Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Faithless

art by Paolo Giandoso
The Faithless
  • The Faithless is a lifelike statue of a woman carved from salt that is kept hidden away within the ruins of an amphitheater in a stretch of wasteland south of Saltmire.
  • A gospel within the Book of Thorns states that the Faithless was once a live, flesh and blood woman who turned to salt for losing faith in the Broken God. The deity, angered at her disbelief, changed her into a monument meant to serve as a dire warning to his followers and as a demonstration of his divine might.
  • Legends say that the Faithless still lives and that her consciousness has been trapped in the form of an unmoving a salt-hewn statue for countless generations.
  • Some believe that if an innocent were to kiss the Faithless upon her mouth, she would be returned to mortal life and the affectionate visitor would take her place as a statue made of salt.
  • A lone hermit lives in a hovel near the amphitheater; he is the last of a long line of religious sages who has been entrusted with the duty of chasing off anyone who might free the Faithless from her saline imprisonment.
  • An apocryphal gospel not included in the Church of Aeonian Requiem’s Book of Thorns claims that if the Faithless is ever released from her curse, she will become the leader of a heretical cult that will cause the Church’s apocalyptic downfall.
More on the Church of Aeonian Requiem here.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Tarot Inspiration for 5e D&D

Tarot Inspiration 
As one commentator noted in a reply to this post about using playing cards as an inspiration mechanic, this would also work with more image-based cards. Here's how I would do it with a deck of tarot cards.

The system below gives a mechanical incentive for players to roleplay scenes that reveal more about their characters:

During a period of downtime, a player may nominate themselves to roleplay a tale-telling scene.

That player draws a single card from a standard tarot deck. The card drawn determines the content of the tale, as per the tables below.

The player will then tell a story based on that theme in the voice of their character to the other characters present. The story should reveal something about the character’s backstory or give the other players a greater sense of that character’s past.

After a player completes a tale-telling scene, their character gains inspiration.

Examples

  • A player draws the Six of Wands and tells a tale about their character running into their estranged father in a busy market.
  • A player draws the Hanged Man and tells a tale of how their character was forced to surrender to the opposing side when they were employed as a mercenary soldier.
  • A player draws the Star and tells a tale about the example set by their character’s mentor—whose sacrifice for a great cause gave them hope for the future.
  • A player draws the Two of Pentacles and tells a tale about how their character learned to adapt to a life of poverty on the streets after their noble family’s downfall.
  • A player draws the Ace of Pentacles and tells the tale of why they gave up being a baker to pursue a life of reckless adventure as a picaro.


Major Arcana
The Fool. Innocence
Justice. Truth
The Magician. Power
The Hanged Man. Surrender
The High Priestess. Intuition
Death. Endings
The Empress. Abundance
Temperance. Balance
The Emperor. Authority
The Devil. Addiction
The Heirophant. Spirituality
The Tower. Upheaval
The Lovers. Harmony
The Star. Hope
The Chariot. Determination
The Moon. Fear
Strength. Courage
The Sun. Success
The Hermit. Introspection
Judgment. Rebirth
Wheel of Fortune. Luck
The World. Travel


Minor Arcana

Cups
Pentacles
Swords
Wands
Ace
Love
New career
New ideas
Inspiration
Two
Partnership
Adaptation
Impasse
Planning
Three
Celebration
Teamwork
Heartbreak
Progress
Four
Mediation
Scarcity
Rest
Homecoming
Five
Regret
Financial loss
Conflict
Disagreement
Six
Childhood
Generosity
Transition
Recognition
Seven
Opportunity
Investment
Betrayal
Challenge
Eight
Withdrawal
Mastery
Confinement
Change
Nine
Content
Luxury
Nightmares
Resilience
Ten
Bliss
Wealth
Wounds
Burdens
Page
Curiosity
Development
Knowledge
Discovery
Knight
Creativity
Hard work
Ambition
Passion
Queen
Compassion
Nurture
Freedom
Confidence
King
Diplomacy
Security
Clarity
Leadership

Friday, November 15, 2019

Commentary on Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants (Ranger-Warlock)

While I was on vacation a hefty Unearthed Arcana article dropped with playtest material that either enhances or replaces existing class features. Let's take a look at the options and see what they do, if they work, or if they might need a further iteration. Because this UA article is long, I'm splitting it up into sections; this time we're covering the fighter, monk, and paladin. The bard, barbarian, cleric, and druid were covered here. The fighter, monk, and paladin were covered here.

