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