May 20, 2015

Class Remakes (Version 3)

I've continued to work on this project. Here's the most recent version.



Necrocarcerus rules that would be useful to know to interpret this document:

1) Swords and Wizardry Complete

2) My skill system is built off of Skills: The Middle Road, so PCs need to roll 5+ on a die type that escalates in size as their skill level does. Rolling the maximum result possible on the die not only succeeds, but accomplishes the task in the next smallest increment of time (weeks become days, days become hours, hours become turns, turns become rounds, etc.).

3) My grappling rules involve the opponents rolling and comparing their hit dice, with the higher winning.

4) Feats of Strength allows brief but superhuman feats of strength (jumping, lifting, throwing, etc.) if you roll high on a d6 (the die type does not escalate). The abilities listed in tables for the thief, ranger and monk use the same mechanic.

5) I flipped the numbers around to make rolling high always good.

6) I have a perception system where passive perception is equal to the # of party members, and active checks involve rolling a d6 and adding that to the passive perception score.

7) There are only two alignments in Necrocarcerus - Lawful and Chaotic.

8) When you drop to 0 HP, you begin rolling on a critical table. Only some of the results are likely to kill you, but your chance of getting one increases as you continue to take hits.

May 18, 2015

Class Remakes (Second Version)

Original class remakes post

The new version

After thinking it over, I decided to pare down the number of classes in Necrocarcerus 1.3, mostly by eliminating choices that no one has ever taken that come from external supplements, but also by eliminating the assassins. This means no more bards, no more dandies, no more spiritualists, and no more walking ghosts. I rewrote the barbarian class from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque Compendium to be a berserker class similar to the fighter but with rage. I'll be keeping the four spellcasting classes - Elementalist, Necromancer, Vivimancer and Weirdomancer, from Theorems and Thaumaturgy.

In the new version, I've updated the ranger and monk classes based on feedback, removed the assassin class, redone the fighter, cleric and thief, and added the berserker class. In later versions of this, I'll add the magic user, paladin and druid (more or less unchanged, though reworded from the original rules to be more concise). The psionicist is basically done, but will be issued once I'm finally done my psionics supplement. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to use Courtney's Psionics supplement.

My goal here, once all the class rewrites / remakes are done, is to incorporate this into Necrocarcerus 1.3 to reduce the number of external supplements referenced and the number of conversions required from other systems, and to consolidate the various house rules applying to each class directly into its entry, rather than requiring PCs to jump between multiple documents.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome. These are still works in progress.

May 17, 2015

Class Remakes: Assassins, Rangers, Monks

I'm working on a side project that might make it into Necrocarcerus 1.3. The project is to redo the classes I dislike the most (on a mechanical level) in Swords and Wizardry Complete and the various supplements I use for Necrocarcerus, as well as the ones that seem the least popular and useful under the Necrocarcerus rules. Generally speaking, these classes tend to be the grab-bag classes built around skills / non-magical powers. Tonight, I redid the assassin, ranger and monk classes (thieves, bards and psionicists are upcoming; dandies, spiritualists and walking ghosts are cut entirely). Not entirely coincidentally, the assassin, ranger and monk are all classes from later supplements.

My overall goals were to simplify these classes enough so that each fits on one page, to give them clear schticks, and to emphasise their abilities. I think most of these write-ups are straightforward, but just in case anyone isn't familiar with the Necrocarcerus house rules, the following may be useful to know.

1) Ability checks are made like a Thief's Hear-Noise skill (on a d6)

2) Skills use Skills: The Middle Road, so "Max result" means a character who is a Master of a skill (rolls a d12) who makes their ability check gets a result as if they had rolled 12. A character who is an Expert (d10) gets a result of 10, etc.

3) I have a perception system in Necrocarcerus.

4) Feats of Strength (for the ranger) are explained here.

5) Grappling rules are explained here.

I'm soliciting feedback, especially from the PCs & potential PCs in the current Necrocarcerus game, about what they think about these remakes of the classes, and whether they make them more appealing to play. These are first drafts, and will probably undergo some revision yet.

