Wednesday, May 22, 2019

RAGE: Sing, goddess...

So I've been buried in finals season and unable to update. Who cares. I'm back.

Looks like my next campaign will not take place in Ouroboros. Sad, but I'll still continue to upload content for it, so not very sad for you guys.

Turns out 2 years of a renaissance setting for our Inquisition campaign (which we finished!) has burned the players on that period.

So Homeric Greece is going to space, inspired by stuff like this and the Astral Sea from this and Starry Night from this and just oh my god all of this and maybe even Dan Simmons Ilium (great concept, absolutely creepy writing about women).

Christian Ward Talks ODY-C With Process Pages |
The rage of Achilles

Basic concept: The King of Space has stolen key locations from Homer's epic and teleported them through time and space to the Diaspora, a quarantined expanse of the Astral Sea home to the many peoples he has displaced in his reign of terror. So the Achaeans cohabit these celestial spheres with sentient oozes and cute robots and the Purrrsian Empire who are just a bunch of cats. And others. MANY others.

While the King of Space hides behind his Perimeter in his black hole-orbiting Dyson palace, the Diaspora is falling to chaos and ruin. The Purrrsians are expanding, the Imperial Dragons indolently take whole worlds as fiefs, and the Achaean newcomers just don't know how to work a complex space situation like this...

Today I'll give you a brief look into the workings of the Astral Sea and how you travel it, the key (playable) races in the Diaspora, and just who exactly the King of Space is.

The Astral Sea

Not quite this

Straight from the imagination of the inimitable Arnold K (shoutout), the Astral Sea is more a spiderweb or 3D sculpture than a plane.

That spiderweb is made not of silk but flux, an underlying strata of the universe or the debris from a quantum explosion or just straight one's sure. But no one (except the moravx) has tried to figure it out. Whatever the reason, gravity is local to flux streams, meaning you can sail straight toward a pillar of the stuff then glide straight up it without much naval jiu-jitsu.

And oh, you can sail

The Achaeans put their triremes out on the flux and they work great. There's even wind to catch the sails, because the light and heat (and magic) of the flux streams has overtime accreted into atmosphere. Weather even. It's pretty balmy honestly, turns out space is nice. Just like home to the Achaeans, even if the light comes from underneath and above the clouds is void.

Void. THAT'S space the way we think of it. Pockets of airless frozen black between the spiderweb of flux. No one (except the moravx) can sail there, and only the voidborn can live there. They're pretty safe from flux sharks (which is a term for anything that eats the voidborn and sticks to the flux), and only come down to eat the flux. Too bad for the void krakens though, real tragedy.

Other ships: Meer scoops, little racing ships with flux-powered engines that dip into those streams of rainbow light to gain speed, though they still aren't void-worthy. Imperial divers, giant passenger liners (occasionally carrying a dragon and its army) that swim inside flux streams in order to stay safe from astral pirates. And of course Moravx ships, which are like real spaceships manned by those cute little robots, occasionally they ARE those cute robots, and they cut right through void like no one's business (they can cut through flux too, but that usually severs the stream).

Astral Ecology

coatl, feathered serpent creatures said to be Quetzal's angels
One of many many kinds of sharks

Real quick:

Think of flux like sunlight: it's the very bottom rung of the food chain. It exists, and things eat it, and other things hunt the things that eat it.

The flux-eaters are called voidborn, or if you're racist, space devils, moth men. They're not actually moths. But they do bear a resemblance. They live in the void most of the time, descending like fishing birds to drink the light of the flux stream.

There are two broad BROAD classifications of the many incomprehensible celestial beings that eat the voidborn, who have the misfortune of being everyone's favorite food source. There are sharks, and there are krakens.

Sharks are any predator that sticks to the flux and the atmosphere it generates. They might chase the voidborn a little ways up into the icy black, but they generally just can't survive up there.

Krakens are a different story. Krakens live in the void, and they move through it as well as if not WAYYYY better than the voidborn themselves. Thankfully, they can't follow the voidborn down to the flux for feeding, but still.

The King of Space: What is Known

A mere servant of His Imperial Majesty
He brought the Achaeans across time, space, and multiple realities to the Diaspora.

He lives on the forbidden planet Aom, very close to the black hole inside his Dyson sphere palace.

His will maintains the Perimeter, that uncrossable boundary between him and the Diaspora.

And he has dragons.


Cosimo Galluzzi
Not what you expected?

No one knows what, precisely, the relationship of the dragons to the King of Space is.

They look human (though a dragon will always mark themselves with a mask), move like humans, and die like humans.

So why do they always rant about foolish mammals in their pocket dimension salons?

Dragons APPEAR to be humans infused with a good deal of quantum- and nano-technology. They can do a lot with this, but the things they choose to do are almost always horrid. Pyrolyzing whole cities with smokeless, heatless fire. Opening portals into the void and cackling as the people are sucked away to die a frozen death. Or just plain old Scanners-style exploding your head with a thought.

Their favorite thing to do is teleport. They do this instantaneously, at will, and with the sound of a bag of chips opening.

There is a possibility that there is just one dragon, or only a very small handful, and that they are like quantum ogres. If you're not familiar, the idea is that they exist in a semi-state in many locations, and certain triggers (or their own will, for they are powerful) collapses their wave function into one of those many locations for a time before they return to this Schrodinger's cat existence (probably mixing my quantum metaphors, whatever).

Playable Races

Though the Diaspora contains countless multitudes of sentient peoples, these are the big six.


"Toy Soldiers"
Bronze-skinned, stocky humanoids. Believe themselves to be stolen from "Earth", whatever that means.
STR+2, DEX-1
Your people are vital and resilient. Whenever you heal from any source, heal for double.


