Thursday, March 15, 2018

Smartphone, v2.1

Finally I come back to some of my older projects that are used these days to rework them. Today I feel like taking a small break from the talks of lore and talking about the design decisions behind the Smartphone v2.1.


The item is described in the beginning section as a device with unique number and 12 Memory Units that can run several preinstalled apps and download more. Compared to the previous versions, in this I have decided to remove the charges completely. They were yet another resource for players to keep track of, and personally while DMing, I was never too bothered with them, ignoring them for the most part. Instead, it is exchanged for a simpler rule of the smartphone lasting 12 hours turned on before it turns off by itself.
The number of Memory Units - 12 - is still in an experimental phase. I wanted the number to definitely be less than the entire amount of apps available, but big enough to allow some variety in-between smartphones.

Preinstalled Apps

Most of these are straightforward, so I will comment mostly on the changes.
  • Calculator was removed because it's pretty useless. DMs and players could still assume the smartphone to have a calculator.
  • Calendar and Clock are merged in one app, and I am starting to question their usefulness. For now I am keeping them as they are.
  • I assumed apps that take an action to be actions where you have to be actively looking at your smartphone even for a small moment, concentrating, while the apps that are used with a bonus action don't require full attention.

Downloadable Apps

Same as above, speaking of changes unless I have something more to say there.
  • Datcord is a reference to Discord, and it's a quick way for a group of people to communicate through smartphones. Compare to message that limits you to 25 words per message for one person at a time, without a requirement of Ethernet access.
  • Encyclopedia Arcana is a rather risky move, but I don't think it will affect all that much. It can grant at most a +3 bonus to a knowledge-gathering skill check with Intelligence regarding some specific topics you choose.
  • eSpellbook is an app that's a digital spellbook. Could make for a neat tool used by wizards and such.
  • Snap'n'Chat is a communication tool for sending of videos that are temporary. The key advantage of it is that they could be used for some of the more shady businesses that are supposed to stay hidden, as well as photos/videos that one is not supposed to look at for too long. It's of course a reference to Snapchat.
  • Superb is a tool for easier transportation, and a reference to Uber.
  • Tweeter is an app that'đ a reference to Twitter. It's used for sharing of short messages with anyone with Ethernet access.

Smartphone Games

To make something less useful and more fun, I've included two kinds of games with this version of smartphone. They do not have any deeper meaning at the moment, though it could be fairly easy to come up with something (prestige from being the #1 on a leaderboard, secret message at the end of a long puzzle game, etc.).
  • 100 floors is a reference to all those games where you have to solve one hundred miniature puzzles one by one. Simply enough, the skill check DC and skill that has to be used for solving it are randomly determined. I hope that the mechanics of "getting stuck on a puzzle" were written well enough. Also, this is an ideal world where a puzzle solution can't just be found online, so no ethernet option.
  • Arena Myth Hunt is a game with a name that started as a reference and sort of devolved into this weird mess of a name. Which is fine, because the game itself should sound chaotic. AR shooter where you can plant digital bombs, shoot nearby people and regenerate your lost digital hit points, I think it's okay. Not something phenomenal, but far from the worst it could have been.

I might add more games in the future. Not sure if I'll add more apps, the list as I have it right now feels exhaustive enough to me. Until then though, I plan to revisit the mechas and rework/create subclasses that use smartphones and/or mechas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

4 Psionics reflavors

For the longest time, I've tried to figure out how to make the psionics fit into the D&D worlds. My initial thoughts on why they don't fit were that not everyone could tell psionics and just regular old magic apart. And that's true, but it's also true for wizards and sorcerers, clerics and paladins, druids and rangers and other such combinations. But what I figured out is that common folk can't tell the difference between a lot of stuff anyway, so why should that be a problem? I like to explore new magic systems, which is why I support psionics in D&D.

May the... mind be with you?

In this article, I'll list four ways to flavor psionics so that they fit better into a fantasy setting. I always found the explanation of "mind over matter" and "it just comes from within" to not be good enough. What would be stopping anyone from becoming a psion if it comes from within? I don't like it, and thus I came up with four attempts at solutions:

