Wednesday, November 13, 2019

OSR: Cursed Items: Curse as Corruption

Kasimir Urbanski, better known as the RPGPundit said something very interesting about cursed items.  He says that cursed item in D&D are poorly done, because the second you use a cursed item, you're automatically cursed and it just sucks.  It's basically an overly complicated trap.  He said that was dumb and I agree.

The above format, curse-as-trap, doesn't really provide any interesting choices, plus it makes players paranoid about picking up cool treasures.  It limits player choice, which should be something avoided in an RPG, which is all about making choices. 

Thus, I am proposing two solutions.  The first is Curse-as-Gamble, which is where a Cursed Item is powerful, but there is a chance that it horribly backfires on the person who ends up using it.  For example, imagine there was a quiver of cursed arrows that always hit the target and inflicted wounds that could never heal, but on a critical failure (a natural "1") the arrow reversed course and hit the archer who fired it instead.  I will be making another post about items like this.

The second solution is Curse-as-Corruption, where cursed items don't necessarily seem cursed, but they are designed to provide the character with warped incentives, to slowly twist them into a villainous person.  These items aren't even necessarily cursed- perhaps they were evil from the start.

Regardless of definition, here are six items to corrupt your player characters with.

Cursed, Corrupting Items
1d6

1- The Transaurian Tooth.
2- Ring of Quagmire.
3- The Spectre's Key.
4- The Prismatic Javelin.
5- Seven Times Slaughter.
6- The Robe of Eyes.

                                              from Magic the Gathering

The Transaurian Tooth.

A golden tooth that can only be used by sticking it into your mouth over one of your canine teeth.  Once there it bonds with your tooth and functions as a normal tooth until you remove it.  While the Transaurian Tooth is in your mouth you gain the following abilities:

- You gain a bite attack that does 1d12 damage, but is made at a -4 penalty unless the target is helpless, sleeping or otherwise disabled.  If you were grappling them, the penalty would be -2.
- You regain an amount of HP equal to the amount of damage you have dealt with your bite attack

If you leave the Tooth on for 1 day or less, you suffer no penalties but gain no additional bonuses.

But if you leave the Tooth on for 1 day or more, one of your other canine teeth elongates and turns to a matching gold.  Once this happens, your STR and DEX go up by 1 point, to a maximum of 18(+3).  You also gain find that regardless of your original complexion, your skin is growing paler. 

After two days of wearing the Tooth, another one of your canines will have turned gold and elongated.  Your skin will now be very pale and your hair will begin bleaching, changing to a bright yellow. Your STR and DEX will go up by 1 point, to a maximum of 18(+3).  You will also find your fingernails have grown long and sharp in the night.  You may now make a claw attack that deals 1d6+STR damage on a hit.  Your claws also give you a +4 bonus to climbing.

After three days of wearing the Tooth, all your canines will have grown long and golden.  At this point, you will gain the ability to be able to teleport up to 50' once per day as a free action.  Your skin will now be pale and smooth as marble, your hair the color of shining gold and your eyes will be the same hue as polished rubies.  Your STR and DEX will go up by 1 point, to a maximum of 18(+3). 

If you wear the Tooth for any longer than three days, your body will undergo its final metamorphosis.  All your canines will fall out, to be replaced by long, glassy needles with hollow interiors.  You will find that sunlight damages your skin, doing 1d6 damage a round exposed to it and you need blood to survive.  If you do not consume at least 1 HD of blood a day, or do at least 1d4 damage to one of your party members as you drink their blood, you get -4 to any check or saving throw.  If you do not drink blood for two days in a row, this bonus doubles.  If you do not drink blood for three days in a row, you fall into a coma that only blood can awaken you from.  Congratulations, you have become an Auric Vampire.  This change is permanent.  Finally, all your golden canines are now Transaurian Teeth and function as the magic item.

At any point before the final metamorphosis, if you take out the Transaurian Tooth, the changes gradually reverse themselves, the bite attack, claws and teleportation ability leaving immediately.  The stat increases go over at a rate of 1 point per day.  Your complexion and natural hair color will gradually assert themselves over a period of months, but eventually you will be back to your old self. 

                                                     from Eepium on Shapeways

Ring of Quagmire.

The ring is made of clear crystal when you first pick it up.  It is magical, but weirdly "hollow" feeling.  Anyone who wears this ring gains one particular ability- to absorb other living creatures.  By touching that other creature, the ring's user can force that other creature to save.  On a successful save, that creature takes 1d6 CHA damage as the user's psychic attack chips away at the creature's defenses.  If this CHA damage ever equals or exceeds the creature's CHA score, or if it doesn't have one, Mor+HD, count that as a failed save.  On a failed save, the creature is absorbed into the user's body.

The creature saving may also receive penalties or bonuses to its saving throw.  If that creature has an equal number of HD to the user, it receives neither bonuses nor penalties.  If it has fewer HD, it receives a penalty to its save equal to the difference in HD.  If it has greater HD than the user, it receives a bonus equal to the difference in HD.  If the creature has 3x or more HD than the user, or has a damage threshold greater than or equal to the user's HD, the creature counts as immune.  A willing creature may also forgo a save and allow itself to be absorbed.

A creature that is absorbed is placed into the user's body, which may distort the user's body in shape or appearance.  The more creatures the user absorbs, and the more different those creatures are in comparison to the user's natural body, the greater the distortion.  This has no numerical bonus, but if you become a hulking freak, others might be less keen to work with you.

Finally, the ring's user can access any memories or abilities of an absorbed creature, provided that creature is either willing to fails a saving throw.  If the absorbed creature succeeds his saving throw, the user's mental attack does 1d6 CHA damage to the absorbed creature.  However, the absorbed creature may also attack back now, forcing the user to save as well, with the user taking CHA damage on a successful save.  On a failed save though, the absorbed creature may either wrench itself out of the user's body or possess the user's body.

If the Ring of Quagmire is ever taken off or separated from the user's body, all the absorbed creatures are immediately freed.  If the user dies with creatures still absorbed in it, the absorbed creatures die as well.       

                                                from aniknation on Etsy

Spectre's Key.

This a large, weighty key of tarnished iron.  It resembles a large paperweight more than an actual key.  The key also radiates a subtle aura of magic, but it doesn't feel like Wizard's work.  It feels, for lack of a better term, colder.  During the day, this aura is barely noticeable unless you hold the key, the holder or possessor of the key feeling it as a vague, undirected discomfort that can be ignored.  If you aren't looking for it, you might not even notice it.  The key's aura changes at night or in places where sunlight cannot reach, growing stronger and colder.  In dark places or at night, the key is cold to the touch, like you just picked it out of a snowbank.  When the key is activated, the temperature of the key drops even lower and astral winds buffet all those within 30', sending chills down their spine.

The key's power is that when touched to a locked door, chest, or anything else that requires a key of sorts, that lock will be opened.  The key can open any non-magical lock, even ones using computers or complicated mechanisms, such as a bank vault or a fingerprint lock.  It can even open most magical locks.  As long as the lock is sealed with a spell such as Arcane Lock and not a specific requirement, such as the Tooth Door in Death Frost Doom, the Spectre's Key can open it. 

However, there is a secret and terrible price for using the Spectre's Key.  The Key is actually haunted, with the ghost of a vengeful murderess tied to the Key.  Every time she is called upon to open a lock, she invisibly leaves the Key and opens the lock, but then leaves to go hunt.  The Spectre bound to the Key was a child-killer and a poisoner in life, but now in death she has become more terrible than anyone dared fear.  The Spectre will go in pursuit of a victim.  Her favorite prey is children, but if she cannot find any she will kill anyone who looks weak.  After she kills her victim, she will leave the body somewhere the holder of the Key can find it.  She will mock him or her through her murders.  If somehow prevented from killing after the Key is used, the Spectre will hide in the Key and refuse to come out until she is allowed to satiate her appetites.

The Spectre of the Key
HD 3  AC 13  Atk Claws (+1, 1d6 + poison claws/ 1d6 + poison claws)
Mor 12      Saves 9 or less is a success

Ghost: The Spectre of the Key is a Ghost.  Along with being Undead, she can also fly and turn herself intangible as a free action, so non-spiritual objects pass through her.  When intangible she is immune to non-magical damage, but can only affect spiritual or magical objects.  She cannot damage living creatures in this state.

Conditional Immortality: The Spectre of the Key will continue existing as long as the Spectre's Key is intact.  Even if reduced to zero HP, if the Key is still intact, she will return at full HP the next time night falls. 

Sunlight Damage: The Spectre of the Key takes 1d10 damage a round if exposed to sunlight.   

Poison Claws: The Spectre of the Key has long claws that upon a successful hit, force a creature to make a CON saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is paralyzed and cannot move.  On a successful save, the creature can either take an extra 1d6 poison damage or a -4 penalty to his next save against her poison.

Tactics:   
- Target the most vulnerable
- Paralyze someone then fly away with them
- Get overconfident

The Spectre's Key is magical, but this magic does not prevent it from being destroyed.  The Key has the same physical properties of a normal, iron Key.

                                                         source unknown
The Prismatic Javelin.

This is a javelin with a handle made of solid iron and covered in white gold, the tip being made of flawless crystal.  The javelin's crystal head shines bright in the light and throws rainbows through the air, so any attempt to use it while sneaking near a light source should automatically fail, unless the enemies are blind or will ignore bright lights and colors for some reason.

The javelin functions perfectly well as a Javelin and is magic, so it can damage non-physical creatures such as Ghosts and the like.  However, the Javelin has an additional ability.  It functions as a Staff and can can store a spell, but it will have a 50% chance of being pre-loaded with the spell Prismatic Ray and a 50% of being empty.  If you have at least one spellcasting dice you can cast the spell loaded into the staff. 

However, if the Prismatic Javelin is empty and the person holding it casts a spell that requires an attack roll, if they miss, the Prismatic Javelin gives them the ability to reroll that attack roll, though they must use the second result. 

