Using the Rainy City with retro-clones or OSR games

(Cross-posted at the OG Superhero Necromancer Blog)

Maybe you’re thinking about using the Rainy City with a retroclone or other OSR game. This is pretty easy to do, in my experience — in fact, the first major Rainy City campaign I ever ran used the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. It should work just as well with any of the D&D variants, or games inspired by them.

The city has a few quirks that you can use to add mechanical flavor to highlight what makes this town distinct. This post presents some quick and dirty rules tweaks to do this.

You can always ignore one or more of these if you’d rather just use your game as is! It won’t break the setting to allow whatever your favorite game allows, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably at least intrigued by the possibility of tailoring things.

Where it comes up (especially the alchemy rules), I’ve used Necrotic Gnome‘s Old School Essentials as my rules reference here.

Weather Magic
Weather magic can change the weather, but there’s one basic fact that can’t be changed: it always rains. You can make the rain lighter, you can make it stronger, you can make it cold enough to turn to freezing rain or maybe, in a very short-lived, localized way, even snow. But you can’t make the clouds part, and you can’t make the sun shine. You are, in a sense, in the elemental pocket plane of rain. It always rains. Even a wish can’t make the rains stop entirely and the sun come out.

Arcane Magic
The big thing here is the seasons. There are four seasons in the Rainy City, and each can be helpfully thought of as being elementally aspected, but the strongest direct effect on arcane magic is its effect on fire magic.

  • The Quiet: All fire based effects are minimized (e.g., they do minimum damage, have minimum size, etc.), and they produce a lot of smoke (hindering visibility and potentially even becoming choking in tightly enclosed quarters). Mundane fires also burn only weakly and with much smoke during this season. 
  • Firelight: Fire magic works normally, just as this is the only time of year when mundane fires burn normally. 
  • The Rainy Season: Neither mundane fires nor magical fires will light or burn at all. 
  • The Windy Season: All fire based effects are minimized (e.g., they do minimum damage, have minimum size, etc.), and they produce a lot of smoke (hindering visibility and potentially even becoming choking in tightly enclosed quarters). Mundane first also burn only weakly, and with much smoke. 

Larvae may be the doomed souls of the evil dead. But they are also people.

Yet some wizards disagree… perhaps because it is so convenient to do so. The horrible truth is that a wizard can eat a larvae for magic power. It takes about an hour to eat a full-sized larvae, which is about the size of a dwarf. It must be eaten alive, and it will stay alive the whole time. However, once each bite is chewed and swallowed, it is transfigured into magical energies, filling your spirit but not your belly. Upon taking the last bite, roll 1d10. This is the number of spell levels worth of memorized spells you instantly recover, without study. You must have spell slots available to gain the effect.

Divine Magic
This is a big one — the default setting on this dial if you’re using the full version of the city is that the gods don’t answer any prayers in the Rainy City. If you’re starting a local campaign, the easy way to deal with this is by not allowing any clerics (or druids, etc.). If your PCs are just visiting for a time, you could get across some of this by not having any NPC clerics and/or wizards. Maybe you also want to allow divine magic but the gods are far away, so you minimize effects. Or maybe, you just allow your clerics to function normally but don’t have any local NPC clerics with miraculous powers. How does your particular cleric get away with it? I don’t know, but the alchemist’s guild will take notice.

Note that this aspect of the Rainy City, if you’re using it, makes undead even scarier than usual because they can’t be turned and there is no holy water.

In the setting, the alchemists’ guild (“The Harmonious Chantry of Alchemists”) is a major power player, and part of the reason for this is their monopoly on healing potions. Their monopoly on “boiling salts” is the other reason: these are the main way people can cook food during the Rainy Season, and even the Quiet and the Windy Season.

Most versions of classic D&D don’t have very detailed rules for alchemy and magic item creation. In our first Rainy City campaign, we used an OD&D class from Dragon Magazine #2. It worked well throughout the full campaign, so if you have access to it, I recommend it. Alternatively, here’s a quick and dirty alchemist:

Armor, weapons, hit dice, experience progression as thief.

From a sample potion or recipe, the alchemist can brew potions.

  • Brewing a potion takes 1d4+1 days per level of the spell effect to be produced,
  • It costs 250 gp in materials per level of the spell effect to be produced. 
  • At the end, roll 1d20. On a 1-3, the potion fails. On a 4+, it succeeds. 

Alchemists can only brew potions if they have the recipe and/or a sample potion that creates this effect. They must be high enough level to reproduce the spell effect in order to brew the potion. Here are the recipes they can learn.

Use the Magic-User spells memorized table to determine the maximum number of recipes they can have mastered of each level. (The recipe list by level will be below.)

An alchemist starts play knowing one recipe (rolled randomly, picked by the player, assigned by the DM — your game, your call). They also start play with one potion (from their known recipe), assumed to have been brewed before the game starts.

Level 1 Recipes

  1. Control Animal
  2. Control Human
  3. Cure Light Wounds
  4. Delusion
  5. Detect Magic
  6. Purify Food and Water 
  7. Read Languages
  8. Remove Fear 
  9. Resist Cold 
  10. Shield 

Level 2 Recipes 

  1. Detect Evil
  2. Detect Invisible
  3. Diminution
  4. ESP
  5. Invisibility
  6. Levitate 
  7. Know Alignment 
  8. Locate Object 
  9. Resist Fire 
  10. Speak with Animals 

Level 3 Recipes

  1. Clairaudience
  2. Clairvoyance
  3. Cure Disease
  4. Fly
  5. Haste
  6. Infravision
  7. Giant Strength
  8. Growth
  9. Locate Object
  10. Remove Curse
  11. Treasure Finding
  12. Water Breathing

Level 4 Recipes 

  1. Control Plants 
  2. Control Undead
  3. Cure Serious Wounds
  4. Neutralize Poison 
  5. Polymorph Self
  6. Remove Curse 

Level 5 Recipes 

  1. Heroism
  2. Gaseous Form 
  3. Magic Jar
  4. Raise Dead
  5. Telekinesis
  6. Teleport 

Level 6 Recipes

  1. Control Dragon
  2. Control Giant
  3. Longevity
  4. Lower Water
  5. Part Water
  6. Stone to Flesh