A Guide to Roleplaying Systems

Player: Can I do the thing?

Mutants and Masterminds: Yes you can do the thing.

GURPS: Fill out these forms in triplicate.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition: Yes, but it’s really not worth it unless you are a Dream Elf with the Godblooded feat and at least five levels in the Thingomancer Prestige class from Complete Thing. Or you could just play a Wizard, they get The Thing as a 3rd level spell.

Call of Cthulu: You can do the thing, but you REALLY don’t want to.

FATE: That depends, can you bullshit the GM into believing that one of your vaguely-worded aspects supports you doing The thing?

7th Sea: Only if the thing is properly dramatic!

Shadowrun: Yes, but you’ll need a bathtub full of D6s.

Paranoia: The thing is treason.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition:

[I copied the above from this brilliant post, and I reblogged as text because I really felt the need to add the gif for 5e, and chat posts don’t allow gifs, dammit.]

Bitty is scared out of his mind when he climbs into bed to skype Jack. He’s done everything he can to look calm, but he’s also wearing the red t-shirt Jack had left behind after the kegster by accident as well as the flannel he appropriated earlier in the year. They both still smell like Jack, which is all he wants. He tries to relax into the soft fabrics – because Jack’s clothes are always so soft – and then skype rings.

Bitty’s heart jumps into his throat as he answers.

“Hey,” he says managing a weak smile.

“Hey Bits,” Jack says. He looks tired. “I’m so sorry about the kegster.”

Breathing is difficult while Bitty tries to respond. “It’s okay sweetheart, don’t worry about it. It’s not like you did anything.”

Under better circumstances he might have joked “except me,” but this is not better circumstances.

“Yeah but I’m the reason we have to keep it secret,” Jack says, and now he sounds sad, not just tired. “If you were dating someone normal you wouldn’t have to hide your relationship, and you could bring them to kegsters and go grab coffee with them and–”

“Are you breaking up with me?” Bitty interrupts, because he’s about to start crying, and he doesn’t under any circumstances want to cry in front of Jack because of Jack.

“What?” Jack asks, going still. Still like he’s trying not to make any sudden movements to startle the dangerous predator approaching him.

“Because I’d understand if it’s too much pressure or–”

“No!” Jack shouts. He looks – he looks about as terrified as Bitty feels. “Did you – did you think that was why I wanted to talk?”

“Kind of,” Bitty admits.

“Bits – Eric,” Jack says. “I know in a perfect world I never have to make the choice between the NHL and you, but if I do have to? I’d pick you. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Bitty feels a foreign warmth spread through his chest, filling him up.

“I just wish we could tell people,” Jack says. Half his arm has disappeared from the frame and Bitty knows it’s because he’s touching the screen approximately where Bitty’s face is. “God, Shitty’s going to feel like such an ass once he find out.”

“For a lot of reasons, because he doesn’t actually know you’re gay, honey,” Bitty says.

Jack frowns. “Doesn’t he know about Kenny though?”

Bitty shakes his head. “He thinks you were just jealous of him because of his NHL career.”

Most of the time, Bitty is pretty good at ignoring or not caring about the fact that the captain of the Vegas Aces is the only other person who’s had sex with his boyfriend, but every so often it makes him nervous.

“I just wish we could tell him,” Jack says. “Well, and everyone else, but.”

“Well, we’re going to tell everyone eventually right?” Bitty asks. His nerves are back because he knows Jack really doesn’t ever want to make the choice between Bitty and the NHL and he can delay that if they’re not out.

“Yeah, of course,” Jack says. “It’d be kind of weird if we still hadn’t told anyone when we’re living together.”

When.

Bitty knows Jack well enough to know this wasn’t actually his way of asking Bitty to move in. It’s simply Jack knowing how he wants his future to go, which he does sometimes. He uses inevitable or concrete descriptions for events that really aren’t either of those things when he wants them to be true. And Bitty living with him is one of those things.

He feels his face soften into a smile, and he touches the screen where Jack’s face is, fighting back the well of sadness that he can’t feel his skin.

“You look really tired, darling,” Bitty says. “We can talk about all this later. Just…tell me about your roadie?”

Jack launches into the antics the Falcs have gotten up to most recently, which centres around the saga of Snowy’s pre-game routine being shattered when he forgot to pack his eyeliner and resulted in a group of very large hockey players stalking the right shade and texture of black eyeliner from the Sephora around the corner from their hotel.

Everything else they can worry about later.

Cetus

(Illustration by Wayne England comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Sea dragons are blustery but basically good-hearted commodores, forever wandering across the vast domains they protect.  Krakens are slave takers and empire builders, grasping for more power above and especially below the waves.  Sea serpents are practically natural disasters, violent irruptions (it’s a word) that shatter a captain’s calm, control, and keel.

But when you want the classic sea-monster-that-holds-a-city-hostage, that’s when you turn to the cetus.  