There is a catch though.  The Prismatic Javelin is actually sapient and highly intelligent.  It calls itself Emperor Locus or The Refracted King and demands your respect.  It prefers to be addressed as "Your Majesty", but any sufficiently respectful title will probably be enough to sway it.  It has better things to do than nitpick you.  Locus does not tolerate disrepect  and if it is not treated well, protected and addressed politely and courteously, it will deny any disrespectful person who uses it the ability to reroll his spell attack rolls.  In particularly egregious cases it might reflect the attack back at the caster.

The Prismatic Javelin will also make requests of its wielder from time to time.  Each day, it has a 2-in-6 chance of making a request, with 1d4 weeks, or however much time the Referee thinks is appropriate, till the next request is made.  These requests will begin small and seemingly arbitrary, but will gradually increase in magnitude.  First the Prismatic Javelin will ask you to acquire a rare book and give it to some seemingly unimportant bureaucrat, then before you know it it will be asking you to hijack ships carrying large shipments of metal ore and disrupt local economies.  These requests will be staggered, with each one increasing in scope and wickedness, though the Prismatic Javelin doesn't seem actively malicious.  It doesn't seem to care about mortals, or even individuals, at all.  To it, you are tools to achieve an end. 

The Prismatic Javelin also has two secret abilities that it will not tell you about.  The first is that it can cast Prismatic Defense once per day as a level 1d4 spell, either on just itself, or on itself and the wielder.  If you anger it, the Prismatic Javelin will cast this spell on itself to cause anyone who tries to touch it will have a very, very bad time.

The second is that the Prismatic Javelin can cast Teleport once per day, either on itself, itself and its wielder or itself, its wielder and up to [sum] other creatures who are touching the wielder or someone who is touching the wielder, such as if everyone is standing in a circle and holding hands.  The spellcasting dice used to expand this spell must come from the current wielder.

If you are in serious danger and the Prismatic Javelin feels you will be useful to it, it will use these abilities to save you.  If it does not, it will not reveal these powers and simply let you die.  If it fears for its own safety though, or that it might end up in some terrible place, it will use these abilities to escape and leave you to die.  It has no real loyalty.

The Prismatic Javelin is very tough and is immune to most elemental forms of damage, necrotic, radiant, cold, acid.  It also cannot be damaged by non-magical weapons or tools.  The only way to destroy it would be to hit it with a magic weapon that was just as or even more powerful, expose it to some kind of effect that destroys magic utterly, or melt it into slag.  It can resist most fires without taking any damage, but a sufficiently hot blaze, such as a furnace used to make high-quality steel or dragonfire (assuming you can find a Dragon that breathes fire and not some other nonsense) could do it.  Of course, this is all secret knowledge.  The Prismatic Javelin will never disclose its weaknesses. 

Here is another piece of information the Prismatic Javelin will never disclose.  It is actually the phylactery of an ancient Lich named Locus, the Refracted King.  The weapon itself is not intelligent, being merely connected to his soul and you were actually conversing with an ancient Undead spellcaster who traded everything, including his "humanity" for power.  Locus will do anything to protect the Prismatic Javelin as if it is destroyed, so is he.  This is why he imbued it with so much power, so it couldn't easily be destroyed.  He could recall it at any time, but he feels that it is better served being as far away from him as possible. 

                                                           source unknown

Seven Times Slaughter.

It was once a beautiful sword.  In some ways, it is still is.  When it was forged, only the finest of ores were used.  The smith was an aged master, aided by assistants and apprentices who had decades of experience themselves.  They labored over the sword for seven days and nights, taking shifts to continue working on it.  In the end, the sword was all but flawless, as perfect as mortal hands could make it.  The ancient smith then bathed the sword and sharpened it till it was sharp enough to shave with, to make the wind bleed.  Then, just as he finished, the buyer came.  He arrived in the night to pick up the sword and when he saw the masterpiece the ancient smith had made, he rejoiced.  As he held the sword in his hands, he felt how balanced it was, how thin the blade, how flexible it was, yet he knew it would cut like a razor.  The buyer declared the sword to be the greatest piece of workmanship he had ever seen, which would have been high praise.  However, the buyer now realized something.  The sword had a flaw in it.  The apprentices and the assistants nearly rioted at that.  They demanded to be shown this flaw, but the ancient master calmed them with a word and replied that the sword was not perfect, as perfection was simply unattainable without the help of a higher power, which was the one thing that the ancient smith did not have.

No, not that, the buyer said.  The problem with this sword is that he's so hungry.  He's starving, but even though he is a guest in your house, nay, a child produced by your hands, you have not fed him.  The ancient smith was not given the chance to wonder what the buyer meant by this, as the buyer attacked and instantly beheaded the ancient smith, whose reflexes had been slowed by age.  The youthful assistants and middle-aged apprentices recognized the danger this buyer posed now, but they had failed to save their master.  In the end, they would fail to save themselves.

Thus, the bloody legend of Seven Times Slaughter began.  This sword has been passed from killer to killer, taking part in some of the bloodiest chapters in history.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that this blade is evil.  It breeds war and makes warriors into killers.  When drawn, Seven Times Slaughter draws fears from the wise and confusion from the foolish. They are its favorite prey, those who don't know what they are facing until it is far too late. 

Seven Times Slaughter starts a magic sword that does 1d6+STR damage on a hit, but when it comes into contact with blood, it animates that blood and transforms it into a temporary weapon with killing intent.  The bearer of Seven Times Slaughter may, on his turn, command the blood of anyone he has injured with the sword to either damage that person automatically for 1d12 damage or to command that blood to make an immediate attack roll against another creature as a free action.  This causes the blood to emerge as an animated tentacle from the wound of the previously wounded creature and attack another creature within 10', using the sword holder's attack bonus and dealing 1d12 damage on a hit.

However, once used to kill or wound any creature, the bearer of Seven Times Slaughter realizes that he must kill at least 3 more creatures within 1 minute or suffer at the hands of the blade.  If the bearer kills at least 3 creatures, then he suffers no penalty.  If he fails to though, he immediately takes 1d12 damage, plus an additional 1d6 each time he tries to touch the blade.  Seven Times Slaughter can be appeased by killing the remaining amount of creatures and draining their blood into an enormous jar, then dunking the sword into the jar and leaving it there overnight. 

Seven Times Slaughter's ability remains the same until the bearer of the sword has killed 10 creatures with it or 4 creatures within 1 minute (6 rounds = 1 minute).  After that, the bearer of the sword, upon wounding or killing any creature with the sword must kill five creatures within 1 minute or suffer the same penalty as per above.  The bearer still takes 1d12 damage upon failing to feed Seven Times Slaughter.  Additionally, the damage the sword's magical ability does to creatures who have had their blood affected, either by automatically damaging them or with the blood tentacles is reduced to 1d10.

This remains the case until the bearer has killed 20 creatures with Seven Times Slaughter or 5 creatures within 1 minute.  After that, the bearer of the sword, upon wounding or killing any creature with the sword must kill 5 creatures within 1 minute or suffer the same penalty as per before the 10th kill.  Additionally, the damage the sword's magical ability does is reduced to 1d8.  Everything else remains the same.

This continues until the bearer of the sword has killed 30 creatures with Seven Times Slaughter or 6 creatures within 1 minute.  After that, the bearer of the sword, upon wounding or killing any creature with the sword must kill 6 creatures within 1 minute or suffer the same penalty as per before the 10th kill.  Additionally, the damage the sword's magical ability does is reduced to 1d6.  Everything else remains the same. 

This continues until the bearer of the sword has killed 40 creatures with Seven Times Slaughter or 7 creatures within 1 minute.  After that, the bearer of the sword, upon wounding or killing any creature with the sword must kill 7 creatures within 1 minute or suffer the same penalty as per before the 10th kill.  Additionally, the damage the sword's magical ability does is reduced to 1d4.  Everything else remains the same. 

                                                                    source unknown
Robe of Eyes.

It is a robe made of warm, fleshy tissue, soft and slightly damp on the inside, smelling of meat and blood and sweat.  If draped around your body, it will bond with your flesh, becoming temporarily a part of your body.  Removing the robe causes minor bleeding and 1d4 damage, but this damage cannot drop you past 1 HP, unless you are already suffering from a fatal wound.  While it is bonded to you, damage to the does damage to you; and spells or abilities that heal you heal the robe as well. 

While wearing the robe, you cannot wear any armor besides it.   

While wearing the robe, you have 360 degree vision at all times, except when sleeping.  Then all the eyes close, of course.

There are also 8 additional eyes that are always closed.  As a free action while wearing the robe, a person may command any of these eyes to open.

1: X-ray.  The first eye, when opened, grants X-ray vision.  The wearer may choose to turn their X-ray vision on and off at will.  This X-ray vision allows them to see through objects and people, but is blocked by an inch of lead, half a foot of wood or a foot of dirt.

2: Thermal.  The second eye, when opened, grants thermal vision, allowing the wearer to see heat sources.  This vision may be turned on and off at will.

3: Binocular.  The third eye, when opened, grants binocular vision.  When activated, this type of vision allows the wearer to read a book from across the street or read lips from atop a tall building.  This type of vision may be turned on and off again at will. 

Once the third eye is opened, the wearer of the robe can tighten the rope against their body, turning into something resembling a catsuit, but made of the same fleshy material and still covered in eyes.  The wearer must also now save to wear any clothes underneath the robe.  If the wearer were to take the robe off now, they would take 1d6 damage.

4: Haptic Sight.  The fourth eye, when opened, grants haptic sight, enabling the wearer to feel the texture of whatever they are looking at.  This type of vision may be turned on and off again at will. 

5: Soul Vision.  The fifth eye, when opened, grants the wearer the ability to see the souls of living creatures.  In this vision, living creatures resemble chinese lanterns with glowing flames in them.  These flames shine brighter or dimmer depending on the creature's strength and health and from their glow, the wearer can deduce a creature's current emotions and virtue, or lack thereof.  This type of vision may be turned on and off again at will. 

