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How Disease Affects the Creative Process

Being sick allows you to consider possibilities you've dismissed previously. The desire for the brain to do something pitted against the body's call for resources to battle the invading sickness can provide desperate creative output. Desperate? Yes, let me explain a bit.

I called in sick at 5 am after managing some semblance of sleep. I couldn't stare at anything with a screen until about 2 hours ago. I avoid getting sick and when it does happen, I attack it viciously. I get delusional when I get a fever. This is beyond bad decisions, this is all five senses of hallucination. Mix in a bit of over-the-counter cold medication and you get a whole lot of things happening simultaneously.

There are the hallucinations and fever dreams, sure, but there is also no sense of time passing, boredom, and the brain repeatedly asking, "why don't you watch TV like normal people when they are sick?" Desperate creative output is the brain throwing out all sorts of random things in a vain attempt to get me to zone out. Today it was a back-and-forth that went something like this:

Brain: Here's an idea for a chase mechanic for your Open D6 Lite game. Now can we watch TV?

Brain: Rought is what the English word for 'bear' would be if the original Anglo-Saxon word evolved like most other English words with Indo-European origin. Use it instead of ursine for your bear-people in D&D. Now can we watch TV?

Brain: Ribbons of Time can be literal ribbons that can be cut, stretched, and combined in a similar way the Greek Fates measure the threads of time. You could even have loops like a Moebius strip. You constantly move in one direction, but you're in an endless loop. This would make a good trap or an interesting short story. Now can we watch TV?

Me: Quick question. Would the people on the Moebius strip age? Maybe they would progress and regress in age depending on their position on the Moebius strip. Maybe the main character realizes that she is in a loop.

After a few down more ideas, I found I could finally watch a handful of videos to pass the time. I mean, I wasn't aware of six hours passing, so what's a couple more?

I happened upon a Yu-Gi-Oh episode where Seto Kaiba is fighting some guy named Diva. I remembered enough of the original cartoons to have some cold-medicine-addled idea of what was going on. Near the end of the video, Seto Kaiba called an Egyptian God card without drawing it out of a deck. He summoned it by sheer force of will accentuated by dramatically smacking the ground with his hand and many things breaking behind him.

Me: I have an idea. There is a feat for Clerics or Wizards that allows a character to cast a spell when they are out of spell slots. The spell slot can be any level, but cannot be higher than the highest spell slot the character has. I call it Indomitable Will

Also Me: What if chess had battle monsters as pieces. Better yet, I can take an old chess idea and make it into a battle monster type of game. Better better yet, I could make a new 5e class called the summoner that depends of calling beasts and contraptions of all kinds. They wouldn't have to be all combat-oriented, some would be useful for chases, investigations, and stand-ins for various 5e toolkits.

Also Me: This would make a great Dice Throne character. Oh wait, there's already the Artificer and the Treant. Maybe you could homebrew the Mad Artificer. Bwa ha ha ha.

Brain: Is your generic Dayquil wearing off? Wait, did you say Bwa ha ha out loud?

That's been my day in and out of awareness. I really hope I feel better tomorrow. It was really hard to drag myself to a keyboard to type out all this stuff before I forget it.

I hope for something more useful next time to put up here on the blog.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Magic-User Options

The featured image was created by Luigi Castellani. His patreon is here, go support him. He is anextremely talented artist and writer.

In four older  posts, I covered tweaks to the standard Magic-User. For convenience, they are listed below:

By popular request, a fifth link is provided that deals with the Turn Undead table.

Using the Turn Undead table

The premises for these posts were simple:

  • A class feels different when the mechanics are different.
  • The spell table is the primary limiting factor.
  • House rule: The standard Magic-User can create scrolls for 100gp per spell level. The process takes a number of days equal to the spell level.

Looking back on these posts, one theme stands out. A different mechanic creates an unreliable spellcaster. When the success is not automatic, like with the standard Magic-User, other things are needed to make the class worthwhile. Here are the pieces so far:

  • Creating a spell focus that can guarantee spell casting success without a roll.
  • Creating amulets that allow for the Best 2 out of 3 rolling for success.
  • Minor counterspell ability that costs highest available spell slot.
  • Creating Mnemonics that allow the spellcaster to keep the spell slot in case of failure.
  • Gaining lucky numbers that always grant success when rolled.
  • Creating magic items that guarantee a range of die rolls will result in a successfully cast spell.
  • Minor hex ability based on the Prayer spell.

What can we do with these pieces? Quite a bit.

Campaign Ideas

One way to use these four variant magic-users is to have a campaign world that doesn't have the standard Magic-User. All spellcasters are unreliable, but each type searches/fabricates items that help them make magic more reliable.

I could see this in a Swords & Sorcery type of setting where the four different types of magic-users would have evocative names. The Red Hand, Disciples of the Path, The Feeders, etc. I'm partial to the name I gave the Chainmail spellcasters, the magic-eaters. I could also see where each type is distrustful of the other three. It provides a built-in backstory for the magic-user in the party.

