Wednesday 1 January 2020

NSR PLANESCAPE: The Labyrinths of Hod

Planescape is 25 years old. 25 years ago I was fourteen years old, and made the difficult decision to stop frittering away my money on RPG products and put it to good use: namely microdots, cider, hashish and low-grade bathtub speed. So yeah, sadly it passed me by.

(Confession: I was avowedly anti AD&D for some reason - I think I just really, really hated Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, which were heavily promoted at the time - and I'm not sure if it would have registered on my RPG radar even if the drugs didn't work)

By all accounts, the loss was mine, not Planescape's... I mean, check this shit out:

Given my penchant for planes-hopping wyrd adventuring, Planescape would have been an incredibly good fit, and the resurgence of interest is convenient for me as I've been attempting to curate a list of one page/post settings. fortunately, my task is going to be rendered all the more easy thanks to this post by Pandatheist: which the gauntlet is thrown down and a challenge issued: come up with a plane using four elements and 10 spells/psionic abilities only...
I believe I've already described the stunning submission to the same challenge by Marquis Hartis, but if you have not yet read it, please follow the link below:

EDITED 17/12/2020 [Marquis moved their blog]:

This was inspired by the kabbalistic sephira of Hod, albeit a very particular reading of it...

Interior of Angkor Wat, taken by Anthony Chen
NB: Spells  use hit dice as magic dice, but can be translated as 1 HD = 1 traditional spell level.

Granite, chalk, iron, slate

Lithopathy Place your forehead against the stone. Open your mind, drink in its memories. You may ask as many questions of the stone as you rolled on your hit dice (rolls of four or above are spent). The stone can describe sounds and textures only, unless it has been specifically inscribed with a memory (see below).
 Additionally, this spell may be used to ascertain the number and approximate value of memories and/or spells contained within a lithoprion: instead of placing the stone against your forehead, you must touch the stone to the tip of your tongue for a brief moment. This is useful in the trade of lithoprions, as it means the contents of the stone are not lost, and any potentially harmful contents can be quarantined.
Inscribe Place your forehead against a stone: this might be a cobble, a flag, a boulder, or a mountain. Focus on the memory you wish to inscribe into the stone: it can be as simple or as complex as the you are capable of imagining. Once the spell is cast, the knowledge vanishes from the casters brain, retrievable only by the use of lithopathy (above). A memory stored in this manner may only be retrieved once.
You must roll your casting die. A roll of one means you forget having cast this spell, and thus lose the memory forever (unless someone else was present to remind you). On a four (or higher, if possible) you may choose to forget ever casting this spell, if this is your desire (i.e. to hide information from future interrogation or telepathy).
Stones used to store spells in this manner operate much like magic scrolls, with the following caveats:
  1. The stone must weigh at least 1lb for each magic die/level of spell memorised
  1. To access the spell, lithopathy must be cast each time (the advantage is that casters can stockpile more powerful spells for future use, but still must expend a weak spell to use them.
Any stone containing a memory or spell that is small and light enough to carry is known as a lithoprion, and may be used as a unit of  currency in the labyrinth of Hod.
Stonesleep There are times when you need to fight, others when you need to flee, more rarely when you should just freeze. When the latter is the only option, this spell might be useful: the caster and up to [no. of casting dice] willing allies may fall into a deep trance for [casting dice value] ten minute turns, so long as you are in contact with a surface comprised of one of Hod's core elements. You will appear to sink into the stone or iron as though it were a viscous liquid.
For the duration of the spell you will be unable to take any actions including moving, though you and your allies will be aware of any activity in your immediate vicinity. They will be undetectable by any ordinary means, and any psionic or magical detection will need to be of greater potency than your own spellcasting power.
Ioun Prion Placing a small sample of each element native to Hod in your hand, you clench it into a fist and push it against your head. You spend an hour contemplating your most hideous memories and terrifying fears. Utter the words and open your hand: the elements have combined into a smooth, flat pebble. It glows, but faintly: you feel somehow... lighter.
While you are in possession of this ioun prion, it will protect you against all forms of psychic assault. It has a number of charges equal to the sum of all casting dice invested: one "attack" (any fear effect, charm, dominate etc.) is repulsed by one charge. 
The ioun prion protects you and you alone, and you may only carry one such stone at any time. Indeed, if a stone is placed in the possession of another person, they will immediately succumb to a paralysing fear if they are in contact with any chalk, iron, slate or granite, and will attempt to divest themselves of all such materials, with the exception of the ioun prion.


Iron Can Lie Take one element native to Hod, and use it to record a false memory upon another element native to Hod (engrave a piece of granite with an iron spike, write a message in chalk upon a slate surface). Bury the message but retain the writing implement: this is your active element. 
When the time is right, invoke the power of Hod and place the object into the palm of your target: they must make a saving throw or believe wholeheartedly the content of the message, regardless of how absurd or contradictory to available evidence it might be. They will continue to believe this to be true until they successfully save against the spell effect (the number of turns that will elapse between each save is determined by the total value of the casting dice, with a minimum of two dice being used for this spell.

