“Cursed” Items in D&D

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This post arose from a conversation on social media a few weeks ago on the topic of cursed items in D&D. I don’t think I’ve used a cursed item in any of my games for 20 years or more, not since I first started playing AD&D in ancient times. The reason is that I just don’t like how cursed items work in D&D – they’re merely a “gotcha.” They’re a way to ensure that players never experiment with mysterious objects, wondering what they do – they quarantine them until someone can find a 100gp pearl and let the Wizard sit down and identify them.

And that simply isn’t fun, at least not for me.

The cursed items that come to mind for me impose some kind of disadvantage or unwanted change on a character, and are of course always difficult to remove, requiring a remove curse spell or something equivalent. There’s just nothing interesting about that, in the game or in the story. As DM, I have innumerable ways to challenge or inconvenience the PCs without having to resort to a Girdle of Gender Change or a helmet you can’t take off.

So it got me thinking, and talking, and I came up with two categories of cursed items that are interesting: cursed items that tempt, and cursed items for evil characters.

Tempting Cursed Items

Why would an item have a curse on it? Presumably because a powerful evil spellcaster put the curse on it, or because the item was used to do something heinous and this event left a stain of some sort on it. Here I’m thinking of dragon-gold in Middle-Earth causing dragon-sickness, or the Spear of Longinus. In either case, the curse has a purpose aside from inconveniencing and frustrating the person who finds the item.

My favorite example of an item that is cursed in an interesting way is also a trope – the sword that cannot be sheathed until it draws blood. This is a good cursed item because it encourages a certain kind of behavior. You could easily imagine a sword used to betray a brother, for example, that now thirsts for blood. This is interesting to me because it provides a mechanical bonus – it is still a magical sword, and maybe even deals bonus damage – but it also tempts the character to behave in morally questionable ways. Maybe she draws the sword to threaten someone during a tense scene, and then realizes that she now has to wound someone before she can sheathe it.

“Cursed” Items for Evil Characters

This kind of cursed item simply comes from a reversal of assumptions, using the same principle above. An evil blackguard finds a healing potion that refills itself, but only when he makes a donation and receives a blessing at a shrine of the God of Healing. Or maybe he finds a shield that makes him impervious to arrows, but only if he has no weapon in his hand and deals no damage.

In this case, the magic item is still useful, which is key, but the ‘cost’ of using it is engaging in benevolent, or at least restrained, behavior. These could even be holy artifacts never meant to be carried by the evil folks who now have them, and so the beneficial effects built into the items are glitches for their new owner. From the examples above, the shield could have originally been the Shield of Reconciliation, created to enable diplomats and negotiators to safely cross a battlefield without being shot so that they could try to end the battle with diplomacy.

At Cross Purposes

As a thought experiment to get you mind running, imagine holy artifacts and benevolent magic items that would cause problems when used by evil characters. Perhaps the item only grants a benefit when defending someone else, or it has to be recharged by some benevolent action. Think of something that would be useful for a good person, but limit an evil person’s choices.

From the other side, imagine evil artifacts that would cause moral quandaries for a wielder who is neutral or good. Perhaps a weapon that always deals bonus poison damage, but therefore cannot be used to deal non-lethal damage, or a bow that always seeks out a target’s vitals, meaning if the archer critically fails, she’s likely to shoot an ally in the heart.

Feel free to comment with your ideas for “cursed” items in D&D. 

RPG Mechanic Round-Up #5: All D&D

Dungeons and Dragons – C’era una volta.. Il Bardo, il ...

This post will include some repeats from the previous RPG Mechanic Round-Ups, but then again, very few people read those, so I imagine it’ll all be like new! Anyway, these are all of the little notes for house rules and hacks that I have for D&D:

Simplified Hirelings

Instead of having hirelings that the PCs then try to manipulate into walking ahead to set off traps or walk into ambushes, PCs simply hire them to eliminate a single kind of challenge. For example, PCs could hire a locksmith to bypass all locks during their adventure, or a guide to ensure that they find good camp sites each night, or are able to forage food as they travel. They could even hire a trap-springer to walk into traps for them if that’s what they want. In exchange for this help from the hireling, the PCs take a percentage reduction from their XP for that adventure, or maybe just miss out on the XP they would get from disarming those traps themselves.

Druid Circle of Rust

New D&D Druid circle: Circle of Rust. Rusting grasp, shatter, etc. Focused on conquering technology and civilization. (This is something I want to put the work into later)

Mystery Monsters

When you first encounter a monster in combat, especially in an ambush, you only get two or three descriptors for the monster. Then each round, you get one more descriptor, unless you take a moment to stand back and assess the situation. Otherwise, it’s a whirl of claws and teeth and blood and panic, and you’re just not seeing details. This is only for new monsters – monsters you’ve already encountered you’ll recognize.

Get Saved

I had the idea to add save points to D&D. I’m not sure if anyone would even want this. But have the PCs go to a temple and have a priest “save” them – for a large donation of course! Then if they die, they can come back to live at the temple with maybe a little loss of the XP you earned – 10% or so.

Bleeding Wounds

When a creature takes piercing or slashing damage, they begin to bleed 1 hit point each round on their turn. This is halted if they receive any magical healing, or after combat with a DC 10 Medicine check. This rule would also lead to cool scenes like tracking your opponent overland after they flee battle and try to regroup, following the dollops of monster blood on the ground. (Or monsters doing the same to chase the PCs down) Of course, this rule will make low-level adventuring even more brutal, but that’s the point.

Effects by Damage Type

I like adding special effects for the three types of physical damage. With a called shot made at disadvantage, a bludgeoning attack can deal damage and destroy one piece of armor; a piercing attack can deal double damage; and a slashing attack can deal normal damage and sever a limb.

