Thursday, June 21, 2018

5e/GLOG Wizard: Order of Solar Geometers

In the beginning, Mother Sun measured out the heavens and the earth with Father Moon.

Some of the surviving depictions show her as a man, but why not? Mother Sun can assume any shape when the feeling seizes her.

The Ancient of Days by William Blake
She measured and partitioned the earth with a compass and a right angle. Father Moon double-checked her work, but that took several thousand years, and in the mean time some errors magnified themselves. Any first draft of code is riddled with typos and confunding logic that looked pretty good at 1 in the morning, but Mother Sun was impatient. She wanted to see the breasts of her creations rise and fall, to watch them use the convoluted jelly orbs she gave them to admire her handiwork. 

Today, the Solar Geometers travel around the known world, measuring plants and animals, categorizing and analyzing the spread of infections, and dropping balls of different weights from buildings, checking and rechecking, transcribing, publishing, working. Their traditional homes are the Equinoxes and Solstices of Bblyns, 4 shining towers to catch the rays of the 4 auspicious moments.

Understanding that a^2 + b^2 = c^2 allows you to rewrite the equation. Magic is intentionally unbalancing one side of an equation to produce something out of nothing, negate a process, or square root a giant. If 1 +1 = 3, and 3 +3 = 8, what can you do with the excess energy? 

The simpler the equation, the easier it is to unbalance. Magic effects often require extremely convoluted equations. (Try mathematically modeling a Fireball.)

Modeled off Arnold's rules but compatible with Skerples's adaptation.

Order of Solar Geometers

Perk: If you are casting with sunlight on you, your MD return to your pool on a roll of 1-4. 

Drawback: Every time you cast a spell without facing one of the four cardinal directions, you must Save or take [dice] penalty to (1d4): a) inventory slots b) HP c) damage d) skill checks for [dice] minutes. The world does not like making something out of nothing for you.

You start with a geometric compass, a magnetic compass, a right angle, and some fancy colored chalk.


1. Know the exact angle and distance to a point you can see.

2. Instantly count how many objects are in a pile.

3. Spells you cast may treat their point of origin as a circle you drew that you can see.

Solar Geometer Spell List:

1. Magic Missile*
R: 200' T: creature D: 0 
Target takes [sum] + [dice] damage, no Save. Your magic missile is a small wormhole. 

2. Congruence
R: 30' T: creature/object D: [dice] minutes
You alter a creature's or an object's shape and size to mimic that of another creature/object you can see. If 4 or more dice are invested, this spell is permanent.

3. Remeasure
R: 30' T: creature/object D: [sum] minutes
You correct [dice] physical anomalies (mutations and the like) on a creature. If 4 or more dice are invested, this spell is permanent.

4. Speak With Planes
R: Self T: planes D: [dice] rounds
Your brain warps to allow communication with localized representations of either length, width, depth, or time. They are neutral to your presence unless you have done some great favor for them or offended them. Length, width, and depth measure things by how much of a length, width, and depth the thing has relevant to the local direction of gravity and the local units of measurement. Time will let you view the last [dice] minutes in an area if you ask nicely.

5. Sunlust
R: 30' T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] rounds
Creatures that can see sunlight must Save or rush towards it.

6. Illumination
R: touch T: creature D: 0
A creature you touch has a sudden flash of insight or can make a Save against a confusing or befuddling effect.

7. Solar Flare
R: self T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] rounds
Creatures that can see you must Save or be blinded by a flash of sunlight.

8. Binding Ray
R: 100' T: creature D: [dice] rounds
One creature or object that you choose must Save or be struck by a 2-dimensional line, take [dice] damage, and be tethered to your index finger. The ray can "reflect" off of corners with angles ranging from 90 degrees to 180 degrees if the target is within range but not within sight. The line is invisible due to its two dimensional nature, but can be cut.

9. Sunkissed
R: touch T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] x 2 hours
Creatures (including yourself) that you touch are comfortable in temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, need half as much water for the duration, can't suffer from heatstroke, and can't be harmed by fires smaller than a torch.

10. Numbersect
R: 200' T: [dice] x 5' D: 0
Creatures or objects within the radius must Save or be divided into [dice] +1 sections of the same mass and similar shape as possible. 

Sidebar: Blinded
Blinded creatures cannot do anything that requires sight like reading. They automatically miss with ranged attacks and have a +5 penalty on melee weapon attacks.
If blinded creatures spend a round listening, they may make a ranged weapon attack with a +5 penalty, but only if their target is making noise and there isn't too much background noise.

Boy's surface: a representation of a one-sided surface in 3-dimensional space

Emblem Spells

11. Immolation
R: [dice] x 10' T: creatures D: [sum] rounds, concentration
All creatures within range must Save or take [dice]d4 heat damage each round. Small objects spontaneously catch on fire if flammable, and water boils away. You incandesce enough that creatures cannot perceive you. A creature reduced to 0 hit points by this spell is riven from within by shafts of sunlight and explodes, dealing [dice] damage to adjacent creatures.

12. Dimenopsia
R: touch T: creature D: [sum] rounds
You rob someone of their ability to perceive dimension. If they fail a Save against this spell, roll on the table below. If [sum] > 18, this is permanent.
1. The creature loses its ability to perceive or conceive of depth. It treats all things as if they were the same distance away.
2. The creature loses its ability to perceive or conceive of length. It cannot distinguish between two dowels of the same material and width but of different length, for example.
3. The creature loses its ability to perceive or conceive of width.
4. The creature loses its ability to perceive or conceive of time.
Alternatively, this spell can also be used to correct strong dimensional anomalies within a radius of [dice] x 10'.

Solar Geometer Mishaps
1. MD only return to your pool on a roll of 1-2 for 24 hours.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blinded for 1d6 rounds.
5. No depth perception for 24 hours.
6. An ally loses their ability to perceive any object with an angle less than 90 degrees for a day.

