Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Juiblex and the One Flesh



The only constant, such as it is, is change. All that exists can be altered. Not even the gods are spared from change.  

In many cases, the act of change is a subtractive one. Entropy is wrought upon the subject through the chaos of transformation. Objects break down, ideas lose meaning—each alteration, in some small way, breaks down what was hard, certain, and true into that which is soft, malleable, and uncertain. And at the end of it all is a great formless mass; an ever-flowing, ever-shifting soup incomprehensible in size and scale of all things altered beyond the boundaries of form and reason. This is Juiblex, the Faceless God, and by its will the world will melt. 



Structure and individuation are untenable to Juiblex. Each step toward the complete dissolution of such things brings an object or idea closer to perfection. No distinction need be drawn between metamorphosis and decay; in the doctrine of Juiblex they are one in the same. 

Within the purview of the Faceless God are the aspects of mutation, transience, amalgamation, and deliquescence. 

It is known as the chaos lord of oozes and slimes, and indeed such beings are the burbling, quivering children of the Great Glistener. All oozes that lurk in the dark and forgotten places under the earth trace their origin to the ichorous discharges of Juiblex that it ejects into the cosmos. The most sacred of all its children is green slime, the loathsome substance that devours any metal and organic material it comes in contact with and instantly converts it into more of itself. 

The most deranged of scholars and radical of heretics believe that Juiblex is the dream of an unborn being. Something as yet unformed yearns for the convergence of all living matter on earth to form a single perfect organism. Perhaps once that is achieved, the Faceless God will be birthed. 


The followers of Juiblex are identified by outsiders as less a formal religious order and more a collection of desires and observed phenomenon, referred to loosely as the One Flesh. It can be found in any settlement of sufficient size, or anywhere where large quantities of diverse people groups gather. Most followers are unaware of who or what they follow—while they may not have a name for their god or conceptualize it as a distinct entity, they act on its behalf without heed of who or what they do it for.

There is a formal form of worship, though it has no name. The ritual involves members of the One Flesh congregating in abandoned or decrepit areas and engaging in vigorous, violent bacchanal, bolstered by heavy use of psychoactive substances. Some would say that this is merely a practice of hedonistic revelry, but in truth the purposes of the ritual extend far beyond the scope of personal pleasure. Observers have described horrifying scenes of men and women  of all ages and even animals fornicating, fighting, and writhing together in an anonymous mass of bodies; of bodily fluids of all sorts spilled, mixed, rubbed upon each other, bathed in, and imbibed in various ways. Most haunting of all, some have even claimed to witness people seem to melt into one another, as though freed from their anatomical constraints.  

Participating in such an orgy is the first and only step in joining the One Flesh. After an aspirant engages in the ritual, they will immediately feel an empathic bond to all other followers of Juiblex, and slowly lose their sense of personhood in favor of the collective identity of the One Flesh. When that occurs, new urges and desires will emerge in their minds—these are the whims of Juiblex, which its strange followers are compelled to obey. 

Operations of the One Flesh are erratic and hard to predict due to its diffuse organization. They include the contamination of water supplies; the gestation and delivery of chimerical monstrosities; the defacement of monuments, landmarks, and historical records; mutagens; experimental surgeries; radical alchemy; and unstable amalgamations. The primary goal of all their strange undertakings is to bring more individuals into the warm, viscid folds of the One Flesh. Often, this is done through promoting feelings of disillusionment and isolation among a populace. Social pariahs and disaffected outcasts are the most likely to join the One Flesh, both for the promise of connection and the disregard they may have for their own personhood. 

Devotees of the Faceless God may ambush a traveling caravan, slaughter its guards, and induce a deep, narcotic coma in the noncombatant travelers. Then, after inflicting severe-yet-non debilitating disfigurements upon them, the devotees will sort the travelers into small groups (taking care not to pair individuals with too many similar characteristics together), take their money and valuables, and spirit them to nearby cities where they will be deposited in slums and other poor areas with little memory of who they are or how they got there. When each person experiences the peak of their alienation, they are most susceptible to the burblings of Juiblex that invite them to take part in the One Flesh ritual. Eventually, a new chapter is born. 


Should enough people take part in the orgy, the true ritual transformation begins. Bodies release their physical forms and merge into one another to form a great tumorous mass of living matter as big as a house. Looks like a giant knotty ball of melting fat and throbbing viscera shot through with multijointed limbs; smells like intense body odor, nose-burning bile, and meat on the verge of going rancid. Winking ventricles open and close between blobbly layers of slick meat, oozing mucus and smelling the air for organic material that bloated elephantine pseudopods in horrid approximations of various limbs sprout forth to claw it toward. Great swollen flesh sacs burble out from the mound like bubbles rising to the surface, from which burst expanding masses of viscous bile that collapse into sizzling puddles to digest the matter around them such that it can be consumed and anabolized by the ever-growing flesh mound. The mound continues expanding in this way until no more viable material is left to consume or it collapses under its own weight, at which point it sheds sheets of flesh that slough off its sides as they melt into green slime. As it does so, the mound releases waves of mutational impulses like radiation, inviting nearby creatures to take part in a new incarnation of the One Flesh. 


