Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta: a video game challenge run for charity

This is not a table-top gaming post, but it is for a good cause which has crossover with the RPG fandom, so I decided to share.

Final Fantasy V is a lot like its older counterparts. A straightforward quest in a medieval land to save the world from a mad tyrant, and crystals may or may not be involved. What sets it apart from most others is its innovative Job system. Jobs are much like classes in that they determine your character's role: a Black Mage focuses on offensive spells, a Monk specializes in physical attacks, and so on and so forth.

But outside of combat, you can change your character's Job at will.  Not only that, certain abilities you learn while playing as one class can be carried over to another, resulting in some versatile customization options for your party later in the game!

Four Job Fiesta is a self-imposed challenge run done on behalf of the Child's Play Charity, raising money to improve hospitals and domestic violence shelters for children around the world. All participants are limited to four Jobs for the entirety of the game out of the game's 20+ available Jobs. The Jobs are randomly determined by Gilgabot, although there are some choices which can affect this such as being limited to the six "classic" Jobs from Final Fantasy 1 or Jobs which can use magic or break rods.

As you can imagine, the playstyle of the game and its difficulty can rapidly change depending on your assignment, and the challenge of the Fiesta is to make the best out of the situation with the cards you've been dealt. Audience members and players can participate with pledges of their own, and new challenges for players are unlocked at certain tiers of donated money. Beyond that, gamers unsatisfied with their Jobs can switch out bad choices with new ones at the Job Fair by donating a listed amount for that class.

The Fiesta proper begins on June 13th, midnight EST (website accounts for local time zones) and ends on September 1st, so folks have about 2.5 months to beat the game.

As for myself, I plan to livestream the game on Twich, ideally on June 13th 6 PM EST. I donated $20 to Child's Play, and pledge to donate another $25 if I'm unable to beat the game by September 1st. One does not need to have a video recording to participate: you can mark your progress with screenshots and even smartphone pictures to show evidence of progression at major points (usually done during boss battles).

I look forward to participating in this event; please spread the word to folks you know. To all my fellow Fiesta-goers, I wish you good luck and good gaming!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Vampire the Requiem: Best Bloodlines for Paranormal Romance

Almost exactly one year ago I took an unorthodox departure from my D&D-focused articles and wrote up a Top Ten List for Vampire the Requiem. Although they existed in its earlier incarnation of Masquerade, one of Requiem's iconic features during its progression was its Bloodlines. Acting as sort of a vampiric subrace, they were members of the original five clans who altered their inner natures with Vitae to become something else.

Bloodlines acted a template of sorts, with new or altered weaknesses and disciplines tied in some way to their parent clan. The Melissidae, for example, are Ventrue who ape the style of insect colonies to turn dominated thralls into drone-like hordes acting under a telepathic hive-mind.

In line with their original mythos, another strong suit of Vampire is its hint of tragic romance. Cursed immortals trying and failing to imitate mortal life. The struggle between walking the high road without succumbing to the Beast. Even finding a willing blood donor creates complications, as the act of feeding is inimically harmful to humans, not to mention the addictive qualities of Vitae. Even White Wolf seized on this theme with a sourcebook of its own: Strange, Dead Love.  Love can be a tricky subject for games, but if performed as a side tale for a character, or perhaps a strong moral anchor for one of the Damned, it can be a great generator of stories.

Romantic Bloodlines

Let's face it; vampires are hot. Beyond that, they are dependent on mortals and their fellow Kindred for survival. The very set-up of the game encourages strong social bonds, even if said bonds are tinged with thorns. The following bloodlines are what I feel lend themselves best to romantic subplots.

Alucinor (Bloodlines: the Hidden, pg. 12): Dreams often bring portents of things to come and shine a light to one's true thoughts. These Mekhet know their power better than any others, with the power to divine, alter, and enter another's dreams or torpor.

