The Campaign that Runs Itself

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I’d like to drill down on a couple of things in the investigation system I posted last week that have had a somewhat unintended effect: this campaign basically runs itself.

By that I mean that the players are specifically driving their own play most of the time, and are extremely happy to dither over day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour) activities. I only have to inject new planned content every few sessions to keep things lively, and otherwise my players seem perfectly pleased to spend most of their time on self-directed goals (mostly involving training, research, and improving their relationships with NPCs).

This engine has three major pieces, spelled out in more detail in last week’s post:

  • Spending XP costs an action block per XP, so the players need to plan their training time against their available XP and which traits they want to improve (and when, if they need, say, to improve their magic casting stats before an upcoming event).
  • New spells have become one of the major types of “loot,” and research rolls take up time blocks.
  • Perhaps the biggest factor is the Persona 5-inspired NPC relationship system. Each NPC has a 10-step track of benefits gained by improving the PC’s relationship with them, and players must plan their hangouts and make sure to include NPCs in their investigation actions if they want to be able to allocate relationship points.

That last bullet has proven to be key. This obviously wouldn’t work in a game with a lot of travel, but for a city-based game it’s really interesting. There need to be a lot of interesting NPCs around that the players can choose to spend time with. As I mentioned in my long-ago Technoir review, the easiest way to get players to invest in an NPC relationship is to have them quantify it on their character sheets (so the NPC effectively just becomes another of their own statistics). Since I implemented this system, the players have been turbo-charged in wanting to get to know the various NPCs.

An important factor in this is to be able to generate a bunch of interesting NPCs. The trick I used for this was actually pretty simple: I semi-randomly combined skills, qualities, and drawbacks from the system in a spreadsheet, then used that as a seed for the NPC. Each NPC is essentially the exemplar of three or four traits. For skills, that means that the NPC has it at a very high rank. For qualities and drawbacks, they’re either the only known NPC with that trait, or they have it at the highest rating.

For example, I wound up with one NPC that was really good at Science, had the Superscience quality, but had Depression. It was a short walk to Darwin, the senior class’ physics genius.

Since Buffy comes with plenty of each type of trait, I was able to generate 24 students and a similar number of adults (the adults have two signature skills, and reuse the pool of qualities and drawbacks from the students). That’s a lot of seeds for content generation.

It also proved useful in coming up with a ten-step relationship progression. Since three of the steps are pre-defined (Acquaintance, Friend, and BFF) and one or two are Good Example (with their signature skill or skills), I only had to come up with five or six unique relationship rewards for each character.

Playing on Roll20 helps with all of this. I’m able to just make all of this information public on the NPC’s journal entry, so players can see what every NPC they know is basically about and what they’ll get be becoming better friends with them. It might be harder face-to-face.

Also, I make the players keep personal track of their progress toward each new rank of an NPC (and on their XP spends, incidentally). I only update NPCs when the player moves up a rank and tells me (moving their name next to the new relationship rank). This reduces my bookkeeping to a manageable amount.

Below are several example NPCs.

Angelina Pierce                Yearbook Photographer

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Wild Card (Animal Handling), Artist, Misfit

A girl with a lot of interests, but not a lot of luck talking to people, Angelina seems happiest when hiding behind a camera or working with animals. It’s dealing directly with people that gives her problems. She’s the main yearbook photographer for Eastbend High and works part time at the Pet Resorts and Vet with Agnes. Danny knows she’s clued-in to the supernatural, having seen some of her photos of vampires using a telephoto lens that she tried to pass off as art photos.

Everyone has discovered that Agnes is a werewolf. She locks herself in a cage she got from the vet’s office on full moons.

Relationships (Temperance)

  1. Acquaintance (Anthony, Danny)
  2. Angelina will tag along to photographically document dangerous or strange situations
  3. Friend (Agnes)
  4. Animal Magnetism: Animals won’t attack you unless ordered or supernaturally manipulated
  5. Good Example: Animal Handling
  6. Crying Wolf: You gain a +2 modifier to Influence rolls to convince people they’re in danger
  7. Candid Camera: Spend a Drama Point to retroactively declare that Angelina was hiding and taking pictures of a scene you were in where that would be reasonable
  8. BFF
  9. Counter surveillance: You have learned to hide your features so it’s nearly impossible to get pictures/video proving you were doing something
  10. Wolf Whisperer: You can verbally control Angelina while she is transformed into a werewolf

Darwin Jackson                  Physics Genius

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Science, Sorcery (Superscientist), Emotional Problems (Depression)

Darwin’s parents have a love of science that they imparted to their boy, though he wound up favoring the hard sciences rather than biology, which is a bit of an embarrassment since his dad is the high school bio teacher, Cody Jackson. But he’s a genius at physics, and there are rumors that he’s built some gadgets that might get him into MIT on a scholarship, if the Army doesn’t notice first and snap him up for DARPA.

In the meantime, science doesn’t pay the bills or instill a work ethic, so he has a part time job at Gold’s Gym.

Relationships (The Hermit)

  1. Acquaintance (Pete)
  2. Darwin may cut you in on his projects, allowing you to learn Superscience
  3. Friend
  4. Newtonian Physics: +2 modifier when making trick shot attacks
  5. Good Example: Science (Anthony)
  6. Astrophysics: +4 modifier on investigation rolls where celestial events are involved
  7. Research Encouragement: Darwin gains +1 Superscience for each PC at this level
  8. BFF
  9. Just the Thing: Darwin will often provide you a Superscience gadget that’s surprisingly helpful in the current crisis
  10. Job Connections: Darwin gets a job somewhere high-tech and can provide you access

Dienarr Prins                     Siobhan’s Girl Friday

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Driving, Good Luck, Mental Problems (Reckless)

Dienarr’s family is Dutch, and owns High Street Clothing. She doesn’t have much of an accent, the Prinses have been here so long. Other than her work for the family business and her bizarre devotion to Siobhan Faobhar, her great love is driving. Her family got her a sporty purple coupe for her 16th birthday, and it’s only through her insanely good luck that she hasn’t wrapped it around a phone pole or killed someone yet, the way she drives.

She’s not super bright, but she’s pretty well off and lucky so that accounts for a lot.

Relationships (Wheel of Fortune)

  1. Acquaintance (Anthony, Danny)
  2. Dienarr will drive you around, if it’s not too much trouble
  3. Friend
  4. Lucky Charm: You can ignore your bad luck, Pete, or act as if you have a 1 point Good Luck
  5. Good Example: Driving
  6. Halvsies!: Dienarr will pay for half of a major purchase if she expects to get to use it a fair amount
  7. Cab Service: Dienarr will drop most things to pick you up and drive you across town (Pete)
  8. BFF
  9. The Zen of Recklessness: Dangerously risky actions you take have a +1 modifier to succeed
  10. Charmed Life: Dienarr gains an additional +2 Good Luck for each PC at this level

Eve Doyle                            Scary Girl

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Wild Card (Demolitions), Jock, Mental Problems (Delusions)

Pete’s friend Eve is trouble. One of the town’s many military brats, her father does something with ordinance and she’s learned way too much about it. She got dragooned onto the track team last year after training herself to run away from fuses she’d lit. She’s medicated for schizophrenia, but sometimes forgets to take a dose and that’s a bad weekend if she has some thermite mixed up. Most of the time she knows to ignore the voices telling her to blow things up.

If she’s not in school (which is more often than most teenagers aren’t in school), she can often be found at Sid’s Junkyard, making pipe bombs.

Danny, Pete, and Agnes have some sway with Mrs. Doyle regarding informing her when Eve is off her meds.

Relationships (The Tower)

  1. Acquaintance (Shannon)
  2. Eve will provide you small amounts of minor explosives/incendiaries (Anthony, Danny)
  3. Friend (Agnes)
  4. Eve will help you on demolitions crafting, doubling your output
  5. Good Example: Demolitions
  6. Eve will provide you small amounts of the kind of things that would get you on a watchlist (Pete)
  7. Don’t blow your hand off: +3 modifier to avoid damage from explosions/fire
  8. BFF
  9. Outrun the Explosion: Increase your running speed by +2 in dangerous situations
  10. The Voices are Real: Eve gains a spirit-related power for each PC at this level

Jamarion Barrera             Latin Club President

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Languages, Photographic Memory, Covetous (Lecherous)

Jamarion “Jams” Barrera has mastered all the languages taught at the high school. He was already fluent in Spanish when he got there, and his excellent memory made it easy for him to pick up Latin and French. He’s looking for something new and interesting to pick up.

The kid is really hard up for sex. It’s likely that he only worked so hard to be president of the Latin club since that means more time around Ms. Houghton. That doesn’t stop him from taking a shot at asking out most of the other girls at school, though. At least he tends to let it go once shot down.

He works part time as a stock boy at Rose’s department store.

Relationships (The Lovers)

  1. Acquaintance (Agnes, Anthony)
  2. Jams will help you with translation research (Danny)
  3. Friend
  4. Jams will let you use his employee discount at Rose’s
  5. Good Example: Languages
  6. Modern Cyrano: You gain a +2 modifier on Influence rolls to Woo
  7. Memory Training: +1 modifier to investigation rolls when remembering details would be useful
  8. BFF
  9. Cultural Immersion: You understand the gist of foreign languages, even if you don’t speak them
  10. Quick Occult Study: Jams gains +2 Occultism for each PC at this level

Oliver Brown                     Most Likely to Do Hard Time

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Crime, Resistance, Bad Luck

Clearly just waiting until he gets kicked out of school to really ramp up his criminal enterprises, Oliver is always hustling. He’s the guy you go to if you want to buy something that “fell off a truck,” though he doesn’t really seem to have the hookup for drugs. Maybe it’s just that he knows his own bad luck and reputation, so it’s not worth the risk for him to be holding. He can be found lurking around the old mill warehouses when he’s not in school.

