Random Horror Plot Generator

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Holiday weekend with the family, so you get the EMP Museum’s horror film timeline legend turned into a plot generator.

Mood/Style (d6):

What type of film should the game feel like? (optional)

  1. Body Horror
  2. Comedy
  3. Faux Documentary
  4. Mystery
  5. Psychological
  6. Suspense

Hook/Exposition (d8):

How do the PCs stumble across the plot?

  1. Carnival Tricks
  2. Creepy Castle
  3. Electronics
  4. Excavation
  5. Atomic
  6. Old House
  7. Science Experiments
  8. Roll Twice and Combine Results

Source/Conflict (d10):

What is at the root of the plot?

  1. Curse
  2. Disaster
  3. Disease
  4. Disfigurement
  5. Madness
  6. Murder
  7. Nature Revolts
  8. Phenomenon
  9. Revenge
  10. Torture

Antagonist/Character (2d4):

What kind of creature is either behind the conflict or created by it?

  1. Mundane:
    1. Country Folk
    2. Serial Killer
    3. Troubled Youth
    4. Reckless Teens
  2. Undead:
    1. Ghost
    2. Vampire
    3. Zombie
    4. Other
  3. Paranormal:
    1. Alien
    2. Urban Legend Monster (e.g., Cryptid)
    3. Shapeshifter
    4. Other
  4. Supernatural:
    1. Demon
    2. Evil Child
    3. Witch
    4. Occult Monster (e.g., Werewolf)

Examples

1-7-4-1-4: A group of teens show up with bizarre mutations and lost time after a night of urban exploration. Did they stumble across a science experiment and become lab rats, or were they just contaminated by something left in one of the buildings they were exploring? One of them is still missing… is he still held by their tormentors, or is he the half-seen figure shadowing the party? What do the heroes do when they start to feel sick halfway through the investigation, and their own skin starts to itch?

5-5-8-1-1: Rumors of strange phenomena near an old nuclear testing range reach the heroes. The folks in the nearby town are friendly, but seem to want to change the subject whenever the phenomena are brought up, and to get the party to go away. Who will the heroes trust when weird, dangerous things start to happen all around them, but the townsfolk never seem to notice? Are they protecting a powerful secret, or just running a con to pick up tourism? Either way, will they be willing to kill if cornered on their deception?

3-6-10-2-2: Driven into a big old house by a vicious and sudden storm, the party finds a seemingly abandoned mobile documentary suite in one of the rooms, including a camcorder. The footage still in the camera shows a small group of filmmakers setting up for their shoot, each taking cameras into various parts of the house. The film follows a spooky trip through the house, where other filmmakers are sometimes seen, and ends on a terrified soliloquy as the director explains that she’s leaving the camera in the suite for others to find while she goes to find help. As the heroes explore the house and find more cameras, it becomes increasingly obvious that there’s a seemingly impenetrable basement room in the house… and that it might contain a vampire that enjoys playing with his food.

4-1-2-3-1: The heroes attend a local fair that seems to be the common denominator in a series of similar paranormal events (strange lights and the like not long after the carnival left town). They play a series of games rigged in a way that seems to defy physics, such as darts curving through the air away from their targets. The mystery thickens as the party discovers that the carnival convoy was in an inexplicable road accident during a hurricane a few years ago. It turns out that they were crashed into by an overwhelmed spaceship full of weird tech that they’ve been trying to put to use. The peers of the dead pilot have been following the carnival’s trail, just a little behind the heroes, trying to find their missing friend… who is even now just another seemingly fake exhibit in the freakshow.

Bonds for Occult Antiheroes

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I’m sure something like this has been done before, but I got the idea watching Hemlock Grove. It’s a mechanic for games where the players are meant to be fairly unheroic, selfish individuals that are forced by circumstances to become protagonists even though they’d rather while away their days filled with angst. You know, your John Constantines, Angels, Nick Knights, Duncan Macleods, and such. They’re only heroic in the circumstances because they’re not actively villainous and they have a handful of things that are important enough to them to step up and defend.

