On the Effects of Magic, 3rd level Wizard

The magical energies contained in the brain could cause side effects. When the wizard acts as a conduit there are risks. As these are third level side-effects, the results should be noticeable.

This makes wizards somewhat more unique based on the spells they know and can prepare. It also can make them more useful or somewhat of a liability.

Here is a listing of those side effects:

  • Blink: Bits of the caster phase out of reality. He must make a saving throw versus Wands every six turns or a small item he is carrying drops to the ground unnoticed.
  • Clairaudience: Casters hearing is slightly better, +1 on hear noise checks, but -4 on any saves versus sonic effects
  • Clairvoyance: Caster's vision is better, can detect secret doors with a +1, but -4 on any saves versus illusionary figments or other gaze or visual attacks
  • Dispel Magic: While memorized, any magic item used by the caster has a 25% failure chance
  • Explosive runes: Caster has flaming rune appear beneath the skin on his palm.
  • Feign Death: Caster is narcoleptic while this spell is memorized. During any non-active activity (sitting, reading) there is a 2 in 6 chance the caster will fall asleep.
  • Fireball: Caster can shoot a bolt of flame out to 15'. It requires a normal to hit roll and does 1d6 damage. This can be done once a round.
  • Flame Arrow: Temperature is raised 15 degrees around the caster
  • Fly: The casters feet no longer touch the ground. Any falls are affected as if the first 10' are covered by feather fall. The caster gets a -4 save versus any attacks or saves that move or push around the caster and gets knocked back a foot for every point of damage they take
  • Gust of wind: Caster is followed by gusting winds that blow hats off, knock papers around and generally make a mess of things
  • Haste: Casters speech becomes pressured and he begins exhibiting signs of mania
  • Hold Person: Parts of the casters body grow numb at inconvenient times. -2 on all Dexterity related checks.
  • Infravision: While memorized, casters eyes glow red and they have low-light vision, doubling the range they can see of light.
  • Invisibility 10' Radius: The casters skin is now transparent, and objects held or worn by the caster are translucent.
  • Leomund's Tiny Hut: The caster feels comfortable in any temperature range between 0 and 105 degrees. His clothing and items are impervious to rain and water, repelling it for several millimeters.
  • Lightning Bolt: The caster can shock any adjacent creature without a to-hit roll and do 1-3 damage.
  • Monster Summoning I: Pentagrams float on the surface of the wizards clothing.
  • Phantasmal Force: The wizard's clothing becomes more fancy in appearance, and his voice and footsteps echo slightly, and subtle sparkles appear in the light around the caster. If this spell is frequently memorized, the caster will begin to gain a halo, light shining from behind his head.
  • Protection from Evil 10' Radius: Silver filings, chalk dust and miniscule blue flames swirl around the caster, forming shapes of protective circles and pentagrams.
  • Protection from Normal Missiles: Anyone who approaches the caster feels a slight resistance. +1 to armor class.
  • Slow: The caster always acts last in the round. His speech is also slightly slow and uneducated observers might believe he was depressed.
  • Suggestion: The casters voice is hypnotic. +1 on reaction rolls.
  • Tongues: The casters accent becomes flawless on any language he actually speaks
  • Water Breathing: The caster drools uncontrollably.

On the Immersive Lie

CyLoo*** CybeleEloy
Immersion isn't really a thing.

In fact, it is kind of a lie.

First, there is the problem of definition. Gamers use it to mean different things. Two people using the same words with different meanings causes inevitable confusion.

Second, there is the problem of culture. Different gaming groups place different values on immersion. To some it is a goal, to others it is not.

Third, there is the problem that it generally describes a personal state, a subjective one, not an objective one, meaning that the process for achieving it is a highly personal one.

Personally, I suggest you play with people who are your friends.

That's not what I'm actually talking about today, I'm going to talk about Immersion in Social Interaction.

Immersion in Social Interaction

If we add mechanical resolution to social mechanics, does it reduce immersion? 

If you are rolling or mechanically resolving things, does this cause you to be removed from the experience of play? After all, if you stop to roll dice, don't you feel like you're pulled out of the conversation?  It's best if you're handling social conflicts freeform with the Dungeon Master taking your social statistics into account, correct?

There is a slight disconnect here that is pretty subtle. It is certainly true that the experience of having to stop talking and resolve actions does require some adjustment. However, when engaging with the world in order to resolve conflict, what is actually occurring is the exact opposite of the stated desire to immerse yourself in a fantasy world. 

Some of the following seems obvious. The conclusion is not.

  • If you the player, want the goblin to open the door, then you talk as your character to convince the goblin to open the door. 
  • The Dungeon Master takes the role of the goblin. 
  • Then you, as the player, seek a convincing, in-game reason that the goblin might want to meet your request (threat, bribe, manipulation). 
  • Then the Dungeon Master either A) by fiat decides that the goblin is convinced or B) By fiat adds a modifier based on your argument to the roll that he uses to determine if the goblin meets your request.
But wasn't this an immersive scene? 

Only if you wanted to be immersed in the player persuading the Dungeon Master, not the character persuading the goblin. 

It appears as if they are actors talking to each other, but the reality is whether the result is effective is either based on A) personal social ability or B) personal social ability modifying character skill

A Social Problem?

The above is fine. I do not find it particularly immersive. I believe I have a better solution coming soon.

I use a lot of negotiated actions in my game, so I'm not opposed to players and the Dungeon Master reaching an agreement on the fictional positioning or outcome of events. I do believe it's pretty inaccurate to describe that interface as immersive, even if we negotiate those actions while talking in-character.

There are many. . . unintentional misunderstandings of things I say. 

Last week, I talked about how stopping play to force someone to describe the action of the game was disruptive to play. Some people noted that for them, the game was in the description! Of course it is! However, the game is not in shutting everything down while someone is put on the spot - if you're going to have a game focused on fictional descriptions, then you should work towards minimizing all the times that isn't happening because nothing is happening while waiting for people to jump through subjective hoops. 

Similarly to this week, this isn't an injunction against negotiated social encounters based on character skill or personal social skill. I have played and run many games that use exactly that system. But to portray them as something else then they are is dishonest and worse, counterproductive and not useful from a design standpoint. 

Also, it is possible to have actually broken or bad design. Pointing out the objective characteristics of that design is not one-right-waysim. It is a discussion about what the nature of something is, drawbacks and advantages to it, and how to improve upon it. 

This is best portrayed by extreme examples: A magic card costing one colorless that does 12 damage to any creature or player that is uncounterable. A first level fighter with a +12 sword. Teleporting your second level group from their beds in town into a sealed chamber with 2 ancient red dragons. 

These are design decisions that are not used for clear objective reasons. Can you make them work? Possibly. But you'd begin by immediately altering the design. 

On Reader Mail, The Room Description

Ryan asks:

"3) How do you describe a room to players so they can map themselves and begin to exercise agency within a dungeon?"

Our final question from Ryan asks about describing rooms to players.

In my personal experience, having run dozens of campaigns over the last twenty-four years is that I have never ever read any piece of boxed text that wasn't ignored after the first sentence. This is my experience with hundreds of people. David Noonan and Jesse Dexter talk about that here.

Now because this is the internet, there are some contentious bastards out there who will say that boxed text is what they love. They sit back, close their eyes and it really allows them to imagine the room.

