Previously, in Trip's Life...

31 August 2017 - Thursday

Today I implemented some organization at work. Yay?

Still not sure what to do with the Warlock's style of magic, but in the meantime, what about those non-caster playbooks? I had been thinking of giving them Secret Techniques of Elite Murderism at higher levels, but casters get to do freaky magic stuff from the beginning, so fighter/ranger/thief should get to do at least some of whatever it is they do from level 1.

But what do they do, and what's the fictional positioning for it? The stock Fighter has a signature weapon, but it doesn't seem like that weapon has a lot of mechanical impact; you can hack and slash or stand in defense with a regular weapon just fine. I'm tempted to make the Fighter's damage die d8 except when they're wielding their signature weapon, and maybe add some options for nonmundane things they can do with their weapon (like the advanced move where they can consult the spirits in their weapon, but possibly as starting moves, replacing bend bars, lift gates).

Post-mortem of last night's game shows that class design needs to be done carefully to promote the subgenre (including power level) that you actually want, so changing classes is probably beyond me, never mind making new ones, but it's not like this project was ever not stupid and doomed.

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30 August 2017 - Wednesday

The bus leaving work was late, so I just missed the connection. But that's okay, I can walk for half an hour and catch that bus further down the line! Except it's only about 20 minutes walk to where the wasteland of expressway with no bus stops starts. Bah!

Yep, I still suck at running Dungeon World! I have read how to make a monster scarier than its hit points, but I clearly needed to brush up, and also find some spine somewhere. I am too soft, and not willing to say, "Nope, can't do that", or have damage actually rip character's limbs off. I can't even manage to just make moves assertively (which, yes, means I can't actually do horror DW). I need to use the "when everyone looks to you to see what happens" clause a lot more. Or get wimpier players.

Anyway, that was considered a conclusion, so next week is 13th Age for sure.

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29 August 2017 - Tuesday

Tomorrow will be awful, because I suck. But tonight, Avalon! (Twice in one week!)

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28 August 2017 - Monday

Because I am not too bright about looking at my calendar, I ended up walking from work to the grocery store and back three times, but it all worked out and I did not miss the party for Coworker J2 and his lovely fianceé who are getting married soon.

When we stopped playing Dungeon World a few weeks ago, I just threw in some stuff because I didn't think I'd ever have to follow up on it. Now people are wanting to play more DW instead of 13th Age! Ack! I must think about this game instead of the purely theoretical one!

Okay, a couple more thoughts about WFDW. But only short ones.

What kind of creatures are warlock patrons? In D&D4 and D&D5, the options are fey, demon, or tentacles from beyond the stars. I don't see TTSNB as sufficiently human-like to make contracts with humans, they aren't echoes of humanity like faeries or demons. I am pleased with the "I don't have a contract with any 'Great Old One', I just follow the math where it leads" that I invented for my GOO warlock in 5E, but I think that's a different class than the Warlock who has an explicit contract. Maybe closer to the Wizard, or maybe something else entirely. (I do actually like 4E's connection between stars and Things That Should Not Be, and will totally rip it off, but not right now.)

What else? I was thinking angels, but they'd have to be mad fallen deviant renegade angels, which is pretty much the same as demons, right? Nature spirits that are human enough to make contracts probably count as faeries... No, I am thinking wrongfully! The Warlock gets a list of half a dozen specific patrons, just like the Hierphant gets half a dozen specific gods, not categories.

I sort of want "The Sole and Rightful Queen of the Fairies, Titania", and "The Sole and Rightful Queen of the Fairies, Mab" to both be on the list, but then I'd have to distinguish them from each other as well as from all the other possible patrons, probably by spell choice.

Speaking of Warlock spells, I think my earlier idea of making them summoners is bad. Monsters are supposed to be mysterious and unnatural, and if the Warlock can call up fairies or demons to have a conversation with at any time, that's not going to work out. (Every GM who would totally play a summoned fairy as a working-class joe, raise a tentacle. No fibbing.) So how do warlocks channel patron power, and what do they do with it? How is this different than what wizards do, in play?

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27 August 2017 - Sunday

Apparently this entire subplot was invented by Jeremy, so I don't need to redact spoilers.

When Mika fails to return from the dragon's cave, and it's getting on toward dusk so she should be able to teleport away if she's not in trouble, the other Heroines decide they have to go in after her. Naturally, they send the other ninja to get picked off, but when she returns with a report, they all go in the front door together. ("Order of the Gauntlet!")

Inside, there are spotlights from the ceiling to keep Mika from teleporting out of the tentacles grabbing her. The snivelly eyeball-face monsters creating the light don't stand up to the righteous wrath of the Heroines, and soon Mika is free, but then the creepy elf-thing that lead them to the lair appears out of the mounds of fungal slime and turns Lam into a garter snake.