Relationships (The Hanged Man)

  1. Acquaintance (Agnes, Pete)
  2. Oliver will sell you his illicit goods (Shannon)
  3. Friend
  4. Oliver will alert you of upcoming criminal enterprises, and serves as a criminal Contact (Anthony)
  5. Good Example: Crime
  6. Oliver will sell you his illicit goods at a 20% discount
  7. You can send Oliver to do a minor crime for you on his own time
  8. BFF
  9. Business Partner: You make $100 a week in illicit income
  10. Phantom Thief: Oliver gains +1 “Sorcery” for each PC at this level, useful for spell-like abilities that let him “steal” supernatural items and features

Siobhan Faobhar              Local Colonel’s Daughter

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Gun Fu, Attractiveness, Mental Problems (Cruelty)

Daughter of the commander of Fort Blake, Siobhan pronounces her last name like “Fire” and is considered  both extremely cool and unbearably hot by most of the student body at Eastbend High. She does target shooting competitively, and would be training for international competitions if she wasn’t set on going into ROTC and then into the military when she graduates (Eastbend High isn’t big enough for JROTC).

Most of the school misfits are sad that she’s so pretty, talented, and undeniably badass, because she’s also a sadist that uses her influence against those that are safe targets for her. Like, those she’s picked on are honestly afraid that she might shoot them if they were alone in the woods and she thought she could get away with it. Cognizant of her reputation even if she is a sociopath, she limits her bullying at school to social torments.

Strangely, she doesn’t date. Anyone who’s asked her gets brushed off as neither attractive nor awesome enough to date her.

When she’s not at school, she can often be found at the Espresso Pump holding mean girl court.

Relationships (Strength)

  1. Acquaintance (Shannon, Anthony, Pete)
  2. Siobhan will try to avoid being mean to you at school
  3. Friend/Frenemy
  4. Siobhan will show up to shoot things for you if it’s convenient (Agnes)
  5. Good Example: Gun Fu
  6. Siobhan will use her military connections to help you
  7. Angel of Death: Spend two Drama Points to have Siobhan show up, guns blazing, if you’re in trouble (Danny)
  8. BFF/Best Frenemy
  9. Siobhan will “borrow” military-spec hardware for you
  10. High Functioning: Siobhan will become literally like 20% less terrible for each PC at this level

Zara Wright                        Out and Proud Witch

Signature Skill, Quality, Drawback: Occultism, Occult Library, Humorless

Danny’s friend Zara is about what you’d expect from a small, slightly-gothy Wiccan girl in a small southern town: totally serious about her faith and ready to fight you about it. While she’s never been very good in a brawl, at some point a lot of the school bullies became convinced that she could “get” them (possibly with some kind of curse), and started leaving her alone.

She works at Party Town for the discount on Halloween props.

She lives in one of the smaller little communities up the interstate that doesn’t have its own high school. Thus, she did not meet everyone until freshman year, when she got bussed in (having attended elementary and middle school at her home town).

Relationships (High Priestess)

  1. Acquaintance (Anthony)
  2. You can use Zara’s +2 Library and she’ll assist with research
  3. Friend
  4. Zara will provide ritual casting assistance (Pete)
  5. Good Example: Occult
  6. Zara will research spells for you on her own time
  7. Warding Buddy: You benefit from a +1 Will of the Coven at all times (Agnes, Danny)
  8. BFF 
  9. Ingredients Shopper: Zara can provide a free Rare casting component 1/week
  10. Witch awakening: Zara gains +1 Sorcery for each PC at this level

Casey Harris                       High School Principal

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Getting Medieval, Science; Photographic Memory; Bad Luck

A former science teacher and nationally ranked fencer, it’s unclear how Casey Harris wound up being principal of a large rural high school. It’s likely due to his well-known bad luck. Between being an actual decent educator, his impossibly good memory for student details, and his willingness to beat the living shit out of anyone that pushes him, he’s managed to gain a grudging respect from the student body.

Relationships (King of Swords)

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Getting called to the principal’s office is a lot less scary (Shannon)
  3. Friend
  4. Fencing Practice: Use a full relationship action with Harris AND allocate Getting Medieval XP
  5. Good Example: Getting Medieval
  6. Princi-Pal: Remove one free level of Delinquency (or Dereliction if you work for him) each week on Sunday
  7. Good Example: Science
  8. BFF
  9. The Good Equipment: Harris gifts you a very nice combat-ready rapier or saber
  10. Castling: If you get in a fight in the school, Harris shows up to assist

Alexander Jenkins           Superstitious Boys’ Football Coach

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Occultism, Sports; Occult Library; Covetous (Ambitious)

The Jenkins family owns and runs D’Antonio’s pizza, but Alexander was interested in teaching. With a special interest in the secret history of the world, he got a degree that let him teach social studies, but he was always good at sports so also wound up coaching the school’s football team. 

Pete knows he’s clued-in to the supernatural, after some of the football team got into his special collection of occult reference books three years ago and wound up summoning some kind of entity to possess them. Mr. Jenkins was briefly caught up in the ambition of how supernaturally-empowered teens were finally having a winning season, and let it go on for far too long before they got dangerous and violent, forcing him to exorcise them and resulting in permanent damage that left them benched. But at least Pete got to start from his sophomore year on.

Mr. Jenkins has been a lot more careful about his occult collection and dabbling since then, but grudgingly allowed Pete and his friends to use it after Danny offered to share some of his family’s own tomes and a promise that they wouldn’t summon any demons.

Relationships (King of Rods)

  1. Acquaintance (Shannon)
  2. Jenkins will let you use his gym-based library (Agnes, Anthony, Danny)
  3. Friend (Pete)
  4. Jenkins will help you do spell research if it’s something that might be useful for football
  5. Good Example: Sports
  6. Blitz: Double teamwork bonuses when charging at the same target
  7. Good Example: Occultism
  8. BFF
  9. Sack: +2 modifier on Slam Tackle maneuvers.
  10. Wizard awakening: Jenkins gains +1 Sorcery for each PC at this level

Lucy Burns                          Wiccan High Priestess

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Driving, Occultism; Sorcery; Mental Problems (Zealot: Wicca Pacifist)

Rumored to be the town’s Wiccan High Priestess (if that even means anything in a place that’s 99% some denomination of Christian), Lucy Burns is British and nobody is really sure why she’d go to school in such a small little town so far away from her home. She’s outspoken about her faith to those who are interested, and follows a particularly pacifistic praxis where she considers any kind of willful violence as an affront against the Goddess. She works at Daily Grind, the coffee shop, as a barista when she’s not in class.

Relationships

  1. Acquaintance
  2. You can go to the Wicca meetings (Agnes, Danny)
  3. Friend
  4. Lucy will help you do spell Research
  5. Good Example: Occultism
  6. Draw Down the Goddess: You have a 50% chance of immediately recovering a Drama Point spent to cast a white magic spell
  7. Good Example: Driving
  8. BFF
  9. That It Harm None: Starting each fight, you have a +5 bonus to defense rolls until you attack someone in combat.
  10. Protector: Automatically benefit from a powerful protective spell that Lucy casts for you on the regular

Dane Petty                         Auto Shop Repair Guy

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Acrobatics, Mr. Fix-it; Hard to Kill; Werewolf

Dane Petty is the cousin of a pretty famous race car driver who just happened to be going to Riverview when the owner of Sid’s Auto Repair needed new help. Fortunately, Dane is good at fixing cars, having learned something working the pit crew as a teen. He’s also pretty fast, and can frequently be seen out training for some ultra-marathon or triathlon.

Relationships

  1. Acquaintance (Agnes, Anthony, Pete)
  2. Dane will let you fix stuff in the shop, no questions asked
  3. Friend (Danny)
  4. Dane will fix minor things for you in the shop without you taking the time
  5. Good Example: Mr. Fix-it
  6. Car Surfing: Halve penalties from maneuvers on moving objects
  7. Good Example: Acrobatics
  8. BFF
  9. Those Pettys: Gain access to NASCAR-grade racing parts and cars
  10. Wolf Whisperer: You can verbally control Dane while he is transformed into a werewolf

Molly George                    Getaway Driver and Smuggler

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Crime, Driving; Fast Reaction Time; Talentless

Parents Clara and William run Sid’s Barbershop (Sid was Clara’s father). Works as a barber (too unartistic and annoyed to give anything but a basic trim). Fiery.

Relationships

  1. Acquaintance (Agnes, Anthony, Pete, Danny)
  2. Crime Taxi: You can pay Molly $50 an hour (min one hour) plus 5% to be your getaway driver
  3. Friend
  4. Molly will give you a free haircut (you get what you pay for)
  5. Good Example: Driving
  6. Ride Along: Use a full relationship action with her AND allocate Driving XP
  7. Good Example: Crime
  8. BFF
  9. Hell on Wheels: Spend a Drama Point when near a road to have Molly arrive in her car to cause a distraction or help you escape
  10. Muse: Molly loses the effects of Talentless for you (the haircuts are pretty good!)

Mia Thompson                 Antiques Store Owner

Signature Skills; Quality; Drawback: Art, Getting Medieval; Watcher; Love

Mia Thompson is a British woman who recently opened Thompson’s Treasures, the antique store. She seems to be a single mother, though some think that she might just be fostering or have adopted young Rona, and she looks pained and changes the subject if anyone brings up a husband. She’s extremely knowledgeable about all varieties of antique art.

