Monday, November 25, 2013

A Time Traveling Seed Sprouts

Back on December 29th of last year we played a session where the PCs had traveled back in time 4 million years before the current timeline to confront a time traveling sorcerer in a hummingbird mask and bright feathered cloak from creating a set of dark artifacts.  During this encounter Tilia ended up entering a shared dreamspace with the sorcerer.  The hummingbird man acted like he had already met Tilia, and when pressed shared the story of how he first met Tilia (none of which had happened as far as Tilia's player knew).  He said that he had been trapped inside a dream after eating a black lotus flower as a young man, during which time he had many visions which ultimately led him to travel to the past to create these artifacts.  During his dream vision at one point he encountered a great dream demon boar which was consuming the dreams of the people of the jungle with a greed and a hunger that could not be filled.  He was attacked by the dream demon boar, but a great white horned beast (Tilia) intruded and said many confusing things that he did not understand but which later he took to mean that he must travel back in time to make a set of artifacts that could be used to manipulate waking reality while in dreamland.  He said that Tilia had shown him one of the artifacts and told him of the others.  This was all very confusing for for Tilia's player who had no idea what I was talking about.  In the end though they wound up trusting the sorceror and allowed him to create the artifacts.

Well fast forward almost a full year of real life and Tilia finds herself back in the present timeline and in a shared dream within a massive collective consciousness known as MotherMind.  A dream demon boar has invaded the dreams of MotherMind and is causing greed and hunger where Tilia had tried to create a peaceful dream of the happy hunting grounds to calm down MotherMind.  Tilia suspects that the young man version of the hummingbird sorceror is also inside this shared dream.  At the end of last session Tilia was about to track down the young sorcerer and interrupt his encounter with the dream demon boar.  It will be up to Tilia if she wants to tell the young man to create the artifacts or not, but the present version of Tilia does possess one of the artifacts so if she doesn't I guess there will be changes to the present timeline :)

Of course, this isn't the first time the PCs have messed around with timelines.  The first was a journey back in time to prevent the birth of Slotek, the twisted son of Akili (Old Man Gootie's wife) and the great river spirit of the Zamonas River.  They did this hoping that if they prevented Old Man Gootie from corrupting Akili and creating Slotek that the great spirit of the river would instead be reborn in the form of a river dragon as the river dolphins had told them was supposed to be the natural order of things.  Of course, I used this event as a great excuse to make all kinds of crazy changes to the present timeline of the 4e game, although the players didn't find out about them for a while.  Ultimately this led to the river spirit being fractured into multiple deities each with an avatar in the river basin. 

The second time they messed around with time was a trip to the future, which is much less problematic in terms of not disrupting the present.  They traveled into the far future of the 4e world in pursuit of a time travelling vampire (emerging into an alien spacecraft on the surface of a dead world in the process of being consumed by an expanding dying sun).  After they killed the vampire and took his stuff, they became very intrigued by a magical artifact he was carrying.  Using a ritual to look into the artifact's past, they observed its creation by a strange sorcerer in a hummingbird mask and colorful feathered cape... ultimately proving to be irresistible to the party, so they time traveled to the past to begin this post :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wood Magic (Wands and Staffs)

I have a longstanding dissatisfaction with D&D magic.  It is not that I don't like it.  I loved playing illusionists when I was a kid first starting to play D&D and in general I loved the magic that was there in D&D.  I just wanted more.

I have no problem with Vancian fire and forget magic, but I really don't want it to be the only type of magic in my games.  I have come up with some different options over the years, a trance possession cleric, the hekuras of my 4e game (at this point Tilia, one of the PCs in that game, has four different hekuras living inside of her), some point spend casting systems, herbal and mushroom magic, a recharge mechanic for spells... something I am working on now is a nature magic system based on the magical properties of wood.

A caster in this tradition could only cast a spell either by touching a living tree and casting a spell using its energy or by making a wand or staff which draws on the energy of its parent tree (the parent tree must still be alive of course!).  This system would work with the regular spell level limits, so a 3rd level caster could cast up to a 2nd level spell, but the limits on how many spells could be cast in a day would be based on the tree being drawn upon, not the caster.  Creating a staff takes enough time that it would not be done in combat, while creating a wand can take as little as 1 round (see below).  Wands only function at a very short range from the parent tree (unless linked to a staff, see below) but I hope that the ability to break a twig off a tree in one round and use it immediately as a wand will enable some cool options in combat for a caster.  I am making a random tree species chart for different environments so there will be the element of randomness - a caster could be in a combat near a tree that has magical properties useful for the encounter, and they could either touch the tree directly to invoke the magic or break a wand off on the fly and use it during the encounter.

As you can see, I am carrying my staff around :)

Tree Magic

Each tree species has different magical properties, and I will assign each spell in the game to one or more tree species according to those properties.  For instance, willow wood is associated with spells dealing with water, the element of spirit, death and rebirth, transmutations, emotions, healing, and the will.  When a tree is encountered, a roll on the tree age chart will reveal its age and the maximum spell level that could be drawn from the tree.  A rough version of the tree age chart is below.  Each tree species may have a negative modifier to apply to the tree age roll, depending on the maximum age of that species.  For example, only three of the trees occurring in eastern North America listed in this database have a maximum age of less than 100 years - those tree species would have a -4 modifier to the tree age roll to give a maximum age of 100 years.  Looking at the same database (which is very useful) there are 10 tree species with a maximum age between 100 and 200 years - those trees would receive a -2 modifier and so on.

