There are two rats in this room… Let’s make rats interesting!

A trap, a power, an NPC and a Character Class for your rat-flavoured games using B/X stats.

New Trap | Rat Nest

You have fallen into a burrow full of rats, thousands of them.

Each round you suffer 3d4 points of damage, save vs paralyzation for half damage. In one round you can light a torch but that round you cannot save vs paralyzation. The light and fire keep the rats at bay for 1d4 rounds, after that, they get bold and rush at you.

New Power | Command Rats

Depending on the system you use and your preference, Command Rats can be a spell or an innate or acquired ability. The mechanics are less important than the effects.

Vancian Magic: Level-1 Spell. Duration: The Magic-User’s level in turns.

Otherwise: Innate, acquired, purchased, through an item, granted by King Rat, whatever. Duration: 1d10 turns or referee’s choice. User per day: Charisma’s modifier, minumum 1.

Effect: You can control a group of 1d6+9 rats to act in unison. The group has HP equal to the number of individuals, and will disperse when half of its members are lost or when the effect runs out. You can give them an order and they’ll carry it out to the best of their ability, as long as it’s not an order directly harmful to them.

Secondary Effect: When using this power, and for 1d4 days thereafter (cumulative), you’ll be constantly surrounded by friendly rats, they’ll climb on your shoulders, run around you, etcetera, but the intense light and fire will keep them away.

New NPC | King Rat

Leather Armor, HD 3, HP 12, Weapons 2 katara (push dagger) for a total of 1d8 damage (when attacking using only one, damage is 1d6).

King Rat is a man of about 45, handsome but slovenly, who lives in the catacombs, surrounded by rats who obey him and with whom he can talk, mainly about poetry, philosophy, politics and science; whether the rats understand or respond to him is open to debate. An anarchist, he doesn’t believe in authority but believes in fair exchange.

Command Rats: He can use this ability 5 times a day. How did he get it? If questioned and he decides to tell, he will say that it was given to him by God Rat, but will not give further details. King Rat doesn’t have any scarification.

Mark of the Rat: An adventurer can fulfill an assignment in exchange for the Mark of the Rat, which allows him to use Command Rats as described above. The Mark is a rat-shaped scarification on the left temple.

New Class | Rat Catcher

Only the man who cleans the public latrines has a worse job than you. But after all, you are not cut out for a glamorous life, nor are you cut out to rub elbows with the nobility or to know carnal love. But such trifles don’t matter to you, or at least you’ve managed to convince yourself of that. The alternative is very depressing.

A rat-catcher. [Source]
Requirement: DEX 9
Prime Requisite: CHA
HD: d6
Max Level: 14
Armor: Leather
Weapon: Any
Languages: Common, Thieves’ Cant

Combat

Poverty, or as you call it: freedom, is your motto. You are not used to wearing armor heavier than Leather; if for some reason you wear it, you can’t use your Knave, Track Vermin and Rat Senses abilities, and you lose 2 or 4 points of DEX while wearing it (Chainmail and Plate, respectively).

Gallows Humour

You get a +2 bonus to your rolls to resist psychological effects, magical or otherwise, related to fear, sadness or nihilism.

Knave

You know one Thief Skill of your choice (or randomly for more fun), except Find/Remove Trap and Pick Pocket. You can use it as a Thief of the same level.

Rat Senses I

You’re good at finding your way around sewers, catacombs, dark alleys and other artificial or semi-artificial structures. If you are the party’s cartographer, the referee is obliged to make at least one major correction or any number of minor corrections she wishes. When you come to a room or hallway that you have already visited, you always know that you have been there before and notice any relevant changes.

Rat Senses II

When you are in a dilemma between several possible paths, there is a 2-in-6 chance that you will instinctively know if there is any immediate danger (such as traps or an ambush).

Track Vermin

You can automatically detect and track vermin, including kobolds, goblins and the like (referee’s choice), and of course rat-folk. When you fight these creatures, your Thac0 receives a bonus of 1 (19 becomes 18, etc.)