Relationships

  1. Acquaintance (Agnes, Anthony, Danny, Shannon)
  2. Sword Art Online: Mia will use her museum and Watcher connections to order you basic monster-fighting weapons and gear with minimal markup. (Pete)
  3. Friend
  4. That Kind of Watcher: Mia will assist with Art-based Research rolls.
  5. Good Example: Getting Medieval
  6. The Cavalry: Spend a Drama Point to have Mia and Rona show up in town to assist in a difficult fight.
  7. Good Example: Art
  8. BFF
  9. And ALSO a Fighter: You have a 30% chance of regaining a Drama Point spent to protect someone you love with self-sacrifice or violence.
  10. Witch awakening: Mia gains +1 Sorcery for each PC at this level

Buffy: Revised Investigation System

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This is a revised, updated, and expanded version of my Great Conflicting Responsibilities post. It’s tuned to work for the Cinematic Unisystem version of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (see last week’s post for more information on spells and next week’s for more about NPC relationships). In rough essence, player characters get up to 4 time blocks per day that represent 3-4 hours (several of which are usually pre-spent on going to school/work, sleeping, and doing homework). These can be used for on-camera activities, or “downtime” activities such as investigating, patrolling, researching, training, and hanging out with friends (in practice, most of the gameplay is “downtime” that drifts in and out of roleplay).

Investigation Cycles

You gain one free investigation cycle per weekday and three free per weekend day (or 11 per week). You may take up to 4 cycles total per day (including the free ones), representing either staying up late or skipping school/work. If you stay up late to get another cycle, you gain a point of Stress. If you skip school/work, you gain a point of Delinquency/Dereliction.

Stress

Your total level of Stress is effectively an opposed roll for every task (within the investigation system or outside of it). If your roll total is equal to or lower than your Stress, the roll fails even if it is not opposed by any external force. Get some sleep and chill.

Delinquency/Dereliction

Your total level of this trait functions as stress for all interactions with teachers (Delinquency) or managers (Dereliction) (Stress takes precedence, if higher). You may trigger scenes with authority figures as it rises to convince them not to assign penalties for all your skipping school/work. But, as a bonus, detention totally counts as Recovery if it uses up your investigation cycles!

Types of Investigation Action

Patrolling

Patrolling is the general choice of active investigators to keep an eye on the safety of the town. In general, it means walking or driving around the town and noting potential issues. Most white hats on patrol will not actually attempt to engage with monsters unless they see targets of opportunity, but will instead attempt to figure out their hunting area and locate their base/nest. Skilled fighters (or groups of white hats) might actually attempt to fight minions deliberately to cull their numbers, attempting to escape if there are too many to fight easily.

Roll Perception + Notice to map minions. 10 successes identifies the location of a base/nest.

Compare Minions combat rating to Dexterity + Combat Skill.

  • If minions have higher combat, roll Constitution + Acrobatics, Driving, or Sports to avoid group minion encounters. Minions total reduced by 1 per 2 successes.
  • If minions have equal or lower combat, roll Dexterity + Combat Skill. Minions total reduced by 1 per success.
  • You take damage equal to the Combat Rating of the strongest minion defeated. You may take half this by halving the total minions defeated for the action. If multiple people go on patrol, rather than rolling individually, you can have a primary with a bonus modifier equal to the successes of the secondary helpers and distribute the damage across all patrollers (rather than each taking the full damage).

Add levels of Income to patrolling rolls to represent car and better gear. This cannot be shared. Drawbacks that limit perception or mobility (e.g., Impaired Sense or Physical Disability) may penalize these rolls.

Once a base/nest has been located and Minions total reduced to 0, the group can trigger a combat scene to attempt to clear out the location. If the location is attacked before the Minions total is reduced, that number of enemies will be added to the fight (e.g., if there are half a dozen vampires minimum in a nest, there will be 10 there if Minions was at 4 when it was attacked).

Researching

Non-active investigators can usually help by doing research. General research can be attempted at any time, and involves combing occult and historical texts for elements of interest to share with allies. This is usually particular weaknesses of various demons to make them general knowledge, or unique identifiers and limitations of problems that may be relevant to the local town. Once a threat is actually identified, specific research must be done to find the creature’s salient details (whether that be weaknesses of the demon type or just background about the target that will help when fighting it).

Roll Intelligence + Knowledge for general research. Each success adds to the general research pool. These points can be spent on patrolling or specific research rolls, after rolling, to retroactively increase the result on a one-for-one basis (e.g., spend 3 general research points to add +3 to a Perception + Notice roll when mapping minions).

Roll Perception + Art, Languages, or Occult (depending on subject) to turn up information on specific monsters. Monsters typically require successes equal to their life points to fully research, though some information may be revealed at milestones along this track.

Add modifiers from Occult Library to rolls. Researchers in the same place can share an occult library. Drawbacks that reduce the ability to focus on work (e.g., Emotional or Mental Problems) may penalize these rolls.

When researching spells, make the same roll as when researching a specific monster. A spell generally has “life points” equal to its level x 10, but this may be increased if the spell is obscure or being modified/invented from other principles.

Networking

Roll Intelligence + Computers or Influence to gather information from people. This is usually reactive, looking for a specific piece of information (known by a contact and/or in a hackable database). Each roll takes a full investigation cycle and has plot-related results.

Add quality points in Contacts to rolls. This cannot be shared. Drawbacks that cause difficulty with others (e.g., Emotional Problems, Mental Problems, Minority, Misfit, Nerd) may penalize these rolls.

Forensics

Roll Perception + a relevant skill to analyze different scenes:

  • Crime for crime scenes
  • Doctor for dead (or infected) bodies
  • Mr. Fix-it for machines
  • Science for most substances

Each roll takes a full investigation cycle and has plot-related results. Drawbacks that would make it difficult to interact with the subject of study (e.g., Mental Problems) may penalize these rolls.

Add levels of honors (for students) to represent school resources.

You can also use Forensics to invent new Superscience assemblage recipes or back-convert a known magic spell into a recipe for an assemblage. Make a relevant Forensics roll, and accumulate successes similar to magical research. Inventing a totally new assemblage involves suggesting the general effect and the GM giving it a level, effect, and drawbacks; it then takes 20 successes per level to invent the assemblage. Converting an existing magic spell instead requires only 3 successes per level and access to an annotated and assembled version of the ritual text (i.e., it has to have been successfully researched as a spell already).

Training

You can spend up to 10 XP/week on skills you could learn in school (Acrobatics, Computers, Doctor, Driving, Languages, Knowledge, Mr. Fix-it, Science, Sports) or attributes. If you are an adult, you can instead learn skills relevant to your job. This 10 XP is reduced by levels of Delinquency or Dereliction you take for the week.

For each investigation cycle you spend on training, you can allocate 1 point of XP on qualities or other skills that you must learn in your own time.

Recovery

For every two investigation cycles you spend, you can reduce your Stress or Delinquency/Dereliction by one level.

Relationships

You may build your relationship with an NPC. Most NPCs have a 10-step meter. You must accumulate points equal to the next level of the meter to improve your relationship (e.g., 5 points to go from step 4 to 5). Most NPCs have various benefits awarded for being at that step or higher. Track your points on your sheet notes. You can accumulate points by:

  • School/Work Hangout: Each day, assign one point toward a single NPC you saw during the day (a teacher whose class you have, student you have a class with, or coworker) and made an effort to be friendly with.
  • Incidental Hangout: You may invite one NPC to your normal investigative duties (e.g., spending XP, patrolling, researching) and assign a point toward that NPC if they hang out with your for the duration. Multiple PCs can “share” the same NPC (e.g., if Danny and Agnes research with Zara, both can assign a point to Zara).
  • Dedicated Hangout: You may invite one NPC to do something actually intended to be fun for that NPC (and do not use this time for other investigative actions). Roll Perception + Influence, and assign points based on your successes (minimum 1). You may gain a modifier from gifts or choosing something super fun to do. As with Incidental Hangouts, multiple people can share an NPC for a Dedicated Hangout.

The following are common relationship benefits:

  • Acquaintance: The NPC doesn’t think unkindly of you, and might consent to further interactions if it’s not too much bother
  • Friend: The NPC thinks of you as a friend, and will regularly choose to hang out with you without special reason (you can generally chose to start dating the NPC at this level, if appropriate)
  • Good Example: Once per day, you may add a +5 modifier to a roll you make using that NPC’s signature skill
  • BFF: The NPC considers you their best friend, and will generally drop anything that’s not life-or-death to come help you out on short notice (if you have been dating, you can decide that this means you’re in love; take the Love drawback if you do not already have it, and immediately gain the relevant XP)

New Buffy Spells

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I’ve been running the old Cinematic Unisystem Buffy: the Vampire Slayer game weekly (online) for most of a year now. We mostly settled on it because it had the best character sheet on Roll20 of the systems I was considering for my next game, but I’m finding it holds up surprisingly well.

One of the things I like most about it is that it has a simple yet comprehensive spell-creation system, which is always a plus for a game featuring magic. Unlike so many other such systems, the game has an inbuilt limitation to keep the players from inventing an optimized, OP spell. Half of that is that it’s key to getting the level (and, thus, difficulty) of a spell down to assign fairly significant limitations (either a material cost or GM-controlled event or mystical resource), so if something proves way too powerful, the GM can just reduce access to the components. The other is that all casting has a compounding penalty within the same day (with an additional penalty for casting the same spell repeatedly). Magic is, thus, either useful for utility/prep or as a one-shot big gun in a fight, which has so far been fine in my campaign.