That dude is an a**hole.

Dungeons and Dragons is a social activity that involves the exploration of a fantastical space. Reading boxed text is neither social, nor exploratory, nor is listening to a lecture fantastical, even if it is about demons riding naked women to a lazer gun fight in space.

You may like boxed text. You may think it sets the 'tone' of the module or has descriptions that you would otherwise not think of. But without fail, if it is longer than two sentences, the vast majority of players will tune out. The only person who will actually be exposed to the atmosphere and tone is you, because no one else will ever hear it. The philosophical ideal of "This will provide a cool description" will be eliminated instantly when the players tune you out, because you are a dude who's job is not reading things dramatically, reading from a text you have never read before

I mean, unless you practiced reading aloud boxed text alone, in preparation.

When I prepare a room, I use set design to key the map so I have clearly in front of me all the immediately visible information. Then when presenting that, I focus my efforts on describing those things dramatically.

This has all the advantages of boxed text without any of the disadvantages. The items the player's can see are set apart from the items they cannot. It insures that no critical information is missed in the presentation. It presents things in a manner that is quick and easy to parse. When you present the items, you will be conversing with the players instead of reading to them.

The actual procedure involves finding out where everyone is standing and who has light sources and such. I interact with the players to determine the fictional positioning. This is negotiated*.

Then I glance down at my sheet and describe the size of the room ("This small room contains. . .") and  immediately visible objects. This usually takes only one sentence, keeping everyone engaged. As they explore ("I look at the. . .") I expand on each of the descriptions.

If there isn't anything crazy like a battle or someone pulling a lever happening, I will tell the mapper in short order the actual size of the room. Why do I do that? It is part of the assumption of the slow movement rates that they are making relatively accurate maps.

On a bad day, it consists of me listing quickly what's in a room. On a good day, it allows me to spend my time focused on presentation and maintaining interest in the conversational flow.

*Negotiated fictional positioning means that position isn't tracked closely and it isn't always clear where everyone is, so we negotiate as a group to determine the reality of where everyone is, from the stance of what is real, likely, or interesting, rather than everyone approaching it via, "what is best for me".

On Convenience

Good Morning!

I am currently in the process of setting up the release of some products for purchase. No worry, because the majority of these works will be or are available already on the blog.

However, sometimes a formatted hyperlinked .pdf or hard copy is useful, you know?  Some will be small, some will be big, all will be useful and worth the price.

If you'd like to be notified upon the release of these projects, you can click here to join a mailing list. There's also an embedded link on the right.

Of course I'll keep your e-mail addresses private. I'm not even sure the tinyletter interface lets me see them, and if it does, I don't care to. I understand it will allow you to contact me by e-mail. I'm also going to write a special article or resource not otherwise available on the blog for the list once a month, as well as provide special list-only sales and offers on things that I'm releasing. It is an opportunity to get whatever I sell at a discount, possibly a steep one.

You can accomplish the same thing by following me on Google Plus at +Courtney Campbell and clicking here to request to be in my "Notifications" circle. It will have the same information as the newsletter. There are also a variety of topics, both gaming and non-gaming related I post about over there, so check it out if you're interested!

I also continue to run +Numenhalla every Saturday morning, so if you're interested in that, be sure to follow that. It's not just a thing you read about, if you're interested, you should grab the chance to actually play a game with me.

I also have a tumbler at http://etherealperdition.tumblr.com/ where when I complete art I post it.

I have a rarely used twitter at @Hackslashmaster which is me, used for 2 way communication, and another one at @nexusphere which just contains quotes heard at the gaming table.

On the Self-defeating Impulse

People hate megadungeons.

They think they sound boring, or constrain their freedom, or all feel too much the same.

I can say this. We have now played 13 sessions of Numenhalla.

Zero of those sessions have been spent doing book-keeping or upkeep.

Zero of those sessions have been impacted based on how many or who showed up.

The players have been betrayed by a witch, bargained with rat-men, killed one dragon, been chased by another, lost a player with a skull mask and flame tongue to ghouls, who now leads the ghouls underground, drank from a Ogdoad god's bowl of shadows, tricked a sphinx into falling off a bridge to get stung to death (?) by bees, robbed the vault of a god, and been nearly murdered by a demon lord. That's what I can recall off the top of my head.

You can, if you like, follow +Numenhalla here.

However, the next time someone presents a Megadungeon campaign, what they are really saying is, "I would like to spend all the time we are together to play, actually engaged in play." That may not be for everyone, but it is too large a benefit to be overlooked.

On the Effects of Magic, 2nd level Wizard

The magical energies contained in the brain could cause side effects. When the wizard acts as a conduit there are risks. As these are second level side-effects, the results should be minor. But higher levels of spells could certainly have more powerful or more far reaching side effects.

This makes wizards somewhat more unique based on the spells they know and can prepare. It also can make them more useful or somewhat of a liability.

Here is a listing of those side effects:

  • Audible Glamer: When the wizard walks, his footsteps echo, when he talks, his voice reverberates. This is somewhat intimidating
  • Continual Light: The caster radiates light enough to illuminate his space
  • Darkness 15' Radius: The caster's eyes turn solid pitch black, and he can see twice as far in low light conditions
  • Detect Evil: An orange flame appears above your head. Anyone who's aura you check shows you and any other magically aware observers a blue flame (if evil) or orange (if good). This is in addition to the effects of the spell
  • Detect Invisibility: Once prepared the talc and silver swirl around the caster through the air.
  • ESP: The caster's skull increases in size
  • Fool's Gold: The casters nails and hair turn a rich golden hue. She can also identify real gold on sight
  • Forget: The caster will repeat himself occasionally when he speaks
  • Invisibility: The casters skin turns translucent
  • Knock: The casters arm is inscribed with images and runic symbols that represent keys
  • Leomund's Trap: The caster gains the ability to determine if an object is locked or not via sight. The iron pyrite is absorbed into the skin when prepared and is visible on the caster's palm
  • Levitate: The caster floats an inch off the ground
  • Locate Object: An eight pointed star appears on the top of the skin on the caster's crown. If the caster has hair, only the point of the star is visible on the forehead
  • Magic Mouth: The casters lips either increase in size or turn an odd color
  • Mirror Image: A short tracer of the caster follows all his movements within about an inch
  • Pyrotechnics: Smoke comes from the casters nostrils and ears when he is agitated
  • Ray of Enfeeblement: The caster shrinks one inch in high and takes a mild stooped posture
  • Rope trick: Any rope held by the caster becomes agitated, moving about in unnatural ways
  • Scare: When the caster talks or smiles his face appears lit from below
  • Shatter: The casters voice becomes more high-pitched and increases slightly in volume while this spell is prepared
  • Stinking Cloud: The caster smells like a skunk
  • Strength: The caster grows one inch in height and appears to stand up more straight
  • Web: Cobwebs cover the casters form
  • Wizard Lock: The caster's nails sharpen and look like a substance resembling iron

On the OSR New Wave: Chris Tamm of Elfmaids and Octopi

Chris Tamm runs Elfmaids and Octopi. Have you heard of him?

Because I just rolled on the anachronisms table. What's that?

It's what happens when you move so far away from chaos and mutations that your body changes becoming more ordered, the opposite of a mutation. The result?

