Sunday, 20 December 2020

Simple Magic House Rule for Low Fantasy or Pulp Setting Flavour

Low Fantasy. Magic is rare. Those that wield magic are burnt at the stake or revered as cult-lords. How to simply represent this through your game's mechanics?

Reaction Rolls.

Immediately reroll any NPC's reaction after a character uses magic in front of them for the first time. This means a group of initially friendly peasants can start to reach for their pitchforks when they see a PC casting spells or a gang of brigands can become hospitable (from fear of being obliterated by a powerful sorcerer). It is your discretion whether to include the magic-wielder's charisma modifier in this roll.

Rerolling reactions should only be done once and only for appropriate NPC's. A group of hardened adventurers or the king's finest veterans probably wouldn't reroll reactions, they are too experienced or brave or loyal to do so. Likewise, non-sentient creatures (undead, automatons) are unaffected as are NPC magic-users and many (but not all) dungeon denizens. Cultists should only reroll reactions if the PC's do magic more impressive than their cult leader is capable of. 

To simulate more intensely inquisitorial, witch-hunting societies reroll reactions with a -2 or -4. An average reaction roll indicating a certain fearfulness or anxiety in the NPC's. Positive magic could mean the reaction roll is made with a +2; despicable magic with a -2.


If your game looks like this, don't use this house rule


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Adrenaline and Spark Tables; dungeon generation during play.

You’re running a session and the players stumble into a dungeon that you haven’t created yet. 

What are you going to do?

Recently, I was a player in a session where this happened to the DM. We went off map, found a monastery and decided to sneak in. The DM did a good job for a very improv heavy session and to be honest, sneaking in to the monastery was my idea. It got me thinking about what I would do if I was ever caught in that situation. So I made this method.


Most importantly, this is not a method for generating particularly good dungeons. It’s a method for making it through a session you are not prepared for, while keeping it interesting and not awkward. Like improvisation the method requires quick thinking and imagination and should honestly be combined with the sparing use of typical DM stalling tactics like having chatty NPC’s or long (but interesting) combats. The method won’t generate the greatest dungeon, the layout is especially simple, more like a corridor with shortcuts and rooms might not be arranged in a logical, naturalistic sense. However, it might just get you/me through the session and it still be fun. You should probably also be clear with your players that you are making it up as you go.

There’s a TLDR at the end of this big messy blog post. 

For this method I break a dungeon down into these constituent parts:

A dungeon is made from:
- Rooms
- A Theme
- Dressings

A dungeon room is made three 3 elements:
- Room Type
- Active Element
- Passive Element

The Method

Spark Tables

You will need pencil, paper, d4, d6, d8.

Quickly, write the theme of the dungeon. This is your touchstone and ultimate unifying concept for the dungeon.

Then jot notes for the dressings. What might be found in the dungeon, more than actual dressings like furniture and objects, but smells and textures – what the floor and walls are made from (unless obvious or you don’t have the time). These are the things you’ll glance to and sprinkle in when describing the rooms - like a word mood board. Through this explanation I will be talking through a generic fantasy dungeon – an Orcish Temple. The dressings for which will be dirt, blood, splintered wood, mold and black stone idols.

Then write 3 spark tables. That sounds like a lot but it’s not, it’s 14 words. Write words that are evocative of the dungeon milieu. Don't pick prescriptive words especially for locations. Your dungeon will only generate better and easier if your words are good. For a alchemist's laboratory dungeon, rather than have an active element word 'laboratory' have 'cauldron' and 'chemical' and 'device'. For a decadent swords and sorcery dungeon have 'pleasure' rather than 'banquet hall' or 'harem'. Words that can be interpreted in different ways are good, overly specific words are bad.      

I cannot stress the importance of using random tables to generate the rooms for your dungeon. I don't deny your creativity, using tables will force your creative brain to dream up far more interesting rooms than the stock situations and room-fills you might fall back on given the pressure of creating a dungeon during play. 

There are two example dungeons with tables I have provided later in this post. Don’t be precious - be quick, write the first words that come to your mind. The most obvious ones first, if you run out of obvious words write 1-2 generic or weird words (a good dungeon should have both of these things). As you write the words you should already be thinking of fun things to happen in the dungeon. Again, you have to write quickly.


These tables are:

D4 Room type. This table does not change and the 4 results are always the same regardless of the dungeon. (change them if you really want to) The results are as follows;

1. Encounter, something or someone is in this room. Something is happening right now, right here.
2. Hazard, a dangerous thing in the environment, potentially hidden as a trap but not always.
3. Travel, all rooms have a way of getting to one other room. Travel rooms have two ways and one of them is hidden. A travel result means there is a way of getting to another room of the dungeon via another egress than normal. Usually a secret door with attached corridor but the means of travel could be anything from a river to a teleportation circle. The simplest and easiest method of generating secret doors is this; secret doors will always lead to the room after the next one and bypass 1 room. A secret door in the 2nd room will lead to the 4th room of the dungeon. When getting to the end of what you feel is the right size for this dungeon have the travel result’s secret corridor loop back to the dungeon entrance or become a hidden dungeon exit/entrance.   
4. Treasure, something valuable that the PC’s would want. Not easy, quick or safe to acquire.