  1. Lucid State (also referred to as Dreampower, of Waking Lucidity). You have gained the powers you now hold through special training performed inside of the dreams. Within the dreams, you have learned the techniques and practiced them long enough to know how to manifest them in real life. This is not something anyone could reach, because most people have "scripted dreams" - they are not lucid, they are not in control, they just do whatever their mind feels like doing.
  2. Simulationist (also referred to as Meta, Neo or whatever fits). You have opened your eyes and saw the truth that's hidden from the most. Your reality is just a mere simulation - be it a book where everything is just words, a song sung by a God, a video game realistic audio-visual projection processed on a superadvanced computing machine, or a campfire story told by a bunch of people around the fire until it goes away. You know the truth, and you can manipulate the reality, knowing you're just a character within story, gaining great powers because of it.
  3. Akashic Archivist. I went over this last time, so I'll be brief - you channel the knowledge of Akashic Archives into your mind. Sometimes it's incomprehensible, sometimes it's useless, but after all that comes the stuff you can use to your advantage. Secrets of the reality and such, perceived by the Allseer.
  4. Far Realms Magic (also known as You're a fhtagn, Harry). You peered into the Far Realms long enough, knowing just enough information for them to peer back at you. Now you are infected with their very own magic.
Bonus choice: Combine any or all of the above. Afterall, they are kinda compatible - why couldn't the world be a story told inside of a god's dream? What if the Akashic Archive is indeed a source of Far Realms magic?

I'm not gonna claim that any of these is a unique idea, but I hope listing them in here and in relation to psionics gives people some cool ideas. Do you have anything that should have been included in the list? Feel free to leave a comment!

Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

[Spoilers] Senses and What you see is what you get

I advise players of mine to not read further. This article does not contain plot spoilers, it's about mechanics I'd prefer my players to find out about on their own.

Sentience, by TylerReitan

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Location Statblocks

I made a thing, and people seem to like it!

Long explanation made short: In D&D, exploration is underdeveloped as opposed to combat, and I wanted to try out making it better by treating environments as monsters according to suggestion of someone on reddit.

Here's the original version, and here's the version 2.
Direct link.

It seems to have become a trend.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mecha Rules

I made mecha rules, and people seem to like them!

Short explanation is that one of my players wanted to have some sort of mecha option in D&D, and I wanted to provide as a DM. It is not perfect and it will probably be reworked in the future, but I'm okay with how the first version came out.

There's not much to say about them beyond what the rules themselves say, so here they are:

Reddit link
Direct link

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Smartphones and Magical Creatures

Thanks to Emma and Ludume from Discord of Many Things, I got a neat idea. Magical creatures are magical, and I never really thought about all the implications of them and our electronics coexisting. What if they had some strange interactions with the modern technology? Let's have a look at what interactions I came up with that need a smartphone to work!

Status Update: This fight was tough, I could use a #SatyrParty right now.

Angels. Whenever you take a photo or a video of an angel, it seems to be staring directly at the camera, facing it at all times, even if it wasn't really staring at it, or if it had its back turned.

All creatures with False Appearance. Since they are motionless on photos, they appear as the things described in their respective traits, even in the middle of the action.

Anything naturally hot or wet. Do I even need to explain this? You don't want your smartphone melted or short-circuited, do you?

Banshee. The Banshee's wail can be recorded, and its effects are reproduced the first time it is replayed.

Beholder. Depictions of beholders are strictly forbidden anywhere on the internet or Digital Plane, because most of them can bring a new beholder into existence. Also, within one mile of a beholder radio broadcasts are interrupted and whatever the beholder (or beholders if there are multiple) says can be heard instead.

Chuul. If a recorded video contains chuul in it for any amount of time, even just part of it, the whole video will be corrupted into white noise. Same thing applies to aboleths.

Dragon. Dragons are creatures so magical that they radiate a certain aura detectable only by smartphones, and in a bad way. The smartphones within 120 feet of it can't connect to internet, make phone calls, or connect to any other smartphones. Same thing applies to death knights.

Drow. Drow find the light app annoying and will ask you repeatedly to turn it off. Unless they are hiding or something, they are not stupid.

Dryad. The first time someone looks at a video or photo of a dryad, they must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 14) or be charmed by the picture. They'll keep looking at it until someone uses an action to snap them back to reality, or the phone is turned off. Additionally, they are super photogenic, looking amazing in all photos, even ones they don't know were taken. This applies to all kinds of nymphs.

Fomorian. If you were unfortunate enough to have a video call with a fomorian, its Evil Eye and curse of the Evil Eye can be used through it.

Genie. If a smartphone was left in one of the Elemental planes and a soul that's currently collecting elemental matter stumbles upon it, the smartphone can become part of the genie. Most often it would be part of a dao.

Ghost. Neither cameras nor microphones can perceive ghosts, as well as all incorporeal undead, in any way. Ghost can also possess your phone, showing you disturbing pictures, playing weird sounds and writing creepy zalgo text messages.

Giant. A giant's voice is so powerful that whenever its speech is recorded, all audio sounds like a strange mix of a thunder and white noise.

Gibbering Mouther. Its Gibbering trait carries over a call if it can be heard.

Intellect Devourer. Intellect Devourers can detect the presence of smartphones, since they are so smart, and they can absorb information contained in them. A smartphone affected by the Devour Intellect action can't be turned on, and needs to be repaired at your local smartphone shop, going through a factory reset. The Intellect Devourer will feel disgusted by most of the knowledge, finding it less than worthwhile that it consumed all these ones and zeroes it can't quite understand. But, maybe if it ate enough smartphones...

