Talking to myself…

I’m kind of bad at it.

I don’t mean thinking out loud, I do that way more than I should and do it just fine.  I mean when PCs are in a room with more than one NPC at once, I have difficulty carrying on a conversation on my own.

To some extent, this is a good thing, or at least not a bad one.  No matter how good of a performance you can put on, your players likely didn’t show up to see your one man show, and so conversations should include plenty of breaks for the PCs to get their say in and even steer the conversation in a new direction.

That said, I feel like it is a skill I need to work on.  When the NPCs are in general agreement and mostly have shared information, you can get away with just one NPC taking the lead and addressing the PCs while the rest fade into the background.  But when the NPCs are in DISAGREEMENT (which coincidentally can be a good way to present multiple options to the players, which they can run with or use as a jumping off point), or each have limited information that needs to be shared, or you just want to show these NPCs relationships with each other, or the tone of the gathering, can all be good reasons to speak a FEW lines on your own before giving it back to the player characters.

As it is, my current issues seems to be, that it feels wrong and awkward to do, and I feel like it is also hard for the players to tell the NPCs apart.  It’s much easier to just switch into summery mode, (for example, just saying “Duke Vern advocates for the King to raise an army and meet the Lizard men in combat, while Commander Migel instead argues that they should try and make peace”).  Doing this does the job okay, and in fact, I will probably always keep it as a fallback if what I am trying isn’t working, but, ultimately, switching to that higher level mode for what we hope should be a roleplay heavy scene is kind of getting away from the point.

The issue of telling NPCs apart is a tricky one, particularly because I often play online, often voice only, sometimes on a spotty connection.  In person, you can just place one person to the left, and one person to the right in the mental space, and just turn your body based on who is talking.  This is on top of all the other body language you can use over a visual connection (such as one smoking a pipe, one tapping their chin, one checking themselves out in a mirror constantly, whatever).  Since all I have is audio, I might need to try stronger voices.  Voices are not something I’ve really put special effort into, but perhaps I should focus on that more.  Ideally, in a given scene (if not the whole game), if the players can hear enough to understand me, they should be able to differentiate who’s talking without me interjecting “And then Migel responds with…” after the first few times.

The awkwardness of it I think is from a variety of sources, the first I think is that I can tell when it isn’t working, and I think the issue of telling the NPCs apart is a big part of that.  In addition, I think I worry about saying too much.  As I mentioned above, I think there are valid reasons to have NPCs talk to and respond to each other, but finding that right balance is not something I’ve really figured out just yet.  This relates to the final issue of I just haven’t done it very much, so it naturally feels a bit weird as with anything new.  I think just practicing it and doing it a bit more often will help with both of those issues.

Hopefully sometime in the future, I’ll have figured this out and have useful advice for you all, in the meantime, anyone who HAS mastered this skill, any advice would be much appreciated!


Current PaDC score: 24/31

Triforcebearer: Sheikah and Yiga Ninjas

 

553px-triforce-svg

With this, all my initial classes I had posted in my initial post on the Burning Wheel forums are not fully fleshed out to level 10.   I believe I would like to include rules (including racial variants) for Sheikah, Yiga, and Gerudo playing as Human classes, but I am going to save that until next time.

The Sheikah and the Yiga

The Sheikah have been residents of Hyrule for as long (or arguably longer) than the Hylians.  In ancient times they were said to be devout servants of the Goddess Hylia, and this devotion continued for generations upon generations of service to her mortal descendants, the Royal Family of Hyrule.  Yet, their devotion has not always been returned by the people of Hyrule.  Their secretive nature compels them to live apart from the rest of the residents of Hyrule, and the wondrous technology they created in ages past, was both looked upon in awe and called blasphemous at the same time.  The Sheikah were often honored when they were useful, and cast aside and distrusted in times of peace.

The mistreatment at the hands of ignorant people they were supposed to help caused many of the Sheikah to grow hateful of the very people they had sworn to protect.  In time, a large group of them broke from the main clan, swearing allegiance to the Calamity and vowing the ruin of Hyrule.  This faction came to be known as the Yiga clan, and the faithful Sheikah continue to do battle with them, sometimes covertly and sometimes overtly, to this day.

Sheikah and Yiga are fundamentally the same people, but the ideological divide is so strong they count as different Stocks in game terms.  Still, many feel drawn to the ideology opposite of the clan that raised them, and it is possible to change from one to the other during play.

Sheikah/Yiga Ninja

The Sheikah and Yiga martial arts were once one and the same, and while there have been many generations since they split, many spies and traitors on both sides have kept each apprised of the others secret techniques, and the two traditions have more in common than they’d care to admit.

The Sheikah developed the techniques that make up the Ninja class as part of their service to the Royal Family as their bodyguards and spies, while the Yiga clan has adopted more aggressive techniques, the core of the style remains.

When choosing this class, you must declare yourself to the Sheikah or Yiga clan, answer the appropriate Nature questions.

