Tuesday, October 20, 2020

KALKOTH: Monster Conversion - Lone Wolf to D&D adjacent and Call of Cthulhu 5e.

Kalkoth by Rich Longmore.

One of my favourite Lone Wolf monsters, from one of my favourite (and my first) Lone Wolf gamebooks - The Caverns of Kalte.

These big cats with paralytic venom dwell in the tunnels and chambers of Ikaya, a fortress built by the Ancients. There is a bit of At the Mountains of Madness flavour to the set-up, as the Ancients are long gone and -even though claimed as a palace by the ruler of the Ice Barbarians- Ikaya is basically a big dungeon, crawling with ancient monsters (including the shoggothesque Akraa’neonor) and leftover unstable magic. 

I think the Kalkoth would make a decent non-canon CoC monster, because of  association with some of those Lovecraftian themes. I've based the stats on the Panther (common to both RQIII and BECMI), though the CoC version is of more than animal intelligence. I don't know how I'd convert directly from the original gamebook system.

For Call of Cthulhu 5e... 

Kalkoth, Venomous Predators of the Snow-bound Ruins. 

A shaggy feline predator with a barbed, venomous tongue, Kalkoths are an artificial species that has survived and thrived. They’re mundane cryptids of conventional matter; their DNA is decipherable, but unlike any known living mammal species.

Their venom is effective against Mythos entities native to Earth and of conventional matter, such as Deep Ones, Ghouls and Serpent People. 

They have a particular animosity towards Mi-Go, going into a violent frenzy if they should scent one, suggesting that they may have been bred/created to guard against or even hunt down certain Mythos entities.

Kalkoths never hunt alone - there will always be at least two, working in concert. They are intelligent, but millennia without the conditioning of their creators means that they have lost what tool-culture they may have once had, beyond the use of doors and simple, pre-existing mechanisms (including traps).

It is rare that a Kalkoth will stray far from its home city, as they prefer the tunnels and sheltered streets to being in the open.

They are absolutely afraid of fire, and will retreat from a naked flame.

Unfamiliar with firearms, Kalkoths will only become afraid or wary of them through experience.

Their creator(s) seem more likely to have been from the Edgar Rice Burroughs end of the spectrum, rather than the Lovecraftian, and at least resembling humans (or Hyperboreans) - and are from thousands rather than millions of years in the past.

STR 3d6+6 (16.5)     CON 3d6 (10.5)     SIZ 2d6+8 (15)     INT 2d6 (7)     POW 3d6 (10.5)

DEX 2d6+6 (13)

Hit Points 12-13       Damage Bonus +d4    Move 9 (unimpeded by snow)


  • Bite 30%, d8 plus Tongue Barb attack
  • Tongue Barb 100%, injects a paralytic poison of POT equal to the Kalkoth's SIZ. Subject is paralysed and oblivious for d3 hours, recovering with no memory of the attack
  • Fore Claw 50%, d6 and if both hit, the Kalkoth can make an automatic Bite attack until the subject breaks free or is released (STR vs. STR)

Armour: 3 points of thick fur (0 vs. firearms)

Skills: Jump 40%, Climb 80%, Track by Smell 40%, Organised Hunt 25%, Sneak 45% (65% in snow)

Spells: None.

Habitat: The abandoned, snow-choked cities of their creators - inside the Arctic Circle, Antarctica, and in mountain ranges of the Americas and Asia.

Sanity loss: None.

...and for Old School D&D Adjacent

Armour Class +5     Hit Dice 4     Move 115% Normal Human      Morale 8

  • Claw/claw/bite for 1-4/1-4/1-8 + paralysis (as above).
  • Surprise 1-3 on d6.
  • In the snow and ruins, surprised only on a 1.
  • Must make Morale Checks every round if confronted with fire.



Monday, October 19, 2020

SHADOW/SLUAGH: Monster Conversion - D&D adjacent to Call of Cthulhu 5e.

