Sunday, February 23, 2020

Making an RPG Spell Template

Okay, so it's been a while now since my last post but just today I finished the main work on a spell template for role-play games.  I got the idea from some templates of this type which came up on Amazon while I was browsing. Most of them cost US$12 and up, plus shipping. They were all pretty simple and I remembered I had a bit of fairly stiff translucent plastic from an old report cover in my crafting box. Here is the project in photos:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Neo School Hack - Viera as Playable Race

Okay, this time I'm basically just stealing this character race from the Final Fantasy series of games.  I know some people who love to play "furry" or furryish races, such as nekojin.  So here is a quick version of the viera for Neo School Hack.


The viera are humanoids with leporine features, including long ears and limbs. Their trademark long ears grant them exceptionally good hearing, although they are said to have excellent senses overall. Not only do the viera's ears allow them to hear over great distances, they also allow them to listen to the voice of the Green Word. They can put this ability to great use, either to communicate with the world around them, or to summon monsters from other worlds. Furthermore, the viera have approximately three times the lifespan of humes. All viera have white hair, but some dye theirs to other colors if they live among the humes.

Final Fantasy XII : Ready for the Danger by Shappi

Viera Racial Talents

  • Salve-Maker/focus-rested: with an hour's work using natural rare ingredients you can concoct one dose of a salve or ointment which can be applied to a patient to heal one wound or remove one harmful condition.  
  • Wood-Warder/innate: your long, beautiful ears are amazing (+3 on all rolls involving hearing)
  • Hear the Green Word/focus-rested: With a full minute of quiet meditation and concentration, a viera can listen with her inner ears to the voice of the forest. The Green Word carries knowledge of any unnatural or magical manifestations within one mile. This ability can only be used in  forests and other places with lush vegetation.
For more on the viera, check out the Final Fantasy Wiki page on them.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Big List of Wuxia/Kung Fu RPGs

Okay, so for a while now I've been exploring different RPG rules sets for my next campaign. I've always been a fan of the Chinese Wuxia ("kung fu") genre, but assumed the only rules available were the old cheesy "Oriental Adventures" ones for D&D.  But then I discovered the Wuxia Community on Google+ and was introduced to a big new world of rules for this type of storytelling. With some internet searching and big help from the Google+ community I starting building a list of games for Wuxia or other "oriental" play.  This is my current list, in alphabetical order:
  1. Blue Dragon, White Tiger
  2. Dragon Lines
  3. Dragon Tiger Ox (Pathfinder)
  4. Feng Shui/Feng Shui 2
  5. Flying Swordsmen
  6. Heroes of the Jade Oath (Pathfinder)
  7. Hong Kong Action Theatre!
  8. Jade Claw
  9. Kitsunemori Campaign Setting
  10. Kung Fu Adventurers!
  11. Kung Fu Kuma (Pathfinder)
  12. Legends of the Elements (PbtA)
  13. Legends of the Wulin
  14. Mad Monks of Kwantoom (OSR)
  15. Mists of Akuma
  16. Monkey, the Role-Playing Game
  17. Oriental Adventures (AD&D)
  18. Outlaws of the Water Margin
  19. Pagoda: Wuxia Role Playing Game
  20. Peng Lai 
  21. Q•RPG: Katanas & Kung Fu
  22. Qin, The Warring States
  23. Quick20 Asiatic Adventures
  24. Rivers and Lakes
  25. The Dragon Pool
  26. Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade/Tianxia Accelerated (FATE)
  27. Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate
  28. Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade
If you know of any others please comment!

Here's What Your Barbarian Bard Plays: Mongolian Folk Metal

No, seriously. Mongolian folk metal. It's an actual thing. I totally promise I'm not making things up this time. 

 Shoog Shoog by The HU

So to start at the beginning: I recently read about a Mongolian folk metal band called The HU from an article in the South China Morning Post.  That was too intriguing to not check out...and it was totally awesome. Alas they only had two songs available on iTunes (both of which I basically immediately purchased).  Then I spotted a third song on YouTube yesterday, entitled "Shoog Shoog", and the video was totally awesome.  The music, imagery, and lyrics are just perfect for ancestors of the Great Khan.