And it’s fun to make up the new spells for the players to find.

Below are several of the new spells I’ve created for the campaign. Note that when it lists a dollar value, that’s meant to be a real cost: in my game I’ve limited access to the Resources quality and we handwave incidental lifestyle money as being spent on incidental lifestyle stuff. Thus, the only money they have to spend on spell components (and other things with a game effect) is money earned as “treasure” on camera, either looting or selling off loot.

Spells

Fury of the Moon (Level 2)

fury-of-the-moonThis spell only functions outdoors at night, drawing down a bolt of radiant moonlight that burns the target. It is particularly effective against vampires, forging moonlight into a brand almost as potent as the sun.

Source: Books

Quick Cast: Yes

Power Level: 2

Requirements: Valuable moon-themed talisman (not consumed on casting), moonlit night while outdoors, miscellaneous minor spell components (that are consumed), a few-minute ritual for non-Sorcerers

Effect: The spell deals 3x Willpower damage per Success Level on a gibbous moon. This increases to 4x on a full moon, but decreases to 2x on a quarter moon, and 1x on a crescent moon. It deals +1x to vampires and other entities vulnerable to sun or moonlight. For example, it would deal 5x Willpower per Success Level to a vampire under a full moon. This damage is spread out evenly over the course of ten rounds, and ends early if the target can get under cover from the moonlight.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), Ritual (0), Quick Cast (+1), Noticeable Scope (+1), Slow Effect (-1), Rare Ingredients (-2), Major Harm (+3)

Invocation of Vengeance (Level 1)

invocation-of-vengeanceThis ritual beckons a vengeance demon to appear. The demon is not bound on arrival.

Source: Books (Episode 3.9)

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 1

Requirements: Golden bowl, various herbs, short ritual including the correct form of invocation for the specific desired vengeance demon

Effect: The named vengeance demon appears nearby.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), Ritual (0), Minor Scope (0), Limited Target Selection (-1), Unusual Ingredients (-1), Major Summoning (+3)

Lantern of Revealing (Level 2)

lantern-of-revealing-2This spell empowers a jack o’ lantern to reveal and solidify spirits caught in its light. It is a form of the Solidify Spirit spell that can only be used on All Hallows Eve.

Source: Books

Quick Cast: Yes

Power Level: 2

Requirements: Jack o’ lantern with rune-etched candle and particular carvings taking 20 minutes or so to create (or, if quick-cast, simply the incantation “Spiritum revela” with the light emanating from the caster’s eyes)

Effect: The spirit become corporeal within the light of the spell, gaining physical attributes equal to its mental attributes, and Life Points equal to three times its Brains score. If reduced to 0 Life Points, it is banished back to the underworld for another year or more.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (+0), Ritual (less than half an hour) (+0), can be Quick Cast (+1), noticeable scope (one being) (+1), long duration (+1), restricted use (-4), major effect (+3).

Reveal the Quiescent Beast (Level 2)

reveal-the-quiescent-beastThis spell reveals if a subject is a werewolf or other kind of animal shapeshifter.

Source: Books

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 2

Requirements: Wolfsbane, silver, and other relatively challenging components, as well as a couple minutes of chanting

Effect: Nearby werewolves glow with a lambent flame

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), recitation time (+1), noticeable scope (+1), short duration (-1), unusual ingredients (-1), severe effect (+2)

Cross Reference: The research used to unearth this spell suggested the following other lycanthrope-related spells. You have +2 successes toward researching them:

  • Blessed Silver Shot: Enchants a silver bullet or arrow/bolt to strike true against lycanthropes
  • Fury of the Moon: Attack spell useful in the moonlight
  • Seal the Virulent Bite: Keeps you from being infected by lycanthropy or similar afflictions (or keeps a lycanthrope from being infectious while transformed)
  • Soothe the Savage Beast: Pacifies or puts to sleep animals and bestial monsters
  • Wear the Beast Skin: Magical ritual to become effectively a werewolf (without the forced transformation)

Seal the Virulent Bite (Level 1)

seal-the-virulent-biteThis spell protects the target from the bite of a lycanthrope or similar types of infectious monster bite. If cast on an infectious monster (including a lycanthrope in human form before transforming), it instead renders that target not infectious for the duration.

Source: Books

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 1

Requirements: Glyphs painted onto the skin in a few-minute ritual from a mixture of wolfsbane, powdered silver, and other ingredients which become temporary tattoos once the spell is cast

Effect: For the duration of the effect, the target cannot be infected/cannot infect others. The spell lasts one hour per Success Level, and, if at least 5 successes are gained, it lasts until the next moonset if that would be longer.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 2 casters (-1), ritual time (0), noticeable scope (+1), long duration (+1), unusual ingredients (-1), noticeable strength (+1)

Soothe the Savage Beast (Level 3)

soothe-the-savage-beastThis spell calms an animal or bestial monster, and may even put the target to sleep.

Source: Books

Quick Cast: Yes

Power Level: 3

Requirements: A heaping handful of powdered opium poppies (highly illegal!), which are tossed into the air in front of the target while chanting the spell

Effect: The target beast is calmed for one minute per Success Level. Most creatures will stop attacking under this effect, but even those under strong rage or orders subtract the Success Levels from their attacks while under the effect. If the Success Levels are greater than the target’s Willpower doubled, they usually go to sleep and will remain asleep until woken, even after the spell expires.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), instant cast (+2), noticeable scope (+1), medium duration (0), rare ingredients (-2), severe effect (+2)

Thermite Fireball (Level 1)

thermite-fireball(This spell was haphazardly generated by Agnes, Danny, and Zara with help from Eve and Anthony. It started at 3 but will reduce in difficulty to 0 as the kinks are ironed out when cast as a full ritual, but remains 2 for quick-cast by a single caster.)

Source: Invented

Quick Cast: Yes

Power Level: 0 (Quick Cast 2)

Requirements: 16 fl oz of thermite (a Sprite bottle’s worth), a similar amount of distilled water, and various other mystical components, included in an approximately hour-long ritual (Witches and Warlocks need only combine the ingredients with some properly-conjugated Latin said over the effect)

Effect: The caster throws a silvery, white-hot fireball at a single target that does Willpower (Doubled) times success levels fire damage.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 3-9 casters (-2), a lengthy ritual (-1), noticeable scope (+1), instant duration (+0), unusual ingredients (-1), and severe harm (+2) (single caster when quick cast for +3)

Walk a Mile (Level 5)

walk-a-mileThis invocation of the goddess can only be used when the walls of reality are thin, and causes the casters to disappear and enter a dreamlike fugue where they inhabit the body of their worst enemy or someone they otherwise hate until the following midnight. The inhabited target cannot be magical, supernatural, or even completely aware of the supernatural or will shrug off the effect (forcing the caster into their next-biggest enemy). Otherwise, the possessed individual is still semi-conscious, will resist strong out of character actions, and may ultimately treat the whole thing as a strange dream or unusual psychiatric event.

Source: Reverse engineered from accidental casting

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 5

Requirements: Short ritual and invocation of the goddess for empathy and seeing behind the masks others create; auspicious date such as Halloween

Effect: Everyone involved in the casting immediately falls unconscious and then disappears the next time they are unobserved. The next time their possessed target wakes, the caster is in control of their actions, but uses their character statistics. The spells ends the following midnight, but exorcism effects may eject the caster earlier. The caster reappears in the original casting location asleep, and wakes there the next morning or when woken.

Aspect Analysis: Requires one caster (+0), Ritual casting (+0), Major scope (+4), Very long duration (+2), Restricted use (-4), Major mind/emotions (+3)

Will of the Coven (Level 1)

will-of-the-covenThis spell was an old protective ritual, usually cast before delving into magics that affected the mind.

Source: Grimoire of the Vestals

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 1

Requirements: A half-hour long ritual, including glyphs painted on the forehead of all to be protected

Effect: The success levels, minus the number of people to be protected, minus the number of hours the spell will be active, is the effective rank in the Resistance: Demonic Powers quality that all subjects have for the duration. The subjects must all be present for the full ritual casting, but do not all need to participate in the ritual.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 3-9 casters (-2), a lengthy ritual (-1), severe scope (+2), long duration (+1), no special requirements (+0), and noticeable mental effect (+1)

Assemblages

Forge Logs (Level 2)

forge-logsThis assemblage creates highly compact flammable chemicals packed around an electronic mechanism that can semi-miraculously control their ignition rate without melting until the object is fully consumed. It is intended, though the use of a synched radio controller, to make a specially-constructed forge burn hotter and better for the purposes of forging and smelting metals.

Source: Invented by Anthony Hollinger

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 2

Requirements: Half a unit of thermite powder, misc other chemicals available in a well-stocked science lab but costing about $30 if ordered, $100 of electronics, and over half an hour of tinkering

Effect: One log is produced for every three successes on the Superscience roll, and they remain viable for at least a month if stored in a cool, dry place. Logs can be used in three distinct ways:

  • If used in its standard function, it improves and normalizes the heat generated by a standard gas forge, allowing a single crafting action using the forge to accomplish twice as much progress as normal (i.e., two crafting checks if rolling).
  • It can also be used by a skilled smith (particularly an enchanter or superscientist) to briefly heat the forge to temperatures sufficient to liquify iron, allowing the production of alloys. This use can produce one ingot of alloy per log.
  • Finally, it can be remotely ignited outside of the forge to produce either several hours of heat sufficient to campfire through to a one-round effect comparable to igniting a unit of thermite.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), ritual (0), magical item (+1), noticeable scope (+1), long duration (+1), unusual ingredients (-1), noticeable transforming (+1)

Ghostagons (Level 2)

ghostagonThis assemblage causes a gauntlet to temporarily emit an electric field that interacts with the ethereal: to wit, you can punch ghosts.

