Monday, March 21, 2016

Sola Scriptura IX

Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level

Chapter 1: Nonhuman Races

I like to take a bit of credit for this chapter. When DF1 first came out, I asked, “Where’s the elves?” Kromm said, “They might come later."

I’m sure I had nothing to do with it, but hey. They came about two months later.

First up is Affording Racial Templates. We’re dealing with buying templates that are a hindsight to the class templates. Action, and I assume Monster Hunters and After the End (I have neither of the last two), baked background lenses right into the templates. The first way is to use some of the Advantage Allowances; all templates have at least 20 points there. There are the Disadvantage and Quirk Points; only if you’re close, man. There’s Skimping on about a third of special abilities and spells, and there’s Overlap, as in, my ogre barbarian doesn’t have ST 27 but a bit less to let me afford to make him.

Next, we have a section about Choice and Marginal Professions. It's mostly about pointing out the obvious, like orcs are good in a fight but suck with spells, while elves are good with bows. There's also a short sidebar called Races from Other GURPS Books, which says that those races aren't all about killing and taking stuff so they might not work.

Let's dive in. Cat-Folk are anthropomorphic cats, made for anime fans, which focus on their DX bonus. Coleopterans are bug-men who are tough but dumb. Corpse-Eaters are creepy, culinary-challenged folks. Dark Ones are somewhat like the drow—nimble and demonic. Dwarves are, hell, you know all about them. 

Elves, the other white meat, are the first race we meet that has subraces. The text encourages making more elven subraces as well, to make elves more unpredictable. All elves but Half-Elves have a perk that lets them get elven gear 10% off, and a talent (Forest Guardian) that adds to elven skills—Bow, Camouflage, Fast-Draw (Arrow), Stealth, and Survival (Woodlands). Yes, there's a weapon in the talent. Dwarves and Dark Ones also have akin talents and perks, though the Dark One perk is Better Power Items instead of 10% off creepy goods. Anyways, there are Half-Elves, High Elves (elves with an IQ bonus), Mountain Elves (Telescopic Vision and Perfect Balance), Sea Elves (underwater), Shadow Elves (20 point drow), Winged Elves (what it says on the tin), and Wood Elves (Legolas). Winged elves bring a short sidebar about Winged Races; mostly, how to whack their wings off.

Now, before we get to Pixie Hollow, there's another sidebar: Tiny Tools. Making a supplement with many short races means making short weapons. These rules are downright mean next to the ones in Low-Tech Companion 2. Not only do their weapons do less damage, but they're also can't get through armor with Armor Divisors less than 1. They have thinner armor, a three-dimensional lowering, for only a two-dimensional lowering of the cost. There is a way to get rid of the Armor Divisor, which is to have Faerie make instead of Mundane. That keeps cost the same, but still lowers damage.

Think of the First Hobbit Legion for a bit. Frodo and friends would have swords that seldom get through orc armor, not only owing to low basic damage, but also to orc armor being worth fivefold against it. (The orcs would wear leather that will have DR 10 against the hobbit swords.) Either one alone is enough to make the orcs sure winners. Both, and the hobbits' DR penalties (I can't see them even bothering with armor), make no survivors when the orcs come to town. And no, the Halfling racial talent doesn’t do enough to make up for the orcs’ gifts.

I use the rules in Low-Tech Companion 2.

This is giving me a thought about the world this implies. Orcs would have hobbit slaves making their food for them. The orcs would often cut down poor hobbits to keep down the number of "Useless Eaters." (Shades of the Hunger Plan.) This is an even shittier world than I thought. Moreover, men would ward the hobbits, but there'd be payment for this. They'd be like thieving oompa-loompas, working for the men with the funny hats.

Maybe short people do have no reason to live.