But more than awesome music, it is perfect mood food for your more gonzo fantasy gaming "barbarian" peoples.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Not Likely to Buy the New Pathfinder Rules

So the 2.0 version of Pathfinder which Paizo steadfastly insisted for years they had absolutely no intention of working on at all will be published in August of this year. I did read through the free playtest rules when the came out--and I do want to applaud Paizo for their open playtests to involve the fan base.  There were some good ideas in there, some "meh" ideas in there, and some ideas I couldn't make up my mind about. Overall I was not immediately thrilled. Intrigued, perhaps, but not thrilled.

At the moment my current group is running three concurrent campaigns with Pathfinder 1.0 (1E? Classic?) so we're pretty darn invested, both psychologically and financially. Most of the group bought D&D 5E when it came out and one of our members ran a short multi-session playtest for us. I like the new 5E rules, both for what they are and for the refreshing escape they present from the bloat and hyper-detailing of Pathfinder.  The rest of the group was mixed in their reactions to 5E. I'm still considering using it for my Next Big Campaign when we finish the Shackled City Adventure Path I'm running now.

As for buying the Pathfinder 2E rulebook, I am daunted by the sheer size of it: over 600 pages. Granted that's the Player's Handbook and DM's Guide combined in one massive tome but it gives the impression that there is almost immediate rules bloat. The idea of making the climb up the side of a new Mount Everest of crunch-bloat is a huge turn-off. It would have to be something really exciting to be worth that effort. Nowadays I really do think you can achieve the same results at the table with more streamlined rules. My gaming group, however, mostly either positively enjoys the super-customization possible with Pathfinder 1E or is fine with crunchy rules in general. I'm not sure if a majority will buy the new rules or if either of my fellow GMs are considering converting their campaigns.

So at present I do not plan to buy the new edition of Pathfinder. If someone in our group converts their existing game or starts a new one with the new edition then I may let myself be dragged in, but otherwise no.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Polytheism in RPGs: UR Doin' It Rong

Okay, so my favorite character class to play in RPGs (well, D&D style fantasy games) is the cleric.  In fact, my first ever RPG character was a cleric.  All I really remember of that game is a raft trip that the party barely survived, which was awesome.

The early editions of D&D (and Chivalry & Sorcery) based their clerics heavily on ideas derived from Christianity, both biblical references (such as the spell "Sticks to Snakes") and the church in medieval times.  Later more non-christian, polytheistic elements, both historical and fictional, were added to RPG gaming.  But the people making the games and playing them were overwhelmingly from Western civilization countries which are basically culturally monotheistic.

This monotheistic, christian cultural background leads game developers, GMs, and players to handle fantasy polytheistic clerics, religions, and temples like monotheistic, semi-christian ones.  For instance, I was listening to an RPG podcast this week and one of the poddies mentioned making a fighter who would follow a particular deity.  That's not generally how polytheistic cultures do things.  In most RPGs the various deities in a fantasy pantheon are typically treated like individual monotheistic faiths.  Even the layouts of temples are frequently very much like a christian church, with rows of pews, a lectern for sermons, an altar at the far end, and even stained glass windows. 

As someone who likes studying history and world cultures, I find this failure to grasp the basics disappointing and annoying.  I can forgive the early authors of the role-playing hobby a certain narrowness of vision.  The whole concept was a work in progress.  Today, however, the Internet puts the universe at one's fingertips.

So what are these games missing?  First off, polytheism features pantheons of multiple deities, with each major cultural region having its own.  For instance, during the Roman Empire there was the Greco-Roman pantheon (Zeus, Athena, etc.), the Egyptian pantheon (Hathor, Horus, etc.), the Celtic pantheon, and so on.  The people living in a particular area worship their cultural pantheon in their particular way.  All their temples are built in the same style, according to that culture's local architectural traditions.  Polytheistic cultures are often said to be accepting of foreign deities, and this is true to a point.  Often what happens is they find a deity amidst their pantheon which corresponds to the foreign god and accept it on that basis.

