DiceSoup: Calories

Many a year ago (like, three) I edited and sometimes wrote for an RPG website called DiceSoup. DiceSoup no longer publishes, and as far as I can tell there is no trace left of the articles. Last week I was notified (via the social network I will not mention) that folks were still looking for the articles. I can't repost all of them, but the ones I've written will begin to show up here like little mushrooms under the DiceSoup tag. Oh, look, here's one now!
Food (and Why Dragonslayers Don’t Need It)
The greater majority of game systems lack a complex system for starvation, and there’s a reason for that; compared to the other things characters typically do, eating just isn’t interesting. Would you watch Star Wars if every twenty minutes Luke Skywalker had to stop to scarf down a PB&J?
However, hunger and starvation do have their places in entertainment. Survival and post-apocalyptic stories both feature eating as a major goal- and make it interesting. The big difference is that in a survival situation, fighting for food is interesting: you can’t just walk into the local tavern and order up a steak and ale. Think of how important fighting for food is in the Hunger Games, Castaway, or Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. In short: hunger is good for entertainment when it’s a main goal, not when the main goal is dragon-hunting or demon-fighting.
That being said, hunger does have its place in non-survival tabletop games too. A campaign focusing on group of heroes rebuilding a village after a natural disaster, frontiersmen settling a harsh wilderness, smugglers trapped on a starship adrift in space: all of these campaigns could use rules from the popular games we know and love, but could also benefit from a more complex rule than “eat every three days or be fatigued”. For those who are exciting about watching their characters wither away before their eyes, we present our take on starvation rules: Calories.

A character’s Max Calories are equal to four times their Constitution score. This represents both bulkier characters being able to store more food energy, and those with higher endurance who can keep pushing even when the fuel gage hits “E”. If you want starvation to present a larger problem to the players, you can have Max Calories start at three times their Constitution score, and conversely, you could use five times Constitution score for a game with less focus on the starvation aspects. Season to taste.
When a character is at Max Calories, they are fully energized. As a character goes about the day, some activities deplete the character’s Calories. Each activity is categorized into one of four types- High Energy, Medium Energy, Low Energy, or (Virtually) No Energy. High Energy activities are those that consume lots of calories (like running for extended periods of time, or chopping down a large tree). Low Energy represents less intense activities, like a few hours of foot travel or lifting a moderately heavy object only a few times. Medium Energy represents those activities in between. Some activities, like eating, require such a minor amount of calories that they are counted as No Energy. Each category of activity has a set number of d4’s that they reduce a player’s Calories by, which are given in the table below.
Calorie Reduction
High Energy
Extended runs, mountain climbing, combat for heavily equipped characters
Medium Energy
Jogging, swimming, combat for most characters
Low Energy
Extended walking, hunting
(Virtually) No Energy
Gear maintenance, short walks, driving, picking locks

Characters also spend energy maintaining their internal bodily functions. At the end of each day, a character loses 2d4 Calories. This number increases to 3d4 Calories in cold environments, as the body burns more energy to keep warm.

A person can go for a while before a lack of food begins to catch up with them, and the same applies for our characters. A character takes no ill effects from calorie loss until they hit 16 or fewer calories. Any character with between 16 and 1 calories is considered Hungry, and takes a -1 on all physical rolls (from a lack of energy) and social rolls (people’s tempers shorten when they’re on an empty stomach).
Once a character a character hits zero, things really begin to go from bad to worse. A character at zero or less calories is considered Starving. Starving doesn’t immediately kill a character; rather, their Calories continue to drop into the negatives. Instead of rolling using the table above to determine Calories lost, a Starving character will only ever lose one Calorie at a time. If they hit -20, then the character has starved to death.
In addition, The penalties from being Hungry double to -2 to all physical and social rolls. Also, for every day a character spends at zero, they take a penalty from the Starving table below, rolling 1d6 and adding the number of consecutive days spent at Starving to get your result.
Hunger begins to take its toll; take 2d6 nonlethal damage
Lose 1d4 Wisdom and Intelligence until the character gets above zero Calories
Permanently lose 1 Strength
Permanently lose 1 Dexterity
Permanently lose 1 Constitution
Character begins to hallucinate for 1d6 hours, and is unable to do anything but interact with the hallucinations
Permanently lose 1 Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution
Character hallucinates for 3d6 hours, and is unable to do anything but interact with the hallucinations
Character loses 1d4 from each physical stat
A character’s organs begin to fail; character takes 1d6 damage per hour, +1d6 for every previous hour
The character’s body begins to shut down. They enter into a coma for 1d6 days.
The character’s body has met its limit, and has nothing left to cannibalize. The character dies.