Bonds

Each player character starts the game with five bonds. These are five nouns important enough that the character will go out of her way to defend them. Three of them have to be people (friends, family members, or just people the character idealizes and wants to protect, but not other PCs). The other two can be additional people or places, objects, or ideals. If they aren’t people, there has to be some defined way the thing could be destroyed. For example:

  • A building could burn down. A secret lair could be exposed.
  • An item could be stolen. A treasure could be destroyed.
  • A loyalty could be betrayed. An ideal could be proven false.

Essentially, each bond must have a clear way it could be destroyed, killed, or otherwise rendered permanently unavailable to the character. The more ways that this could happen, the better (the point is that the GM is going to threaten them regularly, so making them only have a limited angle of attack will either make it repetitive or the GM will ignore it, making it worthless).

A player may only have five bonds at a time. If one is destroyed, a new one can be purchased with one experience point (multiplied by whatever value payouts are multiplied by, see below) and justification for why this thing is now important to the character.

Threatening Bonds

A GM will frequently threaten the bonds of the characters. Threatening a bond adds 1 experience point to it. The GM must follow several rules:

  • A bond may only be threatened with sufficient warning that there’s a chance to save it (at least at the beginning of the scene where the bond is in danger).
  • A GM may not destroy a bond without threatening it.
  • If a GM threatens several of a character’s bonds at once (such that it is likely that saving one will doom the other without extreme success), he must pay an additional experience point per each bond threatened (e.g., if three are threatened, each bond threatened gets 3 exp placed on it).
  • Bonds can only be threatened if the owner of the bond must take difficult action to save it. If the bond is not really in danger, such that the owner’s inaction would not result in its destruction, it is not worth an exp.

The GM should try to threaten at least one bond per player per session.

Destruction, Retirement, and Revenge

If a bond is destroyed, the player gains all the experience points currently placed on it. Essentially, the player must protect the bond at least once to do more than just recoup the cost of purchasing the bond, and protecting one several times creates greater exp profit.

The exp is multiplied by whatever factor makes sense for the system (e.g., if the system expects players to earn 10 exp per session, and the GM only plans to threaten an average of one bond per player per session, it should be multiplied by 10). This may be the game’s primary (or only) source of experience points.

If the bond gains a total of five or more exp, the player may choose to retire it with story justification. A bond to a character may mean that the character moves away from the area and out of danger, or just gets empowered sufficiently to no longer be in greater danger than the PC (sometimes, this just means informing your friend why he’s been targeted by all these crazy things recently). The character may leave the place to no longer keep it in danger, or just may somehow protect it so it’s no longer targeted. An item may be placed somewhere safe so it’s not in constant risk. A retired ideal means that the character has internalized it sufficiently that it’s no longer at risk of being disproved.

A retired bond gives half its exp value to the player, rounded down (i.e., you get paid more for the angst of loss than fully protecting the bond; a player that retires a bond has grown fond enough of it to sacrifice a bunch of exp to keep it safe). It usually leaves the story to live happily ever after. If there are brief visits from the bond later, it should never be in any particular danger unless the players choose to keep pulling it back in (or some other player decides to take it as a bond…).

When a bond is destroyed, instead of accepting the experience immediately, the player may choose to declare revenge. The bond changes to “Revenge for the [death/loss/etc.] of [the bond]” and cannot be replaced until the revenge is completed or abandoned. The player may abandon the revenge at any time and gain the original experience value of the bond.

For every session that the player character expends effort toward fulfilling the revenge (investigating to find the killer, paying back the killer in kind, etc.), the bond gains an additional experience point (to a maximum of double the original value of the bond). When the revenge is finally consummated (by killing or otherwise ruining the person or organization most responsible for the destruction of the bond), the bond is cleared and pays out its full accumulated value.