The elf pops in and out, polymorphing Akrá into an iguana, dragging people into the muck to be dismembered, throwing lighting bolts whenever three points form a line, and generally being so annoying that it seems there must be at least three of her. In fact, there are! Nevertheless, the Heroines smite the hags with great vigor, despite Hazelrae being handicapped by a mundane weapon, and are on the verge of winning thanks to a well-timed healing spell from Ishmael, when one of the remaining hags causes the goo to condense into a dozen tentacle monsters made out of tentacles that immediately attack. No fair!

Cut to the Afterlife, where everyone who has died in the Desserin Valley in the past eight months has spent at least ten thousand years being stuck to walls or impaled on tentacles. Aside from minor lapses of scale, it bears a strong resemblence to the dragon's cave, and in fact the dragon is there as well, to explain the cold facts of this Afterlife which has no god, no judgment, and no escape. Things look bad for the Heroines of Red Larch!

Because they are the sort of people they are, the Heroines go around the Afterlife unsticking people from walls and removing tentacles. They are assured repeatedly that it's meaningless, but it turns out that vitue is rewarded even here, as the freed dragon regains enough of her self to realize that this Afterlife could have a god, and what better candidate than a ten-thousand-year-old dragon? However, a god needs living worshippers. The Heroines are possibly still alive enough to count, but will any of them worship a dragon?

In fact, Mara and Mika are willing to become the founders of the church of the Crystal Dragon (the two articles of faith are: "There is a key to every shackle" and "Boo tentacles!"), which is enough for the Heroines to be returned to life, fully healed, with an enchanted crossbow for Hazelrae, Due to the time differential, their bodies on the Prime Material Plane have not even started to fall.

"No fair!" cry the hags, before being finished off in a single round.

Shortly thereafter, Old Gnawbone makes her entrance, receives the Heroines' report, and tosses everyone out so she can properly mourn her daughter. This is obviously not the resolution she hoped for when she sent the Heroines to investigate, but she does not declare a perpetual vendetta against them at this time.

The Heroines were restored to life using the mana that will eventually be generated by worshippers of the Crystal Dragon, so if Mika and Mara fail to establish a proper church, that timeline will be foreclosed. No pressure.

Level UP!

Hurray, Avalon!

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26 August 2017 - Saturday

Today I was not smart enough to go grocery shopping. Instead I obsessively read Twig (by the same person who wrote Pact and Worm, which I have not yet read even though Earl recommended them, but will).

It's never stated in so many words, but the setting is pretty much, "The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818, was a set of lab notes". The viewpoint character is part of an elite team of novel organisms made from scratch and altered humans, who would be in middle school if they weren't spies and assassins in a Frankensteinpunk dystopia. So feelings. Much doomed. Very body horror.

  • Steven Universe 2.27-28: Rewatch for Marith and Jus. Take that, you clod!
  • Durarara!!x2 6: Rewatch for Marith.
  • Vision of Escaflowne 25-26: Love. The end!
  • Steven Universe 3.1-5: Yay, it's Lapis Lazuli! And watermelons! And various other plotlines!

Normal people worship all the Seemly Gods together, but you do not worship any of them, only your own god. What abhorrent secret about the Seemly Gods has been revealed to you?

☐ The Seemly Gods are not actual gods; they were created and are sustained by massive human sacrifice.
☐ The Seemly Gods do not exist, they're just a story told by the priests and princes to keep people in line.
☐ The Seemly Gods deliberately let monsters into the world, to frighten people into worshiping them.
☐ The Seemly Gods promise a just and merciful afterlife, but actually they devour the souls of the dead, destroying them utterly.
☐ The Seemly Gods spread their worship because when every living human is baptized to them, they can convert humanity to a better class of servant.
☐ The Lady of Heaven worshipped by the Arbonese actually is the supreme deity; the Seemly Gods are servants who violated her edict against toying with humanity.

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23 August 2017 - Wednesday

Still no Mike, and this week no Kelsey, but everyone else was available, so we ate Thai food and played Lords of Waterdeep (I almost won, but then I didn't), and Qwirkle (I sucked, but then I won after all).

Next week, 13th Age for sure! Maybe.

What does the setting look like? It's DW so of course the players have to have a lot of input, but I can draw maps as long as I leave blanks. I think these maps have a lot of swamps and dark forests, because less visibility = more creepy, I guess. I also want a wasteland of ashes and dust that caravans cross on the tops of buried mountain ranges, but there we have blowing dust to hide the monsters. Not sure how it fits in with swamps, though.

Isolated villages with horrible or just sordid secrets are a must. Cities need not just grand architecture to contrast with the slums, but strange architecture. Possibly everything should be built on bizarre relics of the past, which raises the question of whether this should be a far-future fantasy. Probably not.

In any case, there needs to be an ocean, because I thought up this bit as an example of human backgrounds.

