Detect Evil And Making Spells Unique

Mad Magic-User by Henrik Pettersson

A couple weeks ago, Jack Graham tweeted about the possible implications of the old-school Detect Evil spell. It got me thinking about how it actually manifests itself:


I made this thing as both an exploration of how Detect Evil might work and an experiment in making spells more unique. Essentially, it is a one-page sheet to randomize how the spell works. It is meant to be system agnostic and should work with both old-school games and D&D 5e.

Some of the ideas I had when writing this:
  • I've been thinking about Vance's Dying Earth. It's got weird spell names like "The Excellent Prismatic Spray" and "Phandal’s Mantle of Stealth". Some D&D spell names like "Tenser's Floating Disk" are inspired by this and it makes them sound cooler.
  •  When you copy a wizard's spellbook you end up getting -their- version of the spell. Not every footballer takes free kicks the same way, why would wizards all cast a spell the same way? Also makes it so that it's worth it to get a scroll or spellbook for a spell you already know, because every version works differently.
  •  Incentivizes challenge-based games. Nuances like making the evil thing visible to all can bring new opportunities or problems that lead to stuff. Also different ways to disrupt spells by blocking the means through which they manifest. If the enemy's Detect Evil works through sound, make noise to confuse them, etc.


Santicorn 2018 - The Hyperlight Dragon Kills You in Reverse

I wrote this for James Young of Ten Foot Polemic, who asked the Secret Santicorn at OSR Discord for “a monster that kills you in reverse, somehow”. What does that mean, you might ask? I still am unsure. There’s many ways to interpret something “killing you in reverse”. Maybe it means a glitchy healbot that overloads you with lifestuff, which somehow kills you (or condemns you to a fate worse than death), maybe it simply means a truck, stuck on reverse, that runs you over. Since there is no single right answer, I went with something simple and straightforward: something that moves faster than light and thus reverses causality, killing you before it actually does the action that killed you.

Acknowledgements: Thanks so much to James for the prompt. Also thanks to the OSR JavaScript Cabal and especially Saker, who helped me brainstorm this thing gave valuable suggestions.

From the cover of "Revenge of the Rainbow Dragons", by Rose Estes and Harry Quinn (llustrator)

Hyperlight Dragon

Armor: as Plate
Hit Dice: 10
Move: 3x standard (flight)
Attack: 2x claw (1d8), bite (3d8) or Breath Weapon - Tachyon Beam (Special)

The Hyperlight Dragon can move faster than the speed of light (although only in short bursts), allowing him to reverse causality and make things happen before he does the action that triggers the effect. To be precise, he can make things have an effect 6 seconds before they happen. On any round, if it takes no other action, it can do one of the following:

-Retrocausal Attack: During a player’s turn, make an attack roll as if the Hyperlight Dragon had attacked them and ignore Dexterity bonus to AC (if any). From the player’s perspective, the Hyperlight Dragon is doing something else and the only signs of the attack are their own than pain, blood and screaming. The Hyperlight Dragon must end its next turn in a location in which it could have dealt that attack.

-FTL Dodge: On its turn, the Hyperlight Dragon can decide to retroactively move out of the way dodge any attacks aimed at its location during the last round. It must have a clear path to move to a different location and can not dodge area effects or non-physical damage this way.
Breath Weapon

-Tachyon Beam: During a player’s turn, the Hyperlight Dragon can deal 8d6 damage (save vs Death Ray for half) in a 100’ line. The PCs see nothing and hear nothing. They do smell something: their own flesh burning as the searing light pierces their body.

The beam's origin does not have to be the Dragon’s current location but has to be a point it can reach in a round’s move. The Hyperlight Dragon must end its next turn in a location from which it could have feasibly launched the attack. The image of the beam (though harmless, as it has already dealt damage, is now visible: a beautiful rainbow of deadly lasers.

Any GM who uses this monster in their game should do so responsibly. If there is an effect caused by the Hyperlight Dragon, then the cause MUST happen during its next turn. If it doesn’t (either because it is unable to perform the causal action or because of GM oversight), the situation has caused a paradox. Spacetime will try to correct itself to account for your mistakes. Roll a d4 on the Spacetime Paradox table. The next time a paradox happens roll instead a d6, then a d8 and after that, a d10.

Spacetime Paradox Table

1, There is no Hyperlight Dragon. It never existed and never will. Any effect caused (or that will be caused) by it was instead caused by something else.

2, I mean, of course, a Hyperlight Dragon did it! It was ANOTHER Hyperlight Dragon, though. There is two of them now. There’s a 50% chance that they are hostile to each other.

3, The recipient of the effect is duplicated. One version is the recipient’s original location and other’s location and circumstances are such that the Hyperlight Dragon’s effect makes sense. Each version has a 50% of actually being the original. If a sentient creature is duplicated, it has free will, and its goals and alignment are opposite to those of the original.

4, There’s a glitch in time. It rewinds to right before the paradox happened. You got off easy!

5, Time rewinds to the start of the encounter. Everyone involved retains their memories and rolls for initiative. Also, please don’t screw up this time.

6, Space itself accommodates to account for your mistakes. If the Hyperlight Dragon was too far to have caused the attack, the distance between it and its target has shortened; if there was a wall in the way, the way around it is now shorter. These distortions are a permanent scar on space itself, caused by your inability to pay attention. Congratulations.