May 15, 2015

Charity for the Dead

Monks, Paladins, and Rangers have to donate substantial portions of their wealth to charity. Fortunately, Necrocarcerus has a robust third sector of NGOs, QUANGOs and radical social movements. Since there are no alignment restrictions in Necrocarcerus, these classes are free to choose the cause most closely aligned with their personal beliefs. A selection of causes follows:

The Committee to Abolish Life (Lawful) - The most influential and least radical Undead rights organization. Advocates gradual policy reform and other useless measures. Relies on the sale of branded merchandise and cash donations via mail.

The Communist Party of Necrocarcerus (Marxist-Leninist) (Chaotic) - Actually a Trotskyist front. Cash donations may be made in person at scattered booths, or by buying newspapers.

Doctors Without Scruples (Lawful) - Organ-harvesting for distribution to underprivileged Citizens. Donations of cash or parts can be made via mail.

Elderly Druids Association (Lawful) - Really a price-fixing & coupon-clipping scam pretending to advocate for ancient Citizens. Cash donations via mail. Has a mandatory monthly magazine full of "savings".

The Ferrymen (Chaotic) - Want almost everything abolished right away. Known for their protests at the least convenient times. Occasionally violent. Donations (Cash or product) may only be made in person.

The Fire Keepers (Chaotic) - Illegal health providers running hospitals, de-cursing clinics and the occasional spawning vat for impoverished wizards. Cash donations may be made to their capital campaigns at any Fire Keeper location.

Friendship Society of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Reformist claptrap focused on Undead-Citizen harmony. Donations (cash only) can be made to chuggers in malls or via text message if the money is in a bank. They also sell quarterly subscriptions to their newsletter.

Golemic Families of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Mainstream polygolemous advocacy that's as much about making it appear nonthreatening. Primarily receive corporate donations, but cash donations can be made via mail, text message, or via pledge form.

High Adventure (Chaotic) - Marijuana legalisation group. Mostly stoned into ineffectiveness. Donations of potions and cash may be sent via mail or in person. Sells weed at legalisation fairs.

The Museum of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Exhibits are a little shabby, but a donor wall that dates back 10,000 years. Cash or curio donations can be made in Downtown. They also sell calendars and posters.

Oozy International (Chaotic) - Really a pro-ooze political group pretending to be a charity. Advocates peace with the oozes. Accepts cash donations via mail, and donations of weapons etc. (secretly) in person.

Pets Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Sentimental softies about animal-likes. Currently attempting to have muzzle laws on hellhounds overturned. Donations made by purchasing branded t-shirts, calendars, stamps, etc.

Portal Now! (Chaotic) - Wants AUC to open the portals and allow everyone to escape. Regularly subject to mass arrests, but strong grassroots support. Cash donations can be made via mail.

Railworkers, Grocers, Acrobats and Plumbers Union (Lawful) - Heavily armed trade union engaged in a cold war with their employers. Supports improving workers' rights. Donations of cash, weapons or armour can be made at any union hall / rail station.

Upright Business Bureau of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Shills for big business who claim to be interested in helping consumers. Cash donations may be made via mail or text message, tons of corporate donors.

The Wilderness Downtown (Lawful) - Hippies romanticising the environment. Donations of cash, plants and photographs may be made by mail or text message.

May 13, 2015

Chief Druidic Officer

So in Swords & Wizardry Complete, druids all belong to a single world-spanning druidic hierarchy that you have to fight your way up to the top of to become the arch-druid.

In Necrocarcerus, druids are employees of the utility companies (obviously), and the druidic hierarchies are the four utility companies, and you have to fight your way to the top of the corporate ladder to reach 20th level, where instead of becoming the arch-druid, you become the CDO (Chief Druidic Officer) and help maintain the natural balance of Necrocarcerus by ensuring oil flows, electricity is generated (the sun is replaced regularly and on-time), water gets purified and moved around (and Ocean Null doesn't accidentally drain out into Necrocarcerus), and phone calls and packages circulate smoothly. You spend your mid-levels in druidic middle-management, overseeing the construction of the animal-likes and plant-likes that constitute the ecology of Necrocarcerus and learning about nature crap like where the fans that keep everyone from choking to death on smog are and how they work and where the secret phones are hidden. At lower levels, you're probably responsible for some local domain, making sure people are paying their utility bills on time and collecting money / their heads when they don't (esp. monsters, who are notoriously tardy debtors). Yes, you still have to challenge and defeat higher level druids to move up - you don't get to be a druidic Regional Vice President of Sales without showing you've got the killer instinct a closer needs.