These results can phase into one another as you imagine the room. Don’t feel to constrained by the result but don’t stray from the result too much either. Do what feels natural and fast.


D6 Active element. What’s the important thing going on in this room? At least one of the six words should be whatever owns, made or is in control of the dungeon. For the Orcish Temple I will have the most obvious words;

1. Orc
2. Ritual
3. Cruelty
4. Totem (Not all results need to be things that are happening. They can just be things. Try to not have too many of these results or the dungeon will feel empty)
5. Foul creatures (Have something more pointed and/or strange)
6. Engine (Then if you can’t think of anything else, anything you find evocative will do, what have you been thinking about recently?  – add it in quickly)

D8 Passive element. Whatever modifies the room/active element and makes it unique and interesting. These words should be primarily descriptive words, some objects or events are actually ok. These words can be more generic, but should be in keeping with the dungeon’s theme. The Orcish Temple will have the words…

1. Rotten
2. Corrupt
3. Cage
4. Spirit
5. Fight
6. Sick
7. Sacrificial
8. Night


Rolling the Dungeon:

I found it easiest to draw the dungeon as I describe it. It doesn’t need to look pretty.

For each room roll a d4, d6 and d8 at the same time for the room type, active and passive elements. Read the dice in ascending size order, combine the results in your head and start drawing and talking. Don’t stop to plan it out (you don’t have the time), talk and draw as you imagine the room not afterwards. You have to imagine out loud. Think and describe the biggest and most prominent details first then hone in on the smaller details to build a good picture. Resist the urge to add things/details to a room after it has been described to the players even if you had thought of something better as this will disorient them.

All standard rooms have an obvious way of getting to one new room. Rooms generated by the ‘Travel’ result have paths to two rooms. Travel results create tiny loops in the map by bypassing the next room to be generated. Secret doors are only secret in the room they have been generated in. For mental ease the other end of a secret corridor is not secret, just a normal entrance that enters back into the just generated Travel room. Do not forget to describe this door when that further room is described.       

All rooms are connected via corridors. These corridors are liminal spaces between rooms. Corridors don't contain anything important. Corridors can go up, down, north, south, east, west, be straight or crooked – it doesn’t matter. They give you time to generate the next room and for the players to listen to/smell the next room before deciding on if they want to go in or not and what their approach will be.

Keep generating rooms until the dungeon is big enough for you to stop (at which point you either add an exit in the next generated room, have a dead end or do the Skyrim method and have a corridor loop round to a hidden door in the starting room) or the session ends and you can complete the rest of the dungeon properly before the next session.    

Traditional Encounters

If you need encounters – things to enter the room because PC’s are doing something loud, taking a long time to do something etc; roll the active and passive tables and combine with the most obvious monster or being to be found in the dungeon. For the Orcish Temple I would combine the word with Orcs.     



Here are two dungeons I made with this method, each dungeon was generated start-to-finish in about ten minutes. This time frame includes the writing of the spark tables, drawing and pretending to describe the rooms aloud as if I were DM’ing them. Unfortunately, because I was going quickly, I was unable to write notes or record my rolls as you might during actual play. It goes without saying the drawings are not beautiful, the point is speed and something I can read. 

 Ancient Theocratic Monastery:

Also included is the true layout of the dungeon. An element I'm still unsure how to improve without increasing complexity.

Rooms from left to right, summed up briefly without the usual DM descriptive spiel;

Entrance. A monk meditates beneath a huge scimitar wielding statue – the statue straddles a huge door. The eyes of the statue are hollow and lead to a room deeper in the monastery (this eye detail was generated after the entrance had been generated)

A large chamber lit by hundreds of candles. A man-sized candle has a picture of a door on it. If blown out a secret door opens, if the candle is lit the door locks. In the middle of the room is a lever. At the other end of the room, embedded in a wall is a huge keyhole above a large metal door, from the keyhole a large chain extends across the length of the ceiling. If the lever is pulled the statue’s scimitar detaches from the entrance, swings down and is pulled into the keyhole by the chain. This is a slow and loud process – provoking encounter checks. After 10 minutes the door can be opened. The lock can be picked by climbing inside of it.      

The smell of incense. The growls of the panther. Several monks sit in a circle deep in meditation. Around them prowls an exotic slinking feline beast. It will maul and eat anyone who isn’t calm.

A heavy gilded door opens to a triangular room. Up some sandstone steps, at the northern corner of the room, atop a golden throne sits an ancient, imperious monk half asleep wearing golden armour and headdress. The room is filled with mummified, prostrate monk adherents who will begin to animate if the enthroned monk is threatened. At the southern most side of the room is another large candle with a picture of a door on it, it functions as the candle in the second room.   

