold. Their small size prevents them from using large weapons. Finally, nomes can sense vibrations in the stone, and thus can only be surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d10 while underground.

CLASS ABILITIES

Prime Requisite: Constitution, 13+ (5% experience bonus). Nomes are tough little buggers.

Hit Dice: 1d6+1 (2 hp per level after 9th level). Nomes live a rugged lifestyle, and often come into conflict with other species underground (due to the need for living space as much as their irascible personalities). They are not as militant and well-trained, though, as the Oraenca.

Armor Restrictions: Nomes can use any type of armor, though they prefer to avoid heavy armor because it makes movement through the underworld more difficult.

Weapon Restrictions: Nomes can wield clubs, daggers, flails, maces and swords without trouble. Axes and spears require the use of two hands, and two-handed swords and pole arms are just too large for them. They can use any ranged weapon, but prefer crossbows and slings.

Special Abilities: Nomes are magical folk, though not as skilled as the Caledjula or Nif in the working of spells.

Nomes can use cantraps (level 1 to 3 spells) without any difficulty and using the normal magic rules.

Nomes can cast invocations (level 4 to 6 spells) only by engraving sigils into their skin. These spells can only be spells that affect the nome personally, and once engraved, they can be invoked at any time using the normal spell check mechanism but with a +2bonus to their spell check.

Personal Invocations: Armor of Deflection, Ghost Walk, Touch of the Mystic, Viper Strike

Nomes can likewise work rituals (level 7 to 9 spells) into their skin, powdering the necessary gemstone into their engravings. They must re-apply the crushed gemstone once per month to keep the sigil active and energized, but while it is energized, they receive the same +2 bonus to their spell checks.

Personal Rituals: Body of Fire, Change Form, Consume Soul, Mindshriek, Temporal Abstraction

Nomes are doughty men and women, and their irascible personalities are not inclined towards fear. Whenever a nome must save against fear, there is a 3 in 6 chance that they ignore the fear effect and instead fly into a raging fit. While throwing this fit, the nomes focus their attacks (and are unable to use spells) on the source of the fear. They gain a +2 bonus to hit and damage for 1d6 rounds plus their constitution bonus. At the end of their fit, they are exhausted and must now roll their saving throw against fear.

Needless to say, folk who know nomes well take great pains to avoid startling them.

The Corundar [Pars Fortuna and Space Princess]

Image by John M. Stater

Edit: Now with crappy art by yours truly

The corundar are a silicon-based lifeform native to volcanic areas. They grow in and consume mineral salts in solution, but can survive on humanoid blood if necessary. Most corundar lair around a mineral spring, preferably underground, using the spring as a hatchery and as their main source of food.

Corundar consider themselves creatures of perfection. They attempt to beautify their lairs by making the walls, floors and ceiling smooth and angular. They likewise favor perfection in living creatures, both in mind and body. Corundar will always attack creatures with a combined intelligence and charisma score of less than 20, and always attack creatures with the lowest combined score first. Generally, three corundar will rush the imperfect creature, while others will circle them and provide defense until the imperfect specimen has been destroyed.

Corundar look like pyramidal lumps of crystal, about 3 to 4 feet in height and colored red, blue, orange or green. They are supported on four stubby, crystalline legs and have three long mineral straws protruding from their main body mass. These straws can move in the manner of tentacles, and are razor sharp on the edges. Corundar have tiny motes of light moving through their bodies, originating in their hollow center, where they maintain a pocket of mineral salt solution. They can control these motes as a means of communication (a difficult language to learn, requiring a minimum intelligence of 15). They can see with their entire bodies, making them very difficult to surprise. They can sense vibrations from the air and ground as well, making it possible for them to understand speech.

Corundar attack with their straws, whipping and slicing with them or using one of them to spray a corrosive solution of mineral salts (10-ft. long cone, 2d6 points of acid damage, save for half damage, usable once per day). Corundar are immune to acid and cold and suffer only half damage from fire and electricity.

Corundar (Pars Fortuna)
HD 4; AC 16; Atk 3 straws (1d6+1) or spray; Move 9; Save 13; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Immune to acid and cold, resistance to fire and electricity (50%), surprise on 1 on 1d10, acid spray (see above).

