Sunday, August 11, 2019

D&D Class: The Custodian, Pt. II

Continued from Part I
(introduction to the custodian & advancement table)

Artwork: "underground pk zone" Byung-ju Bong

Custodial Powers

            Unless indicated or implied otherwise in their descriptions, these powers are specific to the dungeon in which the custodian is physically present. The custodian cannot use in one dungeon a power drawn from another. Those powers requiring their related dungeons to be dominated are marked with an asterisk*.

A.     Detect Claim: Senses whether the dungeon the custodian is presently visiting is subject to other individuals’ ascendancy, and whether a dominance is already in effect there.
B.     Stake Claim: One must stake a claim on a location to begin earning ascendancy there. Its dominating custodian, if any, automatically senses the existence of challengers’ claims, how many there are, and whether they are recent.
C.     Appraise Location: Gives a relative indication of a dungeon’s overall xp value as: Deserted, Feeble, Moderate, High, and Extreme. It is akin to the question: “What level is this dungeon?” Aside from Deserted, all other indications are relative to the custodian’s experience level (apply MFF mechanics). Example 1: a low level custodian getting a “feeble” response ought to expect rats and miscellaneous vermin lurking about, while an “extreme” one may suggest perhaps a dragon’s lair. Example 2: an experienced custodian sensing a “feeble” result ought to expect trolls and ogres, versus an “extreme” one hinting at a quasi-divine presence. The existence of deadly traps and enchantments should influence the appraisal (not just monsters or NPCs).
D.     Detect Danger: If intentional, an attempt to detect danger requires a 1-2 score on a d6; the DM makes the roll. Inadvertent detection require a 1 on a d6. Intentional attempts to sense danger are limited to three per day. This power is limited to areas that fit the definition of “dungeons,” or at the DM’s discretion (see earlier).
E.      Mystical Clout: If the custodian exceeds a third of the ascendancy needed to achieve domination (or if domination was previously established), then the custodian receives a +2 bonus to initial encounter reactions, parlay attempts, and Charisma-based skill checks with the residents. If things go badly, residents with equal or fewer HD must succeed a saving throw to be able to attack the custodian. This power is negated if the custodian initiates attacks, harmful behavior, or directs magic at any resident. If negated, Mystical Clout can only be restored in a dungeon after its custodian earns a new experience level.
F.      Blood Levy: The custodian can “cash in” accumulated ascendancy to heal his/her wounds. Healing is complete and costs 10% of the ascendancy needed to achieve domination in the present dungeon. The process is automatic and involuntary if damage would cause the custodian’s hit points to drop to zero or less. Blood Levy is available only if the custodian has accumulated enough ascendancy.
G.     Awareness: The custodian can sense how much ascendancy he/she has accumulated relative to achieving domination over the present dungeon, in general terms: a quarter, a third, half, two thirds, three quarters, and more than three quarters.
H.     Power Levy: The custodian can “cash in” accumulated ascendancy to regain the use of spells cast earlier during the day; each spell level costs 5% of the ascendancy needed to achieve domination in the present dungeon. Power Levy is available only if the custodian has accumulated enough ascendancy.
I.        Mystical Empathy*: The custodian gains an empathic link with all dungeon residents. This power is limited to subjects within visual sight and within custodial range (see Advancement Table).
J.       Roaming Speed*: The custodian’s non-combat basic movement rate increases one increment (+10’ per round in most games or +3” per round with AD&D 1st and 2nd editions). Roaming is a form of levitation a mere inch or two above a solid or a liquid surface. It is silent and leaves no trace.
K.      Minor Alteration*: The custodian can, once a day, either create a doorway between two adjacent chambers, remove an existing one without any remaining trace, or move it to an adjacent chamber.
L.      Greater Awareness: Once a day, custodians perceive how much more ascendency their rivals need to achieve domination in the present dungeon. This power extends to multiple dungeons if the custodian dominates more than one (see G. Awareness).
M.    Minor Beckoning*: Compels random NPCs or monsters to move into a dungeon reduced to less than a quarter its original xp value before domination was achieved. New residents will cohabitate and be of a sort common to the region. Though less than half the custodian’s own HD individually, enough show up to restore the dungeon to its original xp value. New residents arrive at the rate of 1 per day as an average.
