Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Monkey King and the GLOG Funnel

So we have been watching The New Legends of Monkey, a tv series based on Journey to the West.  It's "fun but cheesy", not the best adaptation to be sure, but worth watching.

What struck me in this show is how the "gods" are essentially level 7-9 D&D 5e characters.  They are powerful and capable, but also limited and vulnerable.  The Monkey King, much like a 5e fighter or barbarian of similar level, is sorely needed by the gods (he's the party tank!  the lifter of boulders!) but at the same time, he is dependent on magical items and isn't really capable of doing a lot of what the others can do (like... teleport, bring people back to life, animate objects... you get the drill).  Demons are more like warlocks and hexblades - not quite as powerful as the gods, but tricky and good at violence.

So how do you do that, if  you want to achieve that in your game?

Start your PCs as GLOG characters.  It's a funnel!  But when they reach level 5, they can retire (as normal)... OR they get re-created as D&D characters.  In a stroke of lighting, they are reborn - bigger, brighter and more colorful.  Sure the 5e fighter still has 2 attacks like a level 4 GLOG fighter, but the 5e fighter does much more damage, can action surge, has 2-3 times the HP.... it's super-heroic!  A GLOG character goes to zero or less HP and pop goes the death and dismemberment table!  But a 5e character goes down?  Healing word, they'll be fine.  Oh shit that didn't work?  Welp, better get them raised.... like Gods, 5e heroes are hard to kill.

I mean *sure* you could use the Exalted rpg system but... 5e does it just as well, just jazz up the descriptions a tad :)

So how does this go?  Well petty financial concerns are gone - people will feed them, house them, out of reverence.   And other gods (higher level NPCs) now notice them, and involve the party in affairs of the realms.  The gods are powerful... but there are only so many of them, and they can't be everywhere at once.  Let these new gods deal with the evil pirate shaman!

So a GLOG campaign can lead to a 5e campaign... AND vice versa.  The campaign is wrapping up, there is a final scene.  Villagers approach them with a problems - but the gods are tired and need a break.  But hey says one of the gods, why don't you ask these ruffians, they look tough?  They won't do it?  Fine, *we'll* ask them to do it - and poof, level 1 GLOG campaign on a mission from Gawd. 

That's it for the post :)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Foreboding Fromagerie: The Map

My idea for a collective GLOG dungeon was a wild success!  I have over 25 volunteers.   The name of the adventure/dungeon is "the Foreboding Fromagerie" :)  Now, we step forward to the next important step, the map.

I am no great map maker.  Fortunately, I know a great one - one who is so generous that he makes maps available to others for their project.  I speak, of course, of Dyson Logos.  I support him on Patreon and I definitely feel that he's a boon to the gaming community.

Here is a link to the map:

Now here is the map keyed with numbers:

Some things of notes.   The two green areas are "goblin zones".  I have a few volunteers for two rival goblin clans using the cheese production as a means of sustenance.   They are terrified of the Wizard, who tolerates the goblins - the goblins are scavengers, parasites even, but they are tolerated because they also a form of low grade security.

left click on image, then right click and "open image in new tab" to get full size
SCALE:  1 square = 10 feet.  Top of the map is North.

Rooms with red numbers are of note:

Room 1 is the entrance - the stairwell to the Above. (completed)

Rooms  36 and 37 are the Wizard's quarters and laboratory.  They rarely leave these days.  They have a black card

Some rooms are already assigned!  This is not set in stone, I just assigned rooms based on the descriptions.  Apologies for typos in people's names.

Room 2 is for Oblidisideryptch - a great factory hall (completed)

Room 3 is for Diyanddragons - a milk fountain/waterfall (complete)

Room 4 is a pasteurization room by Phlox (complete)

Room 5 is for purplecthulhu:  a stinking statue (complete)

Room 6 is for Sir Onyx - cheese vault   (mostly completed, map will need adjustments)

Room 7 is  for Sir Onyx - a golem workshop. (complete)

Room 8 is for mbt-za (a digging machine)   (complete)

Room 9 is for Sir Onyx  - a kitchen manned by goblins (complete)

Room 10 is for Castle_librarian - a dining room (complete)

Room 11 is for Studio 315b - Crackers and romance  (complete)

Room 12 is for deus ex parabola: a merchant  (completed)

Room 13 is for Vayra who is on a tear (completed) the cursed chamber

Room 14 is for Random Wizard - Portal to Cheese Hell  (completed)

Room 15 is for Corgifan2 : vats room  (completed)

Room 16 is for Purplechutlu: Milk and Renet extraction (completed)

Room 17 is by Oblidisideryptch - a great factory hall (completed)

Room 18 is for Diyanddragons , a great armory/cannon (completed)

Room 19  Baal a balcony overlooking the armory (complete)

Room 20 is for Jojiro - he will create a goblin clan with Morgan (completed)

Room 21 is for Morgan - the holy cow of the goblins! (complete)

Room 22 is for Spwack - the cube of knowledge (and brimstone) (complete)

Room 23 is for PanickPillow - a maggoty room.  Has doors leading in and out (will have to edit the map a little) (completed)

Room 24 is for vayra - the moon shot (completed)

Room 25 is not on the map.  Is it missing?  weeelllllll  - Ancalagon (completed)

Room 26 is for SirOnyx:  the oil pumps (completed)

Room 27 is for SunderedworldDM: the Hall of Halumi  (completed)

Room 29 (complete, the training room), 30 (complete, the holy goat) and 31 are for Bluewolf and pm1988Today - they will create the rival goblin clan.

Room 31 is for PM1988  The cheese larder of the goblins (complete)

Room 32 is for studio 315b - the slide room (completed)

Room 33 is Phlox - a chapel (completed)

Room 34 is for Mtb-za, a library (completed)

Room 35 is Mihau - sentry post (completed)

Room 38 is Sir Onyx - Magical portal to the MOON (completed)

Room 39 is Studio 315b - a puzzle statue   (completed)

Room 40 is kahva - a kennel (completed)

Room 41 is for deadtreenoshelter - the squater's camp (completed)

Room 42 is  SunderedworldDM - the Imp hall (and other things)  (completed)

Room 43 is for Josie - blue cheese room

Room  44 is for deadtreenoshelter: another merchant - out of supplies alas  (completed)
(note will be renumbered to 53 in final product)

Room 45 and 46 are for vayra - a monster and a treasure room   (completed)

Room 47 is for Lexi - fondue pits!  (completed)

Room 49 is for purplechutlu,  - the ghoul-da (completed)

Room 50 is spekkio -  the cheese dragon  (completed)

Room 51 is Phlox:  an audience chamber (completed)

Room 52 is for Phlox - a goblin sleeping area (completed)

Room 53 is for nickorish ink - a biologist  (completed)
(note will be renumbered to 44)

Rooms 28 and 48 will be reserved as "spare rooms" - I may find later on to add something that I suddenly realize the dungeon is sorely missing.

This is an ongoing project - in fact I'm using this page to track things :) . At this point, all rooms should be assigned.  If you are a volunteer and don't have a room, let me know!  Once they are ready (a week?), remaining rooms will be assigned

edit: an error on the map already - that will be cleaned up later, for now it's just a working copy :)

The Merchant Adventurer

This is not the man who orders 1000s of bales of silk, and owns an insured ship that will go get them.  Oh no.

