Demons and Patrons in Basic Era Games

I am working on converting both my adventure Beneath the Fallen Tower and the Redoubt of Hades from GURPS (because I don’t have a license) to BFRPG (in particul;ar my publisher’s variant Odysseys and Overlords) and OSE.  BFRPG is very easy to pick up; it was designed as a quick and cheap starter game that anyone could immediately pick up and play. Old School Essentials is an elegant and accurate re-framing of B/X D&D. A circumstance I have discovered is that while my games feature a lot of summonable creatures, infernal, celestial, and elder entities.

Literally, in addition to the menagerie a couple of the druids are porting in, the Necromancers accompanied by the spirits of their ancestors, and the earth priest with his pet elemental, there is a character with elder thing power investiture from an otherworldly sorcerer that keeps rolling insanely good reaction rolls, a wildly talented bureaucrat who summoned a celestial demonslayer, and another player who has a hellhound, demonic servant,  and ‘Spirtitual adviser’. It is a lot.

Neither old school game system has any spells for summoning,  which makes things less of a headache for the DM, and generally kept these editions from triggering Satanic Panic responses, but they do have devices for summoning elementals and both djinn and efreet. Therefore, I propose items for summoning other extradimensional entities, perhaps graded for the HD of what they summon, 1d12 HD, with lemures, larvae, or manes at the low end, and a demon lordling at the high end, and an extra chance for getting something higher level.

   Brazier of Extraplanar Summoning

brazier

This iron or bronze brazier, incised with runes and chased with enamels or silver inlay , is inscribed with the name of a being from a nearby dimension. Any item of this type is good for summoning that singular being, for a period of up to one hour, and can be used no more than 6 times per owner.  For any given brazier, roll 1d12, and on a roll of 12, roll an additional d8. The total number rolled is the HD of the creature that can be  summoned by performing a ritual with the brazier as the central feature, involving candles and diagrams on the floor. The creature summoned may be of any alignment, and this can be determined by random die roll.  The summonee must perform a service for the summoner, but may make a save vs spells (minus the summoner’s wisdom bonus, if any) to resist. Braziers are worth 1000 GP per HD summonable.

 

Now, you can find game stats for any sort of extradimensional being in most advanced rulebooks, and in a variety of blogs ( such as Hereticwerks  where I got the Ymid from), but if you want to keep B/X formatting, I can recommend New Big Dragon’s Fifty Fiends (available on Drivethrurpg for only a buck!)

And for that matter, you can get a bunch of neat pictures of demons from me too!

(Or from Jeremy Hart )

 

And now that demons are in play, what about patrons? DCC did this excellently, but here I have

20 answers to the question: What does your warlock’s patron want in exchange for power?

1 to spread chaos! Go out there and blow shit up!

2 to be entertained.  They are bored, and find your actions interesting…until they don’t.

3 to be amused. They find the supplicant ridiculous, even pathetic. 

4 to annoy a rival, by showing them up with their own fancy minions.

5 to annoy a rival, by encouraging the destruction of their (equally) nefarious plan.

6 to spread their own influence; use of their powers tags an area with their signature,  the entity with the most tags wins something, as if our world was a boardgame to them.

7 to manifest themselves in our world; the more their power is used, the greater their ability to enter our plane.

8 to void excess energy that is causing them etheric indigestion. 

9 to silence your yapping. You are annoying, but not yet worth the bother of destroying.

10 to alleviate the irritation of the sense of debt; the entity cannot tolerate supplication without response; it itches.

11 to appease their sense of vanity. They desire worship.

12 to appease their curiosity. Whatever will the minion do with a little power.

13 to appease their hunger. Blood and Souls!

14 to appease their hunger. Only creatures empowered by and flavored like them can fulfill their hideous appetites

15 to appease their unnatural lust. Only creatures empowered and flavored like them can fulfill their hideous appetites.

16 to better observe our plane. Buying a pair of eyes is cheaper than actually manifesting.

17 to relieve their aching loneliness. Being immortal makes it hard to keep friends.

18 to pay a gambling debt. The being is making the pact because of an unfortunate forfeiture on a wager.

19 to pay back a favor. The summoning and binding spells are vestiges of an ancient promise made to someone who liberated the being from imprisonment, and then forgot that they were still active.

20 to be left alone. Power is cast out to deflect contact.

 

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Castle Xyntillan!