And now the short people. First up are Faerie Folk. All of these have Dependency (Mana) and Sense of Duty (Nature). The latter has a write-up in the Elf section, and the former has a short note to start this one. A world could have No Mana zones set up to keep out faeries. Fauns, aka satyrs, are horndogs with goat legs who would be good Bards with their Musical Ability. Leprechauns are little (SM -4) guys with Ridiculous Luck and magical gifts who live on the covers of cereal boxes. Nymphs are Very Beautiful (and Kromm, you need to put the level in words in the trait write-up of the stat block) woodland faeries that likely are part of the reason Fauns are so horny. Pixies are pint-sized (SM -6, so that's literally pint-sized) winged faeries that—well, I'm not sure why you'd play one, to be honest. They may be strong for their size, but they're still weak, and they're not any better at being Wizards than anyone else other than racial Magery 0 is. Thieves, I guess, and for those of us with Tinker Bell-loving daughters who want to get them to play.

Gargoyles are stony men with wings. Barbarian is a choice profession for them, and that makes sense with their DR, Blunt Claws, and Tail Striker. Gnomes are, well, gnomes: little guys with a special talent (Widget-Worker) that helps with Lockpicking and Traps, among other things. The text suggests Thieves; Gadgeteer, in DF4, springs to my mind.

After the Gnomes, we have the Goblin-Kin, which is the main bad-guy fodder race of the world. First up are Goblins, who have Cowardice. Oh, yeah, and they're SM 0, which goes against D&D.

Going against D&D doesn't bother me, but it leaves a gap—there's no little bad guy who's nasty in hordes. I suppose the Horde Pygmies in DFM1 fill some of that gap, but there's something to be said for a more generic monster doing that job. I'd suggest Kobolds appearing in a later supplement to handle this, like DFM3.

Moving down the list are Half-Orcs, which are the Goblin-Kin without an IQ penalty. After them are the truly stupid Hobgoblins, who are the biggest and strongest of the Goblin-Kin, then the stock Orcs, who are, well, Orcs. They're kind of big but not too big and kind of dumb but not too dumb. All of these races make good delvers, since they all have either Infravision or Night Vision (that's the Half-Orc for the last one). That isn't a minor consideration, as it ends worry about a light source.

However, there is another issue in the sidebar Almost Monster. The Goblin-Kin, among other races, have bought their strength and Infravision with reaction penalties. Racial Appearance and Odious Racial Habits apply to almost anything happening in town, and make the Goblin hard to disguise too. Social Stigmas affect rolls for the whole party. Half-Breed hurts most reaction rolls at -1, while Infernal takes a -2 hit and -3 to helpful clerical spells. Both give a -2 to skill rolls, presumably back in town again to do things like find backers. Savage and Monster not only give harsher penalties, but also have a chance of not letting the party into town. Lastly, A Monster's Life says that anyone with a -3 or more in reaction penalties from racial Appearance, Odious Racial Habits, and Social Stigmas should get the shaft every now and then. Princesses might kiss frogs, but not orcs.

Since orcs and the like can't always get into town, there might be orc camps along the road outside of town, or an orc brotherhood. This also discourages orcs from becoming civilized, making their savagery a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Heck, what are the racial reaction bonuses and penalties for all races? For fun and learning, here's a list, first giving only those for Appearance, Odious Racial Habits, and Social Stigma, then giving an updated version if other traits that always bear reaction bonuses or penalties (like Voice or Stubbornness) are included:
  • Coleopteran: -6
  • Corpse-Eater: -5
  • Dwarf: 0 (-1 with Stubbornness)
  • Half-Elf: -1
  • High Elf: +1 (+3 with Voice)
  • Mountain Elf: 0 (react to others at -2 due to Loner (12))
  • Winged Elf: +1
  • Wood Elf: +1
  • Nymph: +5 (+10 with Charisma)
  • Pixie: +1
  • Gargoyle: -3
  • Goblin: -4
  • Half-Orc: -3
  • Hobgoblin: -4
  • Orc: -4 (-6 with Bully)
  • Celestial: +1
  • Minotaur: -4
  • Ogre: -7
  • Half-Ogre: -4
  • Dragon-Blooded: -3 (-5 with Disturbing Voice)
  • Lizard Man: -3 (-5 with Disturbing Voice)
  • Troll: -5
  • Wildman: -3

So, everybody loves Nymphs, and everybody hates Ogres. Again, I play a failed Bad Temper self-control roll as a dropping of a rung on the reaction table where applicable, which comes out to -3. The only race that I found would react to others badly would be Mountain Elves, though I'm sure I'm missing something.

