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Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is dead

Terry Pratchett is dead.
I don’t think there is a single other author who had such an influence on me and my view of the world.
Scribner once said “Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.” and so I think that he will live on, in a way, in all of us who spent part of their life in his books. And his books remain.

I hope that he will continue to change the people of this world for the better.

[Discworld] Other Deaths

Just some further details regarding Death:

Other Deaths

Sometimes different people can take on the role of Death when he is unavailable or otherwise busy. Technically this would not be needed, as he can be anywhere at any time, but it seems to bother him to have his mind in multiple places at the same time (e.g. there is a plague in a city, and he has to take care of an important death somewhere else). In these cases he sometimes uses proxies. He experimented with demons and humans so far, with varying grades of success. It might be that when he gives them part of his power, he also trades in some parts of their personality.

(Which coincidentally is the best explanation I ever heard why the Death of the early novels is so different from the later ones: he tried investing Scrofula with the Duty and became spiteful and meanspirited in exchange; later he tried to do the same with humans, but the whole thing went to the dogs during Mort; it also might explain why he seems more human lately: Susan has a small amount of his powers due to Discworld genetics, he might have taken on some of her virtues)

[Discworld] Rite of Askh-Ente

The Rite of Ashk-Ente

Wizard 8*
Duration: 48 turns
Range: 10’

This spell summons Death (or whoever fills his role at this time) into a circle and allows the caster to ask any question he wants and receive answers. Death is omniscient, but he is not bound to answer in the clearest way possible. He also isn’t bound to stay in the circle, but he generally doesn’t tell summoners that to avoid awkward situations. He generally is more or less helpful, mostly because he really doesn’t like the spell. According to him it always takes him away from something important, and considering we are talking about Death this is most likely very true. As the spell involves summoning Death, the mostly elderly wizards attempting a spell of such a level generally do no like to use this spell too often.

The spell will not keep people from dying just because he is summoned. His duties do not need him to attend to every death personally.

*The level of the spell is point of some contention. Traditionally only performed as a group ritual of the eight level with a lot of chanting and impressively dripping candles involved, some enterprising young wizards have abstracted this spell a bit further down. There are 12 versions of the spell available on various levels, including on 5th level (a few candles and chanting), 2nd level (three wooden sticks and a bit of rodent blood), and even 1st level (two sticks and an egg, but it has to be a fresh one!)

[Discworld] Death

Death

Death (Discworld)

Death (Discworld) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armor Class: 19
Hit Dice: unlimited
No. of Attacks: Blade or Scythe/Will
Damage: 1d30/Death
Movement: 30’
Alignment: Neutral
Save As: Magic-User 20
Morale: n/a
Treasure Type: none
XP: 40.000

It goes without saying that any real fight against Death is futile and could be sumarized with “You lose.” Death is an anthropomorphic representation of, well, death. He (or she?) is even feared by the Gods, because the Gods know that even they can die. They sometimes try to push him around, but in the end he will survive them.

He generally appears as a human skeleton clothed in a black robe, wearing a scythe and a sword. His eyes look dark with the lights that look like blue exploding supernovas. He generally communicates with a voice that is DESCRIBED LIKE THIS and goes directly into the listeners mind, without any diversion over the eardrums. This is not the only way he could look, and all over the Discworld different cultures have different ideas about his looks, but he generally found it a bother to find out what people expect of him and the dark skeleton look seems to be accepted everywhere.

He technically is the last judge, completely emotionless and without pity and mercy, but sometimes he seems to make it clear that he is on our side. Whatever our side might be with a being like him. Technically he does not have any emotions at all (he is lacking the glands for emotions), but he seems fond of cats and curry, and a few other human endeavours.

There are some rules that apply to him (one can assume that someone set these rules sometimes, but considering that he is the only being that was present at the beginning and the end of the universe one has to wonder who that was…): he will allow people to challenge him in a game for their lives (but would prefer not to play chess), he will always respond to the rite of Ashk-Ente and will respond to questions truthfully, he will use his sword for royalty (royalty has special rights), and he will always show up personally for Witches and Wizards.nta

Death always is able to use the following items (even though he might affect an inability to do so): his Scythe and his Sword (both sharp enough to separate souls from bodies), any life timer for any living person (a timer showing how much time the person has left), any biography of any living or dead person (a book writing itself as the person goes along his/her life). He also rides a flying white stallion (called Binky).

The Death of Rats

A small aspect of Death which was created during an identity crisis caused by the Auditors of Reality. In this case Death split into a multitude of Deaths, one for each kind of being. This problem was resolved soon thereafter, but the Death of Rats (and other rodents) had already taken on it’s own personality and refused to become part of Death again. Technically he still is an aspect of Death, but one with it’s own personality and agenda. He generally seems friendly, if a bit mischievous and will take care about rats, mice, hamsters, and a few select humans, the same way Death cares about the rest. He speaks the same way as Death, but most people will only hear him SQUEEK. For translation purposes he has his companion and steed Quoth the Raven.