Savage all-male goat men. Believe themselves to have sprung from the ribs of a sacred goat.
Reproduce through their ability to impregnate any mammal (thanks Arnold).
CON+2, INT-1
You are hard as fuck to kill. When you drop to 0 HP, check CON to stay at 1 HP.
When you charge, you can use your horns as a d6 damage natural weapon.


Sentient and good-natured oozes, usually in containment suits of jury-rigged undead. Believe they're reincarnated souls.
They don't reproduce, no one knows where these guys come from.
CHA+2, WIS-1
You are amorphous, and can squeeze through any space more than an inch wide.
You can fuse with other Gestalt, forming a new character that has the best of both your stats.


Sophisticated and decadent post-cat men. Believe themselves to be divine creations of the cat god Zlad.
DEX+2, CON-1
When you encounter something you'd like to track, check WIS and you always know it's bearing.
You can use your claws (d4) and fangs (d3) as natural weapons.


Self-replicating, non-humanoid machines. Believe themselves to be the creation of "Earth" science.
INT+2, CHA-1
You share a (glitchy) pan-Moravx memory archive. You have a 1/6 chance to know any random piece of lore.
You can integrate items into yourself, and interface with most machines and operating systems.


"Space Devils"
Philosophically-minded space moths. Believe themselves to be the first life in the universe.
Reproduce by laying clutches of eggs in lunar caverns.
WIS+2, STR-1
You can survive indefinitely in the vacuum of space, and fly in both gravity and zero-g.
You feed off the flux of the Astral Sea, not air food or water.

In Conclusion

What do you guys think? Is this interesting? I have a couple weeks to fine-tune before my players are in town to start the game.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

More un-Classes for Ouroboros

This is a continuation of my post on fiction-first classes here. Check that our for replacements to the "base classes" assumed by most OSR games. In this post, I cover some societies in Ouroboros that could replace your barbarian, warlock, bard, paladin, or monk. Enjoy!

Entrance to the Zwinger', by Samuel Prout, watercolour
Another day in paradise


A tradition older, some say, than Ouroboros itself. The Ironclads preach the gospel of might. The strength is all.


Joining: Present the trophies of 10 foes (or 1 monster) you slew to a master Ironclad.
Benefits: Minimum damage rolls seem to wound you but deal no actual damage.
Restriction: You must not show affection, or emotion, under any circumstances. If you do, minimum damage rolls will deal double damage to you until the next day.


Joining: Present the trophies of 30 foes (or 3 monsters) you slew to a master Ironclad.
Benefits: When your attack kills an enemy you may make another, and another, attacking as long as enemies are adjacent and the first hit kills them.
Restriction: You must never flee from a fight. If you do, you will be branded (literally) a coward and kicked out of the Ironclads.


Joining: Present the trophies of 50 foes (or 5 monsters) you slew to a conclave of masters.
Benefits: Once per day, you become immune to all damage for d4 rounds, after which all damage taken during this time is inflicted on you at once (this counts as one "hit").
Restriction: When you are insulted, you must respond with deadly force. If you let it slide, you will be declared a dishonor to the Ironclads and the masters will come to collect your skull and turn it into a flagon for their ale.

Brilliant Concept Art by Geraud Soulie @Elizabeth Lockhart Yoerger Thomas  -not a fan of hair- lol
blessed be the biceps

Mantic Apostates

Those who abandon the Mantic School are hunted by the Mantic Demon. Most die, their souls stolen away, but some make a deal instead...


Joining: Make a pact with the Mantic Demon, in exchange for your immortal soul.
Benefits: You are given a familiar. You may conjure your familiar to work magic on the order of trickery or deceipt.  This works once per day before you must make a 1 HD blood sacrifice or roll on the Marks table. Each subsequent summoning demands double the blood sacrifice.
Restriction: You must make blood sacrifice to your familiar every week. If you don't, it will not answer your summons.


Joining: Feed the soul of an adept from the Mantic school to the Demon.
Benefits: You may conjure your familiar to work magic on the order of protection or prophecy. This works once per day before you must make a 2 HD blood sacrifice or roll on the Marks table.
Restriction: You must sacrifice an elf's soul to the Mantic Demon every week. If you don't, it collects half your soul, cutting all your mental stats in half until you do (and even then they all come back reduced by 1).


Joining: Feed the soul of a master from the Mantic school to the Demon.
Benefits: You may conjure your familiar to work magic on the order of inflicting curses. This works once per day before you must make a 4 HD blood sacrifice or roll on the Marks table.
Restriction: Every night, you must sacrifice someone to the Mantic Demon. If you don't, it comes to collect your soul.