N.     Minor Foresight*: Once a day after casting L. Greater Awareness, the custodian gains a mental image of a challenger actively earning ascendancy over the present dungeon. Provided the challenger is within custodial range, the vision shows his/her appearance at the time the power is invoked.
O.     Greater Roaming*: Each day, the custodian can teleport once from each dominated dungeon to another. The custodian chooses the destination’s exact location.
P.      Greater Clout: After accumulating a half or more of the ascendancy needed to establish dominance over the present location (or if domination was previously established), the custodian receives a +4 bonus to armor class and saving throws while within custodial range.
Q.     Greater Foresight*: Once a day, the custodian accurately locates a challenger actively earning ascendancy over the present dungeon, as long as the challenger is within custodial range at the time the power is invoked. Greater Foresight supersedes enchantments blocking divination magic.
R.      Greater Alteration*: Once a day, the custodian can modify an existing hallway or a shaft within custodial range. Length, width, and height must remain within +/– 50% of the original’s dimensions and within custodial range. The altered hallway can connect with up to the same number of chambers (at least one), and angle in part or in whole as much as +/– 90 degrees up or down. Adding or removing stairs is allowable. The alteration process takes about a round per 10’ section (of the original feature’s length). Directions, corners, curves, and alcoves are entirely at the custodian’s discretion.
S.      Greater Beckoning*: This power compels random NPCs or monsters to move into a dungeon. New residents will cohabitate and can be of any origin, including alien or outer planar. Enough newcomers show up to double the dungeon’s original xp value prior to its domination. Roll 1d12. The result indicates how many new residents show up, a “1” implying a powerful creature or NPC, possibly with treasure and magic items. New residents arrive at the rate of 1 per month as an average. This power can be invoked once per experience level.
T.      Supremacy*: All residents with HD equal or less than their custodian’s act as if under a charm effect. The custodian may use his/her empathic link (see I. Mystical Empathy) to suggest courses of action other than anything clearly detrimental to them (like giving away valuables, for example). Residents with HD exceeding the custodian’s get a saving throw to escape the charm. This effect ends if the custodian dies or attempts anything detrimental to any resident; if it ended, supremacy can be restored when the custodian earns a new experience level. Effects do not extend past the dungeon’s custodial range (in feet), however, the charm resumes when wayward residents return. Supremacy does not affect outside visitors—only those creatures living in the dungeon.
U.     Imbue Dungeon*: The custodian’s spirit can leave his/her body and imbue the present dungeon—all of it at once. The body survives in a stasis during which it requires neither air, nor water, nor food for however long the custodian desires. Typically, the body lies within custodial range, hundreds of feet below ground, in a cell whose doorway and hallways have been removed. The spirit can return to its body and awaken at any time.
      Custodian spirits can see and hear what happens at any single location of their dungeons, one room at a time. NPC spirits aren’t impervious to well-planned diversions. Though able to sense activity anywhere in the present dungeon, NPC spirits aren’t omnipotent and may first focus on damaged areas or the locations of obvious fights before turning their attention to less ostensible activities; the latter could require an Intelligence Check to notice (DM’s discretion).
      Though unable to see invisible creatures or thieves hiding in shadows, they can still detect activity and surmise someone is using a means of concealment. Are harder to notice: small, invisible/concealed, slow-moving, silent, levitating, and incorporeal creatures (each should add a significant penalty to the spirits’ Intelligence Checks).
      These spirits can invoke any of their custodial powers (like the two alteration powers and greater roaming for example), as well as cast spells from any location they choose within custodial range. A successful dispel magic will force the spirits back to their bodies until the following day. The spirits are destroyed if their physical bodies die. When a powerful custodian’s domination ends, it is likely that some residents will no longer wish to cohabitate peacefully or even remain in the dungeon.

