Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Benthic Ur-Chimera Research Lab

The players chopped at the phalanx slime and ultimately decided it was better to just hold it off by having someone with a polearm do a 'fighting retreat' so that everyone else could move around the top floor without getting cornered. That player ended up learning phalanx fighting-style from his efforts, allowing him to give his shield defense to adjacent allies or get an extra +1 AC if both he and the ally had shields and fought in formation. I forgot the  doors to 2 and 3 were locked and had the mimic chest run around at unarmored human speeds and dive down the central pit on the top floor to lure people into the Benthic Chimerae pool and generally be a goofy chase scene, though the pursuing elf getting eaten by the Chimera and managing to stab its eyeball before perishing alone was less goofy. The axe Grafter was a very popular item for the rest of the campaign, though obtaining it was awfully easy because I let a hafling get into the room when I had meant for shrinking down to itty-bitty size via Pachama's spells or potions or the polymorph pearl to be necessary to retrieve the mighty weapon. Pachama was put to Sleep and carried in a backpack of a player who then received the Ur-Chimerae's Blessing and fused with the carried Pachama and became a spider-halfling with a vestigial spider-wizard brain inside them that could cast spells. Pachama briefly took over the halfling's body later.

After the Ur-Chimera was slain (at great loss of PC life) only some of the treasure could be taken, and a sunken ship pulled by an Aboleth and crewed by its Skum minions showed up from the Undersea to investigate the ringing bell to repopulate the dungeon and haul off a lot of platinum before spider-halfling player came back to finish looting the place. The skeleton fighter player who accompanied the sneaky noncombatant for visit #2 held off a great many Skum single handedly in the chokepoint of the staircase, acting as a distraction. Skum attempting to kill him with burning oil ended up doing more damage to themselves than him. The thief chose to kill some Skum instead of sneak by and take loot bloodlessly, and questioned his own morality when he realized that his slaughter was unnecessary. The fighter fulfilled the required feat of daring, holding off 20+ enemies at a chokepoint, to receive training from Royal Guard Dnorr and was less conflicted.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Astral Pirates Raid Tomb of the Constellation King

Tomb of the So-Called Constellation King
Location- Atop a distant mountain that seems to vary in height by up to 100 feet day by day.

1-The Constellation King sought to explore the sky, but died of old age and was buried atop his favorite stargazing hill.
2-There used to be giants in the mountains who ruled over the nearby human settlements, but they went into decline over the years and now they're gone. Granpa Henders used to play chess with one before he died.
3-There used to be a gem mine, but it was overrun by rock monsters and now nobody can find the entrance.
4-Strange lights have been seen in the night sky over the mountain, and people go missing those nights.
5-The ruins atop the mountain used to be an observatory built for people far larger than humans.
6-Flutes and drums can sometimes be heard as echoes. Those bold townsfolk who investigated are all missing.

Premise-Dungeon to be vertically traversed and spatially reshuffled to allow bypassing challenges and to provide scary moments where wandering monsters block off retreat to encourage leaping before looking down the nearest pit. I think the most interesting starting arrangement is Alpha Beta Gamma Epsilon Delta because that shows off deep multilayer pits immediately and lets the players build up a grudge towards the astral slavers before finding their ship.

Key Concepts- Each level has 3 rooms that let players change up the dungeon- Rotaters, which rotate the associated layer 90 degrees left or right, Elevators which move the associated layer up or down one position in the stack, and astral shunts which either activate or deactivate the existence of a different dungeon layer. The methodology varies, but the terminology is for easy reference. Holes at the bottom of the stack always lead to Alpha- if Alpha is at the bottom, they are just 10 foot deep pits.

There's some mention of where holes lead in the 'default' or likely configurations but this will quickly become useless as so you'll have to do a lot of peeking at cut-out printouts or stack images with transparency atop each other in a digital environment.

Wandering Encounters- Both common, and important to keep the place dangerous. I'd roll every exploration turn for a 1/6 chance,

every room, every hallway.
1-One Gem Bear (Sapphire, Onyx, or Emerald)
2- 2d20 Acid Slugs (creeping along the ceiling, more of a green slimish trap than an 'encounter')
3- 2d4 Astral Slavers (+2d6 if they've been alerted and are hunting a gembear or the players)
4-Astral Snoutmaw (trace a line to a random pit, that's the length of the snoutmaw)

Unattended items (like ropes to traverse the pits) have a 1/6 chance to be eaten by Acid Slugs, stolen by curious gem-bears, or looted by slavers.

The first image will show what glimpses of lower levels are visible

the second image has transparency in those white spots, allowing lower layers to show through.

Alpha- Staircase to surface via the arrow. Alpha (or whatever layer is on top) has a smooth, intact ceiling inset with fools gold to resemble the night sky.
A1-SHUNT A circular toom with a dry fountain the size of a christmas tree. Fun for climbing about. It is engraved 'Beta Shunt'
A circular valve at the top of the fountain can be undone, which shunts Beta if unscrewed and recalls beta when closed. Water will generally flow through the dungeon and down the nearest hole, and water offends gem bears.
A2-Flutes and sheet music. Playing it lulls Gem Bears to sleep sometimes. Corner of the room has a hole leading down to B1, or G1 if Beta is shunted.A Space Whalebone ocarina is here- it plays music only in a vacuum thanks to weird pressure valves.
 Either way, to cave-burrows of Gem Bears. Grunting snores can be heard below, and a few gemstones in the walls sparkle below.

A3- Basically just a crumbling ledge looking down onto... somewhere to go, depending on what's shunted. But barring rotations, leads to a lower level.

A4-ELEVATOR- Room- Pointy triangular pillars with torches on the pointy bits and a hole in the far side of the room. In the center, there is a triangular quartz prism on a pedestal which needs light from 4 sides to be shown on it. Spinning it on its pointy end and then shining the missing torchlight makes it go down, otherwise it will rest pointing up and that's the direction it will move Alpha.

A5-ROTATER Room- Lever in metal tracks set into the wall allow free rotation of Alpha, but have a 1/6 chance of breaking due to corrosion and acid-pitted crumbling stone. Most weapons with wooden hilts can be used as replacements but always break.

A6- Acid Slugs crawl the ceiling here. They are easily avoided if one looks straight up, but the hasty or unwary or the pushed may fall victim to them.

A7- Hole drops to B5 and continues to G1 assuming default configs. Astral Mancatcher defends narrow ledge past this pit, will use mancatcher to send the unwary plummeting to their doom.

A8- Astral Slaver Treasure. Crystal coffin with in-stasis adventurer nude save for golden rings worth 800 coins and will likely join party for revenge, inventory recovery, or as replacement for dead party members.

A9- Hole to B6 and all the way to Epsilon 5. Room itself has Acid Slugs happily eating abandoned ropes and unidentifiable scrap.


B1- Sapphire Gem Bear Lair. Unless woken by water or something, there will be a sleeping one in each chamber, including the immediately visible one in the square room. If it awakens and roars, 3 more will burst through walls nigh instantly. Sapphire Bears return here with stolen goods/people and there are 3 mancatcher poles, probably the naked adventurer from A8's equipment, and bonus gems worth 2500coins. Encounters here are always bears coming from the rock.

B2-ROTATER Hole all the way down to epsilon 4 has destroyed half the Rotation mechanism. The other half functions but can only turn Beta Clockwise and makes a hideous, random-encounter check inducing screech.

B3-SHUNT. 6x6 Grid of square floor tiles. First tile in the room has a symbol of a Knight from Chess on it. Hopping from tile to tile must obey knight-pattern movement or the trap is triggered, and the tiles click slightly when landed on. Made complicated by Astral Slavers and Acid Slugs lurking on ceiling above choice tiles.  Astral slavers always look up before they leap to make sure they don't jump under an Acid Slug.

