Saturday, May 25, 2019

HELLWALKERS: the First Hellwalkers

When the demons first invaded, the remnants of the Order of Asphodel scraped up adventurers to combat their forces. Four in particular rose to become true heroes: the First Hellwalkers. They did not, however, become HELLWALKERS: the Order's forces were ruined, and though they fought on for a day and a night, they were eventually routed.


Legend has it he still roams the southern badlands, cursed to hunt demons until the last infernal creature is slain. They say he can hit a bird in flight a mile away with his rifle. (He is cursed to fight one demon repeatedly, and his aim is good but not supernatural).

K11. Speaks stumblingly. Athletic. Worked as a farmhand. Crack shot with a rifle. Was conscripted by the church and rose quickly to the rank of Hellwalker. He is very bitter at his local priest, who got him conscripted and now lives in Bones (O03. The priest is deeply regretful, and will ask you to let Paul know. He will be outwardly magnanimous but inwardly take a while to cool down). He is now tormented by Babe, the demonic blue ox (it respawns but he will be grateful if you kill it and will give you his awesome rifle if you give him a replacement).

Tells the players that his mission was doomed from the start, and suspects the Order of Asphodel knew it.

I realized after writing this that this is basically Luke Skywalker if Obi-Wan Kenobi had sent him to the empire for training (from Polygon)

THIEF: Bryce

Legend has it she pickpockets the stars themselves for fabulous wealth for her eastern forest retreat. They say she stole cartloads of bread and delivered it to starving people. (She just takes stuff from dead people, and she was arrested and conscripted for stealing a loaf of bread for herself and a few friends).

Q07. Apologetic and self-deprecating. A petty bread thief given the opportunity to serve her sentence as a Hellwalker. As her fellow Hellwalkers were chased screaming into the wastelands, she made a deal for her life with her pursuers. At night and when angry, she is possessed by a huge demon, hulk-style. The deal forbids her from divulging this information. She hides out in a huge cavern full of wrecked furniture with a bedroom-less bunker in the corner. She can provide the players with refined demon blood, which grants the hulk-out.

Tells the players that the Order of Asphodel recruited people who would not be missed to fight the demons. Knew many other petty criminals who were also conscripted.

This reference was intentional. I'd use art of one of the she-hulks but it tends not to focus so much on the muscles (from Wikipedia)

WIZARD: Gladice

Legend has it she is immortal by sheer intellect, and that when she met a genie she left disappointed by its inferior magical experience. They say she can read minds at a glance. Her laboratory is supposed to lie deep in the jungle. (She is immortal by being a Cyberlich, she got some magic knowledge from her familiar, and while she has telepathy spells she’s mostly just a really good at reading people).

F02. Monotone. No emotion except faint melancholy. Escaped from the robot labs to become a Hellwalker. As the demons chased her, she sacrificed her humanity to become a Cyberlich, losing her emotion and humanity to stay alive (strength, speed, endurance, spellcasting). She has not actually been caught; she has a few safe houses she rotates between as she holds off her pursuers, possessed robots. Her familiar is an agent of the demons, but she keeps it obedient and doesn’t let it communicate with its fellows. She worked on an Ark capable of leaving the planet in B11, and can give you a map of it and how to turn off the automated defenses.

Tells the players that she does not trust the Order of Asphodel, that there were schemers in its ranks and they were very interested in studying demons. Tells the players there might be an alternate solution: to evacuate the populace with her Ark. All the Hellwalkers know she had some project she can no longer work on but should be finished and will tell the players so.

Gladice wasn't really inspired by GLaDOS but I'm running out of energy for this so have this picture anyway (from Wikipedia)


Legend has it you can hear his the screams of his torment miles away from the mountain he is chained to. They say his pain gives him the power to grant prayers. (You can hear him in the next hex over, but he can’t grant prayers. The owls will bring him news of very public prayers and do what they can at his behest, though).

D11. Speaks in Shakespearean. Righteous. Paladin of Glasswing, patron of Maces, Scarabs, and Oil. He was turned over to to his captors by voluntarily possessed Orderlies of Asphodel. Tormented by barn owls, which peck and scratch at him constantly. The owls commiserate and bring him news. His bellows at his betrayers are audible in the next hex. He can send messages through the owls and provide his mace, which can cast Grease 1/day.

Tells the players that a large chunk of the Order of Asphodel directly worships the demons, and that they betrayed him to the demons. He fears the corruption ran deep before the organization fell, and that those that remain may be the most corrupted of all.

