Sunday, January 25, 2015

Things from Tom Waits songs

I combed through Tom Waits' discography for stuff you could find in an RPG. Some possible uses:
  • An alternate trinket table for fifth edition.
  • Treasure table for your odder sorts of monsters.
  • Starting gear table for a particularly hardscrabble game (each character gets d6 things).
01Three gold rings
02A fishbone skeleton key
03A jawbone violin
04Little golden flies
05An accordion
06The same dead cat
07A hot cup of coffee
08An axe with bloodstains on
09A slowly acting poison
10The eyeball of a rooster
11Scarlet ribbons
12A purple knife
13A bottle of bargain scotch
14The pit from a peach
15Bones of all kinds
16A scrap-iron jaw
17A burgundy shirt
18A cuttlefish bone
19Thistles and brambles
20A drum of bourbon
21A blue trenchcoat
22A sword made from a stick
23Fake diamond earings
24Lipstick and powder and blush
25A heart-shaped bone
26Half a pint of scotch
27A bran' new pair of alligator shoes
28A new silver coin
29A reddish-coloured, vile-smelling fluid
30A big mink coat
31A crooked wand
32A pocket full of flowers
33Some gum and a lighter and a knife
34A beer
35A mouth full of gold teeth
36A red dress
37A church key
38Clusters of white cocoons
39Twenty-nine coins in an alligator purse
40A rusty black rake
41Playing cards
42A minute amount of liquor
43A little chihuahua named Carlos
44A ring made from a spoon
46Two lavender orchids
47Whiskey in a teacup
48Elaborate telescopic meats
49A skillet
50A stainless steel machete
51Enough formaldehyde to choke a horse
52The web of the black spider
53Tilapia fish cakes
54A dowser's wand
55A diamond balanced on a blade of grass
56A whole lot of whiskey
57An organ to detect the ripples
58Peculiar-looking trousers
59A fierce black hound
60A strange guitar
61A rose without a thorn
62A lantern that looks like an alligator egg
63Old busted chains
64A razor
65Rusty nails
66A blind man's cane
67An old pair of shoes
68A bucket full of sin
69A guitar string
70Five gold rings
71At least a hundred old baseballs
72A wilted sunflower
73A needle
74A pitchfork
75A piece of rotten wood
76The key that got lost
77The blood from a bounty hunter's cold, black heart
78A broken cup
79A cold-chiseled dagger
80Hot tar
81A claw hammer
82Leather and chains
83A hat full of feathers
84A can of beans
85A blanket from the moon
86The bone from a hare
87An old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
88Red shoes
89A diamond ring
90A red rose
92A bar of soap
93The quill from a buzzard
94Scapular wings covered with feathers and black tape
95A skull and crossbones ring
96A paralyzing fluid
97A church key
99A crowbar
00A bottle full of rain

Not included: Several artfully described guns.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Familiar Hybirds

Imagine you have a cat. Or take a convenient cat as an example. Forget how you got it. Remember instead the night you stoked a brass brazier well with charcoal, burned those herbs, and the beast sauntered in hours later, trailing magic behind it, and spoke your name.

The magic that binds it to you likely binds its form. How might you adjust either? Perhaps by binding many spirits into one form.
  • Elixirs rendered from the bodies of other casters' familiars could instill their essence.
  • Certain powers might reward (or punish) you through your bond.
  • It may be part of your arcane studies; a way to enhance your servitor's capacities.
So, when that happens, by whatever means, roll 2d6 based on the essence of the infusion.
  • 1-3 is a cosmetic change, causing that many of the suggested alterations.
  • 4-5 is a new ability for the familiar, as well as all the cosmetic changes.
  • 6 is a spell the familiar can cast once per day, as well as the best case for the new ability and all the cosmetic changes.


1-3 Large, complex ears; weird nose; beady, black eyes. Webbing on limbs; fine-furred pelt; ammonia odor.
4 Blindsight. Webbed wings and clumsy flight.
5 Blindsight. Webbed wings and graceful flight.
6 detect invisibility darkness


1-3 Reflective eyes; purrs; slitted pupils. Fangs; retractable claws; paces.
4 Darkvision. Can make a melee attack for 1 point of damage.
5 Darkvision. Can make a melee attack with dagger-like damage.
6 detect magic feather fall

Crow or raven

1-3 Long, black beak; glinting eyes; screeching call. Patches of black feathers; scaly, clawed feet; hops.
4 Speaks one language. Black feathered wings and clumsy flight.
5 Speaks two languages. Black feathered wings and graceful flight.
6 comprehend languages reduce