34 Parthenogenetic hermaphrodite, breeds without a mate and can start a colony

Oh, shit. You know what table I need to roll on? The magical guitars table:

Daemon Guitar
Made from a bound daemon, shoots up to 3 times 3d6 shadowbolts per day, 100y range, darkness 15Y radius once per day, made from tormented bound daemon in agony

Chris Tamm ladies and gentlemen, go look upon his works and rejoice.

Pitch me on you and your blog right now before I get bored and stop reading this article!
Elfmaids and Octopi (http://elfmaidsandoctopi.blogspot.com.au/) is a game blog basically grown form being bedridden, not getting game enough, sick of my art career and basically getting online stuff Ive written for years but not really had a forum for. I also use it to develop my own content for myself. Other people caring is nice side effect. Discovering the OSR since august has been great.

Which cartoon not named "Dungeons & Dragons" is  most like Dungeons & Dragons?
Adventure time - i've seen some older anime that is pure 80s dnd, didn't really follow.  Dragon Pink is DnD cartoon as horny teens ran it.

If you ran across a group of baby orcs in a game;  what do you do with them?
I had one player start a monster orphanarium and a paladin player discovered it and killed them all. I had a party priest convert an ogre they kept in a pit and used as a farm animal to pay of his crimes. Personally id raise them as gang members and get them to more evil people.

You all have highly creative blogs. Bryce over at tenfootpole.org has reviews of adventures that are simple and direct, mostly involving killing things in rooms and getting +1 swords. Describe your philosophy behind why those aren't good enough for you?
I can randomly generate a better dungeon with less effort than reading a bad dungeon. Players probably the biggest factor because good players drive stories and make fun.

What is the most important house rule or change you make to the game?
NWP are the core of my system - thieves  get the most change as i have remove % skills and rather rogues get new weird skills every level and be good at all of them. Ive done some wacky alignment changes and benefits.

What's your favorite edition and why?
Red box with Elmore dragon im fond of but DnD cyclopedia followed by late ADnD and early 2nd ed best for me - basically what my rules are.

Thieves? Clerics?
Have not ever played a straight thief and had very few in play (halfling never used since i started play in 84). I played a cleric to highest level of all my characters. I am into mythology and really like inventing gods so clerics are pretty cool. I probably OD on clerics in 80s as a player.

What are your thoughts on the proliferation of rulesets for sale?
Castles and crusades probably the most influential to me in many ways. I wrote my rule set mostly from memory after having not read any DnD in 20 years so i don't feel attached to any but mine. Best thing about rules is they are all plunderable for ideas and take little effort to convert. 80s White Dwarf and UK game culture was always more into re-skinning and converting stuff even from different genres.   Old Tukemal was probably the first alt ruleset. RQ probably the first to really diverge from the herd. Im just as happy to steal ideas from any system. Gurps 3rd ed historical and sf books were gold. At least OSR systems feel simple and are easy and faster to play. Tons of free stuff available, if only i was a teen now. New editions of RQ, DnD even Cthulhu new editions all bug me.

How long before the inevitable saturation occurs and we go though the classic fox/hare die-off?
I don't really care about fashion. I've been in graffiti culture for 25 years and it has rises and falls too. Comic biz same too. It's good - kill off the try hards and shows the true believers, keeps changes fresh and reinvent the past again and again.

Do you get to play?
Not enough, monthly if i'm lucky but illness has kept me away. I'm trying to get a grip on G+ flail snails and would like to try Skype gaming. I'd like to run old school marvel online.

What is your favorite class?

There is an alternate universe where the tedious 1980's sitcom was bypassed and instead replaced by D&D. What is the worst thing about this alternate reality?
ALF would make a great GM - though sitcoms are Americas greatest artform and i wouldn't watch tv without them

What is the worst player you've ever had?
The above mentioned Paladin - he was 40+ army guy who bullied our 14-16 year old gamer cell. Used rules to take over DM. I saw a skit about this on a TV show so wasn't just me.

What is your favorite base version to use?
I use cardboard minis (im assuming you mean minis) but i do like hexes

You gain the ability to summon anyone living or dead, and if they are dead, grant them a permanent corporeal form. You take this radical power and do the only logical thing with it. Build a bunker where you force anyone you wish to play Dungeons and Dragons with you. Who do you summon? Who is the DM and what are everyone's characters?
Actually I wish i could play with my old crew. Heroes tend to be a disappointment. Part of me says weird tales crew (CAS, HPL, REH). But Wolfram Von Eisenbach, Herodotus, Gothe would be cool.

Which is best: Adventure, hexcrawl or mega dungeon? Why?
Dwellers of the forbidden city and the Lost City - both are brief and and can be expanded to play for years

What is your own personal appendix N?
I grew up on Brit new wave fantasy and SF (Aldiss, Moorcock, Pinrad, Sladek) then got int HPL and friends. I read mostly non fiction and classics nowadays. Kim Numan and Ian Banks only living writers ive really gotten into last 20 years. Pendragon Reading list is worth a look too. Recently reading Agent 13, FREElancers, and Gygax novels for reading on bus.

What can we expect from you in the future?
I'll be publishing a cheap book of tables and geomorphs soonish (Redbrick Dungeon) and will do free pdf's of my Elfmaids and Octopi DnD and Gammaworld stuff. My return to DnD really a product of curiosity of new players and simplicity. I Played BRP system RQ and Cthulhu for years and ran a 20 year Marvel (FASERIP) game. Oldschool to me is anything pre 2nd edition. As my EMO rules has been serialized mostly (spell lists to go) ill probably do a more gonzo weird fantasy world. Also starting on Gothic companion for Redbrick. Still looking for file of my old 80s maps to re-do. Have a one foot stack of my Marvel notes (not in marvel universe) with over a thousand NPCs and hundreds of scenarios id like to work through.

Thanks for reading. I would link a bunch of things, but I'd be doing you a disservice. You'll enjoy yourself more if you take a reprieve and really explore his blog. Your gaming will be better for it. 

Elfmaids and Octopi

On the Ecology of the Kobold

There is a special note at the end.*

"It is the worst and best thing about living beneath the earth. The endless responsibility and pleasure of
slaying the revenge of the stone." - Smoke

Nomenclature: Kobolds, Cobalts, Koboldi, Knockers, The bold,

Description: Underground demons spawned from earth

Things that are known:

  • They are small
  • They hate gnomes
  • They have an aversion to melee combat
  • They are sensitive to light
  • They have facility with traps and mechanical object
  • They can see in the dark

