Friday, March 1, 2019

OSR Class: Warlock

Edit 7/26/19: changed random spell rolling from 2d6 to 1d12.

Fighters cleave with merciless metal. Clerics/mystics create displays to further their gods. Druids scrabble and tangle, loosening the hardpack foundation of civilization. Wizards...do wizardly things.

Warlocks?

A soul is a piddly, wretched thing. It animates a single fleshy shell and then weeps after death while being plucked away like a wet dishrag in a tornado. A soul is worth more than molochian vaults of spoils and less than the freshest, most succulent of the apple crop.

What, then, defines the worth of a soul? Why do some people write off the ephemera within in exchange for cryptic messages, debt-infested spells, and byzantine demands? Why do strange beings accept these souls?

Karlos Warlock

A commonly said aphorism holds that success is being in the right place at the right time. Something that is not so commonly said holds that the soul is a reflection of oneself, waxing and waning with its blood-soaked glove.

Tyrants, archmages, bishops, serial killers - each of these have powerful souls. Junkies, misers, gluttons - these have weak, fluttering things, tethered to their body like a butterfly pinned to a starched shirt.

As your life is what you make of it, so is your soul. Power without equals power within. All souls begin equal, but all souls end up extremely different. Discerning patrons have a knack for determining the potential of a given soul. Potential is a sort of spiritual cryptocurrency in the otherworlds, waxing and waning with the current apocalyptic chance. It's unreliable and potentially useless, but those otherworlders who desire a way out of the typical power structure try to hoard and nurture sources of potential. Occasionally Requiem hangs in the balance.

Every warlock makes a pact, and every pact is inscribed on two places: the surface of the warlock's brain and their patron's personal record. Warlocks of exceptional puissance find the inside of their skulls engraved with a negative of their pact, and the details of a pact can be inferred from an intact warlock skull.

If you are a warlock, you are probably desperate, impulsive, and have no positive qualities except for determination. You're going to be a wonderful tool.

Warlock Class

Starting skills and equipment will vary for each warlock.

New GLOG spellcasting mechanic along with [sum], [dice], and [best]: [Size], which represents the [size] of the dice.

Boon: Some bonus your patron gives you. Leaves a mark if you know where to look.

Favors: Small magic much like orisons or cantrips.

Goals: What the patron wants, and how hard it will push its warlocks to achieve them.

A: +1 Credit, Debt, Obligations
B: +1 Credit, Sacrifice
C: +1 Credit, Beseech
D: +1 Credit, Patron's Gift

Credit is the power your patron lets you borrow, represented by d6's. The maximum number of Credit dice you can borrow per spell is determined by your number of warlock templates.
If you roll any doubles while casting a spell with Credit, you gain +2 Debt. If you roll triples, gain +3 Debt. If you roll quadruples, gain +4 Debt. If you have MD from another source, these MD can also trigger Debt gain if you cast with Credit.
If you cast a spell with only 1 Credit, you gain +1 Debt when you roll the top 2 numbers of your Credit dice. (e.g 3-4 on 1d4, 5-6 on 1d6, 7-8 on 1d8, etc)

Debt is the ineffable thing you owe your patron for lending you its power. For every 2 points of Debt you possess, the size of your Credit is decreased by one. d6->d4->d2->0. If you accrue more than 6 points of Debt, your patron will simply kill you in some instant, hideous fashion and collect on your soul, no save.
Performing an Obligation removes 2 Debt.

Obligations are what you must complete to pay off your Debt. All accrued Debt must be removed before you can gain the benefits of the next Warlock template, including hit points. Obligations range from a small task to an entire adventure. Obligations reflect the patron's desires and can range from a bloody sacrifice to delivering a hostage.

Sacrifices are temporary and damaging but can help boost the power of your spells. As you cast a spell, you can deal xd6 damage to yourself with a small one-handed weapon. For every 3 points of damage you take, every Credit dice invested in the spell being cast increases by one [size] category. You can never increase a die's [size] more than 3 times.
If you use a Sacrifice to power a spell that requires concentration, you cannot regain the lost hit points until the spell ends.
If you drop yourself to 0 hit points while Sacrificing to your patron, the spell succeeds (unless it requires concentration), but you gain a Fatal Wound in an area of your choice.

Beseech your patron for help if you’re in a tight corner, and they'll probably send it. The form of help is dependent on how much they like you at the moment (accumulated debt) and what the patron considers help. You must be able to speak to do this. Always accumulates +3 Debt.

Patron's Gift is a permanent beneficial mutation that reflects the strength of the bond you've established with your patron and marks you somewhat like a dog collar. Patrons cannot revoke this gift, and each patron gives a different gift.

You can use scrolls or wands like a wizard can.

Roll 1d12, rerolling duplicates, to get your starting spells. For every warlock template you gain, you choose one spell and gain one spell randomly.