Doom of the Solar Geometer
1. Become two-dimensional for a day. Handy if you walk sideways, but watch out for winds.
2. You become adrift in time for what feels like an eternity. Roll 1d20. On an odd roll, you return that many hours in the past in a random, survivable spot 100 feet away from where you were in the past. On an even roll, you are catapulted that many hours to the future 100 feet in a survivable location) away from where you are going to be. After the number of hours stipulated in your temporal journey elapse, one of you vanishes.
Until then, there are two of yourself, and if anyone (including yourself) besides you becomes aware of that, 1d4 +1 paradox angels sent by Mother Sun arrive to exterminate both you's and anyone else in the vicinity.
3. You are reduced to a 1-dimensional point. Choose one of the four dimensions. You disappear, become an invisible, infinitesimally small dot, and are only able to view that dimension.

This doom can be avoided by obtaining the direct blessing of Mother Sun or by writing down every fundamental law of her world.

Gabriel's Horn - possesses infinite surface area but finite volume

5e: School of Solar Geometers

At 2nd level, when you choose this tradition, your spells interact differently with angles. Spells cast by you that require a ranged attack roll can reflect off of acute and right angles formed by straight lines of your choice, potentially around corners.

Starting at 6th level, you always know how high the sun is in the sky and which direction is west, even if underground. In addition, you may change fire damage to radiant damage when you cast a spell of 1st level or higher.

At 10th level, you learn how to split your spells. As a bonus action, when you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn't have a range of self, you can simultaneously expend a spell slot of the same level or higher (1st level for cantrips) to duplicate the spell.
This ability recharges after a short or long rest.

Beginning at 14th level, you regain hit points equal to your Constitution modifier when you start your turn with less than half your hit points if you are exposed to sunlight. This ability does not work if you are reduced to 0 hit points.

As always, feedback welcome! This is a wizard tradition I've had rattling around my skull for a long, long time.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Shadow Post: NOVUM ACERVO, Episode 1: Greenest in Flames

Greetings, friends.

This is a continuation of an effort to rewrite the motivations behind HotDQ (and HotDQ) completely, having some impact on the early adventure, but completely changing the endgame in Rise of Tiamat.

Last time, I reconsidered Severin Silrajin as a hopefully more interesting villain with a huge personal stake in both releasing Tiamat from her prison and destroying her and elevated Tarbaw Nighthill from an early quest-giver to a major antagonist (antihero?) who works on the PC's side for virtually the entire course of the adventure, provided things go his (and therefore Severin's) way.

Now, how do these changes affect Greenest in Flames? Not much. The real affect this will have on the adventure is shaping the major NPC's (Rezmir, Tarbaw, Frulam) perceptions of the characters and accordingly how they react later.

The Cult, as it exists in the adventure, is still very much the same in motivation and operation. Only Severin, Tarbaw, and a very few others know about the actual destiny of the Cult after it summons Tiamat.

Severin and Tarbaw reason that by building the Cult up, they can attract a large amount of mercenaries and generally depraved peoples, who all deserve to die, which they can then kill after successfully summoning Tiamat. They've created this huge organization dedicated to zealotry, greed, and evil, while carefully introducing/maintaining schisms that will be leveraged to destroy the organization from the inside out after drawing it into the open with help from Tarbaw's and the PC's eventual army. Because of this, the Cult on nearly every level will operate with much the same motivation. Every average cultist believes they're serving Tiamat and that the world is destined to be ruled by living dragons after humanoid civilization is shattered. A substantial minority (mostly middle level and a few high-ranking cultists) are still attached to the idea of dracoliches, but they've been appeased by the promise of loot and power for now (and intimidated by a few suspicious deaths).

Severin Silrajin has talked to a god, and gained the distinction of being the few beings in history to successfully lie to one. Tiamat can still grant power and witness events (with great effort) in her prison, but lacks the capability to parse a lesser being both physically and mentally. In game terms, this means that by bribing her jailors heavily, she can cast scrying at a divine level (which is unblockable unless countered by an artifact or other deity), but cannot cast detect thoughts on a being not in her realm. Her prison ostensibly prevents her from communicating with her worshipers in any way, but it's weakening. She's intelligent enough to detect or ferret out a lie when she hears one, but arrogant (oh so arrogant) enough, desperate enough, and greedy enough to be manipulated.

Severin, as one of his three magic items, wears an special armband - his personal fusion of a amulet of proof against detection and location and a ring of mind shielding. It's always invisible.

Anyways, on to Greenest! When last we saw it, it was being looted by a loosely organized pack of raiders. What's up with them?

The adventure hook for this entire campaign has the PC's being paid to deliver supplies/guard a caravan to Greenest. Later, the supplies/caravan just....*disappear(s)*, from what I can tell. In my first runthrough of this adventure, my PC's attached rope fuses to the barrels of lantern oil in the resupply caravan and Animal Handled the oxen pulling the caravan into charging at a mob of cultists. After the PC's jumped off, the caravan slalomed on some mud into a wall and ruptured, spilling burning oil slicks everywhere. Group 1 (G1) splashed several cultists in oil and created a fun terrain feature.

I like the idea of the resupply caravan because it provides two motivations: deliver the supplies for money and/or deliver the supplies to help the villagers. It also acts as a narrative anchor: the PC's will have to abandon (or destroy) it to avoid attracting attention as they move through the war zone of a town, but if they want payment or to help others, they've gotta go back to fetch it.

I'm going to move through the book in the order that things are presented now and make my suggestions.

General Features:

I like the whole dim light aesthetic, of flickering, bouncing shadows, and sudden snaps and pops that go along with burning buildings. The disadvantage on perception that goes along with that reinforces the uncertain nature of every corner.  