Damage Bonus for Melee and Missile

Sometimes higher-level combats take too long, as the characters whittle down a monster’s hit points, and sometimes a higher-level character isn’t as dangerous as they should be, apart from having more hit points. A solution I’ve always had for this problem is to simply let all characters add their level to the damage they deal with melee or missile attacks.

Level Up Your Community

This idea has come up in a few tweets and posts lately, and I was also reminded of it playing through the Thieve’s Guild storyline in Skyrim. The idea is that as the character’s level, their community also levels. This can happen automatically, as their fame spreads, or can be something they pay into with all of that spare gold they accumulate. This system could also help tie them more deeply to a community – rather than leave for a larger city that has a better magic item store, through their heroics they build up their little village until it has a great magic item store of its own.

Simplified: Hit Dice Power Everything

When you have a special ability that is only available in a particular situation, like sneak attack perhaps, or with any limited special ability, make it so that the ability is powered by hit dice instead. The player describes how the conditions are met, spends the hit die, and the ability can be used. So, for example, the player playing the rogue says how her character feints to throw the monster off-balance for a moment, spends a hit die, and rolls the extra damage dice. I haven’t worked it out yet, but I think this can be adapted for most limited-use or situational-use PC abilities.

 

Hit-Point Hack

Low-level D&D can be grueling in a way that isn’t fun, especially in later versions of the game that are less meant to be meat-grinders. At the same time, when high-level characters have loads of hit points, it can be more difficult to challenge them without just arbitrarily increasing monster damage. My solution for this is for characters to begin with three hit dice instead of one hit die, and for their first hit die to continue to give maximum hit points. So a 1st level fighter, for example, would have 10 hit points, plus 2d10 hit points, plus 3 times her Constitution modifier.

At the upper end, I like the idea of lower hit points at higher levels, so I would say that a character stops gaining new hit dice with level 10. At 11th level and onward, she still gets any special abilities or spells as normal, but no new hit points. Technically, with the low-level hit point hack above, she would have the same hit points at level 10 that she would normally have at level 12, so I think it balances out well.

Buy Used

Settings like Forgotten Realms and Eberron are teeming with adventuring parties, and this would have to mean that there is a hot market for used adventuring gear. This used gear has a starting price that is equal to one half what the PHB or other sourcebook lists, with the caveat that when the player-character rolls a 1 using the equipment, or a monster rolls a critical hit (if it is armor) then it is damaged and useless until the character pays to have it repaired. Used weapons break on a 1, used armor breaks on a monster’s 20, and used equipment of any other kind also breaks on a 1.

No Overnight Healing

Healing is just rolling your remaining hit dice, rather than recovering all hit points.On the one hand, this will somewhat punish characters that had to use their hit dice to heal during short rests. On the other hand, it softens the “video game” effect of healing completely overnight.

Bullseye (Random Scatter)

Roll a d8 for random directional scatter, and then another die for distance from the intended target in concentric circles like a bullseye. On the d8, 1 is north, above, or away from the DM, and 5 is south, below, or toward the DM. The second die could be feet, or squares, or even inches in the given direction.

So, for example, a mirror golem deflects a lightning bolt in a random direction. You roll a 5 on the d8, so it is deflected toward the DM on the battle mat, and you roll a 4 on a d6, meaning it extends for 4 squares in that direction, electrocuting everyone along that line.

Disarm Feat

Grappling is famously bad in RPGs. I’m not sure how many players take the Grappler feat in D&D 5E, but I’m assuming that few do. In real-world martial arts, you often have to make someone miss in order to disarm them, and I thought it would be interesting to add an effect like that to the Grappler feat. Once per round, when an opponent misses an attack against you, you can use your reaction to try to disarm them with an opposed Strength roll. If you beat your opponent by 10 or more, you can grab their weapon for yourself.

Simplified Paralysis Effects

Paralysis effects are not fun. Really, any effect where you just lose your turn is not fun, in any game. A way to fix paralysis effects like hold person is for them to simply allow a single critical hit. Basically, they hold you paralyzed until you’re shocked back into action by a damaging strike. I think that this would provide enough bang for the proverbial buck.

XP for Conditions and Disadvantages

Another way to handle conditions and disadvantages, stolen from Chronicles of Darkness. You get XP when a condition affects you adversely, and it is up to the player to choose when these conditions will come up. This means that they don’t miss the character-defining d20 roll because they’re poisoned, but at the same time are rewarded for causing their characters trouble. This idea can be expanded to disadvantages as well. It would be up to the DM how much XP to award, and also what counts as enough of a problem caused to warrant it.

Simplified Conditions

Another way to handle conditions is to have each of them impose disadvantage once and then be cleared. This is much simpler and less punitive than the RAW, but some groups would prefer that. Another possibility is for some conditions to impose disadvantage more than once if they are more severe.

Equipment and Encumbrance by Kit

I have not enjoyed, or even been very interested in, tracking encumbrance for many years now. The system I use with another game I’ve designed is to have a character simply choose a “kit” that represents their equipment. (This also represents the idea that even adventurers aren’t always in full armor lugging their worldly possessions around with them)

Some examples could be war kit, travel kit, hunting kit, town/city kit, etc. It could also be simplified to light, medium and heavy. These kits could work as ‘presets’ for equipment, as exist in a lot of video games, and could also be a way to abstract out what exactly a character is carrying. For example, hunting kit would assume the character isn’t wearing armor, since they would be focusing on stealth and mobility, whereas war kit would include all of their combat gear but none of their other gear, since no one wants to fight with a huge pack on their back.

Historical Bows

This is just a historical tweak for bow terminology in D&D beyond short versus long. A hunting bow would be smaller and more maneuverable, and would deal d6 damage (around 40-50 pounds draw). a horse bow would be heavier than a hunting bow, meant to go through armor and shoot at long range in combat, but still small enough to use from horseback, dealing d8 damage (60-100 pounds draw). A war bow would be huge and heavy, requiring years of training to learn how to draw fully, but would deal perhaps d10 damage (100+ pounds draw).

