Monday, December 30, 2019

Elder Scrolls Bestiary: Beasts (plus a peek at next year's content)

Before getting into the post proper, I wanted to thank all of you for a wonderful 2019! The readership of this blog has exploded in just the last week, and I wanted to let y'all know what to expect coming into the new year.

The big ongoing project, of course, is the Elder Scrolls GLOG. Most of the system is done, with only soul gems and magic item creation left to be determined. I'm currently running a Morrowind text game on the Discord, which has lit a fire under me to get cracking on actual content. With this third Bestiary chapter complete (probably the largest of all of them!) there's just a few more chapters, namely ash creatures, humanoids and automata.

I'm cracking on the saints list so that y'all have some content for the shrine system (which, fyi, is now my most viewed post by a large margin). It should include some major Daedra, the Tribunal, Dunmer saints and some Imperial gods/saints. Come to think of it, I may also make a generic saints list so it's not limited to Elder Scrolls. Once that's done, I'll get on adapting UltraViolet Grasslands' caravaning system to Morrowind. Misfortune tables, travel times and sample encounters in each of Vvardenfell's nine regions.

I want to get as much of this as possible done in the next week, before the next term starts. By then my posting rate should go down from semi-daily to once a week (the horror!) and a significant number of those posts will be session reports, assuming I can get my campus game up and running again.

A lovely New Years to all you fine people! Now, on with the post.


Using Beasts in the game
Beasts are common and typically weak foes. The biggest and nastiest normal beasts are the betty netch and kwama queen, which have their own contexts and way to avoid combat with them. Outside of large groups, most beasts will not be a major threat to mid-level players. They're the bread and butter for random encounters in the wilderness.When running beasts, remember that they have little reason to fight to the death.

Scavengers, like rats and shalks, are trying to get at supplies, or maybe eat at a dead or dying PC. They will run in the face of concerted resistance. Hunters, like nix-hounds and slaughterfish, will attack in numbers when possible, and retreat if the prey turns out to be too toothy. If they succeed in killing or mortally wounding a PC, they will try to drag it away to a safe place to eat. Grazers like guar and netch have no interest in the PCs or their supplies as food, but may be aggressive if the PCs invade their territory. Threatened territory and certain circumstances, like the mating season, may drive these creatures to fight to the death, making them the most dangerous of Morrowind's fauna.

The exception to this rule is Blighted creatures. Animals that survive the early infection are larger, immediately hostile and suicidal, on top of transmitting the wasting disease. These begin to appear as Dagoth Ur's power grows, supplanting normal animals, and are more common near the Red Mountain.

Treasure without a listed value is a 1 slot alchemical ingredient for use with the Field Alchemy system. By default, they are animal parts, though some will be noted to be both animal and mineral or vegetable.


Image result for alit es legends

HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 12 ATK 12(1d6+poison bite) MOR 8 MOV 1x Type Grazer/Hunter
Treasure: alit tooth
# Appearing: 1(loner), 1d4+1(pack) 2d4+2(herd)

Alit are large, bipedal reptilians, the distant cousins of guar and kagouti. Their snouts are pointed like an alligator's, and their saliva is mildly corrosive. Without a tail and with a massive head, the appearance of the alit is almost comical, a mouth on legs. They are omnivorous, augmenting their grazing with small vermin.

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Betty Netch
HD 3 (15 HP) DEF 13 ATK 15(1d8+1 tentacle) MOR 10 MOV 1x float Type Grazer
Treasure: netch leather (10gp, 3 slots), tentacle
# Appearing: 1(loner) 2(mated pair, see Bull Netch) 1d6+3(herd, mixed)

Netch are among Morrowind's most distinctive fauna, giant jellyfish floating with lighter-than-air gas. They are large and dangerous if provoked, but they are grazers with little reason to attack unless you violate their territory or harm them. They have the disposition of wild cows, and are commonly farmed in the Ascadian Isles for their leather. Betty netch, the females of the species, are smaller than the males but substantially deadlier. They will be quicker to attack you for getting close, especially to protect their male.

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Bull Netch

HD 4 (20 HP) DEF 14 ATK 13(1d6+1 tentacle) MOR 8 MOV 1x float Type Grazer
Treasure: netch leather (10gp, 3 slots), tentacle
# Appearing: 1(loner) 2(mated pair, see Betty Netch) 1d6+3(herd, mixed)

Netch are among Morrowind's most distinctive fauna, giant jellyfish floating with lighter-than-air gas. They are large and dangerous if provoked, but they are grazers with little reason to attack unless you violate their territory or harm them. They have the disposition of wild cows, and are commonly farmed in the Ascadian Isles for their leather. Bull netch, the males of the species, are larger than the females and more docile. They will not become hostile unless you get much closer or act overtly aggressive.

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Cliff Racer
HD 1 (5 HP) DEF 12 ATK 11(1d6 peck) MOR 6 MOV 2x fly Type Scavenger
Treasure: racer plumes
# Appearing: 1d4+1(band) 2d4+2(flock) 3d6+3(plague)

Cliff racers are feathered flying creatures, commonly thought of as invasive pests. They are individually weak, but appear in large numbers to harass larger creatures. They can bring down vermin on their own, but prefer to band together and drive a predator from their kill. These creatures drove out the dragons who dwelt in Vvardenfell not long ago in their sheer numbers, and have driven most of Vvardenfell's native avian fauna to the margins. They are universally hated.