Most fires will probably come from a few buildings. Up to 20 feet away from those buildings, the lighting can count as bright. Characters should take 1d4 fire damage for every turn they spend in a square right next to a large fire, and anyone that enters a square of fire, moves through one (including forced movement!), or spends a turn in one takes 1d6 fire damage. 

The Stream: 
In the book, the stream is rarely more than 3 feet deep and has a gravel bottom. I recommend making it 5 feet deep with a 1 foot ford near the old tunnel that can be used to cross easily. The river requires a DC 10 Athletics check to ford, and characters in heavy or medium armor have disadvantage. An interesting point in the adventure with Group 2 (G2) was when they tried to throw a gnome paladin across. Even with the help action, they got a 5 total, and the gnome crit failed his swim check.
Anyone who fails the swim check is pulled 10 feet down the river, towards the center of Greenest. Anyone who crit fails the swim check starts drowning and must make death saves. Fording streams is serious shit, kiddos.

Important Characters:
Nighthill: Mentioned above and previously. Friendly for now.

Castellan Escobert (es-ko-BER) the Red: Droll dwarf who maintains the castle and who holds all the keys. He suspects something's up with Themberchaud and is going to die spectacularly because of this.

Frulam Mondath: Stays in the background and directs the raid. May or may not become vaguely aware of a group of adventurers depending on your players actions.

Langdedrosa Cyanwrath: Provides (as +Brandes Stoddard points out) a good emotional hook. will be connected with...

Lennithon: A dragon who serves as background furniture with a bite.

Linan Swift: A heroic commoner that may turn out to be an important ally. 

Random Encounter Table:

As the table currently stands, players have a 87.5% chance of encountering hostiles. The book says to roll for random encounters every 100 feet but never specifies how far it is to the keep; instead, it says the players have to move past 4 groups of raiders if they march forwards. 
The first encounter is not avoidable, and sets a group of 4 (the book assumes 4) players against 8 kobolds. The players get help from a named commoner (Linan Swift) with a spear, but have to protect 4 commoners (one for each player). The kobolds "assume the characters are cultists and ignore them to concentrate on killing the woman first, her family second." This "they're with us" mentality should only apply to other groups as long as the PC's don't let any kobolds escape to spread the word of the adventurers. If they do, cultists should attack them on sight and coordinate to ambush them. 

I think an opportunity is missed with Linan here. If she survives, I can easily see Tarbaw making her a local hero and raising her to a position of importance in his burgeoning counter-cult. I picture her as lady with dark skin and dark brown hair, average height, built like a brick. She has a quick wit, strong arms, can be occasionally snappish, and obsessively whittles.

This set of encounters features, on average, 7.5 (3d4) cultists and 18.5 (3d6+8 kobolds) against 4 "new" adventurers and Linan (if she survives) protecting at least 4 villagers. That's deadly, discounting all random encounters. It'll definitely teach the PC's that you can't fight through everything if it doesn't kill them, but the text doesn't offer ways or suggestions (not great considering this is marketed to people who've never DM'd or played before) to encourage non-stabby behavior. DM's, take note: remind players that Perception, Stealth, and Cha based checks exist. It'll save some meatgrinding and potential death/player boredom.
My suggestion is to reduce the number of kobolds in the initial encounter to 6: kobolds can take a hit before dropping, and the PC's resources won't be taxed as heavily. For the next encounters, I would scratch the 1d6 kobolds/1d4 cultists entirely and suggest a mix of not just enemies but enemy actions. The below table should be paired with the Encounters table, which I want to adopt for all random encounters in Greenest. 
1d10 Encounter Actions
  1. The enemy group is fighting over loot: any disparate groups in the encounter are battling each other. Kobolds versus cultists, cultists versus mercs (guards), acolytes and cultists versus mercs, kobolds versus mercs, or simply 3 v 3 for a group of 6 kobolds or cultists. Ambush drakes side with cultists over kobolds/mercs and acolytes over everyone else. The group should be scuffling but not fighting when the PC's hear them, but they will buddy up to kill PC's if attacked. PC's can also try to sneak around them or pose as cultists and pick a side, perhaps killing the losers or making some friends.
  2. Looting a house. Two enemies are keeping a lookout.
  3. The enemy group has spotted the PC's and presents itself at half strength. The visible half will hail the PC's and pretend like the PC's are also cultists while the other half circles behind the PC's for a surprise ranged attack, after which everyone closes for melee.
  4. Loud group that has the maximum number (i.e, 6 out of 1d6) in it and a lot of swag. Half are drunk on looted alcohol, which gives them disadvantage on Dex/Int saves, attack rolls, and Dex/Int checks. They're visibly burdened with bags, which they fight to protect.
  5. Wandering around, looking for loot.
  6. Group of enemies either torturing 1d6 townsfolk (if kobolds/mercs) or trying to convince them to join (if any cultists/acolytes). If the PC's do nothing/avoid the fight, the villagers will be taken as slaves by the mercs/kobolds or half of them will join the cultists/acolytes as new cultists, donning cultist armor and taking daggers. If the PC's attack, the mercs/kobolds hold half the townsfolk hostage while cultists/acolytes will try to persuade the townsfolk to attack the PC's. The PC's can of course try to persuade the townsfolk to join their side. 
  7. Looting dead villagers. One enemy keeping lookout.
  8. Group of raiders egging a newbie to kill a prisoner. Evens/odds to determine actions of newbie. If the new cultist kills the prisoner, the raiders give them a symbol of Tiamat and move off as a group. If the newbie won't, the raiders pin them down and execute both the prisoner and the inductee.
  9. Straight up looking for a fight. Small group ambushes, large group charges. Fights until 50% of the raiders are dead and then flees.
  10. Burning a house down with some commoners locked inside. Two raiders keeping lookout.
Encounters in the book:
1d8 Encounters
1: 6 kobolds 
2: 3 kobolds and 1 ambush drake (see appendix B) 
3: 6 cultists 
4: 4 cultists and 1 guards
5: 2 cultists and 1 acolyte* 
6: 3 guards and 1 acolyte* 
7: 1d6 townsfolk being hunted by raiders (roll a d6 to determine the raiding group) 
8: 1d6 townsfolk hiding 
* the acolytes have command prepared instead of sanctuary