The Arbonese are characteristically tall and thin, with pale skin that turns bright pink and then painful red under the sun, yellow to white hair, and blue or grey eyes. They came as colonizers with guns, compasses, and chronometers, but then the ocean caught fire and the initial expeditionary force was trapped without backup. Among themselves, the Arbonese have a great concern for status in different spheres (social, military, ecclesiastical, ...) and which one applies in any situation, but they rank everyone else at the bottom of the ladder whenever they can. Also looked down upon is anyone who deals with human bodies (prostitutes, surgeons, masseurs, undertakers) even if they're Arbonese. The Arbonese worship a singular goddess who allegedly created the entire universe and everything in it, but it's not clear how much good that does them since they apparently don't have souls. (They say they they have true souls with are too refined and ineffable for your crude animalistic spirits, but this is widely agreed to be bullshit.)

Speaking of things the Arbonese call "crude animalistic spirits", the Seemly Gods are usually depicted as animals with human heads or faces (shedu, sphinx, etc). They are sufficiently abstract that it's probably not meaningful to talk about what they "really look like".

I'm less sure about the nonphysicality of the gods the Hierophant could worship, but this is the sort of thing (NSFW)the priests of the Seemly Gods say they are.

The Warlock's patron is different. They aren't equals by any means, but they're beings of the same order, with similar interests and mutually comprehensible ways of pursuing those interests. This may limit what the patron can do for the Warlock, but on the other hand, there won't be any of those embarrassing mixups where the Heirophant's god goes, "Oh, you didn't want to solve that problem by giving birth to a million live snakes through your mouth? Weird."

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22 August 2017 - Tuesday

Today my schedule was all thrown off because I had to get Marith to help me take Aspen in to the vet for scheduled dental work in the morning, instead of going to work, and then I worked from home and had to get Dave to help me fetch Aspen home in the evening. Now I feel like I haven't really left the apartment all day, and I didn't eat what I normally do, and blargh! But Aspen is doing well and wasn't even as expensive as projected! Of course, with the number of times she's been to the vet in the past month, it was better to leave the difference as credit for next time...

But at least there was some Avalon-time! She has given notice at her horrifyingly mismanaged International Success Life job, so there is an end to the oppression, even if her new job will not be as high-level.

I've been concentrating on the caster classes, which in some ways are central to the genre, because I don't think fighter/ranger/thief need much modification. Maybe a little because I am imagining a slightly higher tech level, with guns instead of crossbows, but still plenty of swords and daggers for sticking into people. Barbarians, maybe not so much. I mean, you can grunt and wave a huge sword around if you want, but I think that just makes you a particularly inarticulate fighter.

DW druids are dedicated shapeshifters, which doesn't feel right for this kind of fantasy. I think it's the difference between turning into an animal, and turning into a beast. D&D druids are mostly casters, which in WFDW would probably translate to Warlock, but maybe Hierophant.

I still see no need to put bards into this. Maybe I'm wrong, but obviously I don't think so.

Earlier I said paladins seemed possible, but now I'm not sure. They don't seem to go with heirophants; holy warriors are more of an established religion thing, and the Seemly Gods of mass religion don't empower individuals. But, secret martial arts techniques of elite murderism have been mentioned, and isn't the church's order of elite murderers just the sort of group to have some? Being chosen by a god is nice (for a highly eccentric value of "nice"), but it's the church that pays for the shiny armor. Probably the Paladin would not be in good with the church if she's hanging around with PCs, but it's not like they can unteach you the secret knowledge.

Who else is in the basic playbooks? Oh, the Immolator. I don't know what to do with the Immolator in standard DW, never mind WFDW! But they might fit.

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20 August 2017 - Sunday

I managed to go shopping, but that's about it. New shoes, anyway.

I want to condense the WFDWgenre into a compact form for conveyance for others, which must mean a list of evocative bits because I read too many OSR blogs. For bonus points, there should be 20 (or 12, or 36, or some other diceful number) so I can roll up adventure seeds. However, making them simple words like "mutation", "infection", "faerie", "cult", or "deformity" doesn't seem evocative enough, and the only two longer phrases I've come up with so far are "The worm in the jeweled city" and "The words of the mad prophet, written on the tenement walls", which seem more like story titles. Bah!

Even though you can't play an elf or a half-dwarfling or a lamia in WFDW, you can still make your character unique through the power of mutation! Goat horns? Cloven hooves? Vestigial wings? Snake eyes? Second head? Go for it!

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19 August 2017 - Saturday

HAPPY HAPPY KEN-DAY (observed)!!

No anime, but several people showed up to appreciate Ken, Also some children were brought to play with Jus and Nonny. Food was eaten, and eventually several people and their children went away again. The people who were expected to show up later for the adult beverages portion of the party mostly had to beg off, though, so we played 7 Wonders and then called it a night.