PC Race: +1 Con, -2 Dex; surprised on 1 on 1d10; acid spray 1/day, immunities and resistances; knack for finding secret doors

Corundar (Space Princess)
HD 4; DEF 16; FIGHT 10; SHOOT 7; MOVE S; STR 6; DEX 3; MEN 5; KNO 4; DL

PC Species: Mineral (new type, see below) / multiple arms and multiple legs (must spend 1 point of Luck to play a Corundar)

Mineral Alien: Mineral aliens are composed of rock or crystal. They have slow movement and DEF +2.

Sample Lair:

1. Empty Cavern: This cavern is untouched by the corundar, who use it as a buffer between their lair and the outside world; they have erected a crude “scarecrow” here – essentially a skeletal corpse on a slab of rock

2. Guard Post: Two corundar are always on guard here; when not otherwise occupied, they are grinding the walls with their straws

3. Low Cavern: This cavern hosts a hot spring that was insufficiently infused with minerals to serve the corundar; it is a 10-ft. deep pool of scalding water (2d6 damage per round) that sends a thick mist into area [1]

4. Guard Post: Three corundar are always on guard here

5. Workshop: Five corundar work here grinding stone into tools and other pleasing shapes and turning shed crystal into lenses for the temple

6. Temple: The corundar worship a clear crystal pyramid that represents perfection to them; small lenses are hung from the ceiling by thin chains; the temple is guarded by two corundar and the idol is attended by a priest who cast spells as a 5th level magician

7. Laboratory: The corundar high priest [7] maintains a laboratory here; the walls are carved into shelves holding various jars and beakers of mineral solutions; a vat has been carved from the stone in the center of the room – there is a 1 in 10 chance that it holds the makings of a potion

8. Guard Post: Two corundar are always on guard here

9. Forge and Foundry: This room contains a vent of super-heated, poisonous gas (the corundar are immune, of course, since they need not breath, but the gas does mar their appearance) that they use for purifying and working copper ore; there is a 30% chance that two corundar are here working

10. Mine: This cavern connects to a seam of copper that is mined by the corundar; there are usually 2d6 corundar here collecting the ore

11. Rest Chamber: Corundar need to sleep about 6 hours a day; this chamber holds 2d6 sleeping corundar

12. Mud Chamber: This chamber is filled with steaming hot mud; the corundar have created a pool for the mud and channels leading from the walls; they bathe in the mud when damaged

13. Guard Post: Two corundar guards

14. Vibro-Chamber: This space has acoustics that allow the corundar to create pleasant vibrations – in essence, a corundar concert chamber

15. Mineral Baths: There are 3d6 young here and 2d4 adults

Potential Google + Gaming

This post is really just for me to organize my thoughts and put them in pixels before I completely forget them. If any of these ideas grab your imagination, let me know.

For the Money, For the Glory, and For the Fun
The Duke of Raleigh has a challenge for any crew of mutants who want to earn a big payoff – travel west into the Rockies and bring him back a load of the most valuable beverage in post-apocalyptic America … Coors! This would be a Mutant Truckers game, in which (if enough people were interested) two or more crews would complete to make the journey to Colorado and back for a load of Coors.

Assault on Eagle’s Nest
This would be an Action X game (yeah, I’d probably have to finish those rules first) in which a crack team of heroes assaults Eagle’s Nest (Hitler’s command complex). The characters would all be based on literary, comic and movie characters who would have been active during World War II. No super heroes, just guys and dolls who can hold their own in a fight. Indiana Jones, Boston Blackie, Mademoiselle Marie, D.A. Grant Gardner, Sgt. Rock, Maj. Reisman, Pvt. Kelly, a young James Bond, etc.

Silver Age Madness
A Mystery Men! game in which silver age characters deal with all the challenges of the comic books of that period (nosy mates, turning into a gorilla, being split in two, etc.) while trying to keep the world from ending by a mysterious assault from something beyond their reckoning.

Crawling Through Nod
This would be a hex crawl through Nod using Blood and Treasure. A band of diverse heroes (all the races and classes I’ve published in Nod would be open game) doing what they want, going where they want in true sandbox style. There could be a few epic quests hidden in the sandbox for folks who like that sort of thing. No limits to this one – everything would be open from Hell to the Firmament.

The Catacombs of Old Mars
Using Space Princess rules, a band of heroes delve into the ancient catacombs of Mars in search of a mad scientist, who is attempting to unlock the Shiva-Force, a formula that could end the universe as we know it.

Fortuna’s Wheel
This would be a megadungeon delve using Pars Fortuna rules, as characters win their way into the Great Spire at the center of the world, atop of which there stands (reputedly) the Wheel of Fortuna, with which one can gain their hearts’ desire. All you have to do to get it is make your way through a mile high spire of stone that supports hidden kingdoms and every monster you could imagine.