Class Name Class Overview Class name Starting Options
Stock
Class
Sheikah/Yiga
Ninja
Sworn to the Shadows A Ninja serves best when no one even knows they are there, and have been trained from a young age to serve silently and avoid being noticed. This can make things difficult when the time comes for them to try to assert themselves or take on the reigns of leadership.
Raw Abilities Raw Abilities: Will 4, Health 4. Wises Choice one of Sheikah Technology-wise or Lost History-wise, take a second wise of your choice
Skills Scout 4, Dungeoneer 3, Criminal 2, Fighter 2, Lore Master 2, Scholar 2 Starting Weapon/Armor Dagger, Leather Armor, you do not start with a shield or Helmet
Starting Trait Sworn to the Shadows Alignment Sheikah Ninjas must be lawful.  Yiga Ninjas must be Chaotic.  See Ninjas and Alignment below.

Sheikah/Yiga Nature

Write Nature: Sheikah or Narture Yiga on your character sheet. If you are a Sheikah, your descriptors are Sneaking, Waiting, and Storytelling, if you are a Yiga, your nature descriptors are Sneaking, Deceiving, and Stealing. Both Sheikah and Yiga characters have a base Nature of 3. Answer the questions below appropriate to your stock to determine your final starting Nature score, and possibly some traits.

Sheikah Nature Questions:
When confronting a foe, do you strike from the shadows, or do you meet them head on?

  • If you strike from the shadows, increase your nature by one.
  • If you meet them head on, you may replace or increase your home trait with Bold or Honorable

When the calamity rears its ugly head do you retreat to safe places to await the return of the hero or do you take matters into your own hands?

  • If you await the return of the hero, increase your starting nature by one and decrease your starting Fighter skill by one (or health if you don’t have Fighter).
  • If you take matters into your own hands, your nature and fighter remain unchanged

Can you recount all the legends of Hyrule of olde, and recite the lineage of the princess Zelda back to the goddess Hylia?

  • If you tell the legends, increase your nature by one.
  • If you don’t put much stock in old tales, you may replace or increase your home trait with Jaded or Skeptical.

Yiga Nature Questions:
When confronting a foe, do you strike from the shadows, or do you meet them head on?

  • If you strike from the shadows, increase your nature by one.
  • If you meet them head on, you may replace or increase your home trait with Bold or Foolhardy

Do you lie even when it won’t gain you anything?

  • If you never tell the truth when a lie will do, increase nature by one, but you start with an enemy (in addition to any enemy you my gain from the circles questions).
  • If you only lie when you have something to gain, your nature rating remains unchanged, but you do not start with an additional enemy.

If you need something, would you steal it, even if it would hurt the person you took it from?

  • If you steal without caring what happens to the person you take from, increase your nature by one.
  • If you won’t take from those who can’t afford to lose, you may replace or increase your home trait with Generous or Compassionate (Middarmark).

Ninjas and Alignment

The way of the Ninja is as much about your state of mind as it is about your physical training.  Ninjas can swap between their starting alignment and unaffiliated without any penalty.  However, if a Sheikah ever becomes Chaotic or a Yiga ever becomes Lawful, the dissonance between the philosophy of their style and their new ideals causes them to suffer the following restrictions:

  • Can not level up (although still track rewards spent)
  • Can not use any [Sheikah] or [Yiga] level up abilities
  • The internal conflict this creates causes an additional factor in recovering from Angry or Afraid

These restrictions persist even if their alignment changes again.  In order to resolve this internal conflict, a Ninja can, do one of the following:

  1. Abandon the Path of the Ninja, losing all Ninja abilities, becoming a Warrior or Thief (if alignment appropriate) of the same Level.  This can be down as personal business in any town.
  2. Act in a manner according to the proper alignment for their stock (Lawful for Sheikah, Chaotic for Yiga), until their proper alignment is restored.  Then, they must seek out their mentor, or find a new mentor if they lack one, for retraining.
  3. Find a new mentor in the opposing clan.  Often this will involve a test to prove your sincerity.  Once inducted into the new clan, reduce your maximum nature by one, and change your Stock, Nature, and nature descriptors to reflect your new Allegiance.  Replace all existing [Sheikah] or [Yiga] abilities with a different ability from the same level (you may take [Sheikah] or [Yiga] abilities corresponding to your new clan).  Gain a new enemy in the clan you left.  It is up to the GM if you can take this option more than once.

Ninja Level Benefits

Level 1
Ninja: Ninja may wield Bows, Daggers, Halberds, Polearms, Slings, Swords, and Two Handed swords. They may wear leather and chainmail armor, they cannot use a helmet or shield.

Some level up benefits are labeled [Sheikah] or [Yiga], you may only choose these abilities if you are the appropriate stock.