Ranger Features
Deft Explorer
1st-level ranger feature (replaces Natural Explorer)
You are an unsurpassed explorer and survivor. Choose one of the following benefits, and then choose another one at 6th and 10th level. 

Commentary. Let's be honest, Deft Explorer and Favored Foe are less "options" than they are opportunities to re-write the poorly conceived 1st level of the ranger class. I think we have to consider them in that light, which will color my evaluation of the individual benefits below.

Canny
Choose one skill: Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival. You gain proficiency in the chosen skill if you don’t already have it, and you can add double your proficiency bonus to ability checks using that skill. In addition, thanks to your extensive wandering, you are able to speak, read, and write two languages of your choice.

Commentary. One way the ranger was seemingly supposed to be differentiated from the fighter and the paladin was by being the more skill-focused of the martial classes, but the mechanical support for that isn't really there aside from a slightly more robust set of skills. This is a very welcome addition, but if I had to make a criticism here I'd push for this feature granting you double proficiency with two skills instead of just one.

Roving
Your walking speed increases by 5, and you gain a climbing speed and a swimming speed equal to your walking speed. 

Commentary. This is okay: nicely thematic, but also boring enough that this will almost certainly be every ranger's third pick from the list of Deft Explorer features.

Tireless
As an action, you can give yourself a number of temporary hit points equal to 1d10 + your Wisdom modifier. You can use this special action a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (a minimum of once), and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. In addition, whenever you finish a short rest, your exhaustion level, if any, is decreased by 1.

Commentary. This seems pretty powerful at 1st level, but it's pretty cool that it kinda-sorta replicates rangers starting with two hit dice as in early editions. I do wonder if this is so obviously good that it will everybody's first choice of the Deft Explorer features. It's essentially 15 extra hit points at 1st level. I'd hate to see Canny pushed to 6th level when it feels so central to emphasizing the ranger concept. Also, there is no way the exhaustion decrease will make it into the final version; it's too good as a one-level multiclass into ranger to provide a huge benefit to berserker barbarians and their Frenzy feature.

Favored Foe
1st-level ranger feature (replaces Favored Enemy)
You can call on your bond with nature to mark a creature as your favored enemy for a time: you know the hunter’s mark spell, and Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for it. You can use it a certain number of times without expending a spell slot and without requiring concentration—a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. When you gain the Spellcasting feature at 2nd level, hunter’s mark doesn’t count against the number of ranger spells you know.

Commentary. The more I think about this one, the less I'm satisfied with it. It is a much better option than Favored Enemy, but as much as free hunter's mark without the burden of concentration is a step in the right direction, it doesn't address how pinched rangers are by their reliance on bonus actions, particularly if they are two-weapon specialists. 

This underlines something that seems more and more true: one of the ranger's biggest mechanical hurdles isn't in their class specifically: it's the way two-weapon fighting and the action economy functions in 5e as a whole. What we might really need to make this complete is a replacement for the Two-Weapon Fighting style. 

It also underlines that some things should have been class features instead of spells all along; hunter's mark and the warlock's hex and eldritch blast really stick out as "options" that should have been core, but I suspect that looked a little too much like 4e to pass muster.

In any case, I like the idea here but the execution isn't quite right yet. As it is right now, a concentration-free hunter's mark is too good as a one-level dip into ranger for classes that can stack other effects on top of it, such as the warlock's hex spell.

Primal Awareness
3rd-level ranger feature (replaces Primeval Awareness)
You can focus your awareness through the interconnections of nature: you learn additional spells when you reach certain levels in this class if you don’t already know them, as shown in the Primal Awareness Spells table. These spells don’t count against the number of ranger spells you know. Primal Awareness Spells: 3rd detect magic, speak with animals; 5th beast sense, locate animals or plants; 9th speak with plants; 13th locate creature; 17th commune with nature. You can cast each of these spells once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast a spell in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

Commentary. Primeval Awareness is one of my least favorite features to adjudicate in play. There is zero chance that I have thought-out the kinds of monsters within a mile radius (and definitely not the six-mile radius) of any given location in my setting. Primal Awareness is an option I am much happier with, even though I'm surprised at the sheer number of spells its adds to the ranger's list. It's especially great for Hunter and Beast Master rangers, who really suffer from not gaining bonus spells as the newer archetypes do, but on top of those later archetypes it feels like it potentially over-emphasizes the ranger as a spellcaster.