The Streets of Shore City
Another Mystery Men! campaign, this one pitting low-powered heroes against the criminal elements lurking in the alleys of Shore City. Gangbusting, random patrols and maybe a chance to show up the “super heroes” when things really hit the fan.

Combat Notions for Pars Fortuna

While PARS FORTUNA started out as an experiment in randomly generated material for an RPG, I soon decided to add in optional rules for Old School games to make it a true tool box. To that end, I have an easy rule for encumbrance, a unique (I think) method of spell casting, a slightly different take on armor and weapons and an easy system for special combat maneuvers. Nothing necessarily ground breaking, but maybe bits and pieces that Referees will find useful for their own games.

Movement & Combat
Today, I’m thinking about movement and the fact that it is virtually useless in most games. My guy has a movement of 12 (or 30′ or whatever your system uses) and you have a movement of 9 and, let’s be honest, how often does this really come up. Maybe if we’re being chased, but usually movement in the dungeon comes down to “we walk down the hall” or “we walk into the room, carefully”. Movement might come into things in outdoor adventures where the spaces are larger, but it’s a rare dungeon chamber indeed in which movement (and missile ranges – more on that later) make much difference. So, what’s to be done?

One idea is to mark off movement on a grid, but in all my years of playing 3rd edition, I don’t think movement rates ever had much effect within the dungeon – again, the rooms are rarely large enough to make a movement of 30′ that much better than a movement of 20′ – and we all know how much grid movement can slow down a combat.

My idea is to link initiative to movement rates, as follows:

Combat Speed
Quick = a movement rate of 15 or higher (note, I’m using Swords and Wizardry’s movement rates here; in 3rd edition think 40′ or higher)

Slow = a movement rate of 9 or below (20′ in 3rd edition)

Everything else is considered “normal speed”

When combat rolls around, I use the following order of events:

1. Missile Fire: Ranged weapons are valuable because they attack first, and thrown weapons are included here. Determine first strike in this phase by casting dice. You can either let every person and monster (or monster group) throw a D6 and go high to low, or have each side throw a D6 to determine which side attacks first. If your character has a higher rate of fire than 1 shot per round, just make the first shot during this round.

2. Quick Creatures: Quick creatures move and attack – again, to determine first strike just throw dice, giving creatures/characters a bonus of +1 to their role if they have a longer weapon or reach than their opponent. You could also break up the movement and the attack – everyone moves, and then anyone within 10′ of an opponent is considered in melee and may attack, rolling to determine who strikes first.

3. Normal Creatures: Normal creatures move and attack – as above

4. Slow Creatures: Slow creatures move and attack – as above

5. Spells: Spells are fired/cast – I’m assuming that chanting a spell takes longer than knocking and firing a bow; also gives the side without a spell caster time to disrupt the spell casting with a well placed attack.

6. More Missiles: For those with high rates of fire (see above).

In essence, creatures with higher movement rate always win initiative, though their counterparts with the same combat speed might beat them to the first strike. This way, movement rates have a very tangible effect on character survival, and those who choose to stay light and mobile get some advantage over those who are burdened with gear, armor, etc. Weight management becomes a tactical decision.

Missiles & Ranges
We all know that in most fantasy games, ranged weapons are given a range or range categories, and these ranges impose penalties on ranged attacks. Much in the same way as movement, though, how often do these ranges come into play when most combats occur in rooms that are 10′ or 20′ or 30′ square. Outdoors, of course, ranges matter. This makes perfect sense, since the game was designed as a war game and then modified to support dungeon delving. My suggested optional rule for PARS FORTUNA is to give each creature an effective range, in feet, based on his Dexterity score. For monsters, you can just assume an effective range of 10′. Within this effective range you suffer no penalties. Outside of this effective range, you suffer a -1 penalty to hit for each increment beyond effective you go. Thus, a fighting-man with an effective range of 10′ would have the following modifications based on range:

0-10 feet: No penalty
11-20 feet: -1 penalty to hit
21-30 feet: -2 penalty to hit
31-40 feet: -3 penalty to hit

For a poor slob with a dexterity of 6, the ranges would be:

0-6 feet: No penalty
7-12 feet: -1 to hit
13-24 feet: -2 to hit
25-36 feet: -3 penalty

This gives the high-dexterity character a nice benefit in missile combat, and makes “short passes” easier than “long bombs” even within the confines of a dungeon.