Fighting one of those big blobby things:
One Flesh Bloom
HD: 20 (90 hp) AC: 9 Move: 20' Morale: 12 Attack: Pseudopod (2d8, save vs. paralysis or be subsumed by the blob) x 4 
Immune to acid, poison, and psychic attacks.
  • Subsume: if the bloom moves into a creature's space or attacks with a pseudopod, the target must save vs. paralysis or become engulfed. On a success, the creature is harmless knocked back 10'. On a failure, the creature pulled into the blob takes 1d10 damage each round from being crushed+digested, and can only be pulled out by a combined strength score of 18. Engulfed creatures can still damage the bloom using small weapons without needing to roll attack. 
  • Digestive Bile: Creatures in melee range save vs. breath weapon each round or take 2d6 acid damage.
  • The bloom reduces incoming damage by 3, unless the damage source is fire, cold, or holy in nature. 
  • The bloom gains 1d8 hp each round, capable of exceeding its hp maximum.  For every 30 hp the bloom has over 100, it gains another attack and 10' of move speed. 
  • If the bloom is reduced to 0 hp OR reaches 500 hp, it can no longer sustain itself and collapses into 20 HD worth of green slime. Everyone in a 120' radius must save vs. spells or mutate, and everyone in a 15-mile radius must save vs. magic at +4 or become compelled to join the One Flesh.

Joining the One Flesh:
After taking part in the One Flesh ritual, make a Wisdom test with a -2 penalty. You can willingly choose to fail the roll. On a failure, you join the One Flesh, your alignment becomes Chaotic, you lose 2 points of Charisma due to depersonalization, and you can transmit empathic messages with others of the One Flesh. Slimes and oozes no longer attack you. You can speak with them freely, but they typically don't have much to say. You can command ooze once per day, affecting a number of HD of ooze equal to your level.

The first time you take part in the ritual, take 1d6 damage and save vs. poison or contract a disease (puts you out of commission; save again every three days, three successes means you survive, three failures means you die). Suffer a -2 penalty to all rolls the next day as you recover.  

Once joining, you must take part in the ritual once for every month of time spent not going on adventures. The ritual still deals 1d6 damage, but you are no longer in danger of contracting a disease and receive a +1 bonus to all rolls the next day ask you bask in the putrescent afterglow. 

Treasures valued by devotees of Juiblex:

1 Mixed potions (roll twice on the potion list and once on the miscibility table, ignoring the instant explosion result)

2 Expensive alchemy equipment

3 Green slime kept in all manner of vessels

4 Melted ingots

5 Opalized ooze 

6 Oozified opal (wax-sealed in long vials, looks like a lava lamp)

7 Pearlescent polyps

8 Jade amphoras

9 Rare and expensive oils

10 Royal jellies

11 Squishy globules containing hallucinogenic, corrosive, or soporific gases  

12 Imperfect attempts at the universal solvent: liquids that completely dissolve only one type of material (wood, stone, metal, etc.) 

Powers granted to acolytes:

1 Oil-slick skinfilm

2 Acid excretion

3 Rapid regeneration

4 Self-mutate/cause mutation 

5 Amorphous form

6 Lashing tendrils 

7 Malleable body

8 Command ooze

9 Cling to sheer surfaces

10 Chameleon skin

11 Induce intoxication 

12 Projectile vomit on demand


Clerics and acolytes of Juiblex can spew out 1 HD of green slime per day. The substance doubles as their unholy symbol, which is why many keep a small vial on their person, careful to hide it away lest it dissolve in the sun. 


Groups of 3–10 acolytes can merge to become a single fleshy monstrosity, pooling their HD and hp totals and getting a number of attacks equal to the amount of acolytes merged. This is an excruciating process and usually done as a last resort

Allied monsters:

1 Oozes, slimes, and jellies of all types

2 Mutants and mutated versions of local fauna 

3 Ropers

4 Otyughs

5 Giant slugs, leeches, and other slimy mollusks

6 Chimeras

7 Doppelgängers 

8 Flesh golems

9 Trolls

10 Gibbering mouthers

11 Malformed lycanthropes

12 Abominations augmented through fleshcrafting


Traps and hazards found in their pustulant lairs:

1 Camouflaged pits

2 Mutagens and flesh-warping parasites

3 Noxious miasmas

4 Quicksand-like sucking floors

5 Melting chambers; collapsing ceilings

6 Oozes, lurking or disguised

7 Seemingly mundane objects that fuse to the skin

8 Mysterious pools

9 Experimental gene-splicing machines 

10 Slippery floors. Slippery stairs. Slippery walls. Slippery everything. 

11 Birthing sacs and spawning vats 

12 Volatile alchemical experiments 


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Probably the meanest cursed sword I can think of

It looks like a normal sword, of course. Doesn't detect as magic, immune to remove curse, dispel evil, etc. etc. 

When a PC picks it up, tell the player to pick another player at the table. Don't give them any context—just tell them to choose. They cannot choose themselves. 

An unsightly black mark forms on the forehead of the chosen player's character. The mark gives the character -1 to attack and damage rolls, and the bearer of the sword gets +1 to both. Additionally, 10% of all xp the marked character were to earn goes to the bearer. 

If the character who bears the sword were to die, the marked character dies instead. 

When this happens, the player whose character holds the sword chooses a player again. Both that player's character and the previously chosen player's new character receives a mark and penalty, and the bonus to the bearer increases to +2. The same player can be chosen again, meaning their character gains an additional mark and a cumulative penalty. If the bearer of the sword were to die and more than one character is marked, the player chooses which one dies instead.

This process repeats until every character at the table is marked save for the bearer, or a total of six marks have been distributed. The next time a situation were to occur where a PC would be chosen to gain a mark, tell the player to pick another player at the table as normal. When a new player is chosen, all pre-existing marks disappear. The sword immediately transfers to the chosen player's character, and a mark forms on the forehead of the previous bearer. The process begins anew, with the previous bearer being the first marked character. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Notes on OSR-style social challenges

We know that rolling ability tests or skill checks for social situations is an ill-considered way to resolve social situations because it stops players from thinking—it turns a strategic challenge into a dice roll.