*Marks Table*

Visible marks are recognized by all as evidence of your apostasy. Most will shun you, members of the Mantic School proper will seek to bring about your ruin.
  1. Your face becomes a mask of blood, dripping like a curdled veil and trailing behind you, elegant and horrible. If you re-roll this, the veil spreads across your whole body, swamping your clothing in crimson.
  2. Your legs fuse and the skin peels away, revealing a single mucosal foot like that of a giant slug. The silvery trail you leave behind sprouts myriad exotic plants which die off in seconds. If you re-roll this, your eyes shoot out on viscous stalks and soft antennae grow like a mustache.
  3. Your skin turns translucent, revealing your organs and veins and bones, like you're some kind of cave fish. Direct sunlight deals d6 damage per round, but in total darkness you recover 1 HP per round. If you re-roll this, you burst into flames in sunlight for 2d6 damage per round, but in total darkness you recover d6 HP per round.
  4. Your voice dies away into a rasping whisper, everyone nearby can hear it pounding in their skull, as if your mouth were pressed against their eardrums. If you re-roll this, you can telepathically communicate with someone at any distance, but give them and yourself a random insanity.
  5. You no longer gain sustenance from food and water - your body demands the crimson feast. Every day you must drink 1 HD of blood or suffer the effects of starvation as normal. If you re-roll this, you need 4 HD of blood per day.
  6. Any attempt to magically heal you results in horrific pain, no HP restoration, and a random mutation. If you re-roll this, magical healing lights you on fire for d6 damage.
  7. Your teeth fall out over the course of the day and are replaced with row upon row of glass needles. If you re-roll this, you gain a d6 damage bite attack.
  8. You no longer have a shadow or reflection. If you re-roll this, you now have two shadows, and two reflections. They are intelligent, malicious, and beyond your control.
  9. Mantic dice rolled in your presence automatically result in calamity, no matter the result. If you re-roll this, calling upon your familiar always results in a roll on the Marks table.
  10. When you call upon your familiar, the dead nearby are awakened, even those long-buried. If you re-roll this, these undead attack you with malign intelligence and hungry strategy.
  11. The familiar of a rival apostate is called down upon you, you have interfered in someone's schemes and will now pay the price. If you re-roll this, this enemy familiar will appear every time you roll a Mark, in addition to whatever is rolled on the table.
  12. You and those nearby are transported to another Ouroboros. If you re-roll this, the Ouroboros is highly malignant and unfriendly to you and yours.
  13. Your blood, when ingested, confers all of your Marks onto this unfortunate soul. If you re-roll this, this happens whenever your blood touches someone else.
  14. Gain a random insanity from the Gauche Madness table. If you re-roll this, gain another.
  15. You contract virulent leprosy, depriving you of feeling and flesh, spreading rapidly to those you touch or sneeze on. If you re-roll this, you lose a random body part to the contagion.
  16. Gain a random insanity from the Urbane Fervors table. If you re-roll this, gain another.
  17. You are pregnant, regardless of gender or sex. What the child is, you are not sure, you know only that its sire is the Mantic Demon itself. If you re-roll this, the child is born.
  18. Gain a random insanity from the Eldritch Lunacy table. If you re-roll this, gain another.
  19. Your familiar roosts inside you from now on, emerging in a shower of gore when summoned that deals you d6 damage. If you re-roll this, it moves its infernal nest to somewhere more vital, 2d6 damage instead.
  20. The Mantic Demon comes to collect your soul.

Giacomo Carmagnola
O, how they have fallen!

Dead Poets' Society

Subversive and distrusted (perhaps with just cause), this society tells the stories of the other Ouroboroses.


Joining: Learn a story from another Ouroboros and deliver it to an adept in the form of a poem.
Benefits: Once per day, when you deliver a poem about a great deed you have witnessed, you make the deed manifest again (so if you compose verse about the fighter getting a crit, she will crit again on her next attack).
Restriction: You must never allow visiting denizens of another Ouroboros to come to harm before you get a story out of them. If you do, you will be forced to rejoin the society.


Joining: Recover a written record from another Ouroboros and deliver it to a master in the form of a poem.
Benefits: Once per day, when you deliver a poem you can implant a suggestion in it that the target audience will unknowingly follow.
Restriction: You must maintain correspondence with an adept of the society from another Ouroboros, and always answer their calls for aid. If you don't, you will be kicked out of the society across all Ouroboroses.


Joining: Go into another Ouroboros, perform a great deed there, and compose a poem about it for judgement by the masters.
Benefits: Once per day, when you deliver a poem that tells the story of another Ouroboros, the events of this story manifest in our world.
Restriction: Every week, you must journey into another Ouroboros and exchange stories and verses with the Dead Poets' Society there. If you miss a week, you will be stripped of rank and busted back down to adept.

The Witcher/ Dandelion: Poet/ Gwent Card/ Neutral
dead poets, dead audience

Knights of the Botfly

These are not the famous castrati legions of the Dominatrix Botfly: but they are her biggest fans.


Joining: Help the castrati or the blind masons stem the tide of a violent incursion from another Ouroboros.
Benefits: You have +2 to hit and damage against any being from another Ouroboros.
Restriction: You must always assist the forces of the city when an incursion occurs and you are at hand. If you refuse to do this, a tribunal of masters will be held to either expel or admonish you.


Joining: Fight alongside one of Dominatrix Botfly's expeditions into another Ouroboros.
Benefits: Once per day, you may declare someone an "enemy of the city" and whenever you hit them you roll double damage dice. You may not use this ability again until your foe has been dispatched.
Restriction: You must slay any being that has come from another Ouroboros. If you knowingly look the other way, you will be expelled from the order immediately.


Joining: Lead a crusade into another Ouroboros yourself.
Benefits: You are encased permanently in a giant botfly, giving you AC as plate and allowing you to fly at half your normal speed.
Restriction: Every day, you must feed your giant botfly armor a citizen of this Ouroboros. If you feed it someone from another Ouroboros or fail to feed it anything, it will abandon you, ripping away half your HP with it. You will be excommunicated from the order.

Awesome Artist Part33: Wayne Barlowe - Album on Imgur
abandon all hope


An ancient order of wrestlers and unarmed fighters sworn to defend the city's poor from injustice.


Joining: Give all your possessions and silver to the poor.
Benefits: When you hit an enemy with a melee attack, you may choose to disarm them instead of dealing damage. Your unarmed attacks gain +1 to hit.
Restriction: You must never attack a foe who cannot harm you. If you do, you will be expelled from the Pankratonii.


Joining: Take a vow of poverty, never again to own property or silver save your clothes and your staff.
Benefits: When you hit an enemy with a melee attack, you may choose to throw them 10 feet and knock them to the ground instead of dealing damage. Your unarmed attacks gain +1 to hit.
Restriction: You must always protect the poor from harm. If you fail to do this, you must defeat another adept in trial by combat or be expelled from the Pankratonii.