Pars Fortuna Preview #5 – Magic!

So, part of my concept for PARS FORTUNA is introducing alternate rules. While the RPG will contain the old tried-and-true Vancian system for those who love it, the assumed magic system for the game is something different.

The Spell Interval System
The Spell Interval system assumes that casting spells involves gathering eldritch energies and then releasing them, with the words, gestures and tools that are involved shaping that “energy” to produce the desired effect. The more powerful a spell, the more energy it takes – i.e. the higher the level of the spell, the longer it takes for the magician’s body (and soul?) to absorb the needed energy to power the spell.

The spell level intervals are as follows: Each hour, you may cast one first level spell; each day you may cast one second level spell; each week you may cast one third level spell; each month one fourth level spell; each year one spell each of the sixth, seventh eighth and ninth levels.

Naturally, the average magician will not be satisfied with these restrictions, and will seek a way around them. Magicians can attempt to cast spells over and beyond what is allowed, but doing so can be dangerous. When a spell-caster wishes to cast additional spells of a level, he must make a saving throw, subtracting the level of the spell he wishes to cast from his roll. If successful, he channels and masters the energies necessary and casts the desired spell. If he fails, he must face the consequences, which include mental and physical deformities and supernatural curses. The more powerful the spell a magicians fails to cast, the more potentially disastrous the consequences!

Magical Tools
I’ve always enjoyed the idea of magicians carrying all sorts of odd objects and materials in order to work their art. Advanced versions of our favorite game have included material components for years, and they are often ignored because they are difficult to track. PARS FORTUNA uses a similar concept, as follows:

Level 1 to 3 spells are classified as “Cantraps” and require a fetish to cast. Each spell requires a different sort of fetish, and the fetish is not consumed in casting the spell – it is merely a cheap tool, composed of ordinary, mundane objects, that the magician must hold in his hand to successfully shape his magical energies into a spell.

Level 4 to 6 spells are classified as “Invocations” and require a tool (or set of tools) to cast. These tools are more expensive than the fetishes required by cantraps, and include arthames (mystic knives), censers and wands.

Level 7 to 9 spells are classified as “Rituals” and require expensive gems to cast. Unlike the fetishes and tools, these gems are consumed during the casting of the spell.

Sample Cantraps

Irritation (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 1
Range: 30 ft.
Duration: 1d4 rounds
Focus: Leaves from poison ivy, oak or sumac tied into a bundle with twine

You cover the target’s body in an itching sensation that lasts 1d4 rounds. For the duration, the target takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls, damage rolls and saving throws, and suffers a –1 penalty to its Armor Class if it fails a saving throw. The creature can scratch, negating the penalties for that round. Creatures that have thick hides are immune to this version of irritation.

Pitch Sight (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 2
Range: 30 ft.
Duration: 1 minute per level
Focus: A small piece of phosphorescent lichen held tightly in right fist

The caster and her allies can see normally through normal and magical darkness.

Curse of Light (Cantrap)
Spell Level: 3
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 hour/level
Focus: A tiny sack of phosphorus

You make the subject extremely sensitive to light. Abrupt exposure to bright light blinds the subject for 1d4 rounds. On subsequent rounds, they suffer a –1 penalty to all attack, damage and saving throw rolls.

Sample Invocations

Exorcise (Invocation)

Spell Level: 4
Range: 10 ft.
Duration: Instantaneous
Tool: Bolline (sickle) swung over the target’s head

You negate possession of a creature or object by any force. When you cast this spell, the possessing force may make a saving throw to resist you. If unsuccessful, the possessing creature is ejected from the host and stunned for one round. A creature affected by this spell cannot attempt to possess the same host for one day.

If cast against disembodied spirits, the spell forces those spirits to make a saving throw or flee away from the magician and keep at least 30 feet away for 1 hour.

Ghost Walk (Invocation)
Spell Level: 5
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 minute/level
Tool: Amulet set with a mirror

You become incorporeal, similar to a ghost. While ethereal, other ethereal creatures can harm you, as well as material creatures that use magic weapons and spells. You are immune to all non-magical attack forms, are not burned by normal fires, and are unaffected by natural cold or harmed by mundane acids.

You can move in any direction (including up or down) at will and with perfect maneuverability. You do not need to walk on the ground. You can pass through solid objects at will, although you cannot see when your eyes are within solid matter.