Suggested alteration:
1d10 Encounters
  1. 1d8 kobolds 
  2. 4 kobolds and 2 ambush drakes (2 kobolds should ride an ambush drake!)
  3. 1d4 cultists and 1d4 newbies
  4. 1d4 cultists and 1 merc
  5. 1d4 newbies and 1 acolyte* 
  6. 1 mercs and 1d4 acolytes* 
  7. 1 ambush drake and 2 acolytes chasing 1d4 townsfolk
  8. 1d6 mercs fighting 1d6 townsfolk
  9. 1d6 townsfolk being hunted by raiders (roll a d8 to determine the raiding group) 
  10. 1d6 townsfolk hiding 
* the acolytes have command prepared instead of sanctuary

The book also introduces another interesting mechanic:
"Each time the characters retreat from an enemy group to avoid it, they run into 1d6 more townsfolk who are trying to reach the keep. For every four additional townsfolk in tow, the group must move past one more enemy group to reach the keep."

So if the players retreat from all 3 fights, they'll acquire an average of 10.5 people to protect, which means two more fights, which can add 7 more people, which means one more fight, which means another 3.5 people, for a total of 21 extra townsfolk in tow if the PC's manage to avoid every fight and 3 extra encounters for a total of 6 potential encounters (assuming average dice rolls) and 26 townsfolk (remember the family from the first encounter?) to keep safe. 

Holy balls, Batman. That's a lot of people. If the players make it through with no fights and bring in 26 people, the rules award 50 XP per NPC brought in safely. That's 1,300 XP: 433 per PC for a 4-person party (enough to level with minimal combat!), or 260 for a 5 person group. 

I would keep this mechanic, but remind the PC's that it'll be a Herculean effort to protect all these commoners even if they arm/armor all the ones capable of fighting. Try to suggest alternative solutions: hiding the commoners in a locked, barricaded house, have the commoners pretend to be cultists escorting the players as prisoners, etc. The PC's should still get the XP if they bring all those people back, it just doesn't have to be around the same time they're learning the controls/battling through the town.

And the night is still young!

G2 skipped the first "required" encounter and instead dumped the goods wagon outside the camp. Their biggest challenge was A) finding a good spot to cross and B) not dying. I threw a straight up fight at them for their first combat and an ambush (where they had to detect where the cultists were and flush them out) for their second. Their largest challenge was crossing the river on their way back. They snuck around the outside of the tower, slept a sentry, and created a dramatic fog cloud at the castle gates to enter through that almost got them shot.

A few notes on the book's map from the official errata: area 3 (bottom left corner) is the mill, while area 4 (bottom right) is the sanctuary. This cleared up a lot for me.

I have the stream running towards the mill going right to left (and the players entering from the right of the map), and the town being attacked from the top area because it has the most houses. I'd advise portraying the area behind the keep as "safer" when the cultists are really stalking the long grass, looking for easy pickings while attempting to prevent people from getting to the keep/avoiding determined resistance.

Escobert becomes a questgiver along with Tarbaw but doesn't even really have much of anything besides a nickname based on his hueg beard. I want him to have an expanded role. Over the night, if the PC's act like decent people, he should confide in them.

Right before the attack, Proctor Themberchaud, while making the rounds of the small towns under his jurisdiction, went up to the top of the tower with Tarbaw and several of Themberchaud's guards when Lennithon announced the raid with a breath weapon sally. Themberchaud ostensibly died in the very first strafe. However, Escobert went up to inspect the damage, and discovered an inconsistency in the stories he heard about the attack. In a version told by one of Themberchaud's guards (the one with straw-colored hair), that Escobert overheard as the guards put on battle armor in the guest chambers, straw-hair dived in front of Themberchaud and the lightning scorched his clothes. In a version told by Tarbaw to Escobert, Tarbaw dived in front of Themberchaud. Both of them have the burns to prove it, but neither mentions the other.

Have Escobert tell the PC's about this after their third outing, and give them a bit of time (maybe two outings) to investigate the guard. Escobert says he last saw the guard out on the walls fending off the dragon. If the PC's wait too long, they find the guard's body among the dead. Maybe he's dying. Anyway, if they get to him before he dies, he tells them that the initial lightning strike blinded the group. When his eyes cleared, Themberchaud was dead and Tarbaw was fine.

Tarbaw, who knew this was coming, shielded his eyes. The initial strike missed Themberchaud completely, so Tarbaw killed him with a firebolt. If the guard is asked to recall details or suspicious behavior, he recounts the following:

- Tarbaw was constantly looking around
- Another guard straw-hair didn't like had his visor down
- Visor-down and another guard stepped away from Themberchaud right before the attack hit
- The lightning scorch mark didn't really line up with Themberchaud's body

If the other guards are asked about this, if they're still alive, they corroborate straw-hair's story. Tarbaw invents excuses "I was on edge about the recent attacks.", "I couldn't see the lightning but it must've killed Themberchaud. I'd hate to contemplate the possibility that another person did it." "I'm beginning to wonder if we have any traitors in our midst..."

Before the night ends, Escobert will call the PC's to a room to tell them that he found something important. He has; it's a key that unlocks a closet hidden away behind a bookcase in the small library in which Tarbaw keeps a locked chest. This is insignificant, the fact that there's an icon of Tiamat on the lock is. The room Escobert leads the PC's to is an old extension that would have been a passage between the keep and the larger castle it was designed to be part of. It has hastily plugged up murder holes in the ceiling, one of which Tarbaw will stealthily uncover and then use to cast Crown of Madness on Escobert.