Joining: Remove your eyes, defeat a Pankratoni master in combat, and don their blindfold.
Benefits: You suffer no penalties from blindness, and can effectively sense anything within 10 feet of you. When you hit an enemy with a melee attack, you may choose to grapple them, keeping them from taking any action while you hold them. During the hold, you may move but take no other actions. Your unarmed attacks gain +2 to hit.
Restriction: You must never wield a weapon. If you do this, you must face a master in single combat, and will be expelled from the Pankratonii either way.
a master of the order

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Declassifying Ouroboros

The idea of normal D&D classes could easily be applied to Ouroboros - just run LotFP or B/X or whatever your system of choice is, steal some tables from Last Gasp Grimoire (plug), and you're probably good to go!

That being said, I had a more esoteric idea for how this could work. Instead of picking a class and sinking levels into it with XP won through combat and plunder, just join a society and move up through the ranks to unlock new powers. It's a little bit based on the "Special Abilities & Permissions" section of the Blades in the Dark rulebook.

So here are the base classes (cleric, fighter, thief, wizard) replaced by the society you could join to gain their abilities.

The Cult of Ishtar


Joining: Liberate someone from an unhappy marriage.
Benefits: You get 1 favor die (d6), which is depleted for the day on a 1-3. If it is not depleted, next time it depletes on a 1-4, and so on. Rolling a depleted die still works, but you must roll on the Divine Punishment table. When you kiss a wound, you may roll a favor die to heal the damage and close the wound.
Restriction: You must renounce your gender and wear only the pearls and robes of the courtesan. If you do, you will be slathered in honey, filled with wine, and excommunicated.


Joining: Shelter one who has been done violence by their lover.
Benefits: You get a 2nd favor die. When you kindly ask someone to do something, you may roll a favor die to magically compel them to do it. This compulsion lasts until the task is complete.
Restriction: You must never turn down a request to aid true loves course. If you do, you will be forced to re-enter the cult as an initiate.


Joining: Smite a powerful person who has abused their lovers.
Benefits: You get a 3rd favor die. When you or an ally is attacked, before the roll is made, you may roll a favor die to force the attack to miss. Alternately, when an ally makes an attack, before the roll is made, you may roll a favor die to force their attack to hit or to add it to their damage.
Restriction: You must never wield weapons. If you do, Ishtar's flaming sword will pierce your heart in the dead of some soon-to-come night and your soul will never be taken to her boudoir.

*Divine Punishment Table*

Effects, unless otherwise stated, last d6 hours. Rolling a 6 means it's d6 days, and then weeks, then months, and so on.
  1. The target suffers stigmata and begins to exsanguinate, suffering d4 damage every round for d4 rounds. The blood pouring from their wounds is of the sweetest votive wine, and would make a great offering to Ishtar.
  2. The target's eyes swell and slit like snakes', all seems painfully bright to them and they feel the urge to slither away into somewhere dark and damp. They take -2 to hit / AC in direct light, but they can see in the dark.
  3. A crown of spiraling goat horns push from the target's head and their breasts grow massive (if they didn't have breasts, they do now!). Their constant lactations, if collected into a wine bottle, heal d4 HP.
  4. The target grows delicate, graceful wings like that of a moth. They are vestigial, but beautiful in an ethereal sort of way.
  5. in patches, you can see tiny shapes squirming just beneath the surface. When attacked from behind they take double damage, and the tiny bastard spawn of Ishtar will spill forth.
  6. Their eyes, nose, mouth, and other orifices constantly ooze honey of richest amber. It attracts clouds of stinging, biting insects that fortunately die shortly after their first taste of Ishtar's sweet nectar.
  7. Twisting horns and jagged fangs burst from the target's joints, dealing d6 damage and forcing them to move at half speed, lest they take another d6 damage.
  8. White lilies sprout wherever the target's blood lands, if ground and ingested they grant +2 to physical checks for an hour, but after a week the madness sets in, and after another the change comes over them.
  9. Ishtar boils your blood for a few moments, causing you to vomit up caustic sanguine blobs and dealing you d6 damage.
  10. Angelic organs and prehensile things burst from the target's mouth, fronding the air, the only noises they can make are of the most beautiful music, even their screams for pain are choral and harmonious.
  11. The target's saliva transmutes into a powerful aphrodisiac which they're at danger of swallowing to the point of overdose.
  12. The target's tongue is replaced by a black adder, malicious and intelligent, though wishing no harm upon the target themselves. It will depart back to Ishtar once allowed to lethally envenom someone.
  13. Ishtar finds the target's form wanting and reshapes it. Re-roll all physical stats. The target finds themselves now androgynous and beautiful.
  14. The target's eyes turn into valuable exotic red gems, their skin to soft and pliant marble. They can still see and feel just fine, and don't get any fancy powers or a boosted AC.
  15. The target's skin becomes glistening and night-black, their hair falls out and their nails pop off, their teeth sharpen into small fangs, they take on an overall Giegeresque appearance.
  16. The target falls into writhing ecstasy, unable to act or speak in any coherent fashion.
  17. Ishtar's glory manifests in the target, forcing everyone who can see within 30 feet to save or be overcome by ecstatic melancholy, falling into an orgiastic frenzy as they are overcome by hallucinations of beckoning genderless figures.
  18. The target begins fading from reality. Every day they must save or advance down this track: Real --> Insubstantial --> Invisible --> Gone. The only way to end the march towards vanishing is to fall in love.
  19. Ishtar finds your devotion wanting. Prove yourself forever beyond all question, right now, or have your pitiful body returned to the primordial squirming flesh-mass it was always meant to be.
  20. The next time they sleep, the target must save or go to Ishtar's boudoir in their dreams and never return.

