Monday, November 19, 2012

Children of the Night: Dhampirs

Vlad III. aka Vlad Tepes ("the Impaler"),
aka Vlad Dracula, aka Mr. Sunnyboy McMagicpants
Lately my thoughts have bent toward campaign settings and along with a Lovecraftian fantasy setting I've had in the works for a while, I've also been mulling over a historical horror setting. My working title is "Carpathian Empires" and it's set in the late-1500s early-1600s where Eastern Europe is under the vampiric thumb of a certain undead Wallachian prince we've all heard of and his blood-sucking nobles, while a prostrate Western Europe waits in terror for Vlad the Immortal's undying armies to march across and Danube.

That's right kiddies. I'm bringing back old school,  blood-sucking-fiends-from-beyond-the-grave for this setting. I'm taking a stand with every other horror fan who despises what vampires have become; no more undead goths or glittery, immortal, crypto-Mormons who spread abstinance-only sex-ed and anti-abortion propaganda. (Kiss my atheist ass, Ms. Meyers.)

Besides the standard-issue Homo sapiens, I'm considering other races to replace the usual, but inappropriate for this setting, metahumans. One of the races that's top on my list candidates are the Dhampir: the offspring of humans and vampires. Now, Pathfinder already have Dhampirs as one of their "Advanced" racial option and I used it as a good place to draw some inspiration.

My end result is the following, which is suitable for any of the more "Advanced" OSR games that have races and classes seperate:

Dhampir:

STR +2, DEX +2 CON -2, CHA +2
  • Darkvision up to 60 feet.
  • Attacks by Dhampir on any undead creature counts as "magical" even when using mundane weapons.        
  • Dhampir have a 4-6 chance of sensing the presence of an undead creature within 100 ft.
  • Dhampir are truly children of the night. While they are not injured by sunlight like their vampire parent, they are weaker when exposed to it. Dhampir suffer a -2 modifier to all rolls when exposed to daylight.
  • Dhampir have the characteristic fangs of their vampire ancestry and can inflict1d4 damage per bite. They may drain blood (see below) on the their next turn, but if it's taken as their only action.
  • Dhampir do not heal damage naturally, nor can they be healed through potions, spells, or spell-like devices. They can only be healed by ingesting human blood from a living host at a rate of 1d4 HP per round of drinking. However, with each turn they spend drinking, they must make a Saving Throw vs. Death or fall under the spell of the Blood Frenzy (see below). Those slain in this manner DO NOT return as vampires.
  • The Blood Frenzy: While not necessarily needing it to live, Dhampir often feel their ancestral craving for blood as well as the orgasmic thrill of consuming it. If the Dhampir is not careful while drinking blood, they will loose control of themselves and seek out more--even from the throat of a friend. When in the Blood Frenzy, a Dhampir PC will attack the nearest living human character, friend or foe, and attempt to to bite and feed on them for 1d6 rounds, until killed, or otherwise subdued. Afterward, the Dhampir must rest for 1d4 hours to recover from experience, or suffer a -2 modifer to all rolls until they do so. 

Allowed classes include Fighter, Magic-User, Assassin, and Thief. Paladins and Clerics are right out. They can be good or evil, but tend toward neutral or chaotic alignments.

I'm sort of wondering if this is properly balanced. I choose to add the STR bonus because, unlike Pathfinder, Strength is the modifier for melee combat in most OSR games and I see vampires as more toe-to-toe fighters than marksmen for obvious reasons. I can go either way on the DEX bonus; however, whoever heard of a sluggish vampire? The CON reduction is due to their undead parentage making them somewhat sicklier than normal humans. Of course, in the modern media, Vampires are usually portrayed as attractive (better to lure unsuspecting victims to their deaths, dearie) so I'll give their children that bonus as well.

So there you have it! Leave comments and ideas in the comments below. I'm post more as it comes into my fevered brain. I don't know how I'm going to handle the rules for creepy, pedophile, werewolves, though.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Revising Empire Of The Petal Throne?

