Saturday, June 23, 2007

Camp Cleric

This is an idea stolen from Eric of Ptolus's Banewarrens game (though I am certain its origins lie much closer to the birth of D&D than that).

The camp cleric and fighter are a pair of NPC hirelings employed by the PCs to set-up camp, tend to the horses (or more exotic mounts), provide minor healing and spellcasting, stand guard, and run errands while the PCs explore the dungeon. They are of a level low enough to be outclassed if accompanying the party (so as to dissuade such accompaniment) but high enough to provide some benefit and withstand the expected rigors of the environment just outside the dungeon (or on a higher, and thus safer, level of the dungeon). In the abovementioned Banewarrens game, the party was level 6 while the brother and sister fighter and cleric duo were level 2. This means that a level appropriate encounter for the party (EL 6), one that would expend about 20% of the party's resources, would be overpoweringly difficult for an entire party of adventurers the same level as the hirelings (TPK).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Flaming, Freakin' Hell

Inspired by this image:

A man is terrorized by literal demons of hell. The observer of the scene could be his family, helplessly watching, or a passerby, related (by association or blood) or not, for some reason traversing the fiery realm (think Dante, but this is another type of hell, where those punished are not necessarily deserving of their torment - Dante at one point increased the suffering of a soul confined there and was praised for it).

The man is forced to his knees, his arms bound behind him or held out in the fashion of a cross (be it by small, gremlin-like demons or an obvious show of unseen power by the main tormentor - demon jedi mind trick).

Next to the man is a smoking brazier filled with burning coals. A large demon, standing 7 or more feet tall, with flaming red skin, black horns, bulging muscles, large fangs, and glowing, malevolent eyes stokes the coals, throwing a shower of embers into the air. The demon produces a wicked iron mask, the inside surface studded with half-inch long needles of iron, and pulls a length of red hot barbed wire from the bed of coals. He places the mask against the man's face and lashes it tight, winding the burning wire around his head several times. The man screams in agony. His body thrashes against the ground, eyes wide through the holes in the mask, but he is unable to resist. Smoke rises from the wire as it slowly cools against the blood dripping and running from the base of the mask.

The demon then grasps the man's neck in one massive, black-clawed hand and shoves his face into the coals. The screams pierce the air and the man violently shudders and spasms in vain against the awesome might of his captor as the mask glows ever brighter with the heat. With its other hand, the demon raises a dark chalice and, with an unholy supplication, pours the liquid across the back of the man's head. Instantly, the liquid bursts into flame and the demon releases his grasp. The man springs back from the brazier, rolling across the ground screaming, but no relief is to be found. His head is in flames as the scene fades to black.


Man that would suck. This is exactly the reason I like paladins. They exist specifically to defend against and defeat that kind of inhuman evil.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Blame it on Incompetent Corporate Monkeys

The reason I have not posted in the past few weeks is simple: I was fired from my job about then. Of course it was a wrongful termination and they are kissing my big fat butt until I get back to work tomorrow to avoid a lawsuit.

No work means no creativity (I work best (read: only) when I have a job and school taking up my time; go figure).

Ice Rocks Make Great Pets

Finally, I am still working on the Iron Heroes in Asgard adventure. Since I want it to be very memorable, I am taking my time and stealing only the best ideas.

What did I steal to prompt this post? The rock boss from Metroid Prime. You encounter it in the Phendrana Drifts right before you get the Spider Ball enhancement. I have not thought about stats yet (the Metroid boss has weak points that can only be seen with the infrared visor and, once breached with the charge beam, are destroyed with missile blasts) but obviously the thing is going to be big, strong, and tough as giant boulders of ice. I look forward to seeing what players think up when confronted with a disjoined series of floating boulders of ice orbiting an unseen, perhaps inconsequential point (i.e. no nexus of energy or brain or other vulnerable centralized command point in the midst of it all; it is just a point in space the rocks spin around).

Storms of razor ice and thrown boulders are obvious attacks, as are a pair of devastatingly powerful slam attacks (one of the rocks making up the creature's arm flies out and crashes into the victim or crushes him against the wall or the ground).

This makes me wish I had nicely painted miniatures.

Charisma is a dump stat?