During today’s powerful Super Blue Blood Lunar Eclipse in Leo, you have the opportunity to work with two polarities of energy: releasing the past and bringing in the new!
A priestess of the Lover of Lovers

Blackheart's Fencing Club


Joining: Defeat an initiate of the club in a formal duel, proctored by an adept.
Benefits: Choose a signature sword and design a trick for it that you can perform instead of attacking. Also, you get +1 to hit with your signature sword.
Restriction: You must never refuse a duel, and must duel at least once a week. If you fail to uphold either of these commitments, you will be banned from entering the club.


Joining: Defeat an adept of the club in a formal duel, proctored by a master.
Benefits: Once per combat, you may parry a blow that would hit you, ignoring all damage. Design a new trick, and get another +1 to hit with your signature sword.
Restriction: You must only fight with your signature sword. If you use another weapon, you will be kicked out of the club, forced to win your way back in.


Joining: Defeat a master of the club in a formal duel, proctored by a gathering of the other masters.
Benefits: Attacks with your signature sword ignore AC provided by armor. Design a final trick, and what the hell, get +2 to hit with your signature sword.
Restriction: You must never wear armor. If you do, the other masters will hunt you down and kill you without honor.

Jean Beraud
A club member

The Hand


Joining: Steal a treasure worth 200 silver and gift it to an adept.
Power: Once per day, when you are restrained (physically or socially) and you could feasibly escape, you do. You get +1 to hit from hiding.
Restriction: You must fence everything with the Hand, and hand over half the take to the Hand. If fail to uphold this commitment, you'll be kicked out of the Hand and blacklisted by every fence in the city.


Joining: Steal a treasure worth 1000 silver and gift it to a master.
Power: When an attack misses you, you may redirect the attack to another target, forcing them to roll a new attack. You get +1 to hit from hiding.
Restriction: You must never pay for anything. If you do, the other adepts will attempt to steal everything you own and hold dear.


Joining: Steal a treasure from the Queen's palace and gift it to the Hand's coffers.
Power: Once per day, you may leave a scene and later declare yourself to have been disguised in the background all along. You get +1 to hit from hiding.
Restriction: You must never honor a deal. If you do, the other masters will attempt to steal your life.
Light fingers

The Mantic School


Joining: Bring an artifact or spell grimoire recovered from another Ouroboros to an adept for verification.
Power: You get 1 mantic die (d6), which you roll to cast a spell. On 1-3 the spell still casts but the die is depleted for the day. If it is not depleted, next time it depletes on 1-4, and so on. You may push a depleted die to cast the spell anyways, but you must roll on the calamity table. You are taught 3 random spells by your new adept-teacher.
Restriction: You must spend every night studying your spells. If you fail to do this, you won't be able to cast the next day.


Joining: Bring back an unknown creature from another Ouroboros for study by the masters.
Power: You get a 2nd mantic die. You are taught 3 more random spells by your new master-teacher.
Restriction: You must take on an apprentice selected for you by the masters and teach them 3 spells. If you neglect your duties or death befalls your pupil, you will be forced to re-join the school as an initiate.


Joining: Bring lore about the Mantic Demon and how one might defeat it to the masters.
Power: You get a 3rd mantic die. You develop your own signature spell, which you can cast once per day without rolling a mantic die.
Restriction: You must never push a depleted mantic die. If you do, the old Mantic Demon will come for your soul in the night, it can be fled from or driven away but never truly defeated until it claims you.

*Calamity Table*

  1. Arcane flames wreathe you, scorching your flesh and dealing you d6 damage. You will heal somewhat, but will always bear the marks of witchfire.
  2. You age 5 years an hour. At age 100, you die and are reborn as an infant out of your corpse. The cycle begins again.
  3. You gain a random insanity from the Gauche Madness table (a post yet to come).
  4. The spell takes form, it holds nothing but hate for you and is possessed of a terrible intelligence, defeat it if you'd ever like to cast it again.
  5. Your face becomes a spiral of whirling shattered crystal, you are unable to speak  but may still cast spells.
  6. Strange fungus blooms from your back and sporulates aggressively, affecting everyone within 30 feet. This happens every time you cast this spell now.
  7. A tiny version of the Mantic Demon in one of its many guises claws its way up your throat, dealing d6 damage on the way out before scampering off to scheme and sow mischief.
  8. You gain a random insanity from the Urbane Fervors table (a post yet to come).
  9. Caustic green mist pours from your mouth with the words of the spell, choking you and everyone within 30 feet who fails a save into painful unconsciousness. While knocked out, they dream dark and prophetic dreams.
  10. You gain a random insanity from the Eldritch Lunacy table (a post yet to come).
  11. Your skin begins to shine reflectively, your joints crackle when you move. You have become somewhat crystalline, with no obvious downside.
  12. You wretch violently, borne to the ground by the force of the heaving, what comes forth are wet tendrils with no apparent other end, curling and twisting in the air.
  13. You swell and swell, witchfire pouring from your mouth and eyes and nose, dealing 2d6 damage to everyone within 30 feet as you explode, before reconstituting all wrong (re-roll physical stats with 2d6).
  14. You gain a random insanity from the Gauche Madness table.
  15. You gain a random insanity from the Urbane Fervors table.
  16. You gain a random insanity from the Eldritch Lunacy table.
  17. Everyone within 30 feet, including you, suffers a spontaneous infestation of tiny crawling things just beneath their skin. This happens every time you cast the spell now.
  18. Your blood is slowly and insidiously replaced by infectious worms. They do no harm to you, their glorious host, but any time your blood contacts someone else's skin they will be rapidly devoured from within and turned into a parasitic monstrosity.
  19. You are suddenly encysted in a cocoon of silver and crystal, lapsing into a delirious and delightful slumber, unlike any since you were a child. If no one penetrates the chrysalis within the hour, the thing they find inside will no longer be you.
  20. The Mantic Demon comes for you in the night.

windypoplarsroom:Max Ernst"Une Semaine de Bonte"
Master of the Mantic School

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Damnéd Guttersnipes!

