Thursday, December 31, 2015

5e Animal PC -- Bat Rogue

As with the Frog Wizard and Reindeer Paladin, this 1st-level character takes an animal from the 5e monster entries, re-rolls its mental stats where applicable, and applies a character class.  It's ready-made for a 5e animal fantasy campaign.

Bat Rogue
Tiny beast, Neutral

Armor Class 12
Hit Points 7 (1d8 -1)
Speed 5 ft., fly 30 ft.

STR 2 (-4) DEX 15 (+2) CON 8 (-1) INT 12 (+1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 14 (+2)

Skills Acrobatics +2, Deception +2, Perception +1, Stealth  +2

Senses blindsight 60 ft., Passive Perception 11
Languages Common

Echolocation The bat rogue loses its blindsight ability if it cannot hear.
Expertise The bat rogue doubles its proficiency bonus when making Charisma (Deception) & Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
Keen Hearing The bat rogue has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.
Sneak Attack +1d6 damage vs. any target the bat rogue hits when it has advantage on the attack roll.

Bite Melee Weapon attack +0 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature
Hit 1 piercing damage

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Foundling -- A Niche For Longpaw PCs

A majority of longpaw children lost or abandoned in the wild can expect little but a horrible death unless they are rescued by their kin or species-mates.  But sometimes -- just sometimes -- an orphaned human or demi-human child gets adopted by a community of beasts and reared as one of their own.

This niche is optional, but can be a great way to bring in players who simply aren't sold on the idea of animal PCs.  Let them play Mowgli or Tarzan instead!

The Foundling
On rare occasions, animals will adopt an orphaned human (or other longpaw) child as one of their own.  Such unique individuals will grow up to prefer the company of their animal family and its species, and have a great deal of trouble interacting with members of their own... especially if they have witnessed longpaw crimes against their adoptive animal family.  Nonetheless, they can become ambassadors of sorts between their parent species and their adoptive species.  Indeed, such Foundlings often become legendary heroes among longpaws, thanks to their unique abilities.

Niche Ability:  Select a Species Trait of your adoptive animal family. This ability is now an inherent trait for you, but comes at the expense of a normal longpaw trait, such as the Versatility of Men, the Tunnel Sense of dwarfs, the Fey Magic of elves, or the Halfling attack bonus with missile weapons.  The longpaw trait you lose and the animal trait you gain are both your choice, but remain permanent throughout your adventuring career.  

In most circumstances, you can use this new Species Trait as effectively as any actual member of your adoptive species.  You can also acquire spandrels based on this adoptive Species Trait, but otherwise must gain rewards and treasure in the standard longpaw ways.

Some Species Traits, such as natural flight or water breathing abilities, are only available in classic fantasy or other high-magic settings. 

Other Abilities:  Add your Foundling level (plus your Foundling niche die result, if any) to all lore checks involving communication between longpaws and your adoptive species, to attempts to communicate with animals other than longpaws and your adoptive species, to find food or water in your adoptive species' preferred habitat, and to applied knowledge about the the geography and other features of the wilderness where you grew up.

Saving Throw: Fear

Threat: Average (+6). This increases to Tough (+3) at 2nd total level, Challenging (+0) at 5th total level, and Formidable (–3) at 8th total level.

Sneak Peek: Spandrels

As I've noted, animal PCs tend not to collect magic items, per se.  But under the Great & Small rules, I've given them the option of internalizing magic items or claiming Species Traits from other animals as adventuring rewards.  I call this system "spandrels," after a term from evolutionary biology that refers to "accidental" or "side effect" traits of naturally-selected adaptations.

Most of the writing I'm doing on the expanded rules right now centers on spandrels, and I thought you'd like a peek at some of them.  

Recall than many listed game stat of a species -- its attack type & damage, AC, MV, Species Traits -- can be used as spandrel rewards for animal adventurers of other species.  And animals will be able to claim magical items by eating them.

In addition, there will be several spandrels unique to animal PCs, that can be rewarded in place of standard magical items.  Here are some samples. 

Atavism, Greater
You can fully transform yourself into a member of one of your evolutionary ancestor species, gaining all of its inherent Species Traits for 1d5 [1d6] turns + 1 turn per level.  The form you assume must actually have existed in your species’ evolutionary history, and must actually have been ancestral to your species and not from a sister taxa or mostly-unrelated extinct taxa.  A monkey, for instance, cannot transform into a T. rex, but could assume the form of a dimetrodon or some other proto-mammal.

