Category Archives: Breakfast Crunch

What is Breakfast Crunch? Well it’s probably a no-name knock-off cereal sold in huge plastic bags with a picture of, I dunno, a dancing hippo on it but it’s also a feature where Lizard sits down at his computer eats some breakfast and makes up some allegedly useful bit of game crunch. Guaranteed to have all the quality completeness and playtesting implied. I am writing this in an hour after having been dragged out of bed by a hungry cat and before the caffeine has hit my system. Consider yourself warned.

Igilvar’s Fang

Igilvar’s Fang

Aura moderate necromancy CL 8th; Weight 1 lb.; Price 12,000 gp

Igilvar’s Fang (many imitations of the original have been made, but they are called “Igilvar’s Fang” in honor of the originator), is usually a thin, long-bladed, dagger, with a hilt of ebony banded with golden wire, and a wide guard. At the pommel is a white pearl. Igilvar was an infamous cleric of dark powers, who first made this blade for an unknown comrade who accompanied him on many quests in service to his bleak master.

It is a +2 dagger, which makes it useful in and of itself, but it has another power. When used to do precision damage, if it does at least 10 points, against any creature which has a poison attack (including poison breath or gaze weapons), it will magically replicate the poison and store this enchanted venom within itself. This changes the white pearl at the pommel to blood-red, indicating that the dagger is “charged”. It will hold this charge until the user drains the dagger (a free action). This is most often done just after a successful attack with the blade, but it can be done at any time to “empty” the weapon and prepare it to absorb a different kind of poison.

The poison stored in the dagger is exactly identical to the poison extracted, including Save DCs, effects, etc. The target is affected exactly as if it had been successfully poisoned by the original poison source.

The discharged poison vaporizes instantly on contact with air; to be effective, the blade must be plunged into something. Obviously, this is usually an enemy creature, but it could be a tankard of ale or a haunch of meat. At least half the blade’s length must be submerged for the poison to work. Poisoned food or drink will remain so for 1d4+1 rounds; after that, the poison will dissolve. As creature venoms rarely evolve to be used in assassinations, detecting such a poison in food is easy, a DC 10 Perception check. Making such a check means only a trivial amount of the poison was imbibed, granting a +4 on any saves.

Igilvar’s Fang can only charge itself when used in actual combat against a non-helpless enemy. The blade will not absorb poison from a container, a dead foe, or a willing target. How does it know? A wizard did it! (OK, a cleric, technically. Bite me, pedant.)

Some 10% of Igilvar’s Fangs will not match the description above, but they will always be daggers, and always contain some gem or decoration that changes color dramatically when the weapon is “charged”.

CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS

Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Poison. Cost 6,000 gp

Designer’s Notes

The price is an approximation; I didn’t think the ability was quite worth kicking it up to the cost of a +3 weapon, but it’s better than a +2 weapon, so I split the difference.

There’s some great plot potential here. Igilvar’s Fang will hold a “charge” indefinitely. If there is some creature with unique venom around, usually paired, thematically, with a creature that can only be killed by said unique venom, then, the owner of the Fang might go on a hunt for the first creature. Alternatively, if the first creature is extinct, a rumor might exist of a rogue or assassin or the like who owned a Fang, or even the fang, and was entombed with it… and wouldn’t you know, in that rogue’s last battle, he fought the now-extinct creature and maybe, just maybe, got the venom from it before he croaked. Road trip! (With grave robbing. Actually, come to think of it, aren’t most D&D adventures basically road trips with grave robbing?)

Mallifor’s Mug Of Magnification

So… going to make an attempt to post small things regularly, instead of long articles I never quite finish. Just bits of what I call game lego — items, spells, monsters, feats, traps, etc, all the building blocks. (Plot, character, and memorable events, you have to provide yourself — I give you the toys, you play with them. That’s how it works.)

This is a Breakfast Crunch article — something I wrote while eating breakfast and getting ready for work, with all the editing, playtesting, and keen attention to detail that implies!

Mallifor’s Mug Of Magnification

Mallifor was a wizard who was slightly bonkers, a statement akin to “Rongnar Blackbraids was a dwarf who had a beard.” The son of a potter, he never quite forgot his upbringing, and is known for creating a series of magical mugs, brilliantly carved, that impart all manner of effects.

Pouring anything into a mug is a swift action, provided both the mug and what you’re pouring (usually a potion) is in your hand.

Mallifor’s Mug Of Magnification

Aura faint transmutation; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 9,000 gp; Weight 1 lbs.