The later William II, Prince of Orange and his bride Princess Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I of England | by lluisribesmateu1969

They look like children - any children they want. So we call them guttersnipes.

One moment a scruffy urchin, the next a stroller-bound bairn, or Little Lord Fauntleroy, or whatever you can imagine. Just not what they can imagine.

You see, whatever you were expecting when the thought "child" occurred to you upon seeing them is how they present themselves. Whether this is mere glamor or true transformation is not known. The effect is party-proof: whoever saw it first generates its form in their mind, and that is what all will see until they leave your sight.

But why exactly you think you are seeing a child is not known, nor is their true form, if they can be said to have one. Those few who are honest among them claim to have forgotten it in the long years in our Ouroboros. Most recall that they once lived in another version of our city, one where cruel child lords ruled: they wanted to be like these lords. Instead they have found their way here, where children are often mistreated and usually discredited as cheats and liars (they are, both real ones and guttersnipes).

Guttersnipes as a whole are capricious and mischievous, often straying into downright malevolence when the humours take them. Naturally they use their youthful guise to great effect among us, sowing chaos and malefaction every which way they can.

For whatever reason they cannot be banished by the blind masons, something the latter are eager to hide from their elvish masters. They fear they will be sent back to the pits to undergo some fresh hell, a return to the ocularum or worse. So there is an uneasy truce between the masons and the guttersnipes: they will be left to their tricks and japes so long as they stay far from the watch of the elves. The blind masons call this the Accord, the guttersnipes call it Our Naughty Little Secret. *shudder*

There isn't exactly a magic bullet for countering guttersnipes (though real bullets work fine). There is no dead giveaway, no telltale mark hidden somewhere upon their skin (many are the children who have been cruelly stripped down to their undergarments when adults search for such a thing). And they are highly intelligent: if one can hold conversation with the philosophers of Ouroboros, one can certainly play the innocent.

But while they represent a force of chaos and often petty crime, they aren't exactly evil. After all, so long as the Accord with the masons is in effect, they must keep their presence relatively hidden. While many know of them, and most have heard tales, none among them are so brazen as to raise their heinous acts to the awareness of the city (and by extension the elf houses) at large.

So there is an uneasy balance in Ouroboros. As there always is...

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Five Eldest Children of Charles I 1637 Royal Collection of the United Kingdom
Anthony van Dyck


It is unfortunately common in our fair city that the guttersnipes trick honest men and women into financing their nefarious schemes and gaudy lifestyle.

This is easily done. The guttersnipe, arriving in the home of those with young children, will instantly be mistaken for their true offspring. From there, the guttersnipe will proceed to rob the parents blind, all while receiving room and board.

All that would be fine, if not for the fate of the true child. For the ruse to work, they must not return home while the guttersnipe is at its work. The honorable impostor will merely kidnap the child and hand them off to its gang of cronies for safekeeping until the work is complete. But too often these days, the children are drowned in the sewers, cut up and left in different alleys, or simply vanish.

Usually the business is concluded inside a week. But there are known cases of guttersnipes staying on rather long-term, even permanently, if the setup is particularly sweet (who doesn't want rich parents?). Most of the victims never realize this, but some do, and often this ends in violence. But in Ouroboros, where anything is possible, even this is not the case. Rarely, the parents will keep the guttersnipe even after the jig is up. Some even prefer them to real children. The conversation is better.

The Clever Urchin by Antonio Mancini (Italian 1852 - 1930)
Antonio Mancini

Street Encounters 5

Scampering child bumps into you, bursts into tears and flees, later another child is hawking something of yours, many interested buyers gather.
You pass a coffee house filled with cackling children playing at deadly games, they invite you to join, become violently insistent if you do not.
An enraged lady in waiting is locked in a gutter duel with an elvish child dressed in stolen finery, her finery maybe for it is hilariously oversized, yet the child is winning: the guttersnipes have grown bold in these waning days.
Two screaming children tussle on the ground, biting and scratching, they are identical, but which is the guttersnipe? Both beg for aid and offer reward: one their parents riches, the other a secret spell known only to the young.
Gang of guttersnipes block your path, clad in rancid decadence, wielding razors and sharpened sticks, "alms for the young madam?".
Somber (or titillated) crowd gathers, the object of their attention is a dismembered baby, that same baby watches wistfully from their ranks, dressed in tricorner hat and blue frock.
Small girl offers you a smoky ball, patterns and colors flash once accepted, too late you realize it has fused with you, children up and down the street cackle madly.
Ragamuffin urchin on an auction block, charismatic, gathering a throng of onlookers, peddling dreams (erotic or otherwise), this is of course a trick, they will invade your dreams that night and devour the dinners your mind sets out.
A procuress, well-known, approaches you with a delicate offer: many of her clients prefer guttersnipes, would you care to partake? If the secret gets out, she could be ruined.
Exceedingly young junkies crowd the alley nearby, few are actual guttersnipes, can anything be done to save Ouroboros' youth from the grips of addiction?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Men About Town

While the elf houses dominate the upper circles of the city, theirs is far from complete monopoly. People (and others) of all stripes may be found among the rich and elegant, in the secret parlors and closed societies of Ouroboros. They are legion, and they are ever-changing as the city itself fluxes, but here are some of them. Let's say, I don't know, 10 of them.

Little red riding hood...
Just your average citizens!