20191217_171606 Gabor Lux has just released his hardcover megadungeon Castle Xyntillan

He talks about it here

It features art by Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag, and fourteen pieces by me!

I spent the last few months working on these commissions, although a few of the pieces are from my stock art bundles.

The castle itself is a haunted mansion that blends Tegel Manor with the weirdness and doomed romanticism of Edgar Allen Poe, and the films of Jean Cocteau.

Also released at this time (in Hungarian,  the English language version is yet to be released) is Shadow of the city God, for which I drew the cover and another illustration. More work by Stefan Poag is in this as well.

I had some fun with the second scene, where some adventurers stumble upon a political cult led by a con artist.  Greta is not amused.

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Marginalia and a few products I like

Following a Black Friday sale of 80% of all of my gear on Drivethru that netted me my largest payday from OBS (just imagine if that stuff was full price!) I released a bundle of small filler art. I enjoyed the process so much, I may do more of these.

marginalia cover

The inspiration comes from a couple of places; Sergio Argonne’s border cartoons in Mad Magazine, medieval manuscript illuminated filler, and these panels of adventurers by David C. Sutherland  III from the DMG

sergioilluminated marginaliadmg delver artTo that end, I have included some of my staple characters, the thief from my first Character stock art is here climbing a rope, and the elf and knight stumbling upon the secret door in Dungeon Scenes 1 are now climbing a mountain.  I will definitely be building more of these scenes.

fathoms below pic

A friend of mine released a water based setting for 5e on DM’s Guild called Fathoms Below that I thought was pretty good. It has a nice backstory (Tritons took over a Sahugin fort, and built it into a starfish shaped major trading city, full of intrigue, with an anchored flotilla of rafts directly above, where your air breathers can live, if they are not in some of the domes below. There are some tongue in cheek character backgrounds that pay homage to the Little Mermaid without getting too campy. All too often water based adventures are shunted into auxiliary rules dependent on magic items, and in this case, while there are limits on what surface characters can do, there are a plethora of underwater races (the ones that aren’t new have to be found in other rulebooks, WoTC doesn’t let you quote whole slabs of character abilities), including the usual suspects like sea elves and mermen, along with jellyfish and octopus folk. The variety was surprising, and I recomend the book, along with its  supplement .

As usual, when contemplating GURPSifying races from other games, the huge cost of things like Amphibious, Extra Limbs and Flexible make things like half octopus characters dreadfully expensive, but that is one of the things I like about point buy systems; it costs more to be exotic and powerful up front, rather than using level limits or added XP cost – neither of those methods address starting level character balance, and adding a racial template of assorted boni to a fully fleshed out class template results in a more costly one; building the racial template into the class template (by 86ing other advantage options) results in a character who might be less than starting equivalent for others of their template -DF’s 250 point base builds characters with a rough equivalence to 5th-8th level AD&D characters, and dropping in a 25 point racial template makes you almost a level lower. Most of the PC races are in the 20 point range, but some (mostly those infused with the supernatural) cost 75 points, making them relatively weaker when compared to characters built as human.

 

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The way I Roll

No bad/wrong fun. You play the games you like, the way you most enjoy. I happen to enjoy a certain style of play, and am particularly enamored with a particular system that I have played with for some years.

I started gaming in 1981, and have played with a variety of systems. The ones I remember were Basic D&D, along with 1e and 2e, Star Frontiers, Top Secret, Gatecrasher, Paranoia, Toon, Palladium Fantasy and Rifts, CoC, Twilight 2000, Both MSH and DC Heroes, V&V, Cyberpunk 2020, Fasa Star Wars, and early WoD, in its original form, LARP, and ported to GURPS.

I have played GURPS  since 1989, and enjoyed a number of translations of other settings, principally CoC and VtM. I discovered skill systems in 2e, and am a firm believer in your character having competencies that are measurable  and checkable with probability as well as roleplay. The description is always integral to the resolution, the numbers are a mechanic that determines success, much the way more than mere intent is neccessary to resolve things like combat. Do you remember the thing, or were you asleep during that class? Can you make a positive impression, (or do you have spinach stuck in your teeth, or did your voice crack)? Can you craft something on the fly, or jimmie a lock in the dark? Do you recognize the noble’s house by their heraldry, and do you know their properand preferred form of address?

I stopped playing for about ten years, and when I started up, I collected every retroclone I could find, and have had tabletop experience with DCC and SW:CL, as well as GURPS. I have also read Torchbearer, Fate, Mothership, and Dungeon World.

