Macchiato Monsters: The Stygian Library
This is the wiki page for a Macchiato Monsters game centered on the module The Stygian Library.
- 1 Characters
- 2 Setting
- 3 Rumors & Clues
- 4 Rules
- 4.1 How Do You Play This Game?
- 4.2 Languages
- 4.3 About Magic
- 4.4 How death works for this game
- 5 Important Posts
- Cassy-Dee Minor, scrappy sk8t3r grrl, Level 3, HD 3d6, HP 13/13, Attacks 1, Sick Tricks 0/1, spells
- Kasimir, Ph.D. candidate in Mystic Art & Ethics, Level 2, HD 1d6, HP 5/6, Attacks 1, Detect Evil Magic 0/2, Speed Reader 0/1, spells
- Yulia, Δ6 follower, Undergraduate Wizard (1/6), 3/3 HP, grapple d2, Δ4 armor
- Mr. Patch, Butler who finds things, Level 2, HD 2d6, HP 8/8, Attacks 1, Moves Like a Shadow 1/2, [Second Ability] 1/1
- Ermias Afwerki, Mathematician turned refugee turned janitor, Level 2, HD 2d6, HP 5/7, Attacks 1, Read Faces 2/2, The Larger Geometry 0/1
- Dog, a big, strong, lovable dog who wants to make people feel good about themselves, Level 3, HD 3d8, HP 13/13, Attacks 2, d8 damage, Δ8 natural armor
- Grant Skinner, P.I.
- Damsel, Δ6 follower, Trait: Cute Shepherd Dog, 2 HP, bite d4, Δ6 armor
- Levi, Reliving Night Janitor
- Man, an Idea, Level 2, HD 1d6, HP 9/10, Attacks 1, Proselytize 0/1, Forget Form 1/2, spells
- Dog, Δ6 follower, Big Brave Dog (Trait), 5/5 HP, bite d4, Δ6 armor
Kansas Silly, Misery had a real shot at being a no-kidding big city, like sprawling Vulture out in the desert or stately Esperanza up in the mountains, or even (in the wildest dreams of the city fathers) coastal Empire itself. They had the rail connections, the stockyards, the avant-garde arts culture and electric-lit amusement park, the first and best trolley network in the country. Legally renaming the city seems like a mistake now, especially with all the curses that have befallen it since, but if they'd won the bidding process, that international university of the circus arts would've put Kansas Silly on the map! (Barnstone Academy ended up in Esperanza instead.)
Kansas Silly as a whole is not strongly aligned with law, chaos, good, or evil. The city culture values personal advancement and a sense of fate: some people and places are meant to prosper and flourish, while others aren't. Three significant districts:
- Heartland Hills, northwest of the city proper, full of mini-manors on quiet, leafy, brick-paved streets. Sucks money from the rest of the city through a web of tax exemptions, developer kickbacks, and annexations. Where the good schools, libraries, and malls are. More and more residents are in thrall to an esoteric multi-level investment scheme-slash-cult known as the Invisible Bridge, which appeals to those who want to change their fate and ultimately, at the innermost levels of initiation, "go Diamond."
- Sanctuary Park, north of the river, best known for Introspection Tower, the city's memorial to the Homeland War. Civic and religious institutions surround it, most of them not well-funded, with a more humble clown community college and regular carnival on the mildly haunted grounds of the old amusement park. The best place to get international groceries. More than one sorcerer has been initiated by the wisdom and bite of the giant bat hanging in the old municipal roost; some are upright, some are wicked.
- Southport, south of the river, where a few commercial trains still come through Union Station and long-haul shipping keeps the warehouses and silos running. Apartment blocks, call centers, fast food, cracked sidewalks, parks with little angular fountains. A good place to get a convenience store hot dog and neon soda and hang out at the skate park until your ride gets off work. Masked professional wrestling is big right now; the hometown favorite is Spectacle Devil, who has a complicated gimmick involving evil twins and a mirror dimension.