Once the fifth eye is opened, the wearer of the robe can transform the soft outer layer of the robe into a stiff hide that acts as leather armor, with no additional weight.  The wearer must now save to take the robe off and will violently resist any attempt to force him to do so.  He will come to think of the robe as his real skin.  If the wearer were to take the robe off now, he would take 1d8 damage.

6: Sleeping Sight.  The sixth eye, when opened, grants the wearer an eye that never closes, even when the wearer sleeps.  The wearer gets +4 to any attempt to wake up during a dangerous situation and to spot something hidden, that is not invisible or cloaked through magical means.

Once the sixth eye is opened, the wearer of the robe gains the ability to grow large spines from his wrists.  Each spine does 1d6+STR damage on a hit and is retractible, slipping in and out of the wearer's arms as a free action.  The wearer of the robe must now save to expose any part of his body, preferring his whole body to be covered by something.  He will probably begin wearing gloves or hiding his hands in the pockets of the robe.  His face will also present a problem for him, so he will probably begin wearing a mask.  If the wearer were to take the robe off now, he would take 1d10 damage.

7: Future Sight.  The seventh eye, when opened, grants the wearer the ability to see the future.  This type of vision may be turned on and off again at will.  1/Day, if this type of vision is active, the wearer may declare that all events that just occurred were actually a vision they had and revert to up to 10 minutes in the past.

Once the seventh eye is opened, the wearer of the robe gains the ability to vomit a ball of acidic sludge that do 2d6 acid damage on a hit 1/Day.  This acid is also strong enough to melt through a steel, wood or most other materials.  The only exceptions are stone, glass or plastic.  Other than it's source, the acid is otherwise normal.  The wearer of the robe will now must save to show his face and will start wearing a mask at all times.    If the wearer were to take off the robe now, he would take 1d12 damage.

8: Sight Beyond Sight.  The eighth eye, when opened, grants the wearer to see through illusions, see shape-shifted creature's true forms, to see magic and to see reality as it truly is.  Basically, imagine vision if you didn't see the objects themselves, but the Platonic Forms they were inferior copies of.  This can also lend great insight into a character's soul or personality, being how they appear.  This type of vision may be turned on and off again at will. 

Once the eighth eye is opened, the wearer of the robe will be found wearing gloves and a mask that seem to have come from the robe itself.  The gloves are made of the robe's fabric and the mask will be made of the same material as the wearer's wrist blades.  The wearer will now consider the robe a part of him and will never take it off or part with it for any reason. Every day, the wearer must save, with a +1 penalty to their save for each day since the eighth eye was opened.  On a failed save, the wearer runs off into the night and is never seen or heard from again.  If the wearer is caught and prevented from doing this, the wearer will scheme and plot to find a way to escape and will do anything to do so.  If captured and stripped of the robe, the wearer dies in agonizing pain.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The DAME Method - How to Design Dynamic Combats

I came up with a method of how to construct better encounters.  Consider this post inspired by this one, written by the erudite Arnold K.

                                                   from Matrix Reloaded

I sometimes have a problem with improvising in games.  I find I work best when I have a solid foundation to start building off of.  I prefer to conduct the creative process within a pre-existing system, one that permits freedom but has certain limits already set up.  As such, if I don't have at least some pre-planning, I often feel like my performance suffers.  So I decided to create a system that would enable me to pre-plan my encounters a bit more. 

Combine this with the feeling that sometimes combat encounters run too long and start to get stale, I decided to come up with this system.  It's totally untested and highly dangerous, but maybe you'll find some use for it.  I call it the DAME Method.   

To illustrate this method, I've also taken the liberty of including some examples.  These are lifted below: two encounters, one easy and one difficult.

First, a troupe of bandits step out in front of the party in the woods and demand money.

Second, a Lich is confronted by the party in one of its' laboratories.

D is for Dynamism:

How dynamic is the encounter?  How much do things change from round to round?

The best way to determine how Dynamic an encounter should be is right in the middle of it.  If your players are getting bored or if the combat is turning into I attack, you attack, I attack that's your cue to inject a little more Dynamism into a situation.  I recommend coming up with a small list of changes that could occur each round and if the players start to fall asleep mid-encounter, throw a curveball at them.  

Example 1:

Bandit Curveballs-

1- The Bandits have reinforcements hiding in the trees.  If things are going bad, these reinforcements will rain arrows down on the party.
2- The Bandits have reinforcements up ahead.  If things are going bad, the Bandits will run up the path and (hopefully) lead the party into an ambush.
3- The Bandits will throw themselves at the feet of the party and beg for mercy.
4- As per "3", but it's actually a trap, as the Bandits have reinforcements sneaking in behind the party, ready to launch a sneak attack with poisoned arrows

Example 2:

Lich Curveballs-

1- The Lich uses a magical attack that destroys part of the room the fight is currently taking place in, opening up a hole in the floor, smashing down a wall, ripping the ceiling off, etc
2- The Lich engages a magical effect that changes the nature of the battlefield.  Here are a few examples.  The Lich could, fill the air with fog that that induces hallucinations or makes it hard to see; it could plunge the area into magical darkness; it could activate an aura that cumulatively damages the players or inflicts some negative effect on them.  You get bonus points on that last one if it is something the players could manipulate and not just one of the Lich's overpowered abilities.
3- The Lich decides to move the battle onto more favorable ground and leaves this room
4- The Lich decides that it needs more help and summons more minions: maybe its elite soldiers were down in the gatehouse, waiting for a frontal attack that never came?  Anyway, they're here now.

And try not to be super dynamic the whole time.  The whole point is variety- if every encounter is a rolling escapade across three continents and seven times zones, it doesn't feel as special, now does it?

A good rule to follow would be that the more important an enemy is to an adventure, arc or campaign, the more dynamic the encounter should be.  You don't need to be super dynamic if the players get mugged by a band of thieves disguised as a chain gang and their overseer, but if they're fighting The Jade General, Oppressor of the Nine Realms and the main villain of the entire game, you should pull out all the stops.      

A is for Aggression:

How aggressive are these enemies?  How quick are they to resort to violence?

This one is simple enough.  What will it take these enemies start trying to stab you?

Example 1:

The Bandits don't want to fight anyone, if they can avoid it.  They'd prefer you just turn over your valuables.  If you do, they will let you go by.

Example 2:

The Lich likely has some grand, master plan that is broken down into about a million different smaller plans.  You are temporarily inconveniencing the Lich by slowing down the completion of one of its current plans.  The Lich may kill you if it it decides that would be easier, or if you seem to pose any threat to its grand designs or to the Lich itself.  But if you're too powerful to be wiped off the face of the Earth but too uninteresting to worry about, the Lich may just order you to leave.  If you refuse to obey its orders, it probably won't be sure of how to proceed.  Maybe it will bribe you with something shiny and dangerous, such as an prototype magical bomb; or perhaps it will simple threaten you with curses and terrible consequences until you take a hint and leave.     

M is for Motivation:

What do the enemies want?  What is their goal?

Again, this one is particularly self-explanatory. 

Example 1:

The Bandits want money, warm boots, nice clothes and horses.

Example 2:

The Lich wants to study the Kraken and possibly attempt to breed another one, this one under the Lich's control. 

Currently, it is building a submarine. 

The Lich's current problem is that Gillmen keep raiding the shipyard for supplies and keep kidnapping its workers.  Productivity is down an unacceptable 53%.

E is for Exit:

Do the enemies think they have a good chance of winning?  If they start losing, will they retreat?  Where will they go?

One thing you have to keep in mind as a Referee is that your NPCs aren't the stars of the show and often, are going to die.  This goes especially for the monsters, enemies and antagonists you drop into the player's paths.  However, Hostile NPCs don't know that. 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a Referee was to "be the monster".  Role-play as the Monster as it would behave in that situation.  If the encounter is "You got between a Mama Grizzly bear and her cub" how would Mama Grizzly act in that situation?  Play that Mama Grizzly bear.  That's your baby that these two-legged pink burritos are threatening.

This is a piece of advice I've treasured.  So let us go back to the problem of the retreat, the exit strategy.  What will the Hostile NPCs do if things start going south? 

This won't be an option for all creatures.  Undead will generally not retreat unless ordered to, so unbound Undead will usually fight to the death.  They will only flee righteous Angels or sunlight.  In other cases, if a Motivation is a strong enough, it may forbid retreat as an option.  Mama Grizzly bear isn't retreating if she thinks her cubs are in danger.  The same goes if the enemy is trapped.  In such cases, they may feel they have no other option but to engage in a last stand.

But generally, enemies will either have some idea of how they could escape, should things go wrong.  Even if they don't start thinking about it until half their friends get cut down by the dude with the flaming claymore, you as the Referee should have a few ideas already.

Example 1:

The Bandits will scatter in different directions, running back into the woods to hide.  They have a secret base camp that they will all meet up at later.

Example 2:

The Lich may allow itself to be killed, if that wouldn't endanger its plans.  Its minions will surely have been informed of what to do should such a situation occur. 

Alternatively, the Lich may summon its mount, an enormous skeletal Drake, and climb onto its back to fly off, swearing revenge on those meddling fools!                      

      from Marvel's Daredevil, but this really doesn't do him justice.  See the full scene here.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

OSR: Kua Toa

                                                         by Dungeons and Doodling

I love Kua Toa.  They're such an interesting monster, but they have real problems.  Yet even despite that, I was honestly thinking of titling this post "I cannot improve the Kuo Toa" but then I realized that while the sublime concept of these retarded god-maker fishmen is often marred by a stupid execution.  So I am here to fix that, once and for all.

Change number 1.  I am calling them Kua Toa, instead of Kuo-Toa.  I got this idea from Demonac, as well as for much of my vast appreciation for these monsters.