Shit goes down. Escobert may or may not be killed, and regardless of who survives the party may or may not go to Tarbaw, who's planted a cult symbol on any person in the keep the party earlier designated as suspicious to him. He'll suggest interrogating them ''and they'll have no reason to protest if they're innocent."

Lennithon will lackadaisically avoid blasting Tarbaw.

Next up is my take on the missions the party is more or less forced to go on if you run by-the-book.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

5e/GLOG Wizard School: Toxinist

When the first dark clouds rolled over the verdant peninsulas of Bblyns and Wwyns, nobody knew quite what to expect. Later, after feet of thick, choking ash fell from the sky, and the giant-corpses shoveled the smothering crust off the earth it clung to, people shrugged and continued their everyday lives. Small rashes and minor sicknesses were attended to, and the offending ashes were dumped, compacted, and watered down.

The next harvests were puny and blighted, scrawny things rotting on the vine. This, too, was accepted, a symbol of what was becoming an unusually harsh winter. Belts tightened, the lines outside granaries became longer, and faces tightened with hunger.

But when the first snows melted and spring grazed the rooftops, the farmers of the Three Cities began to sicken and die. Not quickly, either, but slowly. Skin peeling from throats worn hoarse by rambling, feet and hands reduced to blackened stumps. Hours upon hours of dry heaving, accompanied by bloody discharges from the rear.

Additionally, most all plants, trees, and crop sprouts began to wither.

Daniel Kyle

Cities and towns anxious for their agricultural supplies called for hosts of wizards and priests to cure the land. Gradually, the blight's origin was fixed as the asheaps, and to have been transported across the land by underground rivers.

Wizards, drawing forth strange compounds from the freshly dead, convened. Sealed glasses of exotic substances were exchanged, examined, weighed, tested, bought and sold.

You can apparently buy these online

The wizards who specialize in diagnosing and removing these substances from people, animals, plants, and soil are called toxinists. Some are employed by city councils to monitor levels of dangerous substances in groundwater, or by farmer's guilds as insurance against ashfalls. 

The GLOG version of this class is directly based on Arnold's rules, but is designed with an eye towards Skerples's wizard guide.

Toxinist Convocation:

Perk: You can safely handle, transport, and test for dangerous minerals and metals. You start with some thick, impermeable gloves, a face mask designed to filter out poisonous fumes, a delicate set of chemical equipment, and 2d10 glass flasks. You can also cast spells without hand gestures.

Drawback: Can only cast spells while wearing your gloves. If your gloves are ever lost or ruined, you'll need to spend an exorbitant sum in the nearest city to repair them or commission a new pair. A pair of hardy gloves (dwarven forge mittens, alchemist's gloves) may work in a pinch, but require you to Save vs Dex every time you cast a spell or suffer a Mishap.

A quality pair of gloves takes up an inventory slot. However, they'll let you handle acids, quicksilver, poisoned objects, and glowing tongs comfortably. They'll also provide bonuses to climbing slippery surfaces or handling greased objects.

David Beck
Elder toxinists will have staves made entirely of glass instead of a single glass crystal embedded in wood

1. Produce a small amount of cleaning fluid.

2. Determine the amounts and types of [level] toxic substances in 1 target, with most lethal substances given priority. The target may be a creature, a plant, or a patch of soil. 

3. Instantly bring a pot of water to a boil.

Chu Shie
Wrist protection is also important
Toxinist Spell List:

1. Magic Missile*
R: 200' T: creature D: 0 
Target takes [sum] + [dice] damage, no Save. Your magic missile smokes and glints like white phosphorus. 

2. Gasmask**
R: Touch T: Piece of cloth of [dice] square feet D: [dice] hours
When held over the mouth, the affected material provides immunity to airborne toxins.

3. Bezojar
R: Touch T: [dice] toxins inside 1 creature or plant D: indefinite
Purges the target of [dice] number of harmful substances, curing the target of any sicknesses or effects related to the substance. The substances are distilled and collected inside a glass jar. 
The container can hold [sum] samples of toxins (determined when the spell is first cast) before it can't be used for this spell anymore. The jar can be thrown like a rock, doing [dice] damage and forcing a living target to Save against all toxins stored within. Larger glass containers may be able to hold more samples. 
If this spell is used on a venomous or unwilling creature, they can Save to resist its effects. 

4. Hypochondria
R: 30' T: [sum] creatures D: [dice] rounds
Creatures of your choice must Save or believe that they are afflicted with a deadly poison. Ill creatures may get a penalty to the save, at the DM's discretion.

5. Sterilize**R: 20' T: [dice] objects D: 0
Toxins and infectious agents are violently removed from the object(s).

6. Glasswarp
R: Touch T: [dice] objects D: [dice] hours
Glass objects that you touch bend or flex. Windows expand to fit frames, shrink and fall out, or shatter into glass daggers. You can use this to put a small, broken jar back together (or potentially larger items if you invest more dice), but you must Save vs Int if you wish to collect the contents of the jar (assuming they're close to the jar) in the jar as you reform it.

7. Rites of Cleansing**
R: Touch T: Person D: [dice] charges
Target gains advantage on saves against poison, possession, and disease.

8. Trifurcate Arms*
R: Touch T: self D: [sum] rounds
For the duration of the spell your arms split into three identical copies, moving independently with all the dexterity and strength of your normal limbs. You gain +2 to Strength, can carry multiple weapons or work with multiple tools at once, and take a -2 penalty to Wisdom for the purposes of Initiative.

9. Vacuum
R: 20' x [dice] T: [sum] objects or creatures D: indefinite
Containers of sufficient hardiness have all air removed from them until they are opened. This spell affects creatures of your choice with HD < = [dice]. If you cast this spell on [sum] creatures, it requires concentration, and they must Save or begin to suffocate. When they successfully Save, they can breathe again. 
If this spell is cast on an air elemental, the elemental is paralyzed for the duration. If 4 or more dice are used, the elemental must Save or die.