A large feasting chamber. Portly servants ferry trays of expensive foods back and forth to groggy monks. Beneath the feasting table is a hidden walkway to another room.

The room is filled with chanting and sacred vapours. A monk chants as he writes calligraphy in a giant filigree book with a gold-plated man-sized brush. There are two doors. The southern door leads to the hollow head and eyes of the scimitar statue at the monastery entrance.  

In the centre of this room is a huge island-pile of coins and gems wreathed in noxious gases emanating from a chasm that surrounds the pile. Atop the pile is the mummified corpse of an ancient Lama. The walls of this room are lined with contorted mummified monks. Should the Lama fall from the treasure pile, countless mummies will begin to animate and seek their vengeance.

 

Dressing: candles, incense, sandstone, sleep


Active Element:

1. Ritual
2. Strange creatures
3. Statue
4. Servant
5. Monk
6. Knife

Passive Element:

1. Weird
2. Prison
3. Ancient
4. Feast
5. Ornate
6. Sacred
7. Martial
8. Splendid
 

A Castle taken over by Neanderthals:

A stranger concept to test if the method can work on thoroughly new ideas quickly.


A huge cleft in a stone castle wall littered with ox skulls leads to a large ruined hall. Several huge stone columns have fallen precariously against each other and the walls. Each column is festooned with dangling skulls and bones hanging from cords tied around the columns. If disturbed the columns will collapse on whatever is beneath them. A door on the far side of the room is draped with two tattered tapestries. One column has broken through the brickwork slightly, if the rest of the wall is broken through there is a secret passage.

A skeletal bull-mammoth lays sprayed out on the dirty stone floor hanging from one wall is the mammoth’s hide (behind the hide is a secret corridor). The mammoth’s rib cage is stuffed with worthless offerings and valuable treasure, from it’s side juts a jewel encrusted sword – probably magical. If the skeleton is disturbed the ghost of the bull-mammoth will emerge and defend it’s remains. (the bull-mammoth’s herd can be found in the castle’s throne room, they were generated later)

A collection of huts gathered around a large fire in the middle of the room. Neanderthals break furniture and throw it onto the fire. Neanderthal warriors armed with metal weapons try to discover the secrets of metallurgy. One Neanderthal is wearing a great helm and is armed with an iron battle-axe.     

A neanderthal graveyard. The stone floor has been broken up into piles and graves have been dug in the earth. A shaman performs funerary rites on the body of the hulking neanderthal chief. The chief’s body is surrounded by gem offerings and holds a magical rod.

The sound of heavy footprints and mammoth trumpeting. The throne room. A huge hall. Mammoth manure. A half dozen mammoths and several calves are corralled in the throne room. Their tusks are banded with gold rings. A small door leads to the loose brickwork of the entrance room.

 

Dressing; mud, torn tapestry, broken furniture, skulls

 

Active Element:

1. Cavemen
2. Prehistoric Beast
3. Shaman
4. Ghost
5. Craft
6. Stone
 

Passive Element:

1. Dirt
2. Scavenge
3. Ruin
4. Repurpose
5. Tomb
6. Ancestral
7. Fossil
8. Survival
 

Summary:

  • Name the dungeon
  • Write dungeon theme
  • Write typical dressings that would be found in the dungeon.
  • Write 3 tables – d4 room type, d6 active element and d8 passive element.
  • D4 room type table is always 1. Encounter, 2. Hazard, 3. Travel, 4. Treasure
  • Active elements are moving, doing words.
  • Passive element words are more descriptive, tonal, scene-setting or modifying.
  • To generate a room, roll d4, d6 and d8, combine the results and draw them while describing them to the players. Add a door leading out of this room to the next with a corridor in between.
  • Repeat until dungeon is 'complete' or the session ends. 
  • If a room is a ‘travel’ room it has two ways forward into the dungeon, one standard and one secret. The secret door that bypasses a room i.e. a secret door in the 2nd room will lead to the 4th room of the dungeon.

 

 


Friday, 24 July 2020

Naively Simple Alchemy

Alchemy; as simple as I can make it and have a system that is still loosely playable. 

PDF HERE

All Potions require 4 things;

1. An Oil (1 item slot, provides adjective)

2. A Powder (1 item slot, provides noun/verb)

3. A Catalyst (1 item slot, provides tone + potency)

4. Alchemical Equipment (1 encumbrance slot)

How to make a Potion:

All things can be reduced to either Oils or Powders by use of Alchemical Equipment. These substances produce a single, unchanging effect based on what they were derived from. At its simplest, Oils provide an adjective effect and Powders denote a particular verb or noun. A single Oil and a single Powder are combined to create a potion, the effects of any potion are the combination of the Adjective and Verb/Noun.

