Tuesday, October 3, 2017

World Trees

A gargantuan tree, that can be seen from miles away. It is seen in the center of the world. It is also outside the world, keeping it in its branches. Both are true. The Tree is at the center, wherever the center is defined to be.

The Tree is God. It may not be the Person who designed the world, but it is the root. It is deity not because of agenda, power, or worship, but because it is more real than you. It is the Root of the Real. It preserves harmony and balance and stability purely because it is. If the Tree is sickly, or if it dies, the world follows suit. Perhaps the causality is reversed. Sometimes the death of the Tree does not end the world, but it does change it. Perhaps the Tree can be regrown. Perhaps it left Seeds. Perhaps the God-Tree IS a person, and it must be regrown through the sacrifice of a willing saint.

The rebirth of the Tree is Rebirth and Renewal and the Order of Things. It is Eternity, and the tree might extend into the World Beyond. Its roots certainly grow downward into the Underworld. Its highest branches hold the Heavens. It is not merely that the Tree is the World and Nature. It is not merely God or Eternity. The Tree is Connection and Oneness. If the World is in the Branches, you can walk anywhere from anywhere. If the Tree has flowers and fruits, it grows them all, including those that exist nowhere else. It is not merely an Ash Tree; it's all trees that have ever grown, could ever be grown. Could possibly be grown.

The Tree Is Oneness and Connection to Everything. If you make a Promise in the presence of the World Tree, it is binding. A Promise under the World Tree is a guarantee. It is certainly true that the fruit of the World Tree is a treasure to consume. Perhaps its juices can raise the dead, or perhaps partaking of its flesh can heal any illness, or bestow unimagined magical power and vitality upon the eater. But this is a thing that must be earned. Wisdom can be obtained by suffering or meditating under a Tree, and there are often similar trials to earn the fruits of a tree. To steal a fruit is to curse yourself and your descendants with the First of Crimes. Death is granted instead of rebuked. Corruption is born. You stole Oneness and thus fractured the Wholeness.

Often, the Tree is an idea as much as it is a thing. The Tree is the virtues or founding principles of the world. The schema of Why the World Is. The beacon through which the Light of God is within the world.

There are corruptions of the World Tree. Qlippothic emanations. It divides, it corrupts. It consumes everything into itself, and subverts promises into Faustian regrets. This Tree is healthy because the land is sick. Its fruits birth monsters, its flowers are poisons. It is the model of the world's undoing, the vices and subversions of how the world must work if it is to perservere. Its survival is a curse, its seeds a plague.

The Oneness is subverted. There is one World Tree, but of these counterparts, there could be countless. With no harmony or balance, an invasive species that overgrows like a kudzu.

You have to stop them.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fuck Negative Levels, Negative Classes!

So before you read any further please read Basic Red's Crazy Boys article. I'll wait. It's super good and if you haven't read it already you're wasting my time.

... Got it? Good.

I love this. This immediately replaced ordinary Level Drain for me, because honestly fuck that shit no one enjoys it, not even sadistic GMs because the number-crunching in reverse is annoying. I've changed it even from Basic Red's idea, however, and so that's why we're here.

First of all, don't change XP. The most recent level is turned into a Crazy Boy/Bitch level. When you gain a level, not only do you gain an ordinary level up, but you can change a single Crazy Boy level back to normal. You can also choose to continue advancing as a Crazy Boy, if you want to run that story arc. Anything that cures Level Drain cures Crazy Boy levels.

Instead of becoming an NPC at Name Level, the change happens when you run out of normal levels. As for what you become, well...I'll get to that. Everything else is the same.

Except you don't lose class features. At least, you don't lose them for nothing. Class features are inverted. That ability you got in your most recent level is reversed into an anti-ability of some sort.

Spellcasters are easy; spells you learned that level are twisted, or cleric spell slots are negatized to an opposite divinity. If you were a necromancer, your infected spells are Vivimancy spells. If you were an illusionist, your spells now purely affect the Real, or are spells to make true things not.

Other supernatural abilities are generally pretty easy. A Paladin's most-recent level is now a Blackguard level even if they're still a good person. A psionicist's mental powers now draw purely off their dark and terrifying subconscious id instead of representing their mental discipline. A bard's music demoralizes and emotionally destroys their enemies instead of bolstering and uplifting their friends.

The mundane abilities of classes like the fighter and thief are a bit more difficult, but just remember that you're inverting these abilities to be subversive and entropic. For a Fighter, for example, their lowering base to-hit is replaced with standard undead immunities. They're slowly given more and more resistances, immunities, and no-sells to various means of harm and other conditions. They slowly become invincible, immune to more and more forms of magic, ignoring more and more weapons and elements. They stand there, having less and less means of retaliation, but become better and better walls. They are the Anti-Fighter, because combat is futile. You can't stop them, and they can't accomplish anything.

The rogue, meanwhile, becomes more based around subverting the success of others. The corruption of a thief makes their skills succeed by making it more difficult for others. They open doors by breaking locks and destroying traps so they can't be disabled again afterwards. They climb walls by splurching upwards like horrid slugs, greasing the walls behind them with slippery slime. They become less adept at stealing things because they end up destroying what they try to take, thus no one has it.

The corruption of these Negative Classes implies the truth of what's happening. The more one is corrupted by Level Drain, the more they become a Monster. Rather than being totally normal until they lose all their levels and insta-corrupting into a Wight or whatever, it is a gradual process that can be observed step by step. When the process is complete, the former PC rises as an entirely unique undead abomination, with unholy powers unique shadows of what they could do in life. Invert everything, at this point. They might have normal to-hit, saves, and hit dice as they're not longer punished PCs, but their powers still remain qlippothic antagonisms.

Additionally all creatures with Energy Drain should have some additional special effect to reflect this. For instance, Vampires should make you more and more like a vampire in addition to everything else, and ghosts should slowly possess you with their own thoughts and emotions, creating a gradual overwriting of your original will rather than the ghost just piloting your body.

For instance, my party recently dealt with a child-wight that played off their protective instincts by pretending to be an innocent waif needing protection. As they held him, played with him, walked with him as they held hands, he sapped their soul. With the Energy Drain came a progressive Charm effect, making them more and more obsessed with the child-wight's safety and happiness. You know Omen where Damien basically telepathically brainwashes his mother? Yea, that shit.

You're doing Level Drain wrong. Do this. It's way better. Hell, your players might actually WANT to get Energy Drained. And if that's what they want, well.... hehehe.