Monday, July 27, 2015

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Scrä-Worm

A few weeks ago, I featured a new monster race, the gorloght. The gorloght were the race enslaved by Xumaltet (the petty god of primal emotions and savage urges*) to fight the scrä-worms (the worm species mutated as a result of Xumaltet’s arrival on the plane). One of my planned psionic adventures (the one that will ramp up the characters to get them ready for The Jahnu Prophecy) is an adventure I'm tentatively naming Spawn of Xumaltet. I'm thinking it will take place in a large scale underground system (similar to Descent into the Depths of the Earth.) It will include the gorloght, the scrä-worms, and some new psionic monsters (in that 2-4 HD sweet spot). That's all I really have right now... some ideas. Now, without further ado, I present the scrä-worm.


When Xumaltet, the petty god of primal emotions and savage urges, first found his way to the Prime Material Plane from the darkest realms of the Dream Lands, his arrival created a massive cloud of subconscious residue. This residue lingered there, mutating the early nematode life living there, and creating the genetic forefathers of the large, semi-intelligent race of creatures that have since come to be known as the scrä-worms. The same subconscious residue that gave them semi-intelligence, also gave their ids dominance, causing these creatures to be driven by their needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly their sexual appetites and aggressive drives. If they see something they want, they take it, and they’re not opposed to killing other scrä-worms to get it.

These slender, hammer-headed flatworms measure nearly 6' in length, with a head approximately 12" wide. They are moderately slow, but attack with a forceful blow from their hammer-heads, doing 2d6+2 on a successful “to hit” roll. Additionally, on a natural “to hit” roll of 20, a scrä-worm will strike the head of its target, creating confusion in its victim, with one of the following effects (roll 2d6):
2-5attack closest target
6-8do nothing
9-12flee in fear
Scrä-worms are incredibly resilient. They take only half damage from acid and fire-based attacks, take no damage from cold though it slows them to half movement (2d6 rounds), and electrical attacks restore their hit points (up to their normal maximum).

Given their libidinous behavior, there is a 50% chance a scrä-worm lair will have 2d4 young with half the stats of an adult.

Scrä-worms are the natural enemies of the gorloght, the race that Xumaltet enslaved to fend off the ever-growing population of scrä-worms.

* See Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded Edition

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 6" (6")
% IN LAIR: 50%
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (6' long)
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

MOVE: 60'(20') (60'(20'))
ATTACKS: 1 slam
DAMAGE: 4-14
NO. APPEARING: 1-2 (2-20)
SAVE AS: Fighter:3

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Psionic Monster (BX/LL): Hive-Mite

Today's creature, the hive-mite, is a low-level psionic creature I created to answer Eric Potter's request for more psionic stuff that low level characters could fight. I have dual-statted this monster (for Oe/1e and BX), but the body description is written for BX. Anyone wishing to use this for Oe/1e psionics will have to take the principals presented and do a bit of reverse engineering (based on the Oe/1e stat block), since the Original/Advanced edition of psionics don't really use psionic saving throws or psionic levels.


These 2’-long, maggot-like creatures are typically found in areas of rot, and are particular fond of the rotting flesh of animals.

Any hive-mite within 10' of another hive-mite automatically shares its mind with that hive-mite. Subsequently, all hive-mites contiguously within a 10' range of one another share their minds with all of the others in the “chain.”

Solitary hive-mites have a psionic level of 1 (5 PSPs), and may opt to make a psionic attack (with id insinuation) during the round, rather than their standard bite attack. Hive-mites which are sharing their minds have a psionic level equal to the number of hive-mites in the group of shared minds, but collectively get only 1 psionic attack per round (which only one of the mites in the chain may use in lieu of its bite attack). When making a psionic attack with a shared mind, PSPs may be cannibalized from other hive-mites in the chain, deducting the cannibalized PSPs from the reservoir of those hive-mites.

