Wednesday, October 26, 2022

OSR: Clowns

Ideas borrowed from here and here.

source unknown

"But my point is... My point is, I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! Why can't you? I mean, you're not unintelligent! You must see the reality of the situation. Do you know how many times we've come close to world war three over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you know what triggered the last world war? An argument over how many telegraph poles Germany owed its war debt creditors! Telegraph poles! Ha ha ha ha HA! It's all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for... it's all a monstrous, demented gag! So why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?”

- Joker, Batman: The Killing Joke

Ignorant people will tell you that Clowns are some sort of demonic entity, a slithering, grasping thing that entered out world through a gap in the weave of the universe.  Sadly, the truth is far less pleasant. 

To become a Clown is more than just putting on a silly outfit and painting your face- it is to invite an entity, a force, to come and suffuse your body.  To Clown is to recognize the absurd nature of the universe and the rampant cruelty and desolation that this twisted world represents.  But rather than attempt to resist this evil or allow oneself to be swallowed by it, the Clown responds with giggling, gasping laughter.  The Clown laughs in the face of tragedy, marking down all the suffering in the world as one big joke, perpetuated on the human race.  It's all a gag that we're just not in on.

Most Clowns are people who have endured great suffering or seen unspeakable evil.  They long for death but cannot seek it themselves, or they wish to alleviate their own pain but nothing else has helped. 

Clowns are not inherently hostile, they are ideological creatures, after all.  All Clowns want to do is spread the black mirth they enjoy.  They want you to become like them, to "see the funny side".  Those who can or will not will find a Clown quickly grows hostile towards them, though a Clown is unlikely to resort to violence unless it thinks it can win, or it would be funny. 

This is part of the reason why Clowns inflict so much death and suffering- they're trying to convince you of the meaninglessness of your struggle.  You shouldn't fight, but laugh.  When you laugh, then you disarm the universe of it's cruelty.  This cold, dark, rotting world can carry on, but like the Emperor with no clothes, once you point the finger, your cruel laughter will reveal it all for the farcical stage-play that it is.

For obvious reasons, Clowns are despised.

from here

Number Appearing: 1d12
Alignment: Chaotic Evil (?)
Languages: the local lingua franca plus Gibberish
Treasure: Wealth from their previous lives, trinkets stolen from victims, humorous items kept to accentuate the Clown's silliness.         


HD Varies, see below
AR Varies, see below
Atk Varies, see below
Mor 15
Saves (7+HD) or less

Schaedenfreude: Whenever one of their opponents rolls a critical failure, all of the clowns burst into laughter, gaining +1 to all of their d20 and damage rolls until the end of combat. 

Sleight of Hand: Clowns seem to be unarmed, until they suddenly aren't.  They often approach enemies with their hands open, smiling.  (This is the most combat-relevant usage of Sleight of Hand.  Clowns can do other thiefy stuff with it, too.)

- Approach stealthily
- Try to convince people to join in your whimsy
- Use sneaky tactics if forced to fight
- Hit and run, ambush, set traps, etc

To customize a Clown, roll on the tables below:

How long has this person been a Clown?


1-2- Less than a week.  The Clown has 1 HD and 1 AR.  The Clown remembers his name and what it was like to be human.  He has no Chuckle-Voodoos. 
3-4- Less than a month.  The Clown has 1d3 HD and 2 AR.  The Clown's memories of humanity and normality are dull.  He recalls who he was before, but he doesn't want to be himself.  He has no dark Chuckle-Voodoos.  
5- Less than a year.  The Clown has 1d4 HD and 1d3 AR.  The Clown's memories of his humanity are still there, but he can't remember who he was before.  He is almost complete.  He has a 2-in-6 chance of knowing one Chuckle-Voodoo.     
6- For as long as they can remember.  The Clown has 1d4+1 HD and 1d4 AR.  He is almost done, so close to touching the sublime mirth of his Gods, to absolute transcendence.  He has a 4-in-6 chance of knowing at least one Chuckle-Voodoo.     