Regarding the powers of Death

Death is the ultimate NPC. He will show up sometimes, when death to something is imminent or might be uncertain, and might interact with characters at those times. His powers are neither magical, nor divine. Instead one could say that he is the only thing that is really real. Most people cannot see him because they have an inbuilt reality filter that provides them with a buffer from reality. People who can see him at all times include the mystically inclined (Wizards, Witches, cats, etc.), young children (because they do not have the filter yet, seasoned watchmen (who saw enough reality in their career to last them a lifetime), and presumably people who drank a cup or more of Klatchian coffee.

The use of Death in the game

It would not be Discworld if Death was not making at least sporadic appearances, but he should not be overused as a character or as a plot element. Despite the stats above, and despite the long description he should be used sparingly, only for cameos mostly, or maybe a small role in the background. Ideally I only would use him to lampshade some developments in the plot of the session and of course when someone is dying, or close to it.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Creatures 1: Swamp Dragon

Swamp Dragon
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2 to 4
Attacks: 1 (bite or breath)
Damage: 1d6 or see below
Save: F2 to F4
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XX

“Draco vulgaris” or “common dragon”, in contrast to “draco nobilis” which has been extinct for a few centuries now. The collective noun for swamp dragons is “a slump” or “an embarrassment”. These dragons are called swamp dragons because they live in swamps, where there is little usable fuel, a problem for dragons that create flames for egg incubation, and for warding off enemies, predators, and other dragons (competitors for food or territory), or sometimes just to dispel boredom. Swamp dragons compensate for this by evolving a huge appetite for anything that can be used for combustion. Swamp dragons can rearrange their “internal plumbing”, guts, stomach, other miscellaneous tubes, to make the best use of what they have eaten, and to create the hottest flame they can. When having indigestion or just when over-excited they tend to explode, which is the most common cause of death for the species. This might be why despite the lack of food they are mostly surviving in those boring swamps. Swamp dragons are almost permanently ill. Their diet and biology is not a healthy one.
Swamp dragons can grow up to about two feet long. All have wings although for some the wings are only ornamental. Swamp dragons can fly, and have to answer to real physics when they do. The generally mate in air as well.
Swamp Dragons will bite 80% of the time for 1d6 hit points damage, or breath fire 20% of the time. The fire breath attack deals 1d6 hit points of damage per hit die the attacking hell hound possesses. A successful saving throw versus breath attack reduces the damage by half. With every use of the breath weapon there is a 5% (1 on d20) chance that the dragon will explode, doing 1d20 damage to all in the vicinity. Swamp Dragons will save as Fighters equal in level to their hit die.

Well, I guess that one was definitely missing. Not that it is much of a challenge. There aren’t that many really unique monsters in Discworld, or rather, there are not that many monsters that are not humanoid at least. One particular missing monster will be the real dragon, which of course does only exist in very particular circumstances. This one here… is a variation of the dragon that can live even in areas without magic background radiation. In other words: it’s a dragon how it needs to be to survive in real life. And even then it tends to explode randomly.

I guess the next monsters will be something along the line of Discworld trolls and gnolls, but I currently am still working on trolls as a character race. The Discworld specifics make the whole thing a bit challenging (variable Intelligence).

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Races 1 – Elves

Meadow Elves

That's what people imagine elves to be

Oh… Elves. They show up in not even three novels if I remember well, and are mentioned in a maybe two more. Of course everyone says they know the real Elves from that, but that reality of Elvishness is a bit harsh. Most of the population of the Discworld does know about Elves. They do not know the truth though, maybe some rumours, but certainly not all of it.
For the normal peasant Elves are… strange and magical. Those pointy-eared buggers that giggle a lot. Artists that can enchant with their looks, beautiful and glamorous.
For Trolls and Dwarfs and for some humans in the know this is not so.
Elves, or what people generally call Elves are the descendants of true Elves, a lifeform from another place that is sterile in itself but can procreate with humans. An entry for True Elves would be something for the monster section. Still, there obviously are remaining Elves around, some tribes and villages that can trace back their lineage to the old elves, if only by looking at their own ears.
A lot of the typical D&D tropes for Elves fit to the dot on this background: pointy-eared, rare besides some half-hidden locations, mourning a passed age, skilled in the arts, etc. It doesn’t matter that the reason for all these things is that their ancestors were vicious parasites that pretty much enslaved humans with glamour magic. In the end it comes down to Elves as the pointy-eared fellow who doesn’t get along too well with the dwarf in the party.
Elves as a race: as in rulebooks. True Elves: will be a monster entry.