Now, for change number 2...

The Shadow over Innsmouth (and how we misunderstood it)

Perhaps that is inaccurate, but I feel that people misunderstand much of Lovecraft's work.  For example, there is some kind of ridiculous conception in some Call of Cthulhu players that there is no hope of ever defeating the horrors that lurk beyond our limited perspective and if you encounter them, you will die.  Yet if you look at the original Lovecraft stories, this is often not true.  Many of the stories by Lovecraft involve humans using violence against the horrors from beyond the furthest stars and sometimes even winning, even if it is a pyrrhic victory.  Hell, the Shadow over Innsmouth ends with the police raiding the eponomyous town and killing quite a few of the Deep Ones.

That being said, the other misconception is how the Deep Ones look and what the true terror of that story is.

Firstly, in my opinion, I believe the Kua Toa's appearance comes from someone who heard about the Shadow over Innsmouth, but never actually read it.  They heard "fishpeople" and that's what they drew.  But Kua Toa don't look scary really- they look like fish versions of Frog and Toad.  You can almost imagine a pair of Kua Toa wearing dapper suits and going to the opera or preparing a surprise party for a mutual friend.  So that's problem number one.

Problem number 2 is a bit more esoteric.  You see, at the end of every good scary story, there is a twist, as I'm sure you're aware.  This twist is a reversal, similar to the punchline of a joke.  However, instead of eliciting surprise and inducing laughter, the twist in horror is supposed to chill and make the audience look over their shoulder.  The twist in the Shadow over Innsmouth is that in the end, the narrator reveals that his family is related to Innsmouth through one resident of the town who left it generations ago and he inherited her Deep One DNA.  As such, he is slowly turning into a Deep One himself. This is the twist of the story and the true horror.  The Deep Ones by themselves are scary, but the sublime terror comes not from them, but from the secret fear that there might be something wrong with you, something lurking in the shadow of your family tree that could at any moment, spring out and devour you.  Or worse, to transform you into a monster, to rob you of your humanity, to make you exactly like that horror.

But as I pointed out earlier, this is something that most people inspired by the Shadow over Innsmouth forget and its not something you can really create with creatures as dorky looking as the Kua Toa.  So what do you do?

                                                             by Zoltan Boros
                                 "Look how they massacred my boy."
The Poor Man's Deep Ones (and how I fixed it)

So with Kua Toa, we can't really play up the same unknowingly born into corruption angle, but we don't necessarily need to either.  For the Kua Toa have unknowingly provided us with the solution.  You see, the Kua Toa are especially aligned with cults and strange religions, things that Lovecraft was also fond of including in his stories.  So that's how we make the Kua Toa scary.  We make them persuasive.

All senior Kua or Kua Toa belonging to the leadership caste get the following ability:

"Proclaim: Anyone who listens to a sermon or speech by this Kua Toa takes 1d6 WIS damage, no save.  Covering your ears as an action or making noises to drown out the sound as an action prevents this WIS damage.  If the WIS damage taken this way ever equals or exceeds a creature's WIS score, the creature has his WIS returned to normal and gains a Conviction based on the speech he just heard."

You can assign the players who heard the sermon and had their WIS scores reduced to zero any related Conviction, or you can roll on the table below.

Seeds of Conversion
1d6+X [Where X is the number of Previous Convictions you have gained from Kua Toa]
1- I am fascinated with the strange, disgusting and macabre.
2- I am very interested in niche religions.
3- While strange on the outside, I find myself becoming rather fond of these strange, fishy creatures.
4- I always try to understand people, even if they are my enemies.
5- I think these piscine folk make some good points.  Their methods could use some work though.
6+- I agree with some of what this Kua Toa is saying, though I still have my doubts.    

Anyone who listens to one sermon or speech will find themselves becoming more amicable to the Kua Toa.  Anyone who listens to more sermons or spends a lot of time studying literature produced by the Kua Toa will eventually gain so many Convictions relating the Kua Toa that they become an ally of the Kua Toa.

Among the Saved:

                                              by unknown

Kua Cultist

Kua Cultists are non-Kua Toa who are converted to the Religion this band of Kua Toa are currently preaching.  They retain all their previous stats from before their conversion, but also gain an incredibly strange worldview based on whatever Religion the Kua who came here preached to them.  The statblock below belongs to a 1 HD commoner who was converted to the cause.

Statblock:

Kua Cultist
HD 1  Ac 10  Atk Club (+0, 1d6) or Thrown Rock (+1, 1d4)
Mor 6/11     Saves 7 or less is a success

Faith is my shield: A Kua Cultist has a morale of 11 if he is with his brother cultists or if there is a Kua Toa nearby to encourage him to be brave.  If neither of these are true, use the lower option for Morale.

My Life for Thee: A Kua Cultist has sworn his life and soul to his Godlet.  When he dies, his life force will immediately be transferred to his Godlet.

Tactics:
- Attack in a swarm
- Mob the least dangerous person
- Flee if things look dangerous, unless dissuaded otherwise

To see how a particular group of Kua Cultist acts, roll on the Piscine Faith table below to see what they were taught.

Piscine Faith
1d4
1- "All mortals are part of one organism and that one organism is the only true Man.  The things you call Men or Persons are just tiny components, millions of times smaller than a single hair."  These Kua Cultists have non-Kua Toa leaders as well, who function as Kua Toa Priests, but without the Kua specific abilities.  These Kua Cultists also practice cannibalism and have a habit of being excessively self-sacrificial.
2- "We are all pawns of the Gods and are not actually in control of our actions, we merely think we are."  These Kua Cultists  carry barbed and hooked weapons that rip open huge, gaping wounds that do persistent damage until healed.  They are also excessively brutal and sacrifice people in a very specific, ritualistic way.  Finally, these Kua Cultists tend to be cowardly and flee from battle.  If threatened with capture, they will also try to kill themselves.
3- "We are among the true Enlightened and if we prove ourselve virtuous, the Watery One will bring us down to her sunken palace, where we will party and feast for all eternity."  These Kua Cultists, if reduced to zero HP by an attack that wouldn't totally destroy them, have a 50% of being able to continue fighting due to a combination of zeal and pain-numbing drugs.  These Kua Cultists are fond of indulging in tons of drugs before and during battle.  These are their primary advantage, as well as their weakness.  They are also excessively courageous, always trying to save their comrades, even if it looks dangerous.
4- "The End of the Age draws near.  Soon cataclysms will ravage the land and terrors will overrun the world.  But if we manage to purify ourselves of sin and complete the great ritual, we will endure the the disasters and rise as Kings over the New World."  These Kua Cultists wear special charms that give them a 2-in-6 chance of reflecting any magical ability or spell used against them against another target.  If it strikes another person with a charm like this, the spell keeps reflecting until it finds a target.  These Kua Cultists burn Magic-Users, cats and people who seem to well educated at the stake.  They are plagued by anti-intellectualism and try to never think too hard, as intelligence is something their cult spurns.

                                                           by Frank Frazetta

Kua Fanatic  

Some of those converted by the Kua Toa come out a little different.  They take their faith to its most logical, and usually violent, end.  They become sanctuary guards and bodyguards for the Cult's leadership and when the Cult clashes with local religions or civil authorities, the Kua Fanatics are always on the front line.  They have almost no sense of self-preservation and a thirst for blood that can never be sated.  They were a really bad person, they realize and they have a lot of catching up to do.

Many Kua Fanatics were criminals or soldiers before they were converted, but some were also adventurers.  If a group of Adventurers was sent to investigate a Cult and that Cult turned out to be run by Kua Toa, those adventurers usually end up as Fanatics for the Cult, if they aren't killed before they are captured. 

For the latter type of Fanatic, each one should have 1d4 HD and class levels.  For the Former type of Fanatic, I have included a statblock below. 

Statblock:

Kua Fanatic
HD 2  AC 12  Atk Great Weapon (+2, 1d8/1d8)
Mor 11       Saves 9 or less is a success

Zeal: If a Kua Fanatic is reduced to zero HP, as long as his body isn't destroyed beyond use, such as from being disintegrated, melted by acid or frozen solid, he has a 50% of being able to continue fighting for another round, though he can only make one attack.

My Life for Thee: A Kua Fanatic has sworn his life and soul to his Godlet.  When he dies, his life force will immediately be transferred to his Godlet.

Tactics:
- Stay back and identify the most dangerous person
- Rush them
- Have no fear

                                                           by ART STUFFINGZ

Kua Toa Warrior

The Kua Toa warriors are the remnant of an ancient fighting force, the degenerate heirs of world-conquerors.  Once their people stood astride the whole world.  The only reason you aren't aware of their fearsome reputation is because it happened in the oceans and you weren't there.  It was also just under two millennia ago, so that also helps.  Yet even despite the vast distance and the incomprehensible amount of knowledge that was lost in the Shattering, these Kua Toa have managed to cling to a few scraps of ancient martial wisdom. 

The Kua Toa warriors are all trained and disciplined.  They fight with the feverish devotion of one facing annihilation, yet they do not give into despair.  Their eyes are cold but not dead- behind those wet lenses a deep-rooted love, nay an obsession, with victory can be found.  Kua Toa Warriors do not regard themselves as worthless, they have the same sense of self-preservation as you.  But they will gladly sacrifice themselves to allow their fellows to triumph.  Their ancestors made greater sacrifices then these.  They gave unspeakable amounts, made horrible, black bargains to allow the Kua Toa to persist at all.  Compared to that, one life is nothing.  A mere drop of water crashing upon a stone.  

Statblock:

Kua Toa Warrior
HD 1  AC 14 [scale vest, shield]  Atk Billhooks or Spears (+1, 1d6+1)
Mor 8      Saves 8 or less is a success

Water Breather: Kua Toa can breathe water as well as air.  They suffer no penalties from breathing air.