Another campaign idea would put the standard Magic-User as high mages with the other three considered hedge mages. The academics could laugh at a preoccupation with numbers or making charts while they study real magic.

Parts is Parts

Take a mechanic you like:

  • Saving Throw
  • Chainmail (2d6 + m-u level/2 greater than or equal to 7)
  • Percentages
  • Custom charts
  • Turn Undead table

Decide the consequences of failure:

  • Retain spell slot
  • Lose spell slot

Decide how the unreliable spellcaster can increase his chances:

  • Make something to guarantee success
  • Make something to increase the odds of success

Determine, if necessary, how making something increases your chances of success:

  • Add an extra dice
  • A magic item create a specific number that when rolled is always successful
  • A range of results as success

If they make something to increase the odds of success without guaranteeing success, choose a minor ability:

  • Counterspell
  • Hex
  • Mnemonics (Save spell slots at spell failure)

Viola! You have a tweaked class that uses the same tables for spell slots and advancement. There are many different combinations available just for these limited options. A minor ability is roughly based on 2nd level spells or weakened 3rd level spells. I would avoid spells that do damage, but instead choose spells like Locate Object, Mirror Image, a weakened Monster Summoning I, or Rope Trick.

That's it for now, the next post will be about my favorite OGL alternative to the Mind Flayer and then moving to more thoughts about the Words of Power Hack I've been working on.

Thoughts on a Zeb Hack

This is about a project that I'll call The Zeb Hack. It contains thoughts on adding player customization without adding a ton of new rules and subsystems. Why the Zeb Hack? Because the customization changes may appear to be similar to 2e kits.

Don't throw rotten vegetables. I don't like kits, either.

What Brought You to Do Such a Thing?

It's been a while since the Thursday night group met, but one thing that was requested session after session: more granularity in character classes and races.

Playing The Black Hack for outer space weirdness was great, converted White Star classes worked well enough. Everyone had fun running around the universe.

Still, the characters wanted one alien to be different from the other within the Brute or Mystic classes. Having creative license to just describe them differently was fun, but one player in particular enjoyed tweaking things about their character.

Now, I am definitely of the old school, simple rules mentality. I enjoy The Black Hack so much because it is streamlined while feeling like what I ran back in the day.

I think, though, that I can find a happy medium. Specifically, I want to provide mechanical variations between characters without turning it into a min/max game or adding too many fiddly bits.

You're Really Serious About This

Yes. Here are the ground rules.

First, I'm going to add skills. The list will be a pared down list of SRD5 skills. Ten skills maximum, but I hope for six or seven.

Then, I need to define possible bonuses. I decided that in The Black Hack, bonuses should be +1, +2, roll with Advantage. The maximum for any attribute is 20, so eliminating a +3 bonus prevents the rare rolling of a 21 for an attribute. You can't have advantage for an attribute, but that would come into play for class/race abilities. These would be similar to any of the Thieves' abilities in TBH. (Roll DEX with advantage when performing a delicate task like open a lock or disarming a trap.)

How Will This Work?

I want to define race by declaring minimum and maximum attributes. I guess I still could, but it feels more streamlined to add bonuses to attributes. Specifically, I want to define an alien in brief terms like this:

Uplifted Dolphin, WIS +1, Roll DEX with Advantage on all Piloting rolls. Add +1 to CHA on Persuasion rolls.

On the Fantasy side of things, it looks like:

Elf, INT +1, Roll WIS with Advantage when looking for secret doors. Add +1 to STR on Athletic rolls.

Dwarf, CON +1, Roll with Advantage on saving throws against Poison, Add +1 to INT on Stonecunning rolls.

Not everything needs to follow the Roll with Advantage and Roll +1 formula:

Gnome, INT +1 Tinker ability, Add +1 to WIS for saving throws against mind-influencing effects.

Alternate Elf, INT +1 Cast spells in metal armor, Add +1 to STR for saving throws against paralysis.

Humans from Sword's Peak, Add +2 to DEX when attempting to keep balance, Add +1 to INT for Nature rolls, Add +1 to STR for Athletic rolls, Add +1 to WIS for any attempt to control horses or bears.

This Looks Like a Lot to Track

It increases the number of things a character can do to six things. The key is to avoid a race that stacks bonuses on an attribute.

The most complicated race are the Humans from Sword's Peak. Four bonuses to various skill rolls may seem like a lot, but they do provide a picture of what these humans are. They seem to be outdoorsmen with a knack for controlling bears and being light on their feet.

Most races can be generated with an Attribute bonus, Advantage roll, and a +1 roll to greatly simplify things. Since that can feel a bit formulaic, I wanted to offer other ways to build a race, specifically including a complicated build.

Design Goals

I want to create pre-defined lists of Knacks (+1 to a roll), Traits (+2 to a roll), and Talents (Roll with Advanatage) that can be used to generate various races and/or classes. I am working on those lists to make the entire system modular.

I hope the next post can provide more details with class combinations. Any and all feedback welcomed.