Critical Options

I like the Paizo Critial Deck(s) and having other options for critical hits. I even kind of liked the Rolemaster/MERP critical hit tables. I like having options for critical hits beyond double damage, and here are some that I like to use I my games:

  1. Automatically deal max damage (similar to double damage rolled, but more predictable)
  2. Deal normal damage and knock your opponent prone
  3. Deal normal damage and blind your opponent until your next turn
  4. Deal normal damage and disarm your opponent (weapon falls at their feet)
  5. Deal normal damage and destroy your opponent’s shield
  6. Deal normal damage and stagger your opponent, cutting their movement in half until your next turn

Automatic Downtime

I need to revisit this idea in light of Xanathar’s Guid eto Everything and how it expands downtime rules, but the idea here is for things to happen over downtime automatically, based on a character’s class and possibly background. A guild artisan slowly rises up in their guild hierarchy; a fighter builds a reputation that draws other warriors to her banner; a cleric receives donations and tithes and puts them toward building a shrine or temple in the area; and so on. Wizards slowly create scrolls; warlocks are shown occult secrets in dreams. This is to replace more complex systems that require rolling and saving up gold pieces, but on the other hand keeps the development of the characters and the world around them front and center during downtime.

Bards Rock

In D&D, there is absolutely no reason for a bard to ever play a musical instrument unless they are out of combat, or they are using some kind of artifact item. I’ve always thought that bards should get a bonus of some kind for only using an instrument and their music in combat.

I have a few ideas for this one, none of which I’ve tried in 5E, for when a bard uses a musical instrument in combat:

  1. The bard counts as two levels higher than normal, and has access to more powerful spells
  2. The bard’s spells are power potent, adding 1 or 2 to their spell attack bonus and to the DC for saves against their magic
  3. They don’t lose spell slots – they can keep casting indefinitely, or maybe they have one extra spell slot per level that can only be used when they are using their instrument in combat (since indefinite spells is pretty powerful)
  4. There is an ongoing bonus effect – an aura of courage like a paladin has, or an aura of bonus hit points for her comrades, or something similar
  5. Her other bardic inspiration dice go up one die type, so from d6 to d8 and so on

 

Some of these will be full posts when I have time to flesh them out and add details, but ideas are cheap. Steal and enjoy!

The Last Jedi: Themes Critique

***Yar! Here Be Spoilers!***

 

 

It’s too bad that JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson got into an argument about what Star Wars is about, because it makes for a somewhat jarring viewing experience. At least, it did for me, and I get the impression it did for a significant number of other fans as well. JJ did his stupid “mystery box” thing, and then Rian Johnson came and said “Fuck you and your mystery boxes,” basically. There are at least a half dozen huge questions that The Force Awakens asks, some explicitly but all quite clearly, which Rian Johnson just has no interest in answering. He had another agenda entirely, which was fine, but I wish they had worked more closely with one another.

The Last Jedi was in many ways a repudiation of what came before it: Episode 8 versus Episodes 1-7. It is an iconoclastic film in the Star Wars legendarium, and it only had two and a half hours during which to smash expectations and tropes. As a result, I think there were a number of themes touched upon that I would have liked to have seen explored more fully.

Unmasking

Early in the film, we have Kylo smashing his faux-Vader mask in another fit of rage. We get to see a bit of Gwendolyn Christie’s blue eye through the smashed chrome helmet at the end of her fight with Fin. We have a bit of unmasking on Casino Planet (Canto Bight), when Fin realizes the ugly nature of the beautiful place he sees. Supreme Leader Snoke himself could have been unmasked. This theme of unmasking could have been explored more deeply, and could have provided a bit of connective thread in a movie that was very busy severing connective threads with not only The Force Awakens but also every previous Star Wars film. If someone sets out to tell a story that defies strongly-established tropes, one also needs to offer something in place of those tropes, like a strong, consistent theme explored from multiple angles.

Hidden Origins

The Force Awakens asked a lot of pretty explicit questions: who were Rey’s parents? What happened between Luke and Ben Solo? Where did those other students of Luke’s go? How did Ben Solo become Kylo Ren? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? How is the First Order related to the Empire? How is the Resistance related to the Rebellion? Why did Luke go into hiding?

The Last Jedi clearly did not care about most of these questions. Of course, a few answers are offered. Luke had a moment when he thought he might murder Ben Solo and put an end to the growing influence of darkness in him (which just made no sense, I’m sorry), and subsequently returned to the birthplace of the Jedi to die of old age. Rey’s parents are (allegedly) nobodies who died in a pauper’s grave on Jakku. Those are unsatisfying answers, though at least the answer about Rey’s parentage ties directly into one of the core themes of the film, which we’ll talk about below.

I think this lack of thematic development around hidden origins would have been less of a problem if the directors had worked together more closely, or at least had not been at cross purposes. Those are a lot of huge questions, and only the question of Rey’s parentage is answered in a way that makes sense. Otherwise, there is just a cosmic shrug. Who cares who Snoke was, he’s dead. Who cares where the First Order came from, they’re here and inexplicably threatening, despite being led by a man who throws tantrums and an incompetent Hux. The Resistance is just the Rebellion with a new name for no good reason. Who cares where Luke’s other students are, they’ll show up in a video game or something.

Light and Dark End to become Balance

My impression of the progress of the story isn’t so much that Light and Dark must end, but rather light and dark changing shape somewhat but moving ahead, still in direct opposition. Kylo Ren might want to end the Sith, but he did the archetypal Sith thing, which is to betray and kill his master. He’s Sith through and through, whatever he might say. And Rey similarly does the archetypal Light-side thing, as we’ve seen with Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke, in that she ignores the instruction of her master and goes off half-cocked to save the world.

I was honestly expecting more nuance between Kylo and Rey. I expected Kylo to reveal more layers, and I expected Rey to be more tempted by what she was presented with. I could see Rey, disillusioned entirely by Luke, being more willing to hear a more-reasonable Snoke out. Maybe more actively consider joining Kylo to kill Snoke.

