Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Burning Vaults

The merchants of the Dorian Coast, the criminal families of Byzantium, the Sultan of Mithra and the Archobisp Rex of Cascabel all compete for that title. But the wealthiest person in the world is a little known administrator in charge of managing the Burning Vaults, so named because the very act of concentrating so much gold in one place causes it to burn with a bright, hot, flame that does not melt the gold. It also contains jewels, rare materials, art, magic artifacts and forgotten declarations of loyalty and enmity that would topple the world order if they came to light. This administrator is exactly aware of every gold piece, gem and item of note in this hoard, and extracts hidden taxes from every civilized kingdom in the world with the threat of unleashing the magic or secrets he holds upon the planet.

He's not a bad guy; really, he’s a strangely tragic figure. The hoard has been built up by his family for a thousand generations, through strict austerity and total discipline. Eventually, this deteriorated into paranoid incest. This administrator, who has every world power by the balls and brings chills to the spine of queens and cardinals with the sight of his seal, is a lonely, inbred nerd whose last blood relative died years ago. He has lived all his life underground, and does nothing but count, carrying numbers that would make the greediest robber baron queasy. All his food and supplies are delivered via pulley system by a terrified village that was once partnered with the family, and now only knows to deliver these sacrifices to the god-beneath lest a terrible evil fall upon them.

In reality, the administrator doesn't even know what gold, jewels, art or magic is used for. He's never spent a copper piece, living from the offerings of superstitious villagers. He truly does not understand the value of money; at the same time, finds no value in anything but the accumulation of wealth. There is no greed in that heart, only an understanding that his family has done this for a thousand generations, so he should do it as well. When he dies, there will be no more administrators, and unless that hoard can be recovered by daring adventurers, it will never be seen again.


The greatest fighter in the known world may be found in the eastern city-state of Zul, alternately a vassal and rival of the sultanate of Mithra. Legends abound surrounding this near-mythic figure, who enters the arena with an iron mask sealed on his head. Some say he is a monster spawned from a viper pit, who drinks venom mixed with mother’s milk, living in the deepest cell of the castle dungeon, richly appointed with the treasures of enemy kingdoms, who only leaves to slay men and beasts in ritual blood sport that entertains the nobility and grants sorcerous strength to Zul’s warriors. Some say he is the spitting image of the elderly and robust King Olmeg, the child of a secret union with a foreign princess in his mercenary days before ascending the throne. Some say he is a political prisoner condemned to a grisly death, who succeeds in surviving every impossible trial, and will one day cast off his mask to lead the people of Zul in rebellion against the tyrant and place the true heir on the throne.

While these are, respectively, superstitious babble, smutty gossip and treasonous claptrap, they are also all true. The Iron Serpent of Zul, the most accomplished duelist in the world, is the secret child of the king and a lamia. In preparation to take the throne of Zul, the aging then-rebel sought out supernatural aid, and came to a deal with the lamia Sorrvudne. A powerful, ageless body, in exchange for a child, ripped from the womb of his lover, a rogue princess of Mithra, whom the official record lists as dying in one plague or another. The fetus, quickly dying, was incubated in a nest containing the egg of a cobra, viper, python, basilisk, and cockatrice, and in nine months, emerged with the strength of a grown man as an infant. Upon seeing his progeny, Olmeg had the child and its mother locked away. Conflicted, Olmeg keeps them both alive, sending the child to fight for his own profit out of hatred and shame, while keeping Sorrvudne locked in the dungeon, worrying that she should die, his wicked power and youth would abandon him.

He is correct to fear this. But he underestimates the child. His true name is Vel-Abheor, the sixth spawn of ambition. None but his mother know that name, and she hasn’t spoken to a human in fifteen years. But serpents tunnel between the stones of her cell, carrying messages to certain hellish allies. Vel-Abheor does not know his true nature, or his true face; the iron mask has been locked over his head as long as he can remember. But he has ambition to match his father. Years of whispered words are paying off, using loyalists to the old crown to build influence from his own cell. His guards are his closest allies, and have been promised lordships when he emerges to take the throne. A potent tactical mind lies behind that mask, for which freedom is not enough; he must have dominion.

Monday, February 4, 2019

GLOG Class: Actor

I've been looking at OSR and B/X systems and derivatives, and Arnold K's GLOG system looks like the next one I'm going to try... as soon as I have a game. In the vein of Coins and Scrolls, I'm making custom classes, because the template system is adorable. This is more of a 'social' class, as opposed to martial or magic, which would be safest in a noble court, not dungeon delving. Of course, if adventuring was safe work, everyone would do it. This is a character with no combat prowess, no built-in dungeoneering skills, and only a few abilities that allow for more survivability. This is absolutely not balanced, nor is it meant to be. Nobody should take it seriously, everybody should play it. Look like you know what you're doing, especially when you don't, stay out of the fray, and use your skills whenever possible. Goblins like Hamlet... right?

Class: Actor

Starting Equipment: fencer's foil, costume and makeup set, unfinished masterpiece
Starting Skill [d3]: 1 = town crier, 2 = player, 3 = poet

A: Stunt Work, Brag
B: Disguise, Entertainer
C: Cause Célèbre, Recitation
D: Dramatic Infiltration, I Am Slain!

Stunt Work 
You can imitate a great fighter, even if you aren’t one. At the start of combat, you gain +1 AC for each Actor template you possess, until you are damaged for the first time that combat.

If you recount your adventures in front of an audience, every character who participates in the retelling gets +10% of the XP they got from the adventure. Usable once per adventure.

You can disguise yourself and other party members quickly and effectively given feasible time and resources. You can’t make royal robes out of a handful of straw, but you can become somebody else with well-applied face paint and new clothes.

You have +4 on rolls to entertain others, make merry or stall. You can engage targets in long-drawn out conversations about a topic they know a lot about and/or are passionate about for 1d4 hours, after which they will realize you are a poseur and react angrily to you. Unless, of course, you really do know/are passionate about that, in which case you can keep their attention for 1d4 days, with breaks to eat, drink and sleep. Will distract from urgent issues, but not immediate threats, e.g. the royal ambassador is demanding an audience, not a group of bandits just jumped through the window. The more farcical the better

Cause Célèbre 
By telling a tale of great woe, tragedy or injustice, you can rally a group of people together to solve the cause of the moment, uniting even staunch opponents for a time. Whether that cause is real or solvable, and how long it takes the group to figure that out, is best left roleplayed.

You can quickly memorize and accurately recite long texts; letters, dispatches, essays etc. Afterwards, you may copy down the text again. This extends to magic texts and spellbooks, though you don’t understand what they mean, and thoughtlessly repeating magic words is its own punishment.

Dramatic Infiltration 
At any time, you may declare that you are walking off-screen. Later on the session, you may reveal yourself to have been a minor NPC in the background of the scene “all along” as long as there actually are minor NPCs in the background of the scene. You can always walk back on stage at any time, even climbing in a window. This ability is limited by plausibility.

I Am Slain!
Once per lifetime, you can play off your death. This only works for plausible ‘deaths’, e.g. a spear narrowly misses your organs, a crushing blow is caught by your ribs, not dissolved in acid. Fall with a cry of death and a moribund monologue (the longer the better, no effect on believability). Survive with 1hp and probably some severe injuries. When you die for real, you can inspire one nearby character with your final speech. Urge a friend to vengeance, call for peace among ancient enemies, make your killer feel so guilty they must Save vs. Suicide (success results in Depression).