What are they armed with? 


1- A knife.  The Clown makes one 1d6 attack, or two 1d6 attacks if 3+ HD. 
2- An oversized mallet.  The Clown makes 1d8 attack, or one 1d10 attack if 3+ HD.   
3- A pair of juggling clubs.  The Clown makes two 1d6 attacks, or three 1d6 attacks if 3+ HD.  
4- A pair of nun-chucks.  The Clown makes 1d4 1d6 attacks.  On a Critical Failure, the Clown smacks itself in the head.  This does no damage but does have a chance of stunning the Clown.   

How likely are they to return to being human?


1- Very likely.  This is temporary Clowning.  Odds of this person returning to normal, provided they are snapped out of it, are high. 
2- Intermittantly.  This person occasionally becomes a Clown when life becomes too much.  They use this to indulge their darker desires when no one is looking.  This is an unsustainable pattern though and eventually, the person will have to choose one. 
3- Unlikely.  Unless shown love and affection, and unless they get some sense smacked into them, this person will never return to normal.  They will stay a Clown barring outside interference. 
4- Return?  The person you knew is gone.  There is only the Clown left.     

Dark Chuckle-Voodoos:


1- Japery.   1/Day, the clown puts on a performative act.  (Miming, juggling, etc.)  All non-clowns who witness this must Save vs Charm or be fascinated.  Fascinating creatures get -4 to all rolls not involving the object of their fascination (for example, Defense rolls against non-japing clowns).

2- Squash and Stretch.  The Clown's bones and body take on the properties of squishable plastic, allowing them to wriggle through spaces far too small to normally accomodate them. 

3- Spin Fairy Floss.  The Clown can create a bright substance from his body that is soft and light as air, but super-sweet.  This substance is edible and addictive.  Additionally, if layered over itself and exposed to a source of warmth (such as body heat) it hardens into a thick, hard substance similar to the material bees use to make their hives out of, but much harder.
4- Ask for Volunteer.  One creature the Clown sees must save.  On a failed save, that creature must approach the Clown, even if there is no good reason to do so.
5- Curtain Call.  1/Day, the Clown whistles and summons allies.  He summons 1d6 [1= 1 Lion; 2= 2 Elephants; 3= 1d10 Clowns; 4= Random Monster (check random encounter table), that is not allied to the Clowns; 5-6- No response.]  If the Clown rolls a 5 or 6, he may use this ability again in 1d4 rounds.
6- Impossible Dodge.  The Clown automatically avoids something that you could conceivably dodge physically.

7- Don't turn your back on the body.  If you don't make ABSOLUTELY SURE that the Clown is dead and it doesn't fall into a lake of acid or is eaten by the Dragon, 1/Day it survives and will return to menace you once more. 

8- Infectious Laughter.  The Clown starts cackling.  All creatures who can hear it must save.  On a failed save, they start laughing as well and lose their action.  This laughter lasts until the creatures pass a save to end the effect.  Being stabbed or threatened gives you advantage on your save.  Clowns automatically fail their saves the first time, then are immune afterward.  The Clown can only use this ability again 1d4 rounds after everyone has stopped laughing. 

9- Clown Venom.  The Clown has a venomous bite.  If bitten, you take 1d4 damage and 1d6 COG damage.  Your nose turns bright red and bulbous.  You suddenly find tragedy and suffering absolutely hilarious and must save to hold in mocking laughter.  This is a minor curse and can be removed by receiving a blessing from a good priest or going to Church.  Should you be reduced to 0 COG, you become a murderous Clown until you die or are forcibly blessed by the priests of a Benevolent Deity.  It's basically an exorcism but with more bad jokes.   

10- Disappearing Act.  If not being directly observed, the Clown can teleport up to 100', as long as it appears in a place that no one else is observing.