Sidebar: Suffocating
If a PC is suffocating, they remain conscious for a number of rounds equal to their Con modifier. While suffocating, their speed is halved, they cannot move faster than a walk, and they have a +5 penalty to everything. An affected creature can't do anything that requires air, like talk or cast spells. 

If a suffocating creature hasn't gotten to air after [Con mod] rounds, they fall unconscious and must Save vs death. On a success, they stay alive another round, but must roll on a brain damage table (something to write up). If the PC still hasn't reached air at the end of that round, they die.

Obviously, creatures that don't need air are unaffected, though air may still be drawn out of them. What does one do with the last breath of a lich, taken 257 years ago, freshly drawn from their lungs? Use it as a magical ingredient, of course. 

(Curiously enough, casting this spell on a Fat Fox Wizard won't cause them to suffocate, but will prevent them from casting spells.) 

10. Envenom
R: Touch T: [dice] weapons D: indefinite
You apply poisons, toxins, or minerals that you have on hand to [dice] melee weapons, which last for [dice] attacks. If you wish to target [dice] ranged weapons you may instead coat [sum] ammunition. Toxins on ammunition disappear after the ammunition is expended.

David Simons

Emblem Spells

11. Genie in a Bottle
R: 100' T: 1 creature D: A year and a day
A creature of HD < [sum] - [dice] must Save or be trapped in a sealed container of your choosing. While trapped, the creature is sleeping, and does not require anything to survive. If the container breaks or is opened, the creature is released. Creatures that have been trapped in this manner before gain a -4 bonus to their Save, and you may only have one creature at a time trapped in this way.

12. Farmer's Boon
R: [dice] miles T: Land D: Indefinite
You purify the earth of toxins and mutating agents. Horrific abominations sprung from toxic exposure (say, mercury sprites) of HD < [dice] must Save or die. Depending on the season, the land may be instantly ready for planting.

Bonus spells that didn't make the cut!
Eskelion's Faux Cure
R: 30' T: [sum] creatures D: [dice] minutes
All creatures suffering from a disease, toxin, heavy metal, or any similar substance have their symptoms (conditions) removed or reversed for the duration. This does not prevent poison damage, ability score reduction, or other equally horrific effects, and will not work on Save vs death toxins. Creatures reduced to 0 HP by toxins or disease will fall unconscious but remain stable until the spell expires.

Skin of Toad
R: Touch T: 1 creature D: [dice] rounds
Target creature becomes slimy and deals [sum] / [dice] damage to creatures that hit its skin with a melee attack or grapple it.

1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. An ally within 50' of you must Save or become violently sick.
5. The most dangerous container you possess breaks.
6. Rations and deadly toxins switch purposes for you for 24 hours. The more lethal/nutritious the substance, the more filling/harmful it is.

Doom of the Toxinist
1. Any glass you possess turns hostile for 24 hours, and will inconvenience you however it can.
2. You gain a randomly determined and fatal allergy that you don't know the specifics of.
3. You are grotesquely sucked into the nearest small empty container over the course of a round. Your body compresses, wrenches, and snaps as necessary to fit inside the container.

This doom can be escaped by categorizing every toxic substance in Creation or by seeking out and defeating the Lords Realgar, Cinnabar, Galena, and Chromite.

Spell lifted from Skerples.
** Spell lifted from Dan.

OSR Design Notes
Designing a wizard school for the GLOG is harder than I expected, largely because I've never worked in any system besides 5e before. Balancing spells was perhaps the trickiest thing, though not for lack of spells to compare my creations against. The cantrip list underwent several revisions. One cantrip became a spell and vice versa after I worried over the power levels. All said and done, some of these spells may still be too powerful, even as niche spells.

Despite that, I think this is a decent whack at a wizard. This school offers some pretty decent crowd control, especially at higher levels. No outright damage barring envenomed weapons or magic missile, but a creative Toxinist won't have any trouble finding ways to inflict or prevent suffering. Besides, this is the only school that could conceivably line up jars of lethal substances on a bar and then down them like shots. Some rather brutal dooms and mishaps, but the Toxinist gets some very powerful spells.

Janice Chu
5e: School of Toxinists

Mithridates's Pupil
Beginning at 2nd level, you have resistance to poison damage, and when you sample an unknown substance to determine its composition and effects, you have advantage on your saving throw.

Snake Oil
At 6th level, you learn the spells protection from poison and poison spray, if you did not already know them already. When you cast protection from poison spell on a creature, you may extract a poisonous substance from a creature into a container instead of neutralizing the substance. 
In addition, poison spray's range increases to 20 feet for you, and a target of poison spray takes half damage on a successful Constitution save.

Starting at 10th level, you discover the secrets of grung skin. As an action, you begin to sweat a noxious toxin from your pores. For 1 minute, every creature that grapples you or hits you with a melee attack must make a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or be poisoned for the duration of this ability.
This ability recharges after a long rest.

Spirometric Master
Beginning at 14th level, you gain the ability to store airborne toxins inside your body. As a reaction to a sudden spewing of poison (like a green dragon's breath weapon), you may vacuum up the toxin into your lungs. You are immune to this poison. 
You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution modifier, but then must exhale the stored toxin in a 30 foot cone. Any creatures in the cone's area of effect must save as per the original save or be affected by the toxin. 
You regain the use of this ability after a long rest.

5e Design Notes
This went a hell of a lot faster, probably because I'm used to this. I don't feel like this wizard is too situational because 5e wizards have access to a heap of spells. Besides, any situation in which someone is incentivized to try all the unknown potions is a fun situation. I also don't believe in any ability that nullifies an important part of the system. "Immunity to X damage type" for example. Resistance is fine, but poisons and their effects should always be a threat to any toxinist. 