Non-Deadly Destruction

Players may specify bonds, particularly to people, in a way that means that death is not the only way to destroy them. Generally, this is something like maintaining the innocence/ignorance of the subject. Your friend finding out your secret (which will cause a permanent rift in the friendship), or your sibling being turned into a monster like you may be almost as terrible for you as being killed.

Large-Scale Threats

When a threat targets a region large enough that it might destroy multiple bonds, it doesn’t count as a threat to those bonds until there’s only a short time left to save them. For example, if the players find out several hours in advance that there’s going to be a city-wide death ritual, but they could just call loved ones and tell them to evacuate with plenty of time to spare, that’s not a threat worthy of an exp. If the players deliberately dawdle until there’s no way the bonds could escape without stopping the threat, or don’t even find out about it until it’s too late to escape, then it does count as a threat to all of the bonds (it might still not count for multiple exp on each bond, since saving one doesn’t necessarily make it harder to save another if one success averts the crisis). In general, GMs should be careful about large-scale threats (perhaps saving them for arc finales where the giant exp payout is intended).

As Aspects

These bonds can double as Aspects in a Fate game (and may replace them entirely). In that case, you can obviously invoke the Aspect when the bond is being threatened. All threats to a bond are also Compels, but the GM can Compel the bond without threatening it (for situations where the bond is in trouble, or will get the PC in trouble, without actually being in mortal danger).

LARP Idea: Bounded Boffer Combat

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The American boffer LARPs that I’m familiar with, particularly those in the Southeast, have a strong inheritance from D&D. In particular, NERO and its offspring systems are very much class-and-level-based fantasy. There are, of course, games that stray further away, being more skill-based than level-based, focusing more on hit location than hit points, and embracing genres other than heroic fantasy. Yet all that I’m aware of still award increasing damage output and mitigation as characters gain experience, whether that’s in more damage and HP or more special attacks and expendable avoidance mechanics.

This means that life is hard for a new player that joins the game after it’s been running for a while. I played in a NERO-variant where veterans were calling 20 damage per swing when they weren’t calling instant death attacks and had hundreds of HP and armor to accompany their loads of avoidance abilities versus new players who generally dealt 2 damage per swing and had a few dozen HP. NPC monsters sent out to serve as speedbumps to veterans can slaughter any new players they happen across. Harbinger has some great ideas on how to keep this from becoming an overwhelming problem, but it’s still a problem.

Due to the high cost of venues and limited staff, LARPs tend to need a consistently large number of players; over years of play there is inevitable churn and it’s tough to attract and retain new players when they’re going to be drastically below average for years. Many games with heavy story tend to end and/or reset all PCs after a few years once the main plots are finished. But while this may make it easier for newbies to jump on at the next reset, it makes it doubly hard for them to join late in an ongoing campaign: their characters will never get very powerful and they’ll have to work extremely hard to be relevant to a plot whose threads are being tied up. Without resets, you get stories like the NERO chapters that have PCs who have been playing since the late 80s without a character reset.

I suspect many heavy-PvP LARPs and non-American PvE LARPs may solve this problem with extremely limited advancement, but ditching experience points isn’t the only solution. The peculiar DNA of American LARPs seems to have weirdly passed D&D to boffer LARPs and World of Darkness only to salon LARPs. Most White Wolf games allow PCs to start very competent in combat because the requisite attributes and abilities are capped to a level attainable in character generation. These characters aren’t extremely versatile, but they are potent.

This can make challenging the PCs harder. Harbinger frequently worried about what kind of challenges to throw at our party in Mage that was mixed between heavily combat-specced PCs and PCs with virtually no combat skills whatsoever. Even the theoretically-hardest threats in the sourcebooks could be defeated by us very early if they didn’t use their superior versatility to keep us from defining the context of the battlefield. But this is potentially much less of a problem in a LARP, where there are more players to self-organize to face various challenges. The “this fight is too hard for the PC” assumption would become “because he chose to be good at something other than fighting” rather than “because he is a newb and would fail no matter what his choices were.” Meanwhile, feeling powerful earlier is great for players, and a bounded range of threats makes world-building much easier for the GM.