You may only assume a single form with this spandrel, which will be specified in its description; for instance, “Greater Atavism: Dimetrodon” in the above case.  However, you can switch between this form and your regular form at will for the duration of the effect.

A greater atavism can be used 1d3 [1d4] times per day.

Atavism, Lesser
You can manifest a Species Trait from your species’ evolutionary history, gaining all of its relevant game rule effects, for 1d5 [1d6] turns +1 turn per level.  The trait must actually have belonged to one of your species’ ancestor taxa and not a sister taxa or mostly-related extinct taxa.  A monkey, for instance, cannot manifest the wings of a pterosaur, but could manifest the bite attack of a dimetrodon or some other proto-mammal.

You may turn this manifested Trait “on” or “off” at will for the duration of the effect. This spandrel will always grant only a single Trait, specified by its description; for instance, “Lesser Atavism: Dimetrodon Bite Attack” in the above case.

A lesser atavism can be used 1d3 [1d4] times per day.

You gain a +2 bonus on all attack rolls, lore checks, and saving throws you make while opposing the efforts of a longpaw, so long as she is within 20 feet of you.

Sprint Of The Cheetah Lords (Prerequisite:  Epic Sprint Species Trait or spandrel)
Once per day, you can run in a straight line up a vertical surface, or across a body of water or gases, at any speed up to your Epic Sprint MV, provided the distance traveled is equal to or less than your Epic Sprint MV score in feet.  If you find that the distance is greater than you anticipated, you cannot stop or turn, and must keep moving in a straight line until you’ve covered the maximum possible distance.  At this point, you suffer whatever consequences your miscalculation entails: falling into water and risking drowning, perhaps, or suffering falling damage if tumbling from a great height.

Warding Growl (Prerequisite: Must be capable of vocalizations)
Your growl (or hiss, shriek, etc.) becomes exceptionally frightening.  A character or creature who has up to, but not more than, 2 Total Levels or Hit Dice more than you must succeed on a Fear save vs. your Threat, or suffer one of the Fight or Flight effects described in Chapter 4.

This effect applies even to beings not commonly spooked by animals, such as aliens, demons, longpaws, monsters, robots, undead creatures, etc.

Weaponized Musk (Prerequisite: Musk Attack Species Trait)
In addition to its normal effects, your musk attack now inflicts damage on all creatures within its area of effect.  The damage is equal to your maximum HP; for instance, if you normally have 15 HP when fully rested and healed, your musk attack inflicts 15 HP damage, regardless of your current HP.  This means the damage your musk attack causes increases as your Total Level increases.

Creatures within the area of effect are entitled to Tough Poison save for half damage.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Campaign Scheme -- Legacy Of The Longpaws

It happened in the span of a single night (or day, depending on where you were in the world): all the Earth's animals fell unconscious.  We awoke fully sapient, to a world without Man.  Those in captivity awoke to open cages, unlocked shackles, ajar doors and raised windows.  We were free.

The entire human race had vanished, their great cities empty, their vehicles abandoned.  The world belonged to beasts once more, as many had always hoped it would.

But there are some animals who weren't happy to see mankind gone.  The dogs, mostly, and a sizeable portion of small cats, horses, and farm animals.  They seek to preserve mankind's legacy, to honor the longpaws' wisdom and knowledge.

Others -- led by the apes -- saw the Culling as an opportunity to take Man's place.  They, too, sought to preserve the longpaws' civilization, but only so they could exploit the great power it promises.

The rest... well, they chose to forge civilizations of their own in the shadows of Mankind's ruins.  New nations are emerging, new ideologies and religions developing, new wars brewing.

The world belongs to beasts once more. But the Culling frightens them all.  For if it could happen to Man, it can happen to any species.
"Legacy Of The Longpaws" (LotL) is a campaign scheme for Great & Small that takes place on modern-day Earth, shortly after the disappearance of the entire human species.  The mysterious event that removed humanity from Earth also gifted all of the planet's animal species with human-level sapience, and freed every animal that been imprisoned or otherwise restrained by humanity's cages and buildings.

The new animal masters of Earth vie for dominance while searching for clues to the fate of humanity, some hoping to avoid it, others to reverse it.

LotL does not use rules for magic or fantasy creatures (though the Healer and Seer niches still exist), and relies on the game's default 2d10 core dice for task resolution, giving it a "reality-lite" feel.