Luke and Rey said a lot of eloquent things about balance, but Kylo and Rey basically lived out the old pattern – a little Return of the Jedi and then a little Empire Strikes Back. But the whole second half of the film would have been even more interesting if Kylo and Rey had been a bit more grey.

Skywalkers with Power become Tyrants

Luke almost deciding to murder the only child of his sister and best friend just makes no damn sense. I’m sorry. No work was put in to explain why that would suddenly be in his character. It was there for the shock, and the iconoclasm, and to add some “See, Kylo has a point” to the story. But the filmmakers didn’t do the work to earn that moment.

They could have, though. What do we know of the Skywalkers? Anakin became the most famous villain in the galaxy. Leia actually seems to remain herself through her story, and would perhaps be the exception that proves the rule. Kylo is a mini-Vader, prone to ultraviolance and temper-tantrums. So what if we presented the theme that, actually, when Skywalkers get power, especially power through the Force, they become tyrants? What if we saw Luke, well-intentioned but without guidance from any other Jedi, slowly become more harsh and unyielding and doctrinaire? What if we saw Kylo eclipse him, winning the students over because he gives into his darker urges more readily than Luke, and this gives him greater power?

Any of these options could have been handled with a five-minute montage, at most. Probably one much shorter. And then when Luke and Kylo come to blows, Kylo wins, thinks he has killed Luke, burns his temple to the ground. Luke, maybe in voiceover, realizes that there is something corrupt about the Skywalker line and its relationship to the Force, and so that’s why he goes into hiding – to quarantine himself. He thinks he might even corrupt Leia, which is why he just ghosts her for years.

That would have been an amazing revelation to put on screen. Yes, this is the story of the Skywalker dynasty, but it is the story of the galaxy defeating the Skywalker dynasty, because they are inclined to become tyrants when they develop Force powers. So now we have the nobodies rising up, with their own power and their own agenda, to bring down the First Order and the Jedi – the last legacy of the Skywalkers themselves.

See? That’s how you earn that moment of shock and revelation.

Fate Core Vampire 5: Mechanics

/tg/ - Traditional Games

Mechanics

This is, obviously, a catch-all for things I haven’t covered yet but which come up in game. As always, I’m trying to strike a balance between Fate Core mechanics and Vampire the Masquerade themes and “feel” for lack of a better word.

Advancement

At the end of each session, PCs can either add or change an Aspect or swap the position of two adjacent Skills on their pyramid. PCs cannot change a high concept Aspect without GM approval.

When an Issue is resolved in the story, that marks a minor Milestone. At each minor Milestone, every PC gains a bonus Skill at +1. If they already have the maximum number of Skills at +1, they can move one Skill from +1 to +2, and on upward as appropriate. After 5 minor Milestones, this will result in a Skill being raised from +4 to +5.

Blood Bonds

To be blood bound to someone is to lose a part of one’s self and be subsumed by one’s domitor. If you are blood bound, erase one of your Aspects (besides your high concept or clan flaw Aspect) and replace it with “Bound to X” with your domitor’s name. This Aspect counts as a consequence that your domitor can tag at will without spending a Fate point, but otherwise functions as any other Aspect – mostly for compels of course.

If you ever break the blood bond, you can replace it with a new Aspect.

Fighting

Because vampires are vampires, they can normally defend against bullets with either Athletics or Physique.

Aggravated damage is a possible moderate or severe physical consequence. Vampires cannot use Physique to defend against damage from Protean claws, fangs, fire and sunlight. Fire and sunlight deal double damage to vampires, causing as much mental stress as physical stress.

In order to bite in close combat, a vampire must first grapple her prey with Physique. She then bites with Fight, and her fangs do +1 damage

Frenzy

A vampire can always choose to frenzy rather than take a mental consequence – a brief frenzy in place of a minor consequence up to a severe frenzy to avoid a severe consequence. While frenzying, the GM can compel the character without offering a Fate point, but the player still has to spend a Fate point to resist the compel. There are still the three types of frenzy – fear, hunger and rage – which will color the kinds of compels the GM can offer.

When you frenzy, clear all physical stress. During the frenzy, you also have armor 1 and your melee attacks deal 1 additional damage.

During your frenzy, if you drink blood this can still let you ‘treat’ a hunger-related consequence.

When a character is ‘taken out’ with mental stress, she frenzies against her will. Obviously, this frenzy will always be a severe one. This is why “riding the wave” can be preferable to some vampires, especially if they are less concerned with doing horrible things.

After a session in which you frenzied, you might want to change an Aspect to reflect what happened, or reduce your Empathy or Will and raise another Skill in its place.

Hunting

As described previously, my current system for hunting calls on the players to make two Skill rolls in order to be successful. If they succeed with a cost or concession, it is often related to breaking the Masquerade or possibly encountering danger or a rival. Often, the first Skill roll has to do with finding their prey (Empathy, Notice, Streetwise) and the second has to do with how they get them to do what they want (Charisma, Fight, Manipulation, Resources, etc.)

Each night they wake up “Hungry” and must hunt against an obstacle of +2 to treat that minor consequence. If they are already Hungry and wake up the next night, the hunger becomes a moderate consequence, and they must hunt against an obstacle of +4. If their hunger becomes severe, the obstacle becomes a +6, and they are almost certain to kill someone, because if you kill someone and drain all of their blood, that is one surefire way to clear all hunger consequences.

Kindred Society

Any given Elysium will have at least a couple of Aspects. One of them is based on who the Keeper is, and the other is based on the location itself.

Every Sabbat pack has a reputation Aspect that applies to other Sabbat as well as any non-Sabbat who have the misfortune to have heard of them.