In order to spend Calories, characters will first have to gain Calories by eating food. Food rich in calories (like a jar of peanut butter or a full meal) add 2d4 calories to the character. Regular foods (dead pigeon, apple) add 1d4. Particularly light meals (like a head of lettuce or some celery) might only add 1 calorie.


The Gunslinger (A Swords and Wizardry/Old School Class)

So the players in my Swords and Wizardry campaign just got their hands on a gun. Plus, the game is FLAILSNAILS friendly, so I know it's only a matter of time before someone's Pathfinder gunslinger wants to come party. So I reckon it's time for me to make a gunslinger class. Fighters could be used, but come on, the Western genre is so much fun.

I tried making a gunslinger class before, but nothing really worked until I read Rolang's Creeping Doom's take on the Illusionist as a LotFP specialist and I was like, hey, that could work.
(Act like this...

Prime Attribute: Dexterity 13+
Hit Dice: 1d8 per level
Armor: Leather, no shields
Weapons: Any
Saving Throw: As thief
Experience: As fighter
Attacks: As cleric

Tricks: A gunslinger's main schtick is tricks. Tricks work like LotFP's specialist's skills--they work on a d6 roll, and the gunslinger has a chance to increase the odds of a trick as they level.

At first level, the gunslinger has two points to assign to tricks. These points can either be put into the same trick, giving it a 2-in-6 chance of success, or two separate tricks, each with a 1-in-6 chance. Every level after the first, the gunslinger gets an additional two points to spread among old or new tricks. If a six is rolled when using a trick, it backfires--either the gun malfunctions or the opposite of the intended action occurs. If a trick has six points in it and a six is rolled, roll another d6--it only fails if the second one comes up a six.

There's no set list of tricks--the player makes them up as they level. Anything a good ol' Western-style gunman can do can become a trick:
  • Disarming an opponent with a well-placed shot
  • Creating a cloud of smoke for cover
  • Rigging some extra gunpowder into a bomb
  • Firing shots to spook animals or mobs (forcing a morale check)
  • Reflexively drawing when suprised 
If the DM is cool with it, tricks could be non-combat things as well: falling safely from high distances, cheating at games of chance, or knocking out opponents with beer bottles and stools. The only stipulation is that tricks can't directly cause damage in combat--that's what attacking is for--they apply penalties or create opportunities. So if one of the gunslinger's tricks is a shooting opponents in the leg, it'll half the opponent's movement speed instead of doing HP damage.  

Example: Sam is a first level gunslinger. I put her first two points into separate tricks: spooking animals and raising a posse. Each now succeed with a roll of a 1 on a d6. Sam gets jumped by some bugbear banditos. The first round she tries to spook their horses into running off. I roll a three, so the attempt is unsuccessful. Bummer. They smack Sam around with their clubs. Next round, she tries to spook them again. I roll a one--it's a success! The horses check morale, fail, then flee, taking the bugbears with them.

Later that day, Sam tries to use her other trick to gather a posse to hunt down the bugbears. I roll a six. Uh-oh, that's a backfire. The posse thinks Sam is a little too eager to hunt down the bugbears--maybe she's the one who's been stealing all the cattle! Now Sam's the one getting chased out of town!

...while looking like this.)

Here's my quick rule for using guns in a retroclone campaign. Guns work like heavy crossbows--same damage, same rate of fire. But, they're like, super deadly. Their damage dice is exploding, so if the max number is rolled, roll it again and total them. If a one is rolled on an attack the gun misfires--either dealing damage to the attacker or causing them to lose a round as they're covering in a smoke cloud choking (50% of either). They should be expensive, but not overly so--maybe double or triple the cost of a heavy crossbow.


The Aurumancer (A Swords and Wizardry/Old School Class)

While some look to draw their powers from gods or eldritch energies, the banking mages of Alt-St. Fran's pledged themselves to a higher power: wealth. What better way to distance yourself from the riff-raff than to kill them with your pocket book?