Psionic saving throws for any hive-mite in a chain is made as a fighter equal to the shared mind’s psionic level. Any clairsentient or telepathic ability (psionic, magic, or otherwise), as well as any attack mode, targeted against any hive-mite (or hive-mites) in a chain has a chance to affect the other hive-mites in the chain. Each member of the shared mind must make a successful psionic saving throw or suffer the ability’s/attacks effects. Hive-mites are always protected by a tower of iron will with no PSP cost. Psychometabolic, psychokinetic and psychoporative sionic abilities which target an individual “externally” (e.g., disintegration), affect only the single hive-mite against which the ability is targeted. All other (non-psionic) saving throws are made as a 1st level fighter.

The morale of any hive mite is dependent upon the number of minds being shared as outlined below:

# of hive-
mites in chain

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 3"
% IN LAIR: 40%
SPECIAL ATTACKS: 1 psionic attack
per hive-mite "chain"
SIZE: S (2' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 15 (per hive-mite)
Attack/Defense Modes: D/J

MOVE: 30'(10')
ATTACKS: 1 bite or special
DAMAGE: 1-4 or special
NO. APPEARING: 1-4 (2-8)
SAVE AS: See below
MORALE: See below

(5 PSPs per hive-mite)
ATTACK MODES: id insinuation
DEFENSE MODES: tower of iron will*
(no PSP cost, always on)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Jahnu Prophecy...

What follows is the background information for the mid-level BX psionics playtest I ran this past Friday, and plan to run (probably in 2 parts) at the 2016 NTRPGCon. The youree noted below are the same ones that appear in the Creature Compendium. You'll notice that the mockup image here is designated as P3. My goal is to have it be the 3rd in a series of BX/LL psionics modules. P1 would be an expanded version of "The Auroral Alcazar or Aethaungor" (which will include a psionic boss monster), and P2 would be a dungeon crawl through a ruined temple dedicated to Xumaltet (the the petty god of primal emotions and savage urges who appears in the expanded version of Petty Gods).

Among the great psionic races of the multiverse (the mind threshers, limbo giths, astral giths, zlaahd, et al.), the youree have mostly been relegated to the status of legend, thought to have been wiped to extinction (by the mind threshers) millennia ago. In truth, the youree retreated from their home plane to "hide" in the small corner of the Material Plane known as the Valley of the Trees. The youree, as a people, seek to live a life of contemplation and meditation and avoid the entanglements of war. They saw this exodus as the only possibility for preserving themselves as a race.

Settling in the Valley of the Trees, the youree erected themselves a home in a place called Shub z'Dha (a youree word for "home away from home")—a temple-like structure that also housed a planar gate (built around a natural rip in planar space) that would allow the youree easy access to various places around the planes. Over time, however, they realized the same gate that would allow them egress might allow others entrance, and that the extraplanar energy emanating from the gate might draw unwanted attention. For safety, the youree “locked” the gate, and hid the gate ’s keystone in a remote cavern deep below the surface, where its natural psionic energies would be naturally muted. Destroying the gate was not an option, for it would only loose the rip and release untold energies, revealing the rip's presence. Anyone would then be able to harness the rip, should they possess the knowledge required to erect a new gate.

The youree moved far to the north, erecting a hidden tower known as "The Crystal Pagoda" by outsiders (those chosen few who came to study with the youree). The youree have no name for the structure. The pagoda is located in a dome constructed under a mountain and protected by a field of synaptic static (which keeps psionic abilities from passing through, whether in or out).

Recently, it has been reported (by non-youree visitors to the Crystal Pagoda) that a small party of limbo giths was seen exploring the ruins of Shub z'Dha. Since the synaptic field keeps youree clairsentients from being able to observe the ruins themselves, the youree wish for this report to be physically investigated. They fear that the gate will be discovered, but as a race the youree must take every precaution to ensure that their presence remains unknown to would-be conquerors. They fear the fulfillment of "The Jahnu Prophecy"—a vision revealed hundreds of years prior to a youree guru named Jahnu which foretold the annihilation of the youree should any of their number ever return to Shub z'Dha. It is for these reasons the youree sardar ("head or authority") has enlisted the PCs to investigate the truth of the limbo gith presence at Shub z'Dha.

Thats right! The youree are the mysterious people of the trees from VA1: Valley of the Five Fires. Believe it or not, this concept reaches back prior to my actual development of the BX psionics rules. Originally, the youree were just supposed to be an alien race that settled in the Valley of the Trees millennia prior to the events of VA1. Eventually, they would need help from the outside world. As the psionics rules started to develop, it became obvious that the youree would have psionic abilities.