This is the person who makes a living pulling a cart, bringing goods to those who need them, for a reasonablish price.  And who is sometimes willing to go very far to make a sale. Or very deep.

By Honoré Daumier

Starting equipment:
staff, cart (see class), ink, pen and notebook, 2 candles, 100 silver pieces

The Merchant Adventurer:

A: The Trusty Servant, the hand cart,
B:  The Cranky Donkey, the great liar
C:  The Trusty Crossbow, the value of things
D:  The Surly Guard, the sudden windfall

The Trusty Servant:  You are served by an older man who is not a complete coward nor is a total fool; but loyal.  He has 8 in every stat and 4 hp, and and AC of 10.   His stats go up by 1 for every template and his HP by 2.  He is armed with a club, but is no lover of violence.

The hand cart:  a 2 wheel affair, oddly flexible and capable for navigating quite difficult terrain.  Carries 20 slots.

Inside:   1 lantern (1),  6 torches (2),  6 bottles of oil (2), 21 rations (7), sellable nick-naks worth 50 sp (3), rope (1), shovel (1), cart repair tools (1), 3 turnips (1), bundle of firewood (1).

The Cranky Donkey:  You obtain a small but strong and sturdy donkey.  It it cranky, sure footed, cunning, and fears no creatures of this earth, but loyal.  AC 12, HP 12 (3HD).  It pulls your upgraded cart which can now carry 40 slots.

The Great Liar:   You could sell turnip juice to children, and have!  You have advantage on any charisma check, skill check etc. involving deception.

The Trusty Crossbow.  This is a dangerous world, and no expense is worth your life!  You have acquired a fancy, complex device of war that you understand fully - you are proficient and have a +2 bonus to hit with it. This crossbow does 1d10 dmg and you can reload it quickly (as a bow).  You also have 20 bolts (needs custom order to have more, non standard).  Should you lose it a new one will appear next adventure (selling does not count as losing).

The Value of Things:  You have advantage to checks to determine the true value of things - be they treasure, merchandise, or more esoteric, like favors or information.

The Surly Guard:  You acquire the services of a guard.  He trusts no one, but loyal.  Spear, dagger, padded armor (AC 13, or halfway between leather and chain) + shield, HP 10 (2 HD), 12 in every stats. 

The Great windfall:   Begin every adventure with a gain of 2d8 gp (no xp for this) for side deals paying off. *Only* once per campaign, have a greater windfall of 2d100 + 10d6 gp.

Should the servant, the donkey or the guard perish, a new one will emerge at the start of the next adventure.  However, if the merchant adventurer was reckless with them, word will spread, and they may  not be so loyal...

I was thinking about classes for Skerlples' mercenary campaign and this just jumped in my head.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

the GLOG collective dungeon, a humble proposal

A short post - this is more of a proposal, an idea, for a project.

The people in the GLOG community are wildly creative, but (and I'm paraphrasing what others have said in the OSR discord server, but I will say that there is a fair amount of truth to it) a lot of the creations are… high in fun, less so in usability.  Hundreds of classes, (even more so with the recent microclass trend), multiple hacks, spells, the TeleGLOG... but a lot less playable material, and by this I mean adventures.  Seeing how I haven't published any adventures, I'm just as guilty.

And let's be fair - writing a whole adventure is a fair amount of work!  But what if we collectively tackled the task?

So here is the idea.  We find a free to use map for a dungeon (I would recommend Dyson Logos).  Someone (me?) numbers the rooms (and perhaps a few corridors).  Perhaps we decide on some kind of theme so it's *not* completely random, but hey, maybe completely random would work.   Rooms are then assigned to participants.   If a few people can't make it on time - well a few empty rooms in a dungeon never hurt anyone. 

A dwarf kneels before a brooding warrior with a horned helmet and a spear sitting on a stone seat

Then the person running the project cleans it up a bit, and TADA!  a GLOG collective dungeon!

It won't be a *great* dungeon, but it should be eminently useable.

Is this a good idea?  Do we have volunteers?

EDIT:  I was pondering about the theme, and Oblidisideryptch suggested that it would be a cheesy dungeon... literally.

Long ago, an underground facility was constructed with all sorts of magical devices to mass produce cheese.  It has since fallen in disrepair, but still runs, somehow, a bit.   What kind of foul lactose magic will be found here?  Blue oozes?  Cheesemaking golems?  Fat goblins scavengers?  Skeletons servants?  Some kind of security?  Hell-cows?  A crazed wizard?  Parmesan shields?   Let's find out :P

EDIT 2:  Volunteers have come forth!  I will be using this post to keep track.  We have enough people to make this happen.  The project is officially a GO!

- By the end of this week (say, Saturday) I will semi-close the volunteer list (this way I know how big a dungeon we need).
- By the beginning of next week, I will have a dungeon map of the appropriate size. I will assign volunteers to specific room numbers  (I'm thinking 2 rooms per volunteers?)
- Volunteers will have X amount of time to make their entry
- I collect the entries, do light editing, then collate them in a blog post
- Tada!  Collective GLOG dungeon!

If you volunteer then can't make it, the list will be edited of course - I'm not going to use this to "pressure" people :)

Oblidisideryptch (they already provided the theme!)
SirOnyx   (proposes connecting to the moon)
Panic Pillow
Random Wizard
Studio 315b
nickorish inck

(? indicate that I am not 100% and will have to clarify - if you see yourself on this list in error, I am sorry!  If you want to volunteer and *aren't* on the list, let me know!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

On the Wealth of Cities - Warhammer edition, and on the impact of low gold on a campaign

In a previous post, I made calculations on how much wealth a city had - it's GDP, based on an "economic yardsick" - the amount a laborer made.

But this was for 5e, a "wealthy" system where gold is plentiful.  What about a system that is a bit more realistic, where finding 10 gold pieces is a bit of a big deal?   Enter Warhammer - more precisely, Warhammer frpg 2nd edition.

A woman with an eye-patch stands in a courtyard and gestures to a man sheepishly pleading to her
By Arthur Rakham

The Warhammer coinage is roughly based on the medieval system, where 1 gold (crown) = 20 silver (shilling) = 240 copper (pence).  This means that one gold piece is worth more, but I also note that this system, in my experience, is about as complex as most players will tolerate - don't get too complex!

So in 5e, our laborer makes 2 silvers a day.   In Warhammer, a laborer would be making 10 pence (10 coppers), or a little less than a silver (since it takes 12 coppers to make a silver).  This means that 5e is a little more than twice as "expensive" as Warhammer - or four time if you consider that it takes *20* silver pieces to make a gold, not 10!

(Re laborer cost:  Interestingly, if you look at the yearly income of a peasant (9-15 gp per year), the unskilled laborer is being paid on the high end of the scale.  I suppose that is why the labor is available - why go work for some guy carrying stuff or digging a ditch, when you could be home peasanting instead? Because it pays more.  For those with the book, compare table 5-1 and 5-18.)

At this point, I thought about doing further calculations but... that's not fun content is it?  So I'm happy with the answer "GDP and rewards should be 1/4 than what they are in 5e" and leave it at that. 