Kraken. When you enter the area within half of a mile of a kraken, your phone just turns off for no reason. Same thing would apply for Liches, Tarrasques or Davy Jones, if he was real. It could mess with class features of subclasses that would use smartphone, so I'm removing this.

Kuo-toa. Don't ever give them a smartphone, they'll worship it and create more digital deities!

Lamia. If it uses its Intoxicating Touch on your smartphone, it won't be able to use its camera or microphone for one hour. This is why some hackers refer to apps that block a user from using these inputs as lamias.

Medusa. The first creature that looks at the photo or video of a medusa is affected by a hold person spell, but instead of the usual one minute, the duration lasts until the spell is dispelled or the creature's eye contact with the medusa is interrupted, either by intervention of another creature or by the smartphone turning off. This effect can only be used once per photo or video, despite the video being 30 pictures per second. Also during a video call, its Petrifying Gaze carries over. The last bit also applies to the Basilisk.

Mind Flayer. Mind flayers can naturally sense all the information your phone is sending and receiving. After ten minutes of observing the information, they will understand the information innately as well.

Modron. It can command the phone to do anything it can normally do, regardless of functions described in the smartphone PDF.

Night Hag. When you take a photo or a video of a night hag, it never looks like it should. Instead, it looks like a small or medium humanoid of its choice. That's right, the hag gets to decide how it looks in any photo or video. Furthermore, it can also change how it looks in any photo or video, though that is not done consciously. Same thing applies for Cambions, Doppelgangers and Succubus/Incubus.

Nothic. If a nothic gazes at your phone, it immediately finds out all the secrets you hide on it, as well as the unlock sequence or password. Also, its eye seems to occasionally blink in any photos taken of it.

Oni. Don't take a photo of an oni, it will haunt your phone from a distance. And I'm not just talking about haunting on that one photo. It will in fact disappear from the photo, and mess with your files and apps, sending unwanted creepy text messages to random numbers, distorting music and other photos... The only way to get rid of it is a factory reset. I'm dead serious, just don't.

Otyugh. For some strange reason, possibly due to the limited nature of its telepathy, it can send text messages to your phone if it's within the range. You don't even need to have signal on your phone, you could be underground looking up photos, and suddenly you get a message, that, well... with Intelligence of 6, try and imagine what an otyugh has to say. Even if you can respond to it, the otyugh won't receive anything.

Pixie. Taking pictures of Pixies is fine, and the vain creatures love to pose for them. However, don’t allow them to talk you into taking a video of them. A video of a pixie contains a copy of their prankster spirit, and while it is on your phone they will text your contacts in humorous (to them) ways, sending out embarrassing personal details you’d rather keep private.

Rakshasa. If a rakshasa holds your phone, it can choose to curse it never to recharge. Don't let rakshasas hold the phone! Only exception is if it's in a gold case and owned by a good creature... pffrt, yeah, sure. Good creature.

Revenant. If you take a photo or video of a revenant, its face is replaced by the face of whoever they were during their life, but looking decayed, and its eyes always glow. Even when its head is turned away from the camera.

Rust Monster. You know the drill. NO is a NO!

Satyr. Legends say that if you tweet a message containing phrase #SatyrParty using Tweeter, a satyr will show up within 7 days to get you drunk. It literally can't refuse a challenge to party. Or maybe it can, but nonetheless it can sense this somehow.

Sphinx. Sphinxes can willingly choose to appear distorted on electronics that record them. Also, since gynosphinxes have special eyes, they can actually see everyone who will ever watch the video. And can respond accordingly in real time. Unfortunately, she can't choose to change the video after it's recorded unless she abuses her time travel.

Sprite. In a strange twist, Sprites love to have video recorded of them and will often do acrobatic tricks and amusing poses. However, do not snap a photo of them, as they will appear in every other picture, both those you’ve taken before and those you take in the future. A factory reset can fix this issue.

Unicorn. Every time you open a picture of an unicorn, your screen cleans itself. Setting a picture of a unicorn (if you’re lucky enough to have one) as your phone background is extremely beneficial, but you must ensure that the picture is not covered by icons or anything, or the effect won’t work.

Vampire. Vampires of course can't be seen in photos or videos that are taken of them.

Will-o'-wisp. Your phone will produce faint or distant whispers as long as you have a photo, sound recording or video of a will-o'-wisp saved on it. These whispers are not loud enough to be heard beyond 5 feet.

Xorn. If your smartphone is within the range of its Treasure Sense and you have a banking app on it, it senses the state of your bank account. Good thing there isn't a banking app for smartphones... yet.