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • They are actually halflings. When a dragon swallows a halfling whole, the resulting egg hatchlings are kobolds
  • Kobolds are related to kabouter, common garden gnomes
  • When moving alone through tunnels, kobolds are capable of dilating time, allowing them to reset traps faster than humanly possible
  • Kobolds have a secret penchant for tipping cows. On adventurers.
  • A secret breed of kobolds in the eastern mountains called Perkmandelz can turn invisible and run around with a lantern, imitating a subterranean will 'o wisp
  • Kobolds are not scaled. Those are actually dermoliths: Little stones that grow in kobold skin, letting them blend in with their rocky habitat
  • They are immune to petrification, because they are already petrified creatures
  • Kobolds collect coins quite quickly and quietly congregate in clammy caves to count and cackle
  • Kobolds feel compelled to count a loose pile of coins lying around. Then they store it in a small sack with the value written on the outside. The reason for this compulsion is unknown. It does irritate dragons who just want to sleep on coins, not little sacks filled with sacks of 100 coins each.
  • A kobold can count 50 coins in a combat round
  • Kobolds are the animate leavings of slain dragons. 
  • They lust and revenge themselves against man-races, trying to reclaim the glory of their dragon creators
  • Kobolds and dwarves are related, which is why they are often found as dungeon maintainers
  • Kobold horns are noted aphrodisiacs among orcs. Kobolds themselves cannot breed until their horns grow back
  • A kobold's horn is regenerative, and a whole new kobold can grow from one horn. This explains the difficulty at eliminating the infestation. A single kobold can break apart it's horn and grow a whole new batch of fresh kobolds
  • Kobold horns grow all over their body
  • Kobolds wouldn't be the problem they are today if it wasn't for the early kobold genocide attempts. The bodies were hacked to pieces and the horns often became shattered. Each kobold then became hundreds
  • Trapmaking is the highest art among the 'bolds
  • Kobolds have serrated beaks, not teeth
  • "This is absolute nonsense, the Kobolds of Underpnod have mobile, wrinkled faces, like disgusting little monkeys or withered, wizened halflings." -Vaziry of Pnod
  • Kobolds are untamed feral dwarves, murdering and eating trespassers and hoarding ancient treasures
  • Kobolds work for death and keep the damned as slaves to toil in the mines
  • A dwarf is a civilized kobold that lives among humans and speaks a human language
  • Civilized kobolds ("Dwarves") no longer burn in the sun, but they cannot see in darkness. Kobolds and "Dwarves" are both misshapen little old men with flinty, inhuman eyes, knobby joints, and at least one exaggerated facial feature. Beards are optional
  • Kobolds turn to stone in the sun and are often collected as garden ornaments
  • Kobolds are to goblins as gnomes are to dwarves
  • This being the case, they are smaller, lighter, and unlike gnomes being focused on trickery, they are more direct than goblins. They use magic that causes explosions of spellfire, telekinetically hurled objects, and tunnel collapses. Even with their magic potential, the kobolds themselves are small scrawny things that rarely go into combat. 
  • Kobolds are very good with animals and often train small and medium creatures like boars, spiders, and giant weasels as mounts.
  • They create their homes using telekinetic magic used while in a meditative trance. This allows them to function as if they were humanoid sized
  • Kobolds have remarkable singing voices, however they are unlikely to share this with outsiders due to their terrible stage fright
  • Kobolds are to gnomes as drow are to elves
  • The viciousness and cruelty of kobolds has absolutely nothing to do with height envy.
  • Kobolds are castaways from another dimension, pulled into ours by the smelting of ore. They emerge under darkness from the slag heaps
  • They breath stone, swim through air and walk on water, They need air to drink, but wind is a very dangerous current. Near slag heaps you will occasionally find drowned kobolds. Cave systems and mining tunnels are more like gentle rivers and much safers
  • They collect metals that they can find, hoping their shamans can use them to find a way home
  • Kobolds have multiple rows of teeth which grow and grow until they die. Perhaps they are the humanoid descendants of sharks?
  • Kobolds like the color blue
  • Kobolds sometimes live in the forest, but have adapted to survive. They defend and mark their territory well, with guerilla patrols, snares, traps, deadfalls, and other deadly protections. 
  • One reason for the effectiveness of kobolds is their shamans focus on divination magic, and their easy access to communication methods (familiars, magic) and crystal balls (dug from the earth).
  • In southern lands, they are seen as less evil (koboldi) and can be entertaining, due to the fact that they are always aroused and can drink to bacchanalian excess
  • They fill mines with foul air, poison gas, toxic minerals, or worst of all, koboldium, the burning metal
  • The kobold god has a harem of chosen kobold maidens. Many semi-divine kobold warriors are born, whose skin blunts weapons and when slain, curse the killer
  • Kobolds are not only mechanically inclined, but also alchemically, skilled with black powder, incendiaries, mines, and poison gas
  • The entrance to a kobold lair is always disguised
  • One fated night, long ago, a very drunk, lusty, and desperate gnome had relations with a giant salamander he 'surprised' and took advantage from. The resulting spawn from this rape was several hundred kobold.
  • They speak the language of insects and all crawling creatures. This is why the most poisonous and deadly don't mind being dropped by them, through muderholes on passing adventurers
  • Kobolds speak no languages. They capture poisonous insects and torture them till they are only filled with rage and evil, then they release them through murderholes on passing adventurers
  • Kobolds have no noses. That is why they smell terrible. (rimshot)
  • Kobold tails are a delicacy. Even kobolds themselves think so.
  • Kobolds feast on dragon corpses. This is the reason for their magical nature
  • Kobolds have very specific dietary needs, this is why they are never found away from underground complexes and tombs
  • Kobold shamans smear gold, silver, and copper coins into their skin, forming a heavy, glittering, armored layer, as a ritual to fuel their spells and magical abilities
  • A kobold that has lived an extended life and died of natural causes is reborn as what the kobolds call an Earthen One who can pass through any type of earth. This includes metals.
  • Kobolds specialize on setting traps because eating tendons from the flesh of a living creatures while they scream is the greatest delicacy.
  • The first kobolds emerged from the torn tooth sockets of the titans that tried to destroy the world. The pain and death of those great forms was too great to be contained, and the kobolds were forced from their gory, cracked jaws. Their word for themselves is "homeless" and their mission is to harvest parts to build a new titan home; the trouble is, they don't know how, and all they remember is pain. So they collect that in jars. But they can't actually collect it. So they hurt people and wave glass at them. It's their religion.
  • Kobolds have a flying relative the Urd. Urd are tougher, more intelligent and nastier. Their existence has nothing to do with the depredations of the kenku. 
  • Kobolds will hate gnomes until Garl Glittergold ceases his never ending teasing and trickery of Kurtulmak. 
  • Kobolds are bastard children from wild bacchanalian parties among the woodlands keepers, being a cursed combination of druids, rangers, animal companions, fey liquor, and practical jokes
  • Kobolds are the immune system of an animistic living earth. The scar tissue from gouges and wounds on the surface takes the form of kobolds defending their mother
  • Kobold eyes, when plucked and dried in the light of a full winter moon, will become semi-precious stones. If dice are made from these stones, they are magically loaded that shift +1 in the direction you prefer when you roll them. 
  • Kobolds who do enter melee often have tail attachments that they use to wound opponents. These have been know to throw black power, alchemist's fire, or substances even worse.
  • They hate gnomes because gnomes are cheaters; dirty, nasty, lying, cheaters. Illusions aren't fair, traps are. Using illusions to win prank contests isn't fair. You can't win if you're dead.
  • Stupid wizards. The combination of a ring of wishes, a german shepard familiar and some inadvisable things said about the usefulness of said familiar led to the kobold removing the ring from the wizards fresh corpse. The last charge is the cause of the piles of kobolds everywhere
  • Kobold lariats are woven from the skin of sentient creatures. They are fascinated by hides
  • If a kobold is skin, the hide dissolves into sand in 1-4 days, no matter how it is preserved
  • Kobolds were originally swarming, agile, flexible, and mechanical boarding constructs for spelljammer ships. A bribe of being both made of flesh and fertile to breed was made. Their original creators, furious, rounded up all they could find and marooned them on a quarantined planet. Releasing them is a capital offense
  • In ancient times, when all races were reptilian, kobolds ran the oppressive empire. All other races did their bidding. To this day they seek to manipulate and control the other races.
  • In the far future, humanity seeks to save themselves from a seared sky and fouled earth. They built a time gate and sent a group to save humanity from itself. Upon arrival they became sick and only their young survived. In three generations, all was forgotten leaving a primitive culture seething with hatred for humans
  • Kobolds are the progenitors of the elves, banished from the surface and forgotten by their children
  • Kobolds wear lederhosen and make beer from rock
  • If a kobold becomes wet he flies into a rage. A great artform is creating intricate dust and soot patterns on their skin to mimic scales
  • A kobold can transform into mist on nights with a full moon. This is how they migrate from cave to cave. The mists are cursed and many believe can cause migraines, ague, and loose bowels
Kobold special attacks and abilities