Description:This mug is of red clay, covered with blue and green glazing in swirling, wave-like patterns. When a potion is poured into the mug, if it is imbibed within one round, it is treated as an empowered spell. The mug may be used up to 1d4 times per day, rolled secretly by the GM when the mug is first used on a given day. Using it an additional time produces a loud and unpleasant noise, and the potion becomes foul and undrinkable (anyone who tries is sickened for 1d4 rounds, Fort save DC 15 to negate)

Once filled, the mug may be handed off to an ally to drink from, or drunk by the owner. All the normal rules for drinking a potion, including any applicable feats, work as written when drinking from the mug.

Any potion poured in the mug cannot be spilled, so long as the owner of the mug does not wish it to be. This is true even if the mug is tossed or thrown to someone else.

If the potion in the mug is not imbibed within one round of being poured, it vanishes.

Construction Requirementscraft wondrous item, empower spell, brew potion, craft (Potter) 5 ranks. Cost: 4,500 gold.

Some variants of this use pewter mugs, silver goblets, etc. They are mechanically identical, but require a different crafting skill.

Hoard Contraction

Hoard Contraction

Transmutation

Assassin 3, Bard 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3; Domain: Metal 3, Trade 2

Casting Time: 1 Standard Action

Components: V, S, M/DF

Range: Touch

Target: Up to 1000 coins per caster level up to 10,000 maximum, coins must all be in a single bag or container.

Duration: Permanent

Saving Throw: None; Spell Resistance: No

This spell, beloved of adventurers who often find themselves with a lot of small change, transmutes coins of one sort into coins of another, ‘rolling up’ their value. It will turn 10 copper pieces into a silver piece, or 50 silver pieces into five gold pieces.

The spell requires a coin of recent mintage, of the highest value desired (for example, a silver coin will allow copper to become silver, but not gold or platinum). Having multiple coins (1 each of silver, gold, and platinum) is ideal. The “target” coin must have been minted in the past year and must be a common coin in an area within 10 miles of the caster; this spell cannot be used to turn copper pieces into antique coins worth far more than their metallic value. Indeed, the coins created by this spell, while of the proper weight and purity, are generally worn, nicked, and otherwise seemingly well-used (this is by design, as a sudden flood of glistening, newly-pressed coins in the hands of disreputable wandering mercenaries is likely to raise eyebrows).

A “tax” of 1% of the total value of coins transmuted is enacted by the spell; this raw material is part of what powers the transmutation.

All coins to be transformed must be in a single container, be it a sack, chest, box, and so on, including extradimensional storage. The spell affects 1,000 base coins per caster level and begins with the cheapest coins, seeking to combine them into the highest value possible. Hence, a fifth level caster with 5500 copper pieces and 100 silver pieces would end up with 4 platinum pieces, 9 gold pieces, 500 copper pieces, and 105 silver pieces. (At fifth level, the spell will “look” only at the first 5000 coins — 5000 of the copper pieces. One percent of this, the spell’s “tax”, is 50 copper pieces, or, five silver pieces. The 4,950 copper coins become 4 platinum pieces (consuming 4000 of the copper), 9 gold pieces (consuming 900 copper), and 5 silver pieces (consuming 50 copper))

False coins (as determined by their metal content, not necessarily their mintage) are not affected by this spell, making this an interesting way to sort out shaved coins, or coins containing admixtures of base metals. The spell can work on small pieces of pure metals not necessarily minted into coins, but cannot affect any piece weighing more than an ounce.

There is a legend that a powerful trickster-mage authored a reversed version of this spell, and tricked a dragon into casting it, thus entombing the dragon under a mountain of copper pieces. This reversed spell, if it ever really existed, has been lost to common knowledge.


Design Notes

This arose from last night’s PF game, where I realized it was a shame to leave low-value coins just lying around because they were heavy and bulky and even a portable hole only holds so much, especially when you dump a petrified mammoth into it. (Don’t ask.) It occurred to me that this would be a useful spell, and so, I wrote it up. Now, any spell that deals with precious metals is an open invite for a clever player to find ways to completely crash your game world’s economy, and so, I tried to find appropriate limits that would keep it at the “handy utility” level, and not the “hyperinflation level”. Many obvious combat uses are nullified by the simple expedient of the spell rolling up, not down — otherwise, you could bring a sack of 10 platinum pieces, cast this, and shower 10,000 copper pieces down on some unsuspecting enemy. The fact it costs 1% of the total wealth imposes, well, a cost on the spell, making it at least a tiny decision to use it or just get bigger bags or more hirelings. (I might kick it up to 5% or 10%, as I think about it.) The need to have local, current, coins is there because the first exploit I thought of is creating coins whose value to historians or collectors greatly exceeds their metal value. The idea that it could be used to “filter” fake or tampered coins was a happy inspiration as I thought about exactly what the magic could and couldn’t do, and how it would react to lead slugs in the coin bag.

Thoughts on other possible loopholes which could/should be capped, or non-exploitative but clever uses, are welcome.