1-3 Short, hooked beak; huge, yellow eyes; hoots. Coughs up remains of food; patches of dark feathers; rotates head all the way round.
4 Darkvision. Dark feathered wings and clumsy flight.
5 Darkvision. Dark feathered wings and graceful flight.
6 identify invisibility


1-3 Flickering, forked tongue; slitted pupils; long fangs. Patches of scales; bands of colored patterns; slithers.
4 Venomous bite, with irritating effects. Long, sinuous body is difficult to grab and can wriggle through tiny spaces.
5 Venomous bite, with debilitating effects. Long, sinuous body is difficult to grab and can wriggle through tiny spaces.
6 ray of enfeeblement rope trick

Toad or frog

1-3 Bulging eyes; croaks; licks eyes. Patches of warty skin; hairless chest bulges with breath; flat, webbed feet.
4 Sticky, retractable tongue. 5 feet long, somehow. Swims.
5 Sticky, retractable tongue. 10 feet long, somehow. Can breathe water and air equally well. Swims.
6 magic mouth jump


1-3 Eyes glow; horns; smiles. Body glints like a hot coal; shimmering aura of heat and fumes; sheds ash.
4 Speaks one language. Needle teeth. Resists damage from fire and cold.
5 Speaks two languages. Needle teeth. Immune to damage from fire and cold.
6 friends burning hands


1-3 Antennae; pupils vanish; musky breath. Sprouts patches of leaves, moss, or flowers; quick movement is blurred; sheds fine, glittering dust.
4 Speaks one language. Sings beautifully. Gossamer wings and graceful flight.
5 Speaks two languages. Sings beautifully. Gossamer wings and perfect flight.
6 charm person dancing lights


1-3 Grows this many additional eyes. Flesh becomes spongy; takes a moment to show up when you look at it; casts no shadow.
4 Speaks one language. Whispers and drools. Resists damage from non-magical weapons.
5 Speaks two languages. Whispers and drools. Immune to damage from non-magical weapons.
6 unseen servant fog cloud