Becoming a Warlock to escape Dooms
Patrons will gladly accept wizards and such as warlocks on a one-to-one basis. When a wizard become a warlock, they must undertake tasks for their patron before gaining access to all of a Warlock's powers.
Mechanically speaking, prospective warlock converts work by two simple formulae: 1 Doom = 3 Debt, and for every wizard template you have, you gain a warlock template. This Doom Debt does not reduce the size of your Credit dice. You also lose all your old Wizard features except for a number of spells of your choice equal to the number of Wizard templates you had.
Prospective warlocks have access to Credit, (and can gain Debt as usual) but all Debt must be paid off before the new warlock is able to cast Favors, Sacrifice, Beseech, gain their patron's Boon, or gain their Patron's Gift.

Warlock Multiclassing
You can’t take/have another template (WITH ONE EXCEPTION) in another spellcasting class of any sort unless you get out of your pact. Knights, Fighters, Barbarians, etc, are fine.
If you are a Sorcerer and you wish to bind your godly magics (why would you do this) you may make a pact. Thereafter, when you roll doubles, triples, and quadruples, you gain Debt instead of exploding or the like, and your dice (regular and Instability) decrease as if they were Credit. If you ever accumulate 6 or more Debt, your patron will withdraw their stabilizing influence and you will roll on the worst Mishap table possible with a number of d6’s equal to your current Debt. Patrons love sorcerer warlocks; they make their own power and act like conceited mobile nukes.

Example Patron:

Old Scratch

Russell Michelich

Starting equipment: a forked dagger, 1 dose of some good drugs, a reactionary pamphlet, and a good pair of walking boots. Fiddle optional.

Boon:
If you sacrifice a creature with HD greater than 2 times your warlock templates, you ignore the effects of Debt on your next spell. Tears of blood fall from your eyes at random intervals.

Favors:
You can cause blood or other bodily fluids to appear on things by touching them. You can delay this appearance for up to an hour.
You and your possessions are unharmed by any fires smaller than a campfire.
You can see through the eyes of goats that you’ve touched as long as you know where they are. One at a time.

Goals:
Old Scratch desires the ruination of all established organizations and a world full of the natural state of man - nasty, brutish, impulsive. No societies, no chains. He is kind when he senses weakness and an absolute tyrant once he ensnares a soul.

Obligations: (1d8 + 1d8)

1d8
Sacrifice 2 x [Debt] creatures consumed with
Corrupt [Debt] creatures into practicing relentless
Lure [Debt] creatures infested with another sin into also practicing
Form a mob of 6 x [Debt] creatures to lynch a target who you accuse of
Smear [Debt] upstanding, powerful creatures with false evidence of
Blackmail [Debt]/2 influential creatures into committing an act of
Inflame a murderous rivalry in 3 x [Debt] creatures over an act of
Convince [Debt] mothers to kill their innocent children. Do not roll on the below table.

1d8:
Wrath
Sloth
Envy
Pride
Gluttony
Roll twice and do both. Reroll 6’s.
Greed
Lust

Patron’s Gift:
If you somehow survive the tasks Old Scratch saddles you with, your body spasms and cracks as you grow a lizard tail and goatly horns from your forehead, you feet fuse and split into hooves, your eyes burn yellow, and your skin darkens to red. In exchange for this transformation, your skin cannot be broken by refined metals. Typical executions of your ilk usually involve inventive ways of pulping or drowning human-sized targets.

Spells:

Fireball
R: 200’ T: 20’ diameter D: 0
Objects and people take [sum] damage.

Smell Sin
R: sight T: [sum] creatures D: concentration
By focusing your attention on a creature, you can smell [dice] sins it embraces and has committed most recently. Greed is a stench of rotting wood and old locks, burlap bags and musty hiding spots. Wrath is the coppery smell of blood and oiled steel. Sloth is the smell of piss saturated sheets and room temperature beer. Envy smells delicious.

Monsterize*
R: touch T: creature D: 10 min
Target saves or becomes a horrible monster version of itself. Monsters get +1 HD (+4 max HP, +1 to hit, +1 to save). Player characters have their Strength raised to 15 (unless it was already higher). The target also flies into a rage, and becomes incapable of tactics, kindness, or retreat, even if urged by friends.

Invert Speech
R: 10 x [dice] radius T: [sum] creatures D: [dice] minutes
Targets in the radius of this spell must Save or either perceive all writing within range or all conversation as saying the opposite of what is intended. Words and tone will be twisted as subtly as possible.

Flay
R: 100’ T: [dice] creatures D: 0
Creatures of your choice with [HD] greater then or equal to [dice] take [sum]/2 damage and have their skin (should they have skin) removed and fall at their feet. Save for half. If this kills a creature, their skin is neatly pinned to the nearest flat surface.

Socialize
R: 0 T: self D: [dice] hours
You are clad in the typical garb of the region. 1 [die] gets you the lowest form of clothing. 2 [dice] gets you robes of the middle class or equivalent. 3 [dice] gets you noble clothing. 4 [dice] is truly sumptuous clothing. You also gain the ability to judge social status accurately from unfamiliar clothing while the spell is active.