All the maps you need are a Google search away.  All the history can be found at the library or online.  It is our world, today, just without us in it.  The future belongs to the animals.

Required viewing: Life After People.

Friday, December 25, 2015

5e Animal PC -- Reindeer Paladin

This animal PC uses the Monster Manual entry for deer as its base, with re-rolled scores for INT and CHA, and an antler attack added in.  She'll probably advance into the Oath of the Ancients at 3rd level.

Reindeer Paladin

Medium beast, Neutral good

Armor Class 13
Hit Points 10 (1d10)
Speed 50 ft.

STR 11 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 11 (+0) INT 11 (+0) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 16 (+3)

Skills Intimidation +3, Persuasion +3
Senses Passive Perception 12
Languages Common, Cervid

Charge If the reindeer paladin moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and then hits with her ram attack, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) damage.  If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Divine Sense A total of 4 times per day, this reindeer can know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet that is not behind total cover. Within the same radius, she can detect the presence of any object or place that has been consecrated or desecrated, as per the hallow spell.

Lay On "Hands" The reindeer paladin can restore a number of lost hit points equal to her paladin level x 5.  Alternately, she can expend 5 hit points from her healing pool to cure the target of one disease or neutralize on poison affecting it.

Bite Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage

Ram Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target
Hit: 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage

Christmas Creature -- Reindeer

Someone's already gamified Santa into a playable OSR class, so here's the skinny on some of his most famous helpers.

Also known as caribou, reindeer are among the hardiest animals in the world, thriving in climes that would end lesser herd beasts.  They grow and shed their famous antlers seasonally on both sexes (another unique feature of the species), and have been symbols of strength and wisdom among longpaws for millennia.  

In classic fantasy settings, reindeer often serve powerful fairy lords or even deities as mounts or sleigh-pullers.  The greatest of these reindeer have been granted natural flight abilities, and possibly even other magical powers.  Young bucks and does aspiring to such heights have excellent motivations for adventuring.

     AC: 7
     AT (Dam): antlers (1d7 [1d8]), bite (1d2 [1d3]), hooves (1d5 [1d6])
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Arctic & subarctic land
     MV: 10
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits:
  • Low Light Vision
  • Scent
  • Ultravision
  • Unique Diet: Reindeer are the only mammals naturally capable of eating lichens, their favorite being reindeer moss.  They get a +2 bonus on all Herbalist lore checks involving the use of lichens, and with a successful Challenging Healer lore check, can boost their natural healing capability by 50% per day by eating a dose of reindeer moss.
  • +2 on all lore checks to detect hidden or hear noise
  • +2 on all saves to resist cold, either magical or natural
  • +2 bonus on Warrior lore checks to push, pull, drag, break, or otherwise use their raw muscle power on heavy objects.
  • Suitable Niches: Any

Friday, December 11, 2015

Featured Creature: Dolphin

Dolphins have a reputation among longpaws as playful, benevolent sea creatures with great affection for land-dwellers.  But at best, they only half-deserve this reputation.

Much of it comes from the dolphins' ancient feud against shark-kind; whenever a dolphin or group of dolphins protects a swimming longpaw from sharks, it is mostly to deny the shark a meal and not because they have any special affection for humanoids.

Dolphins are also predators, so from the point of view of many fish species, they are fearsome monsters.  Even among themselves, dolphins are prone to violent rivalries and even sexual assault, with losers of conflicts often finding themselves in lonely exile for the rest of their lives.

Nonetheless, dolphins are highly intelligent and social creatures, usually forming strong bonds of friendship within their pods.  In classic fantasy-style campaigns, they can even become Magic-Users, and often form alliances with longpaw races like merfolk and sea elves.