"Man, the weather today is just awful." "Yeah, my back is killing me." "Sorry, that's actually my beak digging into your flesh." "Ah, you're fine, work is work. I know how it is. How are the kids?" (from this website)

And here, once more, is the map, for reference

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

HELLWALKERS: the Pilgrim’s Verse and the Crow’s Chime

Journey West, Pilgrims
Through field and mire,
Vine and spire
To the Pit of Flame.
Ring the Crow’s Chime,
Turn back time
Restore the righteous world,

The words float on the air. They linger on the lips of the wounded; they lure the foolhardy to the gates and echo after their un-worn boots. Those who heed the Pilgrim’s Verse are Hellwalkers. They all dream of saving the world—of becoming the true HELLWALKERS.

Rumors of the Pit of Flame (B07)

Their destination is the Pit of Flame: a volcano in the Western Mountains, just southwest of the town of Bones. Rumors drift down the river Styx to the town of Stones: the people of Bones are terrified of the Pit. They whisper of a beast, the Crow, but the journey is long; merchants are few and Hellwalkers fewer. No witness has ever returned with a direct account of the thing or its prize: the Chime.

Oscar of Astora (Dark Souls)

The Lab

A concrete bunker squats in the caldera. The doorway is exploded; the great steel doors, stamped with the seal of the Order of Asphodel, lay 40 feet away. Inside are countless piles of feathers, shinies, and small treasures. Skeletons both human and demon for the floor, and blood and feathers cover shattered test tubes. In the central chamber is a single large test tube frame the size of a small house, in the bottom of which is a huge nest with piles of coins and other treasures. A vault door lies in front of an alcove in the back of the room with a pedestal in it.

Treasures: Unhatched Crows’ Eggs, 6-Second Skip Pills, 6-Second Rewind Pills

The Crow

Crows infest the lab and the caldera. Their tiny hoards dot the area. Among their number, however, are demon crows and cyborg crows (2d8: 1 much bigger, 2 flaming, 3 shadowy, 4 teleporting, 5 laser eyes, 6 feather blades, 7 jet wings, 8 electric talons). They build their nests in the test tubes of their birth. They’re smart, and they’ll test the party with gifts and caws to see if they’re friend or foe. They are the younger siblings of The Crow.

It looms up to the size of a T-Rex. A hive of dimly-lit glass eyes set in a huge metal plate dominate the left half of its face (they shoot a huge laser). It raises its wings to obscure itself in shadow fog. Feather blades line its wings. It breaths with the noise of a jet engine and moves with speed to match. If wounded, its talons ignite with electric flame. It hungers for more shinies.

The Shrieker (Darkest Dungeon)

The Crow’s Chime

A rod of steel and silicon, as long as an arm and engraved with the seal of the Order of Asphodel. It weighs more than it should and catches light from unseen sources. It is, in reality, a sort of checkpoint, set to a day 15 years ago, 15 minutes before the beast breaks containment and four hours before the end of the world. If it is rung—twisted into position over the course of a day and struck by strong steel—it will drag the rest of the world back to its anchor point. The Chime pulls everyone touching it to its physical location in the lab as well, leaving their bodies, memories, and inventories intact. The ritual that ended the world took place in the lab four hours after the checkpoint was set. It can be stopped by the HELLWALKERS.

The Chime is not on its pedestal.

The Chime is in the Citadel (I08). With no one left in the lab to claim it, the demons took it to safeguard their victory in the past.

The Draft Room

An iron-banded oak door covered in charred claw marks blocks a side passage, or used to, before it rotted away. It was an office. Inside is a skeleton, a sturdy desk, and a small pile of opened cans, enough for two days’ worth of rations. On the desk is a one-way radio distress transmitter and dozens of sheets of paper—rough drafts of the pilgrim’s verse.

Journey West, Pilgrims, through field and forest, or grass and woodland, or sun and shade. Visit the Caldera of Knowledge, or the Scholar’s Cauldron, or the Final Volcano. Ring or toll or twist the Chime, the Chime of the Beast, or the Past-Walker’s Chime. Reclaim what was, or seize your former fate, or rewrite old wrongs right again: HELLWALKERS, or PASTSHAPERS, or PENITENTS. There is a final sheet of paper next to the radio with the final verse.

Other pages track frantic thought: “Door barred. Two days’ food. Chime remains for now. Order Asphodel ruined; no rescue. Battery for one transmission. Chime must be used to change past, but none in Order are stronger than Escapee. Must attract others.”

“Could explain situation. Broadcast openly. Too long to transmit, too much knowledge to bear. Instead: spread simple myth of Chime’s power through Order survivors.”

“First Hellwalkers—allies? [locations of two Hellwalkers] Know much. Will overburden others with strict morals. No doubt bitter. Chime must ring. Be direct. No distractions.”

“Last can. Transmission sent. Demons still outside. Chime remains. Pray they don’t take it.”