Source: Invented by Anthony Hollinger

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 2

Requirements: A Power Glove or similar electrical glove device and misc circuitry upgrades (representing about $300 of electronics) and over half an hour of tinkering

Effect: After being created, the glove can be powered on any time within an hour per success, starting its timer. While powered on, the glove has enough energy for one minute per success or one successful hit per success (whichever comes first). The wearer can use the Punch attack with the gloved hand against normally-incorporeal opponents. Warning: There is some chance of a small capacitor explosion if all the power is expended through punching.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (0), ritual (0), noticeable scope (+1), medium duration (0), unusual ingredients (-1), noticeable harm/manipulating/summoning (+1)

Maglite of Revealing (Level 2)

maglite-of-revealingThis assemblage loads a maglite with etheric resonators to reveal and solidify “spirits” caught in its light. Due to various environmental effects, this version only works on October 31st.

Source: Converted by Anthony Hollinger

Quick Cast: No

Power Level: 2

Requirements: Maglite loaded with miscellaneous materials (no significant electronics cost), an hour or so to create

Effect: The spirit become corporeal within the light of the device, gaining physical attributes equal to its mental attributes, and Life Points equal to three times its Brains score. If reduced to 0 Life Points, it is banished back to the underworld for another year or more. After being created, the assemblage will last up to several months if kept in a cool, dry environment; it does not begin consuming its duration until initially switched on.

Aspect Analysis: Requires 1 caster (+0), Ritual (less than half an hour) (+0), magic item (+1), noticeable scope (one being) (+1), long duration (+1), restricted use (-4), major effect (+3).

DMing 201: Avoiding Black Box Combats

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I think I’ve finally realized the thing that bugs me about D&D combat and has led to various ideas to skip combats: most adventuring days are a black box. Particularly with 5e restoring nearly all PC resources on a long rest, there’s no way to tell by just looking at the players’ sheets whether yesterday they fought a series of hard battles that they scraped through nearly wiped or had an easy day of it. I know many players enjoy the simple act of playing out tactical combat, but it’s very easy to make fights where player cleverness, strategy, and luck don’t really have an ongoing effect on the narrative. Especially if your DM runs a character-story-heavy game and is very reticent to kill off PCs (or the game is 5th level+ and your healer is willing to pay the tax of preparing revivify every day), it’s not like anyone’s really even worried about dying. For players like myself (i.e., total buzzkills too aware of the rules framework that goes into encounter design), combats can feel like a waste of time when the DM could have ultimately narrated a hard-fought victory and nothing would actually change other than that the players didn’t get to roll dice and quote special abilities they have.

But this isn’t another post about skipping combat.

Instead, this is a simple suggestion for all DMs designing combat encounters: make sure your fights have multiple possible story branches based on how “well” the players/PCs do in the fight. If there are variable outcomes to a fight other than simply how many resources the players expended (that will be completely refreshed in the morning), then they make it a lot easier for fights to feel meaningful within the overall narrative.

Some basic suggestions:

  • Bad guys may get away (to pass information the PCs don’t want shared, to escape with information/resources the PCs want, or simply to fortify subsequent encounters and make them a little harder)
  • Good guys may not get away (this is your classic “keep the monsters from killing the bystanders” fight), hopefully with long-term ramifications for how many were saved
  • Optional resources may be lost (this could be either of the previous options if the resource is a person/information in a person’s brain, but could also include loot that could be destroyed if the fight goes badly/the bad guys might not use up limited-use items if stopped quickly enough; this also includes if the PCs may need to expend a limited-use item/boon, but only if doing so isn’t planned as basically essential for the encounter)
  • A world-counter may progress (this is the standard “stop the evil ritual” fight, but only if, as the DM, you’ve set it up so the ritual being stopped or succeeding isn’t a foregone conclusion; you need to plan for both results being interesting)
  • The fight may alter the scenery (for a location that the PCs will visit again; e.g., stop the goblins from burning down the village barn, maneuver the umber hulk into smashing open a corridor to make a new path for later exploration, etc.)
  • Something about the fight can generate additional lore (this is all your skill challenges to read books/hack computers/investigate containers that for whatever reason can only happen as part of a fight)

Some fights (“trash encounters”) can clearly be designed only to expend resources so they’re not available later in the day for fights that are more important. But be extra careful that you’ve designed a scenario that doesn’t let the players just constantly rest after those fights (the 15-minute adventuring day).

For the important fights, having two possible outcomes should be a primary goal, and if you can think of three or more different ways that might spin off, that’s really great. Keep in mind that these should be legitimate things that you think might happen. The overall goal is for the players, in hindsight, to realize that if they’d played the encounter differently, the story would also have changed.

D&D 5e: Humanoid Swarms as Mobs/Mooks

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I’ve been watching through Dimension 20 (and it ate basically my whole winter vacation), and in the tenth episode of the second season, I noticed that the DM had made trays of several bystander NPCs trying to escape environmental hazards and bad guys. He seemed to be treating them as individual low-HP commoners, but I got to thinking that such a situation might be an ideal opportunity to treat the NPCs as one swarm. When you’re trying to save bystanders, this makes them a little bit more practically durable vs. random attacks (which makes the players happy). When you’re using them as opponents, you don’t have to track a ton of minor attacks and individual HP, and get to essentially use mook rules (where player attacks can damage multiple weaker enemies, rather than “wasting” a high roll).

I’m obviously not the first person to think of this. But have some examples anyway. The key ideas for building these were:

  • Try to capture the essence of the individual creatures (in the examples, commoners, bandits, and goblins) and target them against a similar type of creature with 9-12 times the XP and HP (in the examples, the thug, gladiator, and orog) rather than trying to use the creature math from zero. In the examples, the mobs tend to have a little higher HP and damage than the targeted block, but lower AC and attack, so it should more or less even out. Attacks generally represent multiple individual hits all grouped together, and should be described as such.
  • Standardize the humanoid swarm rules. Specifically, they’re not resistant to attacks (but are vulnerable to AoEs and this can overcome their condition immunities), and get a standardized advantage when they’re over half HP (to represent the back part of the swarm using the Help action until you’ve killed half of them).

The following are the example stats for humanoid swarms:

The Angry Mob is also useful as bystanders that are trying escape a combat that broke out in a crowd.
The Band of Rioters are meant more for when the thieves’ guild is coming for higher-level PCs in a huge mass, or otherwise causing havoc: these are statted as Bandits, not Commoners.
The Goblin Warband is probably just easier to run than a ton of individual goblins once you have a few levels.

Incidentally, to represent all of these, I’d just make a 3″ x 3″ tray and cram 9-12 individual minis onto it, but if you wanted to use these regularly it might make sense to actually glue up the minis without individual bases onto a 3″ diameter round base. When they’re working as a group, they don’t necessarily all need their own 5′ square!

D&D 5e: Sorcerer Bonus Spells

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So I’ve finally played a sorcerer in 5e up to mid-levels, and am discovering the spells-known crunch is real. I have a larger rant about how the way prepared spells were changed in 5e ruined the balance between the Wizard and Sorcerer from 3e, which I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that it’s not a ton of fun to agonize over your spell choices each level up, knowing that you’ll never really be able to cast more than two spells of each level (and even fewer at higher level, when you have 15 spells known for 9 spell levels). In particular, constantly chasing variety at your highest spell level leaves no room for lower-level utility spells. Meanwhile, Wizards, Clerics, and Druids can prepare up to 25 spells, from their giant list of resources.

Suffice it to say, I think WotC agrees, given that the new Sorcerer bloodlines in Tasha’s get 10 extra spells. This article simply suggests the same arrangement for the bloodlines from the PHB and XGE.

(As an aside, you could also easily give Warlocks their patron expanded spells as bonus spells known, rather than forcing them to purchase them from their limited spells known, without breaking anything at all.)

Draconic

At the level listed, learn the spell listed under Draconic Spells as a bonus spell known. Additionally, at each listed level, learn the spell listed under your breath weapon’s energy type as a bonus spell known.

  Draconic Spells Acid Cold Fire Lighting Poison
1st absorb elements tasha’s caustic brew ice knife burning hands witch bolt fog cloud
3rd dragon’s breath melf’s acid arrow snilloc’s snowball swarm scorching ray shatter protection from poison
5th fly water breathing sleet storm fireball lightning bolt stinking cloud
7th polymorph vitriolic sphere ice storm wall of fire storm sphere blight
9th wall of stone maelstrom cone of cold immolation destructive wave cloudkill

Wild Magic

At the level listed, learn the spell listed under Wild Spells as a bonus spell known. Additionally, at each listed level, roll 1d8 and learn the spell listed for the number rolled.

