Sunday, May 26, 2024

Kissing Death's Mouth (Class: Contender)

Better off shedding your own blood on the ground
Than shedding your self-respect on a court's floor.
Better off worshiping foul idols than a man.
That is my teaching. Heed it and endure.

        - Gorgani

    This is a hack of Locheil's excellent Duelist. At the end of the post I was challenged to come up with five new styles. Well, by the time I got around to it everyone had already invented all the good styles already. So we'll take things in a different direction: kungfu. I like the model of "monk" I used in the 5e Monk conversion. Let's take elements of that class and create something new.

I was looking thru DeviantArt to find a good picture for this post, but it's all AI slop nowadays. Crazy times we're living in. Anyway, I got to thinking, "I don't need someone's poorly-generated image of a judo woman foot pic, I need some cool kungfu movie shit," so here it is. Badass.

    Campaign premise: There are 6,524 spaces available in Heaven. Once a generation, there is a brutal competition to determine the greatest living kungfu master. The winner contests with each master already in Heaven, starting from the bottom, working his way up. Some of your teachers are up there, or your teachers' teachers.

    Those who train to win the right to challenge Heaven are called the contenders. In the years leading up to the competition, contenders wander the whole world, seeking adventure, friends, experience, lost scrolls of forbidden techniques, and all the other things that make life worth living.

Here's my "grappling procedure". We're operating under the assumption that when you are "grappling" with somebody, you don't have them in a headlock on the ground (if you did the fight would already be over), but rather, you're all up in their business, standing in their 5' square, generally being a nuisance.

Class: Contender

    You're a student of kungfu, who wanders the earth seeking to becoming the greatest martial artist of your generation. If you are successful you will be given the chance to earn immortality and immortal glory. Even if you're unsuccessful, you're sure to go down as a legend, or at least a cautionary tale.

    As a contender, you may wear light or medium armor, and use kungfu weapons such as staves, nunchuks, cool katanas &c.

Skills: 1. Police investigation 2. International diplomacy 3. Humble farmwork
Starting Equipment: Gi, headband (color of your choice), fingerless gloves, footwraps, unfortunate haircut, and 2 goofy kungfu weapons (see list at the bottom of this post)
  • A Vigor, Chi, Style, Extra attack per round
  • B Like a Monkey
  • C Channing, Extra attack per round
  • D Like a Dragon

    While not wearing armor, you add [level]+2 to your AC, representing your dashing charm, fancy footwork, and cool kungfu stance. If you're hobbled, sunk in mud or tied up, you don't get this bonus.
    When you reduce someone to 0 hitpoints, you can choose to non-lethally embarrass them — for example:
  • Clap a paper-mache dragon head over their entire upper torso
  • Trip them so they fall through drywall 
  • Kick a spinning broom into their legs 
  • Smack 'em with a ladder
  • Throw them down a staircase
  • Kick 'em in the balls so they stand stiff with wide eyes and fall down
  • &c and so forth
    This removes them from combat in a kind of "Chan Ka Kui bowled that guy offscreen and he's no longer a problem" way, and onlookers and guards like it a lot more than you maiming people.
    All contenders have a pool of chi which they use to fuel their kungfu. This chi takes up slots in your inventory like exhaustion; just like exhaustion, you take a point of damage if something would occupy the same slot. When you take an hour to calmly and silently meditate (nigh impossible to do in a city), you may fill as many inventory slots with chi as you wish.
    You may spend a point of chi to: leap 20' horizontally, reduce incoming weapon damage by 1d6, treat a fall as if it was 10' shorter, upgrade an unarmed attack to deal 1d6 plus your highest modifier damage (it's your job to explain why intelligence makes you punch better but it shouldn't be hard. You're a smart kid), make a pair of unarmed attacks immediately after making any other attack, or whatever cool shit you can get your DM to permit. You may only spend as much chi in a round as you have [templates] as a contender.
    Pick one of the Styles from the end of this post. You know two of its techniques, stances or lessons; your choice in whatever combination you like. Each time you gain a level of contender or spend a season training, you learn two new techniques, stances or lessons from any Style you know. Learning a new Style requires a season of tutelage and study, usually under a master, but perhaps from an ancient scroll or a talking waterfall or something.
    Techniques are active moves that replace or improve an attack. Using a technique against intelligent enemies costs a point of chi for each time you've done so in the current fight, since it takes more skill and power as they grow wise to your tricks.
    Stances are passive and have constant effects. You can only be in one stance at a time, but you may change your stance at the beginning of each round in combat.  
    Some styles might have lessons, which are permanent changes to your character that may be useful in combat or outside of it.
Like a Monkey
    You are very physically fit. You can keep your balance perfectly while running, jump your own height from standing, slide down banisters without falling over, pull yourself up by your fingertips, climb anything it’s possible for a human to climb free-handed, and do sick backflips.
    If someone uses all of their attacks against you and does no damage, they are stunned for a round.
Like a Dragon
    Your damage is doubled versus enemies with fewer HD than you.