Faithful Sentinel Your gaze meets the eyes of your intended target: you appear benign, almost kindly... but only for a moment. They must save vs petrification or be turned to stone: however, this spell functions sightly differently to stone to flesh
The duration is determined by the total value of dice invested (minimum 3 dice): this is the number of turns (ten minute) that the spell remains in effect. Furthermore, you may cast this spell again (if you have requisite dice remaining) for the spell to take effect again, even if you are no longer within range of your target.  
The victim remains conscious and aware of their surroundings, though they appear to be nothing more than an incredibly lifelike statue. You may at any time, as an action, experience what they can see and hear, regardless of the distance between you and your victim. The statue cannot move or make any sound, and will only appear to be magical to very powerful casters. 
Additionally, if desired, you can separate parts of the statue for ease of transport: an ear, an eye, even an entire head. The victim will not feel physical pain, but will feel the intense psychological trauma engendered by such disassociation. If the body parts are returned to the statue when the spells effects conclude, the body is magically healed: if not, the victim experiences the full extent of the injuries inflicted upon it.

Pass Elements If confronted by a barrier fashioned from granite, chalk, slate or iron, you may cast this spell to pass through it as though it were but an illusion. You may travel a distance equal to 10 feet plus a number of feet equal to the total value of your casting dice (minimum three dice). The duration is one turn per die invested.
Animate Elements  Simply by gesturing towards a pile of loose materials comprising the elements of Hod (slate, stone, chalk, iron) within a range of thirty feet, the caster may grant it a semblance of life and animate it as their servant. Approximately 100 lbs of materials are required for each hit dice of invested (minimum 3 hit dice/ 300 lbs of material). 
The animated creature assumes a crudely humanoid shape (unless another form is preferred): it has as many hit points as the caster rolled on their magic dice, and an armour class/defence value equal to this +8 (or 11- dice if negative armour class is used). 
The creature maintains its integrity for as long as the caster is concentrating: the caster may perform any other action but may not cast a spell (excluding wands and scrolls), or following whichever rules you use for concentration. Otherwise, the creature may follow the mental instructions of the caster for as long as they are conscious. 
It can attack as a creature of corresponding hit dice, and inflicts d8 bludgeoning damage with each strike. It is immune to all attacks made against it with iron, slate, granit or chalk, but consider its material composition if it is attacked by other materials (chalk constructs will be more vulnerable to water attacks than others).
Constructs animated in this way may be rendered conscious by combination with lithoprions and sephira (see below)
Banish to the Labyrinth The caster must be holding a piece of stone from the labyrinths of Hod in one hand, and must either have the target within their line of sight, or touching them with their hands. Once the words are uttered, the target is immediately banished to a miniature labyrinth within the labyrinth of Hod.
Roll at least three hit dice, add it to the casters casting stat. This number represents the labyrinth's complexity (the caster may add as many dice as they have available, though this increases the odds of spell failure.
To see how long it takes the target to escape the labyrinth, deduct their intelligence from the difficulty: the resulting number is the number of ten minute turns it takes for them to escape. If their intelligence is higher than the difficulty level, the difference is the number of six second rounds it takes for them to escape.
Escaping from the labyrinth immediately transports them back to their spot they occupied before they were targeted by the spell.
Sephira You must first be in possession of a near perfect sphere fashioned from chalk, iron, granite or slate. weighing at least 3 lbs. This object must remain in the Labyrinth of Hod for one year, during which time it must not be touched by other sentient beings. Alternatively, the sephira may be kept in a place of study or learning, such as a magical college or library for the same time period and under the same conditions.
Once removed, you use the object in a way very similar to the spell magic jar,  except its explicit purpose is to steal souls and knowledge. 
Place the sephira against the temple or forehead of their target and utters a word of power: the victim must make a saving throw versus spells, or their soul will immediately leave its body to be imprisoned in the elemental globe. The saving throw target is determined by the total value of all casting dice (minimum four dice) plus your casting attribute modifier: this is the number the victim must beat on a d20 in order to resist having their souls sucked out. The sephira does not lose its power after a successful save, but the spell may not be cast again until the following round. 
Once imprisoned, the victim will appear to have fallen into a coma: to all intents and purposes, however, their life is over. Their body may be preserved with magic or kept alive by force feeding, but the soul cannot be returned to its former home unless the sephira is destroyed. Given the high value placed upon even the most insignificant soul, its destruction is something that will only occur through the actions of the victim's allies. 
In the meantime, the sephira has become a valued unit of currency: it may be bought and sold with other denizens of hod, or individual memories may be extracted and traded in a similar manner. Spellcasters are highly valued for this reason, as they can be used to cast additional magic, though this additional value tends to be short lived.

Footnote: NSR?

So the title of this challenge is NSR Planescape... and you may already be wondering why, though I'm sure you can guess  that the "n" is for new. Pandatheist has grouped together a number of games (Troika, Into the Odd, Mothership... usually described as OSR adjacent) under the umbrella New School Revolution.

I'm not big into labels, but I understand there's a) kickback against non-D&D games using the OSR label (though I've never actually witnessed it) and b) a desire to put some daylight between the grognards and the new kids on the block (in part due to the reactionary politics in some quarters).

Here's how Pandatheist describes the NSR:

NSR games have...
  • A GM
  • A Weird Setting
  • A Living World
  • Rules Light
  • Deadly
...and focus on:
  • Emergent Narrative
  • External Interaction
  • Exploration
You can read the original post at this link:

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