The Trap- 1 unoccupied tile for every occupied tile flips over, revealing clockwork Pawn that advances 1 tile at a time swinging a club at the 3 squares in front of it. Flips back under after hitting a wall.
The Astral Shunt- A lever on the bottom left of the room. Shunts Gamma, or recovers it. Lever also resets hidden 'knights tour' tickings, allowing it to be solved starting from the lever square.
The Super Secret Treasure- If a player legally hops to every square (or illegally manages it without triggering the trap somehow) the Shunt-tile flips over to reveal a chest with a Wondrous Chesspiece- essentially a summonable 4HD knight. Collect the whole set for a minichess army and do battle against a rival adventurer who assembled the other set. This sort of puzzle is Called a knight's tour.

B4- Huge stone coffin. Monolithic stone coffin that requires giant strength to open, but a Gem Bear could bust through. Small holes down. Coffin reads 'A knight who visits my 36 square acres, once each and once only, is worthy to seek my kingdom'
Giant tomb contains magic arms and armor sized for someone 20 feet tall and a 20 foot long dead king. Jewelry is huge copper crap worth its weight in weight of copper pieces.

B5- small hole to G1. Lesser tomb here are being looted by Astral Slavers. Tombs are for family pets- weird mummified dogs and cats with copper jewelry. Slavers disappointed, will take it out on you.

B6-ELEVATOR Sequence of 3 small circular rooms. First two rooms are linked like scales and will rapidly unbalance and make traversing rooms impossible unless weight is balanced. 5 foot hallway between the 'scale' rooms has a lever on the wall that could be pulled up or down and causes elevator movement, but only operates if scales are balanced. Also hole to E5 in furthest broken chamber.


G1-ELEVATOR Not a circular hallway around an enclosed room, but rather a big room with a contained church looking building.Avatar of Greed guards entrance and treasure hoard and Elevator device within the church, demands payment from every party member for Elevator Access. Can only be seduced, intimidated, or sweet-talked if every single party member contributes to the effort. Has 1HD but immune to damage, spells, etc unless successfully struck or affected by everyone in sight at once, and has Platemail. Strikes with the Claw of Greed, a 15-foot long glaive-pike fashioned from the claws of an ancient dragon that makes attacks against all targets, friend or foe, in range.Astral Slavers venerate the Avatar and it watches over a hoard of 15 mancatcher polearms, 5 suits of chain main, 10 masterwork boots, 5 frilly undergarments, 3 paintings of starscapes, 1500coins, a Potion of Mutation, a Potion of Healing, a Potion of Fire Elemental Form, a Potion of Animate Dead(feed it to a corpse) and a apprentice spellbook with a random spell. And some low-quality adventurers bound and gagged if you need some replacement PCs or more henchmen.

G2- ROTATION Lever is on wall-track that can be pushed around, but is over hole in floor and hard to reach.

G3-SHUNT Broken chess room. Every step spawns killer pawns. There is another wondrous chess piece under the Epsilon Shunt-Lever but force or thievery mechanical fiddling is required to get it.

G4- Small room with a big drum summons a random encounter to investigate the noise, but soothes Gem bears. Drum rattles- there's an Adamant coin inside that can be traded to dwarves(or whoever) for a big favor. They won't tell you what the coin means beyond that and refuse to listen to where you got it.Other Side room drops to Epsilon or even Delta.

G5- A sequence of urns in small catacomb-like chambers, and a fallen-out floor in the middle. Cremated ashes and black bone fragments in urns conceal blackened, twisted jewelry that isn't worth much but has weird enchantments.
Anklets of Upside Down Levitation- Levitates your feet, leaving the rest of you dangling awkwardly. Only goes strictly up and down. Will cut you if you walk in them due to their melted shape and they won't fit over clothes.

Tiara of Illusory Face- a twisted band of black metal that goes on your head and down to your shoulders. Makes your face look like a woman of exotic ethnicity who had a face that fit a giant's body and makes you look like a bobblehead.

Giant Marble Tooth Of Well-Done Meat- Tooth is the size of a thumb. Cooks meat it pierces.

Needle of Recording- Embroidering messages into fabric makes the fabric speak the message when squeezed, then unravel.

G6- Onyx Gembear Lair- As Sapphire Gembear Lair but with black gems.


E1-ROTATION Horseshoe ravine- A drop to lower levels shaped like a horseshoe. Rotation lever track very hard to get leverage and use due to lack of floor and position in the wall at the far end of the loop.

E2-SHUNT- Small Chapel- Has been robbed of everything but a silver candlestick by Astral Slavers with bags of silver loot (3000c worth)  Silver candlestick is a lever that shunts Alpha when pulled and unshunts it when lit.

E3-Very small room with a skeleton with a bell over its head. Skull inside is malformed and mutated, bell is a relic of chaos that does nothing but force a save vs mutation each day carried, and a save vs mutation in all who hear it if rung (it has no clapper currently but banging on it with a mace works) Scratching on wall spells out 'they came from the stars. I must change my body to go with them'

E4-Pit down, across pit will be Astral Slavers with ranged weaponry. Will fire if confronted, or whoop and run away hoping to flank PCs and capture them.

E5-ELEVATOR- Another spinning-crystal torch affair complete with pit and missing torch sconce, but the crystal prism is missing. Emerald Gem Bears got it.

E6-Emerald Gem Bear Lair. As other bear lairs but green and has a quartz prism for the E5 elevator.

E7-Collapsed Jail cells. Final one is intact, contains vampire contained in crystal coffin and adorned with finery. Has been conscious throughout entire imprisment and is insane and bloodthirsty but will recover self control if it eats someone. Can provide history of the small human servants such as himself who built this tomb/prison and how his experiments with necromancy caused him to be locked away. Can raise undead and prefers their company to that of the living.

E8- Astral research chamber- contains ancient diaries about duplicating and manipulating space. Useful for wizards looking to bend space. Pages somewhat scattered by bumbling gembears and marred by muddy paw prints.

DELTA- This isn't a dungeon layer, it's the astral slavers astral slaving ship, drifting between the layers of this space and allowing for deep dungeon raid without actually having to walk through dingy halls. The holes are more like escape tubes that the slavers crawl in and out of with their hauls.

"SSS Stelliferous Delta" (SSS stands for slaver star ship)
D1- Reactor Core- A throbbing heart of a star, shining with power. Sealed behind an iron door in a  great vault. Destroying/releasing it  makes most the Astral Slavers powers useless and breaks the ship. The heart sings, as stars do, and it will reform as a small star if rescued.

D2- Engineering- Tubes and chains run into and around the reactor vault. Breaking a tube will result in some form of fiery death, mutagenic star radiation, or clouds of steam.

D3- Piloting- A telescope looks out at the Astral Void and a ships wheel provides steering. The Captain is probably here. A map of the world is here, with various places of interest and how to align the astral ship with these places.

D4- Slave Stasis- A bunch of captured adventurers and mutants dangle from chains here, held aloft by ring piercings and in crystal coffins for viewing. They can be awoken and are grateful for rescue.

D5-Slave Guard- Astral Slaver set to guard the slaves in stasis. Isn't expecting trouble but has 3HD and two rolls on the slaver equipment chart so is a little tough.

D6- Captains quarters- An exotic pleasure slave manacled to the four poster bed. Astral sea-charts for treasures, good raiding targets, and logs of activity and profit. The captain will be ogling the slave here if he isn't at the wheel or yelling at lackeys.

The Pleasure Slave is a Magenta Shade, and is an incorporeal astral being with no particular form, but it can bend light to create magenta hued illusions and read minds. It gives +1 to all saves if you keep it around and feed it by experiencing nice feelings in its presence(it feeds on particular brain waves). It serves as translator and pornography for the tongueless captain, and totally isn't a fancily reskinned Ioun Stone. When not trying to get biological beings to get attached to it, it appears as a magenta square.