Level 2
Ninja Tricks: A hidden Ninja Star, a handful of needles, a bit of wire, a silk sash, a Ninja can always find or reveal an innocuous or hidden object that functions as a weapon. These ninja weapons count as weapons, but provide no bonuses.
Surprise Attack: As the level 2 Thief Ability

Level 3
Bodyguard [Sheikah]: In a Kill, Capture or Drive Off conflict, whenever one of your allies takes damage, before rolling for and applying armor, you may choose to take that damage instead, applying your own armor, if any. You take the entire amount, unless that amount is greater than you have hit points remaining, in which case, your ally takes the remainder.
Skirmisher: As the level 3 Warrior ability.
Going Bananas [Yiga]: In a Kill, Capture or Drive Off conflict, after both sides have revealed their actions on your turn to act, if you revealed attack or feint action, you may elect to take any amount of damage up to one less than your current hit points, if you do get +1s to your attack or feint roll per hit point lost on top of any other bonuses.

Level 4
Decoy [Sheikah]: Once per adventure, when your Party enters a flee conflict, you may declare yourself to be acting as a decoy, if you do, any of your other party members can choose not to participate in this conflict.  If you win the flee conflict, or lose it with any amount of compromise, those that did not participate escape without incident.  If you lose the flee conflict without compromise, this ability does nothing.
Hide in Shadows: As the level 4 thief ability
I Don’t Have to Outrun the Bear… [Yiga]: As the level 4 Burgler Oft Overlooked benefit

Level 5
Gone in a Flash: Through the clever use of Deku Nuts, Smoke bombs and misdirection, Sheikah Ninjas know how to make good an escape. Once per adventure, when you win a Flee conflict, you may downgrade the level of compromise you owe by one (Major -> Compromise, Compromise to -> Minor, Minor -> No Compromise). You should announce your intention to use this ability after the level of compromise is announced, but before the exact terms are declared (And the GM should give you a chance to do so).
Agile: As the Level 5 Warrior ability.

Level 6
Zelda’s Lullaby [Sheikah]: Gain Songbird and any other one other Song Ability from the Rito Bard’s List.
Technological Heir: +2d to all tests involving ancient Sheikah runes and ancient Sheikah technology.
Yiga Art of Disguise [Yiga]: Once per phase, you may use the First Circle Magician Spell Arcane Semblance.  You may use Scout instead of Arcanist to cast this spell.

Level 7
Protector of the Goddess [Sheikah]: As the level 7 Burglar Shoulder the Burden Ability
Ninja Warrior: Reduce the factors of all Dungeoneer tests you make by one
Blades of the Yiga [Yiga]: You specialize in the art of misdirection, even in combat.  You have +1s to the feint action in fights or battles.  This is in addition to any other bonuses you man have

Level 8
Blinding Speed: Use level instead of health for all chase and flee conflicts.
Ninja Scroll: As the level 8 thief Dilettante ability

Level 9
Heroic Ability: Choose Scout, Fighter, or Dungeoneer; tests with that skill/ability now succeed on 3-6.
Transformed: You may change one of your Nature descriptors to Fighting, Climbing, or Fulfilling (your duty).  If you change your base nature descriptors (due to changing from a Sheikah to a Yiga or visa-versa), you may choose which of your new nature descriptors to replace.

Level 10
To Die Without Leaving a Corpse [Sheikah]: If your Goal is noble, not even death can stop you, if you would take the Dead condition while perusing a righteous Goal, you instead take the special Spirit Warrior condition, described below.
Conservation of Ninjitsu: When you are alone or traveling with no other Ninja, gain +2 might.  When traveling with a single other Ninja, you have +1 might.  When traveling in a group of 4 or more other ninja, all of you have -1 might.  Enemy ninja have no effect on this ability.
Calamity’s Blade [Yiga]: When entering a kill or battle conflict from a concealed position, you may automatically kill any number of enemies of your choice with a combined might less than or equal to your own, do this before rolling disposition.  If after using this ability no enemies remain, there is no conflict, and it doesn’t take a turn.

Spirit Warrior

The ultimate technique of the Sheikah, the Ninja who invokes it will fulfill their mission, even if it takes them a thousand years.  The Spirit Warrior condition has the following effects:

  • Your Maximum and current nature becomes 6 when you acquire this condition, but can be taxed and depleted as normal.
  • You are immune to all other conditions (and therefore the Grind)
  • All tests reasonably in pursuit of your Goal are considered within your nature.
  • Track spent rewards separately from existing spent rewards.

When you accomplish, change, or abandon your goal the Spirit Warrior condition ends you dissipate into the Spirit World, unable to be revived by any means. Your next character gains all unspent rewards, all rewards spent while under this condition count towards your new character. Finally, if you accomplished your goal, one piece of your equipment takes on a magic property related to stealth, protecting the innocent, or defeating evil to be inherited by your next character.


Current PaDC score: 23/31

Image from Wikimedia commons: link

This Passage Leads Deeper Down to Areas Beyond the Scope of This Adventure…

I’ve notice, when looking through various adventures, both old, OSR, and Torchbearer specific, for the Gulf that a good number of them include stairs, ravines, cracks, holes, or other points of access to a lower level of dungeon that is beyond the scope of the adventure.  On one hand, this can be a bit inconvenient because your players can just decide to see what’s down there and suddenly you are off your prepared map and have to come up with something.