You are inaudible unless you decide to make noise. You pass through and operate in water as easily as you do in air. You cannot fall or take falling damage. You have no weight and do not set off traps that are triggered by weight. You do not leave footprints, have no scent and make no noise.

Your physical attacks are ineffectual against material creatures. Your spells affect material creatures normally.

Gem Guard (Invocation)
Spell Level: 6
Range: See text
Duration: 1 hour per level
Tool: Athame, used to split the focus gem

You transform a gem into a scrying device. When the spell is cast, the two halves of a corundum worth at least 1,000 gp become linked. When you hold one, you may scry on the other at will. You can see everything within 50 ft. of the other half. Any creature with at least a 12 intelligence has a 1-2 on 1d6 chance of sensing your attention. Spells may be cast freely through the linking gem, and may target any creature within its sensor range. Area effect spells may damage the other half of the focus, which has 30 hit points.

Sample Rituals

Infinite Step (Ritual)
Spell Level: 7
Range: Sight
Duration: Instantaneous
Gem: Jacinth (50 gp)

You (with one other willing party) instantly transfer yourself from your current location to any other spot within sight. At 12th level, the magician may make a second step from the destination.

Edge of Oblivion (Ritual)
Spell Level: 8
Range: 60 ft.
Duration: Instantaneous
Gem: Onyx (100 gp)

This spell assaults the mind and body of the subject. The subject must make two saving throws, one boosted by any wisdom bonus the creature enjoys, the other by any constitution bonus. If the subject fails the wisdom saving throw, the spell deals 1d6 permanent ability damage to the target’s intelligence, wisdom or charisma, determined randomly. If the subject fails the constitution saving throw, the spell deals 1d6 permanent ability damage to the target’s strength, dexterity or constitution, determined randomly. The caster is stunned for one round following the casting of this spell.

Prismatic Helix (Ritual)
Spell Level: 9
Range: 60 ft.
Duration: 10 minutes per level
Gem: Opal (500 gp)

The visible effect of the prismatic helix is a stationary, slowly rotating, seven strand helix, one for each color in the spectrum. This helix is 5 feet in diameter and up to 20 feet high. Any creature of 8 HD or less that looks at the helix from less than 60 feet away is fascinated, unable to do anything but stare at the helix. There is no limit to the number of creatures that can be captivated in this manner.

Once per round, the helix shoots one ray at the nearest creature, using the magician’s attack bonus. Roll randomly on the table below for the effect.

1. Red: 2d6 points of fire damage
2. Orange: 4d6 points of acid damage
3. Yellow: 8d6 points of electricity damage
4. Green: Poison (save or die)
5. Blue: Turned to stone
6. Indigo: Stark, raving mad
7. Violet: Sent to another dimension
8. Struck by two rays, roll twice, ignore any “8”

Individual strands are destroyed by opposite effects (as determined by the Referee). If a particular color has been destroyed, and that color is rolled for a ray attack, re-roll until a valid color is selected.

Knacks and Skills in Pars Fortuna

I was thinking yesterday about the PARS FORTUNA stuff – mostly developing the race/classes and the idea of knacks and skills hit me. Nothing ground breaking, but they go like this …

TASKS, KNACKS & SKILLS
When playing a game of PARS FORTUNA, there is no limit to what your character can try to do. Please note that trying to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Many tasks a character attempts are easily accomplished and do not require you to dice for the results. In simple terms, if the average person could do it, your character can do it.

However, some tasks require above-average physical or mental abilities, or years of training to have a chance of succeeding – breaking down a bolted door, deciphering a lost language or climbing a sheer wall, for example. When a player wishes his character to attempt a task such as this, this game assumes that they have a 1 in 6 chance of success – in other words, the player throws 1d6 and, if they roll a “1”, they succeed. This translates into a slim (17%) chance of success, so Referee’s should only use this mechanic if the task the character wishes to undertake has a high probability of failure.

A high ability score (15+) in a relevant ability can extend this chance by +1 (to 1-2 on 1d6) if the Referee permits it. Referees might want to give other bonuses based on the situation and any clever ideas a player might have for improving his chances.

Some races have a knack for certain tasks, usually because of their physical or mental make-up. If a racial description notes a “knack”, for something, that race accomplishes it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6. Oraenca, for example, are stout and solidly built, and have a knack for busting down doors.