Some considerations:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

33 Magic Items

No particular system or numbers assigned, though I did have a resource-scarce hexcrawl in mind while writing them. I got inspired by this list at Goblin Punch.
  1. A milky glass circlet with sweeping, needling pinnacles. Shadows or dim light near the wearer are filled a bright but eerie light. This sad, actinic light does not spread beyond the shade it supplants.
  2. This outsize obsidian dagger is flecked with white mineral starbursts. A wielder gets a bonus on any attack targets that are not bleeding, but could be.
  3. Blug-thug. Blug-thug. This pulsing yellow tumor the size of a fist enclosed is in leathery skin. It permanently adheres to any exposed flesh, slightly reducing maximum health. After a month, it falls off and gooily hatches a cadaverous homunculus in service of its bearer, at which point the health may be healed normally.
  4. A thin cloak well-tufted with broad gray feathers. In addition to being a normal cloak, in full sunlight, the feathers glimmer and turn translucent, granting the wearer a slight bonus to armor.
  5. Once per day this raggedy scarf can be wrung out to produce a flask’s worth of lantern oil.
  6. A hailstone pendant hung from braided grass cord never melts. Once per day it conjures a mist or a wind around the wearer.
  7. This tapering ash sapling taller than a man creaks and sprouts tiny leaves. As long as the root ball survives, this regrows its entire 2-inch wide, 10-foot long body each day.
  8. A small dead bird. It does not decay and is always ever-so-slightly warm to the touch. Poor thing. It will always be the heaviest item in a pair of scales.
  9. This glazed clay mug is studded with semi-precious green and purple gems. It violently explodes if any poison is placed within it.
  10. A pitted steel belt buckle shaped like a toothy maw, flocked with mothy furs. If the buckle is fed a day’s rations it protects the belt’s wearer from exposure to the elements that day.
  11. Rubbing this pungent salve into your muscles increases the damage die of your melee weapon or unarmed attacks by one size. However, whenever you roll maximum damage on one of these dice, you also take a small amount of damage from the strain.
  12. These light sandals can be partially unraveled to yield 50 feet of linen cord as strong as stout rope. Each such use has a 1-in-6 chance of causing them to fully unravel.
  13. A small gilt frame. Placed around a landscape painting, the scene comes to gentle life. Clouds gather and disperse, the sun rises and sets, the seasons are reflected. If the painting is of a real place, the changes will mirror it in nearly real time, though never with enough detail to make out individual people or words.
  14. Any ink stored in this stone inkwell becomes poisonous. A single letter written from it will have no effect, but handling frequent correspondence over a month or two gradually turns the victim’s blood to ink.
  15. This cowl is lined with mangy feathers and has a definite rancid whiff to it. At the center of the hood hangs a beak-like charm of bone and sinew. The foul owl cowl allows the wearer to understand the speech of owls, and once per night use a breath weapon - a stream of tiny bones, feathers, teeth, and fur, which causes a small amount of damage and may sicken or disease those struck.
  16. An iron needle with a delicate, vine-like filigree. When floated atop a tea brewed from a single herb, root, leaf, or berry, it points in the direction of the nearest growing plant of the same type. No indication as to actual distance is given, however.
  17. A dour lead bell with no clapper carved with a worm motif. When “rung”, it interferes with creatures who rely on vibrations to sense their surroundings or prey.
  18. These knucklebones are carved with dice pips. If they are tossed into a large pot or cauldron of boiling water along with a five day’s worth of rations, roll 2d6 - the rations are transformed into stew sufficient to feed that many people for a day. The knucklebones rest at the bottom and can be retrieved for use another day.
    If you roll a 12, the stew is particularly delicious and nourishing, and could provide a morale or resting bonus. On a roll of 2, the knucklebones cause the food to visibly spoil and curdle, then split and become useless.
  19. This heavy leather bag can capture a wind. Only one wind can be held at a time, even a magical one if the holder is prepared to catch it. When opened, any wind inside it quickly issues forth.
  20. A birch-bark scroll with runic letters excised from it. The air in the spaces shimmers as in a breeze, or a great heat. Those who can read the ancient words aloud can summon a nature spirit, at which point the scroll crumbles.
  21. This deck of cards is tattered and mismatched. Some cards are missing, and some are from unknown suites - the eight of spiders or the three of witches, for example. If scattered in the air, undead feel a powerful compulsion to gather the deck back together.
  22. This fragrant dried tea functions as a healing potion when brewed and drunk hot. It is less convenient than a traditional potion, but is also immune to spilling or freezing, or the corrupting presence of some unholy creatures.(Really any potion could be found in tea form.)
  23. An unassuming reed flute which can be used to teach songs to patches of living reeds or rushes.
  24. Mud, gravel, or silt piled by this shovel forms itself into a dwelling. In an hour a strong wielder can have a simple hut with a doorway and a couple open windows. In a day they can heap up a small tower with two or three floors and a parapet on the roof, all connected by ladders.
    The buildings lack any furnishings or moving doors, though the shovel can change shape via a command word to serve as a thin iron door for one passage. It attaches and hinges itself, and returns to its normal form at a command word.
    Buildings made with the shovel are noticeably crumbly, but sturdy. They collapse back into muck in a week without maintenance.
  25. This signet ring transmutes sand or clay into small, simple items such as mugs, plates, coffers, or figurines when pressed against them. The created items are of fair craftsmanship and always bear the ring’s seal - if it is somehow removed, they crumble or shatter immediately.
  26. A small bronze lanthorn whose plates of horn are shaved from an unknown beast. The lanthorn burns oil normally, but it can also burn secrets. Whispering one into it causes it to burn for minutes to hours, depending on the depth of the secret. Each can only be used once - the lanthorn remembers all the secrets it has ever burned.
  27. This tiny harness offers some magical protection to a familiar or favorite pet. In addition, it has two hidden extra-dimensional spaces among its straps and buckles, each large enough to hold a potion, dagger, scroll, coin purse, or similar small item.
  28. A pair of garnet dice which always show the same face up, no matter the distance between them. They always roll doubles.
  29. When cracked, this hollow-sounding egg hatches an entire flock of vigorous songbirds in moments.
  30. This stout hunting bow is set with moonstones and has a white leather grip. If drawn without an arrow nocked, it draws upon nearby light to form one, temporarily dimming its surroundings. These arrows are considered magical, and illuminate their flight. Their damage and brightness depend on the strength of the light they were formed from.
  31. Pungent vinegar sloshes in this rope-wrapped, glass gallon jar. Anything placed inside is preserved, perfectly pickled in moments.
  32. Filled with oil and herbs or leaves, this silver censer produces smoke repellent to insects. If the herbs are specially gathered for such a purpose, the censer increases their potency, but anything even vaguely scented will work. Giant or magically controlled insects have a chance of withstanding the smoke.
  33. Five fleas in a little tin box. Anyone who welcomes these five fleas onto their body will only ever have these five fleas, as they will bravely hunt down and destroy any invaders to their home, including lice, ticks, mites, or other such nuisances. But they will always have these five fleas.