Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A replacement for read magic

It's Swords & Wizardry appreciation Day! (Like you didn't know, you cheeky monkey.)

Here's a spell:

Black Candle
Spell Level: Magic-User 1st level
Range: as candlelight
Duration: as candle (depending on material)

This spell creates a halo on unlight that only the caster can see. The unlight makes some invisible writing visible and makes magical writing readable while within the halo of unlight. This spell will require some rules for candles (how far their light illuminates, the different properties of wax and tallow, etc. because I seem to enjoy that kind of very granular nonsense).
Is it the candle itself, the wick or the flame that is black?
The material component is a candle that is lighted behind the caster's head.

(I seem to have strayed into Hot Topic Pop Music territory here, but that really wasn't on my mind.)

This spell is intended to replace read magic, but it started life as kind of magical light that could help adventures see their way through darkened depths without broadcasting their location to the slobbering blood hungry denizens therein.

It also reminds me of the time I somehow wound up at a concert for this Goth-looking band called Wick (I can only assume my band or a friend's band was also playing that night--there's no other reason I would have been in that place). One song featured the singer coming out into the audience for a sort of shout-along where he'd jab the mike at you so you could shout along with one particular word.

Naturally, when he got to our table (of course I was sitting down at a rock show--I hate rock shows!) my girlfriend and I just stared at him stupidly. We didn't know what word they were shouting (earplugs) and hadn't really been paying attention (though we were positively squinting with the effort of willing him not to come to out table).

So he threw us the mike and we gave him the cow eyes and he walking away, saying over his shoulder "all you had to say was _____."  That's all I remember--I don't remember if we left right then, or what happened after if we stayed (I was probably drunk)--and I don't even remember what the word was we were supposed to shout.

That's what this spell reminds me of.

There's also a coupon for you:

And one for the d20pfsrd shop :SWAD252013

Monday, April 8, 2013

Do you remember Thool's horrible moth people?

Way back in the oughts, The World of Thool blog featured a picture of a terrifying moth man that was some kind of replacement for elves. I would love to show you a picture of it, but I haven't been able to find it for a few years now. That could be because I don't remember any names connected with it. I might have been an illustration from an Arthur Machen story.

Do you remember it? Could you help me find it, pretty please? Thank you!

Oh, here's what I plan to do with it:

"Elves" in their natural state are horrid (to human eyes) moth people who want to EAT YOUR DREAMS. They appear to us as fair, graceful and musical because each and every one of them (it's an ancient cultural tradition--and 1000-year-old people can be so conservative) projects a narcissistic image of their idealized self through a kind of glamour stored in a (very carefully secreted) charm, which is of course fueled by moonlight and mortal dreams. Should the charm ever run dry, you'll catch a glimpse of the elf's true appearance, and things will never be the same.

These horrid moth predators are creatures of Morpheus, god of dreams (so elves may very well choose to look like Cure fans), and as such are able to walk in mortal dreams and pillage them for whatever they like. Dreams themselves are priceless unique jewels, obviously. This is why elves are immune to sleep spells--they just step back out of the dream world like nothing happened.

They explanation for their immunity to ghoul paralysis is similar--a ghoul's attack can only reach the projected image, leaving the elf themself free of the old eaten-alive waking nightmare. They prefer to be on the other side of that equation . . .

This plays on an idea in that Cugel story "Eyes of the Overworld," although it came to me as I was thinking about who it is you talk to when you talk to yourself, and The Last Psychiatrist's writing about our own cultural plague of narcissism. And I should also credit the way my friend Adam played a very haughty elf in my Mutant Earth campaign.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Not bummed about Dwimmermount after all

Turns out the announcement of ACKS-only release was a mistake; furthermore, I learned from Jeramy Deram's comment on my lamentation post that ACKS and LL are mostly the same, so for both of those reasons let me say that I am thoroughly restored in my satisfaction with Autarch's plans to finally release Dwimmermount.

(Although, the Kickstarter update does specifically mention that ACKS is ascending AC and I don't like that. I'm a Delta's Target 20 man.)

While I'm retracting things, I'll mention that I was totally mistaken yesterday about OD&D's wording on read magic, so my whole motivation for writing about it was off base. It was still a worthwhile and edifying mistake, so there's that. I'll have a read magic Through The Ages thing later today. I learned, for example, the value of actually reading the piece of text you feel compelled to comment on. I'm reminded of a red-pen note my 12th-grade English teacher wrote on an essay exam about Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood: I quote in full from memory, "Did it ever occur to you to write about a book you thought you understod?"

Here's something else not even children still need to be taught (though it might be germane to D&D):

It's pretty quiet, so here's what he says: Rules are only meaningful if people agree to follow them; otherwise they're just words."

And he says words like it means "flatulence."

P.S. (Not related to He-Man) Do you think there's any chance Angel's son is named after O'Connor?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's the deal with read magic?

So why read magic? I have to admit I've never seen it used. I never played a magic user as a kid, because I'm a bonehead and only wanted to play minotaur barbarians (and, yeah, I was a teenager during the Dragonlance years, at least when I played on Krynn).

I don't even know if it exists in 3.x. Let me check the SRD. It's there as a 0-level spell that's used to "decipher magical inscriptions on objects—books, scrolls, weapons, and the like—that would otherwise be unintelligible".

What started me thinking about this was, not surprisingly I guess, the way the spell is presented in OD&D (which I really should quote here, but I don't have my booklet with me) because it implies that magic-users  will need to have this spell on hand for any spell-reading they want to do, say at memorization time. That could be a welcome brake on the power of higher level wizards, but it's hamstringing to the 1st level guy, isn't it?

Here's what my copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box says: "allows [you] to read magical writings on items and scrolls. Magical writing cannot be read without . . . this spell." And the duration is specified as "2 scrolls or other writings."

Do these magical writings include your own spell book? What do you suppose this spell was originally intended to do? How do you use it? Did you piledrive it too? (If you haven't read those posts at Monsters & Manuals, I'd say they're worth your time.)

I have an idea for a variant--which is really just a re-skin, but I suppose I'll save it for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day (April 17), in case I don't think of anything better before then. It'll even give me time to write it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Action Hour

What you should do, in your next game at 1st level, is send the PCs through a portal to a room where they find several powerful weapons: an Invincible Shield, a Club of Thunders, a Cloak of Invisibility, a Hat Full of Spells, an Energy Bow and a Stick. That sort of thing.

Then they can spend the session striding like colossuses through the Realm of Dungeons & Dragons (maybe they need to find a pretty flower to defeat the beholder with) before being shunted back through the portal to their workaday perilous adventuring lives. It might be a kind of April Fool's joke--just not a very good one.

This idea comes from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ("Remember Me"--4.5) where Dr. Crusher gets trapped in a warp-bubble universe, or any of the other stories in the world where you spend some time in another world--like when Jack Tripper was going to win the lottery and, as a kid, I was very worried that that would destroy the show and I wouldn't get to watch it anymore (though I guess that's more the threat of an alternate dimension, and only sort of). Did you ever worry, when you watched TV as a kid, that if the world was destroyed in the show you yourself would be killed? That was the best.

It's funny to me to play Dungeons & Dragons--the animated series--as a Cartoon Action Hour series. You should do it too.

Oh jeez, don't forget the bleating unicorn foal!