I also intend to wrap the Xumaltet concept into the youree history, with a small Xumaltet reference in the expanded Alcazar adventure as well (though in a very minor way there). I'm trying to weave the story threads through the entire series to create a greater fabric of myth around these stories. (BTW, anyone who has read VA1a: The Lost Caverns of Azgot knows there are references to proto-ogres. It is also intended that the evolution from proto-ogre to standard ogre was related to Xumaltet and/or the youree (although I'm still trying to decided exactly how.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Formula for the Original Development of OD&D Psionics

With the recent release of the 5th Edition psionics playtest document, I thought I'd take a look back at where psionics came from in the first place.

As many of you know, for the last year-and-a-half or so, I've been working on a psionics adaptation for classic editions of the game (BX/LL). Throughout the process, I've been lucky enough to remain in contact with Steve Marsh, one of the original contributors of psionics to D&D, and I've gotten a great insight on the process for the development of psionics in OD&D.

The gist of the story/process is this...

Before Steve worked at TSR, he would mail things to Gary. One of the things Steve sent was a concept for a mystic character class (based on the tradition of Indian mysticism). This was envisioned as a standard character class that would gain additional mystic powers as they rose in level (much like a MU). [These abilities would inform the majority of the standard psionic disciplines from OD&D.]

Separately, Gary was developing a psionic combatant class—the devine. The devine had attack and defense modes (though I can't speak to how they changed as the devine rose in level). [These modes are obviously the foundation for psionic combat.]

The most interesting insight is the following (based on a comment Steve made a couple of weeks ago on one of my blog posts in reference to the editorial process on Eldritch Wizardry):
"It should be noted that Tim (Kask) got everything as sheets in a large bowl and told to work with it. He did amazing work given the conditions. As for where material came from, Tim would get clues when Gary would put the credits together..."
Yes. Tim had a literal BOWL on his desk that Gary would dump things into as work in progress. [Steve mentioned to me that the "WIP bowl" is something he himself only learned of last month when talking to Tim Kask at the recent NTRPGCon.]

Finally, Tim Kask brought a lot to the psionics party in the forms of the charts and tables. From a post in 2007:
"I LOVED psionic combat and had great fun devising it with all of its tables and charts. Apparently I was in the tiny minority. I guess mental combat was too esoteric for most D&Ders; not enough of them shared my fondness for the Dr. Strange Marvel comics and Mindflayers."
So here's my interpretation of the formula for how psionics developed for OD&D:
[(Marsh Mystic + Gygax Devine) × Kask Bowl] ÷ (Gygax Input + Kask Editing) = OD&D psionics.

[On a related note, the illustration that appears at the top of this post is by F.Y. Cory from a Frank Baum book titled The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of Its Devotees (1901, Bowen-Merrill). I'm thinking the Cory illustration may be the image that appears on the title page of the Basic Psionics Handbook.]

Monday, June 29, 2015

Some idle thoughts on Twitter for this Monday Morning.

I've been trying to learn to love Twitter.

I really have.

I keep seeing this station promo on the Bloomberg Channel where they show a clip of some Twitter person (couldn't tell you who) saying something to the effect of "When you learn to use Twitter, it becomes indispensable." I guess I have yet to learn how to use Twitter effectively.

I sure as hell am starting to hate using it as a reader. The number of promoted tweets is becoming unbearable. There are days when I feel like I'm getting more promoted tweets than anything worth reading from some of the folks that I actually follow. And I don't re-tweet. Re-tweeting makes me feel like I'm polluting the stream (with things that have been re-tweeted by others already).

The limited number of characters gives me very restricted information most of the time, making it difficult to decide if clicking the link to a blog post or web page will provide anything truly interesting to me. I'm willing to admit, however, that I'm just as guilty of this as those that I accuse.

In the above regards, I think most of us have figured out that Google+ does a far superior job: 1) it allows us to post in a community where we know the posts will generally be of interest to us (because they are, to some degree or another, moderated by someone in charge of making sure the group stays on topic), 2) it allows the conversation on any particular topic to be read from top to bottom (rather than having those comments interspersed with other comments on other topics), and 3) the collapsable nature of the posts makes accessing longer content quite easy.