I recently came across a Marshal class rewrite on the Wizards boards that has ensorcelled me (hah, I used ensorcell in a sentence). It combines the core marshal mechanic of auras (which I previously and unwittingly found quite suited to breaking the Diplomacy skill) with maneuvers from the Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords.

I have yet to put together even a first level Sublime Marshal, as it is called, but I have been assembling a mercenary band in my mind. It started when I got the Red Hand of Doom adventure and then found the Warmage and Healer classes from the same Miniature's Handbook as the original marshal. The marshal, warmage, and healer all utilize Charisma, though the healer has it as a secondary, rather than primary, stat. If you add a Bard and a Paladin, you have a five-member party that covers all four primary roles and adds a fifth, support character in the marshal (in a party with the typical Big Four (fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard), the usual support character in my mind is a Bard because his abilities add to each of the other four and he can step-in for one in a pinch; in this case, the marshal is not a particularly good support character in that respect but his abilities nonetheless complement this team).

None of this being set in stone, a primary idea is for the marshal to have leadership. I want the followers especially and have no idea what to get for a cohort (perhaps a monstrous cohort like a dragon mount).

Anyway, I have only put thought into the marshal and warmage, with a little healer action so far. The bard and paladin were afterthoughts when I discovered the charisma-based cleric substitute. Warmage helped out the plan for a mercenary party because, truth be told, the name suggests a paramilitary group better than does sorcerer.

I will probably post more as I get to it. However, if I follow the stricture of creating a party for Red Hand of Doom, I will have a ranger in the party. I do not want to create a party optimized for Red Hand of Doom but ever since I heard about the adventure I have had the idea for a Ranger with goblinoids and dragons as his favored enemies.

Invisible Touch

The first of 3 posts tonight. I am holding nothing back.

I already discussed how I get ideas from songs. I may have even mentioned this particular idea but I could not find it in a cursory search.

Some time ago, I saw an anime music video featuring the song Invisible Touch by Phil Collins paired with scenes from Elfen Lied and Neon Genesis Evangelion (and perhaps others). Obviously, the video took the 'invisible touch' lyrics literally and added a creepy, gory turn by making such a touch capable of amputating, beheading, and disembowling people. Just as a note, I refer to scenes in anime featuring excessive blood, gore, and disfigurement (such as eyes bulging or limbs twisting unnaturally) as "psycho horror."

Well, based on the song I had a similar idea and the video reinforced and transformed it. It exists only as a kernel within my mind, a single scene. A young woman possesses an invisible touch. Her hand (and perhaps any or all of her body) can phase through flesh and living matter (and maybe other substances). She can manipulate the phasing to the point that she can, as the song details, reach in and grab right hold of your heart. It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

In my mind, she was horrified by her ability and reluctant to use it, at least at first. While the thought of killing someone by literally crushing his heart in her hand repulses her to no end, in this particular scene she is left with no choice. Perhaps I should actually set the scene.

This woman, wearing a skin-tight white jumpsuit with silver designs reminiscent of something sci-fi, kneels next to a fallen soldier. The soldier's helmet has an open visor that reveals an unconscious, perhaps injured man's face. The woman recognizes him as a former close relation, perhaps a brother or lover. Standing over the woman is another man in a Captain Power-esque sci-fi outfit. He scans the surrounding area, wary of approaching hostiles. The background echoes indistinct shouts of warning and alarm. He looks down at the woman, his compatriot, and realizes that the enemy soldier is her relation (whatever it may be). The feeling is that the two animate characters are rebels or infiltrators of some sort. Their plan has gone awry and it is time to leave. However, the soldier, if revived, would be able to identify them. With a pained urging, he says, "You know what's at stake." She is hesitant, agonizing over a choice that is no choice at all. Summoning her strength, she pulls off her gloves, revealing nothing where hands should be. The soldier's body shudders convulsively as she reaches into his chest and grabs hold of his heart. She can hear his heartbeat thundering in her ears as plain as she can feel it pumping in her hands. As she squeezes, the soldier's eyes snap open. He is unable to mount any real resistance, and the scene fades to black as his breath slips away.

That is the scene, more or less. More of an exercise in conflicted feelings between love and duty.