People who become Clowns can sometimes return to being human.  Some are only Clowns for a brief time, recovering their senses and trying to bury the evidence of the crimes they committed while under the greasepaint.  Others will periodically don the red nose to alleviate their frustration or do something that they could never do in their normal identity.  But being a Clown is addictive.  To be able to do anything is a rush.  Additionally, the Clown philosophy of nothing being real, nothing actually matters, it is as first seductive and then utterly inescapable.  Once you have bought in, any other ideology falls flat.

Some call this the Jester Event Horizon.  Once you pass that imaginary line, you will never return to being human.  You will forget your name and all your memories from before.  Your make-up will cease to be make-up and become part of your face.  Your nose will actually become bright red, it's not just a prop.  Your shoes will seem to shrink, or your feet will grow.  And your only joy will be to bring this feeling you have to others.  So, why don't you give me a smile?

by Gonzalo Arias

Elder Clowns and the Mirthful Messiahs:   

Elder Clowns, or Subjuglators, are Clowns who have been Clowns for so long that nothing human or sensible remains of them.  The darkness they commune with has risen up inside them and consumed them, made them instruments of black mirth and woe.  They have no names, for they need none.  They are the Clown's leaders and elders, their priest-Kings. 

All Clowns who have engaged in Clowning with others of their kind have all been exposed to the Clown Religion, commonly called Honkism.  This religion involves the veneration of a pair of mysterious figures called The Mirthful Messiahs.  Supposedly, these figures appeared long ago in the distant past and taught humanity and the other races about Clowning.  Then they left, as no one thought they were funny.  It is the duty of the Clowns to educate the people about the truth that their Messiahs sought to bring them and to spread the Clown religion.

If the Clowns are successful at this, it is said that the Mirthful Messiahs will return and bring about an endless Dark Carnival full of joy and laughter till the end of time.  This is an event eagerly awaited by all Clowns as much as it is dreaded by the non-mirthful.              

Number Appearing: 1
Alignment: Chaotic Evil (?)
Languages: the local lingua franca plus Gibberish
Treasure: As Clown, plus greasepaint, colorful wigs, sugary drinks and soporific drugs.


Elder Clown or Subjuglator
HD 1d4+4
AR 1d4+1
Atk Weapon 1d8+3/1d8+3
Mor 15
Saves (7+HD) or less

Schaedenfreude: Whenever one of their opponents rolls a critical failure, all of the clowns burst into laughter, gaining +1 to all of their d20 and damage rolls until the end of combat. 

Sleight of Hand: Clowns seem to be unarmed, until they suddenly aren't.  They often approach enemies with their hands open, smiling.  (This is the most combat-relevant usage of Sleight of Hand.  Clowns can do other thiefy stuff with it, too.)

Hands of the Mirthful Messiahs: Elder Clowns have 1d4 Dark Chuckle-Voodoos.

- Charge the weakest person
- Kidnap them
- Run away, use them as bait
- Be funny and amusing (from a Clown perspective)

Clown Treasures: 


1- Acid Cream Pie.  Delicious pies with filling that sears and burns flesh.  A Clown will throw them like a weapons.  First you taste the sweetness of the meringue, then your face starts to dissolve.  Does 1d6 acid damage on a hit and then 1d6 acid damage per round until washed off or the acid is diluted.  The worst part is that if you know how, they can be made using common ingredients and a bit of clowny magick. 

2- Boomie Cushions.  Pigskin Balloons full of gas, these bulbous bladders make a sound like flatulence when sat on or pressure is applied to them.  This also causes their contents to leak into the atmosphere around them.  The contents are always flammable when made with clowns.  The tiniest spark and BOOM! they're scraping you off the walls.  Additionally, if pierced by a burning object, they can explode without any set-up.  When detonated, Boomie Cushions do 3d6 fire damage, save for half.  Can easily be manufactured by Clowns, if they have access to the proper materials. 