High Society

Mournival Croak, reptile-faced and shark-eyed, dressed in the finest rumpled suits, master of parlor games, always wants to raise the stakes, holds deliriously decadent teas.
Carthus von Umlaut, always armored in polished yellow bone and black lace, grim duelist obsessed with his own prophesied death, the details of which he will not reveal.
Fibbing Jim, eyes like the moon and skin as pale, wardrobe selected daily by his sister, always getting suckered into get-rich-quick schemes, possessed by mania and a legendary stutter, a deadly shot with a flintlock despite his shaking hands.
Astarte, toga-clad and lit by an inner golden radiance, resembles a marble statue come to life, always in a dynamic pose, obsessed with obtaining the respect befitting a god, which she certainly believes herself to be and may be.
Her Fecundity Margot von Caligula, voluptuous and cruel, wears only a thick cloud of incense
Le Infante, more toad than child, wears a suave coat of teeth, breeds odd snakes and bugs in his terribly wealthy parents' estate, always displaying them and holding auctions before a terrified and captive audience, usually there are disappearances when no sales are made.
Tiger Glamerung, graceful and massive cat with prosthetic limbs of porcelain, each tipped in too-human hands, she is known for her approximate knowledge of many things, which she generally has an oily sense of humor about.
Lady Misanthrope, clad in mourning veil and wielding bladed fans, surrounded at all times by unbreachable ranks of simpering sychophants, oh her husband's loss was so terrible, and to lose the child too, so soon after...Likely possessed by a demon from another Ouroboros.
Locust von Villaine, an oily-mustached troubadour and privateer, legendary for his compositions and his skill with the bardiche, well-loved despite the gravedirt and creepy-crawlies leaking from his every orifice.
Maharan, iridescent with patches of rainbow scales, augmented with shawls and scarves of gemstones, champion swimmer and industrious shipbuilder, funds dozens of charities, harbors her own harem of elf men much against the wishes of the houses they have fled.

Takato Yamamoto vampire clown fine art
I'm actually in love with Takato Yamamoto

Sunday, April 28, 2019

(Four of the) Seven Sentinels

Inquisition players! Don't get spoiled! Run away again!

This post covers one of my biggest issues with 5th edition.

But don't worry, it also has seven dope-ass monsters you can steal from me! Or perhaps you'll only take the art.

Let's talk power curve in mid levels. Now I'm not one of those people who claims to have "done the math," and I know people say different things about which classes scale which ways, but I think one thing is plain for all to see: the power curve of 5th edition characters is not a linear one.

*Ensue argument in the comments*

But it just isn't. Sure it all depends on how you run your game and how many encounters per day. I know it's supposed to be like 6, but I usually don't have time for that many at a session. So there's often 2-4. And maybe my players are geniuses, but I can throw CR 23 monsters at their 11th level party and watch these "mighty foes" get demolished.

And this brings up a problem in my setting, and for me as a designer: my players will cakewalk through the enemies that daunted them a few levels ago. Meaning my campaign is in constant need of new intermediaries for the Big Bad Evil Guy that they can fight.

You've read about the Seven Virtues. There was a time when one of them nearly wiped the party. During their most recent encounter, Humility (you know, greatest living swordsman on Earth) lasted about 1 round, as did Chastity, and Diligence and Temperance fought to little effect before retreating. These were 1:1 numbers and the series antagonists were getting their pants pulled down around their ankles.

From this came the Sentinel Project.

In the Seven Virtues post, I outlined that these are basically people with the arch princes of Hell bound to them, body and soul. And I always wondered, what does that do to the mortal soul? Long-term, what are the effects?

And in my search for some 11th level baddies, I came up with an answer: it was just phase one.

You see, binding to a demonic entity prepares the soul to be bound again, to a higher and more radiant life form: the angel. In the Inquisition setting, the War in Heaven ended with the angelic race being split into souls (demons) and empty bodies (watchers). But seeing as the bad guys have Lilith, the last true angel, on their side, I figure they have the power to bind the now-fled souls of the Seven Virtues to the vessels they had been prepared for: angelic bodies.

Lo and behold, the Seven Sentinels come forth to fight again in the name of Lilith and the Black Goddess (who are obviously one and the same).

So basically these are enemies built around the time-tested fireball method (I could be making this up). Seeing that a caster of 11th level could conceivably get off 3 fireballs in 3 rounds of combat for B-I-G damages, and assuming that any monster in D&D is gonna survive M-A-Y-B-E long enough to take 3 turns, the enemies below are built to output about a fireball of damage per turn.

They're also built around a very simple design philosophy developed over the course of this campaign, and probably to be used in future 5th edition games (whenever that happens again). Each monster has an action, a reaction, and a passive ability. I've found that it's very simple to make, and very dynamic in play.


The Raging Sentinel

AC 18, DC 17, HP 200, Speed 30, STR+8, DEX+6, CON+8, INT+7, WIS+7, CHA+10.
Immune to radiant.
Enraging Presence (passive): All within sight must WIS save or use their action to attack her (or otherwise deal damage).
Bloody Blades (action): 2 attacks, +10 to hit, 4d6 slashing damage, target bleeds 1d6 damage if they take action or 2d6 if they move.
Revenge (reaction when hit): 2 attacks, +10 to hit, 8d6 slashing damage.

As you can see, she hits hard but basically deals double damage on the reaction. And her passive lures players in. She's a classic tank, with a nasty surprise once you strike her. Best not to succumb to primal instincts like "hit thing with sword until dead" and actually plan your approach.

The Covetous Sentinel

Like this, but not attached to an arm, and walking like a headcrab.