Prime Attribute: Intelligence 13+
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level
Armor: Cloth
Weapons: clubs, daggers, staves, and crossbows
Saving Throw: As magic user
Experience: As cleric
Attacks: As magic user with weapons, as fighter with Molten Gold

Molten Gold: The aurumancer can transmute golden coinage or treasure into streams of molten gold to attack enemies. Using this ability requires sacrificing 10 gp (or its equivalent in treasure), has a range of 30 ft, and deals 1d6 damage. For each level the aurumancer has above first, he or she can sacrifice an additional 10 gp to add +1 to the damage. Gold used in this manner is ruined by the attempt.

Like this, but, you know, out of a dude's hand.
  Armor of Wealth: For every 100 gp worth of jewelry an aurumancer wears his or her magics become more tangible, increasing their AC +1 (up to +6).

Mr. T is basically walking around in full plate at this point.

Aurumancer's Eye: At second level, the aurumancer can replace one of their eyes with a magicked golden ball in a ritual that costs 100 gp. This allows them to know anyone's wealth relative to theirs (poorer than me, richer than me, about the same) just by looking at them or a thing they handled within the last week.

Consume Wealth: At fifth level, the aurumancer gains the ability to consume rare and sought-for magic items to boost their personal power. Consuming a one-use magic item (such as a scroll or potion) grants +1d6 to one of their stats or hp for one hour. Consuming a permanent magic item instead gives them a permanent +1 (up to max). Consuming a magic item is an hour-long ritual with much wine drinking, pursing of lips, mustache-twitching, and harumphing.

Palace: At ninth level the aurumancer can create a palace of obnoxious wealth for themselves. This palace will  attract a host of guards, merchants and rich, cutthroat nobles loyal to the aurumancer (or at least, loyal to the aurumancer's bank account).


Dungeon Train to Hell

After the successful creation of a perfume that mimicked the pheromones of a queen crystal ant, Quethbern the Perfumer set her ambitions and talents to replicating the results with devils. Of course, before she could try the perfume, she'd need to a test devil. She was able to find a lone imp named Shwile. The pheromones were an utter failure, but seeing a chance for a diabolical prank, the imp pretended to be under Quethbern's influence. So with Shwile's advice, Quethbern created a drill mounted to a steam train endlessly going in circles in order to drill into Hell and gain access to its immortal armies. A truly, truly, brilliant idea.

The Train Set-up
Quethbern's train has the locomotive and nine additional cars. The tracks are circular, and just long enough so that way the locomotive constantly follows just a few feet away from the caboose. Each of the cars has a door on the inside of the circle and the outside. The drill itself hangs from three heavy metal bars suspended between  the locomotive, the kitchen car, and the library car. The drill relies on the train's constant circular movement to bore downwards.

Getting on the Train
Most of the car doors are open, so characters can just get on or off where they please. Only the doors to car 2 and 4 are shut. Since the train is constantly moving, getting on is a test in itself, and jumping into one of the cars should probably involve a Dexterity check. If a character fails the check, they then must make a save. A failure on this save means the character trips and falls onto the rails, potentially resulting in dismemberment by train wheel. Roll a d10.

1-3 Train runs over small body part (fingers, toes, ear). 1d6 damage.
4-7 Train runs over hand or foot. Severed and 2d6 damage.
8-9 Train runs over arm or leg. Severed and 3d6 damage.
10 Train runs over torso. Death.

There's small doors on each ends of each car, so characters and npcs can move from one to another.

Note the crocs. The crocs are very important.
Crystal Ants
Crystal ants (HD 1, AC chain, flail 1d6, bite 1d3 plus poison, take half damage from slashing or piercing) usually dwell underneath the earth, gathering gems and reproducing. Their bite has a poison which, on a failed save, crystallizes a limb. They're usually pretty cool dudes (if a little dorky), but follow the orders of their queen unerringly. The crystal that makes up their body is the color of frozen sewage and is littered with way too many organs, but 1d100 gp worth of salvageable gems can be taken from their corpses.

Into the Dungeon Train
1) Locomotive This car contains Old Dave, Quethbern's apprentice. Old Dave (HD 0, AC cloth) is ten years old, and his biggest perfumer accomplishment so far is cutting off his long, black hair and alchemically gluing it to his face. Old Dave is frantically shoveling coal from the interdimensional coal chute into the furnace. Usually Quethbern has two medicated apes do this work, but Old Dave forgot to give them their tranquilizers this morning and now they're running amok. Old Dave has two small diamonds he's found in the chute and is willing to give them to anyone who can bring the apes back before his master finds out.