Personally, I generally am a low prep GM, I might think about the game between sessions, and if good ideas come to me, great, but if not I am fine with just winging most of the session.  I do, however, like to have a keyed map when running an exploratory dungeon crawl.  To me, it’s not even about the quality of the content (although high quality content is preferred).  To me, when the focus of the game turns to exploration of a space, if that space isn’t already defined, it’s hard for the PCs to make meaningful choices within that exploration. I could go into this further, and why I think other game styles don’t have that problem, but that’s better suited for another post.

Ultimately with these ways further down, you have three options:

  1. Sketch out about as far down as you think the PCs will reasonably go.  Not on accident, most of these ways further down are typically fairly deep in the dungeon, so, likely when you factor in the amount of content they consumed GETTING THERE, doesn’t need to be very far.  Still, if you are using a module it can be annoying to have to fill in the gaps yourself.
  2. Seal it off.  Make the way down a dead end, a rockslide, an impassible magic seal, or what have you.  You can even make this not a permanent roadblock, like say requiring a magic passphrase to break the seal that the PCs could learn later, and then, by the time they do learn it, if they decide to come back, you know what’s down there.
  3. Just hope the PCs don’t go that way, wing it if they do.

In my experience? Option #3 works most of the time.  Generally your PCs came to this place for a reason (even if that reason is to kill things and get loot), and often because the passage deeper down is not needed to complete that objective, they’ll rather not risk it.  If they do, there’s nothing wrong with asking for 5 minutes to sketch a quick node map of a cave system or deeper levels of dungeon, or even just running a linear section with baddies that will either scare them back to know territory, or kill time (or them).

Still, I like these areas, the existence of a undefined area Deeper Down provides answers to plenty of useful questions.  Where did the extra kobolds come from after the PCs nearly exterminated them last time? Deeper Down.  Where to the wandering monsters live when not ambushing the PCs? Deeper Down.  How can I reincorporate this dungeon but still provide new challenges for PCs that have mapped it? Make them go Deeper Down.  Because of the story leading up to this module I have a side quest that I would like to stick here without changing things too much, where should I put it? Deeper Down.

Not to mention, if you take these areas that go Deeper Down and begin to connect them for multiple nearby dungeons (or not nearby if you invoke magic or make the underground a connected mystical world), you have the the makings of a megadungon with multiple entrances.

While I won’t go as far as saying that every dungeon could use a path to an undefined Deeper Down, I know I certainly will be considering it as a design element in my future dungeon designs!


Current PaDC score: 22/31

“The Story”

I love stories in my roleplaying games.  I love presenting my players with interesting situations, compelling characters, and I love getting a chance to roleplay and see other do the same.  To say I don’t like my games so have any element of story would be flat out wrong.

But I don’t really care about “the story”.  That is to say, I don’t really care much about the thing that other GMs are referring to when they suggest (with the best of intentions) to do something “for the good of the story”.  I have some amount of respect for “this could ruin the game for someone”, or “this could be the end of the campaign”, but if you play with decent people, who are good sports about losing, aren’t out to ruin things for anyone else, and you’d be willing to play ANOTHER campaign with after this one wraps up (expectedly or unexpectedly), those things aren’t really an issue.

As a GM, I have things the characters don’t know, I have NPCs that have plans, I might have a dungeon or module prepared for the evening if we’re doing a dungeon crawler.  If I am really on my game I have some situations to challenge the characters beliefs (whether in the Burning Wheel sense or not) and morals, and get them thinking and ideally demand action.  While I think having those is seriously when I am on my a-game, I think when I have one of those too far in the future or too contingent on certain actions leads to some of my worst GMing when I try to force it.

To me, the Story is something we only know after we play.  It’s not even something we know WHILE we’re playing.  Like I mentioned in my post about Maguscrusher we humans have a wonderful ability to make a story out of random events.  We can even filter out the events that didn’t really matter to whatever it is we’ve determined the story is about (For example if the battleaxe didn’t help us fight the wizard, in telling the story the skeleton likely would not have even been mentioned).  The story of an RPG is sort of the same thing as “the story of my life”, life doesn’t follow the principles of good drama.  If you go to someone’s house and notice a gun is hanging on the wall, hopefully most of the time that gun doesn’t go off and shoot someone.  Things happen, and they’re random, and only make a satisfying story after we’ve applied our ability to give these random events a beginning, middle, and end.

The story is not something that demands Barus the fighter survive an ill-planned (or even just unlucky), encounter with highwaymen just because he still hasn’t saved his sister after she was kidnapped by the evil duke.  The story is that Barus the fighter got in over his head and was killed by bandits because that’s what his actions, and the roll of the dice lead him to.