Instead of hit points, take 12 plus the hit point base for an equivalent class and split the sum evenly between Health and Vigor (odd point to Vigor), then add your CON to your Health and twice your CON to your Vigor. Damage reduces Vigor first, then Health. When you run out of Health, take your last breath. If you take damage and it reduces your Health, you can immediately regain as much Health as the Vigor you lost in exchange for being knocked out. When you take a breather, you regain all your Vigor. When you make camp, you get 3+CON heal points, which can be traded in 5 for a point of Health or 10 for a disability.

IIRC, Apocalypse World added sex moves because it was something that happened all the time in the source fiction but never during games, and the designer wanted to remind people of the option. I'm not sure WFDWneeds sex moves (although I'm not sure it doesn't), but maybe it does need moves for getting captured/escaping captivity, so that the option of being knocked out when you start losing Health is meaningful.

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18 August 2017 - Friday

Apparently Arcadia has reached the point where we need SLAs and support procedures. This is probably not a bad thing, but it means I need to suck less.

On the other hand, free lunch!

My motto for spells is: "Doing fire damage to people in an arc around you is boring. Getting a fly speed and maneuverability class is boring. Turning your arms into wings of fire is awesome." This doesn't rule out all of the spells from the various editions of the PHB; the 5th ed call lightning actually makes a storm, so that's pretty good. The various bigby's hand spells might need to be combined into one, but hey, giant hand! There are a lot more in the various splatbooks, though, since all the boring ideas were taken. Some examples:

  • Blackfire - The target burns with a black flame that consumes their life force, and anyone who gets too close catches fire too.
  • Fiery Eyes - Your eyes glow, lighting up the area, and if you focus on something flammable, it ignites.
  • Gutsnake - A huge bitey tentacle grows from your stomach.
  • Land Womb - Sink into the earth, where no one can find you while you heal up and plot your revenge.
  • Shadow Well - The target falls through their own shadow into a nightmare world.
  • Silverbeard - Your beard grows, even if you didn't have one, and turns into hard silver to protect your front.
  • Skeletal Deliquescence - Turn someone's bones to jelly, transforming them into an ooze-like creature.
  • Smoke Ladder - Take the smoke from your camp fire and carry it around as a ladder.
  • Snake Darts - Shoot your snake tattoos at people to bite the shit out of them, but you can't cast the spell again until the snakes crawl back and you swallow them.
  • Tortoise Shell - Makes a nigh-invulnerable 5' hemisphere. Endless uses!

When I say "spells", I mostly mean the Wizard, since I imagine them as having the most discrete powers. The Hierophant is probably somewhat freeform, maybe a system based on building effects around a few possible words and costing more divine favor for larger effects. I'm not sure about the Warlock, but I'm considering having spells based on summoning other servants of their patron to do specific tasks, with a Cha-based move to talk them into doing additional favors.

But how does the Wizard get spells, if not from an accredited curriculum? One method that doesn't get used enough in D&D is getting them from other casters. (Only one character is the Wizard, but that doesn't mean there can't be NPCs who are similar enough to have spells that can be acquired.) In D&D, that was through taking or copying other wizards' spellbooks, but in WFDW, that won't do.

A spell is a skill that you have learned, but it is simultaneously a mystical glyph burned into your mind and soul, and a living entity in its own right. As such, it can be exhausted (useless until you take a breather) or wounded (until you make camp), but normally it is eager to make its change in the world.

How did you come by your spells? Choose one.

☐ The Scholars of Night whisper in your ear while you dream.
☐ You alone can decipher the glyphs on the stone tablets of the ancients.
☐ The elixirs you brew carry your find far beyond our world, to bring back fragments of ultraterrestrial knowledge.
☐ You can, with great effort, mathematically deduce the secrets of the universe from the motions of the stars.
☐ Other people only burn and die when struck by lightning; you are filled with the white light of knowledge.
☐ Shutting out all distractions by burying yourself alive, you cast your mind back into your ancestral memory, retrieving the secrets of the serpent folk you are descended from

Choose three spells that you know. Pick one of them to be your first spell; it can be exhausted, but never wounded.

Although your talents are unique, there are others in the world who somehow host spells. We'll call them sorcerers. How can you gain the spells they have? Choose one.

☐ Magic is in the blood. When you drink a quart of a sorcerer's blood, you can learn one of the spells it carries.
☐ Learning the secrets of their body will expose the secrets of their soul. Lie with them in carnal embrace to learn one of their spells.
☐ A spell can be learned only through direct contact of souls, in the dream realms accessible by certain elixirs.
☐ Spells are engraved not just on the mind, but on the skull. Peel back their scalp and study the glyphs you find in the bone beneath.
☐ If you are quick and fearless, you can grab the first spell a sorcerer casts in your presence. Be careful, they bite!
☐ You have a spell for that! Add "the rightfull commonality of occult wisdom" to your list of spells known.

