Monday, June 28, 2021

A Monstrous Heartbreaker, Part III...keepin' it classy...

Fair warning:  There's a lot of thinking out loud in this post as I muddle through the details of putting together my own fantasy heartbreaker.  Please read on only if that's your bag...!

 First things first for this post:  It's time I decide what classes to include in this fantasy RPG that's all been done before that I'm putting together.  I'm definitely going with the "big four," as seen in games like Swords & Wizardry Light by one name or another - Wizard, Cleric, Warrior, Rogue.  (Side note:  I'm pretty sure I'm especially drawn to that nomenclature because those are the classes used in Magic: The Gathering's "party" mechanic...)  So...what else?

I mean...this is MY heartbreaker, so I can put in whatever ridiculous niche class I want to just because it makes me happy to think about having it at the core of the game.  At the same time, this whole exercise has grown out of a desire to have a very basic fantasy RPG structure to build my other projects around.  I do want to keep things simple.

The problem is that once I take the simple step in my mind of "allowing" one class or another to creep into the lineup, it becomes too easy to think, "Well, if I include a Warlock, surely a Shaman fits.  And then it would be ridiculous to not include the even more iconic Druid, and if there are Druids, why not Rangers, and then of course Paladins, and then...and then...and then..."

Back in 2017, my humble offering to the gaming world on Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day was a set of alternate classes for Swords & Wizardry Light (which you can download HERE if you're so inclined).  They were streamlined a bit (yeah, even more than the usual!) in order to fit the Dungeonstack card game project that was the focus of my attempt at the A to Z Blogging Challenge that year; I'm noting them now because I picked out five basic roles, going with the names Warrior, Mage, Priest, Rogue, and Scout to differentiate them from the standard classes.  Scout was the "nature class," intended to make sure some bits of Druid and Ranger found their way into the game, as I've always been drawn to classes of that type...although the Scout is really just a Ranger stand-in without any real hint of Druid.

Lately, some form of Scout has seemed appealing as a single addition to the "big four" noted above.  An additional bonus is that Scout is the label that has long been given to Rangers in MTG, satisfying my inclination to defer to the naming conventions found on the magical cards.  However, with the coming Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion for MTG, Magic is making the Ranger creature type an official part of the game, SO...

Well, I'm dancing around it while thinking out loud, but I think my choice is becoming obvious:  The five classes of the Monstrous Heartbreaker shall be Warrior, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue, and Ranger. nail down the specifics.  I covered the Warrior in my last post on the Heartbreaker and think I'll keep the ball rolling with the non-spellcasting classes.  Because the Ranger, while essentially a variant Warrior, can also fill the roll of "skill gal/guy" in a party, I think I should look at the Rogue first to get a baseline of what skillful characters look like in the game.  So, let's try statting up this guy...

He was the first (and only, so far, although maybe I'll get back to it at some point...?) Dungeonstack Rogue.  Because the mechanics for the Heartbreaker differ a bit from what I was planning with the 'Stack, I can't quite use him verbatim, but I bet I can get something very close that can also be a model for writing up the Rogue class as a whole...


Xenos the Wanderer

Human Rogue 4

AC 13 (leather armor)    HD 3d6 (11 HP)
Saving throw: 12
Move 30 ft.
Languages:  Common, Goblin, Thieves' Cant

STR 11    DEX 16(+1)    CON 14    INT 2    WIS 7    CHA 10

Attack:  Dagger +2, 1d6-1 damage (thrown +3, range 20 ft., 1d6-1 damage)
Sneak Attack: Xenos gets an additional +4 attack bonus on and deals double damage to a surprised enemy.

Skill/tool proficiencies:  Climb (expert), sleight of hand (expert), traps (expert), cooking


I think I may be doing the math properly in my head, but now I need to work backwards and make sure this fits the Heartbreaker as a whole...!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Brood X is pretty darn cool (plus...Cicadafolk for 5e)

 I think "delighted" is a fair description of how I felt when I realized a few weeks ago that the trees around the office park where I work are a hotbed for a phenomenon that's gotten a bit of talk in the news (presumably in areas distant from such hotbeds as well...?) - the emergence of Brood X, the periodical cicadas that are making an appearance above ground for the first time in 17 years.  Their presence is already waning and probably won't last all that much longer; then, they'll disappear until I feel pretty lucky to have a chance to take in this fairly rare occurrence.  (Quick note: I'm pretty sure "Brood Ten" is actually the proper way to refer to these insects, but I don't hold it against anyone - myself included - for using the letter "X" when referring to them, since it makes them sound even more awesome.  Honestly, Marvel might have missed an opportunity by not running a "Brood X" miniseries right now...!)