Combined Design Notes
Designing the same supposed subclass/school in two very different systems has given me an appreciation for the feel of the GLOG and 5e. These two versions will play differently because of their placements. 5e wizards can afford to have niche abilities because they have so many other tools at their disposal. GLOG wizards need all the survivability they can get, which lends itself to a (depending on the school) pragmatic spell list. 

Overall, 5e offers deeper system complexity inside a narrower viewpoint. With so many spells at a default wizard's hands, the system asks you to clearly differentiate your wizard from all the other wizards out there. In essence, how can I design a subclass that has tools which set it apart from a wizard who can focus on the spells that dovetail with my subclass's feel? What makes a conjurer different from a wizard who likes conjuring things and who relies on conjuration spells in battle?

In other words, 5e subclasses incentivize players to pick them because they offer unique features unobtainable anywhere else in the game that reward a certain playstyle (the subclass's flavor) within the class as a whole. GLOG wizard schools do the same thing, but differently.

GLOG schools have much less of a shared pool in common with each other. Granted, spells like Light or Magic Missile may be a mainstay because of their usability, but the freedom the GLOG offers to sketch out your idea within the wizard mechanics is breathtaking. The Toxinist has some spells no wizards will ever deign to use, and its emblem spells are forever removed from the grasp of other wizards (or so it seems to be assumed. Part of good game design is intentional rulebreaking.) 

Point being, the wizard "class" is mechanics, with absolutely no flavor or spell selection. Instead of dipping into a vast wellspring, GLOG wizards search after a very small, very personal selection of spells. 

In 5e, the wizard "flavor" is largely accomplished through subclass choice. In the GLOG, wizard flavor is accumulated through their spells, cantrips, starting equipment, perks and drawbacks, mishaps, and dooms. The difference here is inherent flavor versus given flavor. 

5e wizards already have the most spells in the game, so the personality of each individual spell is somewhat diluted. Yes, you can choose lightning bolt. So can everyone else once they hit level 5. What makes you special besides lightning bolt?

In earlier editions of D&D, wizards had opposed classes that forced them to pay more spell slots for opposition spells, shrinking spell lists and condensing concepts. This reductive approach is more evident in 5e's sorcerer (Expanded Spells), warlock, the ranger redux, and paladin. All four of these classes have a somewhat small spell list, and all four of these classes (with the exception of the warlock) gain more spells through their subclass. Warlocks gain more spell options, but not spells.

It feels good to be given things. When I get access to a healing spell as part of the 5e Favored Soul sorcerer reboot, that's awesome. It sucks that sorcerers will only ever know 15 spells, so new spells are huge.

The wizard, though, gets none of this. Clerics and Circle of the Land druids, the other two full casters with the least overlap on the wizard's turf, get a list of spells to emphasize their domain. Bards get bonus spells period.

Every half-caster and full caster in 5e, with the exception of the wizard and bard, gets an expanded spell list in some latest version of 5e drafts or the PHB. Why not the wizard? Why not add that additional touch?

The strength of the 5e wizard lies in their flexibility, in their ability to discover spells, learn them, and prepare an ever-increasing number of spells. It seems odd to limit wizard subclasses ideologically to subclass features when expanded spell lists come to so strongly define the flavor of other subclasses.

The GLOG clearly delineates each wizard school by creating individual everything for the school. In addition, it's easier to innovate and balance inside the GLOG. Creating 5e spells is acrobatic, because letting certain subclasses have certain spells (like the Theurge) upsets the healing economy, to give one example. The GLOG avoids this easily.

In terms of system preference, I still understand 5e better. I've never used the GLOG. I'll try it, though, because while there may be comparatively tight constraints on what GLOG classes can do compared to 5e classes and on the complexity of GLOG spells, I don't have to struggle to give a subclass a distinct feel.

Critiques and feedback welcome. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Shadow Post: Remaking Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Attention, my players: if ever you come across my blog and see something entitled "Shadow Post", that means it is about a campaign I am running and not to be read. I can't stop you, but you'd spoil the fun for yourself.

Anyway. The blog isn't going dark, I just went through a major life transition. Posts will probably be more infrequent.

Thanks to Power Score

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

This adventure is one of two parts that ends with the players confronting Tiamat herself (or not, if they work together) at level 15. It's intended to introduce new players and potentially new DM's to D&D. It's.....okay at that. I've run it before and I'm about to run it again, but this time I'm taking advantage of Volo's Guide to Monsters and plawt twists to improve it. 

Oh yes, major spoilers ahead. 

The adventure is divided into 8 episodes: Greenest in Flames, Raider's Camp, Dragon Hatchery, On the Road, Construction Ahead, Castle Naerytar, Hunting Lodge, and Castle in the Clouds.

From the episode titles, you can already divine the basic narrative flow: burning village to tracking down raiders, something with dragons, travel to Castle Naerytar and a hunting lodge, and a confrontation in a cloud castle. 

Greenest in Flames: A town is being destroyed by cultists! Wat do?

Raider's Camp: Follow the cultists to their camp and investigate. Try to blend in/not die.

Dragon Hatchery: A misnomer: there are no dragons here. Only a lot of dragon eggs lying around (no dragon hatchlings, even) and a lot of kobolds/cultists/monstrosities.

On the Road: Pursue the main villyan! Spy on cultists along way.

Construction Ahead: Mostly detective work and a surprisingly dangerous random encounter.

Castle Naerytar: Villyan base reached! Destroy with extreme prejudice. 

Hunting Lodge: The main villyan has escaped! Follow them!

Castle in the Clouds: Giants, dragons, and vampires, oh my. Thwart the villyan!

My new group (they haven't cohered enough to be a real group) are busy with saving Greenest right now. `

I'm going to look at the background that's provided in the game book and alter it to offer a more interesting look into the relationships between the major players. 


