Sunday, May 30, 2021

Building Bhakashal - The Prophetic Dream Engine



Image by Rowena Morrill


One of the aspects of Bhakashal that makes it somewhat unique is that the city is built over the body of a sleeping god named Iallus, god of plants, animals and the moon. This leads to odd things in the setting, from the way healing magic works to the proliferation of plants and animals in and around the city. 


In addition, some people in the setting have prophetic dreams. I created a table for this, to generate prophetic dreams for PCs and NPCs that can either add flavor or drive adventures



Prophetic Dream Engine


The presence of a sleeping god beneath the city leads to some of its inhabitants having prophetic dreams. The DM can roll percentage dice on the Prophetic Dream Engine once per month to determine if a PC has had a prophetic dream.


Any score of 00 indicates success.


To have a prophetic dream a dreamer must have a score of 15 in one of the three ability scores, INT, WIS, or CHA. For each 1 point of intelligence above 16 add 2% to the dice roll, for each 1 point of wisdom above 16 add 1% to the dice roll, and for each 1 point of charisma above 16 add ½% to the dice roll (drop all fractions).


Those who have psionics roll twice a month with the same odds.


Prophetic Dream Engine


Subject of Dream (d12)

1. Person known to dreamer

2. Thing or object known to dreamer

3. Monster known to dreamer

4. Person unknown to dreamer

5. Thing or object unknown to the dreamer

6. Monster unknown to the dreamer

7. Event near the dreamer

8. Place near the dreamer

9. Event far from dreamer

10. Place far from dreamer

11. Flashback

12. Confusing Prophecy: reroll Subject of Dream then roll d8:

1. Dream is fragmented

2. Dream is completely abstract 

3. Dream is out of sequence

4. Dream is forgotten quickly

5. Dream leads to inability sleep 

6. Dream leads to obsession

7. Dream is incorrect or distorted

8. Dream is lacking visual components


Notes

A. There is a base 50% + 5% per level chance that the dream is "about" the dreamer, e.g. that it is connected to them in some significant way. For example the dreamer could dream about a dog barking in a meadow (result 6. Monster unknown to dreamer) then a few weeks later they are in a meadow and a dog barks right before they are attacked by a poisonous snake, ruining the snake's chance for a surprise strike. 


Some dreams will not involve the dreamer, but they hold valuable information about others that can be parlayed into advantages. 


B. For the confusing prophecies, the end result for all is that the dream must be interpreted as the meaning will be unclear or there will be components missing. 


C. Execution

Obviously it is easier to leave the contents of a prophetic dream as open to interpretation as they may not come true. For example, say the PC has a prophetic dream that his fellow party member, a fighter, will die at the hands of an umber hulk. The DM can wait until whenever they want to manifest that umber hulk, and when they do one of two things will happen. Either the umber hulk kills the fighter and the dream came true, or the fighter is not killed and the prophecy was false.


This also leaves the timing of the event entirely up to the DM. It's not hard to dream up a reason for an umber hulk to pop up.


The results have to be interpreted for the individual campaign. You could design a generator to give you all the elements of a dream (e.g. setting, environment, number of entities encountered, length of Dream, number of relevant prophecies, etc) but this seems to me too cumbersome. 


Instead, think of this as an opportunity for the DM to plant a clue or set a misdirection. It can be literal or metaphorical ("you have a vision of getting on a boat for a journey, you appear to be wearing the same clothing you have on now" versus "you have a vision of an oar on a dock, suggesting you will be traveling soon"). It can be detailed or vague.


Some examples:

Person known to dreamer

- target dreams of another party member's demise at the hands of a monster while in a dungeon


Thing or object known to dreamer

- target dreams of his scroll case burning up in a fireball while he survives


Monster known to dreamer

- target dreams of a monster they thought they defeated being healed by someone and surviving


Person unknown to dreamer

- target dreams of a peasant woman washing clothing in a stream near a distinctive landmark. He sees her gather berries he can't identify and she drains off the ichor from a large insect. She then heads towards a castle. In this case he has just seen a dream as a metaphor for an assassin posing as a washer woman from the castle who is going to assassinate the prince with poison.