D7- Access tunnels lead to the ships exterior, which is in an astral void but shows the huge feathered wings that flap the ship around. You can also see the kilometer-long astral leviathan that is the source of the Snoutmaws. Cannonballs fired from the ship won't kill it but will piss it off. It looks like a jellyfish, more or less.

D8- Crew quarters. Apart from bedding and clothing, random trash can be looted from foot lockers.

D9- Armory and Storage- Forge and crates of all manner of garbage here, but also everything they've looted from the dungeon.10,000c worth of gems per player sounds about right, but it will take hours to separate it from the other junk.

D10- Gunner Ports- 2 Cannons with chairs, shot, and powder in alcoves. Cannon infused with space rending magic aimed at wall. The cannonballs fired will only exist properly after travelling 30 feet, bypassing the ships own walls.

Gem Bears
A thick-bodied quadruped made of earth and stone. It has a small gleaming gemstone in place of a head, and the way it moves reminds you of a bear, complete with how it rears up.
AC 16
HD-8 1d6/1d6, if hit by both attacks, save or be hugged. Hugged people get engulfed and buried in the earthern body of the bear. This is less harmful than being beaten to death but the bear will likely be upset if you manage to wiggle free (need to make 3 saves in a row to escape) and won't feed or water captives so escape must be attempted eventually.
They are about half as fast as a person.
Morale 8
Gem bears can burst through up to 5 feet of rock, earth, etc in a single action and surprise people 5/6 times when they do.

They are blind, but can feel the vibrations of people within 30 feet or so. They are covetous of hard things like armor and bones and engulf them to strengthen themselves, then trundle back to their lairs. People's skeletons count, unfortunately, but bears will spend a round engulfing loose objects of shield-size or larger and then will check morale to see if they bumble back to their lair. Gem bears of different colors do not cooperate and may even fight over choice things like suits of plate mail.
Their gems are worth 1d8x1d8x10 coins and they die instantly if the gem is shattered (an attack from a blunt weapon doing 8+ damage can accomplish this if specifically aimed for)
usually solitary when wandering, but sleep in groups of 1d6 in lairs, usually.

Acid Slugs- Looks like a half-melted banana that smells like your nostrils are on fire. They crawl along ceilings and drop onto things that they think are delicious, which is organic substances. Easily spotted if you're looking for them, if players run under them unwittingly assume they all land on people if they get surprise. Can leap 1' per round in sizzling, squelching leaps, but prefer not to.
No. Appearing- 2d20
1HP. Anything that isn't stone saves or is corroded and broken by acid upon touching an acid slug. Each turn a player has a slug(s) on them, they save with -1 per slug or have a random item destroyed (armor loses 1AC each time this happens) and then take 1d6 damage.
Acid slugs may ride Gem Bears around. The Gem Bears don't notice.

Astral Snoutmaw- A long, clear tube of ice-cold flesh leading back to the nearest hole down, where it leads to thin air and vanishes into nothing. Is the mouth of an astral beast that slips through the disjointed dimensional layers of the ruin as it tries to hoover up delicious terrestrial beings.
HD 6
AC 11
Morale 9
Upon hitting, it slurps up a random limb (1-arm 2-leg 3-head 4- both arms or legs) and then exerts vacuum pressure to suck people through the length of the tube. It gets +4 to hit once it has latched on, and swallows up more limbs in a gradual fashion if it continues to hit and suck the target through. It is cold enough that it deals 1d4 points of cold damage per round of exposure.
After 3 hits (or 2 lucky ones) targets have all limbs swallowed and will be moved along at 30 feet per round until they reach the breach point, past which they have been sucked into the chilly belly of the astral leviathan and are beyond normal means to rescue. They could use claws, daggers, and other already prepared short slashing weapons to attempt to cut themselves free from the tube before this happens.
Piercing damage reduces the vacuum pressure of the suction tube and causes whistling, honking noises as air is drawn through and reduces suction speed for by 1 foot per point.
Slashing damage can sever the tube entirely with a hit for 8+ damage (though the newly severed 'mouth' of the tube functions just as dangerously as the original) and otherwise acts as piercing damage for interrupting suction. Blunt damage is useless but if you get ahead of someone getting sucked down the tube, you could try squeezing the tube shut to stop their chilly demise.
Astral Snoutmaws will slurp up Acid Slugs and Astral Slavers if led to them, but have no interest in Gem bears, and vice versa.

Astral Slaver- Mutant slavers who sail the astral sea. They are looting/mining the gems of this place/kidnapping locals in preparation to sell them in an alien slave market. You can use Githyanki if you're into that. Or regular foreigners, honestly.

I should really buy a tablet or something, My pencil drawings are a lot less terrible than the crap i 'draw' with a mouse

HD 2, AC 13

Astral slavers come in groups of 2d4, and will flee if encountering superior forces... but will return in 2d6 exploration rounds with +2d6 slavers and subsequent slaver encounters will be these enhanced groups as they heighten security.

 Roll twice for weapons, and groups will be about 1/2 and 1/2. 6's indicate a particular badass leader dude independent of the usual split armaments of the party.
1- Mancatcher- A polearm with two half circles of inward facing spikes. If struck, the slaver can try to knock you prone, keep you at bay, and otherwise hassle you. Make a strength test or save to avoid this and wriggle free. They have no qualms about catching someone and then pushing them into a pit, dropping the mancatcher and letting gravity do the killing (though if the pit isn't deeper than 10 feet they can keep hold of it and make it real hard to escape said pit). Deals 1d4 damage each round until it's shaken off
2-Acid Slug Grenade- A glass flask with 1d3 acid slugs inside. Fails to break on a 1/6 chance when thrown, otherwise automatically sticks d3 acid slugs to the target on hit.
3- Triple Scimitars- 3 attacks at 1d8 each. Thanks, extra arm!
4-Starlight Pistol- Gunpowder mixed with powdered gems= the blackpowder laser gun. I stole this idea from another blog but can't find the source
 5- AC 16, gas mask, chain + Torch + 5 flasks of oil.
6- Roll twice, +1 HD and +1 attack per round. If you keep rolling 6's just add a mutation and +1 HD per 6.

Astral slavers flee from gem bears and return with 2d6 members to help harvest the gem. They just flee from Snoutmaws if possible, and  will catch acid slugs in glass jars.

Captain Evileye- Lost the mutation roulette. Probably being eyeballed for replacement by mutinous mutants who reckon they're tougher than he is.
4th level Mutant.
One of his eyes is a symbiote slime that will consume his body to survive if he dies. It can replace any eyeball.
Allergic to copper, sensitive skin breaks out in hives, which is why the pirates aren't looting it.
Dismal Genitals

Uses his Magenta Shade to aid communication with his crew, but when he doesn't feel like fetching it, is pretty good with roars and menacing poses. Keeps two loaded starlight pistols and is a skilled duelist- He can parry one melee attack against him each round, provided it is from a weapon-wielding man-sized opponent who isn't using a flail.

Once 30 astral slavers have been defeated and the captain is aware of this, the SSS Stelliferous Delta will sail away, deeming the dungeon too dangerous to continue looting.

The ship, if commandeered, will eventually be attacked by another star vessel of bounty hunters. Unless the players have gotten a bounty on their heads, the bounty hunters will leave them alone but will likely hijack or destroy the Stelliferous Delta if the players do not surrender it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Shopping for spikes takes up time as players count coins and manage inventories and count rations and haggle with innkeepers. Lists of items are invariably not going to contain whatever weird thing the player was looking for. Attempts to get players to do shopping between sessions has been a failure (as most attempts to get players to do anything between sessions will be). Selling every scrap of maybe-valuable furniture in an attempt to get more gold takes up time as well.
this is my hell
 So, in light of me chucking my old system, I want to address my old enemy of mundane shopping and tracking individual iron spikes. Note fantasy shopping can be pretty fun and including weird nonsense like Snake Cocaine or Tiger-Infused Giant-Forged Swords is entertaining. It's just the mundane bean counting I'm trying to kill.