Buuut that isn't the case in Warhammer.  Rewards in Warhammer are *small*.  A mercenary makes 20-50 GP a year... and that's the kind of gold that will motivate a PC to risk their lives.  It's a grim, grubby world.  In the introductory adventure in the main book, the PCs are escorting a small band of villagers - not for money, but because there is strength in numbers and the area is perilous.  If they are lucky, they may find a relic worth 100 gp.  So 25 gp each for a party of 4 - that would be considered a *very* successful venture by Warhammer terms - it's a year's salary!

Now at first level in D&D, (multiply by 4), PCs wouldn't be too upset at gaining 100 gp each... but the difference is that the rewards never really ramps up in Warhammer, unlike D&D where finding 10 000's worth of GPs in an adventure is likely at higher level.   Every new piece of equipment (armor and guns are particularly expensive relative to the rewards) is dearly needed and requires a lot of work to obtain.

And it's not just "I need armor to increase my chance of survival".  The Warhammer system has a "career" system that is roughly analogous to class (2nd career adventurers would be mid-level, and third career is "high levels").  To enter those new careers so you can progress, you need the career's trappings (i.e. its gear).  You can't be a knight without a horse can you?  And it has to be a destrier incidentally , which is worth 500 gp.  Even considering you may have started with a regular horse (80 gp) that you could sell to "upgrade", the costs are high.  Not all advance careers have such onerous requirements, but you get the picture - you probably need gold to "level up".

(Interestingly, once you have entered the new career, you can lose all your stuff and still be in it - it's just to make the jump that they are needed.  No renting a horse doesn't count.)

So what are the consequences of having a low-reward campaign.   Well on the good side, your PCs will almost never become jaded with getting gold (in 5e you can't buy magical items easily, so PCs can accumulate a lot of cash after a while).  Third Career PCs will probably be relatively well off - they already own most of the gear they want, they can afford that fat 5 gp bribe to a guard.  However, if a noble offers them 1 gp a day each(!) to guard them during a month-long trip through a dangerous forest, the party will most probably accept (that would be a noble splurging for the best sell-swords in the city, essentially).   I think that's a great thing...

BUT it comes at a cost.  Say the party is attacked by brigands and defeat them.  Their main treasure will not be coins and gems; it's going to be their gear.  Weapons, armor, even clothes, supplies and utility items... They are precious loot for the PC.  Even considering the loot may have to be sold for a 1/4 value to a fence that won't ask questions; it's worth doing for first-career adventurers. Third career adventurers probably won't bother anymore, but at first career.. you might not have *any* armor at all!  (a full set of leather armor is 25 gp).  Add living costs (roughly half a gold a week for decent living standards), and the PCs will most likely act like scavengers for quite some time.

(I will note that this has historical accuracy.  The word "rob" comes from the French "derober" or "disrobe" - because brigands would literally steal the clothes of traveler's back.)

I'm not speculating about this happening during play, incidentally.  I have, in the past, run a number of Warhammer campaigns, and this is what happened.

So it's a tradeoff.  A low gold campaign has added tension - the PCs are hungry for money to get equipment, or even just to pay costs of living! BUT you may end up with a lot of scrounging and scavenging.  In  the grim perilous world of Warhammer, that's not too bad.  But for some other games... this may not fit the tone you were hoping to get.   Furthermore, figuring out the cost of every salvageable item takes time, and it will be something you'll have to do as a GM.

P.S.  I can't help but note the parallels between some OSR system's XP system, which is based on gold earned, and Warhammer, where gold can (doesn't always) act as a "gate keeper) to the entry to some advanced classes.  While both systems have flaws and benefits, I note that I find the Warhammer system to be superior.  Both systems make the PCs hungry for money, not combat (combat in Warhammer is dangerous!) but it avoid adventures "having" to have money (because otherwise the PC would not advance), which bothers me to be frank.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The GLOG alchemist

The Alchemist

"For the alchemist the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter."  C.G Jung

For each template (i.e. level) of  Alchemist, you can use 1 CD per concoction (max 4) You learn two formulas per template (see below).

Starting equipment:  Thick leather gloves, dagger, portable mini lab (1 slot), ingredients (see below), lots of vials.  

A:  Alchemy,  Stabilize, Alchemical tricks
B:  Scrounge, Reclamation
C:  Potion Maker, Precise Measurements
D: Discovery, Immunity

(May 2022:  please note:  see this playtest report for some revisions to this class, esp re stabilization)

Alchemy:  An alchemist's wondrous abilities are powered by "special ingredients".  They could be gems, special herbs, dragon scales, rare metals or spices... the exact nature of these can be defined with your GM, or stay vague.  A single dose of "special ingredient' is represented by a Chemical Dice, or CD.  These work similarly to Mage Dice (MD) or spell dice, common to many other GLOG magic using classes

An alchemist does not cast spells.  They create concoctions - potions, bombs, ointments - short term, one-use quasi-magical objects that the alchemist uses to create magic-like effects, based on formulas they know.  The more CD the alchemist invests into a concoction, the more powerful it will be.  An alchemist therefore needs time to prepare their concoctions in advance, analogous to a wizard memorizing spells.  An alchemist without concoctions prepared will have to rely on their wit, dagger or feet to get out of trouble.

Using Concoctions:   Most require 1 action to activate - light a fuse and throw, drink, etc.  When a concoction is used, one 1d6 is rolled per CD invested during the concoction's reaction, and the effect (for example, damage, or duration) is based on this result.  On a roll of 1-3, the CD is "returned" to the alchemist - he was stingy with the ingredients, and still has some left.  On a 4-6 the CD is lost - more ingredients were used for a bigger bang. 

Other people can use your concoctions, but it is risky - they roll 2 extra d6 that add no power to the effect but can trigger a mishap or doom (see below).

When rolling CDs, [sum] means the sum of the CD(s) rolled and [dice] the number of CDs rolled.  If two of the dice have the same number, it triggers a mishaps.  If three have the same number, it triggers a doom.

1d6 alchemist mishaps
1.  The concoction doesn't quite work right and there is a minor explosion or acid splash.  Take 1d6 damage.
2.  The concoction worked normally, but regain no CDs on a 1-3 for this one.
3.  Coughing fit for 1d6 round.
4.  A *hideous* smell is released.  People shout in panic, zombies gag.   How embarrassing!
5.  The fumes give you a vicious headache.  You can use concoctions but are in no shape to prepare new ones for the rest of the day.
6.  You drop the concoction and it goes off, to potentially disastrous results.

Alchemist Dooms  (triggered in order)
1.  Countless mishaps have permanently singed your eyebrows.  You smell peculiar.
2.  Exposure to noxious chemicals have affected your health.  Lose 1 HP permanently.
3.  You have contracted a long wasting illness from years of exposure to toxic metals.  Lose 1 HP permanently each month.   There are no know cure... but perhaps the Elixir of Life could save you!  But the formula has been long lost...

Making concoctions:  A concoction takes 1 hour per CD invested to prepare (some take longer).  This is careful work that needs quiet, some shelter and light to do.  Most alchemists carry a portable lab (2 slots) that is sufficient for most alchemical work.  If the process is interrupted the CDs are lost.  Unlike a wizard, there is no limit to the number of concoctions an alchemist can prepare - but it would not be wise for her to use all her CD in advance, as concoctions are not stable - each morning, the concoction has a 1 in 6 chance of losing one CD of power.  A concoction with no CD left has fully degraded and is essentially useless. Some alchemists deal with this problem with stabilization (see below).