For example, an amateur adventuring alchemist slays two Blink-Dogs and reduces one into an Oil and the other into a Powder using his alchemical equipment. Using his Alchemical Equipment, he is aware of the effect the Blink-Dog Oil and Blink-Dog Powder will bring to any particular potion. (These effects are improvd by the DM)

Blink-Dog Oil = Capricious

Blink-Dog Powder = Teleport  

Having discovered these effects, he (and the DM) log the effects into a codified alchemical grimoire for future reference. Before the Alchemist can make his Capricious Teleport potion (drinking this potion will cause random teleportation), he must select a Catalyst. Catalysts are rare and collectable magical artifacts that allow and modify the synthesis of potions. Catalysts dictate the Tone and Potency (and flavour) of the Potion. (the effect of Catalysts are known only to the DM)

The Alchemist only has one Catalyst, A Hand of Glory, a Catalyst of medium potency that makes potions Gothic. It takes 4 hours to distil a potion, but when complete the potion is recorded as 'Potion of Capricious Teleport (Hand of Glory)’. The Catalyst used, means that this Potion will last for 10 minutes and each teleport will be accompanied by a cloud of black, sulphurous vapour and an almost silent screaming sound.    

Additional Addenda:

Oils and Powders are used up during potion distillation. Catalysts (unless specified) remain unconsumed

Alchemical Equipment is never consumed.

Potions only ever have two ingredients, 1 Oil and 1 Powder.

Unless very large, most creatures or objects can only be reduced into a single batch of a single ingredient.

Alternate weights if using a coin-based inventory system:

Oils and Powders weight 10-20 coins.

Alchemical Equipment weighs 100-150 coins.

Catalysts can come in any shape or size, 1 coin immovable.

Exploitation of Mundane Substances: 

If players attempt to use incredibly mundane substances (like grass) in their potions, allow them. However, reduce the potions Potency by one step and think very carefully about what effects the Oil and Powder will give. The effects should be niche, dull and not terribly useful. Also consider the large quantity of the mundane substance the players would have to gather in order to produce an effectual yield of oil/powder. Grass for example may yield;

Grass Oil = Wilt/Wilting

Grass Powder = Grass


Potion Potency:

Potion Potency is derived from the Catalyst used to distil the potion. The DM ultimately rules for how powerful any potion is. However, as a guide, assign Catalysts a level; weak, medium or powerful. A Catalysts Potency is known only by the DM and is for players to work out, as with a Catalyst’s Tone.

Some potions have instantaneous effects while other would work for a duration, take this into account when assigning potion effects. It would be best practice for the DM to record specific potion effects for consistency.

Potency levels could be used thusly. Weak potions last from 1 combat round to 10, Medium potions last for 10 minutes to an hour. Powerful potions last anywhere between one day and a month. Some potion effects would be instant, Catalysts would affect this too. Damage is assigned thusly, weak Catalyst = 1d4, powerful = 1d20 and medium; any die in between. Anything else (such as if a potion effects or creates a volume of something) would be up to the DMs discretion.

 


On Catalysts and Tones:

Catalysts come in many forms. They are special things (or even places) that make the potion work something vaguely magical or extraordinarily masterwork, something that could theoretically hold, move, stir or affect the potion in some way can be a Catalyst. Catalysts are often bespoke, predefined items. Players shouldnt be able to pull out a trolls fang or an orcs finger and convince the DM it is a Catalyst. Catalysts should be rare. They should be something heard about in rumours; not bought in a shop.

Examples of Catalysts could include things like a Unicorn's Horn, a Cursed Alchemist's Ladle, an Elven Gossamer-Funnel, an Angelic Drinking Chalice ... an Atlantean Whisk? An entire dungeon could be a powerful Catalyst, with a chute or trough running from one end of the dungeon to the other. Pour the potion in one end and collect the finished potion from the other.

Tone descriptors derived from Catalysts are words that affect how a potion's effects manifest. Sloshing a potion of Capricious Teleport through an Elven Gossamer-Funnel might make it Ethereal. So, the random teleportation that happens when the potion is imbibed is slow and ghostly, it takes 1 round to complete a teleport, during this time an astral image of the teleporter is seen floating through the air towards the sight where they will emerge from their random teleport.

Its trickier to improv in the moment but if a potions flavour (Gothic, Ethereal) can have a potential gameplay effect, all the better. For example, a Gothic teleport leaves smoke and a smell, an Ethereal teleport is still random but can be more predictable.

Interesting Catalyst modifying words could be Hot, Cursed, Hideous, Alien, Hallucinatory, Bizarre, Light, Aggressive, Wild, Heavenly and so on, any word that is evocative to you, Tone could even be several words if you find that easier. The player wont know and can only intuit Tone based on their experimentation.


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Aliens.


Aliens. Here are three race-as-classes based on different varieties of supposed alien species. The classic Nordic or Pleiadean type, the Men in Black and the infamous Reptilians. These classes are not just suitable for Science-Fiction and Science-Fantasy games and could easily be used in more typical fantasy, weird tales or pulp games. The Pleiadeans become Atlanteans or inner-earth Agarthans, The Men in Black become Bogeymen and the Reptilians become Robert E. Howard's Serpent Men. 