Fade Away
10th-level ranger feature (replaces Hide in Plain Sight)
You can use a bonus action to magically become invisible, along with any equipment you are wearing or carrying, until the start of your next turn. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again
until you finish a short or long rest. 

Commentary. Any alternative to Hide in Plain Sight is welcome.

Ranger Companion Options
3rd-level Beast Master feature (enhances Ranger’s Companion)
(Two paragraphs of flavor text snipped.) The primal beast is a special creature that a Beast Master can choose for the Ranger’s Companion feature. When choosing such a creature, you decide whether it is a Beast of the Air or the Earth, and you determine its appearance. Stories describe primal beasts that mystically change form to align with the spirit of their companion. When a primal beast is met apart from a Beast Master, the creature takes the form a regular beast of challenge rating 1/4 or lower, as determined by the DM.

Commentary. What we have here is two beast companion templates to use in place of scouring the Monster Manual for a good beast to use with this feature. That is the way it should have been from the get-go, but again I suspect that Fear of Fourth Edition got in the way. (While we're here, this is also how the druid's Wild Shape should have worked as well.) 

There are some obvious boosts in using the primal beasts: they gain hit dice as you level up, they get saving throw proficiencies, and they let the companion attack as a bonus action. This makes the beast companion on par with two-weapon fighting, but also rule out two-weapon fighting for this kind of ranger, which is a fine trade-off but should be noted as it might otherwise be a trap for new players. Again, this feels more like a needed revision than an option, but it's pretty welcome. (And you can tell it's needed as this is the only subclass that the article addresses.)

Rogue Features
Cunning Action: Aim
2nd-level rogue feature (enhances Cunning Action)
You gain an additional way to use your Cunning Action: carefully aiming your next attack. As a bonus action, you give yourself advantage on your next attack roll on the current turn. You can
use this bonus action only if you haven’t moved during this turn, and after you use the bonus action, your speed is 0 until the end of the current turn.

Commentary. This is a strong addition, but since rogues are supposed to be able to use their Sneak Attack feature most rounds it probably contributes to the class working as intended. 

Sorcerer Features
Font of Magic Options
2nd-level sorcerer feature (enhances Font of Magic)
When you gain the Font of Magic feature, you get access to the following ways to spend your sorcery points.

Commentary. Imbuing Touch lets you make a weapon magical for two sorcery points, which feels like an ability only the most altruistic of sorcerers will use because they have cantrips for magical damage. Sorcerous Fortitude lets you gain 1d4 hit point for every sorcery point you use, which feels fairly lackluster. 1d4 + Cha modifier wouldn't feel out of order here.

Metamagic Options
3rd-level sorcerer feature (enhances Metamagic)
When you choose Metamagic options, you have access to the following additional options.

Commentary. Elemental Spell lets you change the damage type of a spell, which is situationally nice. Seeking Spell lets you ignore cover on your spells, which again is nice but situational. Unerring Spell lets you reroll a failed spell attack, which could be pretty clutch.

Warlock Features
Pact of the Talisman
Your patron gives you a special amulet, a talisman that can aid you, or anyone else who wears it, when the need is great. When the wearer makes an ability check with a skill in which they lack proficiency, they can add a d4 to the roll. If you lose the talisman, you can perform a 1-hour ceremony to receive a replacement from your patron. This ceremony can be performed during a short or long rest, and it destroys the previous amulet. The talisman turns to ash when you die.

Commentary. I'm all for new warlock pact features, but this one is deadly boring. There's also a bunch of Invocation options, but I'm not going through all those; they are the usual Invocation mixed bag.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Commentary on Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants (Fighter-Paladin)

While I was on vacation a hefty Unearthed Arcana article dropped with playtest material that either enhances or replaces existing class features. Let's take a look at the options and see what they do, if they work, or if they might need a further iteration. Because this UA article is long, I'm splitting it up into sections; this time we're covering the fighter, monk, and paladin. The bard, barbarian, cleric, and druid were covered here.