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HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 13 ATK 12(1d6+1 claw) MOR 8 MOV 2x swim Type Hunter
Treasure: dreugh chitin (a/m)
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d4+1(band) 2d4+2(platoon)

Dreugh are chitinous octopus-man-crab creatures that have nests around the coastal regions of Morrowind. Legend has it the dreugh once had a continent-spanning empire, but those couldn't possibly be the same as the savage beasts seen today. Their chitin is valuable both as an alchemical ingredient and as armor made by the Dunmer.

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HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 12 ATK 10(1d6 bite) MOR 6 MOV 1x Type Grazer
Treasure: guar hide
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d4+1(pack) 2d4+2(herd)

The guar is the workhorse of Dunmer agriculture (literally; Morrowind's native grasses are mildly poisonous to horses, so they require their own feed at all times, making them too expensive for most roles). They serve as beasts of burden like oxen and as slow mounts like mules. A Dunmer farmer will plow his fields with a guar one day and load up his goods on it the next day to go to market. Dunmer society idolizes the guar, symbolizing loyalty, piety and work ethic. They are the distant relatives of kagouti and alit, bipedal and tailed reptiles, though the guar has small forelimbs, a rounded mouth and tooth instead of great jaws or tusks. They can be found all over Morrowind. Wild guar are usually docile, but can become hostile you appear threatening to the herd or they have few numbers.

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HD 3 (15 HP) DEF 13 ATK 14(1d8+1 gore) MOR 8 MOV 1.5x Type Grazer/Hunter
Treasure: kagouti tusk
# Appearing: 1 (loner) 1d4+1(pack) 2d4+2(herd)

The kagouti is the distant relative of the guar and alit, a tailed bipedal reptilian with two large tusks and a head crest, not unlike a clannfear. It's the largest and most dangerous of its family, known to gore unwary travelers who intrude on their territory or get too close during mating season. Like the alit, they inhabit an ecological niche much like that of a bear, mixing grazing with hunting small animals and defending its territory with superior size and arms.

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Kwama Scrib
HD 0 (1 HP) DEF 6 ATK n/a MOR 4 MOV .5x Type Scavenger
Spells: Paralyze 1
Treasure: scrib jelly(in a nest)
# Appearing: 1(wandering) many(nest)

Scribs are the larval form of a kwama, often found wandering the surface. They feed on other small insects, and are eaten constantly by larger scavengers. Their sole defense is a weak paralytic venom, lost as it grows up. Be careful handling them, especially if you enter a kwama nest. They are accustomed to larger creatures there, but will swarm in numbers to make you easy picking for the Warriors if you aggress against them.

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Kwama Forager
HD 1 (5 HP) DEF 10 ATK 10(1d4 bite) MOR 8 MOV 1x jump Type Scavenger
Treasure: cuttle (a/v)
# Appearing: 1(foraging) 2d6+3 (nest)

Jumping wormlike creatures, found outside nests searching for other nest locations. They are aggressive, but not necessarily hostile if you get out of their way.

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Kwama Worker
HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 11 ATK 10(1d6 claw) MOR 6 MOV 1x Type Worker
Treasure: cuttle (a/v)
# Appearing: 3d6+4 (nest)

Worker drones for a kwama nest, caring for eggs, digging tunnels and carrying food. They are accustomed to human presence, so will not become aggressive unless provoked.

Image result for morrowind kwama art

Kwama Warrior
HD 3 (15 HP) DEF 14 ATK 13(1d6+1 claw) MOR 10 MOV 1x Type Defender
Treasure: cuttle (a/v)
# Appearing: 2d6+3 (nest)

The martial arm of a kwama nest, defending it and participating in inter-nest warfare. They will attack anybody not covered in the right kwama pheromones that enter the nest.

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Kwama Queen
HD 4 (20 HP) DEF 12 ATK 12(1d6 claw) MOR 12 MOV none Type Special
Treasure: cuttle(a/v)
# Appearing: 1(nest)

The queen is the reproductive organ of the kwama nest, producing the eggs. The queen is so large as to be completely sedentary. If you damage its eggs, it will summon any remaining kwama to itself, and attack if you get in reach.

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HD 1 (5 HP) DEF 12 ATK 10(1d4 claw) MOR 6 MOV 1x Type Scavenger
Treasure: mudcrab chitin
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d6+1(pack) 2d6+2(swarm)

Mudcrabs populate Morrowind's shores, digging themselves into sand or soil and letting the rocky texture of their shells disguise them as stones. They attack most often in swarms, emerging from the sand in a wave to overwhelm larger creatures.

Image result for morrowind nix-hound art

HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 12 ATK 11(1d6+1 claw) MOR 10 MOV .5x Type Hunter
Treasure: hound proboscis
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d4+1(pack) 2d4+2(swarm)

Nix hounds are insectoid pack predators native to Morrowind, distant relatives of kwama. They survive by drinking the blood from prey with their proboscis. They are individually weak, but have been known to overwhelm travelers in a pack ambush.