PDF







Pleiadean, Nordic, Agarthan or Atlantean

Tall, blonde and benevolent. Pleiadeans are physically and mentally superior, a perfect race. Vain and unintentionally sinister, the Pleiadeans appear devoted to peace, progress and enlightenment for all sentient life.

HD: d8

Attacks: as Magic-User

Saves: as Elf

Level: as Fighter

Alignment: Lawful

Special: All stats must be 11 or above


Perfected Beings: Pleiadeans are biologically capable of physical and mental perfection. Every level increase a modifier of your choice by 1 to a maximum total of +5. Your actual stat does not increase in size or number.

Telepathy: Pleiadeans are capable of two-way telepathy with beings they can see. They can communicate via known languages or share emotions.

Controlled Biology: Pleiadeans have conquered the mortal condition and suffer no penalties from ageing and receive +2 on saving throws vs disease.  

 

Indrid Cold by 6nillion

Man In Black or Bogeyman

Men in Black or MIB are peculiar beings with uncanny faces. Beings in dated black formalwear. No one knows what they are doing, who they are or what they want, but they have something to do with the lights in sky. They are creatures of unreality and chaos. They may not even exist outside of our minds.

HD: d6

Attacks: as Magic-User                        

Saves: as Thief

Level: as Thief

Alignment: Chaotic


High Strangeness: A number of times per day equal to your level unleash High Strangeness. Each time, roll 2d100 on the High Strangeness table, present the two words to the DM. You and the DM then combine these words to affect the current scene or your character in some wild, strange, dreamlike fashion. These effects last an amount of time depending on their potency. Potent effects last a round per level and less potent changes as long as the MIB is present. The words can be interpreted in any order and some need to be specified by the player, such as colour or emotion. Some results may be cerebral or silly. Always go with your first instincts to ensure pace. Not every effect is useful.

Effects could be strange objects pulled from pockets, things or people summoned from the sky or the shadows. Effects could be mental or physical - real and imaginary. High Strangeness can target the MIB, someone else or sometimes everyone (if in doubt select randomly) or they can change the environment or things within the environment. Theoretically anything is possible.

This High Strangeness ability is also triggered whenever a MIB is critically hit, reduced to 0 HP and on character death.

Grey: At 9th level your poor human pretences fade away. You are no longer a Man in Black but a Grey. You shed you black clothing revealing a grey spindly body, beneath your hat is a grey bulbous head in which are embedded two wide and cold black eyes. You can change height at will being either lanky and tall or as short as a halfling.

Telepathy: From 9th level a Grey is able to speak telepathically with any sentient creature within its line of sight but is no longer able to speak verbally.

Pretend Person: Nothing about an MIB is real, their human disguises are poor and knowledge limited. MIBs do not need to eat, drink or sleep but can attempt to do so if they wish. The result is stilted and unnatural a bad act.

Unnatural: Men in Black spook animals and suffer -2 to reaction rolls with them. 

Find the High Strangeness table in the PDF linked to above or HERE.



Reptilian or Serpent Man

Hailing from beyond the stars or deep within the Earth, the Reptilians are a primordial race. Ancient, even when men first began to emerge from apedom. A powerful and distant species with a cold and sharp intelligence, the Reptilians are masters of the material and immaterial and using their shape-changing abilities they have infiltrated the highest rungs of human society. Their only weakness; their insatiable dependence on blood.

HD: d4

Attacks: as Magic-User

Saves: as Elf

Level: as Elf

Alignment: Chaotic


Alien Biology: Reptilians start with a +1 modifier bonus to Strength and Intelligence stats.

Shapeshifter: Reptilians start with one alternate human form; this form is unique. On every third level (3rd, 6th, 9th) the Reptilian receives an additional human form. These additional forms must be copies of existing people the reptilian has seen. The Reptilian can shift between these forms at will. 

Claw attack: Whilst in its reptile form, the reptilian can slash with its claws for 2d4 damage.

Hated: When in reptile form, Reptilians suffer -2 to reaction rolls.

Blood Magic: Reptilians start with 1 spell and gain 1 spell per level as a magic-user of the same level and an equal amount of spell slots. These spell slots can be used in two ways. Whenever spell slots become available the Reptilian can bind a known spell (they bind a known spell any number of times). For each spell slot currently bound a Reptilian gains +2 HP and +1 to their attack bonus. When the spell is cast this bonus is lost.

Reptilians do not regain spells like other spellcasters. To regain lost spell slots a Reptilian must drink the blood of sentient creatures. One spell-slot is regained per HD of the creature being drained. You cannot regain more spell slots per day than your current level.  

Haemovore: Reptilians can consume blood instead of rations.




Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Universal Printing Press, a printing press for more than just words! Calling forth limitless matter from the Fruitful Void – a limitless cornucopia for every man!

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?

Art by Heinrich Kley

1. Initial Innovation

A particular wizard has formulated a miraculous repurposing of the printing press. A printing press that produces matter not words. Rather than printing plates engraved with script these plates are being inscribed with a variety of magical symbols. These sigils, when etched in particular configurations interface with some foreign dimension (named the Fruitful Void) and can usher forth matter in predefined shapes and forms from that inaccessible world. The first few items produced by these printing presses are almost two-dimensional rectangles of hard grey matter, almost laughable really, but I’m sure with a little more experimentation more complex forms can be printed.


2. Public Introduction

Initially these presses produce only a hard-grey material that people use to produce cheap cutlery, crude trinkets and jewellery no one particularly wants to buy. Rather than repurposing traditional printing presses bespoke universal presses are beginning to be produced in factories. Many aspiring sigilists see potential and begin to experiment, producing different materials or more complex shapes. The presses are slow in producing things to start with but gain speed with each passing week. Savvy manufacturers begin to get nervous.

3. Widespread Adoption

Early experimentation proves fruitful. The printing plates are becoming more complex and widespread. Other materials are beginning to be produced; stringy liquids, chalky powders, sponges. Direct replicas of things are currently out of the printing presses scope but progress continues unabated. People are producing nutritious jellies in artisanal shapes. The majority of people prefer to buy real food but for the destitute a ready source of cheap food is very welcome. Soon workhouses are serving nutritious printed slimes rather than gruel – it’s cheaper. Cold houses are made warm by the smouldering of strange bricks of burnable matter. The military takes an interest but lacks the creativity to print more than canned rations.

4. Scope Alteration

An unnerving breakthrough. If you use forbidden, chaotic runes the presses work much better - your desired produce is given more readily by the Fruitful Void. No one pays this much mind; they want more stuff. More familiar materials of many types may be printed in theoretically any combination. If you can think of it, it is being produced, furniture, clothing, food. Traditional manufacturers become increasingly anxious and panicky as their wares are replicated perfectly at little cost to the printer. Still more and more complicated printing plates are being produced and with greater ease. What possibilities are yet to be printed?

5. Height of Ambition

Even complex printing plates have become laughable to produce and can be done at home by amateurs. People can produce whatever they please almost instantly. Coinage is obsolete – why bother when you can print gold? The economy has collapsed but who actually cares? You can produce as much free stuff as you could want! Poverty, starvation, work? These are concepts of the past! The streets are lined with one long, riotous carnival. Every man owns a press; every man is as an emperor. Milk and honey stream through the streets (which by chance are literally paved with gold). To keep out the rest of the yearning world cyclopean brickwork is printed and great walls are constructed at lighting speed. The press still has some limitations. It can’t print magical items or substances. Also, while the press has been able to print life it is limited to simple organisms like algae. In other news, the black market is increasingly open and completely unpoliceable. Producing pure black-lotus extract is child’s play. Narcotics flow freely. 

6. Terminal Events

The terror of desires met. What can a man want for if his every material need is met? His every desire is provided for? Power, authority. Power over other men is one of the few commodities the presses cannot print. At least not directly. While the universal presses may not be able to print authority, they can print a cannon.
It begins with people printing box-fed repeating rifles and ammunition. Criminals at first. There are shootings in the street. Then coups. The rule of law fades quickly. Migrants longing for the material excess of the universal press are handed a rifle by a street-warlord and expected to fight for it. The arms race escalates. If you can materialise a bullet you can materialise a bomb. If you can materialise a bomb then why not materialise a particularly vicious bomb? A bomb that burns or chokes? It won’t be long before someone prints some plague…
The constant and rampant unchecked use of satanic printing presses which tap into an unknowable dark dimension will undoubtedly have some apocalyptic consequences. However, home printed pathogens will probably wipe out a large percentage of the world’s population before that ever happens.

The Good and Natural Specialisation of Class, the true assumption of man within his industry or Industrial Human Speciation as a means of producing a more efficient worker

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?


Art by Heinrich Kley



1. Initial Innovation

Designer transmogrification spells have been present amongst the city’s decadent dandy crowd for some time. Inefficient and expensive spells that lasted a few hours and amounted to little more than beautification or novelty - A change of eye colour, a thinner waistline – an expensive and decadent form of fancy dress. Nothing practical by any means. That is until hardnosed and workmanlike sorcerer-magnate, Henril Fwerd came across this fanciful practice at a local fop’s opulent party. While wastrels cavorted about with glowing skin and stilt legs, he sat dreaming. Fwerd, a wizard with a specific and unsavoury view of the class system, had seen an untapped industrial potential in this form of magic and a means to reshape the city in line with his worldview. Leaving with haste to his smoggy wizard’s tower to review the magical logic of these petty transmogrification spells, to rewrite the archaic, amateurish prose and streamline the arcane symbology – to make these transmogrification spells purposeful, practical and cost-effective (even if it meant making the transformations permanent).   