Fighter Features
Superior Technique Fighting Style
You learn one maneuver of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype. If a maneuver you use requires your
target to make a saving throw to resist the maneuver’s effects, the saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice). You gain one superiority die, which is a d6 (this die is added to any superiority dice you have from another source). This die is used to
fuel your maneuvers. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain your expended superiority dice when you finish a 
short or long rest.

Commentary. This Fighting Style option feels pretty weak. I think I would always take a "always on" Fighting Style over this "once a rest I can do a cool trick" one.

Other Style Options (note these are also available to paladins and rangers)

Blind Fighting
Being unable to see a creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your attack rolls against it, provided the creature isn’t hidden from you.

Commentary. Being blinded comes up so infrequently that I can't imagine taking this Fighting Style.

Interception
When a creature you can see hits a target that is within 5 feet of you with an attack, you can use your reaction to reduce the damage the target takes by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus (to a minimum of 0 damage). You must be wielding a shield or a simple or martial weapon to use this reaction.

Commentary. I think this would be incredibly strong in early levels (essentially negating part of the opposition's action economy), but really lackluster at higher levels.

Thrown Weapon Fighting
You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with the weapon. In addition, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +1 bonus to 
the damage roll.

Commentary. I like this, but I think it could also be stronger. I don't think a +1 to hit or a range boost on top of the rest of the feature would be out of order. I'm sure this is partially because I'm not much fussed about policing who can draw what weapon when, but I'd rather just apply the Archery fighting style to thrown weapons.

Unarmed Fighting
Your unarmed strikes can deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier. If you strike with two free hands, the d6 becomes a d8. When you successfully start a grapple, you can
deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage to the grappled creature. Until the grapple ends, you can also deal this damage to the creature whenever you hit it with a melee attack.

Commentary. I really want to like this, but I don't think it makes unarmed fighting a competitive option. Giving up using a shield or a great weapon for 1d8 damage doesn't feel like a good trade. The problem is that making the damage any higher potentially steps on one of the monk's core features. It also suffers from a lack of ways to make unarmed damage magical to bypass resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning damage. I think what "brawler" characters need is a subclass, not a fighting style.

Maneuver Versatility
1st-level feature (enhances Maneuvers)
If you know any maneuvers from the fighter’s Battle Master archetype, you can replace one maneuver you know with a different maneuver whenever you finish a long rest. This change reflects your physical and mental preparation for the day ahead.

Commentary. Another enhancement that allows you to swap-out a feature that hasn't been working out.

Maneuver Options
1st-level feature (enhances Maneuvers)
If you have access to maneuvers, the following maneuvers are added to the list of options available to you. Maneuvers are available to Battle Masters and to characters who have the
Superior Technique fighting style or the Martial Adept feat.

Commentary. Okay, I'm not cut-and-pasting them all, but here are my general thoughts: Ambush, Silver Tongue, and Studious Eye all give you a non-combat option for your fighter, which is very cool. Since you get a limited pool of Maneuvers, you'll probably only take one of these at most, but they're nice ways to add flavor. Brace gives you an attack against anybody who gets up in your face for a superiority die, which is cool, but I wonder if that steps on the Sentinel feat a bit. Restraining Strike gives you a way to grapple and restrain, which is what many people seem to want out of the grappling rules anyway. Snipe gives you a ranged attack for a superiority die as a bonus action; that one seems very nice.

Monk Features
Monk Weapons
1st-level monk feature (enhances Martial Arts)
You can use this feature to define your monk weapons, rather than using the definition in Martial Arts. You practice your martial arts with specially chosen weapons, which become monk weapons
for you. You can choose a number of weapons to be your monk weapons equal to 5 + your Wisdom modifier (minimum of five weapons). The chosen weapons must each meet the following criteria: The weapon must be a simple or martial weapon. You must be proficient with the weapon. The weapon must lack these properties: heavy, special, or two-handed.

Commentary. I don't really get what this enhancement is addressing. It's nice to be able to choose your monk weapons, but since you can only choose weapons you are already proficient in I think this only lets you count weapons as monk weapons if you get proficiency in them from another source, such as a racial trait, a feat, or multiclassing.

Ki-Fueled Strike
2nd-level monk feature (enhances Ki)
If you spend 1 ki or more as part of your action on your turn, you can then immediately make one unarmed strike as a bonus action.