I get that, for some, that’s really unsatisfying.  It’d be one thing if Barus died fighting the duke in the climatic showdown, maybe it’d even be fine if instead of bandits it was the Duke’s men who showed up to arrest him and lead to the same result.  But unrelated bandits?  The GM should either had made some “adjustments” behind the screen or simply not put that many bandits there in the first place!  Barus needs to have closure on his arc to save his sister!

I understand the sentiment, I get where you’re coming from.  I used to play that way, I used to run games that way, and when I go to conventions I am fairly certain most of the games I play in are run that way.  It took a while, but the more I explored this hobby and discovered what I liked about games and which games I liked and why, I eventually stepped away from that.  To me, Barus dying because he crossed the wrong bandits is a perfectly fine ending to his story, sometimes bad things happen to good people and that’s just how things are.  To me it makes the game more exciting “Will the PCs get out of this one?” is always an unknown question, and it is exciting in the moment to see!

Ultimately, my goals as GM boil down to helping everyone (including me) has fun adjudicating the rules and situation fairly, and making things interesting right now, in about that order.  There’s rarely any conflict between them, for me, because often whatever the dice say IS fun, and IS the most interesting thing that could happen.  Or rather, even if I had a preference for one result over the other one, everyone knowing exactly what that dice roll means makes the result feel more real to everyone at the table, more than if I had just picked the one I liked better.


Current PaDC score: 21/31

The Leaky Bucket Crew – Episode 2

Last Night we got together to play Kaigan for the first time in a while, but once we all refreshed ourselves as to what was happening it was pretty easy getting back into things.  Session spent a lot of time in planning stages, but lots of it was in character so I was mostly fine with that.

We open after the Bar closes on the 3rd of the month, late at night early in the morning.  A name comes up on the date the till doesn’t quite match the receipts/inventory.   Fred Richards, unfortunately for them, Fred isn’t scheduled to work for the next few days, so they decide to pay a visit to him then and there.  They head into a rather sketchy part of town and find his 2nd floor walk-up apartment where he lives with his wife and daughter.  Okoi is hoping to avoid scaring the woman and the kid (and asks to change his instinct to something to that effect on the spot), but they still send Axe around back in case he tries jumping out the window.

Okoi and Upton knock loudly, and after a moment, the groggy man in question peers out the chained door to see who it is.  And the guy is wise enough to put two and two together as to why his bosses are here at this time of night.  He actually goes with them without much resistance, mainly to keep them from messing with his family, and the three of them meet up with Axe and then take a walk.

He grovels and such, which doesn’t reach many of our hardhearted protagonists, but they eventually get enough of the story.  Some guy from the Rising Dragons has been coming around, saying that Richard’s dad owed him money, and now that his father has passed away its on him to pay it back, and it seems he is threatening his family to encourage payment.  Richard identifies the guy as Kyoto, and has a Mahjong parlor in Dragon’s turf where he is supposed to meet him on the 7th.  They kinda wonder what to do with them, and then Axe tells Richard that he is going to help them get their money back, and help them out with other stuff to to make up for what they can’t get, and neither Okoi or Upton have got a better idea, so they go with that.

The next day, Koga’s letter is finally delivered, in retrospect I should have delivered it before the game so they could have written beliefs more closely related to it, but I think things still went fairly well.  They spent a LONG time thinking about how to respond, before deciding they wanted to burn the warehouse in question to the ground, with his men along with it.  They spend a day to scout it out and find out that the warehouse is a functional warehouse dealing in foodstuffs and trade goods, and it also seems to be under the Eye’s protection.  If it is owned by a member of the Eye, or the owner just pays decent protection money is rather unclear, but it bears their emblem on it as a “don’t mess with us” sign.  Either way this is enough to make them rethink their plan.

They begin to second guess if continuing to escalate is a good idea, especially because they worry Koga could retaliate by burning down their bar, and the letter makes it clear that they are looking for an excuse to go to war, so their plan is to figure out where Koga is and just take him out, simple, right?

None of them have a good idea how to go about this, and no one is willing to make an unskilled wise roll to try and see if they know, so they instead look to circle up and information broker from Uppton’s foreign contacts in the city.  Fail, Enmity Clause time!

They find a man known as Mr. R in the back room of an opium den, smoking on a Hooka pipe, not (currently) indulging in the primary drug of the location.  They tell him what they want to know, and he informs them he knows that Koga is known to frequent a certain brothel, and visit a certain girl.  He could tell them which brothel and which girl and even when he should next head over if he keeps his schedule, but what do they have to offer in return?

They briefly consider trying to trade information about how Tsuyoshi is going to be storing some stuff at their place, but decide it’s not worth the risks of pissing Tsuyoshi off or having someone come to THEIR place to get it.  In the end, Uppton tries offering the drugs they took off of Koga’s men as payment.  Mr. R considers it, and agrees, noting he has a few contacts who would buy it off him.

The place is called Sakura’s, he gives them the girl’s name and room she is most commonly in.  They should next expect him on the 6th, same nigh as the meeting in the warehouse.  Axe still wants to go to the warehouse, he’s the one person who has a belief still tied up in that letter, so they make a plan to visit the warehouse first, deal with the guys there, and then go to the brothel and deal with Koga.