     AC: 5
     AT (Dam): 1 head butt (1d7+1 [2d4])
     Beginning HP: 9 [10]
     Habitat: Oceans
     MV: 12 swimming only
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits: 
  • Air Breathers:  Unlike most sea creatures, dolphins cannot breathe water.  They must surface every 15 minutes to take in fresh air.  They can extend this time between breaths by 1 minute per Total Level, after which they must begin making Trauma saving throws.  Failure on this save means they have begun drowning, and must be aided to the surface by companions or they will die.
  • Detect Magic: In high fantasy campaigns, dolphins can detect magic to a range of 360 feet underwater.
  • Echosight: Dolphins can "see" by means of a natural form of sonar that has a range of 120 feet, enabling them to detect objects or creatures within this range.  If blinded, they can even rely on this echosight to continue acting normally with a successful Scout lore check each round (or other relevant unit of time). This ability is negated by spells or other effects that create areas of unnatural silence.
  • Far Speech: Dolphins can communicate with each other over a range of 50 miles underwater, using their language of clicks and whistles (related to whale speech).
  • Growth Spurt:  Dolphins become Large in SZ at 3rd Total Level/Hit Dice.
  • Legless:  Dolphins have no natural means of moving about on dry land.   Without the aid of magic or super-science, they are confined entirely to aquatic environments.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • +2 bonus on all Warrior lore checks to formulate plans against sharks and their allies.
  • +1 bonus on all attacks vs. sharks and their allies.
  • +2 bonus on all lore checks to detect hidden objects or hear noise while underwater.
  • Suitable Niches: Healer, Runner, Scout, Seer, Trickster, Warrior.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Featured Creature: Cheetah

Cheetahs are about as un-cat-like as an animal can get and still be considered a cat; indeed, some big cats and great cats consider them freaks of nature, while cheetahs themselves take pride in the features that set them apart from other felines.  Cheetah evolution diverged from that of big cats and great cats some five million years ago, and has continued distinguishing them ever since.

Unlike other cats, cheetahs primarily rely on great speed to capture their prey, and they make poor warriors against other animals of their size.  If a fight cannot be won right away, cheetahs will flee the conflict at top speed.  Though this gives them a reputation for cowardice among other cats, cheetahs like to point out how much their speed is envied by them, too.  Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in existence, and they don't let anyone forget it.

     AC: 6
     AT (Dam): 1 bite (1d5 [1d6]), 2 claws (1d3 [1d4])
     Beginning HP:  7 [8]
     Habitat: Savannah
     MV: 12
     SZ: Small

Species Traits:
  • Epic Sprint:  When taking a charge or run maneuver, cheetahs can travel up to 10 times their base MV in a single round.  They can do this a number of times per day equal to their Total Level; if they exceed this amount, cheetahs have to make a Trauma save or suffer the effects of fatigue (-2 on all lore checks involving feats of strength or endurance) until they obtain a full 8 hours of rest.
  • Growth Spurt: Cheetahs increase to Medium SZ at 3rd Total Level/Hit Dice.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Scent
  • Special Maneuvers: Charge, Claw/Claw, Pounce, Rake, Wrestle
  • Ultravision
  • +4 bonus on all lore checks to make quick turns, sudden stops, or other fast movements during a combat round.
  • +1 bonus on all lore checks to climb, hide in shadows, or move silently.  The bonus is +3 in tall grass or other thick foliage.
  • Suitable Niches: Runner, Scout, Seer, Trickster.

Featured Creatures: Back To The Cats

Next in alphabetical order from the old RC was the entry for Cats.  I've already covered small cats and the great cats, so that leaves us with the big cats in the middle... along with one very odd kitty out, the cheetah.

I'll cover the big cats in this post, and cheetahs in the next one.

Cats, Big
The name "big cat" covers a range of feline predators in various climates and habitats who are larger than domestic cats but smaller than the great lions and tigers.  This includes bobcats, cougars, jaguars, leopards, lynxes, mountain lions, ocelots, and panthers.

Like their kin at either end of the feline size range, big cats tend to be curious, patient, solo hunters adept at stealth and ambush tactics.  They are good climbers with reputations for both ferocity and wisdom in equal measure, and love a good prank at the expense of their kin or even potential prey.

     AC: 4
     AT (Dam): 1 bite (1d7 [1d8]), 2 claws (1d3 [1d4])
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Any, varies by species
     MV: 10
     SZ: Small

Species Traits:
  • Growth Spurt: Except for bobcats and lynxes, big cats become Medium at 2nd Total Levels/Hit Dice
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Nine Lives: Cats can re-roll nine critical failures over the course of their career.  Often, this will mean the difference between life and death; hence, the name nine lives.  Once these “lives” are used up, they cannot be restored.
  • Scent
  • Special Maneuvers: Claw/claw, bite/claw/claw, pounce, rake, wrestle
  • Ultravision
  • +2 bonus on all lore checks to climb, hide in shadows, and move silently. The bonus is +4 in tall grass or other thick foliage.
  • Suitable Niches: Any 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Featured Creature: Camel

Back on track with the alphabetical animal listings from the Rules Cyclopedia.

