Friday, May 28, 2021

For the Birds

During the shopping season that follows Thankstravaganza each year, a handful of newly-available items tend to become fashionable and highly sought after by the wizardly community of Wampus Country. Perhaps it is some construct, or an item of clothing, or a rare and chic familiar; other years the prize is an unusual foodstuff or beverage, or garish knick-knack. As trendsetting wizards go, so go the idle rich, the haute frontiersman, and so on, trickling eventually down to the common man, who often manages to score a cheap knock-off of the trendy item the following winter. Some years the pursuit of, and competition for, the desirable "get" has reached a legendary level - consider the tiny peach golem companion 'Tickle Me Momo', which fetched hundreds of dollars per plushie on the black market until it became common knowledge the 'stone' at the center of each giggling peach was in fact an abyssal shard. Adult wizards today also likely recall the fad for cabbage- and lettuce-kin of their youth forty years past. It seems each generation of wizards rediscovers the obsession with talking produce. 

 A few years back, the desired enchanted item was not a construct or summoned creature, but an unusual set of clothing: the so-called 'hoot suit'. This coveted clothing made the mad wizard "Hoot Suit" Rawlson famous, and he raked in sufficient moolah that year to build his palatial castle, The Rillerah, on the southern shore of Shining Lake. To make the suits took no little skill, and a good bit of material, including feathers from both giant owls and wild owlbears, the difficulty in procurement of said hoot-parts limiting production severely. Each hoot suit was slightly different in appearance, but they all shared certain characteristics - a feathered union suit with a hood decorated to look like the face or beak of an owl (the 'hoot snoot'). When kept clean and in good order (no mangy patches of missing feathers, for example), the Hoot Suit conferred upon its wearer the ability, once per day, to transform into a normal-sized owl for about a minute, simply by uttering the suit's command word (itself stitched inside the suit). Now a daily transformation such as this has its value - in escaping uncomfortable situations (like an unforeseen melee, or the arrival of Aunt Agatha at one's doorstep) or allowing explorer-types an opportunity to reach places to which they could not easily climb. Yet the real value of the Hoot Suit became apparent when someone - presumably a wizard - realized that by intoning the command word backwards, they could transform into a fully-grown owlbear, for five minutes or so, once per week. The fact that the 'owlbear mode' exhausted the suit's power for seven days thereafter was not seen as much of a disadvantage. 

 Soon everyone wanted one of Rawlson's creations. The price climbed. The black market resellers gouged. Things got out of hand after several weeks, and Rawlson himself delivered a wagon-full of his wares in River-Town, and declared them the last. The news was not taken lightly - fights broke out among shoppers, and spilled into the streets, drawing rival gangs into the fray. The Hoot Suit riots lasted nearly thirty-six hours, leaving scores dead, buildings torched, and Rawlson himself missing a foot (which may, to this day, sit in the belly of the wizard who chomped it while in owlbear form). Hoot Suit Rawlson retired, finished building his castle, and perhaps today continues research into owl-related magics.  Rawlson is a known rival of 'Thunderbolt' Black, who often mutters his name resentfully.

A typical Hoot Suit.

 enchanted clothing 
 Appearance: a brown-feathered union suit. Rumors persist of a prototype "snowy hoot suit", white-feathered, which has the usual powers but also provides resistance to cold. 

 Powers and qualities: 

 Owl Form. Once per day, the wearer may transform into a normal owl for one minute by saying the command word. The suit can provide only one transformation per day, even if you later take it off and hand it to another party member. Nice try.

 Owl-Bear Form. Uttering the command word reversed will transform the wearer into an owlbear for five minutes. This power cannot function if the owl form has been already used that day, and it exhausts the suit for seven days. 

 Give A Hoot. The Hoot Suit cannot function if it is damaged or soiled in any way. 

I know she seems cute and all, but she does puke up pellets on occasion, so YMMV.

 BONUS SPELL from "Hoot Suit" Rawlson's bird-themed spellbook 

 Parakeet Paraclete (lvl 2). Summons a small parakeet, lorakeet, or budgie which speaks eloquently and has considerable training as a barrister. When the bird appears, it knows the local legal system and can sufficiently read the mind of its client (who need not be the summoner) to understand the charges at hand and supply a reasonable defense or, if the client is the plaintiff, mount a strong argument. The parakeet tarries up to two hours, enough for a hearing before a judge, surely - then disappears. Re-casting will summon back the same bird so it can pick up where it left off after a continuance.  If at any point a mirror is nearby, the parakeet may become fascinated with its own image and unable to continue its litigation.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Reskinning Saves for Fun & Profit

 I'm not the first person to do this - not by a long shot - but when I wrote up the pregens for ScrumCon, I elected to change the names of the saving throws.

On the surface, this seems a no-brainer for anybody who's throwing genre-emulation house rule attempts at a wall to see what sticks.  Surely the saving throws should be against whatever the common threats are; or, to put it another way, reading the list of saves should tell you something about the campaign.  Why wasn't this more common during the G+ OSR bloom?

I think it's a fun conceit and I'm going to stick with it for a while, but there are some reasonable precautions that must be taken.  I can't rename saves willy-nilly; or rather, I shouldn't rename a save in a way that changes the things to which it applies - not without some thought.  It's all well and good to rename 'Dragon Breath' (or 'Breath Weapon' if you prefer) to something better suiting your campaign as a hit of flavor, but that save still needs to be something a thief would be good at.  Otherwise your save numbers will start to make less and less sense as the PCs go up in level and get a little more differentiated from another.  Also, we should be cautious that a save that previously got used a lot doesn't become a rare save just because of the name change.  This is all an experiment, and we have to acknowledge that experiments - especially house rule experiments, and double-especially ones that seem Very Clever Indeed - can fail.  We must be vigilant for that failure and be willing to repair!

Accomplished wizard the Phenomenal Phopp and his peacock familiar, Xerxes, desperately try to remember which saving throws they're good at this week.

Old Saves vs New Saves for Wampus Country

Death Ray & Poison is now Horrible Death! encompassing poisons, death rays, any convenient save-or-die type effect, and Obvious Death Magic.

Magic Wands is replaced by Dark Science!  which includes weird technology, magic items and artifacts, any cosmic tech surrounded by a nimbus of Kirby dots, Elder God Cthulhoid Nonsense, and probably psionics.  PCs in Wampus Country don't have psionics, but a visiting brain-eater might.

Paralyze/Petrification is now Marvelous Transformation!, something that happens in Wampus quite a bit.  If we're turning something into something else by any means - spell, curse, faerie glamour, gorgon breath - this category applies.

Dragon Breath is Legendary Peril! which as of right now probably includes not only breath weapons, but other massive or storied attacks of legendary creatures as well.  When that mountain giant throws a house at you, you use Legendary Peril to dodge.  Grumpy whale with a clock in its side tries to swallow you whole?  Legendary Peril.

Staves/Spells is now Uncanny Sorcery!, covering all spells and magical effects not from other sources.

Will this breakdown work for my B/X games?  Only time will tell.