That being said, having no procedure for dealing with social challenges could lead to a lot of circuitous and time-consuming back-and-forthing between the players and the DM until it is decided that the situation is resolved either favorably or unfavorably for the players. Relying on DM fiat is fine in a lot of circumstances but too much can lead to decisions that feel arbitrary—the DM either lets the players do what they want, in which case they can feel like they are getting away with something, or not, in which case they can feel like the DM is being hard and punitive. 

The reaction roll does a good job of providing a simple mechanic for social challenges. The offer refused+lowered standing/offer refused/unsure/offer accepted/offer accepted+added benefit dynamic complements the 2d6 probability spread well. 

But what about the actual challenge? 

The obvious answer: PCs should to be able to do something gain additional bonuses to the roll. What Arnold K. brought up some months back in his post on parleying can be applied to all forms of social interaction where the desires of the PCs and the NPCs are different. Adding a goal, value, or motivation to an otherwise one-note NPC not only makes the world seem more vivid etc. but more importantly gives the character something the PCs can latch on to and use in negotiation. 

I'd only want to do this if the players are going to want something from an NPC that they are not necessarily willing to offer. You don't want to add texture to every NPC for the same reason you wouldn't want every supporting character in a book or movie to have a full backstory and character arc—it adds a lot of extraneous detail that pulls focus away the important parts.

The game turns into a playacting slogathon if every pre-dungeon supply run involves stilted RP with a shopkeeper. Feeling like you need to fully roleplay every conversation the PCs have is a mistake a lot of newer DMs run into, but really you only need to zoom in on the things that actually provide engaging gameplay. 

If, for example, the PCs have a fake gem or conspicuous stolen art piece they are trying to dupe someone into buying, considering the identity of the NPC and what they value suddenly becomes more important. Are they religious, and thus more willing to trust people of similar faith? Do they like to drink perhaps a bit too much, and thus  inclined to be genial with someone who takes them out for a beer? Instead of just having a flat chance of the object getting identified, there is now a way for the players to strategize a method of maximizing their chances for the shopkeeper in question to agree to buy the thing. 

Of course, these features would need to be telegraphed. The shopkeeper has to be seen displaying a holy symbol or acting a bit buzzed before the players can know how to game them. 

This is the kernel of a social challenge: the PCs want something from an NPC; the NPC in the way of what they want has a discernible characteristic, and it's up to the players to identify and exploit that characteristic to gain the NPC's favor. Bonuses to the reaction roll could range from +1 to +3 depending on how much the players invest into their efforts.

Brainstorming a couple NPC values + ways to telegraph them:

1. Romance. Flirts unabashedly with the prettiest member of the party. 

2. Kindness. Mopey and dejected. Perks up at the slightest compliment.

3. Booze. Heavy eyelids, slurred speech, periodically pulls from a flask.

4. Faith. Casually recites lines of scripture. Wears a holy symbol and/or has one prominently displayed somewhere. 

5. Flattery. Loud and boastful. Demands to be called "sir" or "madam" or by some other official-sounding title. 

6. Status. Snooty social climber. Gaudy clothes, always gossiping, directs attention to the most important-seeming person in the room.  

7. Company. Quiet and sullen at first, but will launch into an animated conversation at first opportunity.  

8. Niche interest. Conspicuously displays their fixation (garish hats, porcelain dolls, painted tortoises, etc.).  

9. Process. Surrounded by piles of forms and paperwork; constantly refers to various rules and regulations; fervent adherence to the strictures of exhaustive bureaucracy. 

10. Relief. Currently burdened by some misfortune like a stolen heirloom, sullied reputation, blood feud, weird curse, etc. made obvious to the PCs.

Obviously not an exhaustive list. The point is to give something the players can see that makes them think "hmm maybe that's something we can exploit." 

These sorts of desires/values can stay general or become really specific as the situation demands. More challenging social challenges would necessitate more specific values. Perhaps the only thing the high slayer of the headsman's guild values more than duty is his beloved golden python he keeps as a pet, hidden somewhere in his watchtower lair. Good luck figuring that one out.  

This post from Was It Likely? provides another great option (by way of this post from To Distant Lands)  for creating NPCs with motives and desires that have fuck-all to do with the PCs. Allow them to permeate and enrich your mental ecosystem. 

What are social challenges for?

Like traps, puzzles, and monsters, social challenges should act as an obstacle between the PCs and their goal (which is in most cases treasure, but y'know not always). Social challenges fit nicely in areas where traps and monsters aren't appropriate, like in settlements, or when you want to add more variety to an otherwise challenge-rich environment.

While combat and puzzles can contribute to the adventuresome spirit of the game, social challenges are in many cases better suited for practicality. When the players want something that shouldn't be too easy to accomplish, popping in an NPC that tells them "no" can often be all you need in the way of an obstacle.

Of course, the PCs could always just choose not to engage and just be like "Hey, you should let us pass we're friendly and you can trust us," in which case just a flat reaction roll would work. But an additional dimension to an NPC opens up new avenues for the players, similar to how more detailed and interactive elements in a combat encounter give the PCs more things to play around with. Not to mention they could always resort to violence or magic or whatever. 

I find that players are less like to take the mercenary/murderhobo approach to dealing with NPCs when they are given another option to deal with them. Like Arnold's example in the post linked above, it's no wonder players would default to killing every guard that gets in their way if every one is perfectly disciplined and unable to be bribed, intimidated, or otherwise convinced. But give a PC a reason to get shitfaced with one and they'll take it, 9 times out of 10. 

Art by Max Ernst, who in my view is the most D&Dable surrealist.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Baroque ancient airship wreckages

The boat was abandoned and empty. Its motors sent up slow violet motes through a rift in the deck: small worms of light that clung to the metal surfaces, fastened on Hornwrack’s mail shirt, and clustered round the steel fillet which bound back his hair. Further in, navigation instruments ticked and sang; he could hear them. It was thick with dust in there. 