7, Wow! Still causing paradoxes? Reality itself wants to correct the source of the problem. Why is this thing moving faster than light? The Hyperlight Dragon permanently loses its ability to move faster than light and reverse causation.

8, Reality is REALLY pissed off at you and your dragon. Poof — it’s gone. The Hyperlight Dragon disintegrates into dust just like that.

9, At this point, you’ve broken reality so hard it can’t fix itself. It’s permanently broken. All players must re-roll their ability scores, hit points, race and class, as reality itself is rewritten. The Hyperlight Dragon is also transformed into a regular adult chromatic dragon (1-2 Red, 3-4 Black, 5-6 Blue, 7-8 Green, 9-10 White).

10, Damn, you are careless. Reality is permanently and hopelessly broken. It shatters into pieces. Game over.


Class V Soltarian Freighter - Automated

Class V Soltarian Freighter By Eneko Palencia
Translated by Bastian C
(Originally published in Vieja Escuela Zine 03)


Click the button below to embark on a new mission.


Class V Soltarian Freighter - Space Adventure Seeds and Ship Deckplan

Some of my favourite OSR stuff is coming out of the Spanish scene but is unfortunately not available in English. Every now and then I'm going to share translations of there stuff so the OSR community at large can check it out.

The first one I'm doing is an adventure seed generator for Sci-Fi/Space settings by Eneko Palencia. Him and Eneko Menica run Grapas & Mapas and publish an insane amount of stuff full of quality art and gonzo fun. It was originally published (in Spanish) in Vieja Escuela Zine 03 and is also available from Eneko P.'s website. It's system-agnostic and fits any RPG setting that uses spaceships, like SWN or Mothership.

1d10 You have been hired to…
1 …transport illegal cargo to a trade system…
2 …escort a diplomat who is mediating between two warring systems…
3 …search for the child of a wealthy trader, lost in an overcrowded space station…
4 …transport several alien spaces to a military lab…
5 …rescue a family of settlers from a far-away hostile system…
6 …tow a ship to a scrapyard to be dismantled…
7 …transport a droid carrying classified information…
8 …carry supplies for an under-construction military space station…
9 …set up a new trade route to an unexplored system…
10 …pick up a cargo of minerals from a mine in a large asteroid…

1d10 …but…
1 …your freighter breaks down and the nearest replacement is in…
2 …customs control forces you to divert from the original route and stumble upon…
3 …you detect a weak and desperate S.O.S. signal coming from…
4 …you are boarded by space pirates based in…
5 …lack of fuel forces you to make a stop at…
6 …a crew member sabotages the navigation system and takes an escape pod towards…
7 …a colossal ship swallows your freighter and carries you to…
8 …a strange and lethal virus infects the whole crew. The cure is in…
9 …a cosmic storm affects your navigation system and diverts you to…
10 …a hostile A.I. infects your ship to attract you towards…

1 …a system inhabited by dangerous alien creatures.
2 …a mysterious space station that looks abandoned.
3 … a fortress-ship orbiting a moon.
4 …an asteroid belt inhabited by giant space worms.
5 …the headquarters of a powerful trade conglomerate.
6 …floatsam of a gargantuan ship, inhabited by refugees.
7 …a technologically advanced ring-shaped world.
8 …a high-security prison ship taken over by the inmates.
9 …a system dangerously close to a black hole.
10 …a system full of space junk and the remains of old ships.


Houserules for Weapon Breakage

I’ve been thinking about how to make weapons breaking a thing in my game to spice things up. I think Logan Knight from Last Gasp perfectly describes my motivation here:
“I find it really boring for characters to be able to pick a weapon when they start out and then hold onto it forever unless they find something magic or wake up naked in a pit. I mean sure, it’s nice to have a weapon with history, but don’t you want that history to actually mean something? I also want some kind of indication that all this murdering necessitates equipment maintenance, but I don’t want that to be a gaping pain in the arse.”
The breakage rules from the GLOG are pretty close to what I’m aiming, but also I really, really like the ideas in Last Gasp’s (namely, notches and weapon quality).

My goals
  • Weapons take damage on a critical fail.
  • Weapons take get progressively worse as they take damage (they don’t break immediately).
  • Keep it as simple and system-neutral as possible.
  • Dice rolls should only have one > or < check.
  • Add as few additional rolls as possible.
  • Add as few variables as possible.
Thematically related Yu-Gi-Oh! card: Shattered Axe

Weapon Breakage

Whenever you roll a natural 1 on an attack or do something that would obviously damage it (like stabbing a stone golem with a dagger), roll a d6. If the result is equal to or under your weapon's quality, it withstands the hit. Otherwise, it’s damage die is reduced one step (1d10>1d8>1d6>1d4). If it can’t go any lower, the weapon snaps in two. The standard rate for repair is 50% of the item's full cost per die.

Every weapon has a quality rating that depends on material and craftsmanship. Higher quality weapons are less likely to break but also more expensive.

Improvised weapons; corroded or rusted metal.
Poorly made; soft metal like gold or silver.
Average craftsmanship; average quality steel.
Well made; high-quality material.
Superb craftsmanship, rare material (something like mithril).
Rare artifacts; the stuff of legends.

Detect Evil And Making Spells Unique

  Mad Magic-User by Henrik Pettersson A couple weeks ago, Jack Graham tweeted about the possible implications of the old-school Detect ...