"Severin was a young Calishite member of the Cult of the Dragon, inspired by Tiamat. Severin carefully reread the version of Maglas's Chronicle of Years to Come--translated by Sammaster as "naught will be left save shattered thrones with no rulers, but the dead dragons shall rule the world entire..."--and ultimately came to believe that the correct translation was "naught will be left save shattered thrones, with no rulers but the dead. Dragons shall rule the world entire...", a translation that many sages believed correct but heretical with respect to Sammaster's words. Thus the beings that should be the targets of their devotion were not dracoliches, but living dragons. Armed with this new conviction, Severin decided he needed to meet and speak to a living dragon.

He went to Mintarn, to the lair of the famous dragon Hoondarrh. Severin managed to befriend the terrible dragon, impressing both Tiamat and his fellow cultists. Thus Tiamat gave him a scrap of knowledge about the dragon masks. Severin discovered the whole history of the dragon masks and in long years of travel he recovered all five masks. These he gave to his most trusted friends, and saved the red dragon mask for himself. With a reputation gained from this search, Severin quickly rose through the ranks of the Cult until he became the main leader."

- Forgotten Realms Wiki

So Severin is a young man who, it's assumed, falls in with cultists and retranslates a text that had been translated by a mad wizard. His translation is the better one and he has a new purpose: conquer the world with living dragons instead of devoting vast resources and time to creating dracoliches. Sounds vastly more sensible than the proposal by a certified insane archmage. 

This is what he tells others. He's a charismatic and intelligent young man. Powerful but affable, with just the right touch of apathetic cruelty to temper his burning ambition. People tell themselves they like him because they want him to like them, because they sense the passion within him and are drawn to it as moths to a flame.

He hates all of them. Every single arrogant, sniveling, evil one. 

Severin is a Amnian, who grew up in the nation of Amn. As a child, he eked out a paltry existence with his mother and father, walking miles for water that did not carry a toll or a barely affordable education under a distant wizard. His mother, the strong one, worked the blacksmith shop and kept the family coffers soluble. His father, a crippled soldier, was a storyteller, who recited and memorized epics on the local stage and secretly worked on a poem of his own, a story of life, love, and acceptance after humiliating injury. 

The local village council, never competent, forgot to pay the garrison one month. The soldiers shrugged, packed up their kits, and left, taking a couple of children with them as currency. 

A local group of bandits, recently subjugated by a blue dragon, ambushed and killed most of the garrison. The survivors agreed to join the bandits and the children were fed to the dragon as a goodwill offering. 

Several days later, the soldiers returned to the town. They understood that the town had fallen on hard times, and laughed away the payment offered. They'd stay for good now, especially considering what happened to those poor children. What happened to their captain? Oh, he had been killed by some bandits. 

That night, the soldiers let the bandits in, and the calm starlight was rent by lightning. Howling bandits adorned with shed sapphic scales and crude wooden dragon masks stalked the villagers, killing the adults and netting the children as the dragon Lennithon soared above, toppling buildings and pinning resisters down with dragonfear. 

Severin watched this all from the balcony of the wizard's house, several miles away, and when the old woman refused to help him, pushed her down a flight of stairs, breaking her neck.

Severin sifted through the ashes of his town, recovering his father's cane and half-finished poem and his mother's blackened skull. He tracked the bandits back to their rough huts outside Lennithon's warrens and was captured by a patrol. He killed two of them before they trapped him in a net. The young man woke up staring into the eyes of a dragon, as food. He begged for his life, demonstrating his limited magical capabilities, and the dragon spared him.

Severin began to work his way into the dragon's trust and started to plan out his revenge when Lennithon revealed to him the existence of a larger body - the Cult of the Dragon. He swore a blood oath over his mother's bones and his father's cane that very night to destroy both the cult that killed his family and the callous mercenaries that abandoned his town. 

On his first raid, he found another boy, slightly older, who nearly skewered him. Severin spared him and his parents, and explained what he was trying to do. Tarbaw Nighthill agreed to plot an elaborate revenge against the depredations of the cult and the evils of money.

Over the years, he carefully crafted a cover identity, and after seeing the poverty and corruption of the cities, decided to destroy chromatic dragons and all mercantile oligarchy. He learned that the god of greed and chromatic dragons was trapped in the Nine Hells.

Now he seeks to free her so she can crush and loot the richest cities in the world, and then destroy her along a powerful force of heroes, Tarbaw, and metallic dragons. The world is better off without greed, he reasons, and he needs a champion to act as a foil to his projected grand evil.

Tarbaw is grateful to Severin for sparing him and also for letting him play the hero. He also believes the cities are horrid, filthy places, and rationalizes that the utter destruction of decadence is worth a few thousand innocent lives, as so many more will be saved from the addiction of gold and meaningless pursuit of grandiloquence.

Tarbaw seeks out small to middling to communities and gains their leadership through even means if he can. Then Severin has a detachment of cultists attack, and Tarbaw rallies the residents against the evil dragons and cruel mercenaries. He takes a grim pleasure in personally killing for-hire soldiers and slavers. 

Their search for an appropriate place has led them to the old base of the Cult of the Dragon: the Well of Dragons. With the Greenfields so close to the Well of Dragons and Amn, Tarbaw has decided to convert the region while Severin quietly subjugates the rest of the cult, assassinating the old guard that intractably believes in Sammaster's words and fending off challenges to his power. 

To this end, Tarbaw rose to become the village elder of a small town named Arkady. After fending off some cultists, he leveraged his victory to become a provincial governor after the old one passed away. Proctor Themberchaud runs the entire pastoral region under the nominal authority of Elturel, and Severin has ensured that the most terrifying raid yet will take place when Themberchaud visits. If Themberchaud dies in the conflict, perhaps Tarbaw can assume his place...

That's both an oddly specific and incredibly vague backstory, but more compelling than the "evil guy", I think. On the next post I'll cover how this will affect the specifics of HotDQ: Greenest in Flames and Raiders' Camp.