SHADOWS/SLUAGH, The Pieces of the Peel of the Fruit of Evil.

A network of hostile holographic data coexistent and coterminous with mundane shadow, the Sluagh are an environment inimical to conventional lifeforms.

Manifesting as apparently normal shadows, the Sluagh can exhibit the characteristics of specific individuals and objects. This is suggestive of post-mortem existence, but is more likely to be assimilated code downloaded in response to the subtle stimuli presented by prey creatures. Nor does this confirm intelligent behaviour, or even if individual Sluagh are anything more than extruded units of a super-entity (Sommers, 2013).

Sluagh are able to alter their silhouette, appearing as any living being consumed/destroyed. They have not been observed to imitate inanimate objects. Sluagh are able to take cover in mundane shadow, hiding their shape. As long as there is shadow, the Sluagh can move anywhere with it.

The only condition for Sluagh manifestation is the presence of light within a certain range - they are neutralised (but not harmed) by darkness, and are obliterated by direct application of strong ultraviolet light. They are at their most active in interior spaces with artificial light, and the opportunities for this have only increased from the 19th Century onwards. Electric street lamps have significantly extended their potential range.

Interactions with the uncommunicative Sluagh are normally deleterious to human life, but they have been observed in non-hostile behaviour:
  • Casting. A lone unit extends itself the length of a bare horizontal, or the height of a bare vertical, surface. This has been observed in the prelude to hostile interaction, but drawing conclusions at this stage would be unwise (Shavelson, 1966).
  • Flitting. Lone or multiple units ‘jumping’ between zones of shadow, altering their outlines as they go. This has been described as ludic performance by some (Wagner, 1975).
  • Congregation. Multiple Sluagh units gathering at the same location, unresponsive to attempts at communication and even limited aggression (Llewellyn, 2003).
The other significant behaviour of the Sluagh is their ability to detect and terminate those of human or part-human ancestry who have unnaturally extended their lifespan or otherwise cheated death. Once a unit makes contact with such an individual, other units are summoned (or spontaneously appear) to swarm the subject.

This is the only time they are known to make any noise, which has been described as the sound of babies crying, reversed and slowed down (Wheat & Bruner, 1990).

An obscure 14th Century Rabbinical tradition may reference the Sluagh as the Pieces of the Peel of the Fruit of Evil, thrown away by Adam and Lilith, and the first rubbish generated in the Creation. While widely considered to be an 18th Century hoax, it does seem to derive from an older Arabic source (Pepper, 2020).

INT 2d6 (7)     POW 2d6+6 (13)     DEX 3d6 (10.5)

Hit Points n/a     Damage Bonus n/a     Move 6

Weapons: Chilling Touch 100% (bypasses armour), 1-4 STR damage. Characteristic loss is recovered at a rate of half-an-hour per point. Anyone reduced to 0 STR decomposes to an agonised sooty patch in one round, and then rises up as a new Shadow on the next.

Armour: none, but Shadows can only be destroyed by the direct application of strong ultraviolet light or fire (flamethrower or house burning down, not a flaming torch - though this will hold them off/ drive them back) and electricity (at least strong enough to kill an average adult human).

Enchanted weapons can be used to defend against and drive back a Shadow, but cannot do them lasting harm. Spells should be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. 

Skills: Dodge 60%, Undetectable As Anything Other Than A Shadow 90%, Move Silently 100%.

Spells: None.

Habitat: Everywhere where there is neither absolute darkness nor strong ultraviolet light.

One interpretation of parts of Neil Armstrong's unedited memoir manuscript and several photos from the ISS in 1999 suggest they are able to survive outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Sanity Loss: 0/1d6 to see a Shadow/Sluagh, 1/1d6 to hear them for the first time.


Yep - this is the D&D classic, via the groaning shadows in Ghost and the Sluagh from The Time Killer and The Tomb of Terror (Slaine stories from 2000AD).

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Altered State Subsystem (wip) with CW: Drugs

CW: mainly the drugs, but mentions sex, kink and self-harm.