I think there’s a way to pull this off in boffer LARPs that both makes newbies feel like powerful contributors and rewards high-experience veterans. The general points would be:

  • Players are strongly encouraged to focus on combat or non-combat skills (possibly further subdivided into different types like mage vs. rogue skills). This could be an official class system, or just a mechanism by which skills outside your specialty are much more expensive than those within.
  • All skill types have a potency limit that can be met or nearly met by a new player. If you’re HP-based, the maximum damage on swings/spells and total purchasable HP is within reach of a new, combat-focused character. If you’re hit-location-based, the total number of special attacks and avoidance effects you can bring into a given fight is, similarly, something new PCs can meet.
  • Skills have a deep well of versatility that allows veteran players to slightly outclass new players if they’re prepared for what they’re fighting. Maybe a new player can master one type of weapon, but different weapons are useful against different creatures so it pays off to master several. Maybe the veteran can replace generic special defenses and attacks with abilities that are more useful against one threat type (but less useful against others). Magic and other non-combat skills come in an array of different specialties.
  • Non-combat skills all have player-directed effects that are in some way relevant to combat. This may mean that magic or an equivalent is better at buffing/debuffing than fighting. Rogue and Lore skills allow battlefield control by setting up locks, wards, or traps to prevent enemies of certain types from attacking from unexpected directions, and may have protectives against certain attack or creature types.

Ultimately, the goal is that veterans should be very happy to involve new players. New combat-focused PCs are just as powerful as veterans in many encounters, and still a really good person to stand behind and buff for veteran non-combat PCs. New non-combat PCs have desirable buffs and debuffs to stand behind veteran combat PCs, and can deploy additional battlefield control that’s useful in any kind of challenging encounter.

Pathfinder Race: The Lithari

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This is heavily inspired by watching The Fires of Pompeii episode of Doctor Who after playing the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning DLC with the Kollossae. It also owes a decent bit to the Pak lifecycle and wanting to make a race that works well with Monk (since I think part of the reason people think Monk is suboptimal is that it has poor synergy with the standard races). The race writeup should be roughly balanced based on the Advanced Race Guide, but the racial prestige class may be too good.

Lithari

Lithari are a race of humans touched by the earth elemental plane, similar to the Oread. Rather than being a stable hybrid, members of this race are born almost identical to humans and slowly become more and more stonelike as they age. Given that their paragons can become almost identical to stone golems, some wonder if they weren’t originally created as a cheaper way to make constructs rather than a natural fusion of human and elemental plane.

Physical Description: Young Lithari are very similar in appearance to humans (with similar height and 10% greater weight), but have tough skin that matches the coloration of the local stone and no hair. They can breed with humans, but all children are born Lithari. As they age, more and more of their biology is replaced by stone, and all members of the race lose the ability to procreate after adulthood. Those that are prepared to die often attempt to pose themselves among their ancestors, leaving behind a statue that descendents often carve to resemble the Lithari at a younger age.

Society: Living on the fringes of human society, Lithari are never great in number but maintain their society through crossbreeding. They are great traditionalists, and often serve as lorekeepers for other races. Many ruins full of what are first assumed to be human statues are actual Lithari graveyards.

Relations: Slow to both anger and action, a force of Lithari warriors can easily swing a battle and so remain loose allies of most other races. Keenly aware of their own limited window to breed, and reliance on humanity to shore up their own numbers, Lithari will often toe the line of nearby human civilizations until they find that they are treated as servants or worse. When cruel human civilizations have assumed the loyalty of the nearby society of Lithari, they have often fallen to a surprise uprising of mighty stone insurgents.