There are two extant species of camel in most worlds: one-humped (dromedaries) and two-humped (bactrian), both of which are exceptionally well-adapted to life in arid climes.  Like horses, they have a long association with longpaws as service animals, companions, and even war mounts.  But unlike horses, they never seem to have gotten over their foul disposition towards longpaws; they are notorious for their bad tempers and moody behaviors.  Nonetheless, they are sturdy beasts and faithful companions, able to weather environments that end lesser animals quickly.

     AC: 7
     AT (Dam): Bite (1 HP), hoof (1d3 [1d4])
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Arid lands (Bactrian), desert (dromedary)
     MV: 10
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits: 
  • Arid Adapted: Camels need less water than other animals, and can function longer in hot, dry climates, as well.  A well-watered camel can travel for two weeks without needing to drink water.  After this, she needs only to make a Trauma save vs. dehydration every 36 hours, instead of the normal 24 hours.
  • Growth Spurt: Camels become Large at 2 Total Levels/Hit Dice
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Scent
  • Spit Attack: Camels are prone to spitting at targets who aggravate them.  While this inflicts no actual damage, it does require an attack roll to successfully spit upon a target.  The subject of a spit attack must make a successful Blast save or be partially blinded until she cleans out her eyes.  This inflicts a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and lore checks until the camel's phlegm is removed from her eyes.
  • +4 bonus on all endurance-based lore checks
  • +2 bonus on lore checks to detect noise and spot hidden attempts.
  • Suitable Niches: Any

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Belated Halloween Post -- Featured Creature (Crocodilian) and An Animal Darklord

So, there's been a delay in my posting schedule, because meatspace reasons.

But not to worry: Halloween season at my house runs right up til Christmas, so I can still legitimately post my promised game stats for crocodile (and alligator) PCs, along with Great & Small stats for Death Bringer, the animal darklord of Ravenloft's Wildlands.

Other than the great cats, crocodilians are perhaps the most feared predators on land, for they will eat anything or anyone they can catch in their powerful jaws.  They specialize in striking suddenly from a well-hidden position; so suddenly, in fact, that potential allies have little time to notice them, let alone establish parley, and so often become victims.  Despite their prowess, though, crocodilians rarely leave their habitat, and thus have limited knowledge of the world beyond their swamps and wetlands.  Like lizards and snakes, they are deliberative and ponderous, but swift and deadly when finally taking action.

There are three main kinds of crocodilians: alligators (which includes caimans), crocodiles, and gharials.  In a reality-lite setting, they will occupy separate continents but have very similar habits, while in a fantasy setting, they can mingle more or less freely.  The listed game stats cover all three types.

     AC: 5
     AT (Dam): Bite 1d7 [1d8], Tail slap 1d5 [1d6]
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Semitropical, tropical swamps & wetlands
     MV: 5, swim 6
     SZ: Small

Species Traits:
  • Death Roll
  • Fast Swimmer:  Crocodilians can use the run action while swimming, provided they only move in a straight line.
  • Growth Spurt: Crocodilians become Medium at 2nd Total Level
  • Hold Breath: Crocodilians can hold their breath for 10 minutes + 1 minute per Total Level/Hit Dice.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Surprise Attack:  If successfully hidden at the beginning of a combat round, crocodilians surprise their foes on a roll of 1-3.
  • +4 bonus on all lore checks that involve swimming.
  • +2 bonus on checks to hide or move silently in the water.  This bonus becomes +5  if the character lies under the water with only her eyes and nostrils above the surface.
  • Suitable Niches: Any
Death Bringer, King Crocodile, Darklord of Ravenloft's Wildlands
This great monster began life as a typical crocodile in a distant land that closely resembled sub-Saharan Africa.  When longpaws first arrived in this land, the other animals lived in fear of their weapons and mastery of fire, finding themselves driven further and further from their original home habitats.  It was then that Death Bringer seized his opportunity.  He visited all the other animals of his land, and made a pact with them: in exchange for a bit of their power, he would slay all the longpaws.  The other animals quickly agreed to this pact, for none of them had been able to defeat the longpaws on their own.

With each ritual infusion of other animals' power, Death Bringer grew larger in size and more versatile in his capabilities.  After the last longpaw was slain, he declared himself King Crocodile, and refused to return any of the other animals' power to them.  Instead, he began to prey upon his fellows, and became a horrible tyrant.  It was then that the Mists claimed him, and created the Wildlands as his domain.

The following stats use the Rules Cyclopedia entry for a giant crocodile as their base, with spandrels added on from each of the other species in the Wildlands, representing the powers Death Bringer claimed from them.