This is the monster that Perseus fought, and I admire Bestiary 5 for being willing to go to the mat to make this monster live up to its mythological rep (even if there are no mythic ranks in its stat block).  It’s Colossal in size.  It regenerates damage.  It can control water, winds, and weather, allowing it to box opponents into their own harbors and foil aerial attacks. Speaking of aerial attacks, it can leap 1,200(!) feet in the air to lunge at flying opponents…and even if the cetus’s victims are not unlucky enough to get fast-swallowed whole, the cetus’s dispelling bite is bound to ruin many of their enchantments (including possibly the ones keeping them aloft).  Heck, the cetus is even just plain bad luck—literally just being in its vicinity can be enough to screw up your dice rolls for the next minute (an eternity in combat).

In other words, this is a beast truly out of legend.  Normally I don’t like monsters that seem specifically designed to foil PC (and player) actions and drain their spell reserves (I’m looking at you, golems). But for the hostage-taking, sacrifice-devouring, city-extorting cetus, it feels right.  The designers even throw the players a bone straight from the Perseus myth—the cetus is vulnerable to petrification.  So the next time your adventurers are at the flea market, keep an eye out for pickled medusa head…you know, just in case.

Petrified does not mean dead.  Adventurers race to stop a locathah terrorist from resurrecting a legendary cetus, currently lying like a stony statue at the bottom of the Devilfish Deeps.

What’s more terrifying than a cetus?  Any being powerful enough to use a cetus as a mount. A greater dullahan antipaladin rides a cetus into the mouth of Hellbone Harbor, bringing dark tidings from below. The cetus also bears a howdah containing all the souls of the dullahan’s many, many victims.

The Afterlife is a river—one that flows every onward toward Oblivion.  Even what mortals conceive of as the Four Blessed Heavens or the Thirteen Precincts of Hell are merely ports of call along the river’s course.  But one rule of the Afterlife is ironclad: No vessel may travel upstream.  Individuals may sometimes escape the River of Death through powerful magic, fell bargains, or even dogged, determined fording upriver (usually resulting in undeath by the time the pass back into the mortal world).  But any attempt to build and sail a ship upstream is met with a fiendish cetus determined to crush the blasphemous vessel and all aboard.

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Speaking as someone whose eldritch knight nearly single-handedly took out an ulgurstasa courtesy of fireballing while flying, I can tell you the cetus’s Impossible Leap (Su) ability is terrifying.

One fact I didn’t tackle above is that the cetus is technically a dragon.  I’m a huge fan of one-off dragons, and I like the idea of one of these crashing an otherwise stately gathering of metallic, chromatics, and imperials…

Have I mentioned yet how much I enjoyed the Pathfinder setting sourcebook Distant Shores?  In that book the mythic hero-gods of Aelyosos have a thalassic behemoth problem, but in your campaign maybe a cetus would do the trick instead.

Also, I’m repeating myself from my last entry, but the cetus is an excellent monster for a Scarred Lands campaign.

like my bulette drawing, i illustrated this owlbear based on famous medieval engravings.

also you can buy prints of my various D&D creatures done in this style on my redbubble page, along with t-shirts and other accessories! just click here!

Stone Colossus

(Image by Damien Mammoliti comes from the Paizo blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

A stone colossus is the dream of every master siege breaker: a castle that fights back.  Able to morph from a small keep into a 70-foot-tall construct (and better yet, one that fires ballista bolts the way Destro fires wrist rockets), a stone colossus is the closest most adventuring parties will ever get to fighting—or piloting—Metroplex.

Adventurers are on the trail of the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga.  Following the outlandish artifact seems impossible, until they discover the hearthstone that will turn an isolated keep into a stone colossus that can keep up with the chicken-legged cottage.  And given that the colossus has the face of a fox, maybe that’s what its purpose was all along.

The Iathavos is coming….and if it reaches the Fountain of Souls in the City of the Risen, it may permanently dam the spiritual river that mortal souls ride to the afterlife.  Adventurers have little hope of stopping the mighty qlippoth, but if they can assemble the components to waken the stone keep that serves as Risen’s postern gate, they just might pull off a miracle.  Assuming, of course, no one beats them to the construct first…

On the world of Quake, lands move almost as frequently as cicadas spawn—every dozen or so years a tapped ley line will swell the borders of a magocracy, a plain will phase out of the Dreamtime and form a vast veldt, and an island might sink beneath the waves or rise into the sky.  Small wonder, then, that the subterranean realms are just as given to change.  Unable to burrow like the dwarves or glide through stone like the xorns, dark elves migrate during the shifts, following the path carved by Annelis the Burrower. Most ride in great stone-wheeled barges or gem-powered skiffs, but some maverick dark elf lords command great walking colossi they can pilot along the Worm God’s trail and then fortify when their travels end.

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I think I’ve mentioned before that I own all of two books for 4e D&D, Underdark being one of them.  I actually really dug that book’s vision of a constantly shifting Underdark ruled by an ever-crawling maimed god, hence the above adventure seed (along with nods to Roger E. Moore’s creation of Urdlen the Crawler Below). For whatever reason though, 4e books didn’t work for me, and I’ve barely cracked either Underdark or The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea since then.  Which is really too bad, because I love fluff for any system—hell, I buy old White Dwarf issues just for kicks—but something about 4e’s writing style and layout/design just never clicked.