Many people are wearing protective masks outside because of the dust storms in Misery this season, often decorated with jaws or smiles or meaningful patterns. Public transit via electric trolley is inexpensive but harder than driving. People who can cast magic, or want to seem like they can, usually adopt a shadow name to avoid contaminating their personal identity with occult fallout. The factory out on the prairie that the dreadful dolls took over is slowly flooding the city with bad toys.
Rumors & Clues
Anyone can write these here as you encounter information that looks interesting.
- "I am very busy negotiating the usurpation of the Librarians, and the floating brains are being recalcitrant, so you can imagine the kind of stress I am under." #46
- Stray thoughts recorded in the hungry book: #114
- "The Astrolabe lets you control Time Itself!"
- "Beware of the Man who Speaks in Hands."
- "I have forgotten something. I don’t know what. If I try to remember, I convulse and black out. If you start forgetting, flee or it will happen to you too."
- "They're killing us!!!"
Progress explained: #24
- Progress toward finding "honest-to-goodness-no-kidding-no-really-you-shouldn't-have-this dark magic texts": 25
- Locating "A True Account of the Expeditions of Edward Tongue Within the Stygian Library, Written by the Same Edward Tongue" requires Progress 25 on Layer 5 or deeper.
- There are lockers at the Decirculation Desk where you could safely store items by the Library door. #1
- There is a calculation engine which can answer simple questions and identify books containing answers to complex ones, which will increase Progress. #7
- There is a book titled "A True Account of the Expeditions of Edward Tongue Within the Stygian Library, Written by the Same Edward Tongue" which contains an answer to the question "safest route to magic texts near current location?" It is apparently located in or near the map gallery, "near the travelogues." #18
- The Grey Librarians in the calculation room have offered to bring one book of the party's specifications to them for supervised reading, and to identify them as friendly to the Librarians, if they write a book containing an answer to the question "Where is Cert?" and bring it to the calculation room. #29
- There are several blank books in the planetarium. #117
- The neurovore who makes his lair in the taxidermy gallery has been converted to the Powers of the Mind and gone off to spread the word. #58
- Man has proselytized 1/5 minds toward stepping up the Powers of the Mind Δ4 to Δ6. #53
- There is a console at the planetarium's orrery which apparently measures the passage of time in Roman numerals. #116
- There is a Sanskrit scroll describing how to cast a horoscope using the orrery to answer yes/no questions and accumulate Progress toward finding information. #126
How Do You Play This Game?
Usually, just describe what you're doing. When your character is in danger, or attempts something risky, roll dice.
When you roll dice, you roll 1d20 against one of your stats. You succeed when you roll equal or under the stat. 1 is a critical success, usually doubling the effect. 20 is a critical fail, usually bringing in a consequence or side effect.
When you have advantage on a roll, roll twice and keep the best result for the situation. When you have disadvantage, roll twice and keep the worst result.
Things denoted ΔX are Risk Dice. Δ8 is a d8, Δ4 is a d4. These represent diminishing resources where the exact number left isn't important, or escalating danger more broadly and abstractly. When you roll 1-3 on a Risk Die, it steps down to the next lowest die size. The maximum is Δ12, down to Δ4, and then fizzling out to nothing. Sometimes the number rolled on a Risk Die matters, like for how much damage your armor can absorb in this fight. Other times, like for how many torches you have left, you're just rolling to see whether it steps down or not. Players roll their own Risk Dice when it's necessary; the DM will say when you should roll your ammunition or your torchbearer's morale.
How Does Equipment Work?
If you have a crowbar, you have a crowbar. Δ equipment has some specific rules, examples below:
- Armor Δ is rolled the first time you take damage in a situation. The result you roll is how much damage it can absorb in this situation before you lose HP.
- Reagent or Faith Δ is rolled the first time you cast a spell in a situation. It works just like armor, but for spell HP costs.
- Arrows/Darts/Ammo Δ is rolled at the end of a fight. You have enough ammo left until the Δ fizzles out. You can also roll the Δ when you do damage and add the result to your damage.