HD 0 (1 HP) DEF 8 ATK 10(1+disease bite) MOR 4 MOV 1x Type Scavenger
Treasure: rat tail
# Appearing: 1(pest) 1d4+1(swarm) 2d4+2(infestation)

Common disease-spreading pests. They will try to get into your supplies, but are unlikely to fight unless they are in a swarm or you are heavily injured.

Image result for morrowind shalk art

HD 2 (10 HP) DEF 14 ATK 11(1d6 mandibles) MOR 6 MOV 1x Type Scavenger
Spells: Destructive Touch (Fire) 1
Treasure: shalk shell(a/m)
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d4+1(swarm) 2d4+2(plague)

Shalk are large black beetles common in the Grazelands, known for their hard shells and defending themselves with gouts of fire. They are generally docile, but if they get into your supplies, you'll have a hard time getting them out.

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HD 1 (5 HP) DEF 10 ATK 11(1d4 bite, 2*# as a swarm) MOR 6 MOV 2x swim Type Hunter
Treasure: slaughterfish scales
# Appearing: 1(loner) 1d6+1(swarm) 2d6+2(infestation)

Slaughterfish are common to the lakes and waterways of Tamriel, silvery streaks with flashing teeth. They populate the Inner Sea, and there's a solid chance of slaughterfish in any given river or lake. They generally appear as a school, stalking prey before attacking all at once. They are surprisingly hardy creatures, and no adventurer should underestimate a pool of dark water.

Blighted Beasts

Blighted Alit
HD 4 (20 HP) DEF 14 ATK 13(2d6+1+blight bite) MOR 12 MOV 1x 
Treasure: alit tooth
# Appearing: 1(loner)

Blighted Cliff Racer
HD 3 (15 HP) DEF 14 ATK 12(2d6+blight peck) MOR 12 MOV 2x fly
Treasure: racer plumes
# Appearing: 1d4+2(band)

Blighted Kagouti
HD 5 (25 HP) DEF 15 ATK 15(2d8+2+blight gore) MOR 12 MOV 1.5x
Treasure: kagouti tusk
# Appearing: 1 (loner)

Blighted Kwama Warrior
HD 5 (25 HP) DEF 16 ATK 14(2d4+1+blight claw) MOR 12 MOV 1x 
Treasure: cuttle (a/v)
# Appearing: 1(loner)

Blighted Nix-Hound
HD 4 (20 HP) DEF 14 ATK 13(2d6+1+blight claw) MOR 12 MOV 2x 
Treasure: hound proboscis
# Appearing: 1(loner)

Blighted Rat 
HD 1 (5 HP) DEF 10 ATK 11(1d4+1+blight bite) MOR 12 MOV 1x 
Treasure: rat tail
# Appearing: 1(pest) 1d4+1(swarm) 2d4+2(infestation)

Blighted Shalk
HD 4 (10 HP) DEF 15 ATK 12(1d6 mandibles) MOR 12 MOV 1x 
Spells: Destructive Touch (Fire) 2
Treasure: shalk shell(a/m)
# Appearing: 1(loner)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Field Alchemy

The following system is based on Diaghilev's Field Alchemy post from this year's Secret Santicorn. The first part explains the reasoning behind the system from an in-world perspective. Skip down to 'The System' to get the straight mechanics.


For my beloved nieces and nephews

As you all know from indulging this old man's war stories, I once lived a life by the sword. It was a violent, brutish, and all-too-often short life which I was glad to be rid of in my middle age. Yet despite my most fervent warnings, you have all been taken far too much with the romance of the stories I told you on my knee, and have, to the last, elected to repeat my mistakes.

I had much hoped you would take up my example and see how I am much happier in my current profession, yet the drum of the march and camaraderie in blood have taken over each and every one of your thoughts. I mince no words to say I am disappointed, but I shall not leave you out in the cold. I shall give unto you the arts which I learned in my campaigns, and which I refined and formalized to become one of the foremost practitioners in the Empire. The same art which each and every one of you has pointedly refused to take up in favor of clubs and bolts of fire.

I speak, of course, about Alchemy.

Image result for oblivion alchemy

But not the expensive, formal, apprenticed and time-consuming science of True Alchemy, which you will hopefully see the sense in practicing by the time you pluck out a gray hair or two. No, I mean the down-and-dirty craft of Field Alchemy. Not the organized shelves of ingredients amid purifiers and calcinators, but the process of stirring strange mixtures of herbs, river water and elemental dusts in your helmet, and hoping the resulting concoction doesn't kill you.

I will be the first to admit that the cavalier attitude that must be practiced by field alchemists fills one with childlike glee in experimentation. I will also recommend you forgo it entirely in place of a proper laboratory in a safe city, and save yourself many stomachaches and perils. But, if this is your desire, I will not deny you the craft that may also save your life in the wild.

Fundamentals in Alchemy

You may be so ignorant as to confuse Alchemy with Herbalism, when the latter is a pale shadow of the former. The mixtures of herbs alone produces only mild medicinal or poisonous properties (as you will soon learn, the distinction between the two is most often one of dose). As anybody familiar with the stories of Asliel Direnni knows, creating truly mystical or potent effects requires much rarer and more special ingredients, and the understanding of how to use them.