People in a polytheistic culture are not limited to selecting only one deity from their pantheon to follow, forsaking all others.  Typically, they worship all of them--as needed.  Planning a sea voyage?  Then prayers to Neptune are in order.  Heading off to war?  A proper sacrifice to Mars is a good idea.  The situation with priests may be different, depending on the culture.  In some, priests are actually dedicated to just one deity.  In others, they are more general holy persons who may or may not serve at a particular location.  However, it is possibly for individuals to have a favorite deity for some reason, or even for a particular city to have a favored deity.  Corinth was associated with the goddess Aphrodite, for instance.  But that did not require rejection of or hostility towards any of the other deities.

Temples where not usually laid out like Christian churches.  The typical temple would be centered around a main idol to one deity, or maybe three. The main idol would be in a central chamber facing the main (or only) entrance.  This chamber might be very high in order to accommodate as large and imposing an idol as possible. The facing of the idol/entrance was usually based on a theological or cosmological concept, such as facing east towards the rising sun. There could be smaller idols to other minor deities to the sides. In front of the main room would be either an antechamber, enclosed forecourt, or open plaza; in the case of a very small temple in a rural area there might be just a simple cleared area of ground out in front.  Pews or seating were not typical. Priestly staff and worshipers would stand, kneel, or sit on either the bare floor (stone, wood, or packed earth) or perhaps on mats or rugs.

Beyond the basic layout of main chamber and a room or open area in front many variations and expansions were possible based on the cultural architectural norms, site topology, and need for other buildings such as dormitories, libraries, schools, courtyards, etc.

So here are some example images I grabbed from the Internet which illustrate typical temple layouts:

Also, here are some Wikipedia articles with examples of real temple styles, showing the rich variety of architectural forms used for worship:

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Neo School Hack - Moar Classes

This "book" adds some totally optional classes to the core Neo School Hack rules. Herein you will find the Druid, Knight, Oracle, Templar of the Imperial Ancestor Cult, Warlock, White Monk, Imperial Legionary, and White-Haired Witch. Feel free to add any, all, or none of them to your game--and do please hack them all you want.


- The druid is a person with an intimate spiritual connection with nature.  A druid has sacred nature powers, with some able to transform into beasts of the wild.  Druids embrace all that is natural and keep manufactured posessions to a minimum, particularly metal armor.

Inherent: Squeak and Roar/focus: you can speak to any animal--if they feel like talking to you.

Classic Weapon: sickle

  • Magic Mushrooms/focus-rested: you channel green energies and lovely sacred mushrooms appear (one per point of Commitment bonus); a person eating one will be healed of 1 wound, or cured of poison, or cured of natural diseases
  • Barkskin/focus-encounter: your skin transforms, becoming as tough as thick bark for an hour; you gain +2 to AC; the effect will not manifest under metal armor
  • Call Entlings/focus-encounter: communicating via sacred nature auras you summon entlings, small semi-intelligent tree creatures, from any vegetation within 100 yards; one will appear per point of Charm bonus and follow simple commands; Entling: AC-10, HP: 2, 1 x 2d10 attack for 1 wound
  • Heart of the Beast/focus-rested: you bond with an animal totem and it grants you the ability to transform into its likeness; you may pick any beast up to bear size (may be taken up to six times for a different beast form each time)
  • Totem Eidolon/constant: the druid bonds with an animal totem which manifests as a semi-substantian spirit;  it is much more intelligent than ordinary creatures of its type.  The player decides on the animal type, but it may not be larger than a large wolf.  The critter has statistics of AC = 12, HP = 3, with an appropriate single 2d10 attack (with Face Die) doing 1 wound.
  • Howling Wilderness/focus-rested: with the aid of the totem spirits you can summon a natural animal and command it; this talent can also be used to command an animal already nearby but this requires winning an opposed Commitment check.