- Food Δ is rolled when you eat, which you can do once every couple of hours. The result is how many HP you recover. You also must roll the Δ once per day for sustenance, usually if/when you wake up at camp.
- Bag/Backpack Δ is rolled the first time you put things in the bag. The result is how many items it can store without using extra inventory slots.
- Torches Δ is rolled when you light a torch, and again every hour/6 turns. You have enough torches left until the Δ fizzles out. You can also roll the Δ and deal that much damage as an attack.
- Tent Δ is rolled when you make camp. The result is how many characters can roll with advantage to recover HP when they rest.
- Tools Δ is rolled when you use special tools for a task. You get advantage on the task roll, and may need the tools to do it at all. Your tools work until the Δ fizzles out.
- Coin Δ is rolled when you spend money. This can be for purchasing equipment, hiring someone, or paying a fee. You can also roll Δ to get advantage on a roll with bribery, for example.
How Does Healing Work?
After a combat, your armor can be used again once you take a breather.
Every few hours, you can eat food: roll its Δ and recover that many HP.
After a decent night's sleep, roll 1 hit die and recover that many HP. Roll with advantage if you had a hot meal and a comfy bed (so to speak,) roll with disadvantage if you slept on roots or somewhere dreary.
If a Δ stepped down, such as scuffed armor or lost arrows, and you have the means to repair the gear, make a check and step the Δ back up if you succeed. If you can't repair it yourself, expect to roll Coin Δ to do it in town.
How Do Henchlings Work?
Hirelings, followers, pets, and other non-PC hangers-on are represented by a Δ, 1d6 HD, HP, gear, and either a Trait or a special ability. They can carry up to 5 inventory slots, or up to 10 if they're willing to be encumbered and move slowly. They are tied to one PC, just like equipment, and only that PC rolls for them.
A henchling's Δ represents their skill and loyalty. Typical townies have Δ6, whereas professional adventuring staff will have Δ8 to Δ10. Δ12 means a fanatic or some sort of brainless undead servant. Double payment or other strong incentives can increase the initial die type by one step.
Roll the henchling's Δ when they're harmed, doing something dangerous (including combat,) or using their special ability for the first time in a situation. If their Trait applies to the roll, roll with advantage. On a 1-3, they take damage if applicable. On a 4+, they do it as best as they can, make their special ability available, or deal their damage in combat.
When a henchling's Δ steps down, it can be stepped back up with a good night's rest, food and drink, achieving their goals, or maybe a successful CHA check. Hirelings expect some sort of payment, negotiated when hired, whether a lump sum or a daily wage. Devoted followers and pets might not need coin, but they still expect to be treated well and given good equipment. A henchling whose Δ fizzles out quits or flees.
How Does Combat Work?
There is no initiative, and monsters and NPCs usually don't take turns of their own. Instead, the GM states at the top of the round exactly what the opposition will do and to whom, each PC gets a turn to act, and the final results are decided by the rolls of the PCs.
On your turn, you can attack, run across a room, cast a spell, reload a gun, or anything feasible within a few seconds. Each turn, you'll roll the D20 once if taking action: STR to swing a sword, DEX to throw a dart, CON to run despite poison, INT to find a hiding place, WIS to channel a spell, CHA to intimidate someone, etc. If you succeed and were attacking, roll damage for your attack. If you fail and were being attacked, you're hit and take damage. (If you were casting a spell, it goes off when you succeed; if you were being spellcast at, it deals any damage when you fail, and you may get a second stat roll to 'save' against additional effects.)
The first time you take damage in a situation, roll your Armor Δ if any. The result is how much total damage your armor can soak in this situation before it goes to your HP. If you have a shield, you can sacrifice it to negate all damage from one attack, if the shield could physically be used in that way.
If an enemy takes a powerful blow or is intimidated by a CHA check or flashy spell (for example,) they roll a Morale Δ to see if they retreat, double down, change tactics, or flee in panic. They don't want to die any more than the PCs do, probably.