Commentary. This has to be a stealth buff to the Way of Four Elements Monk. Letting them have an unarmed strike when they burn ki on an elemental power is nice, but it doesn't really fix how few powers monks get from that subclass or the wonky way those powers are priced in terms of ki points. At least it's something. Funny thing about this one: I don't think it actually helps you at the level it becomes available.

Ki Features
2nd-level monk feature (enhances Ki)
When you gain the Ki feature at 2nd level, you get access to the following features.

Commentary. Distant Eye negates disadvantage on ranged attacks at extreme range, but how often does a monk make that kind of attack? Quickened Healing gives very few hit points in return for 2 ki points; that doesn't seem worth it. 

Paladin Features
Blessed Warrior (Fighting Style)
You learn two cantrips of your choice from the cleric spell list. They count as paladin spells for you, and Charisma is your spellcasting ability for them. Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of these cantrips with another cantrip from the cleric spell list.

Commentary. Do clerics really have any cantrips that a paladin would be willing to trade Great Weapon Fighting for? I guess it kinda gives them a ranged option aside from thrown weapons.

Note that rangers get a similar Fighting Style option with regards to druid cantrips, but shillelagh is an interesting spell for a ranger who wants to emphasize Wisdom over Dexterity or Strength. Both of these are okay, but I don't really see them becoming popular choices.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Commentary on Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants (Bard-Druid)

While I was on vacation a hefty Unearthed Arcana article dropped with playtest material that either enhances or replaces existing class features. Let's take a look at the options and see what they do, if they work, or if they might need a further iteration. Because this UA article is long, I'm splitting it up into sections; this time we're covering the bard through the druid.

Proficiency Versatility
4th-level and higher feature (enhances Ability Score Improvement) 
Whenever you gain the Ability Score Improvement feature from your class, you can also replace one of your skill proficiencies with a skill proficiency offered by your class at 1st level (the proficiency you replace needn’t be from the class). This change represents one of your skills atrophying as you focus on a different skill.

Commentary. I like this; it's a pretty basic "re-training" option. This is probably a good one to adopt for longer-running campaigns; by fourth level you might have figured out that someone else in the party is better at Investigation than you are, so swap that skill out for something you'll get to roll more often. I bet if this makes it to publication they will change the wording from "needn't."

Barbarian Features
Survival Instincts
2nd-level barbarian feature (replaces Danger Sense)
You become proficient in your choice of two of the following skills: Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, Perception, or Survival. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those skills.

Commentary. This is an interesting replacement option because it isn't strictly better than the feature it replaces, which means it's a real option instead of a patch. Danger Sense's advantage on Dexterity saving throws is pretty good, but this is a nice way to squeeze in some non-combat utility into the barbarian class.

Instinctive Pounce
5th-level barbarian feature (replaces Fast Movement)
When a creature ends its turn within 15 feet of you, you can use your reaction to move up to half your speed to a space closer to the creature. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.

Commentary. This is another replacement option that doesn't obviously overshadow the feature it replaces. If anything, this one strikes me as being fairly situational; if your group uses a grid map for combat, Instinctive Pounce probably has more value than if you don't. 

Bard Features
Magical Inspiration
1st-level bard feature (enhances Bardic Inspiration)
If a creature has a Bardic Inspiration die from you and casts a spell, the creature can roll that die and add the number rolled to one damage or healing roll of the spell. The Bardic Inspiration die is then lost.

Commentary. I don't really get why this would buff spell damage but not weapon damage. I guess this offers something extra to casters who rely on saving throw spells vs. attack roll spells.

Spell Versatility
1st-level bard feature (enhances Spellcasting)
Whenever you finish a long rest, you can replace one spell you learned from this Spellcasting feature with another spell from the bard spell list. The new spell must be the same level as the spell you replace.

Commentary. Note that this feature is also available to rangers, sorcerers, and warlocks. This is a great enhancement for classes that feel a little starved for choice when it comes to spell selection, particularly the sorcerer. One thing I would like to see added here: also make this feature available to Eldritch Knight fighters and Arcane Trickster rogues!

Cleric Features
Cantrip Versatility
1st-level cleric feature (enhances Spellcasting)
Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one cantrip you learned from this Spellcasting feature with another cantrip from the cleric spell list.

Commentary. Note that this feature is also available to druids and wizards. Much like Spell Versatility, this is a good way to get a character out of a bad choice. Part of me wonders if this feature exists to let people off the hook for taking the True Strike cantrip.