Death Bringer possesses all the standard crocodilian traits, except as noted below.

Death Bringer, 15th-level giant crocodile (Warrior)
     AC: 1
     AT (Dam): Bite 3d7 [3d8], tail slap 3d5 [3d6]
     HP: 98
     SZ: Huge

Spandrels:  In addition to the standard crocodilian traits, Death Bringer possess the following traits claimed from other species of animals through dark pacts born of fear and vengeance.
  • Brachiation (claimed from the apes)
  • Prehensile Tail (claimed from the monkeys)
  • MV 8 on land (claimed from the elephants)
  • Nine Lives (claimed from the lions) 
  • Scent (claimed from the herdbeasts)
  • Venom Resistance (claimed from the boars)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Halloween Setting Spotlight -- Ravenloft's Wildlands

Who says animal fantasy can’t be dark and gloomy with the best of them?

Islands Of Terror, the old AD&D 2nd supplement for the Ravenloft campaign setting, contained a fascinating domain called the Wildlands, which was populated entirely by talking animals, and ruled by a crocodile darklord.

The main problem with the domain is that it provided few Gothic horror role-playing opportunities for standard longpaw characters, and seemed designed to serve mostly as a meat-grinder where every creature you meet is out to kill you.

But the Wildlands can make an excellent Gothic horror-fantasy setting for animal player characters, whether native to the domain, or drawn in by the Mists.

The darklord -- Death Bringer, King Crocodile -- is actually pretty good, as throw-away one-shot villains go.  His backstory is a classic tale of greed and power-lust:  the other animals of the wilderness realm from which the Wildlands was formed made a pact with the Crocodile.  He vowed to slay all the "hairless apes" in the land, if each of the animals there would give him some of their power.  This, they did eagerly... and of course, when the slaughter was done, Crocodile refused to return the borrowed powers. Instead, he began hunting the other beasts. He was now the greatest animal in the realm, but his hubris and ambition doomed him to be claimed by the Mists.  Though not before a python prophesied that Death Bringer would die either by the hand of a "hairless ape," or from something he felt was beneath his notice.

Death Bringer can be greatly fleshed-out using Great & Small's spandrels system.  I'd start him as a standard crocodile Warrior (I'll post game stats for crocs in the next couple of days), then advance him by granting him a signature Species Trait from each of the animal types listed in his back story.  Say, Nine Lives from the lions, an increased SZ from the elephants, Brachiation from the monkeys, Scent from the apes, and so forth.  This makes him a much more versatile villain, something more like the monster from The Relic in terms of his capabilities, rather than just being the "smarty pants giant croc" he was in the original supplement. 

The land itself is full of potential adventure seeds, too, including:
  • An elephant graveyard where elephant skeletons and ghosts walk at night, and the bones of the dead are rumored to turn into silver and gold
  • A war for supremacy between lions and tigers (who weren't originally part of the land, but were apparently brought in by Ravenloft's Dark Powers for... reasons) that is consuming the savannah
  • Colonies of gorillas who relish combat (especially with "hairless apes"), and try to enslave chimpanzees and monkeys
  • A whole society of young crocodiles scheming to replace Death Bringer, the King Crocodile who serves as darklord of the realm
  • The python's prophecy, and a total absence of snakes in the land (imagine the repercussions if a snake -- say, a snake player character -- arrived from beyond the Mists)
As a whole, the Wildlands exudes a "dark Africa" feel, a sort of Lion-King-gone-sideways ambiance where longpaws would come to dread an encounter with even the lowly monkeys.

But the Gothic horror elements -- especially the sense of foreboding, of isolation, of being trapped in a doomed realm, of looming curses and twisted fates -- can be ramped up even better with animal PCs.  Longpaws would be walking targets everywhere they went, and Death Bringer's agents would inform their master of the presence of any humans in the realm long before those humans became aware of their ultimate enemy's nature.

Animals, however, would have more freedom to roam, to interact with NPCs, to pursue side-quests unrelated to the Crocodile metaplot.  Their time in the Wildlands wouldn't (necessarily) turn into a gauntlet-running race against the clock, as it probably would with longpaws in the mix.

African animals would be most appropriate to the setting, of course, but any species -- especially prey species -- would find the place terrifying and alienating in all the classic Gothic horror ways that Ravenloft sought to evoke with longpaw characters. 