Yeti. Photos and videos of yeti will seem to depict a pile of snow shaped like a humanoid thing, or too blurry to clearly tell anything. Same thing applies to Displacer Beast, except for the snow part. It just appears blurred.

Thanks to Rhadamanth Nemes and Trau for doing the proofreading!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Reflavoring: Barbarian

Hi! This may seem like an article series, and that's because it kinda is, thing is just that I don't have that many ideas for other classes on this series. Like, I got one at best for Fighter, seeing how it's literally just about a guy who can handle any weapon and any armor (ignoring archetypes). For casters, I got something really neat, but the problem there is that I sort of worked them out by changing mechanics slightly. You'll see what I mean probably in one of my next articles. Anyway, before I get totally sidetracked, I should just reiterate that I can't promise sequels, and I can't promise the sequels coming in alphabetical order either.

Now then, with the silly intro aside, we can get into it.

It Started with a Samurai

Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me.
Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time, and flung him into the future, where my evil is law!
Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!- Samurai Jack, Intro
Samurai is one of those characters that people want to play in D&D. A cool, disciplined warrior, who travels the land and uses his sword to make right what goes wrong. What does one think of when someone say samurai? Maybe a fighter would fit, since they're a skilled warrior. Maybe a kensei monk. Or hell - even a rogue could work. But, what if I told you that the barbarian could also fit? You just need to rename features to make it work.

Picture this. A warrior whose skin is tough as steel, someone who can enter the changed state of mind where he is much more vigilant of his surroundings, someone who is faster than most regular men. He knows that to attack well, sometimes he has to risk getting hit in return to get a really good hit, and once he's experienced enough, he knows how to hit person not just really good, but really freaking good, causing some very significant injuries. And then there's his unrelenting spirit that keeps him alive even in the direst situations.

Now, let's see what are the mechanics I used here. I started with the Unarmored Defense, which does not need renaming. Rage is the next feature, which in this case would be reflavored into something like Vigil, or Concentration. What follows is Fast Movement that doesn't need renaming, and after that Reckless Attack that's more like Risky Maneuver. Another feature that does not need renaming is Brutal Critical, and finally, Relentless Rage that in our samurai example is more like Unrelenting Spirit.

(Note: From my past experiences, I would avoid renaming the features as a player because it can confuse DM. I would refer to the features as I use them with their original names, but describe them as part of the story in a different way.)

I'm sure that by now you can see this can work - barbarians don't just have to be easily angered people who use big bulky weapons and live in tribes. It's a nice idea that I am a fan of, but then WotC announced that their next book is going to have Samurai archetype for Fighter. Well, I guess here's to that then, I'll have to come up with a new name. Maybe Ronin could work...

True Core of Barbarian

Last night I was thinking about the barbarian once again, and I got a brilliant idea that made me go "I need to write about this on my blog!". What got me thinking was one single look at the right emotion wheel.

What if Rage was instead replaced by most of the emotions inside?

Vigilance I already explained above.
Ectasy would suit someone who is really optimistic about life, driven and joyful, who wants to spread joy all around.
Admiration is fitting for someone who has an idol they would do anything for.
Terror is for someone who works the best when under the pressure. Think Shaggy from Scooby Doo (yes, it's a stretch, but imagine he'd put those muscles into fight instead of flight).
Amazement I'm gonna skip because it's not really worth it. Being surprised isn't really something that can be controlled, and barbarians already get a feature against being surprised.
Grief wouldn't work either, I'd dare to say that sadness is the greatest enemy of the barbarian. Especially if it makes them nihilistic, if it makes them feel like nothing is worth fighting. No kind of emotion could save you from that really.
Loathing would work well for an evil* barbarian who is driven by hatred of some sort - racism, hatred for magic, hatred for a nation etc.

(* nobody is really evil, evil is subjective, but I can't be bothered talking about that again)

Of course we could look at certain comic series about magic rings for further inspiration, like the emotions (that are not really emotions): Compassion (who fights for others, think Steven Universe), Hope (who believes in a better future), Willpower (who is powered by their own determination, think Undertale's protagonist) and Greed (like Wario, or Mr. Krabs from Spongebob).

So, what's the core of the barbarian? Their fighting is driven by their emotions. Once we realize that, we can map the non-magical classes onto two axes. One is focused on emotions, with barbarian who unleashes their emotions for the world to see on one end, and monk who suppresses them on the other end, and the other axis being that of combat focus - fighter is focused on general damage, with lots of less effective attacks, fighting style of their choice etc., while rogue is focused on making single attack that's very effective. Of course there's more to all four of these classes, but this is how I would map them.

Then there’s the problem of strength of personality relying on Charisma, but… meh, I can let this pass. It’s just describing what’s already in game in a different way.

Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!