Traps & Trapmaking

It’s A Trap!

(A Work In Progress) 

This is still being developed; there’s some editing I need to do on things like costs, damage values, and scavenging; honestly, it’s still in a semi-rough note stage. However, due to various time constraints, this site has gone too long without a meaningful update, so I felt an in-progress article was preferable to publishing nothing at all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition is notably weak when it comes to doing things outside the formal structure of encounters or skill challenges. Virtually all game mechanics are designed to work in 5 minute blocks, except for some travel powers and a few other things. It also suffers from an attitude that anything which isn’t combat should be handwaved or made mechanic free. Also, Michael Longcor’s “Snare And Deadfall” randomly shuffled to the top on my iPod while I was taking my morning executive order. No, that’s not right. Morning constitutional. Sorry, these days, it’s hard to tell the difference. But I digress.

Anyway, the point of all that is… this article is about players making traps in 4e, as opposed to, say, the Endurance feat, which was a trap for players in 3e. Ba-dum-BUM.

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Disease

Ah, disease. One of the hallmarks of the medieval world, and, in a fantasy world, you can have all sorts of nasty plagues and poxes. This article contains an assortment of (I hope) imaginative and interesting infections with which to make your PCs regret ever saying “Ritual Caster? Feh! Why would we waste a feat on that? We want more dakka!”

Some of these diseases are listed with fixed levels, though it ought to be extremely trivial to raise or lower the level as needed. Some suggestions for making them nastier at higher levels are included.

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The Demonblooded

The Demonblooded

Tieflings. Somehow, they’ve gone from being the result of hot demon-on-human sex to being a race of emo posers. Hell, they even dropped the whole idea of Yeenoghu or Orcus or the occasional Marilith getting their freak on with some cultists, and instead there’s some vague "bargain" struck in the equally vague (but still intrusive and annoying) "assumed world", which exists — and this is official, mind you — so that artists at WOTC will know what holy symbols to paint. Seriously. This was one of the excuses given for the presence of the "default" world. Well, that, and certain people on the design team are rumored to hate worldbuilding with the burning passion of a thousand suns, and seem to think that getting back to the days of "You’re in the Town of Vyllaj, and just outside the town is the Dungeon of Danger. Click ‘1’ to visit the Shopkeeper. Click ‘2’ to visit the Tavern. Click ‘3’ to enter the Dungeon." is a really good idea.

I say thee NAY!

In my world — yes, WOTC, I said "my" world. Mine. Not yours. Can not have. — Tieflings are very much the result of doing the nasty with things that are nasty. Though this happened ages past (like all good sexual revolutions, it was either before your time or after you were too old to take part), the consequences (namely, Tieflings) are still with us. They are not a race, they are the occasional reminders of that ancient time. It was called variously the Age of Demons, the Demonwar, the Elfwar, or the "time when the Aeld screwed over the whole world". Huge amount of backstory short (You think players telling you about their PCs are bad? Never get a DM started on his world!), a bunch of hoity-toity folks with pointy ears thought summoning and binding mere Type II Demons wasn’t enough — they were going to get Demogorgon, Jubilex, et al to play Steppin Fetchit for them. It didn’t work. They rebelled. They evolved. They had a plan. (Said plan was "Tear the world to pieces and dance in the bloody ruins while frothing in a mad rage", but, hey, it was still a plan!) Eventually, the bad doobies were sent back to the Abyss, but the consequences of their rampage across the mortal world remain, from the introduction of demon-bred races like gnolls and minotaurs, to a dark, festering, seed of chaos and evil lurking in the bloodline of man. (That woud be the Tieflings, in case you forgot where I was going with this while I digressed madly.)

Anyway, since there’s lots of Demon Princes, it only makes sense that Tieflings would sometimes show traits relating to their special ancestry.

Read on for more!

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Ye Gods!

Ye Gods!

One of my favorite memories of AD&D, First Edition, was the section in the original Deities&Demigods regarding non-human deities — by which I mean the gods of the hobgoblins, trolls, kobolds, and so on. The long series of articles in "Dragon" expanding those individual deities to full racial pantheons was even better. While most real-world deities were a poor fit for the clockwork, number-driven, if-it-has-stats-we-can-kill-it world of Dungeons & Dragons, those gods made up explicitly for the game fit perfectly. Further, racial pantheons made the world feel more real — it makes sense to me that elves would have one god of fire and orcs another.