9th Level

You can completely clear and control a major area of the city’s drainage system, subway tunnels or alleys, an area that will serve as your territory. You will be the leader of a gang of 2d6 thieves and 3d4 0-level beggars who will follow you and protect the territory, and will be happy to pay a small voluntary weekly tribute as long as you don’t show yourself to be a despot or start bathing more frequently than them, you fop!

Starting Gear (roll 1d30 three times)

1. Antivenom. 2. Dark clothes. 3. Stolen letter. 4. One-use lockpick. 5. Rope (10 m.) 6. Rusty knife (d4 dmg.) 7. Mud protecting boots. 8. Stinky wheel of cheese. 9. Book of satyrical and anarchist poetry against current authorities and the church. 10. Five rat traps. 11. Wooden plank (d6 dmg.) 12. A blood-stained nobility title. 13. Five flashing bomb flasks. 14. Flask of oil. 15. Five torches, tinder and flint. 16. Bronze key to a missing stash. 17. Valuable-looking book you can’t read full of demonic symbols. 18. Box containing five vials of mysterious sludge. 19. Old backpack. 20. Black hat. 21. Dog. 22. The sword of a nobleman (1d8 dmg), anyone who sees it will know it was stolen. 23. Eye patch. 24. Mantle. 25. Soft, stealth shoes. 26. Garish clothes. 27. Frying pan. 28. Crowbar. 29. Sling and ten stones (1d4 dmg.) 30. Cage of 1d4 live rats.

Level Progression

More rats? More rats!

1d12 Magic-User Garments

All these garments can only be used by Magic-Users, and their powers are only active when worn. Unless otherwise specified, these garments don’t offer physical protection.

  1. Robe of Ice. Ice-blue silk mantle with a gold snowflake pattern that grants AC 14 (or as leather). During the winter, there’s a 1-in-6 chance that every spell casted will remain in the Magic-User’s memory. During summer, there’s a 1-in-6 chance another spell is spent without taking effect, randomly determined.
  2. Robe of Is (plural of I). This cotton robe has the Magic-User’s face stamped multiple times. Once every 24 hours, the magician can create a number of insubstantial duplicates of himself equal to his level. At will, he can choose any number of duplicates to imitate his movements and the rest, a second pattern of movements (for example, two duplicates imitate and three duplicates break-dance). There’s a 1% chance you are replaced by a duplicate.
  3. Unseelie Garments. An elegant fairy linen suit or dress. AC 16 (as mail) but it’s invisible to the human eye, so you seem to go naked, which is considered heresy and punishable by hanging.
  4. Slime Tunic. A tunic made with the most delicate fibers of the infamous green slime. The wizard gains resistance to acid, including that of other slimes, oozes and jellies.
  5. Blood Cape. Elegant crimson cape. All attacks made with regular weapons cause -1 damage. Fire and electricity attacks cause double damage (roll twice and add both results).
  6. Twilight Cloak. Red silk inside, black wool outside, very valuable even for non-Magic-Users. Once a night (between sunset and sunrise), the Magic-User can turn into a flying fox for up to one hour. In this shape, he cannot speak but can cast spells. One of his spells is replaced by the cleric’s spell “Putrefy Food and Water” (inverted Purify Food and Water), which allows him to rot the crops (an area of 100 square meters per level). If the spell is not used in bat form, it reverts to the original spell. There’s a 1% chance that you will never recover your true form.
  7. Shadow Cloak. Blacker than black, unknown fabrics. The Magic-User can make stealth rolls with a success rate of 5-in-6 but there’s a 1% chance you simply disappear.
  8. Pointed Hood of Lies. You can tell a lie and everyone who doesn’t know that it’s a lie, will be convinced that what you say is true; one hour later, they will realize it was a lie.
  9. Madcap Hat. Shaped like an amanita muscaria, blood-red and silver spots (actual silver). You can understand the language of fungi, moss, ooze, slime, jellies and smurfs, but all your charisma-based rolls (except with fungi, moss, and so on) suffer a -2 penalty because you look like an idiot.
  10. Light Mail Armor. Literally made of light, so it doesn’t weight. AC 15 (or leather +1). It illuminates like a continual light spell but you can be seen from the distance.
  11. Gloves of Strangling. These wool gloves don’t look like much, but if a Magic-User tries to strangle someone, his victim must Save vs. Poison or die. If the victim survives, the gloves will try to kill you. If you survive, the gloves will disappear, perhaps in search of the food that keeps them alive: a human life.
  12. Pixie Boots. Pixie leather boots, each toe is decorated with a pixie eye, and on each heel, one of its wings. The pixie is still alive. Initiative +1, an extra spell from the second highest level you know, or lower, but there’s a 2-in-6 chance that a pixie swarm will attack you immediately when you put the boots on, and again every 24 hours you wear them.