Alignment and Religion: Lithari tend to be Lawful. They venerate Abadar, Irori, and Pharasma above most other gods.

Adventurers: Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Monks, and Clerics are the primary classes favored by Lithari, and many of their most powerful warriors consider becoming Lithari Paragons.

Names: Lithari tend toward classical names (with a Greek and Roman flair).

Lithari Racial Traits

  • +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 Dexterity: Lithari are fortified with stone and patient observers, but their rocky skin and muscles ruins their agility.
  • Native Outsider: Lithari are outsiders with the native subtype.
  • Medium: Lithari are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Normal Speed: Lithari have a base speed of 30 feet.
  • Darkvision: Lithari can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
  • Natural Armor: Lithari gain +1 Natural AC due to their rocky skin.
  • Poison Resistance: Lithari gain +1 per character level to saves against poison, due to the fossilized nature of their internal structure.
  • Stonesinger: Lithari are treated as 1 level higher when casting spells with the earth descriptor or using powers of the Earth domain, bloodline powers of the earth elemental bloodline, and revelations of the oracle’s stone mystery.
  • Relentless: Due to their weight and density, Lithari gain a +2 bonus on combat maneuver checks made to bull rush or overrun an opponent.
  • Spell Interaction: Due to being a strange hybrid of flesh and stone, Lithari are not affected by Stone to Flesh or Flesh to Stone spells or similar effects. Being in the area of Transmute Rock to Mud counts as being targeted by Mass Inflict Light Wounds, and, similarly, being within the area of Transmute Mud to Rock heals the Lithari as if within the area of Mass Cure Light Wounds. Lithari are healed as Constructs by Make Whole and similar effects. Lithari take half the healing effect of Positive Energy (including all cure spells and channel energy).
  • Fossilization: Lithari in old age do not become physically weaker, but do become slower. Instead of reducing Strength due to aging penalties, instead reduce base speed by 5 feet for every age category past Adult. Other ability scores are affected by aging normally.
  • Racial Feats: Lithari may purchase the Oread racial feats from the Advanced Race Guide.
  • Languages: Lithari begin play speaking Common. Lithari with high intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Terran, and Undercommon.

Lithari Paragon

Some Lithari seek out shallowings between the world and the elemental plane of earth to actuate their heritage and become giant warriors of stone. These Lithari become the foremost protectors of their families.

Role: The abilities of Paragons compliment most melee-focused classes, and can provide interesting synergy to certain Monks and Clerics. They fight in the front line.

Alignment: Paragons can be of any alignment, though, as Lithari tend toward Lawful, so do their defenders.

Hit Die: d10

Requirements

To qualify to become a Lithari Paragon, a character must fulfill all the following critera.

Race: Lithari

Skills: Knowledge: Planes 4 Ranks

Special: Must have access to a strong source of Earth Elemental energies

Class Skills

The Lithari Paragon’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Intimidate (Cha), and Perception (Wis).

Skill Ranks at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Level Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special
1 +1 +0 +0 +0 Natural Armor Increase (+1), Stone Flesh, Rock Fists
2 +2 +1 +1 +1 Ability Boost (Str +2), Low Light Vision
3 +3 +1 +1 +1 Natural Armor Increase (+2), DR 1/Adamantine
4 +4 +1 +1 +1 Ability Boost (Str +2), Stone Blood
5 +5 +2 +2 +2 Ability Boost (Con +2), DR 2/Adamantine
6 +6 +2 +2 +2 Ability Boost (Str +2), Large Size
7 +7 +2 +2 +2 Natural Armor Increase (+2), DR 3/Adamantine
8 +8 +3 +3 +3 Ability Boost (Con +2), Stone Bones
9 +9 +3 +3 +3 Natural Armor Increase (+2), DR 4/Adamantine
10 +10 +3 +3 +3 Ability Boost (Str +2), Stone Soul, DR 5/Adamantine

Class Features

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Paragons gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Natural Armor Increase (Ex): As a Paragon becomes more powerful, his body becomes more and more made of stone. At 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 9th level he gains an increase to his existing natural armor as indicated in the table (including the bonus from his race, this becomes a total of +8 at 9th level).