Place far from dreamer 

- target dreams of being in a crystal city on a huge ice floe somewhere that the light is thin. The target in the dream appears visibly older.


Flashback 

- prophetic dreams can predict the future by pointing you to a clue in the past. So for example the target could have a dream memory of an important event but in the dream she notices something she missed the first time that has implications for the future.


Prophetic dreams can lead to great power, wealth or folly, they can also be used to gain leverage, vie for influence and impact house politics. As a result all reports of prophetic dreams will be validated by magic (eg detect lie, ESP) where possible.


In session you can set up a dream sequence to execute as is, or metaphorically, e.g. you dream about your horse being slain and the horse is slain, or you dream about your horse being slain and your journey is delayed as the ship you are set to travel on has to be repaired.


Observations


No matter how you choose to execute this, there are a few important rules to remember:


1. Each prophetic dream should have a number of components:

A setting where the dream takes place, a castle, a road, a forest, a table, a lake, etc.


A main character - the dream should be “about” someone or something, a festival, a sailor, a horse, a member of the party, the dreamer, whatever, but the “action” should focus on them


An event or a scene, “there is a dog biting a soldier”, “two ships pass by each other, one red, one black, both without sailors or captain”, “a large red dragon is smashing houses with its tail”, “a red flower blooms and butterflies emerge as it swings around”, “you see yourself walking through an underwater environment, the fish seemingly oblivious to your presence”, etc. It should not be something like “there is an apple, a banana and a pear on a table”, or “you see two wolves”, instead something should happen to the fruit, or the wolves should do something.


Potential signifiers should be part of the dream, e.g. say the dream is about a party member falling into a sinkhole, then there could be a particular kind of distinctive bird in the dream, and then when the event of the dream is soon to come to fruition the PCs see that distinctive bird flying by. 


2. Prophetic dreams will always be about significant PCs/NPCs/Monsters, places or things


3. Prophetic dreams should always intersect with the PCs experience in some way. At some point the dream should be “cashed out”, whatever was seen in the dream should be shown in the game. If the party doesn’t recognize something that was metaphorical in the dream (e.g. you don’t have a horse, but you dream of riding on one that is slain and it is connected to your ship being repaired) as connected to an event, you can choose to either just tell the players it was meant this way, or have it revealed to them in game through an NPC or event. 


4. Prophetic Dreams should only rarely be wrong, the occasional red herring is just fine, but for the most part prophetic dreams should come true. As the referee you have many tools to make this happen, so use them.


Normally I don’t recommend messing with things, let them happen, let the dice fall and all that, but as this will come up VERY rarely in your game, having it be a false prophecy is kind of a waste of an immersive, exciting game moment. So my advice is to run this such that the prophecies come true. But feel free to do this in a way that respects the dice.


So for example, say the PC has a prophetic dream of a NPC they know dying by being shot with a crossbow bolt through the eye. They find that NPC in battle with a necromancer. The party magic-user shoots a lightning bolt and accidentally fries the friendly NPC, dead as a doornail. So the prophecy was false! Or, the corpse of the fried, friendly NPC animates as the necromancer brings him back, and one of the necromancer’s flunkies accidentally nails him with a crossbow bolt finishing him off. Or an NPC illusionist takes on the appearance of the slain NPC and is slain with a crossbow bolt through the eye. 


Prophetic dreams can be a vehicle for dropping plot hooks, giving out lore or clues, or foreshadowing important campaign events. My best advice is to use them sparingly, and the prophetic dream engine should ensure that you get them occasionally, but not too often.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Building Bhakashal - The Crack of Thunder - Firearms 




I wrestled with this for a while when I was creating the setting. D&D, for me, has always had a pulp vibe, and this included weapons of various kinds. I also have a special affection for modules like Temple of the Frog and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. 