-from A Storm of Wings, by M. John Harrison


Forget steampunky dirigibles. These are the grand antediluvian sky-vessels constructed and used by the long-lost, far-advanced ancient civilization that casts its shadow over your setting. 

Cost 10 times that of a seafaring vessel of comparable size. Cannot be bought; instead, must be built. Blueprints are required for construction, the rarity of which are comparable to treasure maps and high-level spell scrolls. 

An airship takes one week to build per 1000 gp of its base price. Given the strange and at times inscrutable workings of ancient airships, construction can regularly run into setbacks and mishaps. Each week of construction, there is a 1:6 chance of an issue occurring, necessitating another week and another 1000 gp before the project can be completed. The chance of failure can be mitigated for each piece harvested from a crashed airship (see below)—every curio salvaged ensures a week where no mishap occurs. 

Alternatively, if the PCs have enough clout with dwarves, they can be deployed to work on an airship using the Dwarf Science procedure. 

Prices and times can further be reduced if an intact airship is refurbished.

Airship wreckage salvaging procedure

Put an airship wreckage or several somewhere out of the way on your map. Good fodder for rumors, treasure maps, random hex map stocking, and so on. 

Everyone attempting to salvage an airship ruin makes a search roll every hour. On a success, they roll on the table below. There are 3d6 total items that can be salvaged from an airship wreck, rolled in advance.

  1. A sail or tarp covering. Completely frictionless on one side. 1. 5x5 2. 10x5 3. 10x10 4. 10x20 
  2. A cloudy flexible tube, 1d10+10 feet long. Nearly indestructible, invulnerable to corrosion, and completely nonconductive to heat or cold. 
  3. A set of 1d6 gears of variable size made out of iridescent metal. Fitting them next to each other causes them to spin on their own. The gears range from the size of a coin to the size of a wagon wheel. 
  4. A translucent cobalt-blue crystal shard. Floats in the air as though unaffected by the earth’s gravity. 
  5. 1d4 gasbags filled with luminiferous aether. Opening one fills a 30x30’ area with opaque, shimmering fog that casts light in an additional 30’ radius and dissipates in one turn. Inhaling it makes you giddy and lightheaded. 
  6. 1d10x10 yards of string-like filament made from alchemical glass. Nearly invisible and tough to cut through, but can be shattered with only a bit of blunt force. 
  7. Hollow mithril rods from the ship’s frame. Each as strong as a crowbar but as light as a feather. 
  8. 1d4+1 black metal disks each roughly the size of a plate. They act as powerful magnets, but only attract and repel each other. 
  9. A peculiar, oversized astrolabe covered in verdigris. A dried crust has formed around where the sections of the mechanisms meet, marking where some internal fluid vital to the operation of the device escaped. 
  10. Shards of the ship’s crystalline hull; complicated shatter patterns suggest a crystal structure found nowhere in nature. 
  11. The ships’s machine brain, the size of a large crate thoroughly greebled with esoteric mechanical components. Clings to a form of artificial sentience already alien to us, made even more so by the senescence of untold centuries. Yellow light pours out fitfully from cracks in its warbling chassis. Very cumbersome, but mitigates the chance of setbacks for three weeks instead of one if used for airship construction. 
  12. A volatile engine core encased in a cage of faulty stabilizers. Angrily spews fast-moving sparks when jostled, each one flitting about urgently before popping in a burst of light and heat. Sufficient impact causes it to combust in an explosion equivalent to a fireball dealing 6 dice of damage. 
  13. A finial kite, smelling of ozone. Standing near it makes your mouth taste copper and your hair stand on end. Attracts all lightning and electrical discharge in a wide area. 
  14. A long pinion with a sabrelike edge. Completely rigid when cutting against wind, otherwise as flexible as a length of fabric.
  15. A plate-sized gyroscope contraption, flat on the top, with a long needle protruding from a central gap on the bottom. The contraption will always stay upright and balanced as long as it is placed on its needle tip, regardless of if it is moved or if any weight is placed atop it. 
  16. Spigotted keg filled with a heavy orange gas. The gas is almost as dense as water, and can easily support anything buoyant as long as the weight is evenly distributed. The keg holds 15 “gallons” of gas. 
  17. An energy cannon charge; looks like a long crystal cylinder housing a lightning bolt, shifting and wavering in slow-motion. Can function as a wand of lightning bolts usable by anyone, but has a 1:4 chance of exploding each time it's used. 
  18. Six plate-sized golden rings joined together to form a cube, within which is housed a delicate assemblage of wires, gears, and springs of various materials. 
  19. Pressurized tank filled with quicksilver lubricant, dented on one side. Despite being toxic, the lubricant can extinguish fires, melt ice, and prevent metal from degrading. 
  20. Intact crystal navigation pane provides a real-time heads-up display of altitude, direction, bearing, and other navigational measurements, all in the severe lettering of the ancients.
Among the other things searchers may find are cracked quartz displays, acid-chewed structural panels, dust-choked machinery, crushed fuselage, charred casings, shattered instruments, rotting metal, and everything else too broken to salvage. 

It’s almost certainly the case that there are other important and valuable ship components present in the ruins that the PCs may pass over simply by not being able to recognize what exactly they are, or too buried to find or too dirty to recognize. The parts listed here are merely the things that they may find that might provide some immediate curiosity or have some readily apparent use or value.