So, if you're in the mood for some old-school fantasy horror this Halloween, I challenge you to put away I6 for a while, and treat your players to a session or two of Great & Small set in the Wildlands.  You could adapt any of the short adventures from Ravenloft supplements like the Book of Crypts or Chilling Tales -- plot and all -- simply by replacing the human NPCs with animal ones.

In fact, I might try this myself...

Another Good Review For Great & Small

+R. Scott Kennan has a tons o'fun-reading blog called Worlds Workshop, and a few days ago, he posted a kind little summary/spotlight/review on Great & Small.
I'd really like to focus on, however, is the potential that this game offers to family game play. Young kids will probably love this game, with adult supervision to help with the rules.Even some older kids might like it. 
Plus, he used this nifty dino pic, which put me in mind to do an entire supplement:

Go read it here, and show your support of Mr. Kennan's excellent design work. Dem maps tho!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Goblin Punch Has Great Animal Goodies

+Arnold K.  at Goblin Punch blog has been doing some really interesting work on "mundane" animals in D&D.

I'm especially fond of his Really Good Dog class (some of whose powers resemble spandrels I've been thinking of posting here), and the gruesome-cute concept of catbooks.

I'm adding his blog to my "old-school blogs" roll to the left.  Go show his site some love (preferably with face licks) on my behalf.  If you're in need of adventure seeds for animal PCs, you can't go wrong tapping some of his wonderful ideas.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ponyfinder/MLP-style Ponies for Great & Small

Given my penchant for animal fantasy tales, it is probably ironic that I've never seen an episode of any version of My Little Pony (MLP).  It has managed to cruise under my radar for the entire span of its existence; it's not that I'm averse to it, per se.  It's just that I wasn't the franchise's target demographic.  I always filed it under, "Get Around To It One Day."

There is, however, no irony in the fact that I've never been a big fan of Pathfinder.  Just not my cup of tea.  After the burn-out I had with 3.5, I just wasn't ready for a system that doubled-down on all the elements of which I'd grown weary.  Though they do put out some excellent supplements...

So, imagine the quandary in which I found myself when I stumbled upon the Ponyfinder game yesterday.

One the one hand, it's a complete campaign setting designed for animal player characters.  Well, sort of (I'll come back to that).  And it's gotten excellent reviews, especially from people who claim to have been skeptical of the project.

So, I sort of feel like I have an obligation to buy it, both for scholarly and collecting purposes, and for solidarity with other animal roleplaying fans.

On the other hand, it's a Pathfinder supplement, which makes me want to avoid it.  There is, apparently, a 5e conversion manual, and like many PF-compatible products, it's full of rules-neutral setting fluff... so I'll probably end up buying a copy in the near future.

Which means I'll probably get around to watching MLP.  

(To be clear, Ponyfinder doesn't reference any of MLP's intellectual property, just creates a set of rules for PCs who are similar enough to ponies to pass whatever the MLP version of the Turing test would be, and gives them a setting that "feels" like MLP at its best without actually using anything from the show. Or so I am told.)

Meanwhile, I figured, why not drum up some blog hits by statting out Ponyfinder ponies in Great & Small?  Following is a more-or-less straight conversion of the basic pony from Ponyfinder (which I am able to read as part of the product's free review pages).  If I buy the actual product, I might do more conversions later.

You knew this day was coming...

Fey Pony
"Ponies are a race whose time has come and left. According to their legend and lore, they once oversaw nature, guiding and protecting it much like contemporary druids: controlling the weather,overseeing animal migrations, and protecting the lands they called home. They have surrendered much of these tasks over time, but their spirit is not yet faded. Most ponykind live in isolated communities, far from civilization, but growing numbers have migrated to join multiracial cities, where they trade, craft, and make their livings."
-- Ponyfinder Campaign Setting, p. 8.

     AC: 7
     AT: Bite 1d3 [1d4], two hooves 1d5 [1d6] 
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Any
     MV: 8 (4 bipedal)
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits:
  • Feyborn:  Ponies and their kin are natives of the faerie realms.  As such, they are considered fey for the purpose of herbal, magical, or other effects that effect or can be used by fey beings.
  • Feyspeech:  Ponies automatically know and can speak the language of faeries.
  • Low-Light Vision 
  • +2 bonus on all Poison saves
  • +2 bonus on all saves vs. magic, regardless of save category
  • +1 bonus on all Runner lore checks
  • +1 bonus all lore checks to push, pull, drag, break, or otherwise use their raw muscle power on heavy objects.
  • Suitable Niches: Any

Friday, October 2, 2015

Featured Creature: Chameleon

A few weeks back, a reader inquired if I planned to stat out chameleons, geckos, and other lizards.  I thought I might create a stock "Lizard" entry with sub-headings for different species, the way I've done with apes, cats, and monkeys.  It's quite a challenge, though, because lizards are an amazingly diverse clade; aside from being squamate reptiles, there is little that all lizards have in common.  So, I've decided to go with individual species entries instead.  First up is chameleons.