Regaining CDs:  An alchemist starts at level 1 with 2d6 CDs, and she gains 1d6 more CDs each time she levels up.  Furthermore, when returning to town to re-supply, a level 1 alchemist *can* regain 1d4 CDs, at a cost of 1 gp per CD.  At level 2 and 3 resupplying will yield 1d6 CDs, and a master alchemist will be able to gather 1d8 CDs.  An alchemist does *not* gain CDs by sleeping or some special ceremony.  (please see design notes below!!!).

A skilled alchemist has also ways of obtaining more CDs by careful use of their ingredients.

Formulas:   An alchemist begins the game with two known formulas, each determined randomly by rolling 1d6 and consulting the list (reroll any duplicates).  At template B they gain two more formulas (roll 1d8 twice), at Template C they gain two more (roll 1d10 twice) and at template D they get another two (roll 1d12 once and select another).  An alchemist can also gain further formulas by consulting alchemical tomes and learning their formulas.  Doing so is difficult, taking a day (or more!) per new formula.

Stabilize : To avoid the rapid degradation of a prepared concoction, an alchemist can spend one hour carefully neutralizing it.  The concoction - if kept dry and away from extreme temperatures - will remain inert and stable for several years.  Another hour of work is required to re-activate it.  Once this is done, the concoction cannot be neutralized a second time, and must be used soon or it will degrade (as per standard rules).

Alchemical tricks:   You know one of the following minor alchemical feats (and learn one per template).  These do not require CDs:

- Matches.  You have created small fire sticks, that are useful to start fires.  You can use them to light a fire most circumstances, or provide candle-level illumination for 1d3 rounds.  If the precise number of matches becomes important, you have 2d6*5 matches, and creating a new batch takes 1 hour.

- Small firework display.  A sparkler or 3, a whistler, a half dozen firecrackers, a couple of bottle rockets, a cone fountain... it will entertain the children or make a heck of a distraction.  An alchemist investing large sums and sufficient time could make a display suitable for larger audiences, of course.

- Planetary Charm:  A small plate of lead with protective symbols.  They provide you with a +2 save bonus vs a specific thing (fire, fear, brigand attacks, poison, illness....).  Re-aligning the save takes 1 hour but must be done on the proper day of the week (roll 1d7 to determine which day).

Scrounge:  An alchemist with no remaining CDs can spend an hour searching an area (a cavern with strange mushrooms, a wooded area, an abandoned lich lab, even a small village) and gain 1 CD.  At template C this increased to 1d2 CD, and at template D this increases to 1d3 CD.  This can only be performed once a day.  This search may trigger random encounters.  Scrounging is free, unless in a village or the lich is still around...

Reclamation:  An alchemist can take apart an already prepared concoction and extract remaining CDs from them.  Roll 1d6 per CD, you regain it on a 1-4.  If the concoction is not stabilized, this roll may trigger mishaps/dooms in case of doubles or triples. This process takes an hour.

Potion Maker:   You learn the craft of making magical potions (potions of healing, giant strength etc).  The exact costs, special ingredients, special recipes etc if any, are left to your GM to determine. You can do it twice as fast as a wizard, and probably safer too.

Precise Measurement:   Instead of rolling, you can decide that a CD will be 2 (you conserved on ingredients) or 5 (you didn't skimp).  Not all dice can be determined at least one CD must be random (precise measurement can only be used on 2D or stronger concoctions).   Having multiple 2s or 5s can trigger a mishap or doom.

Discovery:  You rediscover an ancient secret of the past.  You (THE PLAYER) do some research in old grimoires etc, find a formula or spell you like, and transcribe it into the GLOG format.  You can do it - I mean you're playing this class right?   Your character will thank you.

Immunity:  Years of exposure to strange substances and dangerous experiments have granted you a +3 bonus to saves vs poison, gas, fire or acid.


1. Fire Projector   This concoction is a tube that projects one or more fiery projectiles, each doing 1d6 points of damage to target and cast light as a torch (it can be use to set fires).  It shoots [dice] number of projectiles.  Hits are automatic within 30 feet, after that an attack roll is required (treat as a ranged weapon with range increment of 30 feet).  The alchemist can set a fast fuse (shooting all projectiles in 1 round) or slow (shoot one per round).  Also known as the Roman Candle.  You can choose the color of each projectile.

This concoction is easier to make than most, CDs are regained on 1-4, not 1-3.

2. Stone Bread  The alchemist uses sawdust, grass, dried leaves or similar materials (even dirt will do) and bakes them into a "delicious" breadish substance that is not particularly nutritious but will keep you going in times of scarcity.  Lunches does with this substance will heal half of normal.  "Bread" made this way keeps twice as long as normal bread (do not use the degradation check).  This process generates [sum] portions of "bread.

3. Celestial Perfume of the Seven Planets  This perfume is most auspicious and pleasant, making the wearer seems interesting, charismatic and worthy of assistance - if a roll is required, it provides a +4 bonus to a charisma check (or equivalent bonus).  It also keeps miasmas and plagues at bay, providing a +2 bonus to saves vs diseases.  Gnomes are particularly fond of the perfume - they know what it is, but its usage is seen as a mark of good character and style.  Once applied, the perfume lasts for [sum] hours.

4. Smoke Pot  Upon ignition, this clay pot emits copious amounts of smoke, generating a cloud of [dice] X5 feet radius, lasting [sum]/2 round (only 1 round in a stiff wind).   By varying the fillers in the pot, the alchemist can choose to generate one of two types of smoke.  The smoke can be opaque, blocking vision - the smoke is unpleasant but mostly harmless.   Or the smoke can be thinner but noxious.  Those inside the infernal stink must make a constitution save or be sickened, suffering a -4 penalty to attack rolls and ability/skill checks while they remain in the smoke and for [dice] thereafter.

An alchemist can choose to have the bomb go off almost immediately after thrown or add a fuse that will delay its activation by up to [dice] rounds.

5.  Vitriol  The alchemist generates [dice] vials of strong acid.  This acid can be thrown at an enemy (10 foot range increment, attack roll required, [sum] damage on round 1 and [dice] damage for the following [dice] rounds).  It can also be used to destroy metals (gold is immune) - a single vial is sufficient to wreck a lock, melt an iron bar etc, in about a minute.

This concoction is particularly stable, and only requires a check vs degradation every month.

6.  Theriac  The alchemist takes a large onion, cuts off the top and carefully opens it up.  Spices, poisons and other exotic ingredients are inserted between the layers, and the whole thing is slowly and gently cooked in boiling honey.  Some alchemists believe that keeping a stabilized Theriac for very long periods of time (years or even decades) enhances the effect - the flavor certainly is something.

This powerful concoction can stop illness or poison dead in their tracks. Upon eating this panacea, the patient may remake a save vs illness or poison with a +4 bonus.  Furthermore, they regain 1d3 hp per CD used.

The Theriac takes two hours per CD to prepare, not one.

7. The Great Petard  A metal sphere or tube (or a very thick glass bottle) is filled with fiery ingredients, a fuse is lit, and KABOOM.  Does [sum] damage in a 20 feet radius.  If well placed against a structure (gate etc) does double damage to the structure (DM should be generous in its breaching power.  Something like 1 D will blow up a solid door, 2D a postern, 3D a stout postern or a small gate 4D all but the greatest gates).  The bomb can be thrown up to 50 feet with a running start.  The fuse can be almost immediate, or burn for  up to [dice]X2 rounds.