Airships wreckages are, predictably, dangerous to explore. When a character rolls a 6 on their search roll, a complication occurs.
  1. Chemical spray. Save vs. breath or take 1d8 damage and be blinded for that many hours. 
  2. Ooze leakage. Green slime spews from a wall or ceiling. 
  3. Radiation wave. Save vs. poison or lose 1d3 points of Constitution immediately and again each week, unless treated with a Neutralize Poison spell from a Cleric. 
  4. Electricity arc. Save vs. wands or take 1d8 damage. Characters wearing metal armor take double damage, half on a successful save. 
  5. Fume miasma. Save vs. spells or be put to sleep for 2d6 hours, dreaming fitfully of lights filling a night sky and crumbling cities falling eternally into an endless void. 
  6. Structural failure. Save vs. paralysis or take 1d10 damage from a falling bit of hull. On taking 6 or more damage, the character is pinned, and can only be released by a combined strength score of 16 or more. 
  7. Combustion. As per a Fireball cast by a MU of 8th level. The number of salvageable items remaining in the wreck is reduced by 1d4. 
  8. Something else is creeping around here. Roll on the local encounter table.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Conflict-forward factions

Most advice on how to design factions can usually can be summarized as “[group] wants [goal], but [complication]; fill in the gaps.” This is a solid and fast way of getting ideas down for groups but I find that it, at least when making factions for a full campaign as opposed to a dungeon or adventure locale, it's largely left up to the DM to come up with compelling interplay— the most important part and, as is often the case, the hardest to do on your own. What this method lacks is a way of organizing the factions within a larger framework or scenario for the players will contend with. 

What I suggest instead is a way to think about faction creation that starts with the overarching circumstances the factions exist within and working outward from there in order to build out how the figurative position each faction occupies in those circumstances and thus in turn the potential energy of how they might play off one another (once the players get involved). 

So where to begin? Conflict. Conflict is always compelling because it gives rise to change, which gives rise to opportunity. It creates an instability or tension from which could arise any number of new or unpredictable scenarios. Because of that, compelling factions ought to be in involved in conflict. Instead of coming up with the factions first and figuring out why they hate each other, it's more productive to start with the conflict itself. Working from a blank slate, that means identifying a scenario characterized by instability (the root of conflict) and designating factions based on different positions a group can take relative to the resulting tension. 

There's no hard-and-fast rule for this but generally instability appears in the interim between when one paradigm declines and another is ascendant, or when something big and consequential happens unexpectedly. 

A great example of a sandbox adventure that takes full advantage of instability is Better Than Any Man, probably the best thing to come from LotFP. You have the foreground circumstances of the magic strangeness going on in town (instability) coupled with the emergence of a mysterious cult (more instability), as a war in the backdrop (but wait!), with the looming threat of the Swedes (there's more!). Interweaving layers of conflict form a beautiful tapestry of mayhem. I also did something similar in The Cerulean Valley, my never-before-plugged adventure in noisms' sensational zine In the Hall of the Third Blue Wizard vol. 1. Check it out. 

Here's what it looks like building this from the ground up. The situation: 

A few years back, a cruel warlord invaded a thriving city-state, slew the aging king, and installed himself as the city's Overlord. 

Given that this is a city locale, we'll take the bog-standard D&D city fixtures to become our factions: nobles, wizard's guild, church, and thieve's guild. We're also going to have the Overlord and his agents as their own faction, since they make up one pole of the conflict. 

Once the factions are decided, it's time to identify different ways a group can perceive the circumstance they're in, based on what hardships and what opportunities this tension offers a given faction. Or even more simply, just thinking of what different perspectives would be appropriate in this scenario. In its most basic form there are the two sides to the conflict, the old thing at the new thing, and a handful of groups that seek to exploit the conflict for their own gain—one who wants to swoop in when both are weak, one who wants to side with the whoever has the most to offer them, one who wants to prolong the conflict and maximize chaos, and so on. 

First is the Overlord and his agents. Perhaps they have insinuated themselves into the cities municipal and trade bureaucracies and now control the city’s commerce and the rule of law. They're the ones in charge, but the transition has been rough and their hold over the city is tenuous at best. 

Opposed to them are the noble families, who have been allowed to maintain a diminished stature in exchange for their deference to the Overlord. Some are content and try to make the most of the situation, but by and large the nobility are against the new regime and look for any opportunity to undermine the Overlord and return things to semblance of the way they were before. 

A powerful group indifferent to either side is the magicians’ Collegium, a loose conglomerate of magic-users sanctioned by the city-state. The Collegium was formed generations ago to allow magic-users to collaborate and work as they please in exchange for agreeing to keep civic disturbances within a manageable threshold and come to the city-state’s aid in times of need. The agreement has remained unchanged in the new regime. The Collegium typically wants everyone to fuck off and leave them to their business, yet given that the institution possesses massive power that can only marginally be controlled by politics, they have much to offer both the Overlord and the royalists. While they're tentatively willing to support whoever has the most to offer them, they're more interested in suppressing both sides and sweeping as much influence as they can. 

The faction who wants to side with the group with the most influence is the Church. Already a fossilized institution before the new regime, their relevance has only further declined since the Overlord has little interest in preserving the traditions and observances that were at least nominally upheld under the king. Still, the Church has the power of divinity on their side. Within the vast catacombs beneath the great cathedral are secrets of immense consequence, forgotten by all save for their holy custodians, granting them a not-insignificant amount of leverage. The Church hopes to reclaim its influence by siding with whoever has the upper hand, both in the hopes of bringing an end to the conflict and also to curry as much favor as possible with whoever comes out on top. 

And the group that thrives in the turmoil and wants to prolong it for as long as possible is the thieves' guild, or maybe the local serpent cult or whatever you should get the idea by now. 

So here we have an idea of not just what each faction is and what they want, but also how each faction’s respective want ties into a larger overarching theme. Potential conflicts and factional moves can emerge from this organically, while allowing it all to stay focused around a larger tension. Of course, you can have a bunch of factions with disparate goals (ie the magic-users want magic artifacts, the thieves' guild wants money, the church wants adherents, etc.) but organizing the factions from the center outward like this provides you with an organizing framework to more easily build adventures.