Third edition tried to straddle a line between "Gods are really, really, high-powered monsters" and "Gods are abstract entities". The 3e Deities & Demigods book created insanely powerful gods, a 20 level ranking system for deities, and all sorts of other Asberger-friendly content, then made those rules 100% different from the Epic rules, making it nigh-impossible to go on a god-killing expedition because everything was done and scaled differently. Fourth Edition just said "To hell with it" and de-statted gods, which has its pros and cons, but it also did something I really dislike — it created a one-size-fits-all universal pantheon, turning racial gods like Moradin and Corellon into Generic Deities worshipped by all. This was due, in part, to the anti-worldbuilding, the DM should just create "encounters" and chain them into "delves", attitude which infests the 4e rules. It’s easier to have a shared, but vague and inchoate, "assumed world" when you don’t have to worry that some uppity DM, who might still have delusions that a game is better when it takes place in a world, not a sound stage, will create his own gods. Racial pantheons are a clarion call to creativity; once you see that there’s orc gods and dragon gods, it’s hard to not start thinking of treant gods and merfolk gods and flumph gods. And, hey, maybe there’s multiple pantheons of human gods, and that might mean nations, and cultures, and languages, and pretty soon we’ve left the track entirely and we’re drawing maps and writing histories and, sin of all sins, giving stats to things the players aren’t supposed to kill. Cats and dogs, living together! But I digress.

Anyway, the focus of this next series of articles is going to be racial and cultural gods, done up in the 4e style, with Channel Divinity powers, etc. Because I’m trying to leverage my time (proactively and synergistically!), I’m going to focus on rounding out a few corners of my world. Making these gods into generic, "Sure, orcs and dwarves both worship the same guy!" gods should not be very difficult at all, if that’s what floats your boat.

Anyway, since my current game world is a classic Sword & Sorcery realm, owing a lot to Robert Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Fritz Lieber, it has a nation of serpent worshippers, a supposedly human kingdom whose ruling family are all tainted with Yuan-Ti blood. The pantheon they worship is followed by the humans, the Yuan-Ti, and the surrounding lizardmen.

Read on!

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Five Layers, Five Days

Five Layers, Five Days

There’s no denying I’ve been a bit slack over the past few weeks, often taking 2-3 weeks to do what should be one week of articles. I blame the rise of paying work. Nonetheless, I am somewhat determined to try to get back on track, and so I am going to return once more to the Abyss, with the intent of producing five layers in five days. As I write this, I do not have in mind any particular theme or focus, or even an idea what the first layer will be, never mind all five, but, here goes. This page, filed oddly under Breakfast Crunch, will be update with a link to each layer as it is written; the layers themselves will be under Abyss Project, as they ought to be.

Monday’s Layer: 018 Nugraal’s Arena

Tuesday’s Layer: 019 The Flaying Tempest

Wendesday’s Layer: 020 The Clockwork Hive

Thursday’s (Late) Layer: 021 The Midnight Depths

Friday’s (Ridiculously Late) Layer: 022 The Plains Of Iron

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Of Chitin And Creativity, Part VI

Of Chitin And Creativity VI: The Undiscovered Country

Whew. It’s taken a lot longer to get here than I’d ever dreamed, but this is the finale of the series, finishing up the Cha’k for Fantasy Craft.

No blather, no intros, just on to the good stuff!

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Of Chitin And Creativity, Part V

Of Chitin And Creativity V: The Final Frontier

Or, what does a giant bug need with a starship?

And thus, we arrive at the end of our exciting adventure. Bringing the Cha’k into Crafty Games’ "FantasyCraft" is fairly straightforward. Direct conversion of mechanics is Right Out; I’m not going to figure out how much a Cha’k can list in Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition and then give it the necessary Strength in FantasyCraft. Rather, I’m going to convert conceptually — if a Cha’k is "slightly above average" in 4e, it will be "slightly above average" in FC.

There are a few other points to consider, and here we get into issues of game goals and design assumptions. 4e is very heavily balanced around combat. This is not a criticism or an accusation that it’s "not a roleplaying game" — it’s a clear fact, explicitly stated by the designers. No class or race is going to be balanced by trading off combat and non-combat abilities, period. Other than a very small number of utility powers, all non-combat specialization is handled via feats. Assuming the design goals do not change over time, you will never see a class where attack powers are weaker because the class makes such great diplomats. There’s quite a lot of reasonable debate over whether or not this is a good thing, but that’s not what this article is about.

FantasyCraft, coming from its roots in SpyCraft, very explicitly does the opposite — classes are balanced around several roles, and while no class is completely useless in a fight, some are much better than others. Likewise, while 4e’s racial balance and design is heavily focused on "Never inconvenience the player", FantasyCraft’s is much more simulationist, and balances some racial traits via limiting player freedom. Dwarves, for example, cannot make jump or swim checks. Orcs cannot attempt to calm people down. Drakes can’t use gear built for humanoids.

With different design assumptions come different choices. FantasyCraft emphasizes different aspects of play than 4e does, and when designing, or re-designing, for it, it’s vital to keep that in mind.

Let’s see how it goes, shall we?

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