2) Diabolical scrying mirror The door facing the outside of the train circle here is closed, and on it hangs an unadorned mirror facing towards the drill. Several dead crystal ants lie in the center, and the walls are covered in diabolical symbols. Shwile told Quethbern that this ritual would infuse the train with the energies of Hell to make it dig faster, but in actuality, it merely allowed Shwile's master, the pit fiend Goredosh, to scry through the mirror. Goredosh finds the whole procedure hysterical, and watches it like a bad reality tv show. If the PCs pass through and make it apparent that they're not with Quethbern, Goredosh might contact them in the hopes of creating more entertainment.

3) Cage car This car contains two cages, one big and one small. The bigger cage takes up most of the car and is where the apes are kept when they are not working. It is currently empty. The smaller cage contains Shwile. While she thought the prank was funny at first, Shwile didn't realize that it would mean being caged up for weeks on end. She'd be willing to aid any outsiders who might shake up the status quo (or at least open her cage).

4) Perfume lab All of the doors to this car are shut and barred. This is the train's perfume lab, and Quethbern (HD 4, AC leather, dagger 1d4, magical perfumes prepared: charm person, sleep, hold person) has spent the last few days locked inside, creating additional batches of her devil pheromone. This room contains her lab equipment (100 gp, very heavy and very fragile), a multitude of flowering plants, and a small hammock. The equipment contains, among mundane items, two potions of healing, one potion of crystal ant queen pheromone (lasts for 24 hours), seven potions of devil pheromone (useless), a potion of finger growth (grows fingers to two feet long; useful for collecting dangerous plant specimens), three vials of poison ivy sap, and a sapphire-encrusted silver chalice with a blade for a stem.

5) Kitchen This car serves as the kitchen where the crystal ants prepare meals for Quethbern and Old Dave. One of the loose apes climbed into the kitchen and wrecked it before the crystal ants were able to chase it off. Two 4-oz canisters of chocolate mate tea (20 gp a piece) and two sets of fine silverware (15 gp total) lie on the floor. The three crystal ant chefs (no flails) are still inside, trying to clean up the mess.

6) Dining and sleep quarters Quethbern and Old Dave sleep and take their meals in this car. It contains a barrel, two chairs, and two beds. Under one of the beds is a sack containing 253 gold and a small silver pendant (50 gold). Under the pillow of the other bed are several letters from Old Dave's loving parents. On the wall contains a certificate proclaiming Quethbern to be a member of Alt-St. Fran's Perfumery Guild. A crystal ant stands guard.

7) Guard car Four men with dachshunds for heads (Entire dachshunds. HD 1, AC chain, club 1d6+1, loyal but dumb, easily befriended with meat) guard this car. Quethbern bought them from a vivisectionist friend.she  trained them to sit in this car and fire crossbows at anyone who tried to enter the train from the outside. They performed this job admirably, but are not bright enough to reload the crossbows, so they are forced to point the crossbows, waggle clubs, and bark at anyone as the train goes by.


8) Library Quethbern's alchemical library is currently the nest for the two escaped apes. They've trashed the place, but are quite fond of it. They particularly like grabbing heavy books, climbing on to the steel beams supporting the drill, and throwing them at the crystal ants camped in area 11. What little is left of the books contains the information to make any of her concoctions, and would be worth about 500 gp to a perfumer rival.

9) Drying car Quethbern uses this car to dry the key ingredient for her devil pheromone perfume, Baphomet's Cap. This fungus releases spores which cause chronic eye bleeding on a failed save. They hang in knots from the ceiling all throughout this car. Quethbern will leave them here until all the spores are gone.

10) Food storage Dry food is stored in large barrels in this car. An uninvited hobo named Funman (HD1, AC leather, shiv 1d4) is currently flopping here. His face is covered in dry blood from area 9. He's not looking for trouble, and pretends to not see anyone who enters the car. If he's treated well he might tell of his knowledge of the train (areas 10-7), share some of his iron pork and beans rations, or work as a hireling for the party. Area 1 is close enough to the back of this car that a character could jump to it.

11) Crystal ant camp Crystal ants not on duty make camp around the drill here inside the train circle. Each one has a shoulder-width diameter hole as a bed of which they are very protective. The ants are much more likely to be friendly here, since their orders are to guard the train and they're not technically in the train. Ten ants are usually off duty at any given time.