Like many of their kin, chameleons are deliberative -- indeed, seemingly inactive -- taking their time to reach any decision.  But once decided on a course of action, they act swiftly.  This is especially true where acquiring food is concerned.

Though they are fully capable of terrestrial movement, chameleons prefer spending as much of their time as possible hidden among the flowers and leaves of their canopy home.  When long journeys are called for, they demand to be carried by larger, stronger, faster beings at every opportunity, and thus have a reputation for laziness.

     AC: 6
     AT: Bite (1d2)
     Beginning HP: 3 [4]
     Habitat: Tropical forest
     MV: 4
     SZ: Tiny

Species Traits:
  • Adaptive Camouflage
  • Independently Focusing Eyes: Chameleons have amazing eyesight.  Because they can focus each eye independently, they have 360 degree vision, and can only be surprised while asleep.  Further, they are immune to sneak attacks, unless both of their eyes are engaged in paying attention to the same target. In addition, chameleons get a +2 bonus on all lore checks that involve detecting things by sight.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Prehensile Tail
  • +4 bonus on all lore checks involving climbing.
  • +2 bonus on all attack rolls against targets smaller than themselves.
  • -4 penalty on all lore checks involving feats of strength 
  • Suitable Niches: Any 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Perpetual Dilemma Of Falling Damage

Most of the writing I'm doing for the game right now focuses on specific situations that may arise over the course of a campaign: i.e., chases, disease, encumbrance, etc.  All of it will be considered optional rules, offered for the BM as suggestions.

In that vein, I've decided to bring back the falling damage rules as they were apparently meant to be: with a geometric progression of damage dice, rather than a linear one.  Here's the text for the section on "Climbing & Falling": 

Climbing sheer surfaces requires a Tough Trickster lore check. “Sheer surface” is defined as any surface without clear hand-holds or other protrusions.  Some species receive bonuses to their climb checks, detailed in their species description, and of course any character with levels in Trickster lore will have a great advantage here.

Any creature who flies under her own power and suffers an attack while airborne that inflicts 50 percent or more of her total maximum HP should make a Challenging Trauma save, or fall to the ground.

There are two ways a BM can model the physical consequences of falling.  One method should be chosen and used consistently.

Characters and creatures suffer compounded damage from falling, 1d5 [1d6] for each 10 feet.  In other words, falling 10 feet inflicts 1d5 [1d6] damage, while falling 20 feet inflicts 1d5 [1d6] + 2d5 [2d6], falling 30 feet inflicts 1d5 [1d6] + 2d5 [2d6] + 3d5 [3d6], and so on.  This geometric progression continues to a maximum of 21d5 [21d6], which represents terminal velocity.

Alternately, the BM can choose a particular height as a threshold, and rule that any character who falls that distance or greater and hits the ground needs to make a Trauma save or be instantly killed. A successful save means she suffers 1d5 [1d6] damage per 10 ft. fallen (in a linear progression), to a maximum of 20d5 [20d6] for falls of 200 ft. or more.

This second method can assign Threat Levels to the Trauma save based on every 10 feet fallen, like so:

Table 4.2:  Falling Distance and Trauma Save Threat Levels 
Distance Fallen                                 Threat Level 
10 ft.                                                   Easy 
20 ft.                                                   Average 
30 ft.                                                   Tough 
40 ft.                                                   Challenging 
50 ft.                                                   Formidable 
60 ft.                                                   Heroic 
70 ft. +                                                Epic

Falling damage is a difficult thing to model in an RPG, because the real-life situation seems so arbitrary.  Sometimes, people die simply while tripping over a curb and landing the wrong way, while someone else survives a fall from thousands of feet after their parachute doesn't open.

Still, the consequences of falling in the real world are terrifying for most people to contemplate, and the same should be true of characters in a fantasy world.  So these suggested rules are meant to address that.  Sure, they're arbitrary, but then, aren't all rules?