AC 18, DC 17, HP 200, Speed 50, STR+8, DEX+6, CON+8, INT+7, WIS+7, CHA+10, Large.
Immune to radiant.
Midas Touch (passive): Any objects or creatures that touch it are turned to solid gold.
Flick (action): +10 to hit, 8d6 bludgeoning damage, thrown 30 and knocked prone.
Spellworm (reaction when spell is cast): Caster chooses: the spell costs 2 slots, or the sentinel can now cast it at will.

Another "don't just hit it" monster. It has another nasty reaction surprise, which like the previous sentinels' bleed ability forces you to make a hard choice (though this one punishes casters, not fighters).

The Lusting Sentinel

AC 16, DC 17, HP 200, Speed 40, STR+8, DEX+6, CON+8, INT+7, WIS+7, CHA+10.
Immune to radiant.
Alluring Beauty (passive): All within hearing must WIS save or use their move to approach her.
Engulf (action): Effects any creature in her space. DEX save or take 8d6 acid damage and restrained, on a success half damage and knocked prone (she rears up and attacks you with legs).
Pain is Beauty (reaction when hit): Half the damage dealt to her is inflicted on the attacker as psychic.

Sort of a siren, she pulls in the players against their will then devours them, and any attempt to stop her with straight-up damage dealing will be met with, you guessed it, the patented nasty surprise (can you see the formula emerging?).

The Proud Sentinel

All credit to the Angelarium!

AC 20, DC 17, HP 200, Fly 50, STR+8, DEX+6, CON+8, INT+7, WIS+7, CHA+10.
Immune to radiant.
Grovel Before Me (passive): All within sight must CHA save or be knocked prone (save at the beginning of each turn ends).
Reducing Strike (action): +10 to hit, 8d6 slashing damage, reduces size of target by one level.
Show Off (reaction when missed): +10 to hit, 8d6 slashing damage, STR save or pushed 15.

Basically a controller, this one didn't quite come out how I wanted. With Humility, now this enemy, and of course Satan (who the players have been in a running battle with for 2 sessions now) I've continually struggled to have the concept of Pride reflect in the mechanics.

I Was Promised Seven Sentinels

Well, sorry! I have a design philosophy that I don't design things I'm not gonna use next session, and the last two Virtues (Temperance and Diligence) are still alive and well, meaning no Devouring Sentinel and no Sleeping Sentinel yet. And we all know about Envy...

As soon as the last of these poor fools who deigned to stand against PCs is dead, I'll update this.

Zounds! A Sword!

There's an earlier Ouroboros post that mentions a "hawker of cursed and brittle swords" with d10 in stock at all times. Since we've got plenty of 10-entry tables and hey, swords are fun, here are 10 brittle swords and 10 curses they may carry.
Joachim Meyer, 1560
Joachim Meyer

Brittle Swords

Zweihander, all of green glass, chipped edges, grip bound in fragile leather prone to tear, easy to cut yourself holding this one, shatters against heavy armor.
Child's rapier with the point of a needle, guard crudely-wrought in the image of a gape-mouthed face vomiting forth the blade, thin enough to plunge through the gaps in mail.
Foreign cutlass of blood iron, not crimson and beautiful but flawed with muddy brown like an old battlefield, wrong edge serrated, better at cutting throats than armor.
Centuries-old sabre stolen from the castrati spider regiments, black blade crusted with old toxins, if it tastes blood again it will drip deadly venom like a new wound.
Baselard, pitted and scored as if dipped in acid, will snap off inside the first foe it strikes, even if they get away sepsis will end their lives within a miserable week.
Shining steel broadsword, missing its guard, pommel unbound, strangely weighted and overall just too heavy for anything but two-handed use.
Obscenely large cleaver, over-long and hooked at the end, might be a better climbing tool than weapon, will be dulled quickly on anything but flesh.
Clay estoc, pierces even heavy armor but breaks as soon as it lands a blow, never to be reassembled.
Exquisite flammard, twisting blade inscribed with golden runes, gilded guard, easily turns aside the enemy blades but useless outside a duel.
Jagged stub of an elvish yatagan, still viciously deadly against unarmored plebeians and other elves, carves through anything like butter, only a few more blows in it before shattering.


There is a malignant ugliness about the sword, hidden until elves come across you wielding it. They must save or attack you, disgusted that they must now cross swords with such an abomination.
This is a storied blade, one that attracts all the wrong kind of attention. Criminals and scum-folk in your presence must save or offer you a lucrative opportunity for wetwork (maybe this isn't bad to you, but others will surely overhear).
Belongs to another Ouroboros, seeks to return home, whenever you walk the city alone you must save or find yourself in this alternate realm, at first briefly but longer and longer each time.
Corruption spills from the blade onto your skin, deepening and spreading up your arm whenever you strike down a foe, slowly driving you to kill again, faster this time, more bloodily the next, and so on.
Children (of any being) will always be alerted to your presence, crying for their mothers and making a general racket as you approach.
Visions of the old wielder plague you, but are they past or present? Either way, you notice people in these waking dreams that have begun to follow you in real life: what do the faceless women want?
Something lives within the metal, a cold and alien intelligence, thirst not for blood but pain. It will fuel the strength of your arm, but what does it ask for in return? Mutilation of the highborn.
Your fortunes have swung wildly ever since taking up this sword. When you wield the blade odd results on checks are now always successes, evens are always failures (maybe this is good for you).
Change is coming over you, too slow to notice. You no longer sleep. Soon you do not blink, barely eat or drink. You crave the stuff of dreams, and night finds you stalking the streets, hunting for an open window, an unlocked door. You are becoming.
An old trick by a mischievous lady in waiting: you will become an elf. It has already begun. Do not expect pointy ears immediately. Expect hideous mutation, wrack and ruin, extra membranes in all the wrong places, skin like batwings. The transition will be painful and uncertain.

The Morning of the Duel, painted 1895, Talbot Hughes (1869–1942)
Talbot Hughes