Getting out of combat by fleeing takes a DEX check, which may require dropping something heavy to avoid rolling with disadvantage. Outside of combat, evading pursuit or chasing someone down is a CON check. In the Stygian Library, fleeing into the corridors risks getting lost and ending up somewhere you didn't plan.
Traits don't give advantage on combat rolls. Firing from cover or a surprise attack might give advantage, or using a shield to protect against incoming missiles, or expending an appropriate special ability like 'Backstab' or 'Martial Arts.'
You will often have disadvantage in combat, though. Most often this happens when melee attacking an opponent with higher HD than your HD. (Not your level.) To reflect relative combat skill, PCs roll with disadvantage when attacking an opponent with more HD in melee. This can be avoided by ganging up: everyone attacking the same target at once adds their HD together for this comparison, and if their HD is equal to or greater than the target's, they each roll normally. Monsters can also gang up in this way: four HD 1 scrublings in a phalanx count as HD 4. Missile attacks do not suffer disadvantage on higher HD targets, but also do not add to HD for ganging up: it's melee only.
Here's how a combat round should look in PBP:
- 1. Start of the round: DM describes the situation, the threats, the monsters, and what exactly they are doing (for example "two sword attacks on the wizard.") The stakes should be made clear to the players so it's clear what will happen on a roll.
- 2. Any PC posts to describe what they do, checking to be totally clear about risks and possible consequences if needed, and rolls a stat check to see if they succeed. If they have a henchling, they may have it act as well, rolling its Δ if it's taking a risk. Damage is dealt and consequences are described, probably by the PC, possibly the DM if the situation has changed significantly.
- 3. Any other PC posts, as in step 2, until all PCs have acted.
- 4. If any monsters or NPCs haven't done anything this turn, the DM may have them act now, rolling out-of-sequence checks for any PCs if they're affected.
- 5. End of the round. DM updates the situation and starts a new round.
We're going to use real world languages mostly, and we'll default to English in this setting. Spanish and ASL are good bets in Kansas Silly, too. Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, or other classical written languages would be useful in the Library - any written language, really. He's surely learned the setting-specific Parametric Language, a genteel cant used by authentic wizards and other distinguished arcane persons to exchange pleasantries, make small talk, and discuss magical subjects - great for making a good impression on people who can cast fireball, and talking to them privately.
How spellcasting works for this game
This amends and supersedes page 30 of Macchiato Monsters. The design goal is to reduce complexity while leaving the other systems that touch spellcasting intact.
- If you have spells, you can cast any of your known spells at any time. There's no memorization.
- Each spellcasting PC has one stat they use for all spellcasting: probably INT or WIS, maybe CHA. Pick one and consider what it means for your casting style. (INT suggests an arcanist studying magical effects of their own, WIS suggests channeling cosmic or divine forces, CHA suggests elevated illusions, tricks, music, or fast-talk.)
- Casting a spell takes your full round in combat, which is spent gesturing and speaking aloud. (If you're restrained or silenced, no casting.)
- When spells have a duration, the usual duration is a number of exploration turns (around ten minutes) equal to your level. Some spells (the description will say so) use the magician's sigil: this sigil takes one exploration turn to inscribe, and the associated spell is permanent until the magician casts it again, drawing a new sigil as the previous one fades.
- All spells have a cost of 3 HP. The cost can instead be spent with the result of your Reagent or Faith die in part or in full. You can't spend down to 0 HP.
- The first time you cast a spell in a situation (a scene, room, or combat,) you may roll your Reagent or Faith die (with risk of it stepping down on a 1-3 result) and note the result (for example, 4.) You can spend from that pool in spell costs for this situation before you start spending your own HP.
- When you cast a spell...
- If it's your first spell in this situation, first roll your Reagent or Faith die.
- Spend the cost (3), either from your Reagent or Faith pool or your HP.
- Roll an INT, WIS, or CHA check.
- On a success, at or under your stat, the spell works as described. On a critical success (a 1), you don't pay the cost.