  Wild Spells Roll 1d8
1st chaos bolt
  1. absorb elements
  2. burning hands
  3. chromatic orb
  4. color spray
  5. detect magic
  6. disguise self
  7. silent image
  8. thunderwave
3rd shatter
  1. alter self
  2. blur
  3. crown of madness
  4. dust devil
  5. mirror image
  6. phantasmal force
  7. pyrotechnics
  8. web
5th blink
  1. counterspell
  2. dispel magic
  3. enemies abound
  4. fireball
  5. hypnotic pattern
  6. major image
  7. slow
  8. thunder step
7th confusion
  1. banishment
  2. dimension door
  3. greater invisibility
  4. ice storm
  5. polymorph
  6. storm sphere
  7. vitriolic sphere
  8. wall of fire
9th synaptic static
  1. animate objects
  2. control winds
  3. creation
  4. far step
  5. immolation
  6. insect plague
  7. seeming
  8. telekinesis

Divine Soul

At the level listed, learn the spell listed under Divine Spells as a bonus spell known. Additionally, at each listed level, learn the spell listed under your alignment Affinity as a bonus spell known. (At 1st level, this incorporates the bonus spell from your original Divine Magic feature.)

  Divine Spells Good Evil Law Chaos Neutrality
1st guiding bolt cure wounds inflict wounds bless bane protection from evil and good
3rd spiritual weapon lesser restoration blindness/ deafness zone of truth silence augury
5th revivify mass healing word animate dead magic circle dispel magic glyph of warding
7th banishment death ward shadow of moil guardian of faith freedom of movement divination
9th raise dead greater restoration contagion geas insect plague hallow

Shadow Magic

At the level listed, learn the spells listed as bonus spells known.

1st disguise self, false life
3rd invisibility, shadow blade
5th fear, spirit shroud
7th greater invisibility, shadow of moil
9th creation, enervation

Storm Sorcery

At the level listed, learn the spells listed as bonus spells known.

1st absorb elements, witch bolt
3rd gust of wind, warding wind
5th lightning bolt, wind wall
7th ice storm, storm sphere
9th control winds, destructive wave

Planescape in 5e: Protective Items

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Solamnic Plate

Armor +1 (Full Plate), rare

Keywords: Krynn, Colorful, Metallic, Mystic, Prophetic, Protective

You have a +1 bonus to AC while wearing this armor.

This suit of shiny steel plate is embossed with images of crowns, swords, and roses, and is quite recognizable to expatriates from Krynn (making it dangerous to wear if one is not a Knight of Solamnia). It seems attuned to tidal forces, making it easy for you to, with some practice, sense the rough time of day and phase of the moon. If the Krynn keyword is matched, non-good wearers suffer a level of exhaustion upon donning it and with each sunrise while wearing it.

If the colorful or metallic keywords are matched, you have advantage on saving throws (or spell attackers have disadvantage) against spells that deal Radiant damage, or which have “color” in their name, as the armor’s mirror sheen reflects these attacks. 

If the mystic, prophetic, or three other keywords are matched, the armor and its wearer are increased in importance for any spells that attempt to divine the future, should they feature in these prophecies.

If the protective keyword or at least four other keywords are matched, once per day, you may spend Inspiration to take no damage from an attack or effect from a spell that could plausibly harmlessly strike the item instead of you.

Efreeti’s Splendor

Armor +1 (Breastplate), rare

Keywords: Elemental Fire, Evil, Colorful, Hot, Invisible, Metallic

You have a +1 bonus to AC while wearing this armor.

This item is made of polished and adorned brass, but is as strong as steel, and, if closely observed, ripples like fire even in steady light. 

It is always slightly warm, which can be helpful in a dangerously cold environment. It cannot be damaged or destroyed by anything less than the most extreme heat or fire. It normally doesn’t pass this immunity on to the bearer, but at least it will survive the firestorm intact. It never becomes uncomfortably warm, including ignoring the effects of heat metal if directed at the item. If the hot keyword or at least two other keywords are matched, you can use your reaction to gain Fire Resistance against a single attack or spell. If all keywords are matched, this Resistance upgrades to Fire Immunity, and you gain Fire Resistance without using a reaction.

If the invisible or colorful keywords are matched, illusions cast upon you by yourself or an ally have doubled duration.

If the metallic or evil keywords are matched, you have advantage on Wisdom (Insight) checks to divine the true desires of a target whose reflection you can view in the breastplate (signifiers of that desire appearing around the target).

Dreamweave Jerkin

Armor +1 (Studded Leather), rare

Keywords: Astral, Cutting, Disjointed, Fluid, Mental, Metallic

You have a +1 bonus to AC while wearing this armor.

This armor seems to be woven of fabric made from fine silver threads with the studs of diamond-hard but lusterless glass. You retain this item even when having an out-of-body experience, but, unfortunately, when you are unconscious the armor always transfers to your dream-self: you lose all AC bonus from wearing the armor in this state (but at least it’s comfortable to sleep in). If it goes unworn for at least a week (by a sapient being), the armor has a 10% chance per week to disappear into the Astral from wherever it is stored.

If the mental keyword or at least three other keywords are matched, you gain Psychic Resistance.

If the metallic or fluid keywords are matched, you can will the armor to appear as some other form of clothing (though it always seems to be made of the same silver cloth). This does allow you to don or remove the armor as a bonus action.

If the disjointed or cutting keywords are matched, you gain Resistance against Psychic, Force, or Necrotic damage when the energy is delivered in the form of a blade (e.g., soulknife, spiritual weapon, shadow blade, etc.).

Token of Vlaakith’s Favor

Brooch of Shielding; Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)

Keywords: Astral, Disjointed, Mental, Mystic, Smashing, Stonelike

While wearing this brooch, you have resistance to force damage, and you have immunity to damage from the magic missile spell.

This simple, disc-shaped brooch appears to be composed of tightly woven fine silver threads with no other adornment save for the faint etching of a crown with five high points. You retain this item even when having an out-of-body experience. The item is likely recognizable to most gith, and may color their impression of the wearer if spotted (particularly if the wearer is not a githyanki).

If the mental keyword is matched, you additionally gain resistance to psychic damage. If the smashing keyword is matched, you additionally gain resistance to bludgeoning damage. If the stonelike keyword is matched, you additionally gain immunity to the petrified condition.

If the disjointed or mystic keywords are matched, this additionally functions as an amulet of proof against detection and location: While wearing this amulet, you are hidden from divination magic. You can’t be targeted by such magic or perceived through magical scrying sensors.

Planescape in 5e: Trickster’s Items

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Erato’s Bough

Weapon +1 (Shortbow), uncommon
Keywords: Feywild, Chaotic, Colorful, Disjointed, Toxic, Wooden

You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This shortbow was crafted from a fallen bough from one of the elder dryads with a deep role in the histories of the Olympian pantheon. It resembles cypress wood, seemingly grown and shaped more than crafted, and slowly regenerates damage dealt to it. It resists acid damage and other sources of decay.

It changes colors to match the seasons, and plays a musical sound like panpipes when fired rather than the distinctive thrum of a bow. This diffuse noise grants advantage to Dexterity (Stealth) checks to re-Hide when firing from stealth. If the colorful keyword or at least two other keywords are matched, targets struck by the bow have disadvantage on rolls to disbelieve auditory illusions until they complete a short or long rest.

The bow always teleports with its owner if it is close to hand. If it’s within ten feet of you when you are teleported, it appears at your feet wherever you land. It will even travel with you if the mode of transport normally will not include items. If the disjointed keyword or at least three other keywords are matched, you can use the bow to attack a space from which a target teleported since your last turn as if you were attacking the target (even if the target is now out of your range or line of sight), as the arrow forces its way through the momentary portal made.

You can apply poison to the bow and it will automatically transfer this to the arrows. If the toxic keyword or at least four other keywords are matched, attacks from the bow deal an additional 1d4 poison damage.

If the wooden or feywild keywords are matched, on a critical hit with the bow, a dryad appears adjacent to the target and acts as an ally on your turn (it is capable of taking reactions as soon as it appears, but does not receive actions until your next turn). It cannot move more than 30 feet from the spot it appeared, and disappears shortly after combat completes.

Night Flyer’s Goggles

Goggles of Night; Wondrous item, uncommon
Keywords: Khorvaire, Dark, Energetic, Metallic, Tempestuous, Confining

While wearing these dark lenses, you have darkvision out to a range of 40 feet plus 10 feet for each matched keyword. If you already have darkvision, wearing the goggles increases its range by the same distance.

These goggles appear too-well-made, as if mass-produced by purpose-built machinery. It may feature subtle mechanisms beyond the technology level of most worlds. It slowly repairs itself if broken, and attempts to speed the process of mending have advantage.

If the tempestuous keyword is matched, you take half damage from falling.

If the confining keyword is matched, you can remove unlocked restraints from you as a free action (such as a safety belt).

The Earthen Rod (of the Hex Staff)

Immovable Rod; Rod, uncommon

Keywords: Elemental Earth, Corrosive, Cutting, Dark, Stonelike, Toxic

This smooth, cylindrical rod is jointed at the center. You can use an action to rotate the rod a turn around this joint, which causes the rod to become magically fixed in place. Until you or another creature uses an action to rotate the rod back, it doesn’t move, even if it is defying gravity. The rod can hold up to 6,000 pounds of weight, plus 1,000 pounds per matched keyword. More weight causes the rod to deactivate and fall. A creature can use an action to make a DC 26 (+2 per matched keyword) Strength check, moving the fixed rod up to 10 feet on a success.

Made of dense black stone, this rod is slotted at either end as if it can be joined with similar rods to form a staff. If at least part of the rod is touching grounded stone or dense earth, its weight capacity is doubled and the DC to move it is increased by 4.