For the last 6 years, I have run GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. As I recently told someone, my style of play involves deep construction of a sandboxy world, that has both a measure of secrets and an internal consistency that requires building on my part. My need for this is partly tied to a memory problem I have. Players shape the world, according to the limits and abilities of their character concept. They also do some shaping of the world during character creation. You were trained by a mystic order? They, and their enemies, are out there. Suffered an injury at the claws of a dragon? Don’t  be surprised to see her shadow flying overhead at some point.

Now, we play with a certain set of expectations; these are covered in my online information about the game (the game is a play by post. ) I want the characters to be built from certain sourcebooks according to, or very close to template, and customazeable to an extent within your character concept. Technology is limited to specific tropes of the genre. I take characters at a few different power levels, higher powered concepts are not something I am equipped to deal with at this time.  Expect that your character will be excellent at the primary features of their concept, fairly good at some related things, and not so good at things that are not part of your chatacter’s main focus. If you wanted a sort of multifaceted jack of all trades, you might be good at a lot of things, but not particularly amazing at any one thing.

You can expect that other characters, much like yours, will have their own motivations, dreams, fears, limits, and connections to the rest of the world, and are invited to participate in these aspects. You can expect to have some effect on the world, actions have consequences, and good deeds make the world a better place.  There are a certain amount of fate-influencing conditions that can be built in to a character design (GURPS is a point buy system, so it is a very thoughtful choice to make to include things like this). Advantages like Serendipity, which will always place you in reach of what you need, assorted varieties of luck, Weirdness Magnet, which keeps things interesting, Wild Talent, that lets you try and spontaneously learn things you have no training for,and Gizmo and Widget, which make sure you packed your whatsit when you needed it. There are modular abilities that let you become a temporary expert in any topic, and there are social advantages ranging from allies you have a close tie with, and enemies likewise entangling your life, smaller scale things like “I know a guy” and Favor that kick in in a pinch, but there are no real narrative switches that are player defined the way they are in FATE or AW.

You build your character, and that is a worthy endeavor, and I build the rest.  This is not to say I am giving you a script, but a stage with scenery, lighting, perhaps thematic music, and I hire all of the actors not in your troupe, and write some of their lines.  I keep track of hundreds of NPC’s and their motivations, some with minimal notes, others growing in detail as their interactions with players define them.

A good knowledge roll may inform you that there are tunnels below the city, and that they have been used for smuggling, but it will not tell you that the nearest manhole opens directly into the ninja’s secret lair, because I know all of the entrances to their lair, which ones are trapped, which are guarded, and which are forgotten.  At the same time, someone built their character as a member of the Sewer worker’s guild, and paid to have a rudimentary map of the undercity.

The same way you can build a character who oozes magical terror, and someone else can be immune to fear,  you can build someone who is (expensively) supernaturally attractive and inhumanly charismatic,  and anyone else can have a (cheaper and easier) build that is simply immune to their charms;  A bonus laden roll to use sex appeal on someone completely uninterested will not sway them to your cause, sometimes the best response you might get is a polite “You are cute, but not my type”.  Likewise, a terrific search roll will not reveal a secret door that isn’t there. I usually reward critically successful search rolls with the discovery of something valuable that the inhabitants of the area are unaware of, but abilities like inventing a door when you need one are worth almost half of you character’s base points  (Warp, -10% (accessibility) for requiring a search roll to “find” a temporary door (+0% special effect) that leads where you want to go: 90 points).

Around the time of the collapse of G+, I had been to the gauntlet forae, and attempted to initiate conversations about the type of games I play, and was greeted with the same kind of condescending hostility that I used to only get from ZS and Pundit back in the day, for not playing their kind of way.

My game isn’t colonial, folks are largely exploring an area that was depopulated after a plague, and dealing with undead in the same areas, or fighting bullies, or rescuing a mixed couple from an angry mob. Sometimes they are fighting demons, cultists, and ninja, other times they are helping people the local law enforcement choose to ignore.  One group (I am running eleven threads, each with its own party of characters) is helping a village that is comprised of refugees who left their homeland without their genealogical records, and as such cannot call on aid from the ancestors they have forgotten the names of in order to combat evil spirits.  One group I had all ready to throw down with an alien elder thing, and to my surprise they parleyed, and the dice delivered an awesome reaction roll… now they have it living in their compound – an abandoned set of tenements they are revitalizing in the wake of a set of serial murders and a magical disaster that collapsed the streets. Another team had been accompanied by a GM PC that was a  godborn demon hunter.  The huntress was banished back to their home plane, leaving them to track down a magically moving shop on their own, and the gang split up to try and summon her back. I wasn’t expecting them to want her, but apparently they became very attached to the four armed celestial, and now she is back in the game.