We called it there, next time we’ll pick up with them dealing with the warehouse, and assuming they make it out of this night alive, they still have to deal with Richard’s loanshark, and Tsuyoshi’s job is still looming in the background.

Only 24 more days until the rent is due.


Current PaDC score: 20/31 (Another one a bit late that I had to backdate, but it’s still 10/20 somewhere, and I haven’t gone to bed yet so I am gonna count it)

Building the Gulf of False Hope, Part 7: Field Funerals, The Sacred Undead, and Liches

While writing yesterdays post, I felt that A) the overview of the types of Dead in the Gulf was enough to stand on its own and B) the section on Liches was almost enough to stand on its own.  That being the case, I’m throwing in a few other sections in with this one to round it out.  You’ll probably want to have read yesterday’s post first.

First we have the rules for giving your buddies a proper funeral, then we have descriptions of the two sub-types of the Cursed Dead, the Sacred Undead and the Lich.

So Your Comrade Just Kicked the Bucket…

(Note, in this section I use “comrade” to mean “fellow adventurer, hireling, or other person who might view you as responsible for getting them killed and has no one else to put on a funeral for them”, you don’t necessarily have to like them, in fact, if you didn’t get along it might be an even BETTER idea to make sure you put them to rest)

Adventuring in the Gulf can be dangerous, and sometimes not everyone makes it out alive. While not every dead adventurer returns to haunt their comrades who left them to die, many Adventurers choose to give their buddies the proper last rites, just to be on the safe side. To perform last rites (and allow your fallen comrade to join the ranks of sanctified dead), you need to respectfully dispose of the body and give them a funeral. These tests can be made either in the adventure phase or Camp. The funeral ritual will not stop your comrade from rising as an undead as part of a monster’s special ability, but incinerating their corpse might, and burying might bury them so deep the thing can’t get out.

To dispose of the body, you either need to bury them or cremate them.

  • To Bury the body, you must bring them to some soft earth and make an Ob 2 laborer test (ob 1 for digging, +1 evil GM factor for digging deep enough the animals can’t get at them)
  • To Cremate the Body, you must make an Ob 3 Survivalist test to gather up enough wood. The GM should give you some bonus dice or additional factors depending on the weather and terrain. The fire should be above ground or in an area where the smoke has somewhere to go.

To give your fiend a proper funeral, it is an ob 3 theologian test, failure might prevent your comrade from moving on to the next world! Each person present may tell a story about the deceased to grant the (impromptu) priest a bonus die (counts as supplies when determining dice rolled for beginners luck).

Alternatively, you can pay a ob6 resources check in any town with a temple or shine to get the local priest to cremate and bless the body for you, its up to you to get the body back.  If you have hauled the corpse back to town, friends and mentors of your comrade in the same town will help with this expense, while Families will pay for it.  Involving these people and shoving a share/all of the bill on them is a great way to earn yourself an Enemy who blames you for their loved one’s death, however.

Hauling the Body

Assuming your comrade didn’t conveniently drop dead in a good spot to burn or bury them (or right outside the gates of town), the living will have to drag them out of there themselves. For the purposes of these rules a “corpse” assumes you have removed their backpack, satchel, quivers, metal armor, and anything in their hands, if you have not, you may be required to test/have additional factors in your test.

You can drag a corpse of your race or smaller with two hands (Humans/Elves > Dwarves > Halflings), dragging a larger corpse requires a laborer test with an ob equal to the difference in size. Lifting a corpse over obstacles might require a test or additional hands, GM’s discretion, you can generally stick them on top of an animal or funeral pyre with no test, however.

A mystic Porter can carry a corpse using 8 slots of inventory for a human or elf (7 for a dwarf, 6 for a halfling), a pack animal can carry a corpse either as a Rider or as the same number of slots of inventory as the mystic porter, use whichever is more space efficient, but you’ll likely need some rope to tie them in place either way.

Burial in Absentia

You may provide a funeral for your comrade without their body, typically burning or burying a small personal item in their place. A funeral without the body counts as an additional factor in the Theologian test. Not having a personal item is another additional factor. This should also only be done when the body was unrecoverable, due to being destroyed, eaten, or too dangerous to get to, if the GM rules that you just left your fiend’s body where it was because you didn’t want to drop your stuff (or the Player’s annoyed about it), that can be a cue for another evil GM factor. The Shrine charges the same price for a Burial in Absentia as they do a traditional cremation (a more difficult ritual but they don’t have to actually burn any body), but will not perform one without a personal item. Lastly, while performing the funeral rites properly in such a manner will lay your comrade’s spirit to rest, the body is not sanctified in any manner from being brought back as an undead by a Necromancer who DOES recover the body.

Mass Graves

If you are unfortunate enough to be laying more than one comrade to rest, increase the obstacles of all tests (including paying the shrine if you choose to go that route) by one for a party of adventurers. You need a personal item for each comrade whose body you lack if you wish to avoid the additional factor.