- A knight is an aristocrat born and bred to be a warrior.  They are sent from home at an early age to be a squire at an allied household and train and learn the craft of war.  War and hunting  is their way of life.  But there's also plenty of time for romancing that special someone.

Inherent: At Home in the Saddle/constant: +2 to all rolls involving riding mounts

Classic Weapon: Lance

  • Surely You Joust/constant: the Knight's favorite activity is jousting; you get +1 to attacks with a lance while riding a mount and +1 AC against any attack while riding a mount.
  • Sword & Board/constant: the Knight's second favorite activity is melee combat with a shield and a one-handed weapon; in each combat round the Knight may choose to emphasize the weapon (+1 to hit) or the shield (+1 to AC).
  • Heraldry/constant: growing up in chivalric social circles a Knight learns to recognize heraldric coats of arms and similar devices; +2 to Awareness checks to know who a particular sign belongs to and a bit about their background; the player also gets to design their own unique coat of arms for their family.
  • Under Armor/constant: the training of a Knight includes wearing armor and exercising in it constantly; you have the special encumbrance capacity of one extra Heavy Thing for the purpose of wearing armor or carrying a shield.
  • Courtly Love/focus-rested: a Knight is a lover as well as a fighter; +2 to any attribute rolls to romance the apple of your eye.
  • Falconry/focus: Knights love to go hunting when not jousting or romancing, especially the high class and expensive method using trained falcons; +2 to any attribute roll involving falconry; and you get one trained bird of prey (hawk, owl, killer bat, tiny pterodactyl, etc.) and a basic set of gear (such as a glove, hood, lure, etc.) [Creature: AC-10, 1 HP, 1 x 2d10 attack (claws) for 1 wound]


- An oracle is blessed, some would say cursed, with the mystical ability to see both the past and the future.  They know exactly what's the worst that could happen.  Or maybe there will be cake.

Inherent: Saw That Coming/rested: one free re-roll per day.

Classic Weapon: Scythe

  • Augury/focus-rested: reach out into the Great Beyond to determine if one future course of action which will happen (or start) in the next 24 hours will turn out well or badly; need to pass a Commitment check to get an answer; +1 to the check if you use a thematically appropriate focus such as a crystal ball, sheep entrails, tarot cards, etc.
  • Palmistry/focus-encounter: everyone carries echoes in their auro of what was and what will be; while in physical contact with a living creature the oracle may attempt to learn up to three things about their past or one about their future (separate successful Commitment check for each attempted thing)
  • Happy Medium/focus-rested: even after death echoes of life remain; while touching or in proximity to a deceased creature the oracle may attempt to learn up to three things about its past (separate successful Commitment check for each attempted thing)
  • Psychometry/focus-encounter: contact with the living leaves traces which are undetectable to those lacking The Talent; while in physical contact with an object (not including deceased creatures) the oracle may attempt to learn up to three things about its past (separate successful Commitment check for each attempted thing)
  • Blinded by the Light/constant: the oracle goes blind from visions too vivid to behold, but gains deep Inner Vision providing +4 to all rolls involving oracle talents
  • Doom/focus-rested: the oracle pronounces a doom upon a person, such that when a certain circumstance occurs the victim suffers horrible consequences; once pronouced a doom can never be reversed because it is not a magical spell but a revelation of inescapable Eternal Fate; a person may only be under one doom at a time; only very rare and powerful magics or the intervention of a deity has any chance of deflecting a doom; examples of the effects of a doom could be:
  • ⦁ Permanent -4 to one attribute bonus
    ⦁ Permanent loss of 3-5 HP
    ⦁ Permanent blindness
    ⦁ Permanent paralysis of one or more limbs
    ⦁ Sterility
    ⦁ Hideous rotting plague


Templar of the Imperial Ancestor Cult
- The Imperial Ancestor Templars are the clerics of the ancient imperial ancestor cult.  They venerate the spirits of the ancestral spirits of the imperial family from back through all the centuries.