A Map of the Sto Plains and Adjoining Locales

deviantArt user SM9T8 created this stunning map according to the descriptions in the L-Space Wiki and the Discworld Mapp.

Discworld Roleplaying Bibliography

The Discworld Companion

Image via Wikipedia

Discworld Companion:

Pretty much an encyclopedia about everything Discworld. These books are indispensible and actually seem to be more complete than the roleplaying books mentioned below. In addition to entries about pretty much anything mentioned in the books they also have small but nice maps for different places (including a map of Lancre much better suited for roleplaying than the one in the tourist guide below), and some random information not mentioned in the books… yet.

Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Companion Updated.Gollancz 1997. ISBN 0-575-60030-6
Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The New Discworld Companion. Gollancz 2003. ISBN 0-575-07555-4.

The Streets of Ankh-Morpork

Image via Wikipedia

Maps:

Starting with The Streets of Ankh-Morpork Pratchett and Briggs published a few rather beautiful maps that are just perfect for roleplaying. Especially the Ankh-Morpork map might be essential to any game set in the city. The tourist guide to Lancre… well not so much, but still better than Death’s Domain, which I didn’t even include here.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, Corgi 1993, ISBN 0-552-14161-5
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Mapp, Corgi 1995, ISBN 0-552-14324-3
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, A Tourist Guide to Lancre, Corgi 1998, ISBN 0-552-14608-0

GURPS Discworld

Image via Wikipedia

GURPS Discworld:

I am not too much of a fan of these books as one might have noticed, nevertheless I think I should include them here. The books show some really nice ideas in some parts, and are at least helpful. My copy of the first book had the GURPS Lite rules as an appendix in the back, but according to my infos “The Discworld Role-Playing Game” actually has them interspersed in between the text, which gives the whole thing a much more complete feeling. Still, it’s GURPS, and in my opinion that system lives off it’s sourcebooks, and not it’s rules.

Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld, Steve Jackson Games 1998
Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld Also, Steve Jackson Games 2001, ISBN: 1-55634-447-3
Phil Masters, Discworld Role-Playing Game, Steve Jackson Games 2002, ISBN 1-55634-687-5.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 3 – Magic Users

Wizards
as magic user, mostly male; Wizards have an established university system with the Unseen University in AM as it’s core facility and for a long time also the only example. Meanwhile other schools have been recognized or established, such as Brazeneck College in Pseudopolis (Unseen Academicals), The Academy of Artificers in Sto Lat (Discworld MUD), and the Illusionary Institute of Djelibeby (Discworld MUD). Technically all these are male-only, but there are examples of female students attending due to either skill or subterfudge (GURPS DW: beards are expected, but who’s to say all of those beards are real?) There are also known schools and traditions of magic in Klatch and Krull, which seem more accepting of female students than the schools of the Sto Plains. An additional tradition is that of Hedge Wizardry which, while technically connected to traditional wizardry often works more on a traditional apprentice system, not unlike that of witches.
As Magic User in rules, might specialize as in AD&D rules into various orders. Spell list needs to be adapted.

Witches
as magic user, only female; Witches have a more common sense attitude to magic than Wizards. In many cases their spells and magics are more based on Nature and Healing, or at least less flashy than Wizards spells (except if they want to be flashy). This does not mean they are not powerful though. Their system is a more traditional apprenticeship system without much formal organization over the level of local covens. There are different traditions that are much more dedicated to specific schools of magic, with Genua having Vooodoo witches, and an organisation of Fairy Godmothers being part of the larger society of witches.
Use Magic User as in rules, spell list needs to be adapted.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 2 – Covert

One of the Patrician’s greatest contributions to the reliable operation of Ankh-Morpork had been, very early in his administration, the legalising of the an­cient Guild of Thieves. Crime was always with us, he reasoned, and therefore, if you were going to have crime, it at least should be organised crime.

-Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!


Thieves
technically basic thieves/rogues as can be found in the rulebooks. Thieves in the area of Ankh-Morpork and the surrounding planes have a special status: the Thieves’ Guild in Ankh-Morpork is a fully acknowledged guild in their own right, with it’s licensed members having a quota and a receipt system in place. A practice that seems to have spilled out to other places as well. Unlicensed thieves encounter harsh penalties though. Not from the local law who often co two could care less, but from their fellow thieves.
As in rules.

Assassins
an old and noble profession. There are various variants all over the discworld, but the most renowned and famous school for this vocation is the School of Assassins of the Ankh-Morpork Assassin’s Guild, one of the most renowned institutes of learning in the Discworld. Anybody “inhumed” by a guild member of the guild can be sure that his inhumer was of equal, if not higher social status than him. Many people attend this school even if they never have the intention to become professional killers, as the education there is just that good. Many noblemen, citizens, aristocrats, but also bureaucrats have this class (e.g. The Patrician).
As in AD&D rules.