This was used by Kerbouchar in The Walking Drum - that guy was pirate *and* a scholar.

8. Sword of St Germain  This concoction is a bit different from most.  A 7 pointed star made of a thin sheet of pure tin is inscribed with potent symbols under the light of the full moon.  This star must then be wrapped around the tang of a single handed sword (preferably a backsword).   The grip is then re-installed over the star.

The star will be inert (and stable) for several years until its power is invoked.  The user will then be victorious in battle.  The sword becomes a +2 weapon for [sum] hours, but only for the alchemist.

9. Mercury invisibility ring  This ring is made with solidified quicksilver and mounted with a small stone found in the nest of a hoopoe (a type of bird).  To be used, the ring must be worn with the stone facing outwards - by wearing it with the stone hidden, its power is suppressed.  The invisibility granted by the ring lasts [sum]+[dice] minutes, but it can be split up into up to [dice] uses.  A violent action by the alchemist, the use of magic, rapid motion (running vs walking) or even loud speech by the alchemist will disrupt the invisibility for 1d6 rounds.  Despite these limitations, the power of such a ring cannot be overstated, and could even be used to win a kingdom.

This concoction does not expire (i.e. is stable) until it time/number of uses runs out, when the ring melts. This concoction *must* be prepared on a Wednesday.

10. Killing Miasma  In a glass bottle, the alchemist mixes water, salt, distilled vinegar, old urine, styrax and other things, and exposes it to the light of the sun, then seals with with a good cork and bee's wax.  Upon breaking, the vial releases a cloud of noxious fumes, [dice]X5 feet radius, lasting [sum]/2 round.  While a strong wind will disperse the cloud in a single round, a gentle breeze will push it along, moving it 1d3X10 feet per round.  Anyone inside the cloud take [dice] damage.  Furthermore, anyone in the fumes for longer than their hit dice (or level) rounds must make a save vs death (or constitution check) or die.  Woe upon the alchemist who breaks his bottle by accident. It can be thrown up to 40 feet, 60 with a running start.

11.  Homunculus  The alchemist has gained mastery over life itself!   Using clay, bile and a drop of her blood; and with a full day of sculpting and  gentle baking, she has created a new living organism, the homunculus.

The homunculus can speak the creator's native tongue.  It is not particularly intelligent but is cunning and is able to improvise.  It is fairly loyal as long as it's treated reasonably well.  Its life span and potency depends on how many CDs were invested:

1D  Defense zero (AC 10), 3 HP, +0 to hit, 1d4 dmg  All stats 8.  Lives [sum] hours
2D  Defense 2 (leather), HP 5, +1 to hit, 1d6 dmg, +4 to stealth check, All stats 10.  Lives [sum] days
3D  Defense 3,  HP 8, +2 to hit, 1d6 dmg, stealth as above + can use a bow.  All stats 11, Lives, [sum] weeks
4D  Defense 3, HP 12, +3 to hit, 1d6 dmg, stealth and magic as above, can fly mediocrely on batwings, all stats 12, lives [dice] years + [sum] weeks.  Can use your concoctions.

Alchemists hotly contest claims that they are merely hiring small ugly(er) goblins.

I blame Arnold K for this!!

12.  Philosopher's stone.  The Grand Work.  Takes a full month and *must* invest 4 CD for it to work, along with a pound of lead, a pound of silver and one thousand ants, as well as access to a full alchemical lab - a portable one simply won't do.  Through a series of sublimations, condensations, combustions, fermentations, precipitations and paying close attention to planetary alignments, the alchemist prepares the philosopher's stone, the culmination of his art, a golden brown stone the size of a baby's fist.  This stone is stable until used.

But what does it do?!?

Some say that when crushed and mixed with a pound of lead, it will generate a pound of gold.

Some say that if put in the mouth of a creature that recently died (no more than a week ago), the creature will be resurrected.

Some say that if shallowed by a dragon, the stone will allow it to assume human form for [sum] days, and that dragons will grant anyone bringing them such a stone a wish.

Some say that that if dissolved in a perfect alcohol then drunk, it will instantly grant a wizard template to the drinker.

There are rumors of many other alchemical formulas in existence, such as the Ionian fire, the fishing lure, the lighting projector, the fougasse or the ritual to make frogs shut the hell up so you can get some sleep.

Concoction tracking sheet

To assist players in tracking their concoctions, which one is stabilized, reactivated, has lost partial potency etc, I created the following partial character sheet.  It's not pretty, I'm sure many of you could do better, but it should look something like this:

CONCOCTION: CD Used CD remain Stable? Re-activated?


Design Notes

A *LOT* of things lead to this class - my interest in old grimoires, and my quest for a "component based" character... and I feel like I've combined the two here.  The formulas/spells are inspired by various Grimoires I have read but also this ancient D&D supplement.  I  sincerely hope I have been successful - it feels like an achievement, but I may be deluding myself.  Depending on how I look at it, I have been working at this for a few weeks... or several years.

I also feel that the class is important because it introduces a lot of "dice manipulation" techniques, that might work for other class concepts.  This is appropriate because the alchemist doesn't get MDs every day - the CDs are harder to come by.  They therefore need more ways to retain or re-use these dice.  On the other hand, I wanted to make sure that an alchemist couldn't stockpile an arsenal, hence concoctions expiring, preparations times etc.  I hope I struck a proper balance.

Speaking of balance:

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:   Is the class getting enough CDs?   I don't know, this hasn't been play-tested, and I hope that someone will. Feedback is appreciated!  This is probably something that the GM will have to adjust during the campaign, as it will be pretty setting/pacing dependent.

I'm also not sure if I went too far on the concoction preparation time.  The class is complex, I must concede that, but the player willing to play an alchemist will probably not mind too much I hope.

Lastly, there is a ... peculiarity with the CDs returning to you *after* you use the concoction.  You are out of ingredients, you use the concoction, and oh would you look at that, I had two CDs at the bottom of my bag, silly me!   It's not great, but I'm willing to live with it.

Sincere thanks to Words for Yellow for their very valuable assistance, as well as input from Phlox and the OSR discord server community.

“Know this: I, Mercurius, have here set down a full, true and infallible account of the Great Work. But I give you fair warning that unless you seek the true philosophical gold and not the gold of the vulgar, unless you heart is fixed with unbending intent on the true Stone of the Philosophers, unless you are steadfast in your quest, abiding by God’s laws in all faith and humility and eschewing all vanity, conceit, falsehood, intemperance, pride, lust and faint-heartedness, read no farther lest I prove fatal to you. For I am the watery venomous serpent who lies buried at the earth’s centre; I am the fiery dragon who flies through the air. I am the one thing necessary for the whole Opus. I am the spirit of metals, the fire which does not burn, the water which does not wet the hands. If you find the way to slay me you will find the philosophical mercury of the wise, even the White Stone beloved of the Philosophers. If you find the way to raise me up again, you will find the philosophical sulphur, that is, the Red Stone and Elixir of Life. Obey me and I will be your servant; free me and I will be your friend. Enslave me and I am a dangerous enemy; command me and I will make you mad; give me life and you will die.”  Patrick Harpur, Mercurius: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Sunday, August 9, 2020

30 years of gaming characters

Inspired by the great Throne of Salt, here is a list of some of my characters in my nearly 3 decades of playing RPGs.  I also got a comment in a previous post inquiring about my gaming history, so here we are.