  • Agile: Kobolds are small and flexible  They can move in, around, and under other creatures bypassing them easily and immune to any bonus attacks gained via opportunity or due to fleeing
  • Mob attack: Kobold receive bonuses to hit equal to the number of kobolds in melee with a target.
  • Bombs: Kobolds can throw bombs with various alchemical effects (Alchemist's fire, Smokesticks, Tanglefoot bags
  • Trappers luck: Kobolds can attack a player and do no damage, but moves them into a nearby trap
  • Magical blast: Kobolds can generate and throw energy orbs that focus their magical force. The type of energy is dependent on the strain of kobold
  • Earth step: Kobolds can meld with the earth, allowing them to disappear into the ground. They move incredibly quickly this way, reappearing anywhere within 100'
  • Painful stabs: Kobold attacks do little damage but really hurt. When striking, after rolling damage, they can choose to do only 1 point of damage, but apply a -1 circumstance penalty to that players combat rolls (attack and damage) until that player receives some form of healing.
  • Sluggish step: Kobolds can cover the floor with bags of their sticky poop. These cause people moving in those squares to move at half speed. Kobolds themselves are unaffected of course.

Here is a wonderful free list of Kobold traps provided by certain coastal wizards: Kobold Traps

A Historical Note

Provided by Patrick Stuart: "The element Cobalt is actually named after Kobald, an earth spirit. The miners who dug out and smelted ores to find useful metals, which included the cobalt ore, which was poisonous with arsenic and ruined other metals, blamed Kobald when things went wrong because the spirit didn't want them down there.

When Georg Brandt found out what was actually poisoning the miners and ruining their ore, a new element, he named it after the spirit in tribute to the men who dug it out."

A Question about Ecology

*Christopher asks: "With these ecology rumors and such, how do you apply these to your games? Are they things that NPCs say to adventurers or are some of these ideas actually applied to change the race up and make things fresh? Or is it a mixture of both? I'm interested because I think some of these ideas are way better than the original ecology for the creatures. "

Take this information and actually change up the monsters. Then take other bits and rumors some correct and incorrect and feed them to the players. Use a group of a dozen or so redesigned and well thought out monsters for your campaign. Profit.

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

On Reader Mail, Diceless Play

Jacob writes:

"I'm trying to find some thoughts on non-combat dice use. I've tried searching around for posts about non-random resolution but they always seem to focus on combat. I'm curious what people think about the role of rolling in non-combat situations. Is it critical to have those random elements? Critical for what situations?

I know this is very broad. I guess the root of the question I'm trying to answer is why people are opposed to diceless systems. All the answers I have found involve combat resolution."

Sometimes a question is very insightful and strips everything away to reach the core of what is and what isn't.

When is randomness necessary? Why is there opposition to non-random resolution? Knowing the answer to this question and your ability to see the answer is a large part of what being a good Dungeon Master is.

Why do we use a randomizer at the table to determine results? 

I've written at length about when to use a randomizer before ("Why Roll for Resolution?") but that is a little different than that topic. If you're wondering when you should try to resolve something mechanically (whether with dice or with a diceless resolution mechanic) instead of just hand-waving it, that's a good place to start. It covers that topic exhaustively.

Why is randomness popular and why are players opposed to its removal?

Well it's obvious randomness isn't necessary. Games like Amber which uses the players ability to shift paradigms to their advantage and Active Exploits which use the distribution of limited resources to resolve conflict are proof of that.

Dice don't need to be involved to climb a difficult cliff, pick a lock, convince a guard to let the party pass, but an objective mechanic or neutral adjudicator does.

Players are distasteful and wary of the idea of diceless systems because they want to have fun. This doesn't mean diceless systems aren't fun.

Traditionally in life, taking action where you have little insight or control into the results or consequences of that action is a pretty disempowering experience. It's not something people like at the department of motor vehicles and it's not something people like at the internal revenue service, and it's not something people like when they sit down to have fun.

I'm doing a bit of mind reading here, but I'm assuming that "People who are opposed to diceless systems" are opposed to them for those reasons.

This doesn't mean in a diceless system you don't have insight into how things will work out or aren't able to affect or control actions. It certainly doesn't mean your agency is impacted. Quite the opposite. It does indicate that for social games played without a great deal of external structure (say a board with 64 black and white squares) that there is some apprehension that this will be the case.

How to address apprehension of non-random resolution

This really has to do with the individual player. I, as a player, want to insure that I have agency. This means that my intentions when I set out to perform an action are in line with the results. It doesn't mean I have to succeed, just that I feel that the consequences of failure are related to my actual attempt. The issues discussed about agency in the Quantum Ogre series apply just as clearly to diceless systems as to those with dice. Perhaps even more so.

A good place to start would be to discuss the actual mechanic of resolution with your players so they can understand what kind of control they will have and how the game will be fun for them.

In Conclusion. . .

I think the appropriate solution to this is twofold. Examine the reasons why you'd like to make a move to a diceless system. Why a desire for a diceless system? Communicate with your players about why they dislike it. I highly recommend trying a diceless system at least once, it can be quite fun for a short arc or game. And it's an experience you really can't get from a traditional randomized role-playing game.

On the Fiction First Failure

This week, I am putting the finishing touches on a little book/.pdf covering the creation and use of non-player characters and "Social Combat". It expands on previous offerings such as the Gameable NPC and the Eloquent NPC. There is nothing else like it that I've found.

It's the simple, fast system for designing and running non-player characters in ways that are determined by player skill, not natural social ability or character skill.

It has an objective resolution method that bypasses the need to subjectively convince anyone of anything.

One of the ways it meets these goals is by categorizing player actions in moves.

What it does not do is require the player to 'consider the fiction first'.

Why is that?

On the Separation of Fiction from the Rules

I have this to say in the book:
"[T]he players should all be exposed to the complete list of moves and how those work mechanically during play (See APPENDIX D for play aids).
When they choose what to do during play, before it is resolved, the mechanical effects and consequences should be explained and the player should be allowed to confirm their action. The only hidden information should be the number of actions they have remaining.
It is a resolution system for actions. . . Because the resolutions are abstract players are allowed and encouraged to just state which move they are doing next. They are also free to talk in-character and apply the appropriate mechanical resolution, through it is not necessary."
Again, why is just stating the move encouraged?