Strong Swimmer: Kua Toa are powerful swimmers, easily faster in the water than any non-aquatic creature.  In water, they are just slightly slower than a horse's canter.

God Seed: If this creatures dies and its soul was not sworn to a pre-existing Godlet, God or other entity, then its loose life energy has a chance equal to its (HD)-in-10 of summoning/creating a new Godlet.  Treat this Godlet as per a Godlet with an empty Pool of Power in diffused form.  To see what it can do and what it appears as, roll on the tables below.

Martial Training: Kua Toa always receive at least a modicum of martial training.  They know how to work together and always have a strategy.  To see what strategy this group of Kua Toa knows how to use, roll on the Kua Toa Tactics table below.

My Life for Thee: A Kua Toa Warrior has a 50% of having has sworn his life and soul to his Godlet.  If he has made this oath then when he dies, his life force will immediately be transferred to his Godlet.

Tactics:
- Stick to the plan
- Exploit weaknesses in the enemy
- Let tougher or expendable units take the brunt of the damage
- Retreat if things look dangerous

Kua Toa Tactics
1d6
1- Armored Barrage.  Half of the Kua Toa will use spears and form a shield wall to protect the ranged units.  Anyone who gets close to the shield wall gets stabbed.  The other half stay behind the shield wall and throw javelins or darts at the attacking enemies.  Continue until the enemy are all dead or the shield wall is broken.  If the latter, retreat.
2- Snatch and Grab.  A minority of the Kua Toa will carry some nets with them.  They will throw nets over some of the enemies, then those with bills will snag those captured in nets and drag them off.  The rest will stay behind to try and capture more or to prevent the captured enemy from being rescued.
3- Catch these Hands.  The Kua Toa will coat their shields in sticky adhesive then form a shield wall.  When attacked, they will stick their enemies to the shields and use this to break the enemy formation by sticking enemies to it and taking them away.
4- Unsure Footing.  If the Kua Toa are in a fixed position, they will form a shield wall, but dump grease on the ground in front of them.  That way, anyone who gets too close will have trouble keeping their footing and fall.  Those that fall will be mercilessly skewered or beaten till they fall unconscious, then dragged into Kua Toa lines.
5- Fire Trap.  The Kua Toa are no strangers to fire.  When they can, they will use fire to herd their enemies into chokepoints or trap them above water while they make their escape.  A common example is to lure their enemies down a tunnel that has only one exit that's not underwater and once the enemy is inside, cover the water entrance with flammable oil and ignite it.  Then surround the other exit.  The enemies can either try to escape through the unblocked exit and run right into an ambush, a foolish idea, try to fight the Kua Toa underwater, an insane idea, or simply die of smoke inhalation. 
6- False Retreat.  Attack, then retreat after suffering a few losses.  When they follow you, lead them into an ambush.  Sometimes you can't beat the classics.        

                                                         by Vincent Coveillo

Kua Toa Priest

Every Religion needs a Sworn Brotherhood and the many Cults of the Kua Toa are no exception.  These are the creatures who get the ball rolling, the ones who convert and prosleytize in the name of their religion.  This is a task that is much more difficult than what it at first seems, because the Kua Toa exist in a state of perpetual holy war.  Every since the Shattering, the vast majority of their species were cut off from their original pantheon and left to wander the world.  Many of these Kua Toa died without the protection of their institutions or their Gods, surrounded by enemies within and without.  Without their Gods, without their Religion, the Kua Toa found themselves no longer a united people, but a fractured mess of tribes.  Some clung to the old ways, but for those that didn't, it looked like it might be doom for them.

Some of the Kua Toa refused this fate though.  These inspired souls, they would not go quietly into that good night.  For they had an idea.  They had been rejected by the old Watery Gods, so they would find new Divine Protectors.  Each of these inspired Kua Toa took to the streets, preaching and prosleytizing their own religion.  They drew other Kua to themselves, forming communities around these nascent religions.  Within a few years, hundreds of small cults had grown up in the ruin of the old Empire.  Within a decade, thousands had formed.  And now, so many, many years later, the number is countless.  Every Kua Toa who is not among the remnant that clung fast to the old ways is now part of some minor cult.  These cults are locked in a struggle with each other and with outsiders, each one struggling to assert themselves over the others.

And the Kua Toa Priests are the ones on the tip of that metaphysical spear.  While they do not fight on the front lines, they do often act as the leaders, usually holding powers both secular and spiritual.  They are the ones who convert others and lead their cult, directing its movements.  All the other members of a Kua Cult can die, but if the Priest survives, the Cult can be rebuilt.  It will take years, but it can be done.  But if the Priest is dead, regardless of a Cult's power, it usually withers and dies, usually being consumed by a rival Kua Cult.  Priests know this and that is why they fight with such terrible ferocity, for they know they are balanced on the knife-edge of oblivion.  There is no middle way for them.  They will win or they will die. 

Statblock:

Kua Toa Priest
HD 3  AC 13   Atk Trident [Throwable] (+3, 1d6/1d6)
Mor 7      Saves 9 or less is a success

Water Breather: Kua Toa can breathe water as well as air.  They suffer no penalties from breathing air.

Strong Swimmer: Kua Toa are powerful swimmers, easily faster in the water than any non-aquatic creature.  In water, they are just slightly slower than a horse's canter.

God Seed: If this creatures dies and its soul was not sworn to a pre-existing Godlet, God or other entity, then its loose life energy has a chance equal to its (HD)-in-10 of summoning/creating a new Godlet.  Treat this Godlet as per a Godlet with an empty Pool of Power in diffused form.  To see what it can do and what it appears as, roll on the tables below.

Proclaim: Anyone who listens to a sermon or speech by this Kua Toa takes 1d6 WIS damage, no save.  Covering your ears as an action or making noises to drown out the sound as an action prevents this WIS damage.  If the WIS damage taken this way ever equals or exceeds a creature's WIS score, the creature has his WIS returned to normal and gains a Conviction based on the speech he just heard.

Spellcaster: Kua Toa Priests have innate spellcasting abilities.  They know 3 spells and can cast them with no chance of triggering Chaos.  The Priests must still power their spells with life energy though, having three spellcasting dice that burn out on a 5 or 6. 

Tactics:
- Never fight fair
- Target weaknesses ruthlessly
- Surviving is the ultimate objective, your followers are mostly expendable   

                                                       source unknown

Kua Toa Monitor

The Kua Toa are ruled by their Priests, but their Cults could not survive without the protection of the Monitors.  Kua Toa Monitors are among the most mortal powerful warriors from the Blue World.  They possess unparalleled physical abilities and martial techniques that shame all but the most skilled of land-dwellers.  They are Fist Art users, heirs of an ancient tradition going back thousands of years.  Along with their techniques, Monitors also possess incredible Chi that enhances the speed of their movements, reactions and actions.  The weakest of Monitors is merely an expert combatant, but the greatest of their kind rival the great Magical Beasts. 

Monitors are trained in Fist Arts, but they are closer to Paladins than Fighting Men or Monks.  They draw power from outside of themselves, but they are still plenty strong by themselves.

Statblock:

Kua Toa Monitor
HD 1d4+2  AC 16  Atk Unarmed Strike (+4, 1d8/1d8)
Mor 9     Saves (5+HD) or less is a success

Water Breather: Kua Toa can breathe water as well as air.  They suffer no penalties from breathing air.

Astounding Swimmer: Kua Toa Monitors are amazing swimmers, easily faster in the water than any non-aquatic creature.  They can even keep up with fast moving boats and chase down marlins. 

God Seed: If this creatures dies and its soul was not sworn to a pre-existing Godlet, God or other entity, then its loose life energy has a chance equal to its (HD)-in-10 of summoning/creating a new Godlet.  Treat this Godlet as per a Godlet with an empty Pool of Power in diffused form.  To see what it can do and what it appears as, roll on the tables below.

Proclaim: Anyone who listens to a sermon or speech by this Kua Toa takes 1d6 WIS damage, no save.  Covering your ears as an action or making noises to drown out the sound as an action prevents this WIS damage.  If the WIS damage taken this way ever equals or exceeds a creature's WIS score, the creature has his WIS returned to normal and gains a Conviction based on the speech he just heard.

Quick on their Feet: Kua Toa Monitors are able to run and change directions incredibly quickly.  For purposes of changing directions, dodging out of the way of things and performing other acrobatic stunts, Monitors have a DEX of 17(+2).  Add this bonus to any initiative contests the Monitor is in.  Finally, Monitors are powerful jumpers and are able to easily leap up to 20 feet into the air, or up to ten feet into the air if they leap out of water.

Counter: Kua Toa may reduce the damage of two attacks per round by 1d8.  They may do this against ranged attacks as well, but only against things that something that could be conceivably be caught by someone, such as an arrow.  They could not catch a bullet unless they had additional magical items or protection.  Additionally, if a Kua Toa reduces someone's melee attack to zero damage, the Monitor may force that creature to save.  On a failed save, the Monitor may disarm the creature, temporarily disable that limb or appendage, or throw that creature.  On a successful save, the creature merely takes the difference in rolls as damage, but is otherwise unaffected.

Special Training: All Kua Toa Monitors have special techniques that make them unique among their kind.  To see which technique this Monitor has, roll on the Soldier of the Sea table below.

