Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Palmer: Dual-Statted for BtW and 5e

The Palmer was originally a bogeyman used to parents to scare their children into submission. "Don't fuss," they'd say, "or the Palmer will get you!" Parents described the Palmer as a husky, short man with a gleaming bald head; he might even pass for human if his eyes did not register an obvious and burning supernatural malevolence. "Finish your milk, or the Palmer will come in the night and give you poison to drink!"

There is a funny thing about belief: as soon as enough mothers and fathers had filled their progeny's heads with scare-tales about the fictional bogeyman, he became real because the children believed he was real. Now the Palmer stalks the night, seeking children to poison.

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BtW version:

The Palmer
Hit Dice: 5d8 (23 hit points)
AC: 12
Attacks: +6 to hit, 1d8 damage (poisonous touch)
Alignment: Chaotic

Notes: Poisonous Touch (anyone hurt by the Palmer's poisonous touch must make a successful saving throw vs. poison or become paralyzed for 1d4 rounds and take an additional 1d6 damage), Bogeyman (the Palmer can disappear utterly by entering a dark closet or by scurrying under a bed), Nocturnal (the Palmer ceases to exist during the daylight hours)

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5e version:

The Palmer - use the stats of a Shadow (Monster Manual pg.269), but replace its necrotic damage for poison damage.

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This monster was inspired by the real-life Victorian murderer, William Palmer. The first book I read in 2015 was Stephen Bates's Poisoner, so here we are.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reskinning 5e Classes

5th edition D&D has many classes to choose from; taken as a whole, they offer a wide range of thematic archetypes. Better still: they're easily reskinnable to emulate archetypes that the designers probably weren't thinking about. Some ideas:

D. Gray-man-style Exorcist: If you haven't seen it, D. Gray-man is a manga and anime series about "exorcists" who hunt demons. Each exorcist is bound to "Innocence," a supernatural force for good that gives them otherworldly powers to fight against darkness. The protagonist of the series, Allen Walker, has an arm that can transform into fearsome weapons. If I wanted to make a character like Allen Walker, I'd pick the Warlock and reskin one of the patron types as "Innocence." Since the Pact of the Blade gives you proficiency with whatever sort of weapon you want to manifest, it could easily simulate the various weaponry he uses--just reskin his arm with the stats of weapons from the equipment section and you're good to go.

* * *

Spiritualist: It's an odd fit, but the Totem Warrior Barbarian gets a variety of spirit-based powers and the Spirit Walker ability could be reskinned as the ability to conduct a seance. Levitation? Check out the 14th level Eagle Totemic Attunement ability. 

The warlock is probably a more easy-to-visualize pick, what with its Speak with Dead invocations and powers granted from a patron spirit. There you go, two ways to skin that cat.

* * *

Gunslinger: I noticed the other day that many of the Battlemaster Fighter's maneuvers don't necessarily have to be used in melee; many of them can be used at range as well. Maneuvers such as Disarming Strike, Distracting Strike, Feinting Attack, Goading Attack, Maneuvering Attack, Menacing Attack, Precision attack, Pushing Attack, and Trip Attack to simulate trick shots, blowing a foe off their feet with a rifle blast, shooting the weapon from a villain's hands, etc.

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Serial Killer: Usually the Berserker Barbarian is thought of as a primal warrior with an innate bestial rage. But a "barbarian" could just as easily be a normal person who becomes overcome with a murderous rage. They could be a scientist whose self-experiments resulted in a Jekyll/Hyde condition, an aristocrat with murderous impulses ala some theories about Jack the Ripper, or a normal person who is sometimes possessed by the spirit of a murderer.

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Swashbuckler: If you're willing to squint at the ki mechanic, the Monk makes a surprisingly good swashbuckler. (You'll also need to reskin the short sword, which monks are proficient with, as a fencing blade, but that seems easy enough) A Monk's Martial Arts ability lets you rely on a high dexterity for your attack and damage rolls with your sword, gives you a bonus to unarmed strike damage, and lets you get a bonus unarmed strike in when you attack with your sword--just like in the movies, your swashbuckler is slicing and punching all over the place. You can spend ki for daring-do like Flurry of Blows, enhanced dodging, and Step of the Wind. There's also a ton of mobility powers that fit the theme, and Unarmored Defense gives you a reason not to be an armored tank in combat.

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Street Fighter: As with the swashbuckler ideas above, you could use the Monk as the basis for a back-street brawler. Brass knuckles should definitely qualify as "monk weapons."

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The Other Kind of Street Fighter: The elemental Monk has all the right moves for all the hadokens and shoryukens you could ask for.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gothic Victoriana Names

Might be helpful for naming your next character too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beyond the Wall House Rules

My custom saddle-stitched printings of the newest Beyond the Wall rule book.
Being able to choose your own art for the covers is complete victory.
I don't have many rule mods for Beyond the Wall because it's already tight, but these are the additions and changes I make:

Ability Scores: If you felt like you rolled poorly or don’t like the idea of randomly determining ability scores, you can use the following scores instead: 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10.

Ability Score Modifiers: I wanted each ability score to add a bonus or penalty to at least two things.

Your Constitution modifier gives you a bonus or penalty to your Hit Points and Saving Throws vs. Poison.

Your Intelligence modifier (if positive) gives you bonus languages and a bonus or penalty to Saving Throws vs. Breath Weapons.