It’s hard to get the attention of powerful elders and influential Kindred, especially without the help of a Harpy or other socially connected vampire. Vampires are secretive and understandably paranoid. Some sample Contacts difficulties:

  • +2 the Prince’s Seneschal, your local Sabbat bishop, a Harpy outside of Elysium, your Clan Whip, a Black Hand cell in your city, an Anarch or Independent, or any vampire outside your Sect who is in your city
  • +3 a Black Hand cell leader, an Assamite for hire, a member of the Archbishop’s pack, your Clan Primogen,
  • +4 the Prince, the Archbishop, one of the Primogen outside your own Clan,

The enmity clause: if you fail in a Contacts roll, you might end up finding just the right kind of person, but unfortunately, this particular person doesn’t like you

Recovery and Regeneration

Vampires are assumed to always be slowly regenerating dead tissue and healing injuries. Blood is often required to ‘treat’ physical consequences, however, and can also help with hunger-related mental consequences of course. (Hunting to treat a minor consequence is against a obstacle of +2; to treat a moderate consequence is against a +4, severe is +6, etc.) We’ll use a somewhat simplified version of the recovery rules in Fate Core.

  • At the end of a conflict scene, clear all stress boxes.
  • At the end of a scene, clear any minor, treated consequences.
  • At the end of the session, a treated severe consequence becomes moderate, and a treated moderate consequence becomes minor.
  • Untreated consequences stay where they are.
  • As in the core rules, some consequences are treated other than with blood – with Empathy, Knowledge, etc. Whatever makes sense for the consequence.

Ritae

Function like necromantic and thaumaturgic rituals. Sabbat pack priests should probably spend one Refresh to get an Extra representing their knowledge of the basic Ritae.

Spending Blood

In a recent game, I let a player spend blood by making their character more hungry (minor consequence upgraded to moderate) in exchange for having a +2 on Athletics, Fight or Physique rolls for the scene (player chooses one).

Staking

Like, torpor, staking is an option for “taken out” in a conflict between vampires, as long as one of them has a stake handy. If the player hasn’t mentioned carrying the stake, then she can spend a Fate point to declare that she remembered to bring one. Either she can use the stake to deal physical stress until her victim is taken out, or she can beat the vampire into submission and then stake her to take her out. As a weapon a stake is awkward, and so grants no damage bonus.

Torpor

Torpor is one option for “taken out” in a conflict between vampires, and therefore might happen more often than normal. A vampire who is fed vampire blood awakens from torpor relatively quickly – and is also now one step blood bound to whomever woke them. Otherwise, the higher the vampire’s Will the sooner they will come out.

And that’s it for now. I’m really enjoying my online Fate Core Vampire game, and using the rules I’ve posted, you can run your own. As always, comments welcome.

Fate Core Vampire 4.5: Necromancy and Thaumaturgy

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As promised, these two get their own post, because there’s a lot to go through here. Also, fair warning – none of my current players have used either Necromancy or Thaumaturgy, so I only have a NPC-eye-view thus far. In the case of Necromancy, I combined some of the paths, as I found the ones listed in V20 had a lot of overlap, and for Thaumaturgy I didn’t list all of the paths because with all of the various splatbooks there are just so many. I also have not gotten around to fleshing out all of these various paths, so I’ll just list the ones I have worked on.

Necromancy

The (Reworked) Ash Path

Vampires with any levels in The Ash Path can use Notice to detect wraiths and other death-related spirits.

  1. Lifeless Tongues: the necromancer can use Charisma and Manipulation on spirits once she has detected them.
  2. Ex Nihilo: enables a necromancer to spend a Fate point and reach across the Shroud, either to use Fight and Physique against wraiths for a scene, or to draw an object into the lands of the living.
  3. Shroud Mastery: the necromancy can raise or lower the Shroud in her zone and adjacent zones, dramatically affecting the difficulty of wraith abilities and some necromantic abilities in turn. Assume the Shroud in an average urban setting is an obstacle of +6, and for each level of success on an Occult roll the necromancer can reduce that by one (one for each +1 on the roll).

The Bone Path

Tremens: Vampires with any levels in The Bone Path can roll Will to cause a corpse to make a single, creepy movement.

  1. Apprentice Brooms: spend a Fate point and roll Occult. For each +1 you roll, you animate one undead servant. They do not have much in the way of skill, but can be put to menial tasks.
    • Corpse Servant: equivalent of +1 in one Skill, 4 physical stress boxes.
  2. Shambling Hordes: spend a Fate point and roll Occult. For each +1 on the roll, you raise one zombie servant. The zombies follow simple commands and last for a single scene.
    • Zombie: Physique +2, Fight +1, Notice +1, 4 physical stress boxes
  3. Daemonic Possession: the necromancer can remove the soul of a living person or restore a soul to a dead body. She spends a Fate point and touches her victim, and rolls Occult +2 vs. her victim’s Will. She must take her victim out with mental stress to remove her soul. To implant a soul in a body, the necromancy spends a Fate point and rolls Occult. This creates a revenant, an undead creature who will remain corporeal until her one task is accomplished. The necromancer defines that task when she gives the revenant her single Aspect.
    • Revenant: +3 in one Skill, +2 in two and +1 in three. One Aspect that represents her singular task. 4 mental and physical stress boxes and one moderate physical consequence slot.

Thaumaturgy

A character with any levels in Thaumaturgy has access to Thaumaturgical rituals. For each level of Thaumaturgy, she receives a ritual of the same level. Further rituals can be bought with refresh.

The Path of Blood

  1. A Taste of Blood: A Taste of Blood: if you are able to taste someone’s blood, you can roll Occult and learn their Clan or clan-related Aspect, or answer one question, for each degree of success (one for +1, two for +2, etc.). The questions must have to do with blood.
  2. Theft of Vitae: you can roll Will vs. Physique to rip blood from a target within your line of sight, up to two zones away. This attack deals physical stress, and restores an equal amount of stress on your mental or physical stress track. If you deal 2 stress, you can treat a minor consequence, and if you deal 4 stress, you can treat a moderate consequence. This stress must be dealt in a single attack.
  3. Cauldon of Blood: if you touch your victim, you can roll Occult +2 vs. their Physique to boil their blood. Any damage will kill a mortal – otherwise treat this attack as a +2 damage weapon.