Where Twitter seems to thrive is in regards to live events (that is, things that are happening "now"). The format is not conducive to being a "journal" format (though many users tweet leads to posts elsewhere). But if you've ever tried to follow live comments hashtagged around a specific event (e.g., any TV show finale from the last few years), you know that the tweets happen too fast to actually try to keep up with them.

So, where does that put Twitter? I think even Twitter is at a loss to answer that question. CEOs of successful companies don't "step down" without knowing where they're going. In the interim, Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey will take over (starting this Wednesday).

I had planned to use Twitter more at this past NTRPGCon, but two things happened: 1) nobody seemed terribly interested in what I was tweeting about the con, and 2) I was just too busy at the con to post more than a couple of tweets. I would rather talk to the folks in front of me than ignore them so I can push text out to people in the virtual community. Is that wrong of me? Is that the inherent flaw of twitter? Is Twitter the medium for people who AREN'T there?

Ultimately, I think Twitter was a great concept with a very limited execution. The only place Twitter seems to have succeeded so far (IMO), is that it, unlike many other tech-com companies, is actually profitable. How? By selling promoted tweets, of course! So many, in fact, that I'm pretty much done as a Twitter reader, even though I still continue to post. In fact, this will be automatically tweeted shortly after I post it. You'll probably see the first 140 characters of it (minus the characters for the link to the whole thing) buried somewhere between promoted tweets.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The System Surpasses 8,000 Downloads

It's been a while since I mentioned The System around these parts. The System is the universal RPG that I originally wrote as a high-schooler in 1985, abandoned when I realized GURPS had hit the market, then finally resurrected when I discovered the OSR back in the early part of 2011 (though had yet to understand what a retro-clone was... which The System is definitely not).

Some time on this Friday just passed, the free downloads of The System from my MediaFire link surpassed the 8,000 mark (which does not include downloads from co-located downloads, like the one at 1KM1KT).

If you've never heard of The System, it was actually the first New Big Dragon RPG product ever published (in the early months of 2011), and the one that set the ball in motion for what I've done since. Below is how the "original edition" appeared in the mid 80s (on the left) and how it appears now in the "25th Anniversary Edition" (on the right).

I'm quite willing to admit the game has its flaws... I mean, c'mon, I was 16 or 17 when I wrote it. (e.g., there is a very convoluted constitution-to-hit-point system, and there is an innovative but ultimately ill-conceived initiative and movement tracking system, and while it purports to handle supers among its genres, I can't claim that it actually scales to reflect the expanse of power levels between the weakest and strongest heroes). But over time, I have more and more appreciation for the fact that it uses d6s only, and led to some underlying things that Welbo and I would like to see become part of a "2nd Edition" of The System. (Should we ever get back to it.)

There have been some interesting developments over the last four years or so. For example, it was poised to become a guy in Brazil's replacement for GURPS. I've also received several emails over the years with people asking about using the underlying system as a framework for other games (both tabletop and computer-based), though nothing has ever materialized from those inquiries.

• If you want the full story on The System, check out this post.
• To download a free PDF from MediaFire, click here.
• To buy a print copy of The System from Lulu, head over here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Update: Basic Psionics Handbook

I realized recently that it has been quite a while since my last general/public post about the status of the Basic Psionics Handbook. I figure one was due. A lot has changed since my original inception of things, but for the better. Here's a general overview of where things stand.

Underlying System Structure Updates

Based on the suggestions of a couple of key people, the individualized psionic saving throw number has been eliminated in favor of a save vs. paralysis, modified by INT. I cannot tell you how much this simplified things, while still feeling... "right".

The system now uses a very simplified PSP model where major science/minor devotion costs for the "lower 5" chakras are 3/1 respectively, metapsionic major science/minor devotion costs are 5/2 respectively, and combat modes have PSP costs ranging from 0-6 (by the strength of the ability). Conversion of monsters/PCs/NPCs from other systems is pretty simple (based on a direction conversion from Oe/1e Psionic Ability into a psionic level/PSP # combination for this system).