For the exact same reason that abstraction is a strength. It allows the fiction to be discovered by the results of play, rather than by attempting to shoehorn the results into the stated fiction.

There are other advantages too, let's look at them.

The Concrete versus the Abstract

A simple example of concrete versus the abstract is modern saving throws versus traditional saving throws. Modern saving throws have the benefit of being clear, easy to conceptualize, and concrete. What this means is, when the rogue is targeted by a fireball in the middle of a bare stone room and makes his saving throw, he takes no damage. He did this by dodging out of the way. It's a reflex saving throw, right?

But when you start to examine this example it immediately breaks the fiction. He isn't prone. He hasn't moved. He just hasn't been hurt by the explosion of fire that is forty feet in diameter.

This really isn't a problem. It is, after all a game, and nothing is preventing you from immediately abstracting out that reflex saving throw.

The mechanical separation of early Dungeons and Dragons was a feature. When you save versus Poison or Fireball, how you save is left undefined. Perhaps you use your cloak to redirect the flame, or call upon your god, or stare down the fireball defending with the very force of your will. You find a piece of fiction to match the result rather than define the fiction first.

Why is Fiction First a problem?

When require fiction to be produced before mechanical results are resolved this limits your ability to interpret the result. Doing it first, you lock yourself into a certain idea, your idea, of what's going to happen. Dictating what occurs during play rather than going through an organic process of discovery has many pitfalls.

There are other costs also. Play of the game must stop while the player is put on the spot to create something interesting and creative; players are required to do this for actions that occur very frequently. Definitively stating things closes the door on other future more creative options. And it can sometimes create uninteresting results ("That cool thing you tried to do, failed")

This problem is exacerbated in the new wave of 'wolf-in-sheeps-clothing' storygames, attempting to break out of their general unprofitability by co-opting the rising cachet of the old school renaissance movement. Demanding that the play of the game must stop so players can make the 'fiction come first' slows down play and inhibits creative results.*

Sometimes the problem of Fiction First is even encoded into the rules of the game itself. A well documented problem with this is Dissociated mechanics.

What's this mean?

If the player is allowed to bypass the fiction and simply play the game, you sidestep all the problems above.

A good example of selecting a move without deciding the fiction first is the Attack Roll.

This creates a situation where the abstract mechanical resolution is handled first, and then the reality of events can be augured as a group experience. It's faster too and nobody has to be put on the spot.

This does not mean I or the people I play with are unable to handle being put on the spot. It means we are not forced to be there. We discover the reality of play as a group, instead of constantly forcing individuals to be put on the spot and 'immersed' in the 'fiction' whether they want to or not.

Your axe swipe was cool, because you critted. You became Conan because you survived.

Personally, I find the memory of communal events much more immersive than having to constantly stop the game and manage several different levels of play. It isn't that I can't keep track of character goals and what I'm trying to accomplish and the relative tactical benefits of various moves while continuing to present my character in an entertaining way and trying to think of what I'm going to do to activate the move I want. I can.

It's that I find it more immersive to play a game and then after the results are known talk about what is actually happening.

What's This Mean for Non-player Characters?

The moves the book uses have always been in Dungeons and Dragons from the very beginning, much like the attack roll, so there isn't anything new to learn.

There's no hoop jumping either. The player just says what they want to do ("I want to ignore them so they leave us alone." "I ask them where the ghoul leader is." "I attack them") and the action and possible consequences is communicated and resolved. You can talk naturally to the non-player characters also, objectively resolving issues as they come up. You aren't in the dark about any effects of your choices. You don't have to worry about themes, or balance, or arcs. You can just play and see what happens.

You are never forced to stop playing by the Dungeon Master and jump through the hoop of explaining how you are doing what you want to do. If you are trying to avoid the encounter that is what you are doing. You don't have to explain how.

More information on the book is coming soon. . .

*In an effort to be very clear about things that cause a lot of cognitive dissonance from people, I am going to be explicit here. Yes, I am aware of the "success" of kickstarters of story-games that I'm not going to link to. But the 50,000$ or 100,000$ or 440,000$ dollars raised is peanuts compared to the 20,000,000$-50,000,000$ million dollars that Dungeons and Dragons/Pathfinder does annually. Yes. that is two whole additional zeros against the absolutely most popular story game. Games of the traditional sort are vastly more profitable than a few dozen or hundred or even two thousand copies of story games sold. What's more is that many of the most profitable story games are in fact doing what I say, attempting to co-opt the success of traditional gaming.
To the second point, it is a literal physical truth that rolling dice and determining actions must stop while you wait for the player to generate the fiction first. And that once generated, the fact that it is stated aloud prevents any other option from being true. Saying one specific thing is happening and no other thing happens inhibits creativity by eliminating the possibility of any other thing happening.

On the Top 10 Prestige Classes

What are the best prestige classes? Which ones are most useful for adaptation?

Using a prestige class in an older style game is easy. Have an entrance requirement. This triggers the drawbacks and restrictions. Then the character may split experience points between his two classes as he wishes.

10) Thief: If you're going to take the thief as a class, perhaps it works best as a prestige class. This may in fact have been the original intent. If you're going to have it, allow players to dump experience into the class to acquire the skills, at the expense of their primary class.

9) Assassin: This is a fantastic prestige class. It has an entry requirement of killing someone for money. It gives basic thieving skills after a level or two along with the ability to use disguises and poisons. It lacks the ability to disarm magical traps and locks. Also allows the character to raise money by committing murder for hire in their free time. Class abilities can be lost if anyone discovers your true nature.

8) Paladin: Real holy power in exchange for a little tiny moral leeway. This prestige class is a bit more stringent then the others, replacing fighter classes only and preventing improvement in the original class. It also comes with a number of moral imperatives depending on the god along with an annoying vow of poverty, but the holy powers of laying on hands, detection of evil, protection from evil, being able to use holy swords and mounts provide power to make up for the restrictions.

7) Mystic Theruge: A spell caster who's interested in magic from all sources, not just wizard or cleric spells. Possibly available from rare temples or places in the wilderness. Each level taken in this grants new spells from a variety of magical traditions, such as druidic, wizardly, clerical or even stranger magical traditions. Working with such arcane energies is very physically taxing and often will cause strange deformations in those who break such natural boundaries that way

6) Necromancer: Because all the spells for death shouldn't be assigned to different classes. Of course your close association with the dead brings attention you would rather not have. Also odd smells. Also bargains with the dead tend to imperil your soul. On the plus side, undead servants don't complain when you use them to set off traps.

Jennell Jaquays
5) Pirate: Specific skill sets and tropes work well as prestige classes because they represent an investment,
create history, and add skills, and still allow the character to advance normally. Time spent among a pirate ship can give a basic proficiency at all ship related tasks, bonuses on ship to ship combat, skill at fighting on rigging and moving across vertical surfaces quickly, mastery of mounted shipboard weaponry (such as cannon), and an increase armor class and breath weapon/wand saves in light or no armor based on their level. Surprisingly useful when your ship suddenly takes off into space.