Pixie swarm

AC 14, HD 2, 5 hp, MOV flying 240′ (80′), walking 30′ (10′), ML 9, SAVE as Magic-User 2, #ATT 1 sword stings (1d4), Fairy dust, Tooth removal

Sword Stings: Automatically hit an opponent they are surrounding, once per turn. Most pixies are armed with swords appropriate for their size, dealing d4 damage, which represents countless small stings.

Fairy Dust: Once per turn, they can choose not to attack and concentrate on flapping their wings faster so they’ll project enough fairy dust. It works as the spell Sleep.

Cutting/Impaling Resistance: Cutting and impaling weapons do half their damage (rounded down).

Tooth Removal: A pixie swarm can remove 1d4 teeth from an sleeping in one round. Each tooth removed deals 1 hp damage.

(Pixie swarm, based on an original concept by Bruno)

Dungeons & the Undead

Why are there so many zombies and skeletons in the dungeons?

Most dungeons are partly tombs, crypts, mausoleums, hypogaea, and partly ruins of ancient cities or fortifications, and what is a lost city if not a large cemetery?

But the dead don’t come back to life in any cemetery. What do dungeons have that make them prone to this inconsistency of the natural laws of life and death?

Magick-Users, of course

Magick-Users play with “forces” or “energies”, “agencies” or “intelligences” that seem to defy the natural laws of the universe or, at least, human understanding of those laws. We call this discrepancy Chaos, because we can’t see the order or the laws that govern it.

Magick-Users (and Clerics as well) are repositories of such forces (or energies, or agencies, or intelligences… let’s call them “forces”, then, or magick), that is, spells.

(Magick-Users are more or less aware of how they channel magick, manipulating weird forces at will. Clerics are not aware of the same; they believe that their gods grant them their powers, they don’t realize that their prayers are magick formulas, identical [in latent if not in manifest content] to the Magick-Users’ formulas, and that through them, they “steal” their powers from the gods, who are not really gods.)

The frequent observation and praxis of magick transforms the world around it. Over time, the places that were once centres of study or use of magick, such as laboratories, temples, towers of stargazers, fairy rings, necropoleis, akelarres, begin to present anomalies.

This is normal now

One of these anomalies is the disruption of normal, ordered life and death cycles. The dead in the area begin to return to life (or to a parody of life) and roam the place. Probably hungry and angry, and totally baffled.

Another is the appearance of the weird, including monsters and traps. Raw magick sneaks through cracks and recesses accidentally opened by the practice of magick. Unchecked magick has the tendency to produce unexpected effects, such as the opening of gates to parallel, adjacent or perpendicular worlds (or universes?), and these gates are crossed by their inhabitants.

Sometimes, finally, the reality on the other side pollutes ours. That’s why there are rooms with inverted gravity, or full of water, or where magick does not work properly, or of impenetrable darkness, or any other imaginable or unimaginable effect.

But we were talking about the undead.

Another kinds of undead, such as vampires and ghouls, less instinctual and more rational (so to speak) than zombies and calacas, could simply feel more comfortable in an environment with residual magic, for them it’s like going to the beach*. This is why ghosts are so happy in houses where misfortunes and tragedies have occurred.

*I hate going to the beach; if god** wanted us to go to the beach, he would have made us crabs.

**There is no god.

Consequences of using magic

Last time I wrote about how to make spell acquisition more interesting for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, and also about the consequences there are when playing with the black arts.

Over on Reddit, Alistair49 mentioned other cosequences to using magic. I compiled his ideas and added several more on this table. Some I came up with and others were stolen.