Tactics:
- Target the weakest
- Attack then retreat
- Never sacrifice yourself

Soldier of the Sea
1d6
1- This Kua Toa Monitor can blast waves of water from its fists when it makes unarmed strikes.  These can be used to do normal damage against creatures within 30', or the Monitor can choose that these blasts of water do no damage but instead freeze upon impact, trapping the creature(s) hit in ice.  A creature hit with one blast is half-frozen in ice and has half their body trapped, while a creature hit by two is totally trapped in ice.
2- This Kua Toa Monitor can create blades of ice on his fists, allowing him to deal sharp instead of blunt damage.  Also, every 1d4 rounds he can create a cloud of ice shurikens that do 3d6 damage against everyone in a 30' cone, save for half.
3- This Kua Toa Monitor can, as an action, create whirlpools in water and vortexes in air.  These vortexes or whirlpools suck in everything within 30' and slam it into the other things it has sucked in, doing 4d6 damage, divided evenly among the creatures dragged into the whirlpool or vortex.  You avoid being sucked in by succeeding a STR Saving throw.  Also, if it is a whirlpool, unless you can breathe water there is a good chance of drowning. 
4- This Kua Toa Monitor can control the natural electrical currents flowing through his body and upon hitting someone, can deal an extra 1d6 electrical damage and force that creature to save.  On a failed save, that creature is paralyzed as long as the Monitor can maintain physical contact with it.  The Monitor may also choose to do a free 1d6 electrical damage to the creature on its turn, as long as it sacrifices one unarmed strike and maintains physical contact.
5- This Kua Toa Monitor can, as an action, heat the water around his fists, feet, elbows or knees causing the area to be surrounded by steam.  It takes an action to heat the water around his appendages with his chi and the obvious danger posed by such blows causes him to make them with a +2 bonus, with the bonus damage not contributing to his damage roll.  However, on a hit, the target takes an additional +2d6 fire damage as the steam sears its flesh.
6- This Kua Toa Monitor is a master of the Vacuum Punch, the Master Technique for Kua Toa Karate.

                                                by Fallonart

Godlet

The Kua Toa are a cursed people.  Because of their sins, no God will touch them and even most Outsiders find them distasteful.  Spiritually, the Kua Toa are homeless.  But they have not taken this fact sitting down.  The Kua Toa have attempted to remedy this situation through their cults and priests and of course, through their "Gods".  For you see, whenever there are a group of people in a desperate situation, they will always attract opportunists.  The Shattering of the Kua Toa nation was no exception.

The Priests of these new Cults were generally not the instigators of trying to form these new religions, these came from the small spirits that infected the Priests.  These small spirits were weaker than Outsiders, little stronger than spells.  They would be the spiritual equivalent of buzzards or carrion eaters, lowly creatures who can only feed off the ruin and suffering of others.  And in the Kua Toa, they have found a feast.

These creatures, which I will henceforth be calling Godlets, have grown fat and mighty thanks to their fishy subjects.  The only problem is the obvious one- they need more.  Not just because of ambition or greed, but because of the Godlet's very nature.  They were originally small, frail spirits who have grown in size and majesty in proportion to the number of souls they have feasted on.  But they were only ever able to achieve that size because of the amount of life energy they consumed. That energy is the only thing keeping them as they are, were they to be cut off, the Godlets would shrink back down to become tiny, insignificant spirits.  This is a fate they are desperate to avoid, having finally tasted glory.  As such, the Godlets pursue more souls with a feverish intensity.  They also guard the souls they do possess for the same reasons.

Statblock:

Base Godlet
HD X    AC 10    Atk (+1, 1dX, 1dX) or Power
Mor 7   Saves X or less is a success (or 7, if X<7)

Variable HP: Godlets have variable HP.  To determine how much HD a Godlet currently has, roll on the Cult Size/Cult Fatality Table below.

Variable Strength: Godlets do a varying amount of damage based on the amount of life energy they have consumed.  Roll on the Cult Size/Cult Fatality Table below.

Materialization: Godlets are small spirits that can exist in a diffused state or a materialized state.  While in a diffused State they are immaterial and cannot affect the physical world, but they only be seen with someone who is using Sight Beyond Sight.  Additionally, in their diffused state, they can immediately tell if one of their subjects has died, as long as that subject has sworn his soul to the Godlet.  In contrast, in their materialized form, a Godlet can interact with physical objects and use their Power to affect the world or creatures that are not pure spirit.  Godlets can materialize as a full action but de-materialize and return to their diffused state as a free action.  If a Godlet is killed in its materialized form, it dies permanently.

Pool of Power: Godlets have pools of power that they use to keep themselves functioning.  These pools consist of d8s that the Godlet has gotten from their followers dying or from those who were sacrificed to the Godlet, with 1 HD giving the Godlet 1 d8.  These d8s are used up whenever the Godlet uses them for anything.  The Godlet must also use some of their d8s to remain in this world.  For each round of combat they participate in or each hour they are physically present in the world, they must sacrifice one d8.  Additionally, if the Godlet runs out of d8s and their pool is empty, the Godlet cannot use their power anymore.  They also have a choice.  If they remain in their materialized form, they will be trapped in a 1 HD body with no powers or abilities and 8 HP.  Each hour they remain in this body, they lose 1 HP as their body begins falling apart.  They die when they hit zero HP.  You can also kill them.  They can leave the body as a free action.

If they leave their powerless vessel and return to the Plane of Spirit, they will immediately be brought to the location of the nearest surviving group of people whose souls have been sworn to them.  If there are no such people though, all having perished or renounced their religion and Godlet, the Godlet is immediately banished from this plane of existence and returns to the Spirit World.   

Power: All Godlets have a special Power.  Roll on the Pseudo-Divine Power Table to see what it is. 

Proclaim: Anyone who listens to a sermon or speech by this Godlet takes 1d6 WIS damage, no save.  Covering your ears as an action or making noises to drown out the sound as an action prevents this WIS damage.  If the WIS damage taken this way ever equals or exceeds a creature's WIS score, the creature has his WIS returned to normal and gains a Conviction based on the speech he just heard.

Tactics:
- Always pretend to be stronger than you are
- Try to convert people
- Fight lazily, with the least amount of effort possible

To create your own Godlet, roll on the tables belows.

Cult Size/Cult Fatality Table
1d4
1- Tiny.  The Cult is likely composed of only a few households, their kinsmen and their neighbors.  You'd likely never even notice this Cult, unless you live right next door.  If in the wilderness, inhabits a tiny, remote village.  If in an urbanized area, is sheltered within an otherwise unremarkable organization.  The Godlet has 3 HD, an attack bonus of +0, its attacks do 1d6 damage and it has 2d8 in its Pool of Power.  It has the Power to spend 1d8  from its Pool to regenerate 1 HD and 1 additional Power. Roll once on the Pseudo-Divine Power Table.  
2- Small.  This Cult is small, easily managable.  It is composed of a few dozen families or the majority of a small town.  The Cult is too large to easily hide, but as long as the local authorities don't get involved, the Cult dominates everything within its immediate vicinity.  The Godlet has 5 HD, an attack bonus of +1, its attacks do 1d8 damage and it has 4d8 in its Pool of Power.  It has the Power to spend 1d8 from its Pool to regenerate 1 HD and 2 additional Powers. Roll once on the Pseudo-Divine Power Table.  
3- Worrisome.  This Cult is large enough that the local authorities are definitely aware and if they aren't completely inept , corrupt or in on it, they know.  However, they don't want to move aggressively against the Cult, as the potential damage the Cult could do would be quite high.  A group of roguish outsiders with no ties suddenly intruding into delicate situation could easily be a disaster, or they could save the day.  Regardless, the situation is a tinderbox.  The Godlet has 7 HD, an attack bonus of +2, its attacks do 1d10 damage and it has 6d8 in its Pool of Power.  It has the Power to spend 1d8 from its Pool to regenerate 1 HD and 1d4 additional Powers. Roll once on the Pseudo-Divine Power Table.     
4- Big.  This Cult has hundreds of members or more and dominates every reasonably large institution in the area.  It may be a secret, open or otherwise, but even if its not widely known, people realize that they are under new management.  This Cult is easily large enough to dominate a small geographic region, an island or a city-state.  The local institutions that could have stopped the Cult are either in the hands of Cult members or the magistrates are being black-mailed or threatened into standinb by.  The Godlet has 9 HD, an attack bonus of +3, its attacks do 1d12 damage and it has 8d8 in its Pool of Power.  It has the Power to spend 1d8 from its Pool to regenerate 1 HD and 1d6 additional Powers. Roll once on the Pseudo-Divine Power Table.

