One of the things I love about blogging DIY DnD is it gives me an excuse to be completely irresponsible in museums. I spent years as an art student and middle class British lad with educated pretensions stalking earnestly around museums and galleries trying to understand why Jasper Johns was more famous than Eric Ravilious or why Dutch painting should be interesting in the 17th century but not in the 18th or early 19th. Now, letting my DM flag fly, I can tell you that it’s a lot more fun wandering around the Rijksmuseum just looking at the things I like looking at and sniggering roll for initiative when I see some gold lion eating a man holding up a candlestick.
So for instance I can enjoy this intaglio print of a witch riding a demon carcass around without caring much who it’s by (yeah, right. It’s Agostino Veneziano):
and mutter “pendulous dugs” and “fish slapping dance” to myself as I ogle this Mantegna.
So these, apparently, are mourners on (or rather off) some saint’s tomb. But now they’re a bunch of NPCs for your Alice game:
Boartopus ravishing harpy, flying antler witch,
And predictably there’s treasure. Note to self: add more mysterious gold lions to dungeon:
especially sneezing lions that dispense potions. Also stuff you pick up should tell you about upcoming hazards. Like this medieval mi-go victim:
speaking of which: who says brain-cases have to be so damn functional-looking?
(reliquary for St Thekla, allegedly). Reliquaries are some weird-ass treasure too. Some are like tiny wee treasure chests that anyone who’s gamed with Scrap Princess should be too wary to touch:
and look what they contain! A nice surprise. At least this bone ossuary is kinda doing the medium is the message thing.
Magic shield? I bet you’re picturing something metal. Not, for instance, a chunk of elk headgear:
and speaking of headgear…
Even Throne of Blood didn’t prepare me for this bunny/propellor. Quietly scribbling notes about what world you’d need to make those Playboy extensions at all sensible.
…ever wondered how a medieval lock works?
OK, time for the big guns: Wampus/Tartary artillery for discerning murderhobos
Early 19th century shells. And a shrapnel shell cut in half. Note wooden cone-tip and big ball-bearings just sitting in a dynamite goop.
…and one for Jeremy Duncan.
and three for Paolo Greco. The last of which is the red coral hilt of a rapier given to legendary Dutch murderhobo Michiel de Ruyter.
Magic lantern slides were the 18th century’s Roll For Initiative gifs.
Mecha golem disguised as a figurehead.
Some think the Hattifatteners are wicked, but this is due to their strangeness.
Hattifatteners are found only in groups, and often in swarms. Although they do not possess a hive mind, they agree so thoroughly on the fundamentals of Hattifattener logic that a player may play any size group of them as a single entity. They excel at problems of pure logic and electrical engineering. For Ars Tartary it is sufficient to state that they have no skill at combat but they may strike with a lightning-like attack, for 1d10 per turn spent building up charge, up to as many dice as there are Hattifatteners present. D&D variants will want stuff like their HD and special abilities that unlock as you go up levels: these involve the strength of their lightning attack, their ability to bypass simple obstacles by slipping through narrow gaps and/or quantum tunneling, and at high levels a telepathic mind-link power that extracts information and leaves the target confused and strangely affectless. You can certainly figure out the details there. They save and level as Monks.
The number of Hattifatteners present is indeterminate until it becomes germane, at which juncture roll 1d6 + 2, exploding. This roll may be modified by environmental factors – their numbers are suppressed underground, raised when near big electrical charges. Individual hattifatteners are extremely good at dodging but groups cannot react so quickly – they therefore attack, defend and take damage collectively.
Details of the workings of the Hattifattener “barometer” will not be revealed at this time.
Several of Tartary’s magic items are ridiculously powerful* and apt to cause trouble in anyone’s campaign. Sorry about that.
Of course, you can always just disable these items in your setting. Or you can use the following house rule…
If a magic item from Tartary is brought to your world, roll d10 each time it is used:
On a 0 the item may work once but is then drained of all power.
On a 9 it turns permanently into some other magic item native to your setting.
On a 6, it works but using it summons 1d6 creatures from Column B, below.