The prime difference between Herbalism and Alchemy is the inclusion of the Mystic Essence, which must be derived from an ingredient touched in some way by Oblivion. The remains of Daedra are ideal, but rare and dangerous. The dust of a willow-the-wisp or vampire works as well, though it is equally elusive. The greatest share making up the price of a concoction is the cost of acquiring the Mystic Essence, and without it, one differs from a brewer only by the bad taste of one's concoctions.

Once it has been acquired, the other ingredients define the concoction. To an alchemist of culture and precision, every ingredient is uniquely distinct, bearing its own subtleties that can totally redefine a concoction. For your purposes, those subtleties will be lost. You must concern yourself only with its classification. Is it Animal, Mineral, or Herbal?

The eye of newt, the tail of rat, the wind of dragonfly, all these are Animal Ingredients. Lead powder, bronze shavings and diamond dust are all Mineral. And of course, redwort, black lichen and such are Herbal. The commonalities between these seemingly disparate ingredients are to do with what they represent in their cosmic, metaphysical sense, and as I can already hear you crying out in boredom, I shall move on.

Image result for elder scrolls alchemy

You need know only that Animal ingredients are linked to white souls, thus imbued with a vital energy readily manipulated with magic. Mineral ingredients are linked to Mundus itself, which you must know was formed by the very Aedra, and so carries its own special power. Finally, Herbs represent the most basic interplay of active Aedric energy (entering Mundus through the Sun, the portal of Magnus) and the dormant Aedric potential of the very earth.

In addition, some ingredients blur these categories. The chitin of a dreugh, for example, may be mineral or animal. Likewise, the Moon Sugar the Khajiit are so fond of may be mineral or herbal, and certain rare fungi and lichens blur the line as well. These ingredients are more valuable for their versatility, and differentiating their essence requires only a trivial application of thaumaturgy, which you or one of your compatriots doubtlessly know.

Making Potions

It is the combination of Animal, Mineral or Herbal ingredients, in conjunction with Mystic Essence and proper thaumaturgic care which produces a concoction, even one as simple and unpredictable as can be made in the field. Without the tools and education of a professional alchemist, you will have no way of knowing the effect of your concoction until you have tested a sample of it, most easily by ingestion. However, you can know its general function.

The combination of vegetable and mineral ingredients will produce, in the parlance of a field alchemist, a booster. These concoctions apply magical effects directly to the consumer, such as invisibility, levitation, and some forms of teleportation.

The combination of animal and vegetable ingredients will produce what are traditionally referred to as medicines, though be sure that not all of their effects are beneficial to the consumer. These may be cures or poisons, helpful or harmful to the consumer.

The combination of animal and mineral ingredients produce what are often called utilities. Like the Mystic school of magic, the effects of utilities are highly varied and seem to not be connected by rhyme or reason. They include powerful acids, love potions and shrinking concoctions. Take care that the effects of these concoctions are often unpredictable and dangerous to the user.

Mind that a concoction need not be a bottle of liquid, the common potion. One may also make them as ointments, powders, gels and the like. And do not think that just because a certain combination of ingredients produced an effect once, it will do so again. The alchemical process in influenced not just by the ingredients, but by the emotional states of the people involved, the local environment and the motions of the spheres. A proper alchemist has to align their calcinator with the moon in order to get consistent results, which field alchemy does not have the time for. The randomness is key to the swiftness of the process.

Refining Potions

This process is all very chaotic, and you will be pleased to learn it can be guided. For each additional pair of ingredients of the same kind added to the cauldron, the brewer gains more control over the final result. The brewer may also make the concoction more powerful by adding more of the Mystical Essence.

The key difference between potions and magic scrolls, though many of the same effects can be produced by both, is that potions are bulkier, but do not fail. They are substantially more reliable, but one may carry fewer of them at a time.

Finally, let me finally warn you against the use of human, elven, or beastmen parts in the creation of a potion. These are not by any means equivalent to animal ingredients in a potion.  The black soul energy lingering in the flesh of a sentient creature is a contaminant of the alchemical process, producing only twisted and unnatural effects in a concoction. The employ of an elf ear or a human heart in a ritual is the domain of daedra worshipers and necromancers, not safe or suitable for god-fearing alchemists such as yourselves.

Image result for elder scrolls alchemy

The System

With the in-character explanation out of the way, here's the condensed version.

Concoctions take up 1 inventory slot, and can be anything from a potion to a gel and so on. They never fizzle. They are priced like scrolls. 20*MDgp from a direct commission, which requires a good relationship with the Guild, 30*MDgp from a store. Mystic ingredients, such as daedra hearts and vampire dust are rare and valuable, going for about 10gp each.

A potion is equivalent to a scroll, with the number of MD decided by the number of Mystic ingredients, up to 4.

The first 4 rolls on the Medicine table can be applied to weapons and take effect on the next person struck.

Curing medicines are not enhanced by additional Mystic ingredients, rather more doses are made.

Making a concoction with field alchemy takes a short rest, or part of a long rest. It requires a Mystic ingredient, and two ingredients of different types. Roll on the appropriate table. For each additional pair of mundane ingredients added, roll again and take your choice of the rolls.