Turns out I need an Altered States sub-system for the Druid (BOSR/ Folk Horror/ Pagan/ Psychedelic/ Witch variant) I'm working on. 

I'm sure there are some already out there, maybe already part of the setting or system you're using. Plus some links for drug-based rules resources.

My unadorned and undeveloped system is this:
  • without shortcuts (and I mean drugs), it takes exploding d2, d3 or d6 hours to get yourself into an Altered State
  • unless from drugs, it takes d2 to d6 turns to come out of an Altered State; these dice might be exploding if it's a particularly powerful Altered State; what you have to do depends on the Altered State
  • in an Altered State, you are -1, -3 or -6 on all Ability Scores depending on how deep you go; penalties may persist afterwards, from fatigue, injury or sickness
  • while in an Altered State, give your character sheet to your GM - you may not consult it, take notes or keep written records during this time*
  • if you need a dice roll for going in and coming out, I suggest our old friend 2d6 vs. 7, 9 or 11; ability and skill checks would also suffice

The basic idea is that the Altered State, while it has other uses, should carry a penalty of some kind - under the right circumstances, this could just be the time required to achieve, utilise and emerge from it, but I'd consider making the handing over of the character sheet an absolute. 

Ways to get into an Altered State: dancing, chanting, drumming, breathing techniques, meditation, humiliation, sensory deprivation, fasting, over-indulgence, heat, cold, suspension, submersion, asphyxia, tickling, flagellation, sustained vigorous exercise, spanking, masturbation, near death experience, sex, wrestling, fighting, staying awake, prayer, staring at something, crucifixion, fever, disease, concentrating really hard, madness, fear, laughter, frenzy, sadism, pain, flickering lights, acting really convincingly, silence, screaming, singing, counting, extreme mathematics, hanging nine days on the World Ash with a spear in your side, a really long walk.

And drugs...

...whether magickal herbs or magic mushrooms.

There are some rather bland rules for Intoxication in the 1e AD&D DMG, which could be expanded to cover all Altered States if you prefer the system.

Carcosa has its Desert Lotus varieties, with their own defined effects and durations.. Blue, Green and Jale would be the obvious choices, with White Lotus a borderline case (you become a mindless zombie). Black Lotus is fatal, but so are some poisons that have medical uses in small doses.

For drugs (entheogens) as an integral part of the setting/system, you should look to the excellent aloneinthelabyrinth.blogspot.com and check out Pariah - a proto-neolithic psychedelic animist rpg

Pariah has flavourful rules for ritual (and recreational, I suppose) use of entheogens, with one of the explicit purposes being travel to other worlds (which are also delicious). They are not just 'magic potions' - they're a session in themself.

Applied to another setting, you might decide to leave out the cosmological aspect - maybe the drugs just aren't as good as they were at the dawn of time, or make them incredibly rare, or set up gatekeepers, or have the common supply be so over-processed that only prodigious consumption (or in its natural/pure form) would have any special effects.

Two drug-use and misuse subsystems, one from Goblin Punch and one from Ten Foot Polemic

The Ten Foot Polemic system gave me the idea for handing over your character sheet when in an Altered State, as taking Alterket means you no longer keep track of your hit points, the GM does.

And Goblin Punch has a selection of drugs (including for Dragons) you can choose to tone down for the family audience. Or not.

Just as mechanical and narrative effects of drugs can be used to represent a non-drug Altered State, so can rules for Tolerance (you need more chanting to get in the mood) and Addiction (you won't leave the meditation centre). 

The Ghastly Affair system includes some fairly comprehensive mechanical/narrative details on IRL drugs of the Gothic/Ghastly Age - laudanum, hashish, peyote buttons etc. - though they do include some supernatural side-effects, including being Attractive to Fairies and increasing the effects of Divination.

*there may be individual IRL circumstances where this isn't appropriate - issues of communication, memory and trust, for instance.