Friday, April 28, 2023


The technopriests—numinous technologists of the science-fantasy future. While they don’t follow a specific deity per se they revere an entity known as "Techne," which in one sense embodies the totality of technological and scientific understanding and in another refers more specifically to the application of such understanding to tangibly alter the material world.

This isn’t the mere fetishization of cogs and wires. Technology is a means to an end. In that sense, the technopriest cares less about theory than practical application—the understanding of how or why a piece of machinery works is only important insofar as it enables the user to harness it. A man with the right tools is infinitely more capable than a man with none, and yet without human will and ingenuity the tools themselves are worthless. Thus, Techne, the convergence of man and machine, is sacred for it allows us to become onto gods and shape the world to our whim. 

Posting Moebius feels like cheating, but the shoe fits

Technopriests function as clerics without the weapon restrictions, with the following changes to casting:

“Spells” (an archaic word used in the vernacular to describe uncanny powers beyond common ken) can be performed through the use of tech, either in the form of Gadgets or Implants. Unlike clerics they don’t have complete access to the spell list, and instead must acquire spells like magic-users in the form of new technological implements. When a technopriest acquires a new spell, the player chooses whether it is a gadget or implant. Prosthetics can also have a spell-function installed, but must be created using the magic item creation rules. Like spell books, a technopriest's bespoke tech is constructed such that only that technopriest knows how to make it work. 

Each day, a technopriest decides which spells to calibrate for the day. Each piece of tech can only be used safely once per day—a spell can’t be “prepared” more than once. To use as spell again, an Overclock roll must be made. Pieces of tech that were not calibrated during the day can also be used if the technopriest makes an Overclock roll. Failing to Overclock a calibrated implant locks out Overclocking all other implants for the day, whereas failing to Overclock a gadget breaks it, requiring a number of hours to repair equal to its spell level. Prosthetics can work as either gadgets or implants—the player chooses which Overclock penalty to take. 

Overclocking: Your overclock score starts at 11 and increases by one every even technopriest level starting at 4th. Roll a d20 below your Overclock score but above the spell level. Rolling your Overclock score exactly means you get the Overclock penalty, but the spell is cast as normal.

A technopriest also has the ability to Technobabble, which functions as Turn Undead but for sentient machines. When using Technobabble, a technopriest poses a paradoxical conundrum that causes robots to go momentarily haywire and flee. A high-level technopriest’s Technobabble is so complex and multi-layered that it can cause lesser robots to completely brick (smoke out the ears, sparks flying everywhere, etc.). 

In place of a holy symbol, technopriests have their hallowed tools. They are required to calibrate technopriest tech.

Every time a technopriest gains a new spell slot, they can spend two weeks and a number of gold equal to 100x the spell level to fashion a new gadget or implant that can cast a spell of their choosing. On levels where the technopriest gains multiple spell slots, they can create multiple spells this way. Otherwise, they can acquire new spells through typical spell research or acquiring and discovering new tech. 


New spells (or at least those not in B/X) are bolded and described below 

Level 1
  1. Cure Light Wounds
  2. Detect Magic 
  3. Flash-Flare
  4. Occlusion
  5. Ordnance
  6. Purify Food and Water 
  7. Repair
  8. Scan
  9. Sensor Ward
  10. Threat Analysis
Level 2
  1. Activate/Disable Mechanism
  2. Alarm
  3. Bless 
  4. Blight
  5. Detect Invisible
  6. Find Traps 
  7. Hold Person 
  8. Resist Fire 
  9. Silence 15’ Radius 
  10. Thermal Conversion
Level 3
  1. Excise malignancy
  2. Fabricate
  3. Greater Flash-Flare
  4. Greater Occlusion
  5. Induce malignancy
  6. Locate Object 
  7. Striking
  8. Turbocharge 
Level 4
  1. Call Vehicle
  2. Create Water 
  3. Cure Serious Wounds
  4. Force Ward 
  5. Inhabit Machine
  6. Neutralize Poison 
  7. Sacred Ordnance
  8. Universal Glossator
Level 5
  1. Consult Noosphere 
  2. Death ray
  3. Orbital Cannon 
  4. Pulsar
  5. Quantum Convergence
  6. Quest/Remove Quest 
  7. Reanimate
  8. Synthesize Nutriment


Level 1; Duration: 8 turns; Range: 80’

Creates a blinding flare that quickly fades to shed light in a 15’ radius. Everyone in sight must save vs. spells or be blinded for 1d6 rounds. This spell can be cast on an object, in which case it doesn’t create a flare but instead can be moved with the object. Casting Flash-Flare on a creature’s eyes makes them save vs. spells or be blind for the duration. PCs who are aware that Flash-Flare is being cast can close their eyes to avoid the effect of the spell.


Level 1; Duration: 8 turns; Range: 80’

Creates a vaporous darkness within which all light is swallowed. The vapor can be of any size or shape within a 15’ radius sphere. This spell can be cast on an object, in which case it cannot be shaped but instead fills a 15’ radius sphere that can be moved with the object. Casting Occlusion at a creature’s eyes makes them save vs. spells or be blind for the duration. Creatures with infravision are able to see through the occluding vapor. 


Level 1; Duration: Instant; Range: 140’; Gadget only

Fires an object up to 3 pounds at high velocity, striking as a +1 magic projectile modified by the caster’s dexterity. Weapon ammunition fired this way ignores the target’s armor. Projectiles deal 1d6+1 damage. Fragile objects shatter on impact, while more solid projectiles remain embedded in the target. 