3- Spitting Flower.  A tiny flower, worn on the lapel or a suspender that when squeezed, sprays it's contents all over a creature within 10'.  The effects of this depend on whether you filled the flower's bulb with flammable oil, hallucinogenic liquid, acid, or etc.  Single-use, after which it must be reloaded.   

4- Joy Buzzer OF DEATH!  A small metal device, worn on the hand.  If someone else touches it, they take 1d6 lightning damage and must save.  On a failed save, the creature is paralyzed and cannot move.  Each round, the creature can take an action to try and move.  If you use your action to remain in contact with the creature you're shocking, you can do 1d6 lightning damage to them per round. 

5- Jakbox.  Horrible music boxes that hide a dark secret.  Wind one up and let it go.  It will sing and sing and then, 1d6 turns (not rounds) later, it will suddenly open to reveal 1d3 [1= A bunch of tentacles that grab the nearest creature and attempt to force it into the box.  If dragged into the box, that creature disappears and reappears 1d3 weeks later where one of their loved ones could find them- usually mutilated and wearing clown make-up; 2= A horrible face with a toothy mouth that bites the nearest creature.  3-in-6 chance it has a venomous bite; 3= A tiny puppet-looking fellow with a tiny crossbow.  He shoots at 1d4 people, then disappears back into his box.  His crossbow bolts 1d3 (1= Are covered in excrement, save or contract a horrible disease; 2= Are poisoned; 3= Are coated in drugs; 4= Are lit on fire.)  The bolts do 1d4 damage by themselves.]          

6- Giggle Gas.  Canisters of toxic green gas that fill confined spaces.  Small canisters can fill a 30' square room, larger ones up to 100' square.  Anyone in the gas takes 1d6 COG damage and 1d4 CON damage a round.  The gas lowers inhibitions and makes everything funny.  You'll laugh and laugh and laugh.  And then, if you are reduced to 0 CON, you'll die laughing. 

7- Silly Glasses.  Glasses that are oversized, or have lenses covered in swirly patterns, or simply stupid looking.  When wearing these, you can see through falsehoods such as illusions, invisibility, shape-shifting, money, advertising, lies, social niceties and anything else that is illusory.  When people speak to you, you hear exactly what they mean, not what they say.  For example, if you are wearing these glasses and the tie your wife doesn't like, when she sees you in it, she will say "Oh, it's your favorite tie."  But you will hear, "I always hated that tie, as my whore of a sister gave it to you.  She's always thought she's prettier than me."  Additionally, while wearing these, you can understand the Clown language of Gibberish, which to everyone else is just random words, phrases and noises strung together in ways that sound like word salad to all non-Clowns. 

8- Warhammer of Zillyhoo.  A pastel-colored, rainbow striped warhammer with a big smiley face on it.  Absolutely ludicrous looking, resembles a cosplay weapon.  Does 1d20 damage on a hit and does not include any modifiers, nor can it's damage roll be increased or decreased.  3/Day, the wielder can, instead of dealing damage on a hit, catapult someone into the air and send them flying.  This causes them to fly into the sky and disappear, where it then teleports them 1d100 miles in a random direction.  This does no damage to the creature hit, but it will drop them somewhere funny and inconvenient, like into the women's changing rooms, a horse trough or a big pile of mud. 

9- A Surprise Present.  It's a big box, wrapped like a present, addressed to someone you know.  If opened by that specific person it contains 1d4 [1= The thing they most want in the world; 2= As "1", except it's a lie, or a cursed, or an illusion, etc.; 3= Nothing but the words 'Haa Haa Haa' written on the inside of the box; 4= 1d1000 hungry, flesh-eating beetles.  If opened by anyone but the person it is addressed to, it only contains the beetles.  But the box can be reused- simply rewrap it and the address will become blank.  You can then address it them to anyone you want.    