Parable of the Tiger and the Heron

    Many years ago two brothers, the Tiger and the Heron, argued over who was the better hunter.
    The Heron said: "My technique is perfect. I stand in the sun, motionless, until prey approaches; then I strike. I wait until victory is certain and so I am always successful. That makes me the better hunter".
    The Tiger said: "Nothing escapes me except what I allow. When I see something I want to kill, I kill; when I see something I want to eat, I eat. I walk in the dark forests freely, because nothing in the darkness is more terrible than a tiger. That makes me the better hunter".
    Because they couldn't decide who was correct, the Tiger and the Heron agreed to use the other's tactics for a year, to see for themselves which was better. This was a dangerous time to be alive.

Ψ - Bronze Tiger

    Students of this school train for both control and power. They perch on pillars like the statues their school is named after for days on end to practice stillness, and strike hard objects — first trees, later stones — to thicken their knuckles and increase their strength. Devoted study so damages the hands of Bronze Tigers that their fingers no longer close; this is called "gaining your bronze paws" and none are considered masters of the style until this happens. They rarely use weapons.
  1. Stance: Pillar-Form Body
    Your skin shines like metal. When an enemy attacks you, each of their damage dice come up as 1.
  2. Technique: Steady Hands
    You may meditate for up to [level] rounds before using this technique. For each round spent meditating, your next blow rolls damage an additional time and adds it to the total (e.g. if you spent one round meditating, and hit someone for 1d6+2, you hit them for 2d6+4 instead)
  3. Stance: One-Legged Silhouette
    A creeping dread fills the hearts of those who wish you ill. The first time someone attacks you in this stance, you drop out of it and immediately attack them first. 
  4. Lesson: Growing Lethargy
    You may fall asleep instantly in any position, and you wake already leaping to strike. Your fists damage doors, chains and other obstructions as if they were sledgehammers.

Ψ - Umbra Heron

    Students of this school wear dark clothing over their entire body. Mottled patterns and silhouette-disrupting ribbons and feathers make them hard to see until they are near. Their school teaches indirect methods of attack and defense; it is said that the Umbra Herons would be more famous if they were less effective, because their enemies often die before realizing whose path they have crossed. Their favored weapons are the garotte, the blowgun, and the concealed blade.
  1. Technique: Reaching Shadow
    Weapons in your hands are longer than they first seem. When you miss an attack, you may immediately reroll it.
  2. Technique: Striped Shadow
    While in darkness, you may declare that you have disappeared. At will, you may step out of the darkness, or you may come leaping out of it to attack a target who isn't holding a light source.
  3. Stance: Flock of Friends
    Everyone within one kilometer sees fluttering shadows moving rapidly on the edge of their vision. Mooks (NPCs without names or class levels) and animals check morale to approach you. 
  4. Technique: Stalking the Midnight Forest
    When a creature you see takes damage from a physical object, you may declare that at some point you had secretly applied a dangerous contact poison to that object. They take an additional 1d8 damage.

Parable of the Strong and the Weak

    Many years ago an army of bandits threatened a town in the mountains. Facing engines of war and bristling armaments, the villagers gave themselves up as lost. Then the greatest contender of that generation, Agafya the Inert, appeared. She sublimated the chief with one blow, then tore through the rest, opening up flesh and crushing bones until not one was left alive.
    Before she left a young man approached her to ask how he could become as strong. Agafya tore a heavy iron wheel off an engine and gave it to him, saying "Strike this until your hands break, let them heal, and continue striking. Repeat this until you're strong enough to rip the wheel in half". But she was only joking, because she didn't believe he had the moral strength to become a contender.