Boosters(Vegetable and Mineral)

  1. Levitate
  2. Resist [Element, d3 fire, frost, shock]
  3. Slowfall
  4. Night Eye
  5. Invisibility
  6. Almsivi/Daedric Intervention
  7. Divine Intervention
  8. Reflect
  9. Telekinesis
  10. Courage
  11. Fortify Health
  12. Feather

Medicines(Animal and Vegetable)

  1. Poison
  2. Paralysis
  3. Silence
  4. Blind
  5. Cure Blight
  6. Cure Common Disease
  7. Cure Paralysis
  8. Cure Poison
  9. Heroism
  10. Fortify Attribute
  11. Restore Health
  12. Restore Attribute

Utilities(Animal and Mineral)

  1. Implacable Adhesive
  2. Universal Solvent
  3. Total Acid
  4. Love Potion
  5. Polymorph Potion
  6. Roiling Polymorph Potion
  7. Light
  8. Dispel
  9. Residual Poison
  10. Echolocation
  11. Dwarfism
  12. Giantism

The potions are either taken from the spell list or adapted from Arnold K's Potions list. I'll write out the effects of the latter, as the former can be referenced under their relevant spell lists.

Resist [Element]
Creature gains resistance to an element (fire, frost, poison, shock, normal weapons) of your choice for 1 hour. They take half damage and have +4 to related Saves. More mystic essences make more doses.If they take 4 doses, they are immune and automatically succeed on their Saves.

Creature becomes brave and foolhardy, gaining +4 to Saves vs fear for 1 hour.  More mystic essences make more doses. If they take 4 doses, they are immune and automatically succeed on their Saves.

Deals [dice] poison damage for [sum] rounds to the consumer.

Grants the consumer [sum] additional inventory slots for 1 hour.

Implacable Adhesive
Elemental stickiness. Glues anything to anything, forever. Very difficult to see if spread on a surface. More mystic essences make more doses.

Universal Solvent
Dissolves any adhesive. Neutralizes sovereign glue and sovereign grease. Causes hard materials to become softer. (Stone becomes like clay, adamantine becomes as soft as normal steel.) Don't get it on your hands. More mystic essences make more doses.

Total Acid
Elemental acid. Will melt through anything except glass and adamantine, and will eventually melt a hole all the way down to Hell. If poured on a stone floor, hole is 1' wide and narrows as it goes down. Lethal (and messily so) if drank.

Love Potions
You fall in love with the first person you see after drinking this potion. No save. Lasts(MD) 1. 1 hour 2. 1 day 3. 1 year 4. Permanent.

Polymorph Potion
You transform into the creature whose body part you used. You transform into an exact copy of that creature. Multiple donors creates chimeras. Lasts 30 minutes if same species or 1d6 rounds if different species. Each additional mystic essence adds another HD to the transformation.

Roiling Polymorph Potion
You transform into a random creature, and then another in 1d6 rounds. Roll randomly for each transformation, and Save each time. Once you succeed the Save, you remain as that creature for a day or until cured with powerful magic.

The consumer or object it is drenched in illuminates like a torch for 3 hours with a radius 20+[dice]x10'. If you invest four or more MD, the light has all the properties of natural sunlight. You may choose the color of the light.

Residual Poison
The consumer of this poison incorporates it into their body's natural order for the rest of their lives. They require daily cures for poison, or else will die. May be cured with very powerful magic.

You gain echolocation 40+[dice]x10'. You are blind. Lasts 30 minutes.

You shrink to a twelfth of your normal size. (Feet becomes inches.) Your Strength is 1, all of your attacks deal a single point of damage, and you take double damage from physical sources. Lasts 30 minutes. Alternatively, it can be poured on an object or part of an object to make it shrink down. Anything smaller than a couch can fit in your pocket. Lasts 30 minutes. More mystic essences make more doses.

You grow [dice]x2'. Your physical attacks deal +[dice]x2 damage and damage from physical sources is reduced by [dice]. When making Strength checks, treat your Strength as 16+[dice]x2. Lasts 1d6 rounds. Alternatively, it can be poured on an object or part of an object to make it triple in size. Lasts 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

OSR: Shrines and Patron Saints

This was originally a mechanic for my Elder Scrolls GLOG game hosted on the OSR Discord, but it got a good enough reaction from my players that I felt the need to write it up. Nor is this a GLOG-exclusive mechanic, but one I hope can be applied to other systems.

Image result for morrowind shrines art

Guardian Angel

This idea started with Arnold K's Cleric, which gains the Guardian Angel ability with its first template. Critically (and I consider this to be one of Arnold's best ideas to date) the Guardian Angel is not the cleric's ability, but one belonging to the whole party. By default, it is a single die healing spell which can be cast by any party member. The purpose of this is to free up the cleric as a healbot to do other things, as well as giving other party members reason to take up religion.

This idea was bouncing around my head for a while, but I couldn't find a place to fit it until I decided to do a test run of my Elder Scrolls GLOG system (if you want to see it in action, it's the #to-morrowind channel under Game Channels).

For those unfamiliar, the Elder Scrolls doesn't have clerics. There is healing magic, but that's another branch of magic along with fireballs and levitation. There is turning undead, but that's in the same magic domain as summoning undead. Actual religious organizations are made up of a mix of wizards, fighters, sneaks, diplomats and merchants.

More importantly, religion in the Elder Scrolls is weird. It is weird and wonderful and bizarre, exactly the kind of weird fantasy religion Arnold advocated in Towards a Better Cleric. And I want my players to get involved with it without necessarily joining one of the temple factions. I want them to familiarize themselves with it, to explore and seek out new aspects of it.

The solution I came up with was the Shrines. TES 3 Morrowind had shrines dotted about the world, including in tomb dungeons, each tied to a god or, more often, saint. The presence of the shrines, whether Dunmer or Imperial, demonstrates who holds influence in the local area, and makes the religious conflict tangible to the player.

In adapting them to GLOG, I streamlined them a fair bit. Now, each altar to the Imperial pantheon or shrine to the Dunmer Tribunal provides a choice 'blessing', in addition to healing diseases or poison for a fee. The shrines to the numerous Dunmer saints, on the other hand, which are by far the most common, each have a single 'blessing' they provide.


Every blessing is a floating single-die spell, gained for free by praying at a shrine and maintaining the strictures of that saint or pantheon (more on that later). The die returns when the party takes a long rest, like normal. The party may have a single one active at a time. If the party wishes to have more than one, they will have to split the party religiously.

Example 1: Alice, Bob and Charlie are followers of Saint Roris. So long as they maintain his strictures of piety, generosity and condemnation of Argonians (Saint Roris has some chips on his shoulder) they gain a floating Fortify Health spell. However, Alice wants to switch to the faith of Saint Meris, who grants resistance to the terrifying, incurable Corprus disease spreading across the land. Bob is convinced, but Charlie is frail and likes having the extra hit points available. Alice and Bob switch to worshipping Saint Meris, with her strictures of piety, mercy and honor in battle. Now, they can cast the spell to resist contracting Corprus, while Charlie can cast Fortify Health. Mind you, Charlie can still cast it on Alice and Bob, and vice versa, but it takes the action of one of the faithful.

It is also possible to add more dice to the spell. By making a valuable sacrifice, you can add more dice to that blessing for the duration of that day. When the day is past, it degenerates back down to a single die, even if the spell wasn't cast. I picture this being used at the opening of a dungeon, or in the morning before an expected tough encounter. It's also great for roleplaying and atmosphere. If the PCs sit down to pray and sacrifice some of their hard-earned gold or loot because they anticipate they'll need some help from above, the system is working right.

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5/10/15gp for each additional die up to 4, so getting a 4MD spell costs 30gp total. This is substantially cheaper than a scroll of the same power (80gp) but unlike a scroll, it only lasts for a day and you don't have a great selection in spells to cast. On the bright side, it takes up no inventory slots and can be cast by any party member.

How exactly a party makes this sacrifice is up in the air. If the party prepares ahead of time, they may buy sacrificial materials ahead of time. Valuable sanctified meat, or special liquor, or fine wooden icons, or anything else that can be quickly and decisively destroyed, in units of 5gp apiece.

In the absence of that, the players may sacrifice their gold or other valuables in some way, such as throwing them into a lake or chasm, burning them to slag, etc. The players may even enter a sacrifice-debt, vowing to sacrifice some amount of treasure they gain in their endeavor after the danger is passed. Of course, going back on the vow or trying to recover what you sacrificed is grounds for losing the saint's blessing, and a curse besides.

Image result for dnd prayer


How else would you lose your blessing? By violating that god or saint's strictures. I like to keep it simple, with just three. Generally, piety/resilience of faith is one. A form of generosity or altruism specific to that saint or deity is another. This isn't 'always be a goody-two-shoes', but puts the players on the lookout for certain struggles and problems. Finally, a special quirk of that cult which makes maintaining the strictures unique and somehow challenging.

Going back to the Discord Morrowind game, here's how I presented the shrine in the opening dungeon to my players:

Example 2: The room also contains a small shrine to the Dunmer Saint Roris. A prayer book is open before it.
The prayer book in front of the shrine opens to the story and strictures of St. Roris. Apparently, he was a Dunmer warrior who was captured by Argonians and tortured, but never gave up his Tribunal faith. His death at the hands of Argonian sorcerers caused the Arnesian war. Today, he is the patron of furnishers and caravaners.

A favorite prayer of St. Roris the Martyr
Alone with none but you, my Gods,
When countrymen are gone.
By the tricks of beasts my faith increased
Oh queen of dusk and dawn!
More safe am I within your hands
Than if a host did round me stand.

Strictures of St Roris
Take upon yourself the burdens of those weaker than you
Never allow another to challenge your faith.
Daily curse the depravity of Argonia and its people.

The PCs, who initially were open to worshiping a Dunmer saint, decided altogether against it, both because one of the PCs was an Argonian and because they had nothing against Argonians. The incomparable between more hit points and participating in fantasy racism requires some roleplaying and engagement with the world to resolve.

Another incomparable, for Saint Meris, requires that the PCs allow their enemies to surrender, never setting an ambush.

Image result for morrowind shrines art


To condense this all down:

The party may follow a saint or god of their choosing by praying at their shrine and maintaining their strictures. This grants the party members which follow that god a floating spell which any of them can cast. It is a 1MD spell, unless the party sacrifices to increase the number of dice up to 4. Violating the strictures results in losing the blessing until the party can make amends. Trying to recover a sacrifice results in both losing the blessing and a curse of the GM's choice.

Sacrifice rates: 5/10/15gp for each additional die, up to 4.

Adapting to other rulesets

I know, I know. I said this wouldn't be GLOG-exclusive, and here I go talking in GLOG terms. Luckily, adapting this to other systems is simple enough. If you use spell slots, then the blessing begins as a first or second level spell, whichever feels right. The spell levels should increase with sacrifices. The rates for sacrifice should be substantially less than a comparable scroll.

You may wish to have more than one slot of the same level, so that it can be used more than once a day. Tweak it, mess with it, I think the system has value.

Monday, December 23, 2019

State of the Blog Year 1: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

At the time this post should be going up, Espharel is a year old from its first post! For this wondrous anniversary, I've decided to throw back the curtain a bit and talk about what I've learned in a year of blogging.

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What is Espharel?

First off, what the heck does this name even mean. In short, nothing. In length, it's a nonsense word I came up with and noted down years ago. Originally, I wanted to name this blog The Byzantine, in a twisted homage to The Alexandrian, one of the first RPG blogs I came in contact with. I went as far as to make it my username as well, but when the time came to make the blog, I found it, and most variations on it, taken (by years-inactive blogs! the horror!). So I instead worked through my old notes for inspiration, and found the word.

I decided afterwards that the name of my in-progress homebrew fantasy world, which most of my early blog posts detail, would be Espharel, the greatest city of which was Byzantium. That homebrew world quickly went on hold once I realized that I really wasn't good at worldbuilding, and trying to do it top-down like that didn't work.


Learning what you want to write about and developing an identity around that takes time. For the first few months of blogging, I was effectively trying to be Goblin Punch, except for my own fantasy world instead of Centerra. At the time I hadn't discovered the OSR Discord, and had no engagement with the soon-to-die Google+. As a result, I wasn't really marketing myself, just putting out what I thought was good content to build a backlog of content, in the hopes that 'one day' I would have an audience.

After a couple-month hiatus I returned to blogging in the summer, and used the time I had to write a a much faster rate. Moving away from my old habits to write GLOG content gave me more inspiration, and I was reading more OSR blogs to get ideas. My first post to get traction was the Gun Witch, inspired by KSBD. I can credit its early popularity to a signal boost by red kangaroo of the Library of Attnam, who put it on a compilation of GLOG Wizards. Shortly after, I posted to the first time to the OSR Discord.

Looking back through my history there, I was surprised to find I first joined in March (The same day as Valker of Parasites and Paradoxes, actually), asked a single question then left. It was only in August that I came back. I shared a post, chatted with people like grimlucis, retrograde tardigrade xenograft, Lexi, Ancalagontb, sentient bacteria daddy and mtb-za, and made myself at home.

As I got more feedback and started to collaborate with other bloggers, particularly with Lexi on the Carbarian, I started to find an identity. I was an adapter, either taking short stories and turning them into classes, spinning dwarves as golems into a massive post, or (my biggest draw to the blog) adapting the Elder Scrolls to GLOG.

Posting Rate

When I got back into blogging in the summer, I tried to maintain a posting rate of once every three or four days. Oftentimes, I would be writing more quickly, and would save a post for later, so as not to spam the Discord. Once classes started again, that rate became untenable, but I wanted to keep myself dedicated to it. A posting rate of once a week, even if it was just a write-up of my Sunday game, would keep me on track.

Now that I'm off for Christmas, I've been maintaining a blistering posting rate of once every forty-eight hours. I'm slightly worried that I'm spamming people, but nobody's said anything yet so I'm sticking with it.

The key really is to keep your posting rate regular, making it a part of your schedule.

Audience size

I don't know how big others' audiences are, but I figure I'm (quite obviously) very much on the small end. Between posting to several channels on the Discord, some followers and clicks from other bloggers' rolls, my posts reliably get between thirty and fifty views in a day. Some, such as goblin-themed Christmas recipes, get much less. Others, like my Elder Scrolls stuff, get substantially more, but 30-50 is the usual range.

It's hard to say how that compares to other blogs, but compared to not having an audience at the start of the year, I'm pretty happy with it. Moreover, that figure has been steadily increasing over the last few months, so I think there's still room for organic growth, even in the niche OSR.

Tips for new bloggers

If, like me, you sometimes draft your posts in an external document, or paste things from other sites for reference, you may find that Blogger absolutely hates external formatting, especially colors. Paste without formatting is your best friend from here on out. I've recently gone back and edited several of my old articles so that they aren't rendered unreadable by a change in theme.

If you're having trouble keeping a regular schedule, consider what kind of content you're putting out. Do you play in or run a weekly game? A report on your most recent session will be entertaining or useful to somebody, trust me. Consider what media you consume, and see if you can adapt or take inspiration from it.

Look for collaborations with other bloggers. In my experience, especially on the Discord, people are open to collaborate and share even if they don't know you very well. You may think that somebody else is so much bigger than you are, so much more established that they won't want to collaborate with a newbie. In my experience, that's not the attitude here at all. Be respectful and honest and you'll do just fine.