Level 1; Duration: Permanent; Range: 90’

Completely repair a broken mundane object, making it as good as new. The object can be in any state of disrepair—rent asunder, shattered, corroded, etc.—though if unique vital components are missing the spell will fail. The area affected by the spell is no greater than 3’ in diameter. If the object is of greater size, only the space within the diameter will be affected. The casting time could either be instant, in which case the repair lasts for 10 minutes; or 1 turn, which makes the repairs permanent. 


Level 1; Duration: 1 turn; Range: Caster

Allows the caster to discern the nature and purpose of complicated machinery. Functions as Read Magic but for technopriest tech and other advanced or alien technologies. The caster might not necessarily learn how something works, but will get a rough understanding of what it does or what it might be used for. 

Sensor Ward

Level 1; Duration: 12 turns; Range: Caster

Projects a faint sheen around the caster making them imperceptible to constructed and inorganic creatures. The caster can not be targeted by attacks from affected creatures unless the caster engages them in melee, in which case the creatures suffer a -4 penalty to hit. This spell also prevents the caster from being detected by non-analog mechanical sensors—the caster won’t get picked up by a security camera, but stepping on a pressure plate (a tactile sensor) still causes it to trigger.

Threat Analysis

Level 1; Duration 6 turns; Range 120’; Implant only

Creates an instant readout visible to the caster detailing the potential danger of creatures within view. The analysis lists approximate power level relative to the caster (significantly higher, higher, lower, or roughly the same HD) and primary weapons or forms of attack. The analysis also scans creature’s behavior to detect hostile intentions, as well as the influence of mind control or possession. 

Activate/Disable Mechanism

Level 2; Duration: See below; Range: 60’

Trigger a single mechanism in range, as though it was activated by a user. Doors and locks open or close, traps activate, guns fire, servo arms lift or retract, etc. Vehicles affected by this spell move on their own, even without fuel, for up to a minute. Magic items or objects under the influence of magic are not affected, as well as mechanisms missing vital components (ie a crossbow can’t fire without a bowstring).

This spell can also have the opposite effect, making a mechanism is rendered inoperable for 1d6 minutes. Sentient robots get a save vs. spells to avoid the effect.


Level 2; Duration: 6 hours; Range: 30’

Causes a designated area up to a 20’ cube to react to the presence of creatures other than those deemed by the caster. The caster is alerted to the intrusion and receives a mental image of the intruding creature(s). The caster can choose to have the alarm be solely mental or audible to everyone within 200’ (-10’ for each door and -20’ for each wall in the way). Casters of 6th level and above can create simple conditions for their alarm, like triggering only when a certain type or number of creatures are in proximity. Only one Alarm can be active at a time. 

Thermal Conversion

Level 2; Duration: See below; Range: 60’

Transfer thermal energy from one creature or object to another within range. Targeted creatures can make a saving throw vs. spells to avoid the effects; on a success, the spell fails. The damage this spell can deal to creatures varies depending on the amount of heat being transferred, but as a rule of thumb the amount of heat exchanged does not exceed the equivalent of 1d8 points of damage—enough to extinguish a torch or pool of burning oil. When transferring heat between two objects the conversion lasts for 1 turn per caster level, after which the thermal energy returns to its original source. 

Excise Malignancy

Level 3; Duration: Instant; Range: Touch

This spell functions as Cure Disease and Remove Curse, with a 6-in-20 chance of failure. The chance is reduced by 1 for every turn the caster spends “operating” on the target, as well as for every even technopriest level the caster has above 6. 

Greater Flash-Flare

Level 3; Duration: Permanent; Range: 100’

This spell functions as Flash-Flare, although the light it creates after the initial flare illuminates 30’ and persists indefinitely, until the caster wills the effect to end, or casts the spell again. If the caster has Flash-Flare calibrated when casting this spell, the light created by Greater Flash-Flare is as bright as daylight, making creatures penalized by daylight suffer the same penalties when in the effect of Greater Flash-Flare. 

Greater Occlusion

Level 3; Duration: Permanent; Range: 100’

This spell functions as occlusion, although the radius of darkness expands to 30’ and persists indefinitely, or until the caster wills the effect to end or casts the spell again. If the caster has Occlusion calibrated when casting this spell, the darkness is so complete it prevents infravision and magically or technologically enhanced sight. 

Induce Malignancy

Level 3; Duration: Permanent; Range: Touch/See below

This spell functions as either Cause Disease and Curse, determined by the caster when the spell is used. This spell can be imbued on a projectile or piece of ammunition, activating on a successful hit against a target. Creatures affected by the spell this way get a +2 bonus to their save. The caster can only imbue one projectile at a time, and the imbuing lasts 24 hours before the projectile returns to normal. 


Level 3; Duration: 12 turns; Range: 60’

Doubles the speed, damage, and load capacity of a vehicle. If this spell is cast on a single vehicle more than once in a 24-hour period, there is a 50% chance it falls into disrepair when the spell ends. 

Call Vehicle

Level 4; Duration 1 hour/caster level; Range: 50 miles

Calls an unoccupied vehicle to the caster. The caster can operate the vehicle even if it requires special knowledge or expertise to pilot for the duration of the spell. Once the duration has elapsed, the vehicle stops (landing, if necessary) and returns to its original location after 1 minute, regardless of its fuel level or state of disrepair.  Vehicles called this way can hold at most 10 people. If no viable vehicles are within the spell range, there is a 1-in-20 chance an autonomous flying craft will be somewhere in range and pulled from its trajectory to the caster; otherwise, the spell fails. If Call Vehicle is cast in a location no vehicle can reasonably access, the spell fails. 