Inherent: Grave Countenance/constant: +1 to any saves vs. undead/necromancy

Classic Weapon: two-handed flail (heavy)

  • Ancient Glories/constant: Imperial Ancestor Priests memorize all the biographies of all the imperial ancestors, giving them encyclopedia knowledge of the history of the empire; +1 to Attribute rolls related to history or geography.
  • Spectral Howl/encounter: you channel spiritual essences to produce a blood-chilling spectral howl like a banshee; all non-Templars in the area must pass a Commitment save or be frozen in fear for two rounds
  • Benificence of Consecration/constant: the aura of cult consecration empowers you; you get +1 to all rolls made while on consecrated imperial ground, such as graveyards, crypts, shrines, temples, and necropolises.
  • Kannibal Kult/focus-rested: after a short ritual you consume a mouthful of the flesh of a deceased person (intelligent creature), enabling you to learn one item of information from or about that person.
  • Holy Consecration/focus-encounter: intoning an impressive prayer in the ancient court tongue, you conjure a temporary zone of consecrated space around you; any undead in the zone must retreat out of it and any attempting to enter must win an opposed Commitment check against the casting Templar.
  • As You Command/focus-encounter: with several ritual gestures and flourishes you manifest your authority as a Templar of the Imperial Ancestor Cult to command, banish, or summon the spirit of a deceased Imperial citizen; the spirit is allowed an opposed Commitment check to resist; commandings and summonings last 1 minute but banishings are (usually) permanent.


- A warlock is a type of wizard who takes the "easy" route to gain magical spells and abilities by pledging themselves to an evil infernal patron instead of studying a stack of moldy old spellbooks.  What could possibly go wrong?

Inherent: I Sense the Good in You/focus: your intimate exposure to infernal Vileness makes you strangely sensitive to creaures with the quality of Goodness.  You can suss it out with a few moments of observation and concentration.

Classic Weapon: spiky morningstar flail

  • Infernal Pact/constant-special/you make a dark, infernal pact with a powerful creature of the hells.  Each patron creature will have a set of six unique talents which then become available to the warlock to acquire as spells or supernatural abilities.  Requires payment of souls via ritual sacrifice: 6 souls for the pact with the first patron, 12 for the pact with a second patron, etc.
  • Awesome Sacrifice/focus-rested: you ritually murder and intelligent creature in an hour-long ceremony and dedicate its soul to an infernal patron with whom you already have a pact; you also gain 1 AP per HP of the victim.
  • Hellfire/focus-encounter: you project a conical jet of defiling hellfire to 30 feet; all creatures caught in the jet suffer 2 wounds, but they can avoid 1 wound by making a Daring save.
  • Mark of the Beast/constant: you volunteer to a permanent physical change of an infernal nature as stipulated by your patron; examples include a demon's tail, horns, hooves, weird glowing eyes, etc.  You suffer a penalty of -4 to social interations with non-infernal creatures but in return for this show of devotion your patron infuses you with infernal Vileness which empowers you, providing +1 to all attribute rolls.
  • Evil Eye/focus-encounter: you place a temporary infernal curse on a victim (within 30 feet), which lasts one minute or until the current action scene is over.  The victim is allowed a Commitment save, otherwise is -2 to all rolls.
  • Summon Imp/focus-rested: with a short, painful ritual requiring shedding your own blood you summon an imp (a small infernal creature about the size of a monkey or cat) to do your bidding.  The creature will remain on this plane for one hour during which it will reluctantly follow orders.  It can also cast any spell the warlock knows but will return to its own plane immediately afterwards.  [Imp: AC-10, HP 2, Attack: 1 x 2d10 (usually claw or bite)]


White Monk
- A White Monk is a martial artist specializing in using holy chakra energies to vanquish evil and heal the suffering.  Their style has a focus on hand techniques using different styles of clawed gloves.