Bron (Bloodlines: the Legendary, pg. 10): Nomadic Ventrue with ties to legends of the Holy Grail, the search for a 'true home' may bring them to find something more valuable than territorial holdings, that home is where the heart is.

Galloi (Bloodlines: the Legendary, pg. 51): Nosferatu who bathe in blood to overcome the weakness of their parent clan, maybe all they need is to find someone who can look past to the true beauty within.

Gulikan (Bloodlines: the Legendary, pg. 20): Originating among Daeva perfumers, their ability to imbue soaps, oils, and related paraphernalia with discipline powers grant a touch of supernatural sensuality. Their extreme fascination with the scent of a select few mortals is a good way to generate plot hooks and unlikely first meetings.

Khaibit (Onyx Path update): Once they were guardians fighting against a greater darkness, but now find themselves with a new purpose in fighting the Strix. Makes for a nice "dark superhero" bloodline.

Septimi (Ancient Bloodlines, pg. 89): Righteous Daeva who seek to protect humanity from evil influences via the manipulation of shadows, this bloodline makes for a good "guardian vampire" trope much like the Khaibit.

Spina (Invictus, pg. 173): Chivalric soldiers with a high emphasis on politeness and martial skill who serve the Invictus, such Daeva are the very model of the "vampire knight."

Taifa (Bloodlines: the Chosen, pg. 75): Gangrel who drape themselves in high art and scholarship, they stand proof that you don't need to be a Daeva or Ventrue to appreciate the finer things in life.

Toreador (Vampire the Requiem, pg. 246): Daeva obsessed with all kinds of art yet unable to create such works themselves, this bloodline's the perfect match (and muse) for a partner of the creative variety.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Lost Lands: Cool Ideas on Gods & Cosmologies

I've talked about Frog God Games' stuff before, but that was mostly in the context of their adventures. This time I combed through a few of their sourcebooks for their overall setting, the Lost Lands. The two books in question are the Borderland Provinces and Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms.

While Lost Lands is very much a traditional fantasy setting in the vein of old-school D&D (humanocentric, Law vs. Chaos, etc), it has some unorthodox ideas in regards to cosmology, alignment, and divinity.

Heresies and Divine Power: Expanded on in Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms, the divine conduits linking deities to worshipers and divine spellcasters is an involved affair. Prayers, religious hymns, and similar rituals are a primary means of sustaining this relationship and are all specific in form and function due to the fact that deities govern different aspects of reality.

So the demonic cults of Orcus, Demogorgon, etc, hatched upon a plan to drain the power and influence of the gods. By creating false rituals masquerading as "forgotten knowledge," they can subtly pervert the rituals with bogus advice, potentially cutting off faithful mortals from their patrons. Even worse, a few of these heresies are capable of redirecting said conduits to the demon lords, thereby granting them more power to act on in the planes.

So the Lost Lands has church inquisitors and merciless heretic-hunters, but beyond doing this just to prop up the existing power structure they have a greater incentive. Heresies aren't meaningless affairs of "do we use red wine or white wine for the Winter Solstice?" but more akin to fifth columnist spies weakening the safety and security of the mortal world, if not the multiverse.

Beyond this, Frog God Games subscribes to the "alignment as cosmic allegiance" format like Original D&D. In Borderland Provinces, there's a heretic Cleric of a Lawful Good deity by the name of Bantar Prayershield who's nice, kind, and does many of the things expected of said alignment. Unbeknownst to himself, Prayershield's actually Chaotic Evil because his religious teachings are unwittingly giving power to demonic forces.

This may irk some players who are used to alignment as personality, and I get that. But when Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos are tangible cosmic forces, this idea can make a sort of sense in unwittingly strengthening one of them at the expense of the others. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it does set down a unique precedent.

Theomonarchy of Sorts: One of the last great empires of the known setting was the Empire of Foerdewaith, a grand human nation whose influence spread across the continent but is now on the decline. During its heyday, there were a set of three deities, Archeillus, Muir, and Thyr who played an important role in imperial functions.