Anyways, moving on to Half-Spirits. It starts with a short note saying, among other things, that these templates are stackable, so you can be half Elder-Spawn and half Corpse-Eater. Celestials have a horny angel as a parent, good stats, and can spend their spare points on many advantages, but demons will go after them and they have a Weakness around Evil sanctity. Elder-Spawn have a, aw, hell, let's quote the tale of Old Man Henderson:

The Deacon then, and I'm quoting the GM here (in the only good line he had the entire game), gave Henderson a Look. A look that can only be summed up as 'Dude, I fucked a Shoggoth and you're creeping me out'. -- A Self Called 'Nowhere' 
Anyways, they have the usual stuff from their squid parent: Double-Jointed, Slippery, Frightens Animals, Weirdness Magnet. They have that Innsmouth Look. Infernals are like Celestials, only that mommy got it down and dirty with a devil that wasn't just a bad date, but really was a devil. He might have been THE Devil. He left Damien Junior with 75 points of stuff, including Dark Vision.

There's a subset of Half-Spirits that are Infused with elemental might. Therefore, mommy had a hot date with a fire elemental, or daddy found a hole in the ground that turned out to be an earth elemental. We have Air-Infused, whose conception I can't even imagine and I've seen some sick shit, and who can Walk on Air; Earth-Infused, who can get naked and walk through stone, Fire-Infused, who can set themselves on fire and never #feelthebern, and Water-Infused, who can live underwater. Well, I might be messing up the politics here. With Flaming Hair, the Fire-Infused might be Trump backers. Water-Infused, of course, backed Rubio. Regardless of voting habits, they're all a bit alike: they all have DR against their element, and a Reputation with elementals of their element.

You know something? The whole business of half-races is filled with squick.

Kromm has said that Joe Pesci in Goodfellas inspired the Halfling, so instead of Tolkien-esque Cowardice, these have Kleptomania. Add Curiosity and Unfazeable, and you have Dragonlance kender. (Odious Racial Habits at your own choosing.) Minotaurs are somewhat boring, truth be told: they're big men with the heads of bulls. Ogres are big (SM +1) and pretty much beg to be Barbarians. Half-Ogres aren't as big, aren't as dumb, and lack Magic Resistance.

Reptilians are two races: Dragon-Blooded and Lizard Men. Both share Claws (Sharp), DR (Tough Skin), Nictitating Membrane, Peripheral Vision, Teeth (Sharp), Disturbing Voice, and Social Stigma (Monster). Dragon-Blooded are smarter and get to breathe fire; Lizard Men are stronger and faster. The shared traits are helpful for those who want to make their own Reptilians. Troglodytes? Take the shared traits and give them Bad Smell and a skunk-like attack.

Trolls are ones who aren't too big, regenerate, and don't like fire. Wildmen are primitive men, something like how we once perceived Neanderthals to have been.

This is a good list of most of the man-like races of fantasy. There are a few overlooked. The evil little guy niche is mostly open, and Kobolds are the most obvious ones to fill it. There are no Centaurs, though with their odd builds, they might not be suitable for going into dungeons. I could have said the same about Winged Elves and especially Aquatic Elves, however. 

This list also serves as a small bestiary, but it needs something else: roles. Not quite DF15: Henchmen, since we don't care about point costs for foes. Indeed, we want to keep choices to a minimum. More like Appendix B in the D&D 5e Monster Manual, or the NPCs in the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide. I like the D&D ones better since they're less frilly, but either gets the point over. The NPC henchmen in the back of Mirror of the Fire Demon or those in DF10: Taverns are in the same vein, but the idea is to take an NPC formatted like a monster, pick a weapon, slap on a racial template, and play. Anyone can add roleplaying details and traits beyond the minimum that must be on the template (say, Duty for a Town Watchman), of course. The NPC's needed gear is also on the template. Call the supplement DF23: Foes or something like that.

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