Whenever a magic-user casts a spell (successfully or not), he rolls 1d100, and in a 1, he reduces his Charisma by one point, representing the gradual loss of his ability to connect to other people.

When magic-users lose a point of Charisma they also suffer a change, and expression of magic’s chaotic nature. The referee rolls 1d3, or chooses one category. 1 = Physical, 2 = Behavior, 3 = Metaphysical. Then rolls 1d10 to know the actual change.

1d10 Physical Behavior Metaphysical
1 warts bad temper casts bestial shadow
2 skin color change alcoholic or addicted shadow moves oddly
3 rash of sores careless crows follow you
4 odd smell bad language, can’t control it an imp suckles you in public
5 magic healing won’t work berserk (save vs magic or attack evident lawfuls) dogs bark at you all the time
6 vestigial fingers sprout from knuckles can’t talk without screaming roll CHA tests twice, choose the worse result
7 hirsute hair on the back of the neck fear of the dark shiny red eyes watch you from dark corners
8 insectile eyes you hate dogs, really hate them wandering monsters appear in 2 in 6*
9 miniature ears all over the body, partial ecolocation develops an antisocial or disturbing obssession faith symbols harm you
10 face scarred with symbols you think everyone are stupid and don’t hide it ¡the voices! ¡the voices!

* If wandering monsters appear in a 1 in 6 chance, now they appear in a 2 in 6 chance; adjust this accordingly.

If you have another takes on how chaos manifests on their servants, give us a comment and I’ll gladly include them in a future entry.

Making spell acquisition weird again! (updated)

Magic-users in Lamentations of the Flame Princess get new spells pretty much the same way as in any basic/expert set and OSR.

  • Transcribing it from a scroll, making the scroll useless.
  • Transcribing it from another spell-book, the source remains magical.
  • Research.

Of the three, research is the most demanding but also the most rewarding, the other two are not particularly interesting, much less dark, and I like my LotFP dark, even darker.

So I’ve been toying around with different takes to make the acquisition of spells weird again, and here’s the idea I like the most.

Spell Transcription

Copying a spell from any source—scroll, spell-book, ritual tattoo, scrawls on an asylum wall, magic wand, IOUN stones, or anything—to their own spell-books, deletes the spell from the original source. This simple modification changes the game, because no magic-user is willing to part from their arcane property, although some of them might be interested in exchanging.

To get new spells, a magic-user needs to capture spell-books (or other sources of spells). He can then transcribe the text and mystical scribbles into his book, or he can tear off the page and sew it to it (which is faster but dangerous). Under these guidelines, a magic-user can remove the tattoo from its wearer (including the skin, of course) and add it to his spell-book.

Spells contained in unwritten sources, like magic wands or other magic items, can also be “transcribed”.

For simplicity, the mechanical procedure is the same as regular transcription, following the procedure described in Rules & Magic (pp. 80 and 82). The in-game procedure, though, is different. The magic-user needs to remove the spell from the source (written or otherwise) and “paste it” into his own spell-book. If he has special inks, paper and other materials, the procedure is faster (as described on pp. 82 and 83.)

Casting non-transcribed spells is dangerous

If a magic-user casts a spell from a scroll, or from (a page torn from) another spell-book, or by reading the scribbles on a wall, it is considered risky casting (see the Weird Magic System from Vaginas Are Magic or Eldritch Cock). If you are using regular spells (from Rules & Magic), use the common miscast table, unless you want to create a specific miscast table for each spell your players acquire.

Casting spells from magic wands and similar items, is not considered risky casting; the downside is that the magic-user cannot attach wands to his spell-book.

Other consequences of using magic

Concerning sorcery, James Maliszewski said that “the wages of sin are far worse than mere death (…) the loss of one’s humanity, the ability to connect to other men, is terrible curse.”

All magic-users are of chaotic alignment, meaning their loss of humanity. Also, when a magic-user casts a spell (successfully or not), he rolls 1d100, and in a 1, he reduces his Charisma by one point, representing the gradual loss of his ability to connect to other people.

See this random table of simple corruption effects.