Inventory slots can be filled with 'Adventuring Gear' for, I dunno, 30 coins each. This is assumed to be torches, iron spikes, blankets, sacks, food, sacks, chalk, 10 foot poles, ropes, lantern oil, cooking pots, small mirrors- just 'stuff' that is handy to have in a dungeon. Once you actually use gear as such, replace the generic 'Adventuring Gear' with what you actually used on your sheet (or cross it off if it was consumed.) This also means that players will have to get more creative on longer delves- at the beginning, they can say they have exactly what they need, but then deeper in, the amusing improvisation of 'how can we do X with only a wire, a mirror, and a sack of sausages' will still get some love.

Goals I hope this accomplishes- allows players to do typical dungeon problem solving without having to spend actual hours of actual peoples actual lives counting how many pieces of chalk they are pretending their pretend elf has.

I am also thinking about how to tie it to resource and time management. Eating food and light sources burning down as you search a room carefully and using a rope as a grappling hook all take away Adventuring Gear slots. I think the palpable effect of actually crossing off things from character sheets will actually give players a sense of urgency that secret wandering monster rolls just don't accomplish.
Also, one thing thieves could be good at is spending 'adventuring gear' to disable traps, bypass locked doors, find secret hidden things, etc not by percentile rolls, but by resource management. Thiefly stuff is often pretty abstract in resolution(which is why rolling to pick a lock rather than 'describing how you pick a lock' is a thing) so I don't think this is too 'gamey.' Hirelings carrying loads of 'Adventuring Gear' so the thief can demolish locked doors sounds like a feature, not a bug.

Thieves are for sequence-breaking. Thieves are for saying 'you know what, I'll pick the lock instead of recover the vault key from the neck of the guardian beast. Or steal the key from the guardian beast without ever waking it up. Or ignore the locked door entirely and climb up the outside of the tower and go in through a window.'  All in opposition to the 'proper' sequence of
>fight guardian beast
>climb tower
>fight princess
>retrieve tiara
 And I think that's great.

One form of shopping I found interesting is the 'Institutions' section of The Nightmares Underneath.
In part this is because institutions becoming prominent as money is spent on them is an easy way for players to affect the world, and also because those institutions offered interesting things to spend your money on- poisons, treasure maps, printed slander, animals of specific quality breeding, and so on. Attaching consequences to shopping beyond 'you lose 17c and gain 10 candles and a magnifying glass' is a really fun idea (though not one that bypasses my problem of many shopping sprees being lengthy exercises in tedium).

Another way to bypass shopping is if there is no 'generic' shopping. The players must use manticore tail spikes instead of iron ones, save giant spider webs for ropes and hammocks, and loot anything and everything they can, not because it is worth a few coppers in 'town' but because they can think of a creative use for a broken chair in regards to the environment. This requires both heavy environmental descriptors and a setting where civilization is absent, but I really like the idea and feel like it could help foster and reward creativity in a big way. I wonder if this sort of hardcore scavenging/survivalist play is what the Veins of the Earth was getting at. Similarly, that would make wandering merchant encounters pretty interesting if there was no default source of generic equipment.

Thoughts on my Nightmare Glog

After playtesting and getting neat ideas from other systems, I've decided my Nightmare Glog hack needs to burn in a dumpster fire

Having roll under stats was encouraging everyone to just rely on those skill and stat rolls. A classic character abilities overshadowing player skill situation, where rather than interact with the game world by, well, interacting with it, things got boiled down to rolls. Naturally some players already had 'player skill' and didn't succumb to this, but the mechanics need to actually inform gameplay or they need to be pitched. Similarly, using 'roll under stat' made stats actually pretty important- even MORE important than even 3.5, arguably. And stats are supposed to be a jumping off for conceptualizing your character, not the most important thing about 'em. Not to mention the whole 'how to roleplay mental stats without it meaning 'player skill must be gimped if you got a bad roll in character creation' As such I'm looking favorably at Maze Rats style stats.

Another thing I wanted to do was emphasize that rolling dice has consequences on failure as well as success, to prevent haphazard 'I sneak I search I speech' thrown out willy nilly, and that dice results stick until the situation changes. You don't roll to sneak past each guard, cuz that's called 'rolling to failure' and is a form of railroading, where the GM calls for rolls until you finally fail one. The opposite problem is 'Taking 20' where there's no consequence for failure or dilly dallying so rolls become pointless. Ideally, both are solved by the totally not butchered osr principle of 'rulings not rollings' and making time a resource. The powered-by-the-apocalypse style rolls I used in Monsterhearts where on 2d6, 0-6 makes things worse, 7-9 is mixed success, and 10+ is pure success was pretty nice and I might adopt it, but keep the d20 around for ease of stat conversion for attack rolls.

Character sheet wasn't simple enough. Skill slots, inventory slots, hp, ac, chosen traits, etc were numerous enough that it couldn't be edited onto blank online text document elegantly. Though I liked Notches, keeping track of them was also annoying (A player quickly found themselves keeping track of Notches for Fists, Daggers, Bow, Sword, and Torch in a handful of sessions) and the system encouraged fighting for the sake of fighting- especially fighting lots of weak foes. My tentative solution is to say that you only keep track of notches for ONE weapon class at a time, and to make it per HD slain rather than per enemy, and probably only for things with higher HD than you. Or maybe disregard the system and use my preferred 'secret technique' style of fighters learning cool stuff that I used in the BFRPG game. Probably that, yeah.

Too many class abilities that were too close to snoozeworthy mechanical bonuses and passive bonuses rather than abilities that made people say 'wow I can do THIS now?' Also, too forward-facing. Cavegirl mentioned using secret booklets to gradually introduce lore and character abilities and I think this could be great both to prevent character creation from being bogged down and to prevent players from obsessing over getting Cleave at level 3 and so roleplaying as a player wishing to upgrade their character rather than a character wishing to

Fighters did a bit too much damage with the 1d8 bonus auto damage from The Nightmares underneath. I think having them be the only class that gets bonuses to hit is sufficient, ala Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

One of the things I dislike most about D&D is 'scaling' and I think there was still too much of it going on. Ideally, I want players to genuinely not care if they are a few levels below another PC, and to definitely never view monsters as things that require level grinding to face. Dragons should be scary because they can smell metal and breathe fire and are hard to escape from and negotiate with, not because their maths are ten times bigger than your maths so you need to math yourself up x10 and then you can fight dragons fearlessly.

I also decided coins for XP is a great OSR idea that I just can't get to mesh up with how my games are set up with rotating character rosters. Player A comes to 5 sessions and obtains 5 oddball magic items but 0 coins, and player B goes on a solo to pick through an 'already looted' dungeon and finds a secret stash of platinum and can now gain 2 levels. Player A only has 2 hands and 1 action per round and limited creativity with those oddball items and really would just like to be level 3 because levels are a way progress is tracked and being knighted and having the favor of Duke Ekud and having a bunch of potions but still being level 1 cuz you didn't find gold in a hole rubs many the wrong way. Plus a lot of players seemed to like the 'alternate leveling systems' so a Maze Rat style where each session is worth 1xp, great success is 2xp, and success against odds thought overwhelming is 3xp would let play for the sake of play and pursuing player-set goals hold up, rather than mandatory loot-lust. Getting a fat pile of loot probably counts as great success so loot-lust is still viable, just not required.

tl;dr, I adopted the GLOG because I love its magic system, but should have thought about other things much more carefully before running away with 'em.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bugborne Dungeon

I decided to turn the first layer of Bloodborne's Pthumerian Labyrinth into a dungeon. It also became bug-themed in the process of adapting it, probably because I was reading about Antlings

Room 1- Chamber of the Seals- Sealed iron vault doors lead to various secret dungeons of the Bugaboos, or back to a room in your mainline dungeon, or whatever.
Hallway- Engraved with designs depicting strange multilimbed folk digging ever deeper and occasionally rejoicing at the unearthing of some bizarre artifact or sleeping queen.