Excuse me, Lady Yilrana?
How do you like your stake?
As many of you know, I am an unapologetic Tékumel fanatic. Out of all of the various games set in the late Prof. Barker's science fantasy universe, the most approachable is the first: Empire of the Petal Throne. (Although Jeff Dee's Bethórm project looks very promising.) A variant of OD&D, the game's mechanics would be very familiar to any Old School aficionado. All they would have to do is leave their traditional, Eurocentric notions of "fantasy" behind for the ride of a lifetime!

However, that's not to say the game is perfect. After nearly 40 years of gaming development and the lessons thereof, many of its mechanics could stand to use some revision. EPT was eventually replaced by the far crunchier Swords & Glory, but I would really have liked to seen the original rules continue to evolve. (Of course, I would have loved to see Tékumel still have a home at TSR, been integrated as an "official" D&D setting like Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk, and receive the publicity and notoriety it richly deserved. However...)

Anyway, if I had the time and talent to write a hypothetical Empire of the Petal Throne: Second Edition, here is what I would add or modify:
  • Percentile-based task system: Since EPT Attributes are based upon straight percentiles rather than OD&D's 3d6, it makes rolling for various feats of strength or intelligence far easier. With the addition of some difficulty modifiers, it can be used as a functional task system.
  • Revise The Skill System: While "skills" are considered an anathema in OSR gaming, it should be pointed out that EPT was the first game to introduce them. However, I never really thought that the randomized nature of acquiring a PCs initial and how they gained additional skills made a lot of sense.
  • Non-human player options: While the original rules allowed you to play Shén, Pé Chói, Ahoggyá, etc., the game focused on human PCs. Borrowing a page from AD&D, we could easily come up with various racial modifiers and ability to differentiate them from those pesky humans.
  • Re-aligning Alignment: A minor quibble, but as Prof. Barker's fleshed out the setting, alignment evolved away from the original game's "Good" and "Evil" and became "Stability" and "Change." The new rules should take that into account.
  • PC from the Five Empires and Beyond: The basic premise of EPT is that the PCs are "barbarians" from Tékumel's shadowy "Southern Continent" come to seek their fortunes in Tsolyánu. While there is techincally nothing preventing the GM or Character from creating a Tsolyáni, Livyáni, Nlüss, or other character, it's not considered the norm. It ought to be, though.
  • Multi-Classing: Want to play a Warrior Priest of Ksárul? How about a powerful sorcerer who can wield the ritual spells of the Priest class AND the psychic spells of the magic users class? Well, now you can!
  • Updated Magic System/Spells: EPT used the "Vancian" magic system from OD&D with the addition of a change for failure. Swords & Glory and later rules vastly expanded the spell corpus into "ritual" spells and "psychic" spells along with "Universal," "Generic" and "Temple" spells as well as changed the nature of Tékumeyáni magic to a "power points" (i.e. "Pedhétl") system. I would like to see a somewhat "softened" system suitable for OSR sensibilities used here.
  • New artwork: You can't sell a RPG these days without having pretty, pretty pictures. A new edition would have more images of the settings awesome monsters, it's grand and exotic cites, and naked priestesses of Ladies Avánthe and Dlamélish... Oh wait. Did I just say that? 
Beyond that I wouldn't change much more than that. Keep the rest of the game simple and I'll be happy.

My! How you've grown, Mighty Prince!
The best example of how I think a new EPT should look like was Guardian of Order's short-lived Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne. While I was not enamored with the rules, it was intelligently laid out and lavishly illustrated. While it did not cover all of the nuances of the setting--only Swords & Glory Vol. 1 has that honor--it was a excellent introduction to Tékumel and gave the players just enough to work with to make the game their own. 

Of course, this is all just speculation and suggestion, but who knows? Perhaps, someday! Perhaps, someday...