10- Endless Hankerchief.  A string of colorful hankerchiefs.  You can pull one out of your pocket or any other type of opening.  However, each hankerchief you pull out is tied to another.  You can pull these out forever and will never run out of new hankerchiefs.  This rope of hankerchiefs is no different than normal silken hankerchiefs, other then the fact that they are tied together in a seemingly endless rope.  

11- Clown Eggs.  No one knows what Clown Eggs are or if Clowns even lay them, all they know is that they seem to appear spontaneously when you gather enough Clowns in one area.  Eating Clown Eggs causes an immediate sense of blissful, childlike joy.  Valued by aristocrats and those with money. 

12- Clown Corpses.  The longer someone has been a Clown, the more the power of the nameless force they commune with saturates them.  This makes their bodies, in particular their skins, very valuable.  If you kill a Clown and need to make some money, you can sell them to an alchemist or better yet, to the Guild of Clown-Skinners (see above).  Just don't try to haggle, as black alchemists are rarely known for their generosity and the Guild is known for the exact opposite.

by Slightly Simian

Plot Hooks:


1- A man became a Clown and committed a terrible crime.  Now he is working to cover up the crime after returning to his human form.  To complicate matters he is important and well-respected, rich, politically connected or some combination of the three.
2- A serial killer is preying on a town and leaving a string of victims.  Some of the relatives of the victims have become Clowns and are seeking justice, but as they are now Clowns, their idea of justice is perverse and twisted.  They're going to tear the city apart if someone doesn't find and stop the killer, and they might become more of a danger than him.  Only apprehending the killer might convince them to return to their normal lives. 
3- An ally of the party ran away and became a Clown.  This man is important for some reason and they need him to return to normal before he descends into full clownery.
4- A group of Clowns kidnapped a Noblewoman.  Go and find her.  Except, when you get there, you find she's been convinced to join their Rumpus (name for a group of Clowns).  You won't get paid if you don't bring her back, but you definitely won't get paid if she's a stab-happy Clown. 
5- The players are seeking a criminal, but he's been captured by Clowns who have brought him before a Subjuglator.  The Subjuglator has put him on trial for not being funny.  The players must the criminal (for whatever reason you can invent) or the Clowns will kill him. 
6- A Clown has been murdering important people and the authorities know he will strike tonight.  The only problem?  Tonight is Goblinwatch and the streets are full of people dressed up in masks, so the Folk can steal their faces to play tricks.  You will need to find the Clown hiding among all the innocent party-goers in similar-ish outfits. 
7- A decadent Noble has developed an irresistible lust for a Clown-girl who he often sees playing pranks on his servants.  He wants you to catch her and convince her to come to his chambers, so he can have his way with her.  The Clown-girl will only do things she finds fun and bedding a starched-shirt Noble who isn't even good-looking (she is a Clown, so her idea of 'good-looking' is probably something weird and disturbing) is NOT on that list.  Find a compromise or trick one of the parties involved to get your money.        
8- A group of Clowns want your help to prank a horrible monster, like a Dragon or Beholder.  They will beg, plead or threaten to do horrible things to random people, whatever they think will convince the party to help.  There is a chance that the Clowns will deliberately sabotage the prank and blow your cover, just to see the looks on your faces.  
9- A major villain who was sealed away, in exile or etc, has returned and is wreaking havoc.  There is only one weapon that is said to be able to defeat him.  A bunch of Clowns stole it weeks ago and no one noticed that the one they left behind was a shitty duplicate.  Find the Clowns and convince them to give it back, or just kill them.  And pray to your Gods that they didn't leave it somewhere "funny" like in a volcano or at the bottom of a lake infested with undead sharks. 
10- The Clowns of a City are staging their semi-annual prank war.  The authorities have hired the party to put a stop to it as last year's prank war left 27 dead (accidents, mostly) and several hundred injured (hilarious, mostly).  Alternatively, the party could participate, as the winner get crowned the King of Clowns.  The Title is entirely ceremonial, but it will earn you the respect of Clowns everywhere and they will always hear you out if you ask them to do something for you.

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