Pseudo-Divine Power Table
1d20
1- Heat Vision.  The Godlet can fire lasers from its eyes.  It can make up to 2 attacks with its laser vision, each one costing 1d8 and doing an equivalent amount of fire damage.  The Godlet can target one creature with both attacks or two adjacent creatures, but both lasers require a separate attack roll.
2- Animating the Dead.  The Godlet can spend any number of d8s it wants to animate a corpse and raise it as a X HD Undead, where X is the amount of d8s the Godlet spent.  This Undead does not have any particular loyalty to the Godlet and is not under its control.
3- Healing.  The Godlet can spend any number of d8s it wants to heal a creature up to Xd8.
4- Sight Beyond Sight.  The Godlet can spend 1d8 to give itself Sight Beyond Sight for 1 minute.
5- Awaken Animals.  The Godlet can Awaken a plant or animal for 1d8, as per the Awaken spell.
6- Animate Objects.  The Godlet can animate objects as per the Soul of Things spell.
7- Fists of Lightning.  The Godlet can, upon a hit or when touching someone, spend 1d8 to deal 1d8 electrical damage to that creature. 
8- Create Ice.  The Godlet can create a structure of ice by spending an equivalent amount of d8.  Creating a square foot requires 1d8, a wall requires 2d8, a cage or large pillar 3d8 and anything larger is up to the Referee's discretion. 
9- Create Illusions.  The Godlet can spend 1d8 to create an illusion up to the size of a horse that lasts for 1 minute.  This illusion is merely visual, but for an additional 1d8 per extra effect, the Godlet can add an additional sense the illusion affects, such as giving it a smell, letting it make sound, or extending the time limit by 1 minute.
10- Telekinesis.  The Godlet can, by spending 1d8, move an object no heavier than an apple as if it was being manipulated by the Godlet's hand.  The Godlet can only throw it as hard as the Godlet itself could.  The Godlet can spend an additional 1d8 to increase the size of an object from an apple to a person (2d8), a horse (3d8) or something larger (Referee's discretion).
11- Fly.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can fly for 1 minute.
12- Control Fire.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can either blast a bolt of fire at a creature or create a wall of fire.  If the former, the Godlet must make an attack roll.  On a hit, the target takes 1d8 fire damage.  If the latter, the wall of fire deals 1d8 damage to anyone within 5' and anyone who touches it takes the same amount of damage, plus the damage from being that close to the wall of fire.  The wall of fire can be kept up as long as the Godlet desires, but requires 1d8 a round to remain where it is. 
13- Control Water.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can either blast a wave of water at someone or create a bubble of water around a creature.  If the former, the Godlet must succeed on an attack roll and the creature takes 1d8 damage and must succeed a STR saving throw or be knocked prone.  If the latter, the Godlet must spend 1d8 a round to keep the bubble of water around someone in existence and the person takes no damage, but immediately begins suffering all the difficulties of being underwater.   
14- Control Earth.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can erect a small structure of earth or move up 1 cubic feet of earth as an action.  By spending additional dice, the Godlet can create larger structures or move more earth.  Consult the Create Ice Power for numbers on how much would be needed.
15- Control Air.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can blast a wave of air at one creature within 50' or all creatures within 10'. Any creature hit by this ability must succeed a STR saving throw or be knocked prone.
16- Control Metal.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can control 1 piece or object made of metal for 1 minute.  It can steal your swords or make your armor try to pull you into a body of water, or it could make your buttons fly off and try to blind you.
17- Harden Flesh.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can make its flesh hard as steel and unable to affected by anything that could not harm a metal statue for 1 minute.  Note that the Godlet is not literally made of metal when this effect is active though, but they are slower and heavier, with a -1d8 penalty to DEX checks, DEX saving throws and attack rolls.  The Godlet can also end this effect at any time. 
18- Enhance Strength.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can gain a +1d8 bonus to a damage roll or a check or saving throw based on STR.
19- Enhance Speed.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can move up 1d8 slots in the initiative order or gain a +1d8 bonus to any check or saving throw based on DEX.
20- Turn Immaterial.  By spending 1d8, the Godlet can turn its body immaterial for 1 minute.  It may pass through solid objects and cannot be affected by non-magical damage for the duration.  It also cannot affect anything non-magical during this time.
      
What does the Godlet look like?

All Godlets look like bestial or distorted versions of the last thing the Kua Toa saw, plus...

1d8
1- 1d8 Tentacles
2- 1d10 Eyes
3- Gills
4- It constantly drips blood!
5- It is wounded.  This wound is obvious and never heals.  This wound has a 50% chance of being decorative and an equal chance of being a weakspot.
6- It is pereptually surrounded by a glowing aura.
7- It is covered in quills or spines.
8- If it has eyes, they glow!  If it doesn't, light emerges from whatever orifices or openings a normal version of that person or object would have had.

Does this Godlet have any Rivals?

1d3
1- No, this current Cult is dedicated to it alone.
2- Yes.  There are two Godlets in this area.  These Godlets have a 50% of being allies and being worshiped together or an equivalent chance of being locked in a dualistic struggle.  If the latter, the Cult is actually two Cults fighting a shadow war against each other, the two Godlets trying to overpower each other through proxies.  They are avoiding direct conflict for now, but they will fight personally if the conflict grows desperate or they believe total victory is within their grasp.
3- Yes.  There are 1d4 Godlets in this area.  Each of the Godlets has a 50% of despising any of the other Godlets and an equal chance of loving them.  Gods that are fond of each other will be allies, Gods that hate each other will be enemies.  If a God finds that they hate a God who loves them but they also have other Gods they hate, they will usually allow the one that loves them to continue existing. 

                                                           from the Dungeons and Dragons wiki

Friday, October 18, 2019

OSR: Fighting Man Secret Techniques 2: Fist Art Edition

So I came up with some more Secret Techniques for my Fighting Men.  And to save myself the formatting and editing needed for one of my longer posts, I decided to split the post into sections, with the Fist Arts in this one and the the Weapon Arts in the other.  I also decided to do this because coming up with Weapon Arts is harder than coming up with cool new types of magical kung fu, in my opinion.

                                                   from Grappler Baki

Heracles Handbook

The Heracles Handbook is only a school in the technical sense.  It has no hierarchy, no central organization, nor even a dedicated community of people.  It tends to only be practiced by violent loners or social misfits.  Most don't know of its existence, but the effects of it are seen by all who encounter one of its adherents.  It all starts with a book.  The book details a series of mental exercises, a dietary plan and a training regiment.  The exercises are difficult, the dietary plan is strict and expensive to follow and the training regiment is absolutely brutal.  Most, upon seeing one of these things, set the book down and disregard it.  But if you follow the instructions within and do them properly, you will begin undergoing changes.  You will find yourself putting on incredible amounts of muscles, your senses improving and your ability to endure pain increasing.  You will be transformed into a paragon of strength, an astounding physical specimen.  This insane strength is how the readers of the Handbook fight- unless they were warriors before, which most aren't, they fight savagely but somewhat ineptly.  They are strong and fast and tough, so in most cases, they win.  When you can break a man's hand by crushing your fist and throw him through a wall, skill doesn't usually matter.
  
Novice: "There are two types of Strength- that of the mind and that of the body."  Your STR is boosted to 15, unless it is already higher.  Your unarmed Strikes do 1d6+STR damage.

Journeyman:  "If you see an opportunity, seize it and do not let it go."  Your STR goes up by 1 point.  If you grapple someone, you can do 1d6 damage to them per round, as long as you use your action to keep grappling with them.

Expert:  "The giants pay no attention to the smallfolk."  Your STR goes up by 1 point.  You can grapple up to 2 creatures at once, as long as neither has a higher STR score than you.

Master:  "In all ages, the strong have ruled.  For you, the decision is simple.  What side are you on?"  Your STR goes up by 1 point.  If you have grappled someone, you can throw them if they cannot defeat you in a contest of STR.  When someone is thrown by you, they fly a number of feet equal to your STR modifier*10, unless theh hit something.  If they hit something they take 1d6 damage per 10' thrown.  If they hit someone, they take half damage and the other person takes the other half.


Serpent's Style


The Serpent's Style has a million different names and a dozen regional variations, but it has always remained at its heart, the Serpent's Style.  The true origins of this school have been lost to history, but most adherents believe that the original style was created by the half-mythic Prince of Killers, the first ruler of the Assassin Nation.  The Prince supposedly got the idea from a combination of watching Priests ritually purifying themselves to speak to the Gods and how snakes hunted.  These studies eventually led to the Prince inventing a martial style based around using stealth, sensing an opponent's chi and detecting their weaknesses, then striking with overwhelming force.  And even if that story isn't true, the Serpent's Style is undoubtably real and highly effective, so much so that it spread to many lands, with hired killers all across the world practicing this Fist Art. 

Novice:  "Even in the darkness, the serpent is not fooled."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d6 damage.  You also gain the ability to sense the chi of others.  You gain a bonus equal to the levels of technique you have in the Serpent's Style to detecting people who are observing you, following you or nearby.  You also have an X-in-6 chance of detecting unseen opponents and being able to avoid a surprise round.  For example, if you are a Journeyman in the Serpent's Style and are about to enter a seemingly empty room, but unbeknowest to you, there are two Kobolds with acid flasks hiding under the couch, you have a 2-in-6 chance of detecting the Kobolds' presences before you enter.

Journeyman:  "The serpent is not hardy, so it makes its strikes count."  If you hit someone who is surprised by you with an unarmed strike, you do an additional +1d6 damage.

Expert:  "There is a reason why men do not tread confidently in the dark."  As an action, you can hide your chi.  This gives you a +X bonus to stealth rolls, where X is equal to the levels of technique you have in the Serpent's Style.

Master:  "If you can only make one attack, make it count."  As an action, you can study a creature for a certain amount of time.  Once this time has elapsed, that creature is forced to make a saving throw.  On a failed save, the creature's weakness is revealed to you.  Referees should give the creature being observed certain penalties, based on how obvious the weakspot is or how long the creature is observed.  For example, it would only take a minute or two to find out that the old war veteran who uses a cane has a weak hip, but it might take days to learn that the Dragon has a magical dagger stuck into its armpit that irritates it.  If you find this weakpoint and you successfully strike it, the target creature suffers a penalty equal to their weakspot.  To return to the previous example, the war veteran could fall down and lose a turn, while the Dragon could take a large amount of damage as you rip the magic dagger out of its flesh, reopening that wound.  If your Referee cannot decide, they can roll on the table below.

What happened?
1d4

1- The creature must immediately save or die.  If this option doesn't make any sense, reroll.
2- The creature is knocked prone and any attacks against it by non-prone attackers get a +4 bonus to attack.
3- The creature takes double damage as if it was surprised.  This damage stacks with the usual surprise damage.
4- The creatures must save or lose its next action due to being stunned, immense pain or some other reason. 


Way of the Mountain

The Sisters of Sri Hu Peak are among the hardiest people in all the world.  This all-female order of holy women dedicated themselves to taking spoiled daughters, bastard girls and infertile women and turning them into respectable, pious ladies who could serve the Gods with proper devotion.  However, they began having problems almost immediately.  Since they were a new order and not respected, they were attacked and robbed several times.  To try and combat this, they ordered all the sisters to get rid of anything valuable and give it to the poor, so that no one would attack them.  This did stop the robbers, but it did not prevent the suitors and the kidnappers from attempting to rescue or kidnap sisters from the order's compound.  The order retreated to Sri Hu Peak, but this was only a temporary solution, as some criminals and rough men still came up the mountain- and these ones were far more determined than the ones who attempted to attack the order when it was in the lowlands.  Finally, after one of the order's founding sisters was attacked by a band of unscrupulous adventurers, the order set itself to creating a martial style to suit their order and training their sisters in it.  Eventually, after consulting dozens of experts and experimenting for many months, the rudiments of a style began to form.  The Way of the Mountain is a primarily defensive style, training its adherents how to redirect the force of an enemy's blows and to use an opponent's strength against them. 