I told someone the other day that my play style and my game were not a good fit for any systems Powered by the Apocalypse, and they asked me why I didn’t want to improve* my game, without knowing what or how I play. It all depends on what your group likes.  My daughter expressed an interest in having me run a game for her friends. I love my GURPS, but, if the game actually formed, I would be spending a bit of time learning what their assumptions and preferences were, and might end up running Far Away Land, Blood & Treasure, or 5e (like the fancy kids play) for them depending on what they wanted. I might go with BFRPG because I could get everyone the books. It depends on what they like or want. There is no wrong way to have fun.

 

 

*What they had said is why wouldn’t you want to be improving your game, but had meant doing more improv (improv-ing maybe should have been improvising) not making improvements…

 

Meowls and Headless Screamers

When I was creating artwork for my Undead Stock Art Bundle, I illustrated the above nasty, which I was sure John Stater had included in an issue of his excellent zine Nod..,and it turns out it was from the very first issue, currently available from Lulu.com (use the codes ONEFIVE for 15% off and ONESHIP for free shipping).

With his permission, the creatures (one of many listings in that book):

 

Headless Screamer

Headless screamers arise from the corpses of the beheaded. They are cruel and chaotic beings who delight in tormenting the living. Headless screamers look something like zombies with a noticeable red slash across its neck. They can throw their heads with alarming accuracy, and in fact do not need to throw their own head, for the headless screamer’s intelligence and animating force are in the body. Many of these creatures keep four or five heads handy. Thrown heads have a range increment of 20’. The thrown head will snap its jaws, dealing 1d8 points of damage to anyone hit and then latching on if the target fails a saving throw. A latched head inflicts 1d4 points of bite damage each round until removed. Headless screamers can telekinetically retrieve these heads and still move or attack each round. Headless screamers can also emit a shrill shriek from the air hole in their necks. Anyone hearing this must succeed at a saving throw or suffer a ‐1 penalty to hit, damage and save for 1 hour.

  • Headless Screamer: HD 4; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 claw (1d6) or 1 thrown

head (1d8); Move 15; Save 13; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Throw and

retrieve head, scream, immune to cold.

I GURPSified this as follows:

Headless Screamers (DF)

ST: 14  HP: 18 Speed: 5.00

DX: 9  Will: 8 Move: 4

IQ: 8   PER: 9

HT: 12  FP: 12   SM: 0

Dodge: 8 Parry: 9 (Unarmed) DR: 0

Throw Head (14): 1d crushing plus follow-up bite for 1d crushing

Bite/Punch (12): 1d crushing.

Scream: affects all hearing as Fear spell

Traits: Bad Smell; Bloodlust, Cannot Learn; Darkvision, Doesn’t Breathe;Doesn’t Sleep; Fragile (Unnatural); High Pain Threshold; Immunity(All mind control); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Intolerance: Living; Indomitable; Injury Resistance 1(cold); Injury Tolerance (No Blood, No Head, Unliving); Returning weapon (head: costs 1 FP); Sadism, Temperature Tolerance 10 (-115° to 60°); Unfazeable; Unhealing (Total). Affected by pentagram, True Faith, and spells that affect evil

Skills: Brawling-12; Wrestling-12 (+2 ST when grappling) Throwing-14.

Class: Undead.

Notes: Headless Screamers are  truly evil, and cannot be negotiated with. They appear as normal zombies with obvious throat wounds. They can see  even without heads, and usually keep 4-5 heads handy for throwing or wearing; Heads have range 7/14, and can return telekinetically to their hand.

 

Another creature I recently illustrated, as seen above, is the Meowl. Stats for Basic era games can be found in Timothy Brannon‘s new tongue-in-cheek book on witches.