This is pretty long, so you can skim, there is a conclusion at the end :)

High school and undergrad:

A fire wizard.  (Advanced Fighting Fantasy).   I don't have a sheet of this character, only some memories, and I think this was my first character.  Based on The Elves and the Otterskin, which had an interesting fire mage at the begining.  There were probably a few others (a dwaven fighter I think? Maybe that one was the first?) but it's too long ago.  Interestingly, the Advanced Fighting Fantasy is what gave birth to Troika!  We played in this system for about a year then switched to 2nd ed AD&D.

A dwarven Cleric probably named Durin  (2nd ed AD&D).  Played from level 1-5 ish.   My first D&D character.  Clerics where not great back then, but hey we have to have a healer!  After 5-6 levels I got fed up and we got a henchman to do that instead, and I switched to my next character which was:

Ajax  the wild mage - my first "really good" PC, wild mage from level 5 to 9 (when the campaign ended). 2nd ed, still fond memories.  We did some undermountain, we did some ravenloft, some underark...  Had a cloak of the arachnid and frequent user of Wall of Ice.  Gave my DMs nightmares with the "there-not there" spell.  We had a really good campaign going - 2 fighters, an invoker, a wild mage, cleric henchmen, a psionisist and a paladin.  The GM alternated between the paladin, the invoker and myself - when the party had two wizards going... we could dish out mad damage.  Once near the end, we were attacked by a pirate ship and just... obliterated the enemy ship.
hand drawn PC photos are the best no?
(looking at this image made me realize he had a toad familiar).  I'm surprised I never brought him back...

Shoshiborg :   a Gnome thief illusionist in a Ravenloft campaign, level 3-5 2nd ed.  Had a golden dagger +2.  The 2nd ed thief was weak by itself, but as a multi class it was quite good and really explanded your gaming *and* roleplaying potential. 

 Dain? Nain? A dwarven war cleric using the 2nd ed skills and powers rules, in ravenloft  *very* OP, was almost as good as a fighter with almost full cleric spellcasting.  He was the first character with "I don't want to be here, I want to go back home" problem that would cause him to find ways to shortcut adventures.  (the GM and I had to have a talk).  Level ... 3-7?

Off to gradschool!

Durin (?), a dwarven fighter, a mountain guide.  He really should have been a ranger, but this wasn't allowed in 2nd ed (good riddance on that rule!).  Short campaign but fond memories of it - first one after I left home, introduced me to new friends (who started a high level campaign).

Shoshiborg :   a Gnome thief illusionist 2.0! The abovementioned friends wanted to do a high level campaign, so I brought him back!  (level 11-14)  This guy had escaped Ravenloft and was very paranoid, but relieved to be back to the forgotten realms… and then become stuck in this temple of Helm a few hundred miles from Waterdeep, stuck because it's being sieged by a demonic (devilish?) army (probably the hordes of dragonspear castle module?).  Tons of players (8?),  but eventually fizzled out because we kept killing demons and it kept making no difference.  This ended up being our last 2nd ed campaign, and also my highest level campaign ever.

Cedric:  A human cleric in 3.0 then 3.5, level 1-9, in a *great* Greyhawk campaign.  Cleric of St-Cuthbert with memory problem.  Full on COD-zilla, but also very good roleplaying character - zealous but also pragmatic, a hard balance to navigate.

I could write a post about this campaign alone.  For a while our two main fighters had raven-lycanthropy.  So in a hard fight, they would get so hurt they would shift, the rest of the party would run away, and the 2 ware-raven would *demolish and eat* the opposition.

Ranger:  a 4rth level strenght-built human ranger, that was part of the campaign above, in a "side quest".  I don't remember too much about it, but in the list it goes!

A dwarven Evoker an a dwarven druid.  level 2-7 maybe?  We did a portion of the mega-dungeon return to the temple of elemental evil.  Eventually we had a fight with 2-3 members escaping and the rest dead or captured.  This "halfway to TPK" became an effective TPK as we discussed ways to rescue this and just gave up.  (added this in edit, completely forgot this).

A dwarven ratcatcher (in warhammer frpg 2nd ed).  Fun game, but the players wanted to stick to D&D

A Dwarven fighter/rogue (warhammer setting, 3.X system), also a sort of holy warrior of the god of death (more neutral funereal god, not kill everyone god).  Pretty brutal combo.  Low level D&D works for Warhammer but past level 5 it doesn't really work anymore.

Barracuda, A "leader/spy" in an Archer game, a d20 spy/combat system.  Very high tech system.  One of the very few female characters I have played.

My contact with this group ended a few years after gradschool

Sometimes during this time I also joined a new group, that did *not* play D&D

In the introductory part of the campaign, a modern "fey live among us" urban fantasy, I played an arms dealer.  We used the gurps system.

Rupert, the professor/hermetic mage.  Still in Gurps, still same campaign.  Human, British, an academic with a sword cane, very fun to play.  Even then, 15 years ago, I was interested in old grimoires.  His moment of glory was saving a critically injured party member on the roof by casting a short but very strong defensive spell on said member, pushing him off the roof, then doing the same to myself and jumping off too.  He then managed to drag the injured character to safety while evading police that were converging on the very *loud* battle scene.

I think we ended up blowing ourselves up?

Robert the half-japanese street samurai.  Still the same urban campaign but we are now switching to the far more complex Hero (champion?) 5e system.   He is recruited by an arm of the RCMP that keeps an eye on the fey living among us.  Very sneaky, very powerful in a melee fight.  Also very determined and disciplined.

The campaign ends in an attempt by our heroes to stop "the end of the world" but we explode because one player *didn't tell us about the bombs*.  This player, which I still play with to this day, never lost this habit of sometimes not telling the other PCs crucial bits of information.

the "saving the world" doesn't quite work.  Aliens - "angels" - come to earth and take over.  Things are very messed up, much destruction etc.  A new campaign in this world begins...

Julien Flamel.  (Hero 5e revised edition) A slightly mad, very determined and *extremely paranoid* mage.   His main shtick was beside some fairly basic magic, was, due to a summoning mishap, he could "exchange place" between his normal self and a multi tentacular being from the 5th dimension.  This thing was a combat monster and surprisingly sneaky for a 800 pound land squid.  It usually ate foes.   This was inspired in part by the Words of Changing from a Tad Williams novel.

The character evolved by having more interesting spells, like the ability to summon flying turnip golems, or turn incoming bullets into mushrooms.   Unfortunately, we came to a point where we had to gamble with the goddess of death to get a very important macguffin.  Another PC was *designed* to be a great gambler.  But the player *choked*.  He couldn't risk his precious character.  So Julien, aware of the extremely high stakes and very determined, gave the other PC a disgusted look and took the gamble and... lost (without those gambling bonuses, it was a 50/50 chance).  wan-wan-waaaaaan. 
Jacob:  The replacement character.  A gunsligner with a cyborg eye and a huge revovler, who saw the "angels" as an affront to God.  Given that this was Hero 5e, his gun hit ridiculously hard.  The GM took it away but it didn't really matter.  And that was the end of this long urban fantasy campaign - 2 systems, 4 PCs and over 5 years of gaming.