Novice:  "The Mountains seem static, but that is only because you are not heavy enough to disturb them."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d8 damage.  You can parry 1 attack per round, reducing its damage by 1d8. 

Journeyman:  "Cling to your opponent like a babe to its mother's breast and he will have difficulty."  If you parry an attack and reduce the damage to zero, you can grapple the person who made it.  This grappling does not require an additional check.

Expert:  "Stones are not dead, but sleeping.  Listen closely and you can hear them humming the music of the Earth."  You can parry 1d10 damage.  If you reduce the damage if an attack to zero, you can force that enemy to save.  On a failed save, you can disable one one of the opponent's limbs, dislocating it.  To put it back into its place requires an action and occasionally, help from another creature.

Master:  "An avalanche is never expected."  When attacked, once per round, you may ignore and opponent's attack roll and roll your parry die.  If your parry die exceeds his damage roll, your opponent takes the damage you rolled on your parry die as you preemptively attack them. 


Monkey's Fist

While traditionalists insist that this style was invented by a traveling naturalist who studied the hunting tactics of monkey-rats, most of the reformed branch of this school believe the Monkey's Fist was a series of techniques developed by brawlers and street level enforcers in the soggy, steaming cities of the North, where smuggling and syndicates are a way of life.  The Monkey's Fist reflects these humble origins, along with a criminal enforcer's contempt for honor or fair play.  Monkey's Fist is a style based around weakening an opponent's counter attack and is best used when you have back-up, as after you weaken an opponent's position, your allies can immediately rush them.  That being said, don't underestimate a lone Monkey's Fist user.

Novice:  "Dancing and fighting have many similarities.  The first?  Mind your footing."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d6+STR.  You also learn how to make an attack called a leg sweep, which does no damage on a hit but instead knocks an opponent prone.

Journeyman:  "It is better to win in 10 safe moves than two risky ones."  As an action, you can throw a punch at someone that does half damage and forces the target to save.  On a failed save, the target is rattled and gets -1d6 to their next attack.

Expert:  "In a fight, as in life, never be afraid to let someone else take the lead."  You may take an action to take a defensive stance.  If an opponent attacks you while you have taken this stance, you may grapple the opponent if he successfully hits you, or if he misses, trip him up and knock him prone.  In the case where he hits you, you still take damage as per normal.

Master:  "A fighter is only as strong as his biggest weakness."  As an action, you can throw a punch that if it hits, forces someone to save.  On a failure, this punch paralyzes the creature, forcing it to save of pass out.  Creatures with an AC of 15 or over or natural armor get a +4 bonus to this saving throw.


Thunderhead

The Thunderhead Fist Art is a killing school.  It teaches its adherents how to focus their chi and then release it in explosive bursts, letting them move with frightening speed, darting across the battlefield to crush their enemies beneath rapier-swift, blindingly precise blows.  It is a scary and spectacular sight, watching so many thinking, breathing creatures be reduced to broken shells in between breaths.  This is the ugly truth of the school, but the adherents of Thunderhead are taught not to think about it that way.  Their masters make sure to inform all the students that there is no difference between wielding a sword and training the body, except that you can be deprived of a sword, but only death can deprive you of your body.  They also emphasize that the Thunderhead school can be used to protect people as well and that all the students are free agents, who do not sacrifice their moral agency when they agreed to come here.  Sometimes, the students can even believe it.  The Thunderhead school flourishes in regions wracked by conflict, war or disorder.  It tends to stagnate or even wither in peaceful lands.   

Novice:  "There is no such thing as distance."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d6 damage.  You also gain a resource called a Lighting Point: you start with 1.  You may spend this lightning point at the beginning of any combat to act before any other creature, unless a creature there has preternatural speed.  You recover Lightning Points by killing a creature of at least 1 HD with your bare hands.

Journeyman:  "Your flesh will try to limit you, do not permit this intrusion."  You gain 1 additional Lightning Point.  If you spend 1 Lightning Point, you can reroll the damage you rolled on any successful attack.

Expert:  "The fish's scales protect him from others of his kind, but do nothing against the eagle's talons."  You gain 1 additional Lightning Point.  If you spend 1 Lightning Point, you may subtract your damage roll from an opponent's attack or defense roll, to enable you to hit them better or avoid being hit.

Master:  "The Mamba can bite an enemy up to seven times, even though once can be fatal."  You gain 1 additional Lightning Point.  If you spend 1 Lightning Point, you may make an additional attack this turn.


Drunken Boxing

This discipline is another with unclear origins.  It is usually taught by lone, wandering masters who have no fixed addresses.  And most of these masters credit their master with teaching them, but few know who taught their masters and none know who their master's master was.  True origins aside, Drunken Boxing is a perfectly respectable school, though its adherents do their best to conceal this fact.  Drunken Boxing is the concealed dagger of the Fist Arts, its adherents counting on being underestimated as common fools or drunkards.  This can mean that if you are aware of Drunken Boxing, you can deprive them of that crucial edge.  However, don't underestimate them, Drunken Boxing is still capable of working if both fighter and opponent are stone cold sober.

Novice:  "Never pretend to be stronger than you are."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d6+STR damage.  You can also, as an action, assume a rolling, stumbling gait that gives you a +X bonus to AC, where X is your level of knowledge in Drunken Boxing.  This AC bonus lasts until your next action. 

Journeyman:  "You can only defend against an approach you see coming."  As an action, you can dodge past or under someone, as long as it is physically possible.

Expert:  "Steel is harder than clay, yet when fired, steel melts and clay becomes stronger."  Once per round, you can blunt damage by rolling with a punch or a blow, reducing it by 1d6+CON damage.  You can only do this against a blow that does sharp, bludgeoning or some other type of damage that could be reduced by allowing it to wash over you.  Referee's discretion applies. 

Master:  "The fool assumes nothing can hurt him, the wise that all can."  As an action, you can make a special unarmed strike that does 2d6+STR damage, but has a -1d6 penalty to attack.


Kua Toa Karate

The Kua Toa are a race of mad priests and sane cultists from the depths of the Blue World.  They are also one of the few species of intelligent, aquatic creatures who can also live on land.  As such, in ages past they ruled over many island nations and river deltas.  This was long ago and many of the cultural artifacts left behind have been so assimilated into those previously conquered cultures that the true origin of these customs has been forgotten.  The one exception is that is their martial arts.  Kua Toa Karate is a pale shadow of the Kua Toa's true Fist Art.  Yet even despite that, it is still a fearsome Art.  Kua Toa Karate is an art that has been heavily modified for use above water and as such, it has necessarily changed.  It is now an Art focused on defense and counter attacks.  This is a task that it does very well, though its lack of strong offensive techniques and foreign origin is often a source of embarrassment for its adherents.

Novice:  "Fight on your own terms and you will never be outmaneuvered."  Your unarmed strikes do 1d8 damage.  You also take no penalty for using your unarmed strikes underwater.

Journeyman:  "If Heaven chose to give you eyes, you might as well use them."  If you take an action to watch an opponent, you get a +X bonus to AC to avoid that opponent's next attack.  If you are underwater, this bonus doubles.

Expert:  "The predator watches twice as hard as his prey."  When you use the Journeyman ability to watch an opponent, if je misses when he makes an attack against you, you may immediately make an attack against that creature.

Master:  "Choose the ground upon which you fight and your victory will never be in question."  You can throw a punch that releases a wave of chi that blows away all fluids with 1d8*10'.  Underwater this creates a pocket of air that lasts for 1d6 rounds and above water this creates a vacuum that lasts for the same amount of time.  This wave of chi also blows away Oozes, as well as Water and Air Elementals.  You may only use this ability once per day.


Way of the Hermit

The Way of the Hermit is an ancient Art, originally created to combat the enemies of life.  It is an Art that works by teachings its adherents how to store the power of the Sun in their bodies and then, in a single, dazzling rush to unleash it. This power is known to its practitioners as the Ripple, or Hamon.  Against the living, Hamon will melt flesh like tallow and induce terrible pain, but against the Undead, the true power of Hamon is revealed.  Hamon utterly destroys the Undead, burning their bodies to dust with a mere touch.  For this reason, some of the most capable Witch-Hunters in the world are not Wizards, but Hamon Masters- who are capable of reducing even the most powerful of corpse-warriors to dust with a single punch.

Novice:  "My heart resonates, heat enough to burn, my blood's beat is razor sharp!"  Your unarmed strikes do 1d6 damage.  You start with 1 Hamon Dice.  You may spend 1 Hamon Die to do +1d6 sunlight damage to any creature you hit.  Against Undead or creatures vulnerable to sunlight, this does an additional +1d6 damage, so the bonus damage is +2d6.  You recover Hamon Dice by being in sunlight for up to 1 hour.

Journeyman:  "The last thing I need right now is listening to trash like you, let alone being touched by you. But if you want to embrace me, feel free to try… as long as you don’t mind a painful demise."  You get 1 additional Hamon Dice.  You can send Hamon Ripples through an object or creature without harming that creature or object.

Expert:  "True I knocked the air from his lungs, but he'll thank me for it later."  You get 1 additional Hamon Die.  You can heal a creature up to 2d6 FS or 1d6 HP by spending an equivalent number of Hamon Dice.

Master:  "Impossible? We did a lot of impossible things on this journey. I’m tired of hearing that things are impossible or useless. Those words mean nothing to us."  You get 1 additional Hamon Die.  You may jellify up to 1 square foot of water for 1 minute or until you release it.  This temporarily changes the water to a consistency similar to rubber.  You may use this to walk on water, stop water from flowing, or anything else your Referee agrees to.  If you jellify the water in someone's blood stream this causes them to save or die because of the heart attack this can cause.

                                        from The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode