Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fey Alignment

One more way I'm trying to make Fey Elves alien is by having the Fey, including any Elven characters, use a different alignment system. This alignment system straddles the line between D&D and AD&D conceptions of alignment: I imagine both Seelie and Unseelie courts, for example, though I haven't figured out how to flesh that out yet, besides members of different alignments generally avoiding or being somewhat antagonistic towards each other; on the other hand, these alignments definitely serve as AD&D-style roleplaying aids. What do you think?

Elves, and indeed all Fey, are not aligned along the Law-Chaos axis. They have little to do with metaphysical concepts of Order or the progress of Man’s civilization and they, being inherently of Nature, cannot engage in unnatural Necromancy or Summoning. Indeed, the Elves continue to hold the entire Fey outlook and are aligned along the Seelie-Unseelie and Trooping-Solitary axes.

Seelie Fey, including Elves, are lighthearted, fickle pranksters and change their attitudes towards other characters easily, neither holding grudges nor gratitude for long. They are generally friendly when first meeting someone and as prone to performing acts of service for no reason as to pranks and practical jokes. The Unseelie Fey, again including Elves, are generally aloof if not unfriendly to new acquaintances or strangers and not prone to spontaneous pranks or services. They hold both grudges and gratitude for a long time, if not forever.

Whether Seelie or Unseelie, Elves, as Fey, should always be roleplayed with no appreciation for Man’s ideas of proportion, whether dealing with pranks, random kindnesses, thanks or revenge. Both beneficial and malicious actions should be more than a Man would find appropriate or worth the trouble.

All Elves that join mortal parties are Solitary. Elves that travel in all-Fey parties or who settle down in forests where they establish a Fastness are Trooping. Solitary Elves must leave their parties and wonder alone for a month in order to level up. Trooping Elves must not leave their troop for any reason and most interaction with mortals must be corporate instead of individually building relationships with mortals.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Roleplaying Fey Elves

I really like the Fey Elf in the excellent Theorems and Thaumaturgy, and wanted to give players of Fey Elves a way to play them that makes them even more alien and folklore-ish. Here's some of my crack at that:

As Mankind settles the wilderness and becomes more numerous, it is becoming harder and harder for the Immortal Fey. Mankind destroys their meeting-places and homes, fences and plows the meadows and clears the forests; Man can even kill the Fey with iron and steel weapons. It is slowly becoming clear to the Fey that they will have to adapt in order to survive.

Elves are one way in which some Fey are experimenting with adapting; the Fey have always been able to shape and change their own natures and Elves are Fey who have changed their natures to resemble those of mortal Men. Much that is typical of the Fey is lost in this transformation – perfect memories of the millenia past become faint and the ephemeral form is traded for solid flesh and a connection to the material world – yet much is retained. Elves are immune to mind-affecting spells such as Sleep and Charm as well as magical paralyzation and remain familiar enough with Faerie to identify Faerie objects such as portals or writing.
Elves have trouble grasping mortal conventions and different Elves have more or less trouble with different concepts that Men and Dwarves take for granted. Roll 1d4+1 times to determine mortal concepts an Elf is unable to grasp.

  1. Distinguishing between actions under self-control as opposed to those not under control (eg. charmed or coerced)
  2. Any belief or concern with what happens after death (including nothing)
  3. The idea of children, parents, caring for children and legal minority
  4. Differentiation between genders or sexes
  5. The mortal understanding of magic as special, not-normal or not-natural
  6. Daily routines such as sleeping, waking, eating based on time of day
  7. The existence of status and rank among mortals (does recognize Fey courts and hierarchy
  8. Religion
  9. Property
  10. Incongruence between thought, speech and actions
Each time an Elf levels up, roll 3d6. If the roll meets or is below the Elf's level + any Wisdom modifier then the Elf has mastered one of the conventions the Elf previously could not grasp (player's choice or randomly select).

Elves have trouble fitting in to Men’s society and are attracted to adventurers who are themselves on the fringes of society. Adventuring parties who accept an Elf into their ranks will need to supervise the Elf during interactions with Mankind, as Elves are prone to faux pas ranging from the awkward to the capitally illegal. As Elves gain more experience, they will become more accustomed to Man’s ways and will require less guidance, eventually becoming able to function, more or less, on their own among mortals. Elves are often worth the inconvenience and worry to adventuring parties, offering familiarity with Faerie and a number of abilities beyond the ken of mortals along with the headaches of associating with them.
That said, players of Elves should not feel that they must play their characters as totally unable to interact with society. Elves are still Fey and the Fey are able to interact with Man in ways generally understandable by Men; that is, Men generally understand what the Fey are doing, whether they understand their motivation or not. Players of Elves should not feel constrained to make every visit to town end with the party narrowly escaping a lynch mob; neither should they play Elves as normal mortal Men.

For example, an Elf that does not understand the idea of property is just as likely to give away valuable “possessions” as to “steal;” an Elf might begin a relationship with a store-owner by giving a fortune in gold to him when the Elf sees other characters giving the store-owner gold to buy items, expecting nothing in return. During another visit, the Elf might take items the Elf needs without paying for them, but the shop-owner will likely not mind, or will at least not make a fuss, not wanting to anger a Fey creature over an irregular situation that is, after all, at least currently resulting in a net profit. When fellow party members are present to explain and smooth things over (or cover the costs of the Elf’s actions, temporarily or permanently), these kinds of irregular relationships are even more easily established.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Hit Dice: 1d4
Armor Class: 9[10]
Attacks: 2 Weapon (1d6)
Saving Throw: 18
Special: Immune to non-magical weapons, destroyed by light, low weight
Move: 24
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: B/10

Chaotic Sorcerers commonly use evil rituals to provide themselves with willing servants and foot soldiers. Most commonly, they employ their twisting magics to turn Humans into Orcs or Dwarves into Goblins, but occasionally, with the right knowledge, they will bend the Fey to their will.

Æglor are Seelie Fey who have been warped by dark magic into servants of Chaos. They unquestioningly obey their masters and, where once they took delight in song, dance, beauty and mischief, now delight only in battle, slaughter and destruction. In appearance they are very short humanoids clad in dark hooded robes that cover them completely. They almost always appear in mobs of 5d20 and are small enough that two of them are able to attack an opponent in a space where only one normal-sized attacker would fit. Æglor move and attack quickly, swarming and overwhelming their opponents.

Æglor are immune to non-magical weapons but their small size and weight means that when an Æglor is hit with a weapon in combat then the Æglor is thrown into the air 5d4 feet away from the character, taking no damage. Æglor are not immune to magic. The weakness of the Æglor is that they dissolve completely into the air when exposed to light. Their hooded robes magically cling to them and normally protect them from light but when an opponent makes a critical hit on an Æglor this signifies that the hood or some other part of the robe has been lifted back and the Æglor dissolves with robe and weapon. If called shot mechanics are used then called shots can be applied to targeting an Æglor's hood.

These guys popped into my head a week or so ago as a mental picture of manic bloodthirsty hybrids of Jawas and the little yellow minions from the Despicable Me movies. I've been messing around with Fey in my designing recently and these guys actually solved a few problems for me. For one, I long ago decided that most monstrous humanoids in my setting (the notable exception being Kobolds) are twisted humans and demi-humans, a la Tolkien, but, besides Orcs being twisted Humans, I hadn't ever nailed down a whole lot - I'm still not sure what bugbears and hob-goblins are. The Æglor helped me decide that Goblins are twisted Dwarves, since Elves are Fey in my setting. In addition, I've got a sorcerer luring Fey into a trap in my megadungeon for use in a Carcosa-style ritual but I hadn't figured out what that was going to be until I realized that the sorcerer could be tiring of his human assistants and planning on replacing them with Æglor, created from the Fey he has trapped in a dark ritual requiring the still-beating heart of the Faerie King. So, if the players don't figure this out and stop it in time whenever I actually start running games again, then there will be hordes of these little guys running around the dungeon giving them problems.

I really like the image of these guys mobbing a room and the fighters, with multiple attacks against opponents with less than 1 HD, desperately knocking these guys harmlessly across the room only to watch them rebound and join the mad rush against the party again, occasionally with one occasionally disappearing but all of the characters too busy fighting the others off to notice exactly what happened or how to replicate it without a Wisdom check (so, "the little robed guy you just hit disappears into the air; everyone make a Wisdom check"). Yes, this is designed to scare and confuse players.

Also, once they figure this out, it makes for a great opportunity for them to use Zack's called shot mechanic. Over and over again. Which means that there will be lots and lots of fumbles.

Friday, June 21, 2013

"What happens if I get too close to that castle?"

The following is something I wrote up a while ago, inspired by OD&D's rules for castle inhabitants and by Arthurian legend. It only applies to castles run by Chaotic Fighters and even this could be developed a bit more. Maybe you want to write up a table for Lawful Magic-Users or Chaotic Clerics?
Unless the party can show evidence they are allied with his allies or are too powerful to risk attacking, or can appeal to his self-interest, a Chaotic lord will exact a heavy toll (which may be more than the party has; this should probably vary by campaign, but 500-1000 gp per level sounds about right in my silver standard game) and if they will not (or cannot) pay will attack with the aim to capture the party and hold them for ransom in the lord’s dungeon (forces should probably be determined during setting creation). The lord will send a messenger to one character (NPC or other, un-captured PC) per captured party member, designated by each party member, asking for a ransom (the original toll multiplied by 2d4). The party will be stripped of all possessions (which will only be returned if 150% of the normal ransom amount is paid), separated from each other 75% of the time and imprisoned in poor conditions. Every month each PC must roll under their Con score or lose a point of Con; any character that loses all Con points dies. Once freed, Con damage is healed at a rate of 1d4 per week of rest in good conditions. If the party is captured:
  1. 01-50: imprisons them for 2d4 months and then sells them to another chaotic party unless ransom is raised first
  2. 51-71: imprisons them indefinitely until a ransom is paid.
  3. 71-85: imprisons indefinitely, but will allow one PC to leave to raise ransom for the rest if the party suggests it
  4. 86-90: imprisons for ransom indefinitely but will allow all the party, except for one hostage, to leave to raise ransom, if they suggest this
  5. 91-95: after first ransom is paid, breaks word and holds for second ransom - reroll to determine new terms (which are not told to players)
  6. 96-00: waits until ransom is paid and then sells the party to another chaotic party.
Other Chaotic party:
  1. Magic-User, to be used for experiments
  2. Cult, for sacrifice
  3. Chaotic military force, to serve as slave-soldiers
  4. Slave-master, to be used as gladiators
  5. Slave-driver of engineering project as manual labor - roll under Con each week or lose one Con until freed or Con hits 0 and PC dies
  6. Slave-trader who takes them to a city with a slave-market and sells each slave separately, splitting the party (roll 1d6)
    1. Fighters as (1-3) gladiators, (4-5) soldiers, (6) manual labor
    2. Thieves as (1-3) domestics, (4-5) manual labor, (6) gladiators
    3. Wizards as (1-3) tutors, (4-5) domestics, (6) manual labor
    4. Clerics as (1-3) tutors, (4-5) scribes, (6) domestics
Each class has a chance to be bought and freed by some friendly party, increased by membership in organizations like thieves guilds, magic academies, churches, etc. This part is especially sketchy and probably setting-dependent.
Using this will have a few implications for your game. For one, this could seriously change the direction of a campaign. It's hard to imagine a villain the players will hate more than a Chaotic Lord that messes with their plans, likely kills a few of their characters, separates them from their gold and quite likely goes back on his promises as well. The players will want to kill him dead and, if run correctly, will have to do a lot of work to get there. They very well may scrap the rest of their goals for the sake of revenge.
Additionally, a lot of this ransom stuff depends on the PCs having contacts that they can ask to ransom (or rescue; that should definitely be on the table for PCs, but I'd be hesitant to have NPCs rescue the party) them. This means either generating PCs with contacts (like Magic-User masters or church hierarchies), running the game so that PCs form relationships with NPCs that are both able and willing to ransom them, or using a "stable" system where players have multiple PCs that they use for different sessions (or two or three of these options). It won't make a lot of sense if the Chaotic Lord locks them in the dungeon and then asks who he should send the ransom demands to and is met with blank stares because the PCs don't actually know the names of anyone they haven't killed. Unless you want to let them make up contacts. That works too, actually, though I'd prefer the other three options.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Improvements? Your own set of tables for other types of castle lords?