Friday, July 31, 2009

He Wants to Hold Your Hand, Hand, Hand, Hand…

One of the many reasons that the concept of using a dreamlands-like setting for a D&D campaign is attractive to me is that it allows both the referee and the players complete freedom to indulge in flights of fancy not normally allowed in a “straight” D&D game. As much as D&D (and all role-playing games) is a “game of the imagination,” the need to acquiesce to certain logical constraints is ever-present. The only time we can usually get away with doing something completely off-the-wall is in a comedic or silly game, which are usually of short-term durations.

Dreams are free from such logical constraints. From what I’ve been reading, when we sleep, the parts of our brain that normally control logical and rational thought are effectively shut down, which is why it seems perfectly reasonable in a dream to be taking a trip to Antarctica with the Oakland Raiders on a bus driven by your fourth-grade teacher. I’m looking to explore some similar terrain with Insomnity.

In theory, I’m just as free to present the illogical as fact and not think twice about the whys and wherefores of it all. In practice, getting potential players to indulge in the same sense of disbelief without turning the game into a farce is one of the biggest hurdles this idea faces. I’m not certain what best way to avoid this might be, but I suspect loose limits as to what is too bizarre might be better than none at all. Playing the NPCs as everyday citizens, no matter how strange, is probably another good idea.

Even with using these thoughts as a flexible governor as to what I can get away with, the possibilities are still much more than in your average fantasy world. If you add “race as class” and the Crabaugh Method to the mix, there’s a lot of mileage to be gotten from a world of dreams.

The other night, with “Customized Classes” from the May 1986 issue of Dragon in hand and a thought I mentioned in a previous post in mind, I came up with the following new class. This is the rough version, provided just to give you an idea of where my flights of fancy have been taking me as of late.

Octopus

Hit Dice: 1d6
Requirements: DEX 9
Combat Progression: as Cleric
Save As: Cleric
Level Limit: 11th
Weapons allowed: Any
Armor allowed: Leather and shield

You are an octopus, but whether you’ve always been one or this is a recent development is incidental. The fact that you are of unusual size for an octopus (your head rises 4’ off of the ground and your tentacles, when splayed out, stretch to 10’ in diameter) and that you seem well-adapted to life outside of the ocean also fails to keep you up at night. Although you are perfectly at home in the water, you don’t require regular immersion to stay alive – but there is something to be said for a nice cool bath or the occaisonal spritz on a hot day.

Special Abilities

Multiple Attacks – Starting at 1st level, an octopus is allowed two attacks per round. These attacks must be of the same type (melee or missile) and be directed at a single target. If an octopus’ target is slain and it has one or more attacks remaining in that round, he may switch to the next available target and continue combat with them without penalty. At 5th level, an octopus gains a 3rd attack each round, and at 9th level, he may strike up to four times per combat round.

Camouflage – An octopus can naturally alter its coloration to blend in with its surrounding environment. When using the ability outdoors or in other natural surrounds, the octopus is 90% likely to be overlooked by observers. Underground or in artificially constructed surrounding, this ability is not as effective and the octopus is only unseen one-third (2 in 6 chance) of the time.

Climb Walls – Thanks to the suction pads that cover its tentacles, an octopus can Climb Walls as if it were a Thief of equal level.

Aquatic Affinity – Octopi have the ability to breathe underwater and can swim at a rate of 90’ (30’).

Restrictions

Mollusk – Although land-dwelling octopi are able to maintain more rigidity than their aquatic brethren, they lack an internal skeleton. Thus, octopi are limited to wearing specially-fitted leather armor at best, although they may employ shields. Octopi may also only carry half the normal weight capacity allowed for other races.

Magical Item Use – Octopi cannot use wearable magical items intended for humanoid-shaped races. This includes rings, bracers, gauntlets, girdles, boots, and cloaks. Helms and eyes are allowed, however. An octopus can use variant forms of these magical devices if they were crafted specifically for its species.

Experience Point Cost
1st Level: 0-1,899
2nd Level: 1,900-3,799
3rd Level: 3,800-7,599
4th Level: 7,600-15,199
5th Level: 15,200-33,299
6th Level: 33,300-66,599
7th Level: 66,600-129,999
8th Level: 130,000-259,999
9th Level: 260,000-427,499
10th Level: 427,500-569,999
11th Level: 570,000+

39 comments:

Chris said...