However, I didn’t want everyone with handguns and regular machine gun fights. So I spent some time thinking about how to make it work.


Then, the penny dropped. To see how, a brief digression.


I decided when I was making Bhakashal that I wanted magic to be a big deal, but not pervasive. So there are over 400 new spells and around 200 new magic items, but these are not common, magic, and more powerful magic items, are under the control of various factions in the setting. So there are no “continual light” street lamps and flying cars in the setting. Magic is tightly controlled by the Noble Houses, under the direction of the Magus Warlocks who run each House. 


PCs and levelled NPCs represent a thin slice of the overall population in the setting, and other than House connected warlocks and adventurers, people do not have easy access to magic or magic items. Bhakashal is not a “magic is a stand in for modern tech” kind of setting.


In an environment like this, the people controlling magic would be very concerned with the proliferation of firearms, as firearms would allow a very deadly technology to be used by those without the allegiance to a Noble House, or the training and knowledge of the Warlocks who control them. In short, firearm technology in Bhakashal is artificially restricted to a pre automatic weapon stage. Single shot reloading weapons and basic revolvers are all that are allowed, any attempts to innovate beyond this have been ruthlessly put down. 


There are no mass manufactured guns in Bhakashal, every firearm in the setting is a unique weapon made by a master craftsman, sometimes a warlock, sometimes a blacksmith, but always under the supervision of a Warlock from a Noble House. Even within Noble Houses only certain Warlocks have firearms, and they are not used publically or in duels very often, the less the public knows about them the less likely they are to be duplicated or improved upon. For the most part firearms are only found in the hands of warlocks. When found in the possession of anyone else, they usually become a target.


Warlocks protect their power jealously.


Indeed, the ambitious referee could easily make this into a whole campaign arc, the discovery of some distant (or local) warlock who is trying to either mass manufacture guns or make automatic guns and the subsequent attempts to squash this innovation. Or perhaps the party will attempt to make that innovation themselves...



Types of Firearms - Bhakashal


Firearm

Weapon Speed

(A)

Damage

(B)

Range

(C)

Range Modifiers

(D)

WvrsAC Modifiers

(E)

Critical 

Effect

(F)

Wheel Lock Pistol

5

1-6 (d6)

Short: 30’ Medium: 60’

Long: 90’

Short: +2

Medium: +1

+1 Metal

+2 Leather

+3 No armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Wheel Lock Rifle

6

3-6 (d4+2)

Short: 60’ Medium: 90’

Long: 120’

Short:+3

Medium: +2

Long: +1

+2 Metal 

+2 Leather

+3 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Flintlock Pistol 

4

2-7 (d6+1)

Short: 60’

Medium: 90’

Long: 120’

Short: +2

Medium: +1

Long: /

+2 Metal 

+2 Leather

+3 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Flintlock 

Rifle

3-9 (2d4+1)

Short: 90’

Medium: 120’

Long: 150’

Short: +3 

Medium: +2

Long: +1

+3 Metal 

+3 Leather

+4 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Six-Shooter

Revolver

1/3

2-8 (2d4)

Short: 120’

Medium: 150’

Long: 180’

Short: +3 Medium: +3

Long: +2

+3 Metal 

+4 Leather

+5 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Six-Shooter

Rifle

1/4

3-10 (d8+2)

Short: 150’

Medium: 180’

Long: 210’

Short: +4

Medium: +3

Long: +2

+4 Metal 

+5 Leather

+5 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb

Shotgun

5

3-12 (3d4)

Short: 60’ 

Medium: 90’

Long: 120’

Short: +5

Medium: +4

Long: +3

+4 Metal 

+5 Leather

+6 No Armor

Remain

Bleed

Blind

Numb


  1. - The weapons with a single weapon speed are one shot then reload, the weapon speed reflects the time to reload and discharge the weapon. Dual listed speeds are for six-shooters, the smaller speed applies when the weapon is loaded, when the last bullet fires, the listed weapon speed applies to the next shot, this reflects reloading time. 