You can usually only get one spell from a sorcerer, although if you meet them again much later, they may have a different one exposed. They might be able to get a spell, or even multiple spells, from you as well. Gaining a spell from someone doesn't deprive them of it, although they might not be able to cast it for a while.

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17 August 2017 - Thursday

All These Worlds (Dennis E Taylor) is probably the end of the saga of a Silicon Valley geek who winds up as a clade of AIs saving humanity and possibly a couple of other sapient species, since all the threats introduced so far have been dealt with. (Also, it says "The End".) There could be an entire galaxy's worth of sequels, but they aren't necessary.

Wait, how did I miss Penric's Fox (Lois McMaster Bujold), despite having read the two stories before it and the two stories after it?! Hm, now I need to reread the two stories before it, because I don't remember the details of this shamanism stuff.

In every project, there comes the time to ask "how is this inevitably doomed?", and I can definitely see downsides to Weird Fantasy Dungeon World. One is that a lot of people (real people I know, not just the faceless Pathfinder hordes of the Internet) like going through long menus of character abilities to find the combination that makes their character most awesomely effective, and this completely fails to statisfy that urge. On the other hand, Dungeon World never provides this, so people who insist on it are already conveniently ruled out! Same goes for people who don't want their characters to ever mutate: DW explicitly lets GM moves make permanent changes to characters (if the ogre rips someone's arm off, that character is now one-armed, at least until they do something about it).

The major downside is that making up new playbooks (including multiple unique spell lists (and possibly associated spell failure tables) for every caster) is a lot of work on top of what a GM already has to do. It would probably be better to write blurbs for the various caster options, and only flesh out ones that attracts players, but writing synopses is haaaaard.

Also, of course, I am terrible at all genres, including weird fantasy.

Unrelatedly, a bit for the Warlock (Oath Mage? Contractor?):

When you need to report your success in a task, beg for additional power, or the like, you must contract your patron. Choose your method:

Write your message on fine vellum and... You take +1 to the Contact Patron roll if...
☐ place it in a clear glass bottle and sink it in water at least as deep as your height. the bottle is tinted, engraved, finely shaped, or otherwise artistic.
☐ burn it on a bonfire. the wood is scented or the fire contains incense.
☐ lure a bird to you and give it your message. the bird is a raven or crow.
☐ bury it with the body of a beast of good size. the beast is larger than a person, or is a person.
☐ give it to a child along with a silver coin to deliver it to "the lord/lady at the end of the lane". Do not watch where the child goes. the child is whole and healthy.
☐ Instead, scratch it into your own flesh (take 1 Wounds). you choose this method.

When you perform the ritual, roll+Int....

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16 August 2017 - Wednesday

Mike is keeping his daughter from laying waste to Disneyland, Brooks is busy, and Ken might be going to some kind of work event, so no gaming for us this week. Sniff!

I'm not very good at it, but I've been playing huge amounts of LOLO on my phone. Because I wasn't using those brain cells anyway.

When I was throwing out the spell list, I forgot to mention a couple of categories of spells that deserve special attention. One is buffs. In D&D 3.x, managing spell slots to cast buffs and gold to buy magic items to cast buffs took up a huge amount of table time, was probably crucial to survival, and was boring as hell. That's probably why 4th edition pretty much threw out the entire concept and 5th ed hasn't revived it much. Dungeon World doesn't have much in the way of buffs (+1 forward or some extra damage or armor is about the best you can do), but without a massive shopping list of spells to consider at every level gain or windfall, it wouldn't be too bad if there were such spells.

The other major category of spells that needs to be deal with is healing. I am conflicted about magical healing at all, but easy quick (IE, in-combat) healing is definitely out. It just leads to the tank/DPS/healer paradigm where combat is a war of attrition and a character's only meaningful stat is how many HP they can add or subtract each round.

It's good for PCs to be able to have more than one fight before turtling up to heal, which could be done by out-of-combat magic, but I'm more tempted to have a Stun/Body system, where a light smacking-around clears up after combat, but severe damage needs time or attention. Magical healing can restore Body (Wounds? Blood? whatever it gets called), but there's always the chance of rolling a 6-... (I'm not sure whether the new GM move should be "mark them" or the more general "roll on the appropriate spell failure table (not that I'd be quite that gross).)

Instead of having magic remove damage with spells or healing potions, we could have it prevent damage with blessings or protective amulets. (If these are generally available, they'd have to be classified as just a thing, not magic, but whatever.) Each amulet protects against one kind of harm ("charm to ward off an enemy's blow", "charm to negate an enemy's curse", "charm against pestilence", etc), and when you take harm of that kind, you can sacrifice the charm to avoid it. You can only have one charm of a given kind, and only a very few (2? maybe 3 if you're high-level?) total, and they have to be custom-made and attached, so you can't buy spares. I have no idea whether protective amulets (or maybe they should be tattoos?) are more interesting than healing potions.