Some classes put a portion of their training into mastering certain tasks – the Kyssai, for example, train to move about silently. When presented with a task encompassed by one of their skills, a character’s success or failure is determined by rolling a saving throw. In this way, the character becomes more likely to succeed at that task as he rises in levels. For example, to successfully sneak past some tower guards, a 1st level Kyssai must roll a 15-20 on 1d20 (i.e. a 30% chance of success), while a 10th level Kyssai would have to roll a 6-20 (a 75% chance of success).

To sum up, any character has a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding at a difficult task. Characters with a knack for something have a 2 in 6 chance of success. Characters who are skilled at a task roll a saving throw to determine success or failure.

I’d love to know what people think of this basic system for non-combat task resolution.

Pars Fortuna Preview #1 – The Caledjula

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on creating a set of rules based on Swords & Wizardry called PARS FORTUNATM. The gimmick is that the races, monsters and magic items are all based on things generated using a variety of online random generators. I’m also including a host of alternate rules – a different magic system, loads of spells adapted from non-traditional sources, etc. The idea is that the game will be playable as is, or could serve as a toolkit for those wishing to spice up their existing old school games. In the end, it may come to nothing, but its a fun experiment for me.

Here then is the first preview, a race/class called the Caledjula. This race has shown up on the LAND OF NOD blog before, but here has been turned into a class and refined somewhat. Of course, the most obvious take away from this preview is that I need to hire an actual artist to illustrate the game.

Caledjula (The Sky People)
Caledjula are tall, statuesque humanoids with angular bodies, reddish-orange skin and black hair. Their heads are shaped like sidewise crescents, the peaks being their over-sized ears. Their eyes are large and brightly colored. Their long arms end in hands with seven thin fingers.

Caledjula have a radar-like sense reminiscent of bats. They are capable of imitating all sorts of speech, and their pleasant, deep voices and calm demeanor make them excellent diplomats. Caledjula are natural illusionists, with an inborn talent for creating minor figments and phantasms. Most importantly, the caledjula can fly thanks to a strange and little understood gland in their brains.

The caledjula dwell in the mountains. They hire themselves out as heralds, orators and cryers, and often serve in the retinues of merchants and nobles. They indulge in multi-colored garments, always close-fitting and flamboyant.

Prime Attribute: Intelligence, 13+ (5% experience.)

Hit Dice: 1d6-1/level (Gains 1 hp/level after 9th.)

Armor/Shield Permitted: Shields.

Weapons Permitted: Club, dagger, dart.

Healing: The caledjula excel at the healing arts. Any creature given over to their long-term care heals an additional hit point each day and enjoys a +1 bonus to saving throws made to fight off disease. In addition, a caledjula with a healer’s kit has a 2 in 6 chance of neutralizing poisons and a 2 in 6 chance of restoring 1d4 hit points after a battle by applying first aid.

Magic: Caledjula can cast magic spells. See the section on Magic for more information about this powerful ability. In addition to the spells a caledjula can learn as a magician, all caledjula begin the game knowing one illusion that they can cast once per day. This spell is chosen from the following:

• Dazzling Lights: This spell creates a pattern of lights that dazzles all creatures of 1 HD or less within 10 feet, causing them to suffer a -1 penalty to hit in combat. Each creature is allowed a saving throw to avoid this.

• Ghost Sound: Ghost sound allows you to create a volume of sound that rises, recedes, approaches, or remains at a fixed place. You choose what type of sound ghost sound creates when casting it and cannot thereafter change the sound’s basic character.

• Prestidigitation: Once cast, this spell enables you to perform simple magical effects for 1 hour. A prestidigitation can slowly lift 1 pound of material. It can color, clean, or soil small items. It can chill, warm, or flavor 1 pound of nonliving matter. It can create small, crude, fragile objects that cannot be used as tools, weapons, or spell components.

• Smoke Image: This spell shapes existing smoke into any shape, creature or object the spellcaster can visualize. The image is composed entirely of smoke and if disturbed dissipates back into smoke.

• Ventriloquism: You can make your voice seem to issue from someplace else. Anyone who hears the sound and rolls a successful save recognizes it as illusory.

Radar: A caledjula’s radar sense allows them to fight without penalty in complete darkness. They cannot see in the dark, but they can navigate through pitch black halls and caverns without running into things.

Voices: Caledjula are natural mimics, and have a 3 in 6 chance of successfully imitating voices and sounds. The gregarious personalities and sonorous tenors of the caledjula make them natural public speakers. Caledjula enjoy a +1 reaction check bonus when parlaying with monsters and other folk.

Replaces the artwork – maybe a slight improvement?