  2. - Firearms do the same amount of listed damage against SM and L targets, this reflects the ability of traditional weapons to do greater damage due to size

  3. - Ranges are shorter than bows and crossbows at the Long range, but are higher at the lower ranges.

  4. - Where guns are SIGNIFICANTLY better than traditional weapons isn’t damage, it’s the likelihood of damage, reflecting the fact that bullets can pass through a body with minimal damage, but are very likely to cause damage and penetrate armor. So short, medium and long range all get bonuses to hit (where standard missile weapons are Short no mod, Medium -2 and Long -5)

  5. - Guns are also significantly better on Weapon versus Armor Class modifiers, there are no penalties for guns (standard weapons have penalties against metal armor in most cases) and the bonuses are much higher.

  6. - The Critical Effects for guns are significant. 


Remain - Bullet remains in target doing base dice damage per round until removed. Removal requires a saving throw versus petrification with DEX bonus. Failure does regular dice damage again.


Bleed - Bullet hits a vein, target loses 1-3 HP per round until wound bound.


Blind - Make a saving throw, on a success target temporarily blinded for 2-4 rounds (-4 to hit) due to blood, fail saving throw, eye shot out, -6 to hit for 1-2 weeks, then -5 for a month, with 1 point less penalty per month thereafter until -1.


Numb - Bullet hits a bone or significant muscle on arm or leg, target area numbed and useless (no attacking with limb, no walking on limb) until healed.



Magical Firearms

Magical Firearms in Bhakashal are made by binding minor demons to the weapons using a process created by Foslan Demonfane of House Klis. Foslan created a custom spell used to summon and bind minor demons to guns. 


Foslan Demonfane’s Binding Call

Level: 8, Casting Time: 1 hour, Range: 2”, Duration: permanent, Area of Effect: one weapon, Components: V,S,M, Saving Throw: special.


When Foslan Demonfane’s signature spell is cast, the warlock summons a demon and binds them to a firearm. The firearm must be of the highest possible workmanship, and must be made of cold iron. The firearm is engraved with symbols which help to focus the binding spell which keeps the demon inside the gun. If the spell is cast successfully then the summoning works, to determine if the binding works, it is necessary to deduct the demon’s magic resistance from the caster’s [“to know” + level]. The remaining percentage is the chance that the binding will be successful. If the demon’s magic resistance is greater than the casters “to know” + level the demon cannot be summoned.


If the binding is not successful, there is a 5% chance per HD of the demon that they will attack the caster, otherwise they will disappear upon the failed attempt to bind them.


Depending on the type of demon bound to the gun the wielder will have two other spell-like powers they can use, the first up to 3x per day, the second once per day, as follows:

 


Demon

Magic Resistance

Hit Dice

Power (3x/1x daily)

Chasme  

40%

7

Shield/Dispel Magic

Bar-Lurga 

45%

6

Protective Circle/Flame Bullets*

Nabassu 

50%

5

Detect Invisibility/Ammon Marr’s Missile Inversion

Vrock 

50%

8

Invisibility/Efferenon’s Chill the Bones

Hezrou 

55%

9

Blink/Passwall

Glabrezu

60%

10

Slow/Teleport

Nalfeshnee 

65%

11

Dimension Door/Anti-Magic Shell

Marilith 

80%

7

Fire Shield/Monster Summoning IV


Guns vrs Characters

Magical firearms are powerful items that house demons, those demons will always be eager to leave their binding and be free. Whenever the character wielding the magical firearm is reduced to below 1/4 of their total hit points, make the following calculation:


Demon Magic Resistance / 5 = % chance the demon will take over the PC.


Check this once per hour until the PC is healed back to above 1/4 their total HP.


If the demon possesses the PC they cannot directly harm them (e.g. get them to shoot themselves), however, they will use them to sow chaos and destruction until others are forced to deal with them, and if they are slain in righteous retribution for their chaotic acts the demon is freed and the PCs soul is bound to the gun instead, unable to pass on to the afterlife. 


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