Room 2-  Leads to a protruding ledge overlooking the massive Room 3. Ladder descends 20 feet to floor of room 3 and room-ledge 7 and its iron portcullis can be seen directly across room 2. The torch-wielding beetle on the high ledge at the north of room 3 can also be seen, but the room is mostly cloaked in darkness due to its size.

Room 3 South- Large gravestones dot the earth floor of this semi-worked cavern. Roots dangle from above. In a corner, the discarded exoskeleton of a molted giant beetle lies. Its massive pincers can be broken off and used as greatswords that shatter on a rolled 1 (to hit OR damage).
Digging beneath the gravestones will unearth nothing but rotted giant beetle mandibles, which can be wielded as short swords -1 that infect those struck by them with gross diseases and shatter once a 1 is rolled for damage or to-hit. Anyone able to read the gravestones will find tidbits like 'Tchak, 360-400, Lineage Tchktchk" the dates being from hundreds of years ago.

Room 3 North- The gravestones are much the same as they were in the south. The ladder leads up to a platform with a torch-wielding beetle, and the base of the ladder is in a large puddle of oil. The beetle will drop the torch if wounded or presented with an opportunity to light someone up. It is a soulless guard and has no ability to speak or climb ladders. Up behind the torch-beetle on its platform, there is a passage east.

Something glints in the northeast corner of this room- Close inspection will find the light is glinting off two glass bottles that contain healing potions.
There is also a tunnel heading east at ground level.

  • Guard Beetles- 1HD, 1d4 damage, AC 15
  • Their bites rend armor- save or lose 1 AC from armor
  • If they survive a hit they fly backwards, but also might fly forwards to knock someone off balance, buzzing wings in anticipation. Not true flight, just short leaps.
  • They can make wide, telegraphed slashes to hit 2 people adjacent, one in front and one to one side, but cannot move and do this
  • Dead ones can be strapped to ones arm and used as a shield, and their mandibles work as daggers
  • No real sapience, unable to climb ladders.

Room 4- A high stone bridge supported by pillars of stone rising from a gently sloshing and deep pool of water crosses to a high exit east. There are also two tunnel exits that head south, one leading to the ground floor of room 3 and one with bloody splotches leading to room 6. The bridge is only wide enough for one person to cross at a time, and swinging bladed pendulums menace those who would cross or climb up from below.  The middle pendulum is stained with fresh blood.

The Bridge- Another guard beetle waits at the far end, hoping to charge into any would-be bridge crossers, disrupt their timing, and get them hit by the pendulums (which deal 1d12 damage and knock the unfortunate victim into the water below). A steady stream of guard beetles will march from the room beyond, being spawned by the Imperfect Queen, which complicate the bridge crossing. There will never be more than 3 at one time, but they will track the players by scent and follow them throughout the dungeon once their ire is drawn and the Queen commands them.

The Pool- Something glints in the sloshing water- this is the fiddle of the Hopper Knight in 6. Canny players will note this water should not be sloshing unless there is something making the waves, and that something is a giant 4HD leech (11AC, 13 in water) that will latch on and drain 1d6 STR each round and attempt to swallow juicy targets whole (anyone in a full suit of metal armor is definitely not juicy). Failing 3 STR checks to break the grapple means the leech has swallowed one whole and death by suffocation is inevitable for typical humans without outside rescue. Slaying the leech and searching it thoroughly will find a scabby, blood-red whetstone that can sharpen bladed weapons in a single round to deal +1 damage on their next attack, but wears them out quickly by making the blade too thin (sharpened weapons break on critical misses)

Room 5- Boudoir of the Imperfect Queen
Terrain- 6 pillars and staircases that lead up to a walkway between each other hallway up to their final destination of a high raised area of the room.
People- The Imperfect Queen lies in a sort of 'Draw me like one of your french girls' pose on the walkway, with 3 guard beetles attending her. She can spend 1d6 rounds birthing a new guard beetle, but can't create more than 3 at a time. She is no true queen, but a magically modified giant beetle created to ape the true Ant Queens. Still, she expects absolute deference and obedience from anything that doesn't want to become food for her 'colony.' Anyone slaying the Leech, Hopper Knight, and Big Beetle will be graciously allowed to loot the treasure chest at the far high end of this room, which contains a skeleton wearing a key (to 7) and 2000 coins.

The queen is an immobile noncombatant but can eat 20HP worth of damage before dying. Her death will also cause the remaining beetle guards to die. She is also an insane hybrid monster out to usurp True Ant Queens.

Room 6- Ancient wagons and their forgotten cargo mold here in a wet room.  The water has turned red and cloudy due to the dying Hopper Knight here. They came to destroy the Imperfect Queen but fell afoul of the pendulum-guard beetle combo and barely escaped the leech but ran out of strength here.

Looting the wagons will yield 6 sketchy mushrooms that have a random effect when eaten.
1-Healing. Looks like a shelf fungus crossed with a steak and tastes the same.
2-Restore a magic die or level 1 spell slot. Blue and pointy like a wizard hat. Tastes like lightning.
3- Ingester vomits. Vomit glows as torch. They will continue to vomit a little every few minutes for the next hour, leaving a trail of glowing splatters. Small, slimy, and faintly luminous.
4-Mutation- Purple with waving villi. Causes a random mutation.

The  Hopper Knight is basically this...
The Hopper Knight is conscious but will die in a few hours, or immediately if they exert themselves. They look like a giant grasshopper person, but might be a human wearing giant grasshopper bits and a black cloak as armor. Bringing them the head of the Imperfect Queen will let them die in peace and offer their armor and knightly title to whoever put down the Queen, and bringing them magical healing will allow them to fight another day as a level 3 figher. Their armor/exoskeleton is like plate that weighs next to nothing(but gives a -1 to reaction rolls from humans), and doubles the damage of flying kicks. They are terrible at saving money or food because their sense of justice consumes their common sense, but can play a mean fiddle in exchange for housing and would naturally assist against Big Beetle.
...combined with this
Speaking of, the Big Beetle can be seen clambering around above the iron grate in the ceiling here. A halfling or child with a rope could squeeze through and enter. Arrows will enrage it and cause it to chew through the bars in 1d10 rounds and descend to attack.

Room 7- Up a ladder to a ledge, a locked iron portcullis leads to the room of the Big Beetle. The key is in the coffin-chest in 5, though a thief could pick the lock. The portcullis is very heavy and it takes 2 people 2d4 rounds to lift, and it slams shut if not propped open with something capable of withstanding about 400 pounds of portcullis weight.

Room 8- The Big Beetle
The Big Beetle is the size of a wagon and too big to leave the room. It scuttles around atop a grating of iron bars (a child could slip between them), which has a lock and some chains and some hinges- the same key that opens the portcullis can open the grate and dump the beetle down to room 6, allowing unhindered access through the room.

But if the Big Beetle is fought (and it is ravenously hungry) do mention its gnashing pincers are clearly big and sharp enough to pinch a man in half no matter how much plate he may be wearing, and its shell gleams black and glossy, and despite its bulk it moves with skittering speed.
HD 8- But only has a +2 to hit
AC 17
Damage 1d12

The Big Beetle has several possible attacks that are well-telegraphed at the start of each round.
Armor Rending Chomp- The beetle's pincers extend wide and it tracks [target] with small adjustments as it readies its attack.
 A standard attack against someone in front of it. On a hit or miss, it damages the target's AC by 1- the shield or plate or whatever stopped the attack(or was useless), but was mangled and damaged either way.

Sweeping Blow- The beetle lowers its head and its antennae twitch towards (character to side)
Attacks anyone in melee in front and to that side in  a 90 degree arc. Those hit save or are knocked prone due to the unsure footing of the grating below.

Startled Flight- The shell opens and buzzing wings emerge....(Mention immediately upon trigger)
Whenever the beetle takes damage from 2 or more sources in one round or is frightened by a very loud noise or very bright light, it will fly backwards to the edge of the room next round (or fly forwards if its back was to a wall). This is its action for the next round, and is only a menace if someone would be squashed beneath its landing (treat as a regular attack)

Loot- If slain, each mandible of The Big Beetle can be used as greatswords, one having the Sweeping Blow ability and the other having the Armor-Rending ability. To use these abilities, the player must declare their move a round in advance and they cannot change positioning or move and attack, making the attacks easy to avoid by cautious enemies.

Room 9- Elevator Down- Does it go to a nest of the True Ant Queen, who hired the Hopper Knight as a mercenary to hunt down the Imperfect Queen? Or maybe it leads to more forgotten ruins and the True Queen is much further down.
I'm not sure if clicking on resized pictures gives you the original size so i included both until I can figure that out
Goals For this Very Short Dungeon
The buried beetle mandibles and the big shed exoskeleton hint that defeating a live beetle might also yield mighty weapons.

The key the Imperfect Queen guards allows bypassing the Big Beetle by dropping it out of its arena instead of facing it in dire battle. It's pretty dangerous for low level characters to just fight in the circular room, but dropping it and then exploiting its Startled Flight could drive it to fight the Leech or get whacked by Pendulums. The terrain is exploitable in general.

Weak Enemies that foreshadow Strong enemies-The Guard Beetles have the same moves as the Big Beetle, just on a smaller scale. Hopefully the players can learn from the 'small versions.'

The Leech is just an extra menace promising/guarding extra loot, and the Hopper Knight is a choice weighing guaranteed loots against spending healing consumables to have a maybe-helpful ally.

Speaking of loot, there's a fair bit of it, but it's easy-come easy-go disposable stuff or items which are cool for reasons beyond 'permanent power boost' I hope.

The Imperfect Queen is an antagonist that the players can destroy or work for for a reward, and demonstrates that just because something can talk, doesn't mean it's a rational, reasonable actor. Also she demonstrates the need for action and prioritizing targets- her summoned beetles will eventually wear down the party via wandering encounters.

Quick Ways to Restock This Very Short Dungeon
Have all slain enemies(and the buried and discarded exoskeleton) rise as undead. Vampire leech, ghost Hopper Rider, zombie beetles big and small, ghost beetles from the graves. Twin necromancers in the Boudoir and the Big Beetle room must be slain simultaneously or will return from death fully rejuvenated 1 round after 'death'

Alternately have funguses from the carts grow out of control. Cordyceps zombies as reanimation for previously slain foes an easy way to reuse slightly altered statblocks, or you could go full mushroom men.

No full restock, but have TWO Big Beetles in room 3 as a double-trouble bossfight in different terrain.

Mad Entomologist Biomancers show up to check on their pet project, the Imperfect Queen, are incensed to see she is dead, have set up laboratory to create vengeful monster

Chivalry-choked Comrades of the Hopper Knight come seeking news, have gotten the wrong idea about what occurred, big misunderstanding

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hella Cursed Mega Doom Swords

When I was 12 years old, I invented a magic sword for my Fantasy HERO system game.
12 years later, I invented like 4 magic swords for my fairy tale inspired Fate game.
1 year later, I invented a sword for my BFRPG campaign.
6 is a nice number so here they are.

  1. Frostbite- Herald of the Final Winter. Frostbite is a singularity of Absolute Zero temperature suspended in space a few inches from the hilt by the powerful magics woven into the hilt.
    It also doesn't look remotely blue or cool. It looks like a very hard icicle.

    It is to temperature what a Sphere of Annihilation is to space. The 'blade' is just frozen air acting as a containment for the singularity, and if it is shattered, it immediately reforms. If shattered underwater, it will reform as frozen liquid. If plunged into lava, it'll have a blade of frosted-over black stone. If broken in an absolute vacuum, the sword's full power will be unleashed long enough to make a single strike, freezing the wielder and target to a few decimals above absolute zero, draining all energy from the two victims and reforging the containment blade from their corpses. But most the time it's just a very cold blade- wounds struck by Frostbite cannot heal until they are thawed, and it chills and sunders enemy swords quite easily, forces fire elementals to save or die and anything killed by it to be frozen solid, perhaps to be thawed and healed one day, perhaps to be contemptuously slapped into a million pieces. It can trace a path of ice to walk on over lakes, and so on. If a player asks 'can I freeze X' the answer is yes, so long as they can reach it.
    Frostbite is pursued by the Polar Knights, a group of 6 or so assholes in ice armor with names like 'Glacier' or 'Hail' and so many icy powers one might wonder why they even need the sword.
    The answer is, of course, to kill God/The Sun/The First Flame and bring about the heat death of the universe. Like I said, they're assholes. Did I mention they're immortal and can't die until the universe does? Probably has something to do with it.
    They also have a titanic white scorpion that can flatten castles with its claws. This thing is too big to fit through portals to our dimension and you'll only see it if you take the fight to them on the Elemental Plane of Ice(The Winter Moon in my setting), but it gives an immediate visual indicator of the scale these guys play on.
  2. The Rose Blade- Long, long ago, the Queen of Faerie was called Flora, and she waged bitter war against Fauna and had a mind of roots and thorns and poisoned nectar. The rose blade is a delicate basket-hilt rapier, and the handle has thorns that pierce straight through the hand of its wielder, and once penetrated, they cannot release their grip.
    It looks way cooler than this, trust me

    Not that they would want to. For the poisoned sap of Flora's blandishments seeps into the blood, enslaving the animal who wields it just as bees are the slaves of flowers. The opium haze into which the wielder drifts is irrelevant, because the blade wields itself, jerking the drugged wielder around to pierce hearts and eyes and spill the hot blood of beasts onto the ground to feed the forest. The movements of the blade are faster than the eye can follow and quickly dislocate and shatter the wielders arm into uselessness, but the wielder feels nothing but pleasure flowing from the thorns into their veins. Eventually the wielder ceases bleeding blood from their wounds, instead leaking the sweet stuff, and this honey brings the beasts of the field to serve, licking and slurping the trail of blood and honey.
    The Faerie Queen is greatly embarrassed by this reminder of the bad old days and stuck it into a treestump which is hidden away in a hedgemaze patrolled by the Wild Hunt, and she locked the hedgemaze up, and threw the key away into a pond guarded by 3 amorous frogs. Heroes who make their way to the blade and decide to leave it embedded in the stump earn her favor, but she has no desire to unlock this repressed facet of herself and will hunt any who take the blade to the ends of the earth.
    But the Rose Blade can kill or enslave anything belonging to Animalia. It is something from the very beginning of time, before civilization, before sentience, before souls, and it is utterly unmoved by abstract thought and emotion, though it can mindlessly imitate both to manipulate animals such as yourself.
  3. The First Sword- A crude thing of antler and flint.
    The First Of Swords claimed First Of Kills/
    To The World Bringing First Grave's Chill/
    A Blade To End all Mortal Strife/
    By Ending that Immortal, Life
    It wasn't the first thing ever used by a human to kill another. Knives and rocks and spears and axes and teeth came first. But it was the first weapon that was made for no other purpose but murder. It was the first thing that made Death smile, and if that line doesn't ring ominous to the players,  they'll get the hint once they realize that the sword gives a -2 penalty to all saves for the wielder, and it strikes either a friend or the wielder on natural 1's.

    It acts as a -2 sword- it's unbalanced, not all that sharp, flint is obsolete compared to iron. But anything it hits saves at -4 or dies forever. Even immortal things. Especially them. They get no save at all...  It was made with the intent to kill an immortal entity of spring, for selfish, angry, pointless reasons lost to history, and this story of anger, slaughter, regret, and inevitable death repeats endlessly through the ages.
  4. The Unfinished Sword- A hero sought to slay a dragon, and they were prepared to give up their future as payment to a witch-smith to forge such a thing.