If the corrosive or toxic keywords are matched, when activated the rod creates an approximately-seven-foot diameter bubble centered on itself that prevents uncontained dangerous fluids from passing (e.g., poisonous or diseased water, sprays of acid, etc.). This sphere of protection provides total cover against acid arrow, poison spray, acid splash, and the like (but does not affect poisons or acids in containers or coating weapons). The sphere doesn’t filter the fluids, but restrains them if they are dangerous.

If the dark, cutting, or stonelike keywords are matched, when the rod is activated anyone touching it gains Necrotic, Slashing, or Bludgeoning Resistance (respectively).

Call of the Void

Ring of Feather Falling; Ring, rare (requires attunement)

Keywords: Baator, Lawful, Evil, Confining, Hot, Stonelike

When you fall while wearing this ring, you descend 60 feet per round and take no damage from falling.

This ring appears to be made of black cast iron shot through with veins of fiery red rust with an almost feather-like motif. It is rough to the touch despite long use, but strong enough to not be in danger of falling apart. As long as you live, you must drop it through true accident or deliberately transfer ownership to lose it.

The ring is always immune to heat and being trapped. It doesn’t normally pass these abilities onto the wearer, but will never overheat and damage the wearer, or become trapped (e.g., pinned beneath stone). It cannot be transmuted into any other substance than its normal form (slightly reshaping itself to fit if the attuned wearer changes form to no longer have normally-sized fingers).

If the hot keyword or two other keywords are matched, you can double your jumping distance when leaping over open flames, lava, or similar sources of great heat. If the stonelike or three other keywords are matched, you can triple your jumping distance when leaping over pits or crevasses of stone or earth. If both effects are available and relevant (e.g., jumping over a stone channel full of lava), you quadruple your jumping distance.

If the confining or four other keywords are matched, when you are grappled or restrained, you can choose to end either condition as your move action on your turn if there is a ledge that is at least 10 feet above the next lower level within five feet of you. Upon doing so, you fall off the ledge.

If the evil keyword is matched, whenever you have the opportunity to shove a creature within five feet of you off of a ledge, you must make a wisdom saving throw to avoid doing so. The DC is 8 for a valued friend or true innocent, 12 for an ally, or 16 for an enemy.

If the lawful keyword is matched, you have advantage on attempts to shove (or opponents have disadvantage on saving throws against magical effects you use to reposition them).

Serial Numbers Filed Off: Tarrasque, King of the Monsters

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Our world is old: far older than any can comprehend. Civilizations rise, and then are crushed beneath the feet of the Titans. The higher the heights, the further the fall. Only the treasures buried beneath the earth survive. Those who delve beneath find remnants of the many times we were great. Each time, society was erased.

We’re not even sure they mean to. Over a dozen godlike beings, unable or unwilling to communicate. Some seem to actively destroy our greatest workings. Others simply ignore them, but take no pains to keep from killing swaths of mortals when their ramblings bring them into our cities. We are to them as insects are to us: at worst an annoyance, at best an interesting curiosity.

The world is large. It can be centuries between the times a Titan’s path brings it through your society. Time to learn and grow. Time to wrest secrets from the old worlds. One of the greatest secrets is the magic of the Titans themselves. The Wizards and Bards have codified it, made it safe. The Sorcerers have inherited it, filtered through the blood of ancestors that mingled with the lesser spawn of the Titans. The others… they invoke it. Druids, Clerics, Warlocks, and Paladins may mean well, but they are essentially worshiping the Titans. Founding cults to them.

And a cult to a Titan is the surest way to bring it down upon your head, smashing your city around it.

The Titans are not everything to us. There are few and, though they are immensely destructive, they cannot be everywhere at once. Like hurricanes and earthquakes, kingdoms can go decades or centuries without an encounter (as long as they keep the cults from forming). Yet, time and time again, their ramblings and their battles become the backdrop of purely mortal conflicts.

And what can a mortal do against the gods themselves but cower and hide?

Cthonian

Gargantuan Aberration
Great Old One Patron, Aberrant Mind Bloodline

A massive, tentacled worm that burrows deep beneath the earth (Neothelid), the Cthonian’s motivations are even more inscrutable than all the other Titans. Its peers seem more likely to attack it, when it makes itself known, and some theorize that it does not even originate from this world.

Simurgh

Gargantuan Beast
Peace Domain, Circle of the Shepherd, Oath of Redemption

A tremendous bird that resembles an owl, this ancestor of the rocs is the least involved with the world of all its compatriots. It is a rare event that makes it descend from the skies to ravage civilization, and others seem to leave it alone. For this, it has become a symbol of peace. Pray you are not one of the rare societies it descends upon.

Azrael

Gargantuan Celestial
Light Domain, Divine Soul Bloodline, Oath of Devotion, Celestial Patron

Rarely seen as more than a bright light shrouded in multiple, immense wings, Azrael is the death of iniquity. Societies that have become too jaded, with corruption and harm against its least citizens encoded into their structure, seem to inevitably attract this Titan. The innocent are sometimes spared, should they run quickly enough for the hills.

Talos

Gargantuan Construct
Order Domain, Clockwork Soul Bloodline

All technology has been derived from observation of the clockwork Titan, aeon upon aeon. An undulating conglomeration of gearwork and levers, Talos moves upon its own unknowable schedule. The greatest heroes have stolen pieces of Talos for scientists to examine… and the cities where they took them eventually are visited by the Titan.

Tiamat

Gargantuan Dragon
Circle of Wildfire, Draconic Bloodline

An immense, multi-headed beast, winged and scaled, Tiamat makes its home in the highest places. All dragons are descended from it, and its movements bend to theirs. It is bad enough to know that a dragon has its lair near your town; worse to realize that this makes it much more likely that Tiamat will eventually visit to receive tribute from its spawn.

Leviathan

Gargantuan Elemental
Tempest Domain, Storm Sorcery Bloodline, Fathomless Patron

Were the oceans not deadly enough for mortals, beneath the waves dwells Leviathan. Few can even speculate on its appearance, and, unlike the other Titans, even swiftly moving scouts cannot herald its coming. Within the water, it is invisible until it strikes. Those that build near the sea forever fear that it might destroy them.

Nuada

Gargantuan Fey
Twilight Domain, Circle of Dreams, Archfey Patron

This hunched humanoid being is a caricature of an elf, with colorful skin and vast, sharp ears. It gambols across the land, the only Titan with a sense of humor, it seems. Those that have been destroyed by its jests do not find them funny. Like many of its lesser kin, it can teleport, thwarting attempts to bar it access. It seems to hate Balor most of all.

Balor

Gargantuan Fiend
Oath of Conquest, Fiend Patron

Red-skinned, bat-winged, and single-eyed, this crouching Titan seems to have the opposite agenda of Azrael: it is the death of just societies. There have been few utopias in history—cities where all were equal, and justice and resources were distributed fairly—and it has swept them all beneath the burning ray of its gaze.

Thor

Gargantuan Giant
Forge Domain, Circle of Stars, Oath of Vengeance

The only Titan to regularly use weapons, Thor is distinguishable from the others that vaguely resemble humanoids by the city-sized hammer it drags behind. The weapon constantly draws thunderbolts from the stormclouds that follow in its wake. It seems completely unconcerned with mortals, but will seek other Titans for the joy of battle.

Prometheus

Gargantuan Humanoid
Knowledge Domain, Oath of Glory, Wild Magic Bloodline, Genie Patron

The Titan that is friendliest to mortals, this apelike beast can at least show emotions upon its face. It often chooses a small handful of mortals throughout the world that it considers friends, to be protected. It tends to avoid harming other mortals that have not attacked it, but gives little thought to not crushing them when it does battle.

Tarrasque

Gargantuan Monstrosity
War Domain, Circle of the Moon, Oath of the Watchers

Some claim the Tarrasque is the greatest of all the Titans. None knows where it goes when it is not active: unlike the others, it does not wander constantly, but seems to sleep and then rise when needed. This need is inevitably to bring overreaching Titans to heel. A shame that it cares not for mortals that are destroyed in these battles.

Oblex

Gargantuan Ooze
Life Domain

Flowing through the caverns of the world, the Oblex is referenced in the oldest surviving texts as the primordial essence from which all life originated. A colorful sea of protoplasmic slime, it tends to drown cities more often than it crushes them. New and varied life always springs quickly from the structures it destroys in its passage.

Yggdrasil

Gargantuan Plant
Nature Domain, Circle of the Land, Oath of the Ancients

A tree the size of kingdoms, Yggdrasil moves slowly, but inevitably. Often, its process cannot even be observed, except in hindsight. It takes days to cover miles, making it easier to flee before it, but this does little for the structures crushed beneath. Some brave souls attempt to live on it, though this is rarely safe for long.

Nightwalker

Gargantuan Undead
Grave Domain, Circle of Spores, Hexblade Patron, Shadow Magic Bloodline

The smallest and most fragile of the Titans, this being reconstitutes itself whenever there is a large enough collection of graves. Civilizations with knowledge of history and a hope to grow burn their dead for just this reason. Those that bury them are counting down to a visit from the Nightwalker. A shame that so many forget about the charnel pits of their abattoirs: the Nightwalker does not rise merely from the bones of humanoids.

Planescape in 5e: Mercurials

Comments Off on Planescape in 5e: Mercurials

This is my conversion of the Mercurial creature type from Doors to the Unknown, as well as the signature items designed for dealing with one. I opted to use Deva as a base, as it was pretty close to the original 2e implementation.