Look!
R: 10 x [dice] radius centered on you T: [sum] creatures D: 0
You point and shout at something oh god what is that. Save or look. If 3 or more [dice] are invested, creatures may actually believe they see something.

Murderer’s Hands+
R: 30’ T: [size] creatures D: [sum] minutes
Targets must Save or their hands or equivalent appendages twist into hooked, serrated metal appendages whose damage varies. 1 [die]: 1d4, 2 [dice]: 1d6 3 [dice]: 1d8 4 [dice]: 1d10. They cannot use these hands for anything but harm.

Pyre**
R: 100' T: [sum] creatures or objects D: 0
Targets must Save or catch on fire. Targets that are completely inflammable (soaked creatures, metal, etc.) do not need to Save. Targets that are very flammable (soaked in oil, dry wood) may not get a Save. You can target this spell precisely enough to light the wick of a single candle in a bundle, provided you can see the wick.

Sermon
R: voice T: [sum] + [dice] creatures D: [sum] minutes
You deliver a passionate speech about whatever topic you wish. Targets must Save or remember what you said and discuss it with other creatures compulsively for [dice] days.

Entangling Smoke**
R: 50' T: [dice]x2 objects or creatures D: varies
Target creature or object is grabbed by tendrils of thick black smoke. Save to negate, prone creatures automatically fail. Target moves at half speed and takes a -2 penalty to Attack until it can win an opposed Strength test against the smoke to end the effect. The effective Strength of the smoke depends on the dice invested. 1 [die]: 10, 2 [dice]: 14, 3 [dice]: 18, 4 [dice] 20.

Emotionate
R: 10 x [dice] T: [sum] creatures D: [dice] hours
Target creatures must Save or have their current state of emotion amplified. Sad creatures become inconsolable, angry creatures vibrate with rage, lustful creatures become obsessive. Creatures that are not feeling any strong emotions will have their next emotion (reaction) magnified.

Artyom Tarasov


Apocalypse Now
R: sight T: [sum] creatures and self D: concentration
When you cast this spell, roll your dice.
If one 6 comes up, things go subtly wrong in the given area. Crows with human eyes. That steel dagger is actually painted wood. Just unsettling enough to be noticeable, but easy to rationalize.
If 2 6’s come up, things go wrong. All target creatures take [dice] damage and witness the frayed edges of the world. Colors shift. The sky is green. The sun is your teacher with a black snake in her hand, watching. Leaves shuffle along the ground like snails, and when they move over your feet, they scrape them to the bone.
If 3 6’s come up, shit is fucked. Mother goats suckle at the behinds of their kids and wander away from the small, wrinkled lumps of skin left behind. Tree branches wilt into roots that plunge greedily into exposed flesh. There is a second heartbeat inside your skin, and you feel a pressure like tautened fabric in your neck. Something is stirring. If you play with insanity points, break them out. All creatures within range except you take [dice] + [size] damage. If this reduces them to zero hit points, a demon arm with an impossibly long nail reaches out of their throat and slits them neatly down the middle, then crawling out. These demons are indifferent to you and hostile to everyone else.
If 4 6’s come up…nothing happens. The world stops for a complete second and then carries on. For the rest of your life, though, occasionally things will seem different. Honey was a lighter color and silk wasn’t so thick. Was the sky always green?
Regardless of 6’s, if your [sum] = 13, then in 13 days Old Scratch will unzip you like a coat, stretch, and proceed to commit unspeakable acts on the nearest civilized populations until put down. You know this.

Casting this spell is a great way to invite erasure by the normative reality matrices unless it succeeds completely.

* - spell comes from Arnold K's biomancer.
+ - spell comes from Remixes and Revelation's warlock.
** - spell comes from Skerples's excellent list of 100 Orthodox Spells.

6 comments:

  1. Nice! I like the core machanic. might strip it down a li'l and use it for my game (I'm trying to get all the GLOG classes I'm using to fit on one page, minus the spells)

    Also I like the 'exploding spell dice' referencd in Goblin Punch for warlocks, and it seems like it would play not - nicely with the decreasing credit mechanic - a kind of incentive to blow yourself up

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I went and looked at what I think is the only place Arnold talks about warlocks (and what I drew my inspiration from) http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2016/06/caster-differentiation-and-spellcasting.html

      I couldn't find a mention of exploding spell dice, but one could Sacrifice to make some of the dice explode. It would play hell with Debt but be awesome.

      Delete
  2. I think "invert speech" could also be called "zone of sarcasm" with a fair degree of accuracy.

    Also damn, your example patron sets a high bar. It's so Devily, and has a lot of flavorful spells to it. Apocalypse Now in particular is terrific and socialize works very well as a thing you ask another entity to give you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing Apocalypse Now.

      Delete
  3. Aside from the mechanics, this post has some great writing! Very evocative.

    ReplyDelete

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