On a 1, instead of working normally, one of the following things happens…
|1||User transformed into a… (Column B)||Hemogoblin** (mechanically like low-HD undead)|
|2||User possessed by a… (Column B)||Mi-go***|
|3||User convinced they are a…||Priest of Ming|
|4||User temporarily gains powers of a…||Sky Man pirate|
|5||User and target life-linked: one dies, both die||Industrial Druid|
|6||User and target mind-swapped||Space psychic (high level MU, telepathic/mind-controlling)|
|7||User and target will not harm each other||Sentient machine (possibly but not necessarily a gith machine)|
|8||Target gains powers of a…||Giant fighting hindu temple|
|9||Target transformed into a…||The target OR user, whichever is more inconvenient|
|0||Item spews out monsters uncontrollably||Random third party|
*These include the yellow, silver and black belts of Choison or Koh-i-san or whatever, saltifier wands, shrines of Ming, twister projectors etc. Then there are the things that merely do silly amounts of damage to people, vehicles and fortifications.
My advice is either to disable these or severely limit their application – most of them have limited ammo and/or long reload times anyway. The Skyman-sacrificing bazooka needs a ready supply of live skymen, so chances are that will only be good for 1 shot if it shows up. And it has side-effects, so if somebody uses it you should probably let me know…
** stolen from Tim Powers’ Dinner At Deviant’s Palace: it starts out as a small cellophane-like, jellyfish-like bag. It grabs onto any open wound and starts sucking, producing a blood homunculus of the person so vampirized that has some of their skills and its own malign will. If it has multiple victims it can grow really quite big and dangerous. And it knows a portion of what its victims know.
*** are there really no free, LL-compatible mi-go out there? I rather like Carcosa’s Mi-go for being a bit crappy – I have them bootstrap their way to superior intelligence but only for the leaders. Mechanically I’d say take your pick from goblin, hobgoblin or ogre, as it suits you. My Mi-go come in many sizes. Here, have an illo of the philosopher subclass, courtesy of le chaudron chromatique...
a while back (like weeks ago) Scrap Princess G+’d a series of MONSTER, MARVEL or MYSTERY posts. In the same spirit, and because I chanced across the remarkable David collection this morning:
The vizier of Walatuf concealed much behind his imposing beard.
of course I’m not out here on my own – you should check out my posse on the next page.
A Sepoy Revolt? What are you blathering about, Smithers?
No no no! Kill the dragon, catch Ho-oh, venerate the Simurgh! Is it really so complicated?
Did you see that? She totally just turned Hakim into a pillow! That’s going to complicate rescuing the Lilliputians and no mistake.
Sorry, we’re all out of Wands of Wonder. But we do have this Wand of Fabulous.
send you to
to find this guy
but when you get there it’s all
and there’s this guy
who gives you some
which turns everything
and then your ride home is all
unless you can figure out the
to reactivate the
get to the
Monte Cooke’s kickoff into Moebius-inspired Science Fantasy strikes just the right visual notes for me – even if the support text makes me crawn*: Humanity lives amid the remnants of eight great civilizations that have risen and fallen on Earth. NO! Instead: there is crazy inexplicable shit out there! Is anybody in charge at all!?! Go find out!
Which is kind of my way of saying I don’t know if I want to be in on the playtest phase of this or if I’d rather stay aloof, clutching my own distressingly similar setting, which will look derivative of this starting in about 2 minutes.
Damn you, Cooke!
Back to the proper subject of this blog: Dystopian Pokeverses. At last I can show you some suitably dystopian versions of old favourite Pokemon, courtesy of Gavin Mackey. That’s pretty much what I was thinking all along – thanks Gavin. More than these, which are also lovable but not miserable enough. And I’m really delighted by the sheer commitment in the fan movie Pokemon Apocalypse, but it’s not exactly where I was going either.
And while I’m doing a lazy linkdump post, do you know about Skylanders? That’s… not it either, but it’s kind of a place where my current aesthetic could go. I do like the mix of Cthulhiana, DnD cliches, Lego Adventures game design and Pokemon-type creature features. I call it Poke-Xena for a new generation. Which reminds me: apparently there are some Flash Gordon novels I should seek out, if my current Barsoom jones doesn’t abate soon.
Because I’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 25 years, DnD-wise, I had no idea that Githyanki had become a thing (I did have an idea about dark elves, because you can’t avoid them, but still, the name Drizzt meant nothing to me).
Anyway, shorn of the reams of lore they have no doubt accumulated, this is pretty much what I think about the astrally traveling jerks. And this beats anything else I have to say about them: They build their fortresses on the petrified bodies of dead gods. Like this here. Or here, which is also ridiculously cool. Or maybe there, for a change. See, if you keep mixing things up, eventually you can even put your dungeon underground and it looks cool all over again.