Ψ - Iron Wheel

    A common-blooded school, developed by a rice farmer at the behest of the Bronze Tiger who saved his village. It lacks the storied histories of other schools, but nevertheless its students have a reputation for incredible physical feats and a willingness to endanger themselves. They wield iron-capped staves or snatched-up farming implements.
  1. Stance: Trembling Strength
    You are never visibly weakened or exhausted in this stance, no matter your condition. Add your [level] to your AC and to-hit.
  2. Stance: Machined Blows
    Your movements are regular like clockwork, each more perfect as the last. For every successful attack you've made this combat, you deal 1 point of extra damage.
  3. Technique: Kinetic Capacitator
    For one round, you have 30 strength.
  4. Technique: Superior Spring
    When you strike a target, throw them 20' backwards.

Ψ - Cruel Animal from Hell

    This style was developed by the Kings of the Unfinished World. Kings are great, but their enemies are many. You don't need a martial art to defeat someone half your size; Cruel Animal from Hell is a martial art for defeating four or five someones half your size. How best to use your advantage to subvert and overcome theirs?
  1. Technique: Sharp Reply
    Take a full turn immediately, ignoring initiative order and the preparation of your enemy.
  2. Stance: Mirror Plate
    When you have someone grappled, and you are struck by an attack, you may make a MOVE check against that attack's to-hit. If you beat it, the grappled character receives the attack instead of you.
  3. Technique: Strong Fingers
    If you land a critical, tear out your targets eyes. They roll off-screen screaming and bleeding, and their friends check morale.
  4. Technique: Head Cracker
    If you have someone grappled, you may throw them up to 10' as an attack. If the attack is successful, the grappled creature and the target both take 1d6 damage and fall to the ground in a tangle. If you miss, the grappled creature falls to the ground anyway.

Ψ - Lizard Silat

    A simple style which deemphasizes striking and the use of weapons, and instead turns its entire focus to locking, holding, clinching, tearing and twisting and crushing. A common form of training for the students of Lizard Silat is to float face-down in water like a corpse, which in theory trains their brain to require less oxygen. If a fight comes down to two contenders throttling one another, as it often does when this style is involved, the winner will be the one who doesn't need to breathe.
  1. Technique: Clipped Tendons
    When you beat someone in a grappling check, they take the difference in your two rolls as damage as you brutally yank and twist their joints out of socket. 
  2. Stance: Boiling Oil Ujian
    The great king of Lizard Silat, the crocodile, demonstrates that you do not need functioning hands to master grappling — and pain is merely pain. While in this stance, you may escape or take control of a grapple by taking 1d6 points of strength damage, and you may escape or take control of a pin by breaking one of your arms. 
  3. Lesson: Great King of the Riverbank
    The little birds trust you, and will fly down and land on your head and share gossip about the goins-on of the world. If you ever hurt a little bird, for any reason, you lose this lesson forever.
  4. Technique: Sacred Jaws
    While in this stance, your teeth are an unarmed, massive weapon.

1d6 Goofy Kungfu Weapons:
  1. Pair of Nunchuks. Light weapons, but you may add your dexterity bonus to to-hit and damage. If you roll a nat 1 you bonk yourself on the head and the perineum simultaneously, dealing normal weapon damage.
  2. Pair of Sais. Light weapons. If a melee attack roll hits your AC exactly, you catch the weapon, and may make an opposed MOVE check to tear it out of your opponent's hand.
  3. Katana. A medium weapon that uses wisdom bonus in place of strength.
  4. Meteor Hammer. A heavy weapon with 15' of reach, but deals medium damage to targets at 10' and light damage at 5'.
  5. Set of ten Throwing Stars. Can be thrown 20' for 2 damage. Stack 10 to a slot.
  6. Horse-Killing Spear. Massive, and very very long.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

20 Soulslike Bosses

In imitation of a friend of the blog.