Edward the Eel Lawyer (hero 5e).  We are switching to super heroes.  My character has aquatic powers, which we all know are lame.  So I also made him a lawyer!  He once stopped a fight dead in its track by shouting "I WILL SUE YOU!!!".   Eventually he had to fight in another battle, and the other PCs (and the GM, who had forgotten), were horrified to realized that he had an inner second jaw like a Moray Eel that could bite the heck out of people.

We switch gear to a simple system and D-level superheroes.

Procyonor, ex lab assistant who gained powers after biting an activist who was bitten by a radioactive raccoon.  He can summon racoons.  LOTS of them.  But he doesn't control them!  Another PC, Cheese Lord, is *very* nervous.

A fashion police hitman:  Hitman on the run, part of a mob that was involved in the world of fashion.  Now part of a cleanup crew.   Has a carcano rifle he stole from a museum that was involved in a very famous crime.   Part of the cleanup involved tons of raccoons.  Campaign ends with world destruction.

kangaroo-like necromancer.  A time traveling game. He became his own great-great-great-grandpa

We then started playing in exalted

A solar exalt - a diplomat/swordsman/sailor.  Could attack 8 times in a round rolling 18 d10 each time.  Dear lord.

A starfish alien ("hiver") in a Traveler game that fizzled out.

brawler/coatch driver , exalted 3e this time.  Would get his clients to their destination no matter what.

At this point, my association with this group ended, after a good dozen year together :/ 

Gamil, dwarven alchemist part of a very decent Eberron campaign that went from level 3 to 8.  The character was tough as nails and fun to play.  I was using a PF class in 3.X and it sort of worked, except for alter self which turns out to be quite broken due to huge AC boost...

Meanwhile, one of the player played a bard who was pretty good at boosting the party but had middling dex, light armor, no defensive magical item, refused to use defensive magic and had *no* constitution bonus.  I built my alchemist knowing that our "fighting line" was mobile and skirmishy, so he was tough.  The bard had to be rescued *all the time*.

A civilized goblin mechanic mage:  Part of an Iron Kingdom campaign that went on for a few levels (2-6?).  It was very interesting - I think that Iron Kingdoms is better than Eberron.

A starwars clone heavy gunner:  In saga (I think?) system star wars game.  We played crammed in one guy's bedroom... not ideal.  It was a good game though, but as many campaign, it eventually fell apart.  A bit too much combat, a bit too samey... PCs... but I have to give it to the GM, there was a lot of good stuff too.

I wanted to try playing 5e, so I joined a number of Play By Post games on the EN World forums:

Darwinimar:  a great bout of collaborative world building.  I really wanted to play a gnome ranger, and we really needed a tank, so I made a sword-and board short sword wielding character.  It was fun, but campaign fizzled out.  Level 3-4
Darwinimar (made with Heroforge)

Grassnoll, a goblin warlock.  He pretended to be a dwarven wizard (mask of many faces).  He also had a patron elder god, the king in yellow, that *already had been summed back to the world*... just hadn't arrived yet, it's a long way!  Campaign fizzled out.  Level 3
Grassnoll (source?)

A Dwarven alchemist.  Nautical campaign, fizzled out fast.  Level 4?
what was your name again? Source?

Lal Kalandar.  Mystical Barbarian  I grew tired of making characters for nothing in PBP, and this guy was in *three* campaigns - one level 1-5, one level 3, and one level 11-12.  They all fizzled out, but overall it was a good experience - I wanted to show that the barbarian class had a lot more roleplaying depth than what is usually depicted (stats weren't great though).  He wasn't an ordinary barbarian, he had the hermit background - a dervish type, a mendicant.  He also was a planar traveler - it was the same person in the 3 campaigns.  The last one was an Al-Quadim campaign and I'm sad it didn't work out... although I mean it lasted almost a year and had a few very cool scenes so... that's a win?
Now Lal I remember! Hisorical documents

Udit the riverman  a thief (level 4-8) who was an NPC in my Yoon Suin campaign.  He wasn't well optimized because he was meant to duplicate the Yoon-Suin version.  In this one he was in one of two campaigns that did the same dungeon at once - I think at one point we had 3 groups going, eventually merged into one.  This was the first time I played a single class rogue, and you know what?  Bravo WotC, bravo, you nailed the rogue in 5e.  We were in a dungeon with various factions, an undead dragon etc... it was *wild*.  Great GM, feel grateful for his hard work.
Udit was a pessimist

Kalorn.  Warlock hexblade5 /eldrich knight 3.  Very tragic, hard hitting Gish.  A bitter mercenary with a "demon" leg that was grafted on him against his will.   I wanted to try something new so in a new arc he replaced Udit.  He had a bat familar - he would kill anyone who hurt it.
Now *this* is an image! by theDURRRRIAN

Rodrigo.  1-5 dex-based battle-master fighter with the spy background, fought with a rapier .  Very fun character - we all made PCs "blind" and we ended up with an archer, a ranger, a paladin, a monk and a fighter.   Played Tomb of Annihilation.

What if Aragorn was a musketeer you say? (seriously, from the Alatrise film)

At this point, after the pandemic bringing me down, and growing frustrated with the PBP method of play, I left Rodrigo and Kalorn behind.  BUT I didn't just disappear from the face of the earth like some people do - are they alive? Did they die? I don't know!  I had a farewell post.  Remember folks, if you decide to leave a PBP campaign, SAY SOMETHING.

About 2 years ago, one of my players and good friend invited me to his face to face campaign.  It's Pathfinder which... is not my favorite... but the gaming has been good.

Malbung Ikrum:   Level 7-10+ bladebound Magus.  I had been intrigued by the Magus, and my friend told me they needed more melee oomph.  So I made Malbung, the half elf half eldarian magus.  His father was a bodyguard of the now dead Eladrin Godess of war.  He hits hard, debuffs, is sneaky and has extremely high intimidate *and* the enforcer feat.  Casts no shadow and can speak with the dead.  Uses "defending bone" and claims it's Mr Magoo, the old janitor now helping him on quests. The campaign is Zeitgest and it is *very very* good.  My only wish was that it was in 5e - Malbung is already restated as a bard college of sword 6/hexblade 3, I'm ready!  :D
Update: Malbung got himself killed, but was too stubborn to die and his spirit lingered in the Bleak Gate.  Once the rest of the party showed up in the Bleak Gate with his body; Malbung's spirit just reanimated it.  He's now level 10 "+1" , where the +1 is the shadow outsider template.
The clothes are wrong but the feel is right.  By Matt136

Telchar (dwarven alchemist level 1-6, juust reached 7 I think) The same group has a rotating campaign, so I decided to bring back the dwarven alchemist, this time in a proper PF game.  We are doing the Kingmaker campaign and it's been pretty good.  Trap-breaker template
Update:  After reaching level 9, I realized I was over-comited, gaming wise, and I had to pull out of the pathfinder game. 

Mariah: Level 10 Spiritualist: The campaign where Malbung died has a "death has consequences" style, so I had to make a temporary PC.  But this was difficult because this is a game with a fair amount of "secrecy" - so the new PC was a "spirit medium" who could contact Malbung's spirit.  This way I didn't have to worry about what Mariah knew - Malbung was guiding her, and she was using the power of  his blade.  How was she able to pull that off?  Little do they know, they are half siblings!  Game design wise, I had a bit of "fun" making a PC that was very different  yet almost identical - pathfinder is strange like that (see ... wow).