The druid secret language is just Elemental with a lot of management jargon thrown in, and it evolves fast enough that no one outside the utilities can ever keep it straight.

May 12, 2015

[Review] Dreams of Ruin

I'm home today with a sprained ankle, which gave me the chance to read Dreams of Ruin.

Dreams of Ruin is a strong idea that's clearly been thought through. It describes how a negative energy ecology suitable as a campaign-level threat to challenge high level PCs works, and provides a model for the various subcomponents involved in running it - sample encounters, information on how to run and adjudicate the PCs setting up a research laboratory or magically rewriting society and landscape to fight it, the colossal efforts necessary to cure / banish / control / weaponise it, etc. The ideas are well-done, interesting, coherent and nearly exhaustive. Even if you didn't want to use the Forest of Woe exactly, you could adapt a lot of this material to any sort of depersonalised creeping interplanar threat. For example, if you run Kevin Crawford's Red Tide setting, you could pull out tons of material here and use it with minimal conversion to depict how the PCs drive back the Red Tide itself (it helps that both settings are Labyrinth Lord ones). Or if you have a chaotic blight that threatens the campaign area a la Beyond the Wall: Further Afield's new threat pack, you could do some easy price conversions (I'd divide all prices by at least a thousand gold) and use it to run the blight in conjunction with the threat pack. The research component is especially well done, including handouts that chart out research paths for potential facts you can discover (while under tremendous time pressure that the book lays out clearly and in great detail).

The main flaw of the book is basically the same thing as its strength: Its singularity of vision. Dreams of Ruin sets up the Forest of Woe as something that stories and adventures spin out of, but it only gives you some rough guidelines and ideas about what those stories and adventures would be. In particular, the book could use a table or set of tables that cover "What is the weird magical material your research project requires?" "Where is it found" "Who controls it?" Magical items required for things like research are laid out (including building a device that requires 60 Gems of Seeing) but a lot of the other devices / spells / options just basically say some variation on "Spend an ungodly amount of money". Having a larger master table of random magical junk could either replace the pedestrian gold costs, or augment them with concrete detail ("So, uh, I rolled that you need 100,000 gp worth of Titan spittle," or "You need the baculum of a leviathan, and six rare flowers of eternity to build your Automatic Augerer"). (Edit: You could repurpose the system it gives for breakthrough critical items that refers you to the LL AEC, but that still wouldn't help you come up with who owns it and where they are, and what you need to do to get it).

It might also be useful to have a random high-powered NPC You Need to Recruit To Your Research Team table that covers what they want ("We need to recruit the Witch-Queen of Blagoblag - she wants the Gem of Guzzendle as payment") to spur ideas.

Similarly, the prolixity of the book is greatly appreciated in some areas (describing how the Forest of Woe works; facts PCs can find out through research; elaborating on the challenges of liquefying a god and running them through an oil pipeline) but less so in others. In particular, the sample encounters are overwritten, and could be more concise. It took a second read and the memory of a picture a few hundred pages back to realise there were devil mechs in one encounter.

Overall, I think it's a good book to pick up (especially because it's free) if you're trying to get ideas about how to run high level campaigns. There's a lot of material and structures here that, even if you don't adopt them directly, should serve as a useful model for how to structure such material in your own game.

May 10, 2015

There Is No Ethical Consumption Under Capitalism

Necrocarcerus Gear List (293KB PDF)

I'm hard at work on Necrocarcerus version 1.3. There's going to be a ton of new content, but most of the rules will be either identical or similar to version 1.2. There are some minor rewordings, clarifications or changes based on playtesting, but most of the new content is adding options to what's already there, or explicitly laying out procedures that I'm using in game anyhow but didn't stick in the rulebook previously.

I finished the gear list earlier today, which is now 7 pages long, including new medical items, new hats, new foods, new poisons, and the long-awaited grafts. Crossbows are now harpoon guns because harpoon guns are cooler than crossbows. Now if your PC wants to jack their headtubes full of morphine while guzzling soda and shooting harpoons coated with industrial sludge, you have all the tools you need. As always, Necrocarcerus is a mod for Swords and Wizardry Complete released under a CC-BY license, so feel free to use anything here in your own games or products.