Equipment slots

I use the LotFP encumbrance system; I like it’s blend of doing away with math but retaining a bit of complexity as compared to the very bare-bones systems of “carry STR items”. For my current campaign, this strikes a good balance.

I have made one addition to it, though; the “item slots”. As some players start to outfit their characters with scrolls, potions, weird bombs, poison-covered undead ferrets or green slime jars, things can get a bit out of hand. It makes sense to track at least on a rudimentary level where all this stuff actually is, and how readily available it is.

Belt 4 Immediate
Back 1 1 rd
Pockets (cloak) 1 Immediate
Pack/satchel 10 D3 rds
Sack (in hands) 10 D3 rds

The back slot may hold an Oversized item. Such items must otherwise be held in the hands. All other Slots hold only Standard Items. Armor adds encumbrance as normal. Any worn items, including armor, is listed separately, and apart from armor they do not encumber the character. In addition to this, any character of course has two “hand slots”, but I find tracking this goes too far into fiddly territory for me. A character with a Great Weapon is assumed to old it over her shoulder, otherwise the hands are most often kept as free as possible to allow for easy movement and manipulation. I’ve changed the rules as we went along to include “stacking” of certain items; for example flasks such as potions, oil or holy water stack two in a slot, iron rations and torches stack three.

This imposes some interesting limits on the characters; they really can’t carry an unlimited amount of items around, especially oversized ones. Pretty soon they will be carrying around their loot in filled sacks, carrying chests between them and running into all sorts of fun.

Tracking this is pretty easy, the players use different methods (and I’m not too particular about it, as long as they keep track). Letters next to the relevant items (Be or Ba etc) works, as does making little sections in the equipment list.

The other life

Orlando_Furioso_60My campaign isn’t as suggestive or dream-like as many others; it’s in all honesty pretty bog-standard fantasy, although the frequency of monsters (humanoids especially) is dialed down a lot, inspired by LotFP’s philosophy of keeping things strange.

Recently, however, I’ve begun introducing the more philosophical thought that adventurers and other bizarre fringe-creatures really are explorers of the “beyond”, that there’s something outside civilization which they dive into. It could be that “mythic underworld”, it could be the Fae encroaching on reality, but they go where sane people wouldn’t. And they also go places which civilization would rather see not exist at all, into the badlands, deep forests and dismal swamps.

This adds a more suggestive feel to the classic “murderhobo”, they really are to be feared, not just because they are violent and follow their own strange morals, but because they enter the unknown, and who knows what they’re bringing back? The local peasants have been leaving offerings to the swamp hags for centuries, and apart from the occasional lost child there’s never been a problem. They don’t need the hags killed, and the definitely don’t need the hags angered.

It also explains the PC’s powers and abilities; they have a touch of the fantastic on them, the mythical, and so they can access abilities and secrets beyond those who are afraid to upset the balance.

So far I haven’t really considered if this should influence game-play or mechanics. It somehow feels like it shouldn’t have to, that D&D is written to reflect exploration of this Beyond. It’s interesting to consider that, at least to me, D&D is weakest as a system once it instead seeks to model the “real” world, the mundane world of peasants and kings, harvests and taxes. Who needs it? Give me a carousing table, an equipment list and a list of hirelings stupid or desperate enough to be willing to venture out beyond civilization, and then let’s head into adventure again…

One consequence, at least in my campaign, has been making the guardians of civilization more powerful, not less. Veterans have 2 HD, and knights have 3 HD, many NPC clerics are rather high level. They’re the strongest champions of the “normal”, the bulwark against dragons and undead and old gods; they should be powerful, although predictable and rarely in opposition to the PC’s unless they’re very actively spreading chaos in the lawful parts of the world. They are, to some extent, the future, the inexorable advance of civilization as it pushes the Beyond and claims new lands.

I was worried that this might be a bit boring and predictable, but instead I find this trope is really helpful in play. My players hate the tax-men, bishops and barons who interfere in their work, and as they grow more powerful they become more and more of a threat to the established order, as criminals, rebels, “false” prophets and renegades. It generates conflict and flux – in other words, fun!