Inherent: Fists of Fury/constant: +1 to unarmed attacks

Classic Weapon: clawed gloves (many types available)

  • Whirlwind/focus-encounter: gathering momentum with bold spinning movements you strike all enemies around you; allows the monk to make one attack against up to four adjacent enemies, but with -1 to each attack after the first
  • Air Render/constant: you project a bolt of chakra energy at one creature up to 30 feet away; allows you to make a normal attack as a ranged attack instead; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus
  • Earth Render/encounter-focus: you channel chakra into the earth to activate elemental Earth energy; blasts Earth and chakra energy up from the ground in a 30 foot line out from the monk; each creature on that line must pass an Awareness check or suffer 1 wound; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus
  • Far Fist/rested-focus: a variant of the Air Render technique which causes a blast of chakra energy to manifest at 20 to 30 feet from the monk, injuring all those within a 10 foot radius; each creature in the blast radius is allowed an Awareness check to avoid injury; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus
  • Holy Chakra Sign/rested-focus: by summoning your chakra energies and projecting them into a wounded or suffering creature you heal them of 1 wound or a disease, or one temporary ailments (such a blindness, paralysis, etc.) no matter the source
  • Exorcise/encounter-focus: striking a special holy stance you project your holy chakra energy outward, driving back undead; undead within 20 feet must pass a Commitment check or flee, not returning for 24  hours


The Imperial Legionary
- An Imperial Legionary is one of the finely trained heavy infantry of the imperial army.  As they are usually outnumbered they emphasize defensive tactics to survive battle with the hordes.

Inherent: Shield Master/constant: when using a shield, +1 to AC over and above the normal shield AC

Classic Weapon: Shield

  • Spellbreaker/focus-encounter: you can channel arcane negative energies into your shield; once charged, you can expend the charge when you roll to resist any magical attack or effect roll twice and take the highest result; a magical charge lasts 24 hours or until used or unless the legionary re-absorbs it to re-use later
  • Hold The Line/focus: you take a special stationary defensive shield stance based on centuries of imperial experience; gain +1 AC and also give any adjacent allies +1 AC; requires an equipped shield
  • Heavy Blade/constant: +1 to attacks with Heavy bladed weapons
  • Relieve The Line/constant: you know a special battle maneuver allowing you to smoothly swap places with an ally within 10'
  • Rally The Troops/focus: shout a traditional imperial battle chant to bolser morale; allows all allies nearby a +1 to their next bravery/fear type attribute check in this action scene OR one re-roll of a recently failed bravery/fear type check
  • Blessing of Victory/focus-rested: once per day you can pray at an Imperial temple or shrine or attend and Imperial religious ceremony and gain a blessing (gain 1 AP)


White-Haired Witch
- The White-haired Witch is a female wuxia martial artist with special abilities to use her hair as a long limb. Despite being called a witch she equally may appear as a dedicated avenger of injustice or an implacable tracker assassin.

Inherent: Magic White Hair/focus: you can magically extend your hair out 20 feet and grapple or roughly manipulate with it; however you cannot perform fine manipulation skills such as writing with a pen.

Classic Weapon: whip (In addition to normal Light Weapon attacks, the witch may trip, disarm, grapple, or choke an opponent following a successful whip strike.)

  • Martial Witch/constant: the witch is trained in martial arts, allowing lethal unarmed attacks as a Light Weapon and a special dodge(pass a Cunning check to flip or spin out of the path of an attack)
  • "Men are such liars"/constant: a witch can always tell if a male is lying
  • "Hmph"/focus: with a quick bad-girl smirk and slight snort, you summon qi for the fight; gain one temporary Awesome Point which can only be used in the current action scene
  • "Misfits following a misfit"/focus: after sizing them up for a few moments, the witch taunts her opponents, causing them to be Disadvantaged on their first roll against her in the current scene.
  • "Where have you flown, little Sparrow?"/rested: the witch has an uncanny ability to intuit where to find her quarry.
  • "Kill them!"/rested; a small gang of thug minions appear from nearby and perform acts of intimidation or violence for one action scene
  • Far Sighted/focus; taking a few moments to concentrate, the witch can see to three times as far as a normal person; this vision negates all distance penalties for ranged shooting 
  • Lashing Leap/rested: while lashing her whip for energy, the witch can perform a long, drifting leap covering up to 100 feet.