No rings or bracers? But, but... tentacles man!
(I know, it's a mechanical balance thing)

Saved.

Christopher B said...

Octopus is a race - not a class! (How can I have my eight +5 holy defender-wielding octopus paladin if it's a class. :P)

(BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but an octopus doesn't have tentacles, does it? I was taught that they're arms...)

Al said...

And so Rendle, 4th level Octopus, set off alone with his great blade Moray-Cleaver into the Coral Wastes to face at last the slayers of his clan: the Oysters of the Bloody Shell.

I like it! :)

taichara said...

This. Is bloody awesome :D

I may have to leave off that octopoid critter I was thinking of working on -- you've beaten me to the punch, and in awesomeness to boot!

Timeshadows said...

I second the praise, as well as the call for them being separate from Class.
--Super cool, and fun! :D

JB said...

Dude...this does weird and funny things to my brain.

Octopi in D&D is like Squiddly-Diddly on acid...I'm just...aah...arr...aRRGHH...!

Matthew Slepin said...

Why, oh why does the Old-school fetishize the octopus so? I mean, cuddle-fish, man, cuddle-fish are where it's at. They can hypnotize prey with their own skin! But no! Everybody is always going for the octopi. They are so over-rated.

(Anyway, this is cool. I want to play an octopus now.)

jcosmon said...

I love this, and I think you have found a way to make the setting "unreal" without making it farcical.

I also love that Occupi is race as class -- I think that if you had octopi monk/paladin/cleric it would lose some of its punch (but that's just me, either way is cool.)

ancientvaults said...

This post is interesting, fun and horrifying (the latter being from a trip to an aquarium in Oregon at an early age when an octopus was attempting to make a run for it), the replies are also great, I love Al's imagery there.

The whole idea of this dream-state/world is really a sandbox of its own, opening some new territory up and breaking through (or severely warping) the boundaries that we are used to and comfortable with. I hope to see this idea expanded and wonder what weird landscapes you will explore.

Andreas Davour said...

An octopus class? Man, what are you dreaming about!?

Great fun, but it is scaring me.

Bat country, indeed!

verification word: extra (arms?)

Amityville Mike said...

No rings or bracers? But, but... tentacles man!

Actually not so much a game balance thing as the fact that octopi don't have fingers to wear rings on or wrists to keep bracers from falling off. Seemed logical and, as you notice, I keep the door open for special items made with the octopus on the go in mind.

Amityville Mike said...

BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but an octopus doesn't have tentacles, does it? I was taught that they're arms...

Maybe it's the wrong term from a scientific or biological standpoint, but, as a layman, I believe the presence of suckers allows me to bandy about the word "tentacle."

Amityville Mike said...

And so Rendle, 4th level Octopus, set off alone with his great blade Moray-Cleaver into the Coral Wastes to face at last the slayers of his clan: the Oysters of the Bloody Shell

I think I may have inadvertantly declared war on noism's Yoon-Suin...

Incidently, I choose 11th level as the limit for an octopus simply because I like the idea of an 11th level octopus being a paragon of his species.

Amityville Mike said...

I may have to leave off that octopoid critter I was thinking of working on -- you've beaten me to the punch, and in awesomeness to boot!

I hope I didn't inadvertantly scuttle plans for an octopus warbeast my troops could ride to battle on against the lands of Yoon-Suin.

Amityville Mike said...

I second the praise, as well as the call for them being separate from Class.

I'm actually waiting to see what Goblinoid Games does with it's forthcoming book that pares class from race before I commit one way or the other.

Amityville Mike said...

Why, oh why does the Old-school fetishize the octopus so?

You answered you own question:

I want to play an octopus now.

Deep down inside, everyone wants to be an octopus, even if for but an hour...

Amityville Mike said...

I love this, and I think you have found a way to make the setting "unreal" without making it farcical.

Thanks. It's a very real concern of mine trying to navigate between dreamlike and outright silly.

Amityville Mike said...

I hope to see this idea expanded and wonder what weird landscapes you will explore.

Me too! :D

Amityville Mike said...

An octopus class? Man, what are you dreaming about!?

The scary thing is that an octopus as a player race is one of my more tame ideas...

Andreas Davour said...