What other diabolists think (update)

Some wizards and devil worshippers have their own ideas, and I will share them with you:

“I’ll add one (idea) from personal experience playing LoTFP as a Magic-User earlier this year. My guy was a bit deranged. He worshiped an evil frog god and liked to gut animals and people in the hopes he could discern spell formulae from their entrails. This almost always did nothing except for a few notable cases where he accidentally unleashed horrible, disfiguring curses upon himself. He was quite mad so he persisted in this suicidal endeavor until the inevitable premature end to his adventuring career occurred.” -CrippleHook, on Reddit

This pushes my notion that spells are kindasorta living things… caged into pages or wands or whatever. Not to be duplicated by mere scribbling.
It also encourages casters to hide/disguise their grimoires. IIRC Earthdawn wizards had grimoires in all sorts of peculiar guises… like a teapot where you brew tea and read the leaves to learn spells stored in the pot.

What about if the original spell is in the form of a baroque sculpture or in the architecture of a room… would the transcription require a three dimensional aspect as well? -Ernesto Plasmo, LotFP group on Facebook

To Ernesto’s question I replied that in my opinion, the spell is intangible, like a spirit or energy; the sculpture is not the spell, it’s its home, but your spell-book can be its new home if you convince it to move (that would be the “transcription”). The idea of making a 3D repository is cool, though. The magic-user needs to choose carefully which spells to bring with him, he cannot pack all of them.”

You have any ideas you want to share?

100 labels on flasks and vials in a Magick-User’s pantry

Computers are Magick. Neural Networks are Chaos. I summoned the Artificial Brain and the Metallum Patron to aid me in the creation of these unique and strange potions. Only a few of these were actually named by me.

When your Players find a potion, roll 1d100 to determine what’s written on the label. The description of the flask, and its content’s appearance, it’s entirely up to you, but this should be a clue, no matter how subtle, about the substance properties.

  1. Old Black Roses
  2. Green Slime Essence
  3. The Darker Years
  4. Old Smoke
  5. 0-3½.5Gridges
  6. Slippery Violet Sands
  7. Laptime Tree Spider
  8. Angry Egg
  9. Hating Frost Moon Glands
  10. Bleeding Apples with Sea Salt
  11. Strawberry Lime Dissolution B
  12. Ice Chlorophyll Glaze
  13. A unique combination of leaf of fire and custard Sodium ascending Fujiyama
  14. Blue Foam Duet
  15. Shiny Living Veins
  16. Size Yes 37 (21,28,38) x 54 (9 or 15)mm
  17. 4 Cup Emulsion
  18. 26 Grief Hills
  19. Violet Violet
  20. Queen’s Tears
  21. Violet Heart
  22. Black & Purple
  23. Chill Back Liquor & Three Experienced
  24. Night Breeze
  25. Tea of the Day
  26. Winter’s Wish
  27. Ceremonial Blood
  28. Blue Moon
  29. Daughter of a Witch
  30. Death to the World
  31. Daughterless Rose
  32. Black Sunlight
  33. Dawn of a New Moon
  34. Black Ice
  35. Happiness of the Mind
  36. Chained to the Cross
  37. Dark Moon
  38. Blood Orange
  39. Lights
  40. Pilsner Sunrise
  41. Rock World of Arms
  42. Pearl Ash
  43. Sunk Into The Sea
  44. Overture In Black
  45. The Night Of The Great Storm
  46. Cursed Rose
  47. The First Dream
  48. Pantheons Lost (Noise Of A Dream)
  49. Chaos In The Heavens
  50. The Devil’s Garden
  51. Distant Sky
  52. Inquisitor Orphic (The Day Of The Dead)
  53. The Light And Dark Of Death
  54. Liquid Mushroom
  55. Defused Moonshine
  56. Lime Rift
  57. Siege, A Nightmare
  58. Alchemy of Mine
  59. Activation Of Parvati’s Title
  60. Forest Winds
  61. Glimmer of Madness
  62. Blood of the Unholy
  63. Aetheric Fire
  64. Chrysanthemums of Eternity
  65. White Night Eternal
  66. Death Deathgaunt
  67. The Moonstone Song of the Goddesses
  68. Omaha Spaceport
  69. Vortex
  70. The Riddle
  71. I Am Only the Shadow
  72. Water Of Despair
  73. The Wind Beneath My Clothes
  74. Wolf In the Shadow of Death
  75. Withering Wretch
  76. Winter’s Heart
  77. You Are the Dead
  78. You Will Not Die
  79. You Will Be Forgotten
  80. You Shall Be Mine
  81. Worlds Collide
  82. Mantra of Emotion
  83. The Inside Drama
  84. Serpent Wisdom
  85. Black Moonfall
  86. Dimensional Rift
  87. Shadow-Lord’s Blessing
  88. Timeless Grief
  89. Keeper of the Empyrean
  90. Calculating the Algebra of Need
  91. The Secret to Exhaling Emptiness
  92. Deadly Void
  93. Inner Shadow
  94. Of Grandiose Fevers and Passion Arcane
  95. Seeds of Corruption
  96. Torment Remains
  97. Astral Booze
  98. Old Thunder
  99. Blighted Sun
  100. Shimmering Sludge