“So hungry. One day since last can. Rescue still unlikely.”

“hungry hu̸ǹg͢ry h͘ù́n̕͠gr̵̛y̡̧ h̴͜͡u̷͞҉҉n̸̛g̨̨̕͜r͠͏̵̷͜y̸̡ h̶̜̜͉̝û͓ͭ̊̿͒ͧ̌n̶̫̣͓̮̂ͯ̇ͩg̒͂ͧͦ̂̂̍ṟ͈̮̻̼ͪ͋ý̯”

MFW I'm waiting for the adventurers to Ring the Crow's Chime and Turn Back Time (imgflip)

Design Notes: Influences

Dark Souls
So, I didn’t really fight the Dark Souls influence here. As those of you who have played the game might have noticed, the Pilgrim’s Verse is directly inspired by Oscar’s Undead Prophecy in Dark Souls 1: a call to arms to visit a far-off location and ring something. The ringing of the bell in Dark Souls is so strongly imprinted in my memory that I just let that bleed through here: the Hellwalkers are also trying to ring a macguffin. The influence runs deeper than that, though—also like the Undead Prophecy, it misleads those who follow it: there is a second Bell of Awakening to ring in Dark Souls and the Chime is not in the Pit of Flame. Just like the Undead Prophecy, the Pilgrim’s Verse is a fabrication by a waning power hoping some future adventurer will restore it.

Enter the Gungeon
The quest is also inspired directly by Enter the Gungeon: in that game, the player characters are attempting to go back in time and undo their past mistakes. I think that’s pretty cool, and it makes me feel less bad about writing a world full of crappy stuff.

Doom (2016)
The Order of Asphodel works parallel to the UAC. Both meddled in demonic power and things went south. There’s some evidence of that here in all the broken test tubes, but I’m going to try to scatter more of it around the map.

Darkest Dungeon
It has a cool corvid boss fight.

Here's the map, for reference

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Rats, Snakes, and Small Swarms of Bees (Critter Master GLOG Class)

Oops, I accidentally dropped pictures of a bunch of cute critters all over this post, my bad (Wikipedia)

Way back in the dark pre-GLOG ages, Arnold wrote a Rat Master. I wrote an animal-agnostic, GLOG-compatible version.

Critter Master 

You can call one critter per minute, to a max of [templates] cubed (1, 8, 27, 64).

A: Critter Friend, Commander
B: Bond, Blessing
C: Dire Critter, Critter Form
D: Reinforce, Dire Form

Critter Friend
Pick a type of critter, for example: rats, spiders, snakes, pigeons, or small swarms of bees. You can speak to them, and they can speak to you, and they treat you with respect. Supernatural critters might not be respectful. You can call out for critters almost anywhere, crawling forth from nooks and crannies. You can call one critter/minute, to a max of [templates]^3 (1, 8, 27, 64).

You can command your critters in combat (in addition to acting yourself). Critters deal damage in clumps. They deal 1dX damage, where X is the amount of critter in the clump, maxing out at 1d12. Only one clump can attack a target at a time. When attacked, Clumps are unarmored and have X HP, and when hit by an AoE attack a clump must Save or Die, with half surviving on a success. You can order critters to explore and perform other tasks, but they’re not very smart.

You can sense the locations of your called critters.

You take on some aspect of of your critter (rat agility, spiderclimb, snake venom, bee sting). Abilities should be active and have [template] uses/day.

Dire Critter
Take 10 minutes to call a dog-sized version of your critter. It counts as 8 critters toward your cap. Stats are 1 HD, Armor as Leather, 1d8 damage, plus whatever else the critter would have.

Critter Form
You can transform into your critter.

Once per day, you can call any number of critters up to your cap in one combat round.

Dire Form
You can shift between normal, critter, person-sized critter, and part-normal-part-critter forms.


Design Notes

I like this class. I really like the growth from one little buddy to a whole horde of them. The werewolf-ish stuff is fun, too. I think this class is pretty straightforward, but I also think it has a good toolset for solving OSR-style challenges.

So far, this class has been tested in two sessions: once with snakes and once with pigeons. Both times went well: the uses of A Single Snake and A Single Pigeon are very intuitive and helpful, even when you don’t have any other class abilities.

Since we’re finally done with the Primary Trio of classes, there’s a lot less Design Theory going on. These are just for fun.

Look at this small friend! Stay away from me though, small friend! I'm low-key scared of you! You are a good small friend, though!

Pigeons! They can be cute too! (Wikipedia)
Drawing the line at spiders, sorry, so have Lucas instead (His series is great)
It's actually illegal for me to go an entire class post without including Darkest Dungeon. Picture this but it's a swarm of 30 dachsunds instead (Darkest Dungeon!!)