Archeillus is the God of Rightful Rule and Protector of Nobility, set out the laws and customs for the empire's function. Muir was the Goddess of Virtue and Paladins and whose worshipers comprised the empire's military including an elite unit of Justiciars (a paladin subtype in the books). Thyr was the God of Law and Justice whose purview was internal order and the creation of an enlightened feudal caste system for humans where every social class had a vital role in societal stability. The book makes mention that Thyr went by different names in many lands and was once worshiped by all of human royalty in the past.

Although the Empire's decaying and new religions are supplanting traditional rule, the role of the above Three Gods gives an interesting take on things. Whereas in many settings the nobles of nations tended to be separate from the church to an extent (like historical Europe in places), the Lost Lands takes the idea of a Divine Right of Kings by making the empire's leadership connected to the gods in a tangible way, whether it's by counting members of the Cleric class among their ranks or having mortal laws spring from the penmanship of the gods themselves.

The creator of the world is an evil god: He doesn't get a lot of screentime in products proper, but the Borderland Provinces make mention and include an entry on a deity known as the Father. He existed for as long as there has been life on the world of Lloegyr and predates the concept of mortal worship. He is an embodiment of the world itself, and among the earliest civilizations he represented the harshness of the primordial world. Conflict, strife, kill or be killed, that is the Father's mantra.

Beyond this, little more is known of him; his worship faded away to become virtually unknown, and some esoteric texts mention that his true name and legacy was erased by the actions of an equally primeval good deity known as the Goddess. Over time, other more modern deities grew in worship, who are believed to be his children when he's mentioned at all, and now the Father's only known among a few decaying tribal societies.

I find this interesting in that it reminds me of the Greek legend of Chronos, the ur-deity who ate his children only to be killed by them as they became the Greek Gods. In most D&D settings the creator of the world/Material Plane is usually not worshiped at all, is very distant, or an overdeity of sorts. Lost Lands turns things on its head a bit by making their world's creator a wicked entity representative of harsher times.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery Excerpt: New Races

In standard Swords & Wizardry and other OSR games, the path of the cleric is often restricted to humans, and dwarf and halfling PCs are incapable of taking levels in magic-user.  In the early days of the world’s oldest role-playing game, humans were unlimited in their class choices to encourage the conventions of a humanocentric world.  Demi-human races often had level caps in non-thief classes to balance the human’s lack of racial abilities like infravision or the uncanny ability to hide from view in wilderness settings.

It may go against established tropes, but more contemporary role-playing games allow for more freedom in character concepts by lifting these restrictions.  For example, dwarf magic-users might be possible but instead a rarity due to cultural taboos.  This gives outlier PCs a good story hook for why they defied societal expectations and serves as a potential world-building tool.

Regarding humans, I suggest granting PCs belonging to this race a +2 bonus in the ability score of their choice to a maximum value of 18.  That way, they’re still an attractive option to pick even with the lack of being able to detect secret doors or see in the dark. I also recommend capping the max saving throw bonus one can receive from a race and class combination (such as dwarves and drow) to no more than +4 to avoid too large a change in probability.

Sample Races

In Swords & Wizardry, the dwarf and elf have three unique racial traits each, with half-elves and halflings two.  Overall most races in OSR games have three iconic traits when they’re not classes, so in the creation of new races or adaption of existing ones you should think of three abilities which best exemplify them.


Drow are the descendants of elves who journeyed deep underground after being exiled from the old kingdoms.  The harshness of underground life makes them more warlike and socially darwinist than their surface kin, and they’re quite fond using vermin such as giant spiders as pets and beasts of burden.

Traits: Drow are trained in the ability to use poison without error akin to the assassin class.  They have darkvision to a range of 120 feet, and a +4 bonus on saving throws vs. damaging spells.


Gnomes are short folk who live in hilly burrows and forested mounds.  It is believed that they have strong ties to the fey, and the ones who take up magical arts prefer spells of the subtler variety.