- On a failure, the spell doesn't go off. On a critical fail (a 20), there's some mishap or danger.
- But! If the spell fails, you may roll what MM calls the Chaos Risk Die to make something happen anyway. This is a roll on a table where most results have the spell go off with a weaker or modified effect, and a few results harm you in a hurty but not deadly way. In this game, "invoking Chaos" only works within the Library (or possibly other magical sites) and represents drawing on the exhaust of its condensed arcane power, which can be expended as the Risk Die steps down and fizzles out.
About Reagents and Faith
They function similarly, again as "armor" against spellcasting HP costs. A character can only use one or the other: either you fuel your magic with gleaming orbs and your own Nietzschean will to power, or you channel it through a higher cosmic focus and social support network.
The advantage of Reagents (whether mixed powders or thrumming scepters) is that they're impersonal: you can just get more of them if you run out, even buy them at the right market, and some have a variety of quirky side powers to spend that Risk Die on as well.
Faith involves some social context like a code of conduct and people you're responsible to, and recovering or improving the singular Faith die requires putting your time and devotion in for them. If you have a Faith die, you can roll it for a few other things in addition to spellcasting costs:
- Roll the Δ (and risk stepping it down) to get advantage on an action in line with the faith.
- Spend an hour in devotion/prayer/gun kata/whatever to roll the Δ and heal that many HP on yourself or amenable others.
- If you're not wearing armor, use the Faith die as armor.
How Spell Scrolls and Spellbooks Work
Anyone who either knows Parametric or has spellcasting (including both Dee and Mr. Patch, as well as Kas and Man, and potentially Yulia but she'd roll her Δ6 to cast) can cast a spell from the scroll. You roll your spellcasting attribute (INT with disadvantage for Mr. Patch) but do not pay any reagent or HP cost. Once cast successfully, the scroll disintegrates.
You can also use either a spell scroll or a spellbook to learn a spell permanently. This takes 1d4 days and requires paying in Electrum for reagents and study materials. You must either know Parametric or be assisted by someone who does. Once a spell scroll is used to learn its spell, it disintegrates. Spellbooks endure.
Schools of Magic
The alternative spell lists we're using have 12 schools of magic available, each with 8 spells. They can all be taken at any level, most of them scale up at higher levels. 90% of them are flavorful utility effects rather than direct HP damage (or healing), but there are some of those, too.
Here's what's in Wonder & Wickedness:
- Diabolism summons, binds, and protects against demons.
- Necromancy deals with death, souls, and summoning ghosts.
- Spiritualism affects other magic in the world and turns you ethereal.
- Elementalism manipulates rock, fire, air, and water. (It won't be very useful indoors in the Library.)
- Psychomancy is mesmerism and mental effects, including classics like Sleep and Charm Person.
- Translocation opens portals, recalls, and subtler spatial effects. (It has some restrictions in the Library, such as that you can't teleport directly out, but it's still useful.)
- Vivimancy boosts and transforms living things, including people.
Marvels & Malisons adds some really fun ones:
- Arachnomorphosis grants spider traits, and control over spiders, too.
- Cunning Craft is a wide open grab bag of Celtic witchy effects: shillelagh, healing, wolf summoning... (It won't be as useful indoors in the Library.)
- Apotropaism wards against magic and protects against undead/demons/spirits in a holy-flavored way.
- Physiurgy directly heals and restores in various ways.
- Rope Tricks animates and commands ropes. (I love all of these.)
Anyone who can cast spells also can use an effect called Maleficence, which is a little magical attack.
How death works for this game
Amends and supersedes page 28 of Macchiato Monsters.
When you hit 0 HP, roll a CON check to see if you made it. If it fails, your number's up: you've died. (Now's the time to look for one of those spells, tricks, or desperate deals that protagonist types use to bring people back from the dead - the Library's not short on them - or roll up a new character.) If it succeeds, you go back to 1 HP, regain consciousness, and can be healed further, but - you temporarily lose one advance taken at character creation or level up. The lost advance returns after a week of rest somewhere safe.