Level 4; Duration: 1 hour/caster level; Range: Touch

Convert mundane material into finished goods. Non-consumable adventuring equipment, weapons, ammunition, and other objects can be created even with incongruous material—like using stone to make rope or dirt to make a sword. Once the spell duration has elapsed, the fabricated goods fall apart and return to inert material. This spell can affect up to 1 cubic yard of material per caster level. 

Force Ward

Level 4; Duration 12 turns; Range: 10’ around the caster/caster

This spell has two functions, determined by the caster when the spell is cast. The spell can either function as a Sensor Ward projected around the caster and allies within a 10’ radius. The spell can alternatively project a gleaming force membrane around the caster, functioning as Sensor Ward and additionally granting the caster complete invulnerability to lasers and other energy-based attacks. 

Inhabit Machine

Level 4; Duration: 1 turn/caster level; Range: 100’

Temporarily transports the caster’s consciousness into a machine. While inhabited, the machine can operate autonomously. Any sensory information normally detected by the machine is picked up by the caster. During this time, the caster’s physical body is immobilized, with their eyes rolling back in their head and soft machine beep sounds escaping from their mouth. Robots and sentient machines are allowed a saving throw to prevent being inhabited. If the inhabited machine is destroyed, the spell ends and the caster’s consciousness returns to their body, and they must save vs. paralysis or be stunned for 1 turn. 

Sacred Ordnance

Level 4; Duration: Instant; Range: 140’; Gadget only

This spell functions as Ordnance, but deals 2d6+2 damage to the target. If the caster has Ordnance calibrated when casting this spell, Sacred Ordnance can create up to three projectiles that can be fired at up to three different targets, each dealing 1d6+1 damage.

Universal Glossator

Level 4; Duration: 3 turns; Range: Caster

Allows the caster to speak and understand any language for the duration. 

Consult Noosphere

Level 5; Duration: 3 turns; Range: Caster

Functions as Commune, where the caster makes contact with networked overmind with which all knowledge and understanding is connected to.

Death Ray

Level 5; Duration: Instant; Range: 120’

As Finger of Death. Death Ray heals 3d10 hp to undead creatures with at least 8 HD. 

Orbital Weapon

Level 5; Duration: Concentration (up to 1 minute); Range: 480’

Signal to a great satellite weapon from ages past to fire a beam of focused energy from the heavens. The beam has a radius of 5’ and appears in a place of the caster’s choosing in range. Creatures who start their round in the beam must save vs. breath or take 4d8 damage, half on a success. Around the beam is a 30’ (from the center) radius field of strong electromagnetic energy. Constructs and vehicles made of metal, as well as people wearing metal armor, are unable to attack while within the field and must move at half speed. The caster can move the beam up to 20’ each round as long as it stays within the spell’s range. This spell only functions outdoors with direct access to the sky.


Level 5; Duration: Concentration (up to 1 turn)/instant; Range: 30’ radius

By concentrating and remaining stationary, the caster emits strong bursts of electromagnetic energy. Constructed and synthetic creatures within range must save vs. spells or be destroyed. If the save succeeds, the creature must flee the area of the spell. The caster can alternatively direct the energy to a single constructed or synthetic creature in range, which causes it to save vs spells with a -2 penalty. Additionally, this spell can be used to rid a single piece of machinery of any sort of curse, corruption, or possession. 

Quantum Convergence 

Level 5; Duration: Permanent (see below); Range: See below; Implant only

When this spell is cast, the caster chooses two different prepared spells to integrate and merge their effects. The two spells could be used at once (like casting Induce Malignancy on an Ordnance projectile), one spell could trigger another (rigging an Alarm to cast Flash-Flare when it activates), spell effects could be combined (using Fabricate and Thermal Conversion to create a heat sink), or they could be used together in some other way of the caster’s choosing (subject to the DM’s approval). Using Quantum Convergence takes a full round, after which the affected spells are prepared and can be used at the caster’s choosing. Spells affected by Quantum Convergence must be calibrated, and cannot be cast normally unless the caster cancels the spell integration. Quantum Convergence cannot be Overclocked. 

Quest/Remove Quest 

Level 5; Duration: Until quest is completed/instant; Range: Touch

Aside from the change in range, this spell functions as the standard cleric Quest/Remove Quest spell. 

Side note: The premise here is that the technopriest embeds some sort of  compliance-inducing device into the target like Escape from New York. The reason why this is a reversible technopriest spell is because having an entire spell dedicated to removing quests really isn’t worth it; therefore, the process of removing a Quest device uses the same sort of technology as embedding one and is straightforward but difficult enough to necessitate a skilled technopriest. 


Level 5; Duration: Permanent; Range: Touch

As Raise Dead, with the following change: when a creature gets re-animated, they return with 1d6 hp and otherwise does not suffer the usual Raise Dead penalty. There is a 2-in-10 chance the re-animated creature returns as a berserk, mindless undead under the DM’s control.

Synthesize Nutriment

Level 5; Duration: Permanent; Range: Appears in the caster’s presence

Functions as Create Food, but with the additional feature that three units of animal feed can be converted into one unit of fuel for a small or medium vehicle. 

Context and design notes FEEL FREE TO SKIP

The technopriest, or tech-worshipping cleric stand-in, was something I originally conceived for my science-fantasy Last Planet game which is sadly now a relic of the pandemic era. I ended up opting instead for weird black hole cultists as the cleric alternative, which were interesting but maybe a little too conceptually oblique for their own good. 


The spell list was designed such that most of the new spells are similar-but-distinct enough to the standard B/X cleric offerings that they can replace them fully or be used side-by-side as an alternate cleric-type.

While the technopriest spell list is longer, they’ll end up having slightly more limited casting, as they can’t reverse spells and don’t have access to the full spell list as clerics do. Instead they get the Overclock, which gives them more mileage out the spells they have to work with.