Channel Divinity: Harness Divine Power
2nd-level cleric feature (enhances Channel Divinity) 
Note that this feature is also available for paladins. You can expend a use of your Channel Divinity to fuel your spells. As a bonus action, you touch your holy symbol, utter a prayer, and regain one expended 1st-level spell slot.

Commentary. I'm not that familiar with all of the Channel Divinity options, but this features feels like an option that exists to patch some duff ones. Gaining back a 1st-level spell slot doesn't feel that powerful, so I wonder how useful Harness Divine Power really is.

Blessed Strikes
8th-level cleric Divine Domain feature (replaces Divine Strike or Potent Spellcasting)
In battle, you are blessed with divine might. When a creature takes damage from one of your spells or weapon attacks, you can also deal 1d8 radiant damage to that creature. Once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.

Commentary. This is a decent replacement for Cleric domains that give you Potent Spellcasting, since it applies to both cantrips and all other spells. But it's not a good swap for Divine Strike since it doesn't scale, unless you want the versatility of a bonus on both weapon attacks and spells. 

Druid Features
Wild Companion
2nd-level druid feature (enhances Wild Shape)
You gain the ability to summon a spirit that assumes an animal form: as an action, you can expend a use of your Wild Shape feature to cast the find familiar spell, without material components.
When you cast the spell in this way, the familiar is a fey instead of a beast, and the familiar disappears after a number of hours equal to half your druid level.

Commentary. This enhancement feels very situational, as just about anything a familiar could get done for you is something you can do for yourself while in wild shape. It can, however, provide a source of Help actions during combat. Still, it has good flavor and doesn't seem to break anything. (Also, does it take an hour to summon as per find familiar?)  I wonder if it would be more satisfying to have a "pet subclass" for the druid instead.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Goblin, Carpenter's Gothic, Mondo Sex Head, Monster Squad

Things that brought me delight in October, 2019.


Claudio Simonetti's Goblin performing Deep Red
We were lucky enough to catch Goblin performing the score to a screening of Deep Red. After the movie, they did a full set of their horror movie soundtrack work.


William Gaddis, Carpenter's Gothic
A more difficult novel than some--it's told in unattributed dialog that spills over and interrupts itself--but this is a potent updating of the Gothic novel that encapsulates the dread of America's foul mixture of religion, money, abuse, and politics.


Rob Zombie, Mondo Sex Head
I never really think that remixes of Rob Zombie's music live up to the originals, but this is a fun disc to spin in the run-up to Halloween. 


The Monster Squad
Believe it or not, I hadn't seen The Monster Squad before. I would probably have had a fierce nostalgia for it if I had, but even without that it's a fun little movie.

Nox Arcana, The Haunted Symphony
It just doesn't feel like October without some haunted attraction music.

Art from friends
Met up with some friends passing through on their way back from a wedding and was gifted this incredible photo!


More art from friends!
Becky Munich sent me this delightfully disturbing Halloween card.


Corn maze
Our usual corn maze had a wack theme this year, so we went to this dinosaur one instead.


Fritz Leiber, Conjure Wife
I hadn't read anything by Leiber outside of his Fafrd and Grey Mouser stories, but I'm really glad covering this one on Bad Books for Bad People gave me an excuse to bump it up the reading queue.


Chas Addams, The Addams Family: An Evilution
This history of the Addams Family cartoons collects all of Chas Addams' illustrations alongside a solid history of the family in print. If you're going to get one Addams Family collection, this is the one to look for.


Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
I planned on reading a hundred pages of The Thirteenth Tale a day, but I got engrossed in it and ended up reading the remaining two hundred pages in one fell swoop. If you like the classic Gothic novel, this one is a treat. It hits all the major tropes, but in a way that did not feel derivative to me.


Malifaux 3e: Guild Faction Book
The thing about Malifaux is that it even makes its corporate cops interesting to me.


B/X Mars
I talked this up here.


Planescape: Planes of Conflict
I probably wouldn't use this whole-hog, but there is a lot worth stealing from this set.


Goblin, Music for a Witch
This has been in constant rotation since I saw Goblin live.


The Addams Family
I'm a mark for Addams Family stuff, but this movie definitely exceeded my expectations!