The scary thing is that an octopus as a player race is one of my more tame ideas...

Which makes me smile from ear to ear while running away... :)

myrystyr said...

Many years ago, I once commented to a fellow gamer that an octopus would make an excellent artist/craftsman class... only to be scuttled by appeals to realism.

I want to play an octopus! Although, he will be a chain-smoking octupus, carrying a copy of Time magazine issue 1 under one tentacle and wearing a fedora.

Race-as-class gets my vote, unless you end up with a large number of races. Having once DMed the Desert Nomads modules with a centaur, rakasta, lizard man, and gnoll, believe me it can get silly.

Dyson Logos said...

Three cheers.

Excellent class that doesn't steal the zeal from any of the existing classes and remains bizarre without being comical.

Age of Fable said...

Very cool! Can they hold multiple shields, or (for example) two weapons and a shield?

You might be interested in this randomised version of the same article that I made:

www.apolitical.info/webgame/class/becmi.php

noisms said...

Does he have a garden in the shade? ;)

When it comes to cephalopods Yoon-Suin is mostly about squid, so you're safe with the octopus class. Which I like a lot, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Magic items are magic - dragons are supposed to be able to wear them without special modification, as are humanoids of wildly different size categories (giants vs halflings). Why couldn't they wear a ring on their tentacles?

Amityville Mike said...

Why couldn't they wear a ring on their tentacles?

Short answer: no knuckles.

Anonymous said...

You meant that as a joke but its actually playable and a good example of how in the hands of a good LL/DM good rules can be used for darn near anything

As to Christopher B's question, just make an Octo-Paladin class

More racial classes are almost de rigueur in certain forms of game.

-- add a couple of powers, tweak the XP table and viola

In the hands of careful and creative it works better than race/class IMO

Blair said...

I love it and I may just make it a character option in my game, or at least an over the top Encounter Critical style gonzo-fest!

However, I'd suggest a reduced movement rate...the slithering and all.

richard said...

This is inspirational, thank you.

for myself, I'd make it a requirement to return to water periodically, but I encourage my players to maintain a stable of characters, so the octopus would simply be better suited to non-desert adventures (beware the dungeon that has no water: how do the inhabitants live?). I'd also remove the level limits, but maybe the octopus would get bigger with time and/or experience, accounting for hit dice rises, eventually getting so big that it becomes inconvenient in a 10' corridor: I did this once with a Mi-go game. And I'd allow for long-term continuous grip that would enable an octopus to use a ring or bracer while losing one limb for other purposes. But I love it.

Michael Curtis said...

The class is intended for use with a "dream setting" that I've been tooling around with and therefore I wasn't too concerned with "octopus realism" like movement rate and the need to keep moist. I figure the magic item, weight capacity, and armor restrictions were enough as it is.

richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richard said...

I get that, but because I always think "why not?" I'm wondering about how to add it to my general toolkit, and how to make it a template for any number of other possibilities. I'd rather have an octopus PC than a mer-man or a Deep One. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the difficulty of keeping them locked up.

On the ring thing, though, you've set me thinking in a direction I've never explored before: what does it mean to 'wear' a ring? What activates it? My first thought is rings worn in the mouth or nose as spellcasting devices, or looked or listened through... mixing up form and function in the magical arsenal. Pearls have to be worn to maintain their lustre, languages have to be spoken.

Robert Fisher said...

Cool! I was really captivated by the octopodes from SJG’s Cardboard Heroes. It seems they came from The Fantasy Trip. One day I’m going to use something inspired by them in an LL game.

Anonymous said...

Well, Star Frontiers had an octopus-like land-dwelling species in the Volturnus modules, and then there are the ducks of RuneQuest. So why not this?

Matthew W. Schmeer said...

Finally! A real use for the Awaken and Charm Mollusc spells from Holmes!

anarchist said...

Hi,

I've just posted an entry on my blog inspired by this one (although the details are quite different):

http://teleleli.blogspot.com/2011/04/dreamtime-octopuses.html

I've linked to your post.

Matt said...

Beauty.

micahblackburn said...

This is pretty darn epic!
I don't really agree with the ring and bracer thing (I'd limit them to two and one like humans though).

How much damage do their tentical attacks do?

Michael Curtis said...

I'd consider them unarmed attacks and limit damage to 1d2+Str bonus like other characters.