Artwork: The Art of Castle Ravenloft, Nate Herzog/Jason Marquez – Lead Environment Artists.


            To really make things troublesome for dungeon-loving adventurers, spellcasting monsters potentially could act as custodians. Although their normal spellcasting abilities won't change (DM's discretion), they could still earn extra HD and acquire significant custodial powers. Start them at whatever experience level corresponds to their HD, and have them earn residual xp as described earlier. As for their experience points, if they cast magic-user spells use the magic-user xp progression, otherwise use clerical advancement... and massively fudge all of that if it doesn't work the way you want.
         A powerful wandering monster that moves into a dominated dungeon may very well sense what is actually going on. It could decide to make a deal with the established custodian, challenge him/her, or better yet perhaps: act in cahoots with a weaker challenger beholden to the monster... my head hurts. Since they’re spellcasting “monsters,” I don’t see any reason why they couldn't pick up custodian skills and grow from there. That’s why they’re called monsters. A few examples of monstrous custodians, or wandering monsters that may object to a custodian's ascendancy:

·         Beholders
·         Demons
·         Devilfish/Sahuagins
·         Djinn, Efreet, Jann, Marid
·         Dragons
·         Fairies
·         Githyanki, Githzerai
·         Hags (black, night, sea)
·         Kuo-Toans
·         Liches, Vampires, Mummies
·         Mermen, Tritons
·         Mind Flayers
·         Nagas
·         Ogre Mages
·         Rakshasas
·         Shadow Elves, Drow
·         Slaadi
·         Tengu, Oriental Oni Spirits
·         Yuan-Ti


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

D&D Class: The Custodian, Pt. I

This is perhaps the strangest idea for an NPC or, possibly, a PC if one’s tongue remains firmly planted in one’s cheek. The idea grew from a joking comment after I posted the link to the other character class I blogged about recently: the Librarian. This latest one may be particularly relevant to OSR fans. So, what is this so-called custodian, really? 

This character class’s goal is to secure mystical ascendancy over dungeons in order to earn residual experience and special powers. Ultimately, the custodian seeks to turn into a spirit imbuing one or more lairs. Custodians aren’t necessarily malevolent, but more like landlords of a remarkably unusual nature. Though these characters may be thought malevolent, a neutral stance will do fine or, for the sake of DMing schemes, a benevolent one could prevail just as well over mausoleums and hallowed sanctuaries. The custodian can either be a magic-user’s subclass or a cleric’s. Both versions are given here. They share the same core powers in addition to their spells and normal class-related abilities. From design and game balance points of view, custodian spellcasting talents are more limited than that of conventional character classes (the approach is similar to the Librarian’s design mentioned earlier).

Artwork: The Dungeon Master ©2012-2019 Ralph Horsley

Ascendancy Mechanics: Adventuring custodians accumulate ascendancy over the “dungeons” they explore while defeating their traps, riddles, monsters, and seizing plunder. There is no limitation to the number of separate dungeons where ascendancy can be earned. Ascendancy, however, only relates to the locations where it was earned; therefore, each location requires a separate tally.
            Accumulated ascendancy is equal to experience points personally awarded to the custodian for his/her normal adventuring endeavors. MFF mechanics (also known as the DM’s Major Fudge Factor) are in effect at all times to prevent adventures from going out of control. However vehement players’ objections, MFF mechanics always apply.

Dominance Mechanics: Dominance can be achieved any time after a custodian’s ascendancy exceeds two thirds of the total experience point value* of the targeted dungeon ([*] or whatever total the DM sets by dint of MFF mechanics). A dungeon's xp value is the total amount of experience that adventurers can possibly earn from its many challenges. The custodian’s player decides if and when to establish dominance after conditions have been met. From the moment of domination onward, the custodian retains 10% of all xp earned at this location by adventuring PCs/NPCs or by monsters opposing them (see DMing Sanity, later).
            The number of dungeons that a custodian can dominate is limited (see Advancement Table). This may motivate a powerful custodian to relinquish all ascendancy over a less desirable location in favor of dominating another with more potential. Once achieved, domination is permanent until one of the following happens:
  • The dungeon is physically removed from existence as a place of adventuring
  • The custodian willingly relinquishes his/her domination
  • The custodian dies
  • The custodian’s ascendancy drops to less than half the dungeon’s current xp value
  • A challenger’s ascendancy exceeds the current custodian’s and 2/3 of the dungeon’s current xp value
            Custodians can no longer earn experience from pilfering leftover treasures or from personally defeating occupants and features of dungeons over which they’ve established dominance. Completely eliminating a dungeon’s occupants, traps, treasures, enchantments, and features of interest does not break its custodian’s dominance. Other monsters, NPCs, or PCs will move in at some point in the future, bestowing a new xp value to the dungeon and generating new residual experience for its custodian.
            More than one custodian may simultaneously endeavor to accumulate ascendancy over the same place, but only one can achieve its dominance. Dominant custodians can always sense if a challenger is actively earning ascendancy over their dungeons.
            Some of the special powers described in Part II of this article require “cashing in” accumulated ascendancy (see in particular F. Blood Levy and H. Power Levy). Cashing in can only be done while in the dungeon where ascendancy was accumulated. It is the only way a custodian’s ascendancy can actually “drop,” possibly enough to break dominance. If so, ascendancy must be regained based on the present dungeon’s xp value which may have grown since domination was originally secured. A dungeon whose current xp value outgrows its custodian ascendancy does not break domination, but any drop in ascendancy may instantly result in the same. Residual experience earned from domination isn't added to the custodian's ascendancy total.