    But while forging the blade, the witch-smith was assassinated by a mistake from her past- a porcelain and clockwork doll. With her dying breath, the witch used her own crumbling future in the blade's creation, and the murderous doll returned the unsharpened, unfinished sword to the hero- after all, the doll had a sword of its own already. And so the hero sharpened their unfinished sword as best they could, and did their best to slay a dragon with it.
    But the dragon did not die. It lost its form and identity and drifted away as a whispering cloud. The sword's slaying potential was disrupted along with the disrupted forging process, and now it could not bring endings- it could not punctuate the story of a life with 'They died, the end." In fact, it ends endings, shattering prophecies and adding blank space for continuations and transformations and sequels and afterwords. For every possibility it shatters, a hundred more potentialities fragment out from the sundered future.
    In short, it forces a Save vs Plot Hook on every hit, but never reduces HP below 1. Villains reveal mixed motivations and possibilities for redemption. No-Name NPCs reveal themselves to be princes in disguise, or offer to lead the players to the City of Gold in exchange for their lives. Angels may fall and devils may cry real tears. The dead find their way back from the underworld and that which never lived gains a soul. Cosmic laws find their rules bent, eldritch abominations collapse into ontological instability and reform as animal mascots. The story of the world is not set in stone.
  5. Deathwish- In ancient times the true heir of Saresare wielded this blade. The Ifrit blood that mingled with the nobility helped control it, and nobles have wishes that can oft be granted with money and mundane power, so the temptation to draw the blade is further lessened.

    The blade grants infinite wishes while drawn, but consumes the soul of its wielder with every wish. And the rate of consumption is such that the price to take or save even a single life is the soul of its wielder, consumed to fuel the fires of the dark blade. And yes, this includes the life of the wielder themselves, in a catch-22 that makes the wishing function practically useless for combat. Changing the outcome of a fight such that someone lives who should have died or vice versa will surely consume the wielder in a flash. Even with subtle wishes, it is impossibly difficult to make wishes that can change the wielders fate without consuming their life as the price, and fools who wield Deathwish are usually destroyed by the unforeseen consequences of their wishes in a matter of days, if that. For want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost. For want of a horseshoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a king was lost. For want of a king, a kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a nail.
    Apart from the allure of the inevitable doom brought by the life-draining wishes of the sword, it also flames brighter and hotter as the wielder comes closer to death. At <10% HP, the sword is a veritable bonfire that prevents any from drawing near and strikes with the combined fury of every soul consumed by the sword (Statistically it probably goes from +1 to +5 for each 10% step below 60% HP) but an unharmed individual who isn't on the verge of defeat feels only a faint warmth in the blackened blade.
    Saresaren nobility seek to possess the sword as their rightful property, as do their cousins the Ifrits, as do the enemies of both.
  6. Fealty
    A brass sword with a brass hilt Fealty was broken into two pieces when its last wielder, an emperor or something, was thrown down. While separate, the pieces have a very dim intellect, capable of mentally communicating little more than 'Swordfight?' 'Swordfight!' and 'Not swordfight!' and only boasting the magical power of being mistaken for a cursed item by taking over the grip of anyone picking up the detached hilt and refusing to let go unless it can extract a promise from the 'cursed' finder that they will use it for swordfights. But once united, the sword's true power as the symbol of a king's authority reasserts itself. Enemies with the mental capacity to swear fealty to the wielder who are brought to 0 HP by a swordblow in an actual swordfight(executing helpless prisoners certainly does not count) must save or have their desire to live overcome considerations of freedom and past obligations, and be mentally subdued and Charmed by the sword. Once controlled henchmen have been acquired, Fealty whispers advice on hireling management to its wielder, ideally converting all charmed foes to willing servitude via fair pay and a say in things. In the event of betrayal, Fealty gets +3 vs traitors, cutting them down with cold contempt and no small degree of fury. It can smell the stench of oath-breaking on any traitor, not just past hirelings, and so random chaotic social beings that actually have names have good odds of triggering Fealty's specific hatred. Though lacking human warmth, Fealty makes an excellent advisor and path towards domain-level play. However, the sword doesn't know when to stop- it pushes its wielder to always seek greater heights, conquer more men, expand the kingdom to an empire, and so on. Ambition is a hard mental influence to detect in adventurers, as most of them are out for power and influence anyway.
    And if, at the end of the day, the empire is a network of magical tendrils of control that all lead to a magic sword, rather than the wielder, who's to complain so long as the wielder gets treated to hot baths and good food? Good servants are rewarded, so why quibble over who's wielding who.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Simurk, The Pits of Iron Dust

Simurk is a town through some mountains, in a desert. It links to various interesting places, but isn't really a 'frontier' town. Dusty donkeys carrying buckets of slag and rock are driven here and there, and the winds blow dust from the mines everywhere.
Veil+turban is referred to as a  tagelmust or a litham

They have big open strip mines with descending layers that get darker and weirder as you descend because of course they do. Simurk has been digging for a very, very long time.

The most prominent pit is huge. A village could be dropped down it, and that's exactly what the people of Simurk did.  The first two layers are farmland- protected from the winds of the desert by ducking below them, and fueled by animal dung and terrible, terrible soil in which very hardy plants eke out a living. These farms do not feed Simurk, they only flavor imported foods. Bitter spices and ornamental desert flowers are all that can survive on the levels of the mines.

The third layer is Lower Simurk. Contrary to what you may think, this is the richest and most fashionable district- nobility and merchant princes of Simurk are happy to live here- they are close to the riches of the earth, there is plenty of shade from the glaring sun, and roving bandits and monsters from the desert typically just bully the lower-class citizens who live above ground rather than descend into the pit.