The Pipes that played at the World’s End

A set of bag pipes. The bladder is made from the descaled skin of some deep-sea creature, and is a sickly purple. The mouthpiece is made from ebony, and carved in the likeness of a beautiful maiden. The four pipes are all made from bone (appears to be from a large horse, to one knowledgeable about such things), and are respectively red, white, black and ashen, Each is carved with a verse in old Latin (different for each pipe, see below) and smell of sulfur and dirt. The four bone pipes detect as magic, the rest of the item does not.

Making noise with it is fairly easy, but actually holding a tune is no easier than playing a bag pipe. The magic of theses pipes is not released unless a tune of at least a few notes is played on them; the specific tune does not matter, it may even be improvised, but getting that far requires practice.

Treat “bag pipe playing” as a skill, with an average character having a 1/6 chance of making a pipe produce a melody. The real trick is playing several of the pipes together, and in harmony; this requires far more skill, as a -1 modifier is applied to the chance of success with this skill per additional pipe played. Each time a character successfully plays one of the pipes, allow him or her a percentage chance equal to INT to increase the skill value by one. Beyond 3/6 skill, however, this can only be rolled if more than one pipe is played simultaneously.

Of course, a far easier (and safer) way to increase the “bag pipe skill” beyond 3 (up to that point, playing only the pale pipe is a safe way to practice) is to make another, non-magical bagpipe and use it for practice, as is finding a skilled musician and convincing/paying/fooling her into making a nice harmony for you.

So, what do these pipes do? Well, it depends on what pipe you play. The effect listed below is applied on all living beings who hear the music except whoever is playing the pipes for as long as the music is heard, and a successful saving throw negates the effect, although a new save must be made each round the music is heard. Plugging your ears or casting a Silence spell are viable forms of defense, although the pipes themselves will instantly negate any Silence spell if played within its area of effect. They have no effect on soulless beings, such as animals.

White I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. Struck by a virulent plague; act at -4 and lose D6 CON per day until dead. The plague is highly contagious, also efter the music has stopped.
Red And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. Fly into a murderous rage. Attacks any enemies in sight, but if none are available will progress to strangers and then lastly to friends and family. If no one is present, They will not attack the player of the pipes, but any of her companions are fair game.
Black I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.” Taken by a horrible hunger. Eats anything edible in sight, and when food is gone will progress to any other at least edible things (textiles, leaves, paper etc), which causes 1 HP damage per round. After this, any other beings will be attacked to be eaten, and lastly the affected will eat herself.
Ashen I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. Oddly, this pipe has no effect if played on its own. It does, however, have dramatic effects if played in harmony with the others (see below).

It is when more than one pipe sounds at once that the truly horrifying power of these pipes are unleashed. However, attempting this unsuccessfully is very dangerous; a failed attempt to do so will strike the musician with the individual effect of each and every pipe played. Each of these effects is permanent, and will require a Cure Disease or Remove Curse spell to be removed. The effects produced below are not permanent, unless they are tied to playing the white pipe, in which case they remain alongside the plague.

White+Red The murderous rage becomes part of the plague, and does not abate until the sickness is cured.
White+Black The horrible hunger becomes part of the plague, and does not abate until the sickness is cured.
White+Ashen Anyone who dies from the plague rises as a 2 HD Undead creature, which is still a carrier of the plague.
Red+Black The enraged will attack with bites trying to devour others, sating their hunger this way.
Red+Ashen The rage will affect even corpses, which will rise or claw their way out of the ground and go on a rampage as 2 HD Undead.
Black+Ashen If possible, the affected will eat other living beings first and after this corpses or decayed flesh.
White+Red+Black The enraged attack with bites as above, and this effect becomes part of the plague.
White+Red+Ashen The murderous rage becomes part of the plague, and anyone who dies from the plague rises as a 2 HD Undead.
Red+Black+Ashen The enraged will attack with bites trying to devour others, and once having fed this way will turn into 2 HD Undead who crave nothing but living flesh.
All pipes Zombie Apocalypse! Or, to be more specific: The plague will cause the enraged to attack with bites trying to devour others, and will also cause anyone killed by it or by a carrier to rise as a 2 HD Undead, which craves living flesh.