Source: Solid City, by Paul Klee

  1. Wretched Mockery
    Two identical statues, wrought images of your g_d, joined ankle to ankle, wrist to wrist, crooning in a twin voice, "Don't you recognize me? I've been thinking about you every day I've been gone."
  2. Hellbreaker Refugee
    He killed the sailors who pulled him from the sea, and the beachcombers who found his wreck, and soldiers who came to investigate the strange lights and song. There is no crime he would not stoop to, because there are no punishments left to menace him, save that which he is already sacrificing everything and everyone to flee. 
  3. Incurious Manufactory
    Every conversation with him went poorly. Everything had to be about light; its properties, its influence, its limits. In a world like ours, men so devoted to knowledge should count themselves lucky if they are ever allowed to die.
  4. Ten Lords Aulus
    His arguments proved conclusively that his neighbors owed him enough koku to feed a city, a suit beyond the dreams of avarice. He was left a fraction when they walled him in his own granary — a large fraction, yes, but surely, surely, not enough to feed him for all these years.
  5. Heinke, Oubliette Crawler
    "What a fine piece!" Heinke said to himself, "and they just left it down here? Perhaps my employers don't even know what they've got..."
  6. Horse-Faced Serpent
    The horses of Icorn are as large as houses, and mightier than ships. But not every behemoth that basks in the sunlight and snaps up crocodiles in its jaws is a horse.
  7. Sporulating Army
    "And what of the spiders who lived under that hill, the kindly ones who would weave clothing for the poor, and lived only on the potherbs and the mushrooms they grew in their caves, and would not even drink blood?"
    "They found that there is more in the dark than men have forgotten, and that not all of creation is a kindness."
  8. Gutter-Born Kensei
    He has it — the power — the madness. Look in his eyes. Sometimes they glow with light like gold that burns.
  9. Zedek the Cupbearer
    Once there was a good servant, and he was so beautiful that his master placed him in the heavens so he would be admired for all time. But beauty fades, and gratitude fades, and heaven is a cold and lonely place where it is not lit by the stars. 
  10. The Glorious Compact
    They swore with blood and ink that they would each discover a great secret, and each would share his discovery with his brothers, and so together they would know all things. But if they all meant to keep that promise, why does each member of this ring of dancers have a knife stuck in the back of his neighbor? 
  11. Braquemard, Author of the Lilac Sutra
    In the days when the Aeshe (pbuh) traveled between the cities, preaching the Way, he had many followers. Some recorded his teachings, even those they didn't understand. You don't need to understand the Way to master it. The wicked, the greedy, the arrogant; the Great Sage came to instruct them as well.
  12. Seven-Faced Nurhage
    What hot shame the seventh apprentice must have felt! To hear your master say "You have the skill, and you have the knowledge, but you lack the beauty to share in my immortality", ah! 
  13. Headless Oksana
    Wise ones say that the dead did not always rise from their graves, as they do now. Does that mean there was some night, after the end of the old order, before the beginning of the new, where a murderer might have been punished by his own hidden crime? 
  14. Alive, son of Awake
    Do you say to yourself, "I am the inheritor of the world, I am descendant of Ka"? But G_d could create descendants of Ka from these very trees. You are not safe, even on a far isle, hidden from the rest of mankind. You may not even be alone.
  15. Emperor's Librarian
    "Live unknown if you would realize your ends.
    Follow the advice of your common sense.
    Good men are their own worst enemies.
    Oblivion is the reward of merit.
    In all the world, good and evil,
    joy and sorrow, are in fact
    only aspects of the void."
  16. Magalis, Lunatic Poet
    To eyes that see only shades of light, the moon is a dark stone, moving along the ringing grooves of the firmament. But if your eyes could discern lumines of dark you would see a beauty that was hidden even from the g_ds. Don't meet her gaze.
  17. Thief of Joy
    "Passed from hand to bloody hand, until it reached mine. What else besides a cursed sword could have driven me to do these things? You have to believe me, it whispers, I'm not just another innocent victim. Kill me! Let it end, I've done nothing wrong! But when I'm dead, you have to promise... you have to promise you'll take it from my body" 
  18. Sunblind Zamburakchi
    An army set out one autumn morning to see if the lands to the North were full of gold. The rest of their story is long, and hardly worth recounting. Did their loyalty to their commanders extend beyond the border? Did the locals welcome armed strangers warmly? Are the streets of This paved with gold? What do you think? 
  19. Royal Death Weasel
    Fed on the finest sweets. Shampooed every day. Wrapped in silk pajamas. Then there were tunnels dug beneath every room, for the weasel. Then there were hasty graves dug in the palace cellars, for the missing servants. And still it grew.
  20. Cage, 50 Yarrow Stalk Composer
    "Lightning is born from heaven, music is born from the stars." The audience shifts and mutters. "Hierarchy is the nature of the world, music is the nature of time." Someone works a hand free, and tries to pull the hood from their face.