Doshma:  Inspired by an old starwars NPC, this was a level 7 mercenary soldier in a short Starfinder game - the "scifi" version of pathfinder.  I was not impressed with the system to be honest, but at least it was fun to game with my friends

Determined to play 5e "for real", I started looking online for a 5e game.  And I was successful!  During this time I also played in a short bastionland game (a charismatic bruiser) and a Drakenduer Glog game (an antling petty swordsman)

Hector di RundaTaurĂ«:  Level 3 half elf hexblade warlock.  A short lived 5e game where we played as incompetent/corrupt cops trying to do good and line our pockets.  He was the "face" of the party and pretty fun.  It can be a mistake to make a hexblade *only* combat focus, and I made sure he had a few "tricks" in his arsenal.  His story was that he was a bastard son in a noble family who had been sent to military school (for Eldritch Knights) but had limited aptitude for it ... until he med a Gith traveler who showed him other ways to reach power (hexblade).  Hector thought his problems were solved, instead he got kicked out of the academy.  Now he works as a city guard in a rough part of town, but Hector plans to use this as a base to rebound and once again reach the higher levels of society!
... well that was the plan.  Alas, scheduling problems killed the campaign.

Melenvagor:  We were going to play the Dragon of Icespire Peak campaign.   As this was a "beginner" adventure, I decided to make a very "classic" concept.  I wanted a very elfy-elf - inspired in part by a line in the Hobbit (or maybe LOTR?) where an elf explains that he doesn't know what a Hobbit means by "magic" - it's just things elves do.  And I decided that the best way to do an "elfy elf" - super dextrous, fast, strange powers, excellent archer, good in the wild - was to make a Kensei monk, with the outlander background.  It worked *extremely* well.  Our party was strong with archery, and we used it to destroy many a foe.  Initially he fought with a sword or a bow, but one day we found a +1 battle-axe under the sea made from a megalodon tooth and ... he became Melenvagor, the Axe-Elf . 

Alas, scheduling also killed this campaign when we were 90% done.  

At this point, the group stabilized the scheduling, allowing us to complete the Storm King's Thunder campaign.  

Soronto:  Level 10 fighter, human, sage background.  I had a LOT of fun playing this wizened old swordsman.  He had taught himself an fighting style based on a Gyth tome he translated and became a psi warrior.  However, at level 7 he was killed and was reborn as a Rune Knight, as he had been spending more and more times studying the giants.  He was instrumental in uncovering the evil dragon's plot.  Even though a dex-build shield fighter is not a great match with the Rune Knight, it turned out to be really good - having a sunblade didn't hurt.  I did not really "optimize" him that much, taking "fun" things like Ritual Caster or Chef (reskinned as alchemy - he had tonics and healing salves!).  I did take lucky, and that's a *fine* feat indeed.

R.O.B.O  Level 8 warlock/fathomless, pact of the chain, far traveler background, autognome Our GM then decided to make some kind of crazy time traveling game so... I sort of made a character *very* heavily influence by Chrono Trigger.   As the party already had an artificer, and we needed a "face", I made him into a warlock instead - this patron is his creator(s), whomevere that may be.  He is programmed as a "space probe" - he doesn't need food or air.  He's part of a *very* blasty party - we have an artificer artillerist and a star druid, so a lot of pew pews (and a drow paladin and a bubear barbarian as a very stout front line... but the bugbear was disintegrated by a Trump-beholder... oh poor Goruk, we hardly knew thee!).  I am looking forward to spelljammer being published so I can update the race to an "official" version.  But it doesn't really matter, the game is so over the top :D
Chrono Trigger is *excellent* btw

Mr Butters, level 7 apothecary.  Same group, different GM. This is a playtest of a new class devised by the Dungeon Dudes, and the campaign is their *excellent* Dungeons of Drakkenheim (highly recommended 5e adventure).  Mr Butters is a serious-minded goblin alchemist, who quit the Amethyst Academy after they rejected his research proposal.  He has devised a way (his subclass is "Mutagenist") to use his magic to transform himself  into a hulking brute for a short period of time.  So the result in a small, smart caster out of combat and almost the Hulk in combat - honestly, a rather fun way to play. 

Enfteb Temang, level 5 adjurer.  Because the "different GM" from above has an unsteady schedule, we are also playing with the GM who rant the SKT and time traveling campaign - after we blew up time, we are now starting at the start of history.  My PC is the first wizard ever, and the namer of things.  But somehow, we keep finding remnants of the previous history - things are not ok!  Enfteb is essentially based on this image, and on vague ideas about an old Yoon-Suin wizard


I've been finding that the comments I've heard from others about low level wizards to be a bit underwhelming to be correct... but I've been having fun with him anyway.   With this group, I've also played a spore druid and an eldritch knight in one-shot/short campaigns.  

So is that what 30+ years of gaming looks like?  Not quite!  I didn't include the games I ran as a GM... but that's for another post.  Furthermore, there are a host of one shots, trials, short games that didn't last etc that I essentially forgot about or aren't worth mentioning.  Not to mention a quite a few hundred hours of Eve Online, a smiliar amount of time on dwarf fortress or rimworld...


So what can learn from this:   There are definitely some commonalities in my characters:  I like playing dwarves, I like playing spellcasters (and in 5e, warlocks in particular) and/or swordsmen, I like playing characters that are tough and can fight (it's not rare for me to have high saves and AC).  Roleplaying wise there is a strong element of paranoia, determination and *discipline*.  The paranoia is natural - our PCs are under threat!  But I think that the disciplined, hard working/training PCs reflect a desire that *I* was that driven and disciplined.  Oh well.

I'm also realizing that I almost never get to *play* the specific system I want to - if I want that, I have to *run* it.  I wasn't able to play 5e until 2020 for example

Very few campaign last more than 2 years, so the GM shouldn't lollygag too much if they have plans.  My GMing technique, when I have "no plan" is to have 2 introductory adventures *max* and then take a moment to scope the land - where is this going?  Has a theme, a trend, a party goal emerged?  If so, let's go in that direction!  If it's utterly directionless, then you need to give some direction.  Use or write a module.

The last thing I'm realizing reading this is how privileged I am regarding pen and paper RPGs.  I miss the good old days where we would have a 12 hour session every week... but on the other hand, I play in one session 4 hours a week and run a 3 hour session every 2 weeks (so 6 session per month).  Edit: the pandemic increased that to 4 session run per month and play in 6 others  That's... pretty good!  It's only possible if you can make gaming a priority - and not everyone can do that.

edit:  Throne of Salt inspired others: , , , probably others... it's trending :P

edit part deux:  this trip down memory lane made me realize that the system issues of yesterday made me appreciate some of my modern games more.  But I now have very fond memories of the old games! :)  That's why 5e does for me a little, it has echoes of 2nd ed :)

edit part three:  MOAR blogs! ,   , ,

edit part 4:  when I first wrote this blog I hadn't played any 5e, I've now updated it to mid 2022.  I hope you too have kept playing!

Edit part 5:  From 2023:  It's been 3 years since I've written this post, and I keep updating it.  Why?  Clearly people aren't waiting for it... it's because it turns out it's pretty handy to have such a list! I encourage you to do the same.