Stone Flesh (Ex): Paragons absorb more and more stone as they level. This has the effect of ultimately increasing the character’s starting height by +50% and starting weight by +500% (+5% and +50% per level). As the character increases in level, the added stone leaves the Paragon humanoid but not human shaped, and the additional weight proves restrictive.

The character gains an additional Armor Check Penalty equal to levels in Lithari Paragon that applies whether or not he is wearing armor. Additionally, standard armor fits poorly and subtracts the character’s Paragon level from its own bonus to AC (to a minimum of 0); specially made armor (including force armor like Bracers of Armor) can halve this penalty.

Before long, the character looks more like an Earth Elemental than a human. Many Lithari Paragons choose to have a sculptor alter them to resemble an armored human statue; this has no effect on any stats, but may make it easier for the Lithari to travel in polite society. Some Paragons make an irrevocable choice to be sculpted back down to the normal proportions of a human. This halves the level-based Armor Check Penalty and allows the character to wear properly-sized armor without penalty, but also halves the character’s Natural Armor bonus and reduces Strength and Constitution by 2 each (and reduces total weight by 10 pounds per class level).

Rock Fists (Ex): The character adds his Lithari Paragon level to his Monk level for determining unarmed damage. If the character has no levels in Monk, use the Paragon level as his level to determine unarmed damage (and the character may always make unarmed attacks as if armed for the purposes of Attacks of Opportunity).

Ability Boost (Ex): A Paragon grows gradually, taking on more and more of the benefits of his ultimate Large Size as he levels. His ability scores increase as noted in the table (for a final Str +8 and Con +4 not counting racial bonuses).

Low Light Vision (Ex): At 2nd level, the Lithari Paragon gains Low Light Vision.

Damage Resistance (Ex): Over time, the body of the Paragon becomes more like stone than flesh. This grants an increasing damage resistance of up to 5/Adamantine as noted in the table.

Stone Blood (Ex): At 4th level, the Paragon’s insides have become sufficiently fused with stone to render him immune to most mortal ailments. Like a construct, he is immune to disease, death effects, necromancy effects, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning. However, he can no longer recover hit points naturally (though still retains the Lithari’s racial spell interaction). Even if not yet middle aged, the character can no longer procreate.

Large Size (Ex): At 6th level, the Paragon has now fully become a Large creature. He takes a permanent -2 penalty to Dexterity; a size penalty of -1 to AC, -1 to Attack, and -4 to Stealth; a size bonus of +1 to CMB and CMD; +10 foot speed; and 10 foot Reach. His unarmed attacks increase in damage accordingly, and he can use Large weapons (and armor). The further bonuses normally gained from becoming Large (bonuses to Strength and Constitution) are already included in the leveling progression, so are not awarded at this time.

Stone Bones (Ex): At 8th level, the Paragon has little biological matter remaining, animated almost entirely by elemental magic. Like a construct, he is no longer subject to ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, energy drain, or nonlethal damage and he is not at risk of death from massive damage. He no longer has a Disabled or Dying state; he is immediately dead upon reaching 0 HP. He is subject to Shatter as if he were a crystalline creature.

Stone Soul (Ex): At 10th level, the Paragon effectively becomes a sentient construct, an elemental soul powering a stone body. He is immune to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms), immune to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless), and no longer has to breathe, eat, or sleep. He may not be Raised or Reincarnated, but may be Resurrected (in an area with at least a ton of stone to use to form a new body). Unlike a normal construct, he continues to determine bonus hit points based on Constitution rather than a flat bonus (due to the ingrained nature of his formerly living health to the magics that now animate him). His type remains Outsider (Native) rather than Construct.