Oh, detect spells can also be a problem. Fortunately I would use drives rather than alignments, so the horror of Detect Evil/Chaos/Alignment is irrelevant. Magic is not a well-understood every day thing, so we don't need Detect Magic, either. If you can't tell whether the object you just found is magic, have your wizard spend a while licking it or irradiating it or sleeping with it under her pillow or something. The other detection spells almost never get used, since they always have to compete with all the spells that increase damage/healing output, so maybe it would be interesting to have one of a caster's few spells be one.

I still have more thoughts, for later.

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15 August 2017 - Tuesday

Boo, customers!

Right, I was blathering about civilization vs weird fantasy. Although I'm tried to make spells and magic items not an everyday thing, this is not any kind of "science/the free market/heterosexually monogamous worship of the Great White One destroys all that is magical in the world" setting. For one, cities need to be hives of scum and grotesquerie. Just because you can't shop for magic like you do for longswords and iron rations doesn't mean you can't find people to do unnatural things for you (if you pay) or to you (if you don't pay fast enough). You just can't get the unnatural things off a standard list.

What civilization does with weird stuff is coopt it, even if translating real magic into something that normal humans can use and teach to each other makes it less magic. The witch under the mountain wouldn't make a magic sword for a bronze age queen, so she set her sages to replicating it. They didn't make a god-slicing orichalcum blade, but they made an iron one, which human ingenuity then made more efficient to produce, and eventually refined into steel and other alloys. The heroes who returned from the cyclopean temple in the wastes couldn't build a palace quite that grand, but the barrel vault was pretty impressive for the time, and has since evolved into the arches and domes used in all sorts of modern edifices. Crop rotation isn't vines that bear as fast as they can be harvested, but it's not nothing. All the way back to the invention of fire, perhaps.

Even common religion could be an example of this. The seemly gods don't provide miracles like the weird gods do, but they do act on a statistical level: the prayers of a devout parent or even an ordained priest won't help a child dying of cholera, but if the priests have been conducting the rites and the people are pious, it will only be a minor outbreak of cholera, not an epidemic. (Of course, everyone's enemies are praying against them, and there are no doubt unpleasant gods working against humanity, but it's still better to have gods on your side.)

Possibly this is why I don't mind the idea of martial artists (broadly defined) learning abilities that probably count as magic. Not Kamehameha, but tough skin, enhanced senses, maybe even flash step. Just so long as it's elite murderism, not bargain-basement.

More later.

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14 August 2017 - Monday

I don't usually reflog Kickstarter projects even when they ask me to, but Heroines of the First Age is mythic monstergirls Powered by the Apocalypse, so what could go wrong?

I'm still thinking (futilely) about SCOOSs and Eclipse World, but at the moment my brain is mostly still thinking about "fixing" D&D by using Dungeon World and making everything weird fantasy.

Once all the old spellcasting classes are gone, we need new ones! The Priest (needs a better name &emdash; the Holy Woman? the Hierophant? the Mystagogue?) has divine favor, which goes down if they break taboos or make the gods provide miracles, but increases when they perform the rites and offer the sacrifices, or if they do something to spread their god's worship, like make converts or build shrines.

The Warlock is business rather than worship: when they call on their patron's power to do magic, they incur debt, and when the debt gets too high, their patron gives them a specific task to work off a certain amount of it. There might be standing tasks, too, like thwarting the patron's specific enemies, or maybe a Cha move to argue that they should get credit for a particular deed.

Both of these should have powers and drawbacks based on where they get their power, which means work for the GM even once the space of possiblities is hinted at. What should be space of possibilities be? Not the major gods that D&D clerics worship, like Zeus and Poseidon and Aphrodite, but probably more than a Shinto-like god of this here tree. One of the OSR blogs I read had the priest of the snake god of secrets, who was the enemy of the bird god of lies, which seemed to work pretty well. Animal + single domain as a rule? Most DW playbooks have a list of 4-6 options for something like that, although in this case they'd each need a separate spell/power and taboo/geas list.

Warlock patrons could be any magically powerful thing. I think it was Pernicious Albion where the list of warlock patrons included at least one each of mad angels, bored demons, fairy queens, and Queen Victoria × Nyarlathotep. Again, multiple sheets of powers and standing tasks.

There should be a kind of caster that does magic by knowing things, rather than by channelling someone else's power, but even if they like books, that doesn't mean their magic is just written down to be read. How do they learn their magic, though? Individual apprenticeship gives them a tie to another practitioner, which is good. But can they get the initial secrets of magic from somewhere else? Astrology? Drug-fueled astral travel? Monsters from beyond the stars Fairies coming to whisper in their ear while they sleep? Near-death experiences? I like the idea that all the scribbling wizards do is trying to either reverse-engineer the individual spells they have received, or put them into a form that can be conveyed to others.

That brings me to my thought about civilization vs weird fantasy, but that can be tomorrow's entry.