Traits: Gnomes gain a +4 bonus on saving throws vs. illusion spells and effects which would otherwise fool their minds or senses.  They can also see in the dark up to 60 feet.  Finally, gnomes have a 4 in 6 chance of understanding the purpose or workings of advanced technological and alchemical devices.  “Advanced technology” tends to cover items of a post-Renaissance nature or things uncommon in typical fantasy settings, such as clockwork, gunpowder, steampower, and the like.


Pixies are tiny winged fey (around 2’ tall on average) with a connection the forests of the world.  They seem possessed by boundless energy, are fond of entertainment of all sorts, and innately magical.

Traits: Pixies are tiny in stature and thus can have a maximum Strength score of 11 (any amount rolled over this is treated as an 11 result).  They can fly at a speed of 30 feet, but must rest for 1 minute for every 3 minutes they spend flying.  Pixies can also sprinkle dust from their wings on weapons and ammunition once per day, which can inflict the effects of a charm person or sleep spell on a struck target with an effective Magic-User level equal to the pixie’s total class levels.


Magocracies often make dangerous pacts with otherworldly entities as a measure of preserving power.  Some of these pacts involve tainting unborn children with the spark of eldritch forces which manifest as demonic-like qualities in life.  Tieflings are the descendents of these cursed children, feared as demonspawn and changelings in some lands, revered by fiendish sorcerers and cultists for their potent bloodline.

Traits: Tieflings gain a +4 bonus on saving throws vs. effects of an elemental nature, such as fire, ice, electricity, earth, and air.  They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet, and can cast darkness 15 foot radius once per day as an innate ability with an effective magic-user level equal to their total class levels.


Vampires are undead creatures who must subsist on the blood of the living.  They are quite powerful as undead, retaining their intelligence and free will and capable of performing terrible abilities even if not a spellcaster.

Traits: Vampires do not need to eat, sleep, or breathe as undead beings, but they must subsist on a pint of blood every week or suffer the effects of starvation.  They have a natural bite attack which deals 1d4 damage on a hit; a vampire can suck the blood out of a helpless or willing target healing 1 hit point of damage for every 2 points dealt via a bite.  Vampires can also take the form of a bat or wolf as per polymorph self with an effective Magic-User level equal to their total class levels, although they’re still treated as undead in this form as well.

Note: In typical OSR games, vampires come with a variety of powers and weaknesses beyond the template presented here.  It is assumed that the vampire “race” presented above is a fledgling barely coming into their powers; as a result they still possess enough qualities from their old life to not worry about sunlight, garlic, and the like.

If this doesn’t seem authentic, you can introduce this rule for vampire weaknesses: vampires in prolonged contact with hostile elements take 1d4 points of damage per round of contact.  Vampires reduced to 0 hit points from this type of damage crumble into dust.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Upcoming Magic School Campaign Sourcebook: Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery

Note: this is not official artwork for my book

Once I wrote my Playable Monsters for Fifth Edition sourcebook, I was at a temporary loss on what to write next. I had a lot of ideas, but aside from a few exceptions most of them would have to start from scratch. But then I recalled a certain topic which I talked a lot about in the past, both on this blog and in various gaming sessions and message boards.

After gathering the necessary material together, I realized that by volume of content I had enough to make a large sourcebook, but even then I had to manage and streamline things out so as to make it presentable. I can tell that it's going to be much larger than my previous works I put out, but my passion for the genre will be the muse which helps drive me forward!

Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery is a magic school sourcebook and hex crawl for Swords & Wizardry but can be converted to other OSR games easily enough.


The book can be more or less split up into two major sections: new rules material and the sample setting.

New Rules: The first section of the book is dedicated to material specialized for creating OSR magic school campaigns. An example is the use of treasured tomes, books which impart in-game benefits to diligent readers. They range from the mundane to the magical; a Chiurgeon's Textbook can grant the ability to heal a patient of 1d4 hit points of damage once per day, while Secrets of the Pactmaster treats your Charisma score as 2 points higher for social interactions with extraplanar beings (perfect for summoners and demon-binders!).