4) Magical or Martial Speciality: This prestige class takes a specific magical or martial style, like gladiator, elementalist, pyromancer, or Cavalier and provides additional abilities. Sometimes players want to have a specific focus, and using prestige classes in this way allow the DM and the player to work out how that happens mechanically. This is useful for when the natural customization options of flavor and class don't provide abilities the character seeks. Some sacrifices, limitations, experience point expenditure and in game effort later and they can give up normal advancement for some of these abilities.

3) Beastmaster/Rider: Fiction abounds with the bond between characters and their pets and mounts. Adding a little mechanical benefit. Spider-rider, Dragon-friend, Worm-rider.

2) Cultist: Because if the party is going to be fighting them, shouldn't they have some unique abilities? And then you're more prepared for when the party eventually wants to join them.

1) Ninja: But not at my table.

On the OSR New Wave: Mel Black of Monster Manual Sewn from Pants

The OSR is currently today, vibrant in a way it has never, ever, been. The ideas are bright and strange and more creative than can be believed.

I've interviewed some of the most prolific and creative bloggers in the OSR with some non-standard questions. Today we are talking with Scrap Princess, neé Mel Black about gaming. 

I first became aware of Scrap Princess via her sewn work while searching for monster images. Soon after Zak Sabbath noted her creativity and originality and since then I've been an ardent follower of her blog A Monster Manual Sewn From Pants. She produces beautiful stuffed creatures that are available for sale here. I am eager for certain people to get to the age where they will appreciate a beholder made from scrap material and treasure it so I can commission her to make one.  They are seriously beautiful, handmade, and something much better than you can find in a store. I suggest you go purchase or commission via email one right now!

I've engaged her in discussion before and her mind is sharp like tacks. Like a jar full of tacks that stick in your hand because you weren't smart enough to make your original point clear enough. That and some of her reimaginings of settings and environments are bizarre and immediately gameable. She is the chaotic outer metaphor that your mind retreats into familiar narratives to avoid. 

Also, her art is bad ass.

If you break out a little and follow and read scrap you will be a better person for it. 

See more here!
Pitch me on you and your blog right now before I get bored and stop reading this article!

I have more ideas than I know what to do with. So I drag them out and leave them apeishly glaring at in the light, the stink of spray paint and rust around them. 

Which cartoon not named "Dungeons & Dragons" is  most like Dungeons & Dragons?

That cartoon would've been a pretty a pretty stink game of D&D. Look I'm just gonna say every cartoon you grew up with. As in they are actually garbage and you can do a lot better with their ideas than they ever did.

If you ran across a group of baby orcs in a game;  what do you do with them?

Give the d.m shit for trying to do some meta-humour bullshit.

You all have highly creative blogs. Bryce over at tenfootpole.org has reviews of adventures that are simple and direct, mostly involving killing things in rooms and getting +1 swords. Describe your philosophy behind why those aren't good enough for you?

Dunno about "good enough"  I think we are trying to do completely different things. The main thing being I like my ideas more than other most other peoples, and if I wanna see anything I want out there I need to do it myself.

What is the most important house rule or change you make to the game?
I guess the a  halfa hours rest heal half your hitpoints one. (in full: below half => half, above half ,below full => full. Must feel safe enough to be able to let guard down.

What's your favorite edition and why?
I don't have one. They are just different collections of body parts for Frankensteining.

Thieves? Clerics?
Thieves is cool. Although I am fond of the thief as combat ninja , I write them more for their out of combat skills. 
Clerics. Ugh. I fucking hate their nigh-monopoly on healing, especially as someone who runs a lot of  fighter types, where your  hitpoint points are your "encounter currency". I ditch them generally , or make them far more eclectic. Dislike the turn undead , "light against the dark stuff" , civilization vs the weird stuff that they seem to drag in as well.

What are your thoughts on the proliferation of rulesets for sale?
Not much. Yay I guess?

How long before the inevitable saturation occurs and we go though the classic fox/hare die-off?
Don't know , Don't care. As long as there is imagitive  players and g.ms who cares?

Do you get to play? 
Yes, thanks to g+ hangouts. Yay for that

What is your favorite class?
Fighters or any class with a good ratio of destructive capacity to cunning required.  

There is an alternate universe where the tedious 1980's sitcom was bypassed and instead replaced by D&D. What is the worst thing about this alternate reality?
Everyone is going to make this joke but "tedious sitcom D&D".  Imagine the Dorkness Rising but a 1000 fold. Fuck that noise. 

What is your favorite base version to use?
I don't even know. It's such a mongrel now. Um the "52 page rule book" on http://rolesrules.blogspot.co.nz/ is pretty dang good.
3rd edition maybe? Like ditch most of it though, mainly  just for the spell layout and the fact that it has already ditched most of the weird rule artifacts I dislike

You gain the ability to summon anyone living or dead, and if they are dead, grant them a permanent corporeal form. You take this radical power and do the only logical thing with it. Build a bunker where you force anyone you wish to play Dungeons and Dragons with you. Who do you summon? Who is the DM and what are everyone's characters?

Actually I would rather play with my mates than some people I have heard of but don't know. Margaret Mahy maybe?

Which is best: Adventure, hexcrawl or mega dungeon? Why?
Adventure. I've been getting increasingly frustrated with the pacing on hex-crawls and mega-dungeons. Both as player and g.m. 

What is your own personal appendix N?
Polish surrealist painters, concept design books for film, half remembered illustrations for children, China Mieville, cartoons, real world mythology and history. Noir Deco. College. Ladytron. Yat Kha. Akira Kurosawa 
Large , awkward and menacing sculptures. Hong Kong action cinema. Disatisfaction, disquietude and distemper

What can we expect from you in the future?
More, Louder

Look at and buy Scrap Princess's work

On the Ecology of the Jermlaine

"Arrrgh! Untie me!" - Slive

Nomenclature: Little men, Gremlins, Jermlaine, Bane-midges, Jinxkins, Smurfs, atomites, minimi (sing. minimus), troublemaker, twik-men, dinkos, globbos, scrabblers, rat-brothers, flappies, flabbies, squeakies, squnities, verminites, trapsters, point-heads, mouselings, minimen, tiny terrors, minscules, manikins, rodent riders, peewees, diminumen and jermies

Description: Small troublesome fae who associate with rodents and other small creatures