The Sacred Undead

Contrary to most of the Cursed Dead, the Sacred Undead is not undead because of some vile act committed.  On the contrary, the Sacred Undead is too pure, too noble of purpose.  A Sacred Undead is not merely a spirit with unfinished business, no matter how noble, such spirits fall under the Vengeful Dead category.  Sacred Undead instead are those who, having lived a noble life in service of the divine will they serve, choose to continue to serve instead of passing on to the next world.  Their charge and duty comes not from any lingering regrets, but instead a divine edict from the will that they serve.

They are considered Cursed Dead, because to exist in such a way, to exist in such a state, no longer alive, no regrets to bind you, to resist the call of the next world, and to maintain your sense of purpose, self, and nobility, is agony for a soul. It is a terrible curse, a terrible burden to bear.  Yet it is one that those who still exist in such a way bear willingly.  A Sacred Undead can not be turned by any who serve the same divine will as they do, can not be permanently destroyed, and are exceedingly difficult to banish.  They pass on to the next world when they lose their will to remain, ideally after fulfilling their purpose or finding a worthy successor.  Still, the burden on the soul is great, and some merely disappear when they can no longer endure it.

The Lich

Nearly every Lich (and their kin) would disagree about being cursed.  Such a categorization is merely a slander perpetuated by the ignorant, fearful, and jealous.  Liches differ from the standard Cursed Dead because rather than some higher entity, Liches did it to themselves.  The ritual to become a Lich is intimate and complicated, and no one can be forced to complete it, to tear out ones soul is not something that can be done with any hesitation, and even those willing but hesitant have found that their hesitation merely instead resulted in their deaths.  Thus, no matter what a Lich may tell you, they chose to become a Lich.  They believed that magical power gave them the right to violate the natural order of things and do this to themselves.  To become a Lich is an act of arrogance, of KNOWING that you will do better than all those who tried before you.  Of course being a Lich is not a curse, I would not done such a thing to myself if it was a curse!

While that arrogance is their sin, not all Liches did so for ignoble ends.  Many have undertaken the ancient rituals with the most noble of ends.  A reason why they must stop the hands of time and continue whatever great work they were undertaking.  Such Liches can even succeed, perhaps they only needed another decade, and thus, whatever good they hoped to achieve can be overseen by the next generation.  A truly good lich destroys themselves then and there.  They rarely do.

To be a Lich, you must remove your soul, store it away, hide it in a special jar, yet, in order to do anything, your mind must remain with your body.  At first, it will seem like nothing has changed.  You have your memories, your personality, even some semblance of emotion.  You even still care for the things you cared for before.  And yet… You’ve changed.  It happens slowly, those things that you cared for last no where near as long as you do, and you find yourself no longer caring about anything new.  By the time you realize, you no longer even care that you don’t.  Why should you?  You have important work to do!  You can’t get half-way through a project without thinking of the next one!  Each of them so important, each of them justifying any number of sacrifices.

It is so easy to justify going just a bit further with each new experiment, your work is so important after all.  Far more important that some suffering of some time-bound creatures.  And each time you go a bit further, their pleas mean nothing to you.  Their cries of pain, their begging for mercy, their asking for their mother, their spouse, their child, all meaningless. They will not accomplish anything greater in their shot little lives than their contribution to your great work!

…And that’s just for Liches who start with the best of intentions.  All Liches become evil, because all Liches lose the ability to feel true empathy.  They can be quite clever, and they can UNDERSTAND what another being is feeling, but their time separated from their soul costs them (among other things) their ability to be moved by it.  A Lich may, for a while, keep a mental model in their head of what a “good person” would do, and they may act on it.  Yet there is no reward for them if they do so, no warm fuzzies to motivate them to keep at it, and without a compelling self-interest reason to do so, they end up deciding not to bother.

The same arrogance that lead them to become a Lich consumes them, only they and their goals matter, and they will do anything to see them through to the end no matter who they have to crush.  The Lich becomes an unrecognizable monster, while their soul suffers trapped inside a tiny box.  That is why Liches are cursed.

But I am sure for you it’ll be different, right?


Current PaDC score: 19/31

Building the Gulf of False Hope, Part 6: Dead & Undead

Even across the sea on the mainland, Undead are one of the few types of monsters the civilizations of Asila have not be able to stamp out, although not for lack of trying.  The simple fact is, even if every zombie, skeleton, ghost and their kin were to pass into the next world tomorrow, more people would die with regrets binding them to this world, and more secret cabals of vile necromancers would continue to practice and pass on their black arts.

The untamed land across the sea, the Gulf region included, provides amble opportunities for these conspiracies to operate away from prying eyes of the authorities, and if a few people in some remote town go missing while walking in the woods, well, that won’t raise the eyebrows of many people outside that village, at least not before it is too late.  Ad to that the ancient ruins and still active curses of lost tombs and the living dead are still alive and well (so to speak) in the Gulf.