2. Public Introduction

Word around town is that something strange has happened to some of the workers in Fwerd’s main factory. They look strange… their arms and chests all ropey and knotted with muscles, it’s not so pretty but I’ve seen one of them carry a load an entire team of labourers would struggle with. Fwerd himself has begun to experiment on his own workforce, paying them substantial sums to be his test subjects. Henril began with the manual labourers, offering to make their jobs easier by increasing their muscle mass and density. The stronger they are the more raw materials they can carry, the more material they carry the more the factory can produce. The success of the experiment draws the eye of the city’s industrial class who begin covet this new form of magic. At the moment only Henril knows the methods by which to shape and repurpose flesh and he has far bolder intentions than simply making men stronger. There are so many ways in which man may be better adapted to suit his industrial and social condition.

3. Widespread Adoption

Henril, ever eager to acquire capital has taught his veritable army of apprentice-clerks the specific and secret arcane formulas of his new transfiguration magic. These apprentices, hired out by rich industrialists are to continue Fwerd’s work, administering prescribed transfigurations to workers throughout the city. Workers everywhere are financially incentivised to get transfigured and many in their thousands do, they are poor and could do with the money. For now, the transformations inflicted on the working classes are still comparatively mundane. Reducing the need for sleep means you can work longer hours and few would refuse enhancements made to the lungs so that caustic factory fumes are less damaging. The increased output of the working classes is profitable but wealth flows upwards. The rich begin purchase their own bespoke transfigurations. New vogues emerge, flawless skin, svelte frames.

4. Scope Alteration

The benefit of transfiguring one’s peons is too profitable to pass up. The rich and poor alike clamour with increasing lust and desperation for more transfiguration than Henril’s mages can provide. Fwerd’s main factory-complex is being repurposed; conveyor belts of magic wands. Each shipment contains wands loaded with uniform body-altering spells, guaranteed to completely transfigure the inefficient human frame into something wholly more suited to industrial society. These wands are (under threat of unemployment) being administered as mandatory to all workers and new hires. Ten of thousands are given new inhuman forms. These final transfigurations take on many forms, ever more drastic. Workers are given mottled grey asbestos skin resistant to molten metal. The stiffening of men’s hides and the hardening their bones will protect against biting needles and whirring gears of industrial machinery. Luminous saucer-wide eyes improve vision in the factory gloom.
Meanwhile the city’s ruling classes descend into a twilight world of strictly enforced fashion trends and elitism.  They prance about in shivering, waifish golden-skinned bodies. Shimmering and delicate, their features are sharp and precise, a perfectly symmetrical androgyny.

5. Height of Ambition

The lingering human population find themselves obsolete and unemployable, they slowly succumb to stress and deprivation and are forced to leave the city or are transfigured themselves. With humanities departure the nascent post-human ecology is complete. A new industrial ecosystem broadly divided into two post-human species. The golden-skinned ruling-caste flock to skyline gardens above the smog that irritates their fragile lungs and the grey skinned labour-caste, maladapted to the light of the sun, congregate beneath the earth in subterranean tenements and warehouse-cities. The production of goods and the upwards flow of wealth continues for now, after all is it not what the labour-caste were made for?

6. Terminal Events

No, it isn’t. And it is not long till the labour-caste, bristling with muscles and stab-proof skin, begin to remember this. There are strikes, riots. The military-caste are brought in to corral the labour-caste like the cattle they’ve become but find their social positions and species are not dissimilar and join what is quickly becoming an open revolution. The city descends into bloody interspecies warfare but the ruling caste are far too few and physically ornate to compete. Some in the labour-caste begin to question; ‘why not eat the rich?’. Fwerd’s industrial citadel is stormed by the lower-castes. In the ensuing carnage, most, if not all, practitioners of Fwerd’s transfiguration magic are slain and the wands broken. Fwerd, who remained human, dies laughing. The now ruling labour-caste look out from their city and see a species to be utilized – humans.  



The Labour-Caste

Armour class: As chain
Hit dice: 2 HD +6
Move: as man (climb at equal speed)
Attacks: d8 iron bars or sledgehammers
No. Appearing: 1 or workforce, 2d20 
Special: Asbestos hide. Mundane and heat damage received reduced by 1 die size 
Strength of 16+
Lowlight vision and stunned by bright light
Alignment: Neutral

The Ruling-Caste

Armour class: Unarmoured
Hit dice: 1 HD +1
Move: as man x2
Attacks: d2 ineffectual slapping
No. Appearing: couple, 2 or party, 2d4 
Special: Frail. Bludgeoning damage received increased by 1 die size 
Strength and Constitution of 7-
Alignment: Neutral


A City of Sin, A Shining Gomorrah, or; the industrial process by which man is removed from the influence of the gods. ‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the effect of this pill!