On one of the peaks of Mount Celestia is the realm of Beldaari, a land so deep into the plane of Lawful Good that it is almost beyond this pale cosmos. In this hyper-real forest, the beings of other planes seems lesser, barely real. Bathing in the light of their unnamed god of pure thought, the Mercurials exist in a state of contemplative bliss. While mostly similar to Devas, they have a strange ability to experience life from the bodies of other beings by shedding their own skin and bones. When they can be convinced to leave their home realm this ability to transcend their own form can make them profound allies to the Celestial forces, as they cannot be permanently harmed while they have left their flesh behind.

While most, beings of pure law and good, would only use this ability on the willing, and leave before doing harm, tales tell of one of their own that went mad. Lathuraz wished for a mighty weapon, had it granted by his god who could not believe betrayal was possible, and used it to cut his way free of his brethren, taking the forbidden portal into Sigil that opened on their land every 500 years. His brother, Zarulaz, trailing behind to try to stop him, he nonetheless wreaked havoc for centuries. When turned to evil, an unkillable, charismatic warlord who can steal the forms of his enemies can quickly amass a tremendous base of power. Finally, with the next blink cycle and the help of Zarulaz, Lathuraz was imprisoned behind one of the doors, awaiting heroes to gather the requisite tools to destroy him forever the next time the doors opened… or stand back as he began his conquest anew.

Mercurial

Medium celestial, lawful good

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 136 (16d8 + 64)
Speed 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4) 18 (+4) 18 (+4) 17 (+3) 20 (+5) 20 (+5)

Saving Throws Wis +9, Cha +9

Skills Insight +9, Perception +9

Damage Immunities bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons

Damage Resistances radiant

Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened

Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 19

Languages all, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge 10 (5900 XP)

Borrow Form. The mercurial may shed its skin and bones as an action. They are left in the space this action was performed as an object with AC 13 and hit points equal to what the mercurial had upon leaving them. While standing in the same space as its skin and bones, the mercurial may re-enter them as an action, setting its hit points to the average of its current hit points and those remaining in the object. While outside of its skin, the mercurial’s AC is reduced to 14 (unarmored).

While not in its own skin, the mercurial may attempt to “borrow” the form of another medium- or small-sized humanoid. The mercurial must successfully grapple the target, then attempt to borrow the form as an action on its turn. The target may make a Constitution saving throw (DC 17) to resist this possession. Upon failure, the mercurial disappears into the target’s form, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. The mercurial now controls the body but doesn’t deprive the target of awareness.

While borrowing a form, the mercurial uses its normal statistics except it wears the armor and wields the weapons of the borrowed character. The borrowed character’s hit point total becomes temporary hit points for the mercurial.

While possessed, the host gains a level of exhaustion every X minutes (equal to the character’s Constitution score plus level or CR). The mercurial does not suffer the effects, but they will apply to the body when the possession ends. If the mercurial’s temporary hit points are reduced to 0 or six levels of exhaustion are accrued by the host, the host dies. The mercurial does not have to relinquish the form, but cannot re-borrow it upon leaving (and decay and damage will become apparent over time).

The possession lasts until the mercurial chooses to end it as a bonus action or the mercurial is forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the possession ends, the mercurial reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the body. The target is immune to this mercurial’s Borrow Form for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.

Innate Spellcasting. The mercurial’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 17). The mercurial can innately cast the following spells, but only while on its home plane, requiring verbal components:

At will: detect evil and good
1/day each: commune, wish

Magic Resistance. The mercurial has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Mercurial Weapons. The mercurial’s attacks are magical. When the mercurial hits with any weapon, the weapon deals an extra 2d8 psychic damage (included in the attack).

Regeneration. The mercurial regains 10 hit points at the start of its turns. It loses this ability if its skin and bones are reduced to 0 hp, either while worn or as an object (see Borrow Form). The mercurial only dies if it starts its turn with 0 hp while its regeneration is not active.

Actions

Multiattack. The mercurial makes two weapon attacks (either with wielded weapons or with its slams). One or both of these attacks can be used to attempt a grapple.

Longsword (or Other Host Weapon). Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) slashing damage plus 9 (2d8) psychic damage.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit:7 (1d6+4) bludgeoning damage plus 9 (2d8) psychic damage.

Mental Blast (Recharge 5-6). The mercurial magically emits psychic energy in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 17 Intelligence saving throw or take 23 (4d8+5) psychic damage and be stunned for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Image of monster block

Anti-Lathuraz Items

Cloak of Trapping

Wondrous item, very rare
Keywords: Outlands, Confining, Cutting, Dark, Disjointed, Metallic

This distinctive black cloak with silvery star patterns can be used like a net to attack a creature with shapeshifting or possession abilities (and hits automatically if the creature is convinced to wear it voluntarily). Instead of being restrained, on a successful hit the creature is trapped in its current body and/or shape. Attempts to grapple such a target have advantage. While so trapped, the cloak cannot be damaged (attacks simply hit the captured target), and the target’s Strength check DC to escape is 18 (+1 per matched keyword).

It can be worn as a normal cloak by individuals without shapeshifting or possession abilities. It grants the wearer +1d4 on attack rolls to grapple a target. It can be removed quickly by such a bearer as part of the action to attempt to capture a target.

Rod of Mercury

Rod, unique
Keywords: Mount Celestia, Lawful, Good, Bright, Colorful, Metallic

This two-foot cylinder appears to be made of molten silver but is solid when touched. It tugs toward the nearest mercurial on the same plane, with increasing force if the target is close by (but never hard enough to pull free of a grip or move on its own). This allows the bearer to work out the direction and distance of nearby mercurials.

If there is more than one such creature on the same plane, the bearer may make a Charisma check to track a specific mercurial rather than the nearest. The bearer must have seen the target before and speak its name as a command word. The check DC varies based on the number of mercurials nearby and the distance to the intended target. It is generally equal to 15 +1 for every intervening mercurial but -1 for each matched keyword.

Manacles of Lesser Reality

Wondrous item, legendary
Keywords: Unknown Prime World, Confining, Disjointed, Invisible, Mystic, Smashing

This pair of iron bracers with sunburst designs on them have no obvious locking mechanism. While there is no visible chain, they are connected by an implacable force and cannot be separated by more than five feet before snapping back together. They can be attached automatically to the wrists of a willing or unconscious target as an action. If the target is active and unwilling, they must be applied as an action by an individual that has successfully grappled the target.

While worn by a target that would be affected by protection from evil and good, the manacles deactivate the target’s most powerful abilities and actions. In particular, innate spellcasting and attacks that produce energy are usually suppressed while the manacles are worn. If only one manacle is worn, the subject cannot use such abilities on the wearer of the other manacle, and that wearer gains the effects of protection from evil and good against the target. Further, the target cannot move the wearer of the other manacle by pulling against the invisible chain of force: the target simply becomes restrained upon reaching the end of the tether, and may only move in the direction of the other bearer. Any attempts to teleport the target fail if the other bearer objects to the relocation.

The being who applied the manacles may remove them as easily as using any other object, the manacles falling open at a touch. Otherwise, removing them requires a thieves’ tools check (at a DC equal to 20 + 1/matched keyword), on which the creature trapped has disadvantage. This DC drops by 5 if the one who attached the manacles is dead.

If willingly donned by a wearer that is not subject to the effect, the wearer can remove them at any time. They grant the wearer the benefits of the protection from evil and good spell while both bracers are worn, but prevent the wearer from casting spells of 4th level or higher or using supernatural class abilities granted at 7th level or higher. Further, the wearer can remove one manacle and attach it to another willing target or structure that the bracer can fit around (e.g., pole or rope) to make use of the force tether. In this case, neither target loses movement when at the extent of the tether, and physics determines movement.

Sword of Lathuraz

Weapon (longsword), rare
Keywords: Mount Celestia, Lawful, Good, Bright, Colorful, Metallic

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The regeneration trait of a creature struck with this weapon doesn’t function at the start of its next turn (but functions on subsequent turns if not struck again by the sword). Further, a creature reduced to 0 hit points by this weapon that survives gains a permanent level of exhaustion (even if normally immune to exhaustion), and can gain additional permanent levels up to 3 if so “killed” multiple times, but at most one per day. This exhaustion manifests as permanent wounds from the weapon, and can only be removed by greater restoration or similarly powerful magic.

This longsword has an extremely wide-swept guard and appears to be made of silver and mithril that fade in brightness if the wielder is not lawful good. It was created in secret by the mercurial traitor Lathuraz, used to slaughter his way out of his home plane during his betrayal and fight off any of his kinsfolk that attempted to return him. It is said to have turned black as wrought iron when wielded by its creator after his escape.

The sword sheds light as a torch. If the bright keyword is matched, it sheds light as the daylight spell.

It is an ideal anchor point for visual illusions. Illusions that cannot normally move can be attached to it, moving as you move the item. If the colorful keyword is matched, illusions so attached cause the sword to deal bonus psychic damage on each hit equal to 1d4 + the spell level used to create the illusion (e.g., 1d4 for minor illusion or 1d4+3 for major image) until the illusion is disbelieved.

It resonates with nearby silver and mithril, granting advantage to detect hidden caches of these metals. If the metallic keyword is matched, attacks with the sword deal 1d6 bonus radiant damage on each hit against targets that are vulnerable to silver weapons (e.g., damage resistance overcome by silver or magic weapons).

The sword is uncomfortable to wield by characters that are not of lawful good alignment. If the lawful keyword is matched, chaotic wielders suffer disadvantage on attack rolls, and if the good keyword is matched, evil wielders suffer this disadvantage. If both keywords are matched, and the wielder is lawful good, spell slots expended to smite (or used to cast smite spells) with the sword are treated as one level higher.

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