Then, there are TWO pits within this pit, descending 4 more layers. Why are there two pits?
  1. The owners of the great pit were once one family, but jealous heirs refused to rule jointly and split the pit down the middle, one mining on one side and the other on the... other.
  2. Originally, there was only ever going to be one pit. But they dug up something atrocious, sealed it away/made an infernal pact with it/ignored it and started over on the other side.
  3. One pit ran dry of resources and was abandoned to become a scummy underhive.
  4. One pit hit groundwater, and is now a revered source of water. Or a wretched sewer.
  5. One pit started being used as an easy place to bury people but now mining can't continue due to all the tombs that crowded out the mines. Some mine illegally within the tombs though...
  6. No real reason, that's just how the digging turned out due to the buildings of nobles getting in the way of full excavation. 
Most pits have at least one bridge every two layers or so. They are as wide as a street and frequently have
  1. Vendors hawking food, drugs, sex, and other temptations to tired miners and anyone else
  2. Thieves out to snag choice bits of ore from exhausted and distracted miners
  3. Pressgangers out to snag slave labor for shady merchants
  4. Toll collectors who have a legal right to 1% value of items crossing from one side to another 
  5. Mine inspectors on the lookout for bad construction or shady murderhobos
  6. Workers on strike due to some horrible occurrence or other in the mines
 Lesser bridges of rattling wooden planks are less common, as it's hard to push a mine cart across such a bridge, but these rickety suspension bridges do exist in  the lesser pits but have far fewer  ancillary characters lurking about.
As for products and plothooks and people of Simurk (presented in ghastly organization for your displeasure)
  1. Simurk Steel- Reliable, sturdy blades of quality ore. They do 2d3 or 2d4 damage instead of swingier d6 or d8, though unless you have a trustworthy buyer, you may get a poor quality version that does 2d2 or 2d3 for d6 or d8 weapons.
  2. Kohl-Eyes- Men and women with blood like ice and way too much dark eyeshadow can be hired from the mines to perform all manner of despicable acts like assassination, tomb-robbing, extortion, marriage, etc. +1 Morale compared to regular hirelings, but -1 Morals. Also less talkative and fun and more stoically sinister then the average no good henchman.
  3. The Hanging Prisons- Rather than use any of the hundreds of dank corridors the mines provide, the preferred form of imprisonment is to dangle criminals in iron cages from the sides of bridges for public shaming and agoraphobia. For a fee, they can be hauled up by burly bridge-guards and talked to or even bailed out. A good place to throw NPCs who haven't been seen in a while.
  4.  The Worm Oubliettes- But those hundreds of dank corridors DO sometimes have a prison cell at the end, or a simple hole with a prisoner at the bottom, where the deeply unfortunate are kept in pitch black cells to rot and choke on mine dust. The logistics of a prison break could be quite an adventure with all the ascending and descending.
  5. Nightshaded Tea-House- A classy establishment where the tea is rich, bitter, and occasionally poisoned, just to keep the riff-raff out without having to inflate prices. Those with appropriate antidotes or just a gambling attitude may have meetings with assassins, necromancers, and other unsavory but well-mannered individuals who will likely be in a position to propose, fund or assist 'business ventures' of highly illegal nature.
  6. Dowsing Oracles- Provided you are looking for places to dig for water or ore, you can hire a blind oracle to tap around with a wiggly stick and provide valuable dowsing services. Their prices are sky-high, but for the right hidden treasure, it just might be worth it.
  7. Freelance Mine Inspectors Needed- Those answering want ads can be sent into dangerous forgotten mine tunnels to update records on the state of the mines. See 'What's Wrong With This Tunnel' for examples of what excitement awaits. Rewards vary.
  8. Helldiver Owl- Small canaries are sometimes kept in cages to provide valuable warnings about bad air in mines. Falcons can be trained to aid in hunting small game and perhaps even warfare. Helldiver Owls are supposed to fill both niches in the mines of Simurk, and while they aren't trained to attack humans, they are trained to extinguish light sources and fetch small objects and hoot in alarm if set to watch over sleeping people. They're not easy to manage and cost a small fortune, but hey.
  9. Simurk Lost and Found- In addition to retrieving people's camel-keys that fell off a bridge to lower mine levels, Simurk Lost and Found rewards people for turning in lost items, and sells these lost items to the rightful owner if possible and to anyone with gold if profitable. Definitely a law-abiding organization and not a cheeky den of thieves.
  10. Gravers- under the disguise of being freelance miners, Gravers can supply treasure maps to suspected tombs full of treasure. Sometimes these 'tombs' are 'residential houses' but it's all a matter of how you look at it, eh? Gravers sell great pickaxes and tortoises.
  11. Shaders- In Simurk, it can be very fashionable to have a veritable shield-wall of people with umbrellas keeping the sun, wind, and sand off of you. Having people accomplish this with KITES is even more fashionable, and as such there are kites and umbrellas that are works of art, valuable in their own right, and a sure sign of wealth is an approaching phalanx of embroidered silk umbrellas advancing across a bridge, or a fleet of kites blocking out the sun, all likely decorated with paintings of landscapes, animals, etc that, when properly viewed as a whole, depict the face of the shaded one. Kites blown by the wind can be the subject of frenzied treasure hunts. 
  12. Crystal Fountain- Normally dry, this fountain is activated via slaves pumping away in the depths of  Simurk. Anyone is welcome to gather up their friends and search for the pumps, but the journey to them is quite perilous due to the mechanism being in an old abandoned mine. It is quite beautiful when active, and reaction rolls are made at +1 near it when it is active. It is a famous spot for proposing marriage, making peace treaties, and other portentous events.

  1. It's just totally devoid of anything valuable to mine and coming here was a waste of torches.
  2. Some low-income citizens live here.
  3. Some citizens were buried here, possibly with grave goods.
  4. It's a collapsing mess. Going in means you'll probably have your exit cut off and have to delve deeper to escape.
  5. It's full of poisonous vermin like snakes, scorpions, etc. Or maybe some burrowing monster.
  6. It was a tunnel dug by criminals to access a merchant's basement.
  7. It's a Worm Oubliette and the prisoner is so top secret even being here is probably punishable by death. May or may not be a Man in an Iron Mask.
  8. It's a criminal hideout and they aren't pleased at their secret being out.
  9. It's full of bad air and probably dead people. Poison, slow asphyxiation, or explosions possible
  10. Some rich dude was buried here and despite making a whole tomb of the thing, was forgotten 
  11. Tunneled into an inevitable forgotten cursed dungeon/cave system of inhuman precursors
  12. Dug up something REAL BAD
REAL BAD THINGS (That aren't mega monsters. I wrote up like 3 and decided they were terrible. I don't think this is much of an improvement)
  1. Wishful Ring- A simple golden ring inscribed with god-runes that anyone, even the illiterate, even the blind, can read. The ring reads 'Tell Me What You Want.' Grants the wearer's spoken wish, then teleports to the finger of a random person within 100 miles. Can absolutely be re-used if you catch it again. Everything in creation may war in pursuit.
  2. The Midas Well- Ominous rumbling and rushes of molten gold flow, first slowly, but eventually building up to a continuous geyser a hundred feet high. Over the next few days the entire pit fills with gold. Gold rains from the sky as it spews forth. It'll have formed a mountain in a few months. Gold becomes worthless and economies crumble. Empires will fall if something isn't done about this.
  3. Ancient crypt full of plague spirits/rats/zombies. What plague? THE plague.
  4.  Hella Cursed Mega Doom Sword
  5.  Ancient Ifrit who grants you three wishes and will grant them in ways most likely to destroy the world
  6. An ancient book of unreadable script, illustrations of heroic figures and monsters, and arcane numerology. Until this cursed artifact is destroyed, your campaign must be run in GURPS 4th edition
it's an ok system
If you don't have the rules for GURPS just roll a 3d6 instead of a d20 and demand combat rounds be 1 second long and strive for realistic limits on what can be accomplished in one second

One thing you could do is ruin it. Turn it into a sprawling megadungeon infested with monsters that it's terribly easy to descend deeper into. You could half-ruin it and make it a warzone between dead from the crypts and the remaining living cowering in their houses. Or between an invading army on the surface and the curious defensive position of the Simurks being literally 'holed up.' Or between an awoken dragon from the depths, coiling and huge.

You can change the theme from sand and mines to flowing waterfalls and elegant trees in a network of sinkholes, or make it a sulfurous caldera of geysers and hot springs. You could have Simurk be in contact with underground civilizations from the veins of the earth.

You can sell the players a giant hole in the ground and see what they do with it and then shout 'No, [playername], you ARE the dungeonmaster' at some point.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Void Monk Alternate Levelling

Void Monks are pretty rad and so a player in my game is one. She has been a big hit with peasants and small children and small snail children. It just turned out that way.
Pretty much her

Anyway, here are the following ways to gain levels if bean counting piles of loot just isn't your thing.

  • End the belief system of a group of people. Killing a false god like a worshipped cult monster is the easiest most murderhoboey way to pull this off, probably.
  • Wastefully destroy something of immense value to demonstrate the worthlessness of all things. Nothingness can trigger this.
  • Disbelieve an Illusion. Then, while you're on a roll, disbelieve something real.
  • Enter outer space or some other appropriately barren void.
  • Annihilate someone (and possibly all their friends) so thoroughly that none remember they ever existed.
  • Successfully convince someone to let you remove their brain. This turns them to a level 1 Void Monk and probably your first disciple.
  • Found a monastery and spread the truth of the lie of the false world. 
  • Hunt and slay an Elemental, Chaos Serpent, or other progenitor primordial being as appropriate to the setting
  • Inflict an existential crisis on a high priest, demon, angel, god, all knowing oracle, or similar.
  • Exploit the false laws of reality to create a paradox, confirming the world does not truly exist and has no set form.
  • Obtain the Sphere of Annihilation. All-annihilating rampage and conversion to antagonist optional, but encouraged