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?


Art by Heinrich Kley

1. Initial Innovation

Until now Alasdair Creedlee was known as a petty occultist conman, an effete lothario and notorious self-abuser. Alasdair, an incendiary hedonist, has forever railed against the authority of the church, it’s god and its moral prescriptions. For years he has been vying to escape the influence of the divine, to impugn god, but now he claims to have succeeded. One night, after dallying with sailors, he was gifted a cursed ring that had been smuggled out from some decadent desert kingdom, the ring of Ra-Har-Akht. The ring grants an immunity clerical magic (Save against all clerical magic with a +4 bonus. On success, the magic has no effect). It was almost perfect but while Creedlee couldn’t replicate the ring’s effect to spread his crusade, he could use it in a grand lie. He’d claim the effect of the ring was the result of a new pill that he had invented. A placebo, the pill purports to temporally sever one’s connection to the divine, leaving them to sin freely and it ‘not count’.

2. Public Introduction

The pills are easily produced, a handful or cheap alchemical ingredients, some very weak hallucinogens and a phony chant to bless the batch. The pills are somewhat harder to sell. Alasdair and his gang of occultists flaunt about the city being nuisances. Unsurprisingly, the pills only circulate among Creedlee’s cult but not much further. Alasdair wants money. An audacious marketing strategy is called for. Creedlee – drunk and accompanied by a pair of statuesque prostitutes lord into the grand cathedral and interrupt the High-Inquisitor’s communion. Creedlee is protected by his ring so the Inquisitor’s spells bounce harmlessly off of him. Alasdair knocks the Inquisitor to the ground and throws a handful of pills into the congregation. By Jove Alasdair’s actually done it! News spreads through the city like wildfire, a pill that lets you do anything you want. People are curious.

3. Widespread Adoption

The pills are condemned widely but the illicit trade is proscribed in name only and bans are unenforced. The pills are fun and besides, these are revolutionary times. We should put those antiquated ideals behind us and make some real progress. Pill-pushers stand on every street corner and middle-class wastrels swan around doing as they please with general disregard for wider society. People are becoming ruder, they blaspheme openly. Festivities are increasingly boisterous and immoral and the crime rate ticks ever higher.

4. Scope Alteration

The pills are a hit. Casual usage is commonplace and accepted. Lords and politicians are taking them to commit acts of infidelity and their wives are taking them for the same reason. The pills are legalised. To meet the market’s demand, the production of these pills must be fully industrialised. Industrialists are supportive even if they don’t understand how the magic works (just trust Alasdair – the magic’s far too complicated). From a certain point of view producing the pills could be doubly profitable. The church teaches things about human rights and morality, environmentalism and anti-materialism. All things that could have been impeding a corporations’ profits for all this time, well no longer. In the street, one lone man, bedraggled with a tatty book of holy scripture in hand, shouts ‘The end is nigh! Repent!’ but is drowned out by pill hawkers and the roar of hellish furnaces.

5. Height of Ambition

Everyone takes the pills and you’re vilified if you don’t. Societal function and norms fall by the wayside. Lotharistic hedonism is the law of the land. The city is awash with sin and incredibly dangerous. To an outsider the inhabitants of the city are monstrous. Industrialism runs rampant, pollution spouts into the streets and church halls are bulldozed or repurposed into factories. Wicked bacchanalian horrors are perpetrated publicly. Still, there have been strange happenings in the city as of late. Pale men in black flowing robes have been seen in the city. They linger atop the spires of ruined churches and belching smoke stacks, no one knows their origin only that they are watching us. Judging. We’ve tried shooting at them with no success, they whisper at us to ‘repent’ so we shoot at them some more.

6. Terminal Events

Something is wrong. Our souls feel heavy. Cool whispers wend through the streets. We can hear a soft ancient exhale over the thrum of our powerful machinery. It is not drowned out by our raucous festivities, our drums and shrill flutes. Those scant few who know what is happening, who have no swallowed the pills, flee to the gutted churches for refuge. The breath sweeps aside the heavy smog that pervades the city and a shining light is revealed in the now clear night sky. It’s a man. A man with a golden trumpet. A single clear tone rings through the city as he plays - the machines seize up. The lamps go out. The sky darkens as the stars disappear. The moon grows black. It starts slowly at first, from the heavens a tendril of fire descends, a pillar of flame strikes the heart of the city. Then another. And another. The ground shakes and cracks. The wailing of the citizenry is matched by the wailing rising from the depths of the earth. Nightmares crawl out of the polluted streets and prance wickedly through the chaos. The city is dragged, quite literally, to hell. 


The Pills
How to placebo your players? Each pill supposedly lasts 24 hours. Should a player take one explain that “there isn’t really a mechanic for sin but you can have a +1 on rolls to do naughty things if you want”. If a player inquires about magical immunity, be vague and hint that you might be altering numbers on your side of the DM’s screen when in actuality you aren’t.