In case you’re currently under a rock, Geoffrey McKinney is publishing bare-bones old school modules with fanzine type production values. And Ian Johnson is doing the same for his wonderfully demented hell-crawl, The Bleaklands. The latter in particular is totally half-baked and fizzing with ideas.
My review of Eldritch Skies: don’t bother. I could say why in more detail, but fundamentally, what I wanted was balls-out Cthulhoid spacefaring where mead is your stardrive as well as your visual futurist, in about 32 pages of mind-altering illustrations. I didn’t want a wordy fantasy heartbreaker in 400 pages.
Finally, where are the hex sheet of yore? Here – print your own (thanks +Cole Long). Also crazy polar projection things and stuff.
The rest is pentagon tesselation.
EDIT: this here is a real life grease monkey.
This is what he made when his 2CV stopped working while he was driving across the desert.
…driving across the desert, in a 2CV. I’m guessing he’s Int 15+, but Wis 5-.
Edit again: this is a work in progress – as things come up, like Rey’s awesome technowiz character class, I will be modifying this template. If you have a grease monkey built to an old scheme you like better FEAR NOT you can still use them, but it might be an idea to grab the version of the rules you prefer…
Grease monkeys have no religion, no special faith in technology and no idea why they can put machines together and they work, where other people try and get garage art. They’re just handy with a spanner.
Fighting, saves and level XP are all like a Lab Lord thief. Maximum armour = chainmail. Any weapons are allowed.D4 HD, a spanner and a manic grin in place of a secretive smirk.
Instead of the usual raft of thief skills, grease monkeys get the following:
– Find/disarm/build/rearm traps
– Build insane McGyver contraptions of the player’s devising – this based on Rey’s technowiz (with my mods forthcoming)
– Ghost through the machine (hide and sneak at full speed in awkward, high-cover environments, like the guts of a giant machine (or a jungly swamp) for instance.
At 3rd level add Pick Locks.
At 5th level add Brachiate (swing through hanging vines/fuel lines/tentacles at double normal speed, only if unencumbered. Wait, what use is that? How often do your games involve hanging fuel lines anyway? I mean you could do it all the time if you had web-shooters like Spidey! Duh. Grease Monkey. Invent some)
But how good are they at all this? NEW MECHANIC (mechanic):
To fix a machine, identify what’s wrong, or make simple devices you essentially “hit it with your spanner.”
Tasks/machines/inventions have a difficulty rating, which works exactly like AC (Awkwardness Cwoshent? ‘Ardness to Calibrate? “Ang on a minute, if I just give it a quick Cick…”?).
The grease monkey achieves their task by overcoming its AC. THAC0 is 20 at first level, thereafter you add your level as a bonus to rolls. Which means they progress a bit faster than LL fighters hitting stuff with axes, and meteorically faster than LL thieves. And that just means you DMs get to set them monstrously difficult machine-building tasks and that’s that. Fighters work up to killing dragons, grease monkeys work up to fixing F22s. Thieves keep trying to break into chests and getting poisoned. Simple.
To make a brand new gizmo… is hard work. First, specify what you want it to do and agree with the DM “if this were a magic user spell, what level would it be?” In general to make a machine that replicates an MU spell, you should be at least high enough level to cast that spell, if you were an MU.
Then the DM will figure out the cost to build, exotic ingredients, fuel to make it work etc. Then you have a quest to do. Then there are rolls to see if it works and how much maintenance it needs every time you switch it on and what quirks it has and so on.
A grease monkey can invent one brand new device each level. Once they’ve invented it they can make more, but it costs materials, time and is naturally limited by how often experimental Frankenstein devices break (very often, requiring hours of repair. Almost as if they were Vancian spells, in fact).
Given the right parts, time and fuel, every grease monkey from level 1 can make a dangerous rattletrap motorbike/mad max deathwagon (AC 2), something to blast “ride of the Valkyries” out of it (AC 7), and a one shot, liable to blow your own head off type flamethrower (AC 5). The one-gizmo-per-level restriction is for stuff like “passwall” (AC 1) or “lightning bolt” (AC 4, requires 5th level) or “cure medium wounds” (AC 0 – really, how would you do that?) machines.
The LL thief XP table for convenience:
2nd level requires: 1,251XP
Per my house rules, to get above 8th level you have to “cheat” somehow – take on a demonic contract, become a lich – you set your own trouble and play through it with a willing DM. So everyone of “name” level has at least one dark secret.