Lure of the Flames

Any Lure of the Flames failure inflicts mental stress equal to the degree of failure. Anyone with a level of Lure o the Flames can light small flames at will, but it still requires a Will roll. 

  1. Basic: use Will in place of Shoot to loose flames at your enemies up to two zones away, who can defend with Athletics or Will. Treat the flames as a +3 damage weapon. At least one of the stress you deal must be mental stress.
  2. Intermediate: your now roll Will +2 to make your flame attack.
  3. Advanced: your flames are now a +4 damage weapon, and 2 of the stress you inflict must be mental.

Movement of the Mind

  1. Basic: use Will in place of Physique to life objects and persons. Victims can resist with a Will roll of their own. The obstacle to lifting an average-sized person is +2.
  2. Intermediate: +2 to the Will rolls to replace Physique, which might enable superhuman feats of telekinesis.
  3. Advanced: +4 to Will to replace Physique.

Weather Control

  1. Fog, Rain or Snow: roll Will to add an Aspect to a scene, like creating an advantage. The Aspect can be anything related to fog, rain or snow, or whatever weather is natural to the location and season.
  2. High Winds or Storm: you can roll Will to shove everyone in a zone with a gust of wind. Those in the zone can resist with their Physique scores or be thrown into an adjacent zone, taking physical stress. If you have already created an advantage, you can spend a Fate point to summon up a serious storm appropriate to the climate.
  3. Lightning Strike: roll Will to make a ranged physical attack. The lightning bolt is a +4 damage weapon. Victims can defend with Physique or Will.

Necromancy Rituals

I haven’t done as much work on these rituals, because many of them have effects that are easy to leave undefined in terms of mechanics.

Thaumaturgical Rituals

Basic

Bind the Accusing Tongue: Will vs. thaumaturge’s Will in order to say something negative about him for a scene when activated.

Blood Rush: after the ritual is complete, count one minor beast consequence as treated. OR enables an Occult roll to treat beast consequences: +2 for minor, +4 for moderate, and +6 for severe.

Blood Walk: a limited version of Taste of blood which reveals a vampire’s lineage, back one generation for each degree of success on the Occult roll.

Communicate with Kindred Sire: it’s an occult phone call, basically, but a lot of Tremere elders don’t have phones.

Deflection of Wooden Doom: the next stake to pierce you still does damage, but it does not paralyze you. Must keep a piece of wood in your mouth at all times.

Devil’s Touch: curse a mortal by placing something discretely on their person

Eyes of the Night Hawk: allows you to approximately replicate the basic effects of Protean.

Illuminate the Trail of Prey: after the ritual is concluded, can use Occult in place of Investigation to follow someone’s trail for a scene.

Machine Blitz: roll Occult to attack a machine, causing stress and malfunction.

Principal Focus of Vitae Infusion: take mental stress now to infuse vitae into an object. You can reduce it back to constituent vitae later on in order to clear mental stress boxes or treat a hunger-related consequence on a one for one basis.

Recure of the Homeland: Will roll and use of dirt from homeland to mark one physical consequence as treated

Ward Versus Ghouls: Ghoul’s Will versus your Occult in an opposed roll to cross the warded area. If the Ghoul fails but forces herself to cross anyway, she takes physical stress equal to your roll to activate the ritual.

Intermediate

Bone of Lies: roll Occult instead of Empathy versus the victim’s Manipulation to cause a bone to darken if the victim lies.

Incorporeal Passage: allows a Thaumaturge to slip from one zone to an adjacent zone, even if through a barrier

Mirror of Second Sight: once the mirror is prepared, for one scene you can look at reflections in it and roll Notice to determine whether they are supernatural and what sort of supernatural they are.

Pavis of Foul Presence: the first time that a use of Presence during a given night would inflict stress on you, that stress rebounds back on the attacker.

Sanguine Assistant: basically, roll Occult instead of Contacts to create a creepy blood-fueled assistant for a night.

Shaft of Belated Quiescence: after an attack with a stake, a piece breaks off and beings worming its way to your victim’s heart. The stake makes a secondary attack, using your Occult rating, and then again for a second time if anyone tries to remove the splinter.
Ward Versus Lupines: as Ward Versus Ghouls.

Advanced

I also haven’t completed work on advanced rituals, especially since none of the players in my Fate Core Vampire game are even Thaumaturges 🙂

OK, there we go. Next up, Mechanics.

Fate Core Vampire 4: Disciplines

Image result for vampire the masquerade disciplines

Disciplines

Of course the majority of the work I had to do for this Fate Core hack of Vampire the Masquerade was to adapt the vampiric Disciplines to Fate rules. Many thanks to Venture City, the setting book that presents Fate Core rules for cyberpunk superheroes, and which I had in mind as I did this work. In brief, each level of each Discipline is an Extra that costs 2 refresh. My goal, therefore, was to make each level of each Discipline better than an Extra or Stunt the character might take, keeping in mind the principles of Fate Core Extra and Stunt design.

Animalism

A character with any levels in Animalism is no more offensive to animals than a human would be.

  1. Feral Whispers: use social Skills, or Survival in place of social Skills, when dealing with animals.
  2. Quell the Beast: use Empathy to treat Beast-related conditions, or to bring someone out of a frenzy if you are able to touch them.
  3. Subsume the Spirit: use Empathy to place your consciousness inside an animal.
  4. Taunt the Caged Beast: (Elder) roll Charisma vs. Will to force your victim to frenzy.

Auspex

A character with Auspex receives a bonus to perceive Obfuscated characters equal to +1 per level of Auspex. 