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13 August 2017 - Sunday

At long last, PAD&D5 again!

The Heroines of Red Larch have barely left the site of the last victory when they are accosted by the terrifying grandmother of the [SPOILER] they did in a few episodes back. She is worried about her daughter, who yes is the mother of the one who was slain, but surely that will not be awkward when the Heroines go to check up on her. Not as awkward as what will happen if they decline this favor, anyway! The [SPOILER] of Interest's creepy and possibly estranged assistant gives the Heroines directions and then disappears in a disturbing way to meet them there.

They weren't ordered not to, so the Heroines stop in Red Larch on the way to set up the people and other things they rescued in town, and also to seek qualified spiritual advice on the nightmares Lam has started having again. The first seems okay, but no dice on the second (except that protection from good and evil interrupts the nightmares), so they continue on their mission. On the road, they are assaulted by trolls, which is annoying only because not enough of the Heroines do fire damage and they have to use torches from campfire like common NPCs. Also Akr´ starts having the nightmares instead of Lam, which probably means something.

It was only implied that they shouldn't stop by [SPOILER], so they do, and find out that the nightmares are probably the result of [SPOILER], which will have to be dealt with at some point.

Finally, they reach the appointed meeting place and get snarked at by the assistant, who is disappears creepily again. There is some maneuvering around in the woods, during which they get a glimpse of [SPOILER] of Interest, who does not seem to be doing well. Since Mika has all the mobility (once she borrows Rimardo's wingéd boots), she gets sent in alone to scout the lair while [SPOILER].

Mika finds a bunch of dead bodies, including at least one person who has been seen walking around recently, and then [SPOILER] comes back and Mike discovers just why she is not acting normal! While she is trying to avoid discovery, the assistant appears out of the darkness even more disturbingly than usual, and the session ends on a cliffhanger!

Oh, that's what's been going on in Charlottesville. Fucking murderous Nazis. I hope everyone who's been supporting the Republican party over the past few decades is happy.

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12 August 2017 - Saturday

Marith is all flat from worrying about things, but we watched anime anyway, because we are cruel and heartless. Also, we ate homemade fish burritos!

  • My Little Pony 20: It might not be okay to pass on gossip, but surely it's okay to suggest that people talk honestly about something!
  • Durarara!!x2 3.6: Mostly talking, this time, but it is only setup for the doom that is to come.
  • Vision of Escaflowne 24: That's one way to deal with the time differential.
  • Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 1: I have seen this before, but everyone else seemed to like it too.
  • Steven Universe 2.26-28: That explains why I couldn't figure out how old Steven is!

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11 August 2017 - Friday

Marith cannot really afford to keep living in a fancy two-bedroom apartment all by herself, so perhaps she will become my neighbor again! But, rental paperwork.

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10 August 2017 - Thursday

I have nothing to do while walking home but watch what bubbles to the surface of my deliquescing old brain. Today, it wants to make D&D better (really I'd use Dungeon World, but D&D is a common frame of reference for that kind of fantasy gaming) which in this case means more fantastic, especially weird fantasy/horror. I blame the Internet.

  • Throw out the Monster Manual, except the appendices for NPCs and normal beasts. Especially throw out the standard humanoids: they don't play any role that couldn't be played by humans, and using humans might make it clearer that those roles don't need to exist. Also especially get rid of the monsters that come in neat taxonomies, color-coded by preferred terrain and damage type/resistance. (I don't know that all dragons need to be unique, but it would be better than making them all the same.) And the vast array of carefully-categorized undead. The rest aren't bad in and of themselves, but are either folkloric or D&D-iconic, hence weighed down with baggage. It would be possible to have an interesting manticore or unicorn, or even vampire, but not in the standard form.
  • Similary, throw out the Playable Races section of the PHB. If you really want to play an elf or a dwarf, there are several LotR RPGs, but otherwise they just seem to be a way to bundle some background together with minmaxing your stats.
  • Throw out the spell list. Especially throw out the spells that just do damage, but all the other standard ones have too much baggage just like with the standard monsters. I saw a suggestion to throw out all the spells from the main book and only use obscure spells, which are much more interesting, and that would be good as long as the single important stat for all characters wasn't DPR. (I blame WoW for making tank/DPS/healer the only conceivable paradigm of fantasy combat.)
  • Throw out the spellcasting classes. Not entirely, but if magic is to be fantastical, it can't really come from attending an accredited institution (whether university or seminary) and studying a standardized curriculum to become a white-collar professional. Actually, I'm pretty dubious about the distinction between divine and arcane magic; in weird fantasy, sorcerers usually worship something. But there can still be multiple kinds of magic, as long as none of them are everyday. I like the warlock model, where magic has to be paid for with service, but the patron has to be named and give specific tasks and well-defined powers. (I'm not big on free-form magic for PCs for this, I think; it may be less mechanistic, but it's too much like the PC actually understands magic.) Magic powers from nonhuman ancestry is good, but shoehorning them into a spellcasting model is boring. Maybe instead of a sorcerer class, each bloodline of power is a compendium class or similar. Druids are like clerics, and I'm not even sure what the point of bards is, except to encourage fourth-wall breakers.
  • Throw out paladin and ranger spellcasting. I'm not sure why rangers even cast spells, except that earlier editions did it. Paladins should have divine gifts of some kind, but that doesn't mean it should be spellcasting. Doesn't mean not, I guess.
  • Throw out magic item lists. At least, all the ones that give plusses. (This is already done in Dungeon World, or pretty close.)