GURPS DF stats are as follows (a blend of the Owl and Cat familiars from DF 5-Allies):

MEOWL [39]

ST: 3 [-70] HP: 9 [12] Speed: 6.00 [0]

DX: 12 [24]* Will: 12 [10] Move (Air): 12/24 [0]

IQ: 10 [0] Per: 12 [10] Move (Ground): 2 [-20]

HT: 12 [20] FP: 12 [0] SM: -3

Dodge: 9 Parry: n/a DR: 0

Bite or Claw (16): 1d-5 cutting.

Advantages:

Combat Reflexes [15]; Enhanced Move 1 (Air) [20]; Flight (Winged, -25%) [30];  Night Vision 8 [8]; Silence 2 [10];Teeth (Sharp) [1]; Vibration Sense (Air) [10].

Disadvantages: Familiar [-22]; Laziness [-10]; No Fine Manipulators [-30] Curious [-1].

Skills: Aerobatics (H) DX-1 [2]-11; Brawling (E) DX+2 [4]-14; Flight (A) HT+1 [4]-13; Observation (A) Per+1 [4]-13; Stealth (a) DX+2 [2] 14† Survival(Woodlands) (A) Per+1 [4]-13.

Class: Animal.

* Cost reduced for No Fine Manipulators (-40%).

† Includes +2 for Silence

 

Further Traits

Masters of an Meowl familiar can buy Common Sense (GBF,

-40%) [6]; Combat Reflexes (GBF,-40%) [9];

Flight (Controlled Gliding, -45%, GBF, -40%) [8]; ];

Luck (GBF, -40%)[9]Night Vision 3 (GBF, -40%) [2], 5 [3], or 8 [5], or Dark Vision

(GBF, -40%) [15] and Silence 1 (GBF, -40%) [3] or 2 [6].

Those who buy Flight can also add Enhanced Move (Air; GBF,

-40%) [12/level], but only to reduce deceleration.

 

At some point I have to write up my view of witches for DF. In the meantime, I have finished up some illustrations for Gabor Lux, hopefully Castle Xyntillan will be on sale in time for the Holidays; at the moment it is in the proof stage.

 

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Pumpkin Spice!

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I am drinking a PSL with a pumpkin donut, and have a pumpkin spice candle burning as I, a wiccan, celebrate Samhain.Two weeks ago I went to Maine to look at the turning of the leaves. I am pretty basic.

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This makes me the perfect target audience for this excellent addition to Timothy Brannon’s collection of witchcraft related gaming supplements. In addition to a collection of tongue in cheek references to the trope of those who enjoy the seasonal beverage (his sample characters embodying Maiden, Matron, and Crone are Becky, Karen, and Carol) with spells and powers like OMG Becky, I Want To Talk To Your Manager, and Resting Witch Face, it actually has a lot of content I want to be playing with. The rest of the magical abilities include the sort of Fairytale abilities that would let you emulate the abilities of both Cinderella’s fairy godmother and the Wicked Witch of the West.  The rituals that emphasize the ssense of community of a coven warm my heart, but then I have always been a fan of witches.

Illustrations below copyright by the Beistle Co, and Adrienne Adams

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I did some illustrations for this one:

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Now, there is one spell in the book called Eerie Forest, which makes people caught in the affected woods uncomfortable and frightened. Given the Pumpkin Spice Tradition’s love of All Things Autumn, I propose the following spell:

Enchanting Forest:

Level: Druid 3, Magic User 3, Witch 3

Duration: 10 min/level

Range: a 60′ radius of forest

With this spell, the caster intensifies the experience of being in a beautiful autumnal forest, with glorious fall folliage, crunchy leaves, and just enough of a briskness in the air to appreciate a light scarf and a favorite sweater. The caster can designate one creature per level to recieve the benefits of this experience, +2 to saves, and the effects of a remove fear spell.

Material components: a lovely crispy fallen leaf

Note: This spell may be cast in conjunction with Eerie Forest, creating an area that is both delightful to some, and disturbing to others.

 

When I have included witches in my GURPS  games, it was easy to build them in Fantasy, as magery is the source of all spells, and the witches could just pick up spells from, animal, body, plant, elemental, communication and empathy, and mind control without issue. With DF, it is a little more complicated. IFor a 250 point witch,would require a familiar, from DF 5, magery 0, and 60 points from any of the other spellcasting classes: druidic power investiture, magery, shamanic, and elemental attunement, with any of their powers (autotrance, faerie or spirit affinity, green thumb, plant empathy, empathy…it goes on) At some point I have to lay out the class complete, and also detail the funky familiar called the Meowl!