WIS-based PSP acquisition has also been eliminated, and is now a "flat" rate of acquisition by psionic level and class. Mystics and psionic monsters/creatures get 5 PSPs per level, and monks get 3 PSPs per level.

As a related update, the Mental Class stat is gone, and psionic combat has been simplified. What was originally a "to hit" roll followed by a saving throw, is now a simple saving throw system with no additional "to hit" roll needed.

Character Classes

The refinement on the mystic and monk classes has been small, slow, and gradual. They both feel like they are in a really good place. Most of what changed here was retention of treasure and use of magic items. However, based on some materials that Steve Marsh shared with me from his Cupric Text zine from 1977 (as well as a direct suggestion from him), I've tweaked some of the level names for the mystic.

The 7 Chakras

The first six chakras are designed to stem fairly seamlessly from the 6 established psionic disciplines. For characters of the Mystic class, they are usually accessible in order, but GMs may allow 2 alternate acquisition paths: 1) a relational acquisition, where you can only learn a chakra connected to a chakra you already know, and 2) a "wild" acquisition, where you choose any chakra at such time as you gain an additional one. Regardless of acquisition method, the third eye chakra (metapsionics) must come last.

I have added officially a seventh (crown) chakra, but only as a pathway to becoming immortal. Its abilities, therefore, are not accessible by most mortal creatures. For now, the crown chakra remains a reference to the idea and concept, but without mechanics.

The Disciplines

These have been gradually refined as issues pop up with their use. The biggest change here was going to the simplified PSP (psionic strength point) cost structure noted above.

Psionic Combat (Attack/Defense Modes)

Okay. This is the section that has been getting the majority of the attention lately.

The first key change was going to a simple save vs. the attack to avoid its effects. A failed save for non-psionic individual means a mental effect (emotion effect, confusion, stun) or hp loss. A failed save for a psionic creature means PSP loss plus the individual effects per above. The additional effect is then mitigated based on the defense mode being used against that attack.

Now!!!... My insurmountable gratitude goes to Mr. Marsh for the following comment made recently about the attack/defense mode combinations, " can have defense modes that work in a rock, paper scissors fashion." That's what I'd actually been trying to do, but had never thought of it in such "black and white" terms (I was trying so hard to retain the intricate subtleties of Oe/1e attack/defense mode combos that I missed the forest for the trees). This really opened the door to combat mode simplicity. If you have your 1e DMG handy, take a look at pages 76-77 and ask yourself, "Quick! What's the best defense mode for each attack mode?" Unless you've actually used psionic attack/defense modes before, it may take you a while to answer that question. Now, take a look at the chart below and ask yourself the same thing (BTW, "—" means that attack mode has no additional effect against that defense mode, other than PSP loss)...

How simple is that?! Exactly, as simple as it should be for BX/LL!!! The above system is still being tested. I'll keep you updated, but right now the prognosis seems positive.

One of the things you may notice about the table above is the slight tweak to the names of the various modes, including the addition of a new one. The old Psionic Blast is now called Mind Blast, which is its original name per the Mind Flayer entry in Strategic Review #1. This is an area (cone) attack that affects all in its path (causing hp damage). The targeted/individual attacks of Mind Thrust (which attempts to short synapses) and Psychic Crush (which assaults the neurons) have been combined into Psionic Overload (causing hp damage to an individual target). You'll also see the addition of Superego Vortex; this is another item courtesy of Mr. Marsh's 1977 Cupric Text. If you have id and ego attacks, of course there should be a superego attack! I've also refined the id/ego/superego effects based on his ideas. Id attacks unleash underlying emotions (per the illusionist spell emotion), the ego assaults the victim with feelings of inferiority (causing stun), and the superego attack challenges the value system of the victim (causing confusion, per the MU spell). Again, any of these attacks against a psionic creature cause PSP loss (on a failed saving throw).

Psionic Monsters

I haven't really had a chance to dig into these yet, but I will need to refine the combat modes per the above. However, these are really simplified from before (since there is no need for a Mental Class stat, inclusion of INT rating, etc.) Apart from the name changes of the modes, a quick look at any of the psionic-using entries from Petty Gods (e.g., the god Xumaltet), which show you how simple these listings are now.

Okay. That's all for now. More to come after my July 4th weekend testing of the new combat modes.