Now all you need to do is come up with an effect for them; try to be reasonable. For instance, “Green Slime Essence” is surely acidic, but it’s an essence; maybe it works as a digestive or as anti-toxin. How about “Omaha Spaceport”? Maybe it’s some alien port (dark red wine from outer space) that causes alien drunkenness and alien hangovers.

On other occasions, say “0-3½.5Gridges”, you will need to not be reasonable, but imaginative. Here are 1d12 possible effects for those weirdly labelled potions:

  1. No save. All your teeth fall, they are replaced with pointy bones. Bite attacks deal 1d6 damage.
  2. Save versus Poison or you are immediately drunk. Attacks, and all rolls related to coordination and dexterity, are made with a -2 penalty. While in this state, you become conscious of one very bad thing about yourself (it includes things that are considered bad from your own and personal moral compass). You need to role-play your emotional state for a the rest of the day. The next day, the effect is gone. But not the guilt.
  3. No save. After three turns, you will fall incapacitated and won’t wake up unless someone shakes you.
  4. Save versus Magic or your body will become a void-portal into the stars. An alien creature-thing will come through in 1d3 rounds. There’s a 50% chance it will attack the first living thing it sees (not you; you are a portal now). Once the creature traverses the portal, it will close. You suffer 1d6 traumatic damage.
  5. Your maximum HP raises 1d6. Your eyes become totally black (pupil, iris and sclera). Permanent -2 penalty to Hiring Retainers and Loyalty checks.
  6. Save versus Poison or your heart will become stone, killing you in the process. If you die, your heart acquires alchemical properties and is a valuable element for a Magic-User, as it increases the rank of his laboratory by 1,500 sp. If you don’t die, you get stones in the kidneys; every day, you suffer 1d3 damage due to the pain they cause you.
  7. You need to eat 6 rations a day (approximately every 4 hours) or suffer a penalty of -1 to all your rolls, cumulative for each meal that you skip.
  8. You become your shadow and your shadow becomes you. Attacking your body won’t harm you; attacking the shadow (where your mind, soul, psychic apparatus, identity, essence or whatever is now) will, but you only lose HP if the damage die gives a result in the upper half of its range (example: if the damage die is d6, it will only cause damage if the die rolls 4, 5 or 6). Magic weapons that emit light cause double damage, including the lower half. The effect lasts 2 +your level rounds. You can end the effect at will.
  9. Save versus Poison or die only to be returned to unlife. You retain all your abilities and memories, but you are dead, so you don’t need to eat or sleep, but you can’t heal either. If you were a Cleric, you no longer are (i.e. you lost the ability to cast spells).
  10. Your skin glows for 6 turns (your party can’t surprise anyone soon). When this effect ends, your skin becomes thick and leathery like that of a rhinoceros; now you have natural Leather armour. A week later, you get natural armour equivalent to Chainmail, and your skin has become so hard and thick that you can only wear custom-made clothing.
  11. You have an idea. You forget it immediately. Receive 3 XP.
  12. You reflect sunlight. Everyone who looks at you must save versus Paralysis or be dazzled for 1d6 rounds, suffering a -2 penalty on all their rolls. The effect of the potion is permanent, but it can dissipate with Darkness or Dispel Magic.

Alchemy is fun! (Well it is!)