Tree Age (d20)
Max Spell Level
Max total spell levels castable per day
1-8: Sapling (0-10 years)
9-13: Immature (11-30 years)
14-16: Mature (31-99 years)
17-18: Old (100-199 years)
19: Elder (200-499 years)
20:Ancient (500+ years old)

When physically touching a tree, a caster can cast any spell on that tree's spell list up to the max level of spell the caster can cast, as limited by the tree age as shown above.  The tree age chart shows the total spell levels that could be drawn from any particular tree per day.  To draw upon the power of a tree from a distance, a caster can make wands and staffs.  Each spell in the tree's spell list would have a [W], [S] or both to denote if that spell could be cast with a wand or staff.  Some spells might only be castable by directly touching the tree (Wish springs to mind, and it would have other requirements of course).  In general, wands are used for spells that actually emanate out from the wand, like a lightning bolt or paralyzing ray, and staffs are used to create most other magical effects.  Of course not all tree species are created alike; some will have much more extensive spell lists than others, and some might have a more extensive wand spell selection and others a more extensive staff spell selection.


Creating a staff takes takes 10 rounds minimum.  Roll 1d6 per round spent crafting the staff (max = 10 rounds +2 rounds/level);  the result equals the number of miles from the parent tree the staff can be used.  The range is also capped at the age of the tree (a staff made from a 95 year old tree could function at a max distance of 95 miles from its parent tree).  Staffs cannot be made from saplings.  If a staff is more than a mile from its parent tree, a caster must spend 1d2 hours per 24 hour period meditating on the staff to draw magical energy through it.  It is possible to use staffs from more than one tree but this requirement must be met for each staff.  Failing to meet this requirement does not destroy the staff, it simply cannot be used to cast magic until meditated upon for at least one hour again. Even if no spell levels remain to be drawn from its parent tree, a staff can be used in melee and each tree species has a unique effect that is added to the regular 1d6 damage.


Creating a wand takes 1 round minimum    Roll 1d6 per round spent crafting the wand (max=level) result x 10 = number of feet from the parent tree the wand can be used.  If a wand and staff are created from the same tree, as long as the staff is within range of the tree the wand can be used within its range of the staff as it will draw energy through the staff from its parent tree.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Near TPK in my 4e game

Last Tuesday's installment of my 4e game ended with our heroes in very perilous straits.  We ended the session with Beautiful Bob the half-gibbering mouther psychic (Ardent) and Hammer the warforged barbarian both below 0 HP and surrounded by snakemindflayers, presumably about to have their intelligences consumed.  The party's other member, Tilia the albino minotaur warden, had previously merged her body into the giant honeycomb mushroom brain that the snakemindflayers worshiped and called MotherMind.   At the end of the session Tilia had entered a lucid dreamstate to attempt some psychic healing on MotherMind.  Tilia was trying to sooth the nightmares of MotherMind and she called upon the energy of Bob and Hammer (with whom she shares a permanent telepathic link that was forged with alien energy technology some time back) to help her.  Bob and Hammer had both just dropped below 0 HP that round and lost consciousness so I gave them the option of joining Tilia in the shared dream when she called upon their energy.  They both took me up on that, so we will start next session with all three PCs in a shared dreamscape with MotherMind.

A few notes on how we got into this predicament:

*  The party allowed themselves to be led to the caverns of the snakemindflayers by a guide, knowing the entire time that the snakemindflayers wanted Tilia to merge with the MotherMind to fulfill an ancient prophecy about a white cow that featured prominently in the snakemindflayer religion.  The party had also gleaned that the snakemindflayers intended to kill the rest of the party and consume their intellects.

* The previous session, the party had initially parlayed with the first few snakemindflayers that they ran into... until suddenly jumping them and massacring them in one round.  For some reason the party decided to take a five minute rest in the same cavern that they just fought in, apparently deciding that no alarm had been raised despite knowing that the snakemindflayers and the mushroom men thralls that they had just killed had a psychic connection with MotherMind.

*  When the party's five minute rest was interrupted by a legion of approaching snakemindflayers and thralls, they decided to confront them rather than attempt to flee (although to be fair the only obvious direction to flee would have been deeper into the caverns of the snakemindflayers and toward MotherMind).

*  Faced with overwhelming numbers the party willingly marched with the snakemindflayers deep into their living mycelial city and Tilia willingly merged herself with MotherMind.  At that point the rest of the snakemindflayers politely asked Hammer and Bob to accompany them back to the ritual sacrifice chambers so they could fulfill their destiny of being consumed.  Hammer and Bob didn't want to comply.

*  The party soon learned that the metallic rods that the snakemindflayers all carried were some kind of technological laser weapon.  Hammer learned that getting shot with lots of lasers hurts.

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