Another example utilizes the partial separation of race and class common to Swords & Wizardry. I noticed that the "core races" have around three dominant traits: for example, dwarves save great vs magic, can see in the dark, and detect abnormalities in interior and underground environments.

I extended that further with new playable options for more exotic inhabitants of a sorcerer's academy, such as beastfolk, pixies, and tieflings who all have three traits along these lines.

Finally, and most thematically, the adventures students may go on may differ a bit from standard adventuring. PCs may go into the deepest, darkest reaches of the forests to pick a rare flower which blooms only on the winter solstice for a valuable spell component. Arcane Lore (based on an earlier blog post) grants an effective gold piece value to treasure of a magical nature, which can be used for personal growth in magical potential in leveling up and resources for creation by "spending" it on facilities and magical research.

The Setting: The setting takes place in the lands of Frelundia, a rural barony home to a few modest cities, deadly wilderness, and a militaristic nation to the north threatening its borders. Larius Firetongue, a sorcerer of no small fame discovered through years of research that the magic ley lines of the world converge heavily in this backwater land. Seeking like-minded souls in hopes of unlocking their secrets, he built an academy and used his name recognition to recruit talented minds from lands far and wide to make a full-fledged school dedicated to the magical arts.

The PCs are assumed to be newcomers to the Academy, and don't necessarily have to be of the Magic-User class. Clerics, Druids, and other magical traditions are present among the student body. The Academy acts as a "hub" of sorts for the party, and while there's plenty of adventures and schemes going on within its halls the outlying barony has its fair share of locations to explore in true hex crawling fashion.

One week the PCs might be heading off to the Desert of the Valiant Rose in search of the Library of Mede. The next week they may head off into Direblack Swamp on the hunt for spell components to bolster their magical abilities, or hear rumors among the student body of an eternal torrent of rain above the Green Ruins threatening to flood Moonshade Forest. A few of the adventure locations may be connected, but a lot of them are meant to be stand-alone, the better to insert into one's home campaigns and to let PCs visit places which sound of interest to them instead of leading them along a linear path.

I will go into more specific detail on sections of the book in future blog posts, depending upon the factors of personal whim and reader interest. If there's any particular aspect you want to hear more about, feel free to leave a comment in the section below!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My first book for 5th Edition is out

For the longest time I could remember, even before I got into Dungeons & Dragons, I always loved the idea of being the monsters for a change. Taking on the role of a mighty golem or brooding vampire seemed appealing to me, and the limited choices of races in most official sourcebooks seemed at odds with fantasy settings populated by all manner of intelligent beings.

Official sourcebooks' attempts to do this resulted in mixed success. The truth is that a lot of monsters had abilities which would be game-breaking in the hands of players, or in some cases the options were made weak so as to discourage too much deviation from the Tolkinesque Player's Handbook races. While working with Oslecamo on Min-Max Boards on designing monster-based classes for 3rd Edition, I came upon a realization: the majority of monsters both original and drawn from folklore were known for a limited set of abilities as defining features. Harpies are known for being winged sirens whose melodies could entrance people, not their +3 natural armor bonus and racial hit dice.

Taking this idea, I boiled down the abilities of several popular monsters into a smaller framework, getting rid of extraneous mechanics. Eventually I designed Playable Monsters, Vol. 1: Fantasy Iconics & Mythology for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. Then I made a version for Old School Monster Classes. Both proved to be popular sellers, and now that 5th Edition is out, I figured that making a version for that game would be a good idea, especially given the fact that monstrous races don't really exist as an option in most official or third-party material from what I've seen.

Here's the OneBookShelf link to the title. It was tiring yet worthwhile to make. If PC-friendly harpies and vampires sound right up your alley, then I hope my book brings more fun and excitement to your gaming circle!