Any other questions from behind the scenes? Thinking of starting a blog but don't know how? Drop a comment down below, and a Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Index

Last Updated: 12/14/20

Post count: 156


Adapting AD&D to GLOG: System Shock

Community Challenge

Community Challenge: The Dwarfening (Index)

Community Challenge: Night Terrors-Preview

Secret Jackalope: The Humorist GLOG Wizard

Diesel Punk GLOG

Diesel Punk GLOG Classes: Carbarian, Road Warrior, Wrench Wizard


OSR Discussion: Wizards and Barriers to Creativity

OSR Discussion: Not Everything Needs Big, Sharp Teeth

OSR Discussion: The Fighter Lifestyle in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

OSR: Entropic Undead - Or, The Physics of Evil

How Jaquaysed is Tomb of the Serpent Kings?

How Jaquaysed is Gatehouse on Cormac's Crag?

OSR: How To Forget a God

OSR: What's in a Tomb Adventure?

Contra Grognardia on Lovecraft: Nihilism, Eternalism and Meaning

Elder Scrolls

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Societies of Morrowind (#4 post of all time)

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Character Creation

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Morrowind Campaign

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Adapting Morrowind Quests

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Field Alchemy


Elder Scrolls GLOG Bestiary: Daedra

Elder Scrolls GLOG Bestiary: Undead

Elder Scrolls Bestiary: Beasts 

Magic and Wizards 

Elder Scrolls GLOG: Magic and Wizards

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Alteration

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Conjuration

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Destruction

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Illusion

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Mysticism

Elder Scrolls GLOG Magic: School of Restoration

Elder Scrolls Session Reports

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 1: Jailbreak

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 2: The Caldera Trail

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 3: Of Orcs and Opera

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 4: How to Skin a Cat

Fallout GLOG

Fallout GLOG: Skills, Perks and Progression


A Stone's Tale

Intro Statistics for RPGs: The Wheaton Dice Curse

Session Reports

Play Report: Goblins and Pigeons and Ogres! Oh My!

Session Report: Newbies Tackle Tomb of the Serpent Kings

Session Report: Smokers take on the Rat-Catchers

Session Report: Even More Newbies Tackle Tomb of the Serpent Kings

Session 1.5 Report: The Proof is in the Pudding

Mini-Session Report: Solo Adventuring in the Tower of the Elephant

Session Report: Diving into the Mouth of Spring

Session 2 Report: Between a Jelly and a Jam

Session 3 Report: Bad Guys and Basilisks

OSR Trilemma Report: Lanterns and Loquaciousness

Mothership After-Action Report and Reflections: The Hateful Eight

Elder Scrolls Session Reports (under Elder Scrolls)

5E Play Report: The Lost Factory of Willy Wonka

Rat Bastards - Redwall Playtest part 1

Castle Xyntillan

Thursday, December 19, 2019

They Came from the Moon! A Space-Breaking Monster

Within his cyclopean moon-fortress, in his court of archons, the Machine Sage plots and schemes. In his Byzantine cauldrons he spawns his dread minions. Among them, the menacing sentinel, the looming lunar terror, the savage...


Image result for moon crab
Not what I expected when I looked up 'Moon Crab,' but I'll go along

This year's Secret Santicorn (my first!) is already a big success, with some forty people participating! Here's my post for out friendly neighborhood Machine Sage. Happy Goblindays!

Prompt: A monster or two based around breaking space. Escher Dragons, 2D Orcs, etc.

HD 3 (10 HP) DEF 8 ATK 14(spearing claw) MOR 10 MOV 2x sideways
Treasure: An intact Moon-Crab can be dried and used as fine vellum(50gp). Otherwise, its shell can be peeled off and treated to become flexible, can make 10' of Moon-Rope, resistant to heat, cold and the vacuum of space, easily cut but never torn or frayed (10gp).
2-Dimensional: See below
# Appearing: 1(sentinel) 1d4+2(excursion) 2d4+3(landing)

When dormant, lies on the ground, can sense sound through contact with the ground. Visible, appears as a disgusting carpet of roiling innards. When alerted, jumps up to become vertical. It rotates on its own axis. A pulsing mass of organs, blood vessels and chitin, widening to reveal the outline of a giant crustacean-like creature, armed with a long, piercing claw. It rotates to see the world around it in an approximation of three dimensions.

When fully perpendicular to a character, its outline is the horizontal cross-section of a crab, standing up on its backmost legs, innards exposed.

At the start of each round, it selects a character. This is the character it can 'see' and will engage in combat with them. It becomes 'invisible' to that character by turning their body parallel to their point of view, appearing only as a vague vertical shimmer in the air. It can only move backwards and forwards like this, either charging or fleeing.

The character being targeted suffers a -8 to hit, both because of the creature's armor now facing them and because it is effectively invisible. All other characters can see at least some part of it. These characters are able to see its insides and disregard its external armor, effectively cutting holes in a paper target.

This monster serves to encourage teamwork in the party. A lone character will have little chance of defeating it, but even a single other character will be able to take advantage of its blindness. Adding more into the fight dramatically scales up the challenge, and unless the players can coordinate to focus on one at a time, they will surely be overwhelmed.

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Right feel but, you know, not a crab