The Dead

In general, the dead fall into a few categories, which speak more to the nature of the creature than what specific kind it is.  In fact, in some cases, a creatures of the same kind might fall into separate categories, a Skeleton, for example might be considered Vengeful Dead if it is animated by its spirits desire to protect its own tomb, or a Enslaved Dead if under the power of a Necromancer.

Saint-Heroes

It is actually a matter of theological debate among the Way if the some or even all of Saint-Heroes ever actually died or not.  On one extreme, some factions believe that all true Saint-Heroes ascended to the next world while still living, even those that supposedly died as martyrs actually ascended to the Heavens just before their supposed death, on the other end, there is a group that believes that Saint-Heroes are only recognized as such after their normal, human, death.  Regardless, the spirits of Saint Heroes are said to reside in the next world, and it is by their power that clerics are granted their miracles.

The Sanctified Dead

Those that have died and have been given proper funeral rites.  Many believe the spirits of the Sanctified dead are guided into the next world during the last days of winter.  A proper funeral eases the regrets of a troubled spirit, making it much less likely they will return to haunt the living.  While most corpses in the Gulf are cremated, even those that are buried in the ground will be more difficult for a Necromancer to raise.

The Unsanctified Dead

Those that have died and not been given proper funeral rites.  Without final rites to ease their bitterness and resentment, many such spirits will bear grudges against the living, and find it difficult to move on to the next world.  Even among those that do not become vengeful spirits, corpses dropped in a ditch by the side of the road are both magically and logistically easy for a Necromancer to obtain and use.

The Vengeful Dead

The vengeful dead are spirits who are either unable to find peace in the next world, or whose rest has been disturbed by the living.  The vengeful are driven by their own powerful emotions from life, and sometimes aided by some curses crafted either by them in life, or those who prepared their tomb, in fact, a tomb designed to use its willing dead to punish transgressors are one of the few times it is EASIER to raise a properly buried corpse.  Weaker Vengeful Dead such as Tomb Guardians, but stronger Vengeful Dead will merely reform if they are not properly banished or the source of their regrets is not resolved.

The Enslaved Dead

The Enslaved Dead are those given unlife by to be bound into another’s service, all of these poor creatures have had their spirits bound by their creator, leaving them in spiritual agony until freed.  For this reason, even those who seek to animate the dead for the most helpful reasons (such as to do manual labor and not terrorize villagers) are often reviled by socity at large and banned by almost every sect of The Way.

While most of these undead servants, are brought forth by living Necromancers, certain other types of Undead are capable of creating minions of their own to serve them.  Most of the enslaved dead can merely be physically destroyed, although some powerful necromancers can even call forth incorporeal spirits to serve them which must be banished purely because physical attacks have little effect.

The Hungry Dead

The Hungry Dead are driven by a compulsion, exactly what this compulsion is varies depending on the exact time, but the Hungry dead differentiate themselves from the Vengeful dead in that this compulsion is unrelated to their unresolved emotions from life.  Most often, as the name implies, the compulsion is a desire to feed on the living.  The Hungry Dead can be intelligent, such as in the case of Vampires, or mindless beings ruled by their hunger such as the case of Ghouls, but either way the compulsion is irresistible.

While a human with good enough reason and willpower could chose to starve themselves to death, but a vampire, no matter how strong of will, how ancient, or how powerful, will always give in to the craving eventually even if it requires losing their sanity and becoming a blood-starved beast in the process.  In most cases, these Undead are created by Hungry Dead feeding on the living, with the corpses of victims joining their ranks, in others, they are most often created by Necromancers seeking to bolster their forces, which then almost inevitably break free of their control.

The Cursed Dead

The Cursed Dead often straddle the line between all three of the other categories of Undead.  Many are, in some sense, created and bound by another, many times this is because of something that they did in life, and many have a compulsion that they can not resist as part of their curse.  These undead are the result of some vile act by the living often vile in nature, that catches the attention of a powerful entity.  A deal with a devil, a betrayal of a sacred vow, the murder of a protected innocent, are all common themes.  For this, they are punished, forever barred from the next world, their bodies and spirits bound by the weight of their act.

They often retain somewhat of a will, just enough that they can remember what got them to this place in the first place, but they are often twisted and corrupted by the weight of their sin, and are further often compelled to partake in some ironic punishment or reminder of their misdeeds.  If the entity that created them is powerful enough, often not even their destruction or banishment will release them from their hell on earth, as their judge will just reform them to continue their punishment.  Perhaps most ironically, most of the Cursed Dead DO have a way to find peace, some atonement they can perform that will release them from the curse, yet it is almost always something so deeply related to their sin and the flaw that caused it, the Cursed Dead will never find peace on their own.

There are two notable sub variants of the Cursed Dead, The Sacred Undead, and the Lich.  Both of which, along with some mechanical rules for providing funerals for your fallen comrades, will be discussed in tomorrow’s post.


Current PaDC score: 18/31