  1. Heightened Senses: when activated, you gain a +2 to Notice rolls, but risk physical stress from loud noises, bright lights, etc.
  2. Aura Perception: use Empathy to read emotional resonance and Aspects of people, places and things.
  3. Telepathy: roll Investigation vs. Will to read thoughts and answer one question per level of success. (Ex: succeed by +2 means 2 questions)
  4. Mirror Reflex: (Elder) use Empathy in place of either Athletics or Fight (choose one) in combat for the purposes of defense.

Celerity

A character with Celerity who success with style in combat can use that boost for an additional action. 

  1. Basic: +2 to Athletics for speed and physical defense. Once taken, this ability is always active.
  2. Intermediate: an additional +2 to speed and physical defense, and it costs one Fate point to activate this or any higher ability for a scene.
  3. Advanced: another +2, for a total of +6.
  4. Flower of Death: (Elder) Make one melee attack against every opponent in your zone.

Chimerstry

You can use Chimerstry to create small, incidental illusions at will, but only as color. 

  1. Fata Morgana: roll Expression to create a single illusion for a scene. When someone interacts with it directly, they must roll their Will vs. your Manipulation to see through it.
  2. Permanence: spend a Fate point to make an illusion persist even after you leave the zone, though the illusion itself remains in the zone.
  3. Horrid Reality: you can roll Charisma to deal physical stress to a single victim through your illusion. Costs a Fate point if you have not already spent one on Permanence. The victim can defend with the Athletics or Physique, or Will if that is higher.
  4. Shared Nightmare: (Elder) Horrid Reality affects everyone in a given zone.

Dementation

Characters with Dementation can count on being able to “fail forward” on mental or social rolls with the consequence of temporarily worsening derangements. 

  1. The Haunting: roll Manipulation +2 vs. your victim’s Will to deal mental stress, which takes the form of hallucinations for one scene.
  2. Eyes of Chaos: roll Occult to understsand any complex system, taking the place of Investigation or sometimes even Empathy or Knowledge at the ST’s discretion.
  3. Total Insanity: roll Will vs. Will to attack everyone in your, dealing mental stress.
  4. Personal Scourge: (Elder) I don’t have rules for this yet, actually.

Dominate

Dominate enables a character to create an advantage through conditioning. This requires at least one scene of threats and abuse, and the advantage is “Conditioned to X” where X has to be something relatively specific (not just “obey.”)

  1.  Command: roll Manipulation +2 vs. Will to issue a single, terse command. If the victim resists, she takes mental stress. Victims resist at +2 against any commands that would mean personal harm or violating their core morality. Suicidal commands automatically fail.
  2. Forgetful Mind: roll Charisma vs. Will to rewrite a victim’s memories, starting with the most recent scene and going back further with greater degrees of success.
  3. Possession: roll Manipulation vs. Will to take over a mortal’s body.
  4. Mass Manipulation: (Elder) Command and Forgetful Mind can be used against everyone in your zone. Roll against the highest Will, or default to +2.

Fortitude

Any character with Fortitude can use Physique in place of Athletics to defend against physical attacks. 

  1. Basic: grants armor 2 against physical attacks.
  2. Intermediate: +2 bonus to Physique when used to defend.
  3. Advanced: provides an extra moderate consequence slot.
  4. Elder: spend a Fate point to cancel out all damage from a single attack. In addition, when you successfully defend with Physique, you destroy the weapon that struck you.

Necromancy

I’m going to mention, but skip, Necromancy and Thaumaturgy here and probably have those in a future post, since there are multiple paths and rituals to consider.

Obfuscate

You gain a bonus of +1 per level of Obfuscate to resist being seen by someone with Auspex. In addition, you can attempt to disappear when observed by spending a Fate point and rolling Stealth vs. the highest Notice score of all those observing you. Failure inflicts mental stress.

  1. Unseen Presence: you can turn invisible if unobserved. Roll Stealth vs. Notice to interact with your environment and remain invisible.
  2. Mask of a Thousand Faces: roll Manipulation vs. Empathy to disguise yourself as someone else.
  3. Cloak the Gathering: you extend your powers to one ally per degree of success (1 ally per +1). Costs one Fate point.
  4. Old Friend: (Elder) (V20 pg. 187) Haven’t written this one out yet.

Obtenebration

Shadow Play: a character with Obtenebration can use Occult to create an advantage related to manipulation of shadows.

  1. Shroud of Night: spend a Fate point to summon a cloud of writhing darkness that is a +4 barrier to all Notice checks in and through a given zone. OR Shroud of Night: spend a Fate point to summon writing darkness to fill a zone. That zone has the Aspects Dark and Suffocating, both of which you can tag once for free.
  2. Arms of the Abyss: roll Will vs. a difficulty of +1 to summon tentacles of shadow. Each boost grants an additional tentacle. The tentacles have a Physique of +3 and Fight of +2 and three physical stress boxes.
  3. Tenebrous Form: spend a Fate point to transform into a tentacled shadow monster for one scene. You can use Occult +2 in place of Fight for melee combat, and your tentacles do 2 damage. If you succeed with style, you get another attack. You also gain +2 to Charisma rolls to frighten others.
  4. Shadow Twin: (Elder) spend a Fate point to animate your shadow to rise up and fight for you for a scene. It has one Skill equal to your Occult and two Skills equal to your Manipulation. Both you and your shadow can act each turn.

Potence

Physique maps to Strength in VtM pretty well. Check out V20 pg. 261 for example feats of strength. 

  1. Basic: +2 to Physique for raw strength, and +1 to damage when unarmed or using a melee weapon.
  2. Intermediate: +4 to Physique and +2 damage.
  3. Advanced: +6 to Physique and +3 damage.
  4. Thunder Clap: (Elder) bring your hands together to create a shock wave that attacks everyone in your zone. This attack uses your Fight Skill and retains the +3 weapon damage from your Potence.