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have monsters or spell-casting PCs or magic items, just that they should all be unique. (Which fits well with Dungeon World, where you aren't just one of many wizards, or even one of many fighters, you're The Wizard, or The Fighter. But the playbooks need to be less like the D&D classes we're getting rid of.) This would be difficult or impossible in a mass-market game, but what do I care? This probably isn't even ever going to be my own personal game!

More later, this blog entry is already too long.

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9 August 2017 - Wednesday

BBQ and the grand finale of Dungeon World! The PCs' lust for treasure has gotten them into more trouble, but I think next Ken demands that we make Birthright characters before he runs 13th Age some more.

Dire: Sins (Andrew Seiple) is the fifth installment in the series about a mysterious supervillain who always refers to herself in the third person and wants to make the world work right. In this episode, Dire gets some new allies to help her crush the asshole who has been annoying her for a couple of books, but then ends up in an even worse situation, because of course she does.

Wow, I made it to level 25 in Pixel Dungeon! Let's hear it for the +7 stunning warhammer and +3 plate mail! I found out what the fourth boss fight is, and what the reward is, and what the fifth boss fight is, but not that reward. Oops.

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7 August 2017 - Monday

My accomplishment today: providing moral support to Marith while she tried to figure out how to unexplode her situation.

Heroine Complex (Sarah Kuhn) is.. humorous urban fantasy chick lit? I think that might be pejorative, though, and it's not bad. The main character has emotional growth, a substantial romantic subplot, and the chance to save all of San Francisco from goofy demons.

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6 August 2017 - Sunday


No PAD&D5 this week, there's a birthday party! One million people showed up, there was conversation and unhealthy food and also cake. Then it was too loud for the volume, so I slunk away into the blazing heat.

I walked several steps today, but did not actually accomplish anything.

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5 August 2017 - Saturday

I tried to go grocery shopping, but that entire side of the shopping center is tented up for fumigation! This is both alarming and inconvenient! Fortunately there is another Trader Joe's that is not hard to reach, but my schedule is all thrown off!

Ken and Ayse and Jus and Nonny were at the water park all day, so when Earl and Cat came over, we ordered Thai food instead of eating something cooked by Ken.

Marith is too sleepy and also her car is broken. Woe!

  • Nirvana in Fire 19-21: I hope none of my birthday parties ever turn out that way!

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4 August 2017 - Friday

For the past week or two, I have been compulsively reading The Gods are Bastards, which bills itself as a "high fantasy Western". That's not untrue, but I would describe it as a post-D&D world. It has wizards, clerics, paladins, and warlocks; elves, dwarves, gnomes, and drow; but it also has mass-produced wands of lightning, light bulbs, and the equivalent of trains and telegraphs. The age of adventurers is over, and civilization covers almost the entire continent. This isn't to say that there aren't still people with immense personal power, but the major theme is that these people need to learn to use political maneuvering and soft power, not just hitting things with fireballs.

It's not finished by any means, but I have caught up through volume 12. We are finally getting to see some of what is going on with the gods and what their constraints are, but there is still plenty of doom for the characters not involved in that plotline.

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3 August 2017 - Thursday

And now I have already failed at writing. At least I was reading, instead of just reblogging anime girls on tumblr, but still a huge fail of stupidity.

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2 August 2017 - Wednesday

Chinese food and Dungeon World! I meant this to be the last session, but because of kids we only actually have about an hour and a half of gaming each week, so that did not succeed. I think it might have gone well? Maybe? Probably not, really. But I did get to the extra doom I had planned, although it will not take full effect until next week.

After next week, Mike is unavailable for a couple of week, so I really do need to wrap up. And then hide a pit forever, probably.

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1 August 2017 - Tuesday

This morning I put Aspen in the Box of Woe and took her (with Marith's generous assistance) to have her staples removed. All seems well, at least of the time I let her out to go hide under the bed.

Surprisingly, Aspen has started mewing piteously when put in the Box. She used to never make noise except very rare hisses. I don't know what this portends, if anything.

Aspen is still fine in the evening, and did not struggle too much when I freed her from the shirt and combed out some of her looser mats. It is so hard being a kitty!

So far this month, I have written one day. It is still terrible.

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