Your Wisdom modifier gives a bonus or penalty to your Saving Throws vs. Spells and Magic Items.

Your Charisma modifier gives you a bonus or penalty to the number of allies that will loyally follow you and your Saving Throws vs. Polymorph.

(I'm considering having Dex bonuses/penalties apply to ranged damage.)

Armor: I'm adopting 5e's disadvantage mechanic instead of restricting the kinds of armor usable by the different classes. Rogues have disadvantage while wearing anything heavier than light armor and Mages have disadvantage while wearing any armor.

Every character has a Singular Curiosity.

Monsters: I make my own custom monsters or modify the ones in the book. Armor class is something I definitely want to keep "bounded" as I think some of the example monsters in the book are way too hard to hit. (I like combat to be fast and vicious.) I also like the idea of using "save end" conditions for monster special abilities the way 4e and 5e D&D do it.

Monday, January 12, 2015


An alraune is a malicious and inhuman woman created when a witch mates with a mandrake. While an alraune is alluring and seeks the companionship of mankind, she does so only to sow discord. An alraune feeds off the emotions of anger, greed, and heartbreak.

Hit Dice: 4d8 (18 hit points)
AC: 14
Attacks: +4 to hit, 1d8 damage (feeding tendrils)
Alignment: Chaotic

Notes: Feeding Tendrils (each time an alraune causes damage with her tendrils she regains 1d4 hit points), Devilish Allurement (an alraune can cast False Friend and Commanding Word each three times per day).

Friday, January 9, 2015

The 14 Best Books I Read in 2014

Hanns Heinz Ewers, Alraune

At noon the silver tears that the clouds wept on their green leaves sparkled like polished moonstones. It was there where the pale snow of acacias lay, where now the luburnum drops its poisonous yellow, that I discovered the great beauty of chaste sin. And, sisterkin, it is thus that I learnt to understand the passions of saints.

* * *

Daniel Mills, Revenants

At last she sleeps and the colors swoop to cover her. Copper. Crimson. Driftwood brown. Wide wings converge beneath her body, bearing her upward into the opening they create above her, a cone-shaped hollow formed from pure color, paper veils like spider’s silk. She floats, weightless upon the rising blood-tide, adrift in a void that seethes with silent voices.

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Deborah Lutz, Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism

Pornography was scribbled by being passed from hand to hand, yielding a text written by six or more fellows. They read aloud to each other, sometimes they had sex with each other. Collaboration involved tenderness, often caresses, sometimes fierce competition. The fact that so much influential work on sex was done in this wise—as gestures of love—seems to me a useful discovery. … I was watching a modern approach to sexuality get hammered out through acts of intimacy.

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Brian May et al, Diableries

No example text needed; an image will suffice:

* * *

Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (ed.), Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

You don’t need to know what you’re saying for the thing to work—I declaimed the poems and watched the shadows boil.

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Horace Walpole, Hieroglyphic Tales

The king insisted that his eldest daughter should be married first; and as there was no such person, it was very difficult to fix upon a proper husband for her.

* * *

Joseph Delaney, The Last Apprentice series

And as for the Devil, well, I used to think that evil was more likely to be inside each one of us, like a bit of tinder just waiting for the spark to set it alight.

* * *

Oliver Potzsch, The Hangman's Daughter

Rumors of witchcraft and diabolical rites spread faster than the odor of excrement in a small town like Schongau.

* * *

Paul Leppin, Severin's Journey into the Dark

The blind and malignant rage of solitude flared in Nathan’s voice, poison seethed in it that laid waste to the hearts of the crippled and deranged, hatred for the world. He preached wrathful disbelief in the good and splendor of the earth, the merciless score of an insolent blasphemer.

* * *

Philip Reeve, Larklight series

Among my mother’s books I had once discovered a volume of stories by a gentleman named Mr Poe … There was one, The Premature Burial, which gave me nightmares for weeks after I read it, and I remember thinking that there could be no fate more horrible than to be buried alive, and wondering what type of deranged and sickly mind could have invented such a tale. But as I lay there immobilised in a jar on the wrong side of the Moon with only a ravening caterpillar for company I realised that Mr Poe was actually quite a cheery, light-hearted sort of chap, and that his story had been touchingly optimistic.

* * * 

Colette, The Vagabond

Faith, that is what it is, genuine faith, as blind as it sometimes pretends to be, with all the dissembling renunciations of faith, and that obstinacy which makes it continue to hope even at the moment of crying. ... There is no doubt that, if ever my heart were to call my master Chance by another name, I should make an excellent Catholic.

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Stephen King, The Gunslinger

The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which streched themselves on the horizon and the devilgrass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death.

* * *

Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

Will and Lyra felt a succession of cold, delicate brushing sensations as the ghosts passed through their bodies, warming themselves on the way. The two living children felt that little by little they were becoming dead, too; they hadn’t got an infinite amount of life and warmth to give, and they were so cold already, and the endless crowds pressing forwards looked as if they were never going to stop.

* * *

Molly Tanzer, A Pretty Mouth

Really, who didn’t write poetry these days—and yet he alone was punished for the crime of artistic expression! How could he have anticipated that, at Wadham, admiring one’s betters through verse would be viewed as some gross sin, akin to shitting on the Bible or poisoning an especially cherubic child?