These bugs are pretty loud, fun to watch in somewhat clumsy flight, and pretty striking visually.  Here's one I met that first day I saw them:

As a kid in south Georgia, the song of annual cicadas was part of my regular summer soundtrack.  Like lots of youngsters, I enjoyed finding (and often attaching to my clothing) the exoskeletons left over from their molts into adulthood.  I think I would have had a field day if I could have been around one of these periodical appearances.

I realize there's a fairly small chunk of the world that's getting to see this right now, but if you're in that chunk, I hope you're enjoying the chance to see a very interesting rarity.  Next up, from what I can tell, will be two groups (Broods XIII and XIX) coming back around in 2024.  Interestingly, Brood XIII (the Northern Illinois brood, which will be making an appearance in the American midwest) also sounds to me like the focus of a work of pop speculative fiction, with the awesome appellation "Brood Thirteen"...and since Brood XIX is the Great Southern Brood, I should be able to time a visit to my family back down south to see their emergence.

Finally, they of course made me want to create a species for a fantasy RPG...

Cicadafolk (for 5e)

Snagged this piece by MRGunn-Art from DeviantArt -
you should definitely check out their stuff!

Cicadafolk, also known as Undergroundlings, are an insectoid species known for their remarkable life cycle, unseen in any of the other sapient races of the world. They spend the majority of their lives as part of a subterranean community but emerge in a regular cycle to rear their young, then pass away just as the next generation is ready to return underground.

For millennia, Cicadafolk have come to the surface every 37 years. Most quickly find a mate and produce offspring, then spend the next six years preparing the children to carry on the legacy of their people. This subsequent generation will soon take their turn underground, making their “coming of age” descent just as their parents reach the end of their lifespan. For the next 25 years, the Cicadafolk community will be largely unseen by surface dwellers; and then, like clockwork, the now-31-year-old brood will emerge to continue the cycle on the surface.

While unorthodox, this lifestyle has not prevented Cicadafolk from developing a vibrant culture. Their unique language is conveyed by stridulation and is often thought by outsiders to be music rather than mere communication. Indeed, it’s difficult to tell where the line is drawn between the two for Cicadafolk, and this approach has made many of them highly admired as musicians. The Cicadafolk language does have a written form, but it isn’t used often, as youngsters heading underground do not take written works with them, and there is rarely a system in place for the recovery of the previous generation’s artifacts upon reemergence from their subterranean phase.

Cicadafolk are also known to be formidable in battle. While they aren’t known for being especially adept with weapons and aren’t especially good flyers, their movements often come across as clumsy to those of other species, which makes fighting them an awkward and unpredictable task.

Regions can vary widely in how they feel about the cyclical reappearance of the Cicadafolk. To some, they are a nuisance to be endured until they make their way back underground. Others welcome the unique cultural contributions they bring with them and celebrate their arrival. History also shows a number of instances in which more conniving humanoid species seek to quickly ally themselves with a newly emerged brood in order to win their assistance in a quick takeover of neighboring kingdoms. If left to their own devices, however, Cicadafolk typically avoid physical altercations altogether.

Cicadafolk Names

Cicadafolk’s insectoid mouthparts and frequent inclusion of stridulation in their communication make their names nearly impossible to pronounce correctly for most other species, but close approximations are possible. Their names often include syllables that are repeated twice or more. Some common names are Egkegkegkegkin, Artodtodtod, and Gisuasuasuatodt. Or something like that.

Cicadafolk Traits

Your cicadafolk character has unique traits based upon its origins and adaptations to its unique lifestyle.

Ability Score Increase: Your Wisdom score increases by 2. Choose one additional ability score to increase by 1.

Age: Cicadafolk who are operating above ground are inevitably 01-6 or (more likely) 31-37 years old.

Alignment: The cicadafolks’ understanding of and commitment to their regimented life cycle leads to a tendency toward a lawful alignment.

Size: Adult cicadafolk are usually 5-6 feet tall but can be a bit shorter or taller. They have slender insectoid builds and usually weigh a bit less than other species of similar height.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

Flight: As an adult cicadafolk, you have a flying speed of 40 feet. You can’t travel at this full velocity while wearing heavy armor. You are a somewhat clumsy flier and have disadvantage on checks made to avoid obstacles. In addition, you must succeed at a medium Dexterity check when landing, or you’ll tumble, taking 1d3 damage.

Exoskeleton: Your hard outer shell provides +2 natural armor. This bonus does not stack with any armor worn.

Unsettling Song: Cicadafolk stridulation can be quite beautiful and musical, but can also be unleashed as part of a distracting cacophony. Once per combat, you can use an action to distract opponents with your noise. Opposing combatants each lose one action during their next turn.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Cicadan, although your ability to speak languages other than Cicadan is somewhat limited by your vocal range. Similarly, other species are only able to produce an approximation of Cicadan. This is usually enough to convey basic ideas, but more complex messages are often lost in such communication.