Presence

Awe: +2 to Charisma when you are playing to a crowd.

  1. Dread Gaze: you reveal your vampiric nature for a moment, and roll Manipulation +2 vs. Will. If you succeed, your victim must flee your presence or take mental stress.
  2. Entrancement: spend a Fate point and roll Charisma +2 versus your victim’s Will. If you succeed, they see you as a close friend and ally for the duration of the effect:
    • +1 one hour, +2 one night, +3 one week, +4 one month, +5 one year.
  3. Majesty: when someone in your zone or an adjacent zone attempts to inflict stress on you, they must first roll their Will vs. your Charisma. If they succeed, they can act next round. They can only act on the same round if they succeed with style and use the boost to gain another action.
  4. Summon: (Elder) roll your Contacts +2 versus your victim’s Will. They must either come to you as quickly as possible or take mental stress equal to your degree of success. If the roll fails, you cannot summon them again for the rest of the night.

Protean

At any time, you can activate Eyes of the Beast. Your eyes glow red-orange, but you also eliminate any penalties or obstacles due to darkness. Protean also makes it a bit more difficult for a Werewolf to sniff out your Wyrm-taint.

  1. Feral Claws: your unarmed attacks gain +2 damage which cannot be resisted with Physique unless your victim has Fortitude. (Currently I have no aggravated damage rules)
  2. Earth Meld: spend a Fate point and you can meld into any patch of ground you can find and sleep there for the night.
  3. Shape of the Beast: you can shapechange into a wolf or a bat. In bat form, you can fly and gain +2 to Athletics to fly and +2 to Notice for hearing. In wolf form you gain +2 to Athletics for running and +2 to Fight when biting, and your bite does +2 damage (not cumulative with Feral Claws).
  4. Earth Control: (Elder) you can now swim through the earth after your are Earth Melded, at about the same speed you could swim through water. Obstacles like metal, water and concrete stop your movement.

Quietus

At any time, you can spend a Fate point to add “Silence of Death” as an Aspect to a scene. It also grants you one free invocation. 

  1. Scorpion’s Touch: you take 1 physical stress (which heals at the end of the scene) to increase the damage of any bladed weapon by 2 for the scene.
  2. Dagon’s Call: for a scene after you touch your victim, you can spend a Fate point to initiate attacks against her. You roll your Will vs. her Physique, dealing physical stress as she drowns in her own blood.
  3. Taste of Death: you can use Shoot to split caustic blood at a target up to one zone away. This spit deals 4 damage.
  4. Poison the Well of Life: (Elder) spend a Fate point to poison a mortal’s blood so that any vampire who drinks from her suffers 6 physical stress, which can be taken up with the “Poisoned” consequence.

Serpentis

Tongue of the Asp: at any time, you can extend your forked tongue out of your mouth up to about eighteen inches and use it as a +1 damage weapon or to drink blood, just as you would use your fangs.

  1. Eyes of the Serpent: you can temporarily paralyze any mortal who meets your gaze. If threatened or attacked, the mortal can roll Will vs. your Charisma to break free, and she gets a +2 to this roll if she takes physical or mental stress.
  2.  Form of the Serpent: your skin provies armor 1 against physical stress and your bite deals +2 damage, and can be fatally poisonous for any mortal. You can also fit your slithery body through any hole that your head can fit through.
  3. Heart of Darkness: you remove your heart and hide it somewhere in a canopic jar. This provides you armor 2 against mental stress, immunity to staking, and one Hell of a liability.
  4. Heart Thief: (Elder) roll an attack using Fight vs. your victim’s Physique. If you succeed with style, you come away grasping their heart in your hand. Regardless, the attack deals physical stress.

Temporis

Any vampire with Temporis has an perfect internal clock, and can set multiple mental alarms.

  1. Recurring Contemplation: roll Manipulation vs. Will against a victim in your line of sight. If successful, you place them in a recurring fugure where they experience the same few minutes over and over again, until the scene ends or they are interrupted by something dramatic.
  2. Leaden Moment: spend a Fate point and roll Occult vs. Will to freeze a living target (objects are much easier). For one round per degree of success, they remain frozen in space and time.
  3. Clotho’s Gifts: spend a Fate point and roll Occult against an obstacle of +0. You automatically gain an additional action this round, as well as one more for every boost. Next round, if you spend another Fate point, you get the same number of bonus actions again.
  4. No Elder version for this yet.

(Skipping Thaumaturgy for now)

Vicissitude

You can roll Expression to impose a temporary change in appearance on a restrained or willing victim, or on yourself, for a scene.

  1. Fleshcraft: spend a Fate point and you can use Knowledge in place of Fight for one scene, twisting your opponent’s flesh. Your attacks deal +2 damage.
  2. Bonecraft: spend a Fate point to deal +3 instead of +2 damage using Knowledge in place of Fight. You can also alter yourself to deal +2 damage unarmed for the duration of the night, adding bone-spurs and so on. Lastly, you can make longer-lasting alterations on willing subjects, taking points of Physique and making them into armor or damage bonuses.
  3. Horrid Form: spend a Fate point to assume your Horrid form, gaining armor 2 against physical stress, +2 to Physique, and +2 unarmed damage from claws.
  4. Chiropteran Marauder: (Elder) as above, but you are also able to fly using Athletics, and strong enough to grab someone with your feet and carry them through the air.

Visceratika

Skin of the Chameleon grants a Gargoyle a +2 to Stealth when seeking to avoid being seen.

  1. Scry the Hearthstone: the Gargoyle spends a Fate point and can use Notice to detect anyone moving in a single building for up to one night.
  2. Bond With the Mountain: just as Protean’s Earth Meld, but applies to stone and concrete.
  3. Armor of Terra: the Gargoyle gains two additional stress boxes (for 5 total before Physique is taken into account) as her body hardens to stone.

Next Up: Necromancy and Thaumaturgy in Fate Core Vampire post 4.5