Zombieland
Good-natured zombie flicks like Zombieland that don't do the Walking Dead thing of having mankind be the real monster feel weirdly like spring break flicks to me, but anyway I'm here for it.


Donald A. Wollheim (ed), More Macabre
I picked up a copy of this anthology for a couple bucks at an auction house. There are some classics in here ("The Yellow Wall-paper," "The Spider") but also some noteworthy stories that were new to me, such as Richard Matheson's tale of a man who returns from a research expedition to find his wife pregnant--though she insists it is not the child of another man, a story by Theodore Roscoe about the horrors of Lot's Wife, and Philip M. Fisher's "Fungus Isle"--which does exactly what it says on the tin.


Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, 
Monstress Volume Four: The Chosen
I love Monstress, but I also sometimes feel like I need a guide to keep track of everything that's going on in it.


Zombieland: Double Tap
If you liked the first one, you'll like this one too.


Tamsyn Muir, Gideon the Ninth
at the start, Gideon the Ninth is a bit like Harry Potter if all the students were necromancers accompanied by sword-wielding bodyguards and Hogwarts was a deathtrap puzzle-palace where graduation meant godhood. In the middle, it turns into Clue set in a haunted space mansion. Which I like extremely. Hard not to see the tragic ending coming a mile away, but I enjoyed it and liked these shitbag characters enough that I hope things work on better for them in the sequels. God-dammit, you made me care about these horrible people, Muir!


Kentaro Miura, Berserk vol. 40
R. D. Laing's theory of the divided self gets a hell of a workout in this one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Broken God and the Church of Aeonian Requiem

The Dirge of Urazya 'zine (pdfs here) features twenty world-building prompts to help you create your version of the setting before you begin play. 

I'm going to start posting the answers to the prompts that we used in our games using Urazya as a setting. I'd love to see other people post their creations as well; this could be a rich vein to mine, with lots of sharing, borrowing, and remixing. If you do post some of your stuff, link me to it, please! Maybe we could even get a public wiki going. Let a thousand Urazyas bloom and all that.

17. Name and describe three religious faiths vying for spiritual supremacy in Urazya.



Continuing with this one, Our Lady of the Drowned here, and now:

The Broken God and The Church of Aeonian Requiem

  • According to the Book of Thorns, in the beginning a singular god created the cosmos and mankind. When his creation grew corrupt, the god clothed his divinity in mortal flesh to walk the world and take its sins upon himself.
  • While traveling through Urazya spreading his creed and offering redemption, the now-mortal god was captured by unbelievers, tortured on a breaking wheel, and left to die alone and unaided in a vast desert wasteland.
  • A band of his faithful, thirteen in number, recovered his remains. Their gospels in the Book of Thorns agree that the wounds on the body of their incarnate god leaked radiant, holy light. 
  • Since the god had perished while in mortal form, he was truly dead. He would henceforth be known only as the Broken God. Any previous name ascribed to him has been erased by the devouring winds of time.
  • The skeletal corpse of the Broken God was preserved as an object of worship within the Cathedral of Penance in the coastal town of Saltmire, where it has been decorated with finery, gold, and precious gems.
  • The dissipation of divine power is a slow process. Though the Broken God is deceased, his body continues to emanate magic in the form of sacred radiation. Those who come to worship the remains of the Broken God are bathed in its divine field, and some find themselves imbued with a portion of the god’s power. 
  • Belief in the ideals of self-sacrifice and righteous living symbolized by the Broken God is widespread throughout Urazya. Adherents of the Church of Aeonian Requiem, as the Broken God’s faith has come to be called, often consider it a holy duty to make a pilgrimage to Saltmire to be in the presence of their decaying deity.
  • The commandments of Church of Aeonian Requiem are exacting, expecting chastity, honesty, and commitment to stoically facing inevitable suffering. Members of the Church are shared a revilement of demonic and diabolic forces; these are regarded as manifestations of the sins for which the Broken God sacrificed himself in the attempt to purge evil from the world.
  • The rites of the Church frequently involve bloodletting, flagellation, fasting, and the donning of grotesque ceremonial masks made of iron. 
  • Martyrdom, particularly death via the breaking wheel, is considered to be a favored death that ensures entrance into heaven. Witch-finders, inquisitors, and paladins of the Church are zealots who relish the thought of  dying in their god’s name.