Things that are known:
  • They are fey creatures
  • They associate with rats
  • They dwell in warrens beneath the ground
  • They shave captives
Rumors and other whispers in the dark:
  • They are actually gremlins called by an incorrect name. Being given a separate name, they desperately sought to differentiate themselves from gremlins to maintain their existence and avoid being absorbed into other beings
  • Their natural language sounds like a high pitched squealing or keening
  • Rats gnawed loose the bonds of a bound fey prince once. The prince bestowed upon the simple creatures a boon; when they were killed in great numbers, from a mass grave would rise a jinxkin, which would avenge the fallen by undoing the strength of all would-be oppressors. With multiple mass graves, multiple jinxkin arose, and they bred true. 
  • During the Great Winter, when the rats and their hunger outnumbered the people a hundred to one, the whole city had to be abandoned when the jinxkin rose up in numbers and force.
  • Every time a person says or does a mean thing a Jermlaine is created from that thing. This is why they are so terrible
  • Jermlains shave their victims because hairlessness is a sign of weakness. Elder Jermlains are honored for their braided back and armpit hair. Shears are considered cursed and all shaving of victims is done with a dull knife
  • They do not do much damage when they strike which is good. The poison and other alchemical substances used have their full potency however.
  • Once an elven army rose up in hubris to take the City of Brass. The rulers of that city twisted reality itself to turn the invading elves into vermin. The jinxkin resulted, their minds enfeebled towards history and sense of self, but still expressing all the malice that the City of Brass felt from the invading fey.
  • The excrement of Jermlains  is a peculiar pink paste. It can be used to treat skin complains, cuts, bruises, and protect from insect bites and allergies. It restore an additional hit point per day.
  • The fey have many defended gates from the Ardenwald to Prime. One of their favorite auto-immune systems to put in place is the jinxkin infestation. It is enough to keep normal people away, it commandeers local rodents (and there are ALWAYS local rodents,) and it is only mildly murderous. The jinxkin pay for their fey powers by making gifts of hair to their eldritch masters, to show that they are performing as intended (and should stay in the energy budget.) This hair gives the fey a sense of who is lurking around their portals.
  • They seek a new king, with a birthmark that, according to prophecy, is hidden by hair.
  • They often dwell in cities and aristocrats and criminals are very interested in buying the secrets they gather, especially their own
  • Fey nobles usually have a pouch or two of banemidge eggs. When they are treated poorly in an area, they toss a handful of eggs into the local water supply. Like mosquitoes, the bane midges rise and cause mischief. They need the hair to reproduce; some populations shave so the pests will die off. The bane midges usually survive because humans are so reluctant to shave everywhere . . .
  • They must eat hair in order to reproduce. It is unpleasant, but allows the males to perform. Females make elaborate macrame items or knit clothing to attract mates
  • They scavange for treasures off dead bodies. If you are looking for someone that has disappeared, they are the people to talk to
  • They are highly allergic to dander, shearing their captives makes them less likely to irritate their skin
  • They burn the hair after soaking it in rancid smelling oils to serve as an aphrodisiac
  • They are prodigious collectors. That slightly chipped silver button on your trousers is worth a small fortune to the right Jermlaine
  • They will ally with humans, especially if bribed. They have a strong tendency to betray those they help
  • Jermlaines love wild hair and they don't excrete feces, but instead multi-colored rays of light.
  • Children love the taste of Jermlaines
  • Jermlaines lay eggs
  • The reason Jermlaines have saggy skin, is that they are actually a breed of gnomes that was struck by a magical illness that shrank their bones, but not their skin. Gnomes become quite hostile if asked about this
  • Jermlaines reproduce by constructing hair effigies and breathing life into them
  • Jermlaines are born from the filth and detritus left behind by adventurers. They are iron ration scraps, bits of 10' poles, torn scrolls, warrior blood and rogue sputum, imbued with crafty hatred by spirits of the underground who loath and resent intrusion
  • When a fairy fountain is corrupted, the energy does not stop gushing out. If the conduit is broken, the energy saturates the "groundwater" energy of the area, corrupting things that are not meant to sit in the wash of alien energy. Things are changed. The banemidge vermin are the least of the worries from such a site. The main way to end the problem is to either cap the energy source, or rebuild its proper flow path.
  • Jermlaines quadruple in hit dice (but not size) if they eat human food after midnight
  • If Jermlaines get wet, they begin to duplicate
  • The skin color of Jermlaines reflects their temperament
  • The idea of smurfs is fae propaganda to portray them in a positive light
  • Rats carry fleas that carry plague. Rats also carry mites that become bane midges. When anything with hair travels through the Ardenwald and gets back to Prime, they have traces of the parasites of that alien place on them. Without natural predators, the bane midges emerge and latch on to a hot-blooded and plentiful population of rats, then proceed to become a real problem. The bane midges are the primary reason travel to the Ardenwald was forbidden, even to elves. After a century of determined efforts to rid a kingdom of the bane midges, the prospect of tracking more in became a capitol offense.
  • They are actually sentient fae fruit. Archfey sometimes use Jermlaine in their potions. They taste bitter
  • The juice of Jermlaine is Delicious and the high lords of the elves pay ridiculous amounts of money for it
  • Some Jermlaine domesticate species other than rats, like frogs, bats, and lampreys
  • Princess Kavastra was too kind, and she hated seeing rats poisoned and trapped. She approached the fey in the nearby woods and asked if the population could be managed in a kinder way. The fey provided rat herds to balance the needs of the Jermlaine with those of the men, and all was well. A century later a descendant of Kavastra demanded the rat herds be repurposed for spying, assassination, and war. The hard-eyed fey replied, "Do as you will. Teach them what you want them to know." It didn't end well.
  • Some ride small animals into combat like foxes, chihuahuas, or rats
  • Leprechauns actually breed Jermlaine as pot-of-fool's-gold guardians
  • They have wellness anxiety and despise germs, which they are small enough to see. This is why they shave all their captives before dragging them into the lair
  • They use the hair gathered from captives to build nests. They need it to retain heat to hatch their bejeweled eggs
  • Jermlaines are Elementals from the Plane of Frustration. They waylay, trick, embarrass, drain, and eventually kill. Their offerings are collected by the leaders, feeding back to a sphere in their lair that becomes a gate back to their plane when they've harvested enough suffering. Rats worship them instinctively, and in return they get protection and food.
  • They actually are just obsessive wig artists and like throwing wig parties. The best wig at the party wins the Fuzzy Sceptre of Jermlainishness for a month
  • They are obsessed with numerology and particularly the number 23
  • They are passionate about interpretive dance, their firelight dance parties are profound
  • Jermlaines are actually the most beautiful of the fay but project a glamour of ugliness to keep away humans. The hair is used to produce glamour powder which causes people to wince at their ugliness.
  • A mirror of burnished silver will reveal the true form of a Jermlaine, or capturing one and putting it inside an iron cage for three and thirty days
  • The pygmies of the Nil-shuth valley know this, and capture them for the pre-marriage arrangement. The arrangement is a formal and ritualized limited term where the men lose innocence and become men. The Jermlaines are not amused by this
  • The wizard tower Alcanth had a testing-ground below, where young wizards had to succeed against trials of their hearts, minds, muscles, and magic. Each wizard crafted a homonculus to add to the stable of threatening creatures used to train and test apprentices. In a weird turn of events, when the Alcanth wizards were at war with the eladrian, some of the fey made friends with the homonculi, who turned traitor and gave the wizards up to the elven knights before eloping with the fey. However, the story did not end happily. When the fey knights discovered what their underlings planned to do, they were uncomfortable. So, they banished all their fey helpers back to the Ardenwald, and abandoned the homonculi (and the weird hybrids from their loving unions) in the ruin of the wizard tower. A few hundred years later, embittered magic fey construct colonies were heading out with legions of rats, finding the only way to blunt their misery was to spread it.
  • They can use specific frequencies of light to transport themselves instantly. Rainbows are sure signs of Jermlaines
  • Gnomes are steeped in fey energies. They know the languages of burrowing creatures. They are widely disliked. They tend to spend a lot of time in their secluded homes, amusing themselves with magic and illusions, and getting cozy with rodents about their size. They won't talk about jinxkins. Not even with other gnomes.

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  
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