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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Partying: The beating heart and soul of Roymont

So since last night my mind's been abuzz with Roymont and I have like four and a half posts half-baked in my brain but they're all long and I'm at a restaurant waiting for my friends to show up so you get this one instead.

The most essential thing I have to prepare is a carousing table. It needs a deep and interesting carousing system. That system, whatever it ends up being, is the most important thing in Roymont.

Roymonters are dandies; they party just because. Because its what's there to do. If you sniff around for rumors about the Time-Hopping Interdimensional Commintern, you might wind up in fleeing an exploding warehouse in a high-stakes chase through St. Sham's, but if you sit down with your buddies for a few glasses of absinthe you know you're going to have a wild evening.

Carousing can't just be a way of spending your money behind the scenes - it's the main attraction. You don't get XP from having spent 600 dollars; you get XP because you drank a few too many and somehow wound up in some rich lady's parlour, and she had a manticore in a cage and the wizard let it out and it ran off with her best pearls and by the time you'd caught up to it it had descended on a crowd of revellers and you almost had it tied up when the goddamn police showed up (too late as always) and the thief lied his way out of it but sold everyone else up the creek. So then while the interrogator is readying his truth serum the thief busts you out through a passage to the Undertunnels he found but he pissed off some Craplings along the way so you need to get by those. So you finally make your way out of there and you stole this rad kaleidoscope that distorts things in real life when you point it at them, and it's dawn and that manticore is still around and you're wanted by the law for resisting arrest and unleashing a Manticore. But you've got this friend in City Hall who owes you a favour so he gets the police off your back and you stop by the tavern for an ale to kill this headache when the lady's stupid husband shows up and he's got some fucking amulet that puts a geas on you and you'll never digest food again unless you get that manticore and his wife's pearls. And that's when you notice you somehow managed to spend $600. So you're broke and your only thought is once you're done with this manticore you'll have to back to that effing dungeon to find some cool shit to pawn so you can afford to party again.

Damn, my friends are super late for dinner.

Introducing Roymont

Let’s talk about Roymont.

This is a shitty drawing, but I've yet to make a satisfactory one and I wanted something for the thumbnail.

Roymont is the city that started bubbling in my head when I started reading 100 Years of Solitude about a year and a half ago (I didn’t finish it) and thought, how much of this could I shovel into Vornheim? It feels as musty and hopeful and lyrical as East of Eden. It’s an Impressionist painting of an opium dream. Roymonters revel like Hemingway and Wilde’s impossible lovechild. Jane Austen is there too, but she’s off somewhere with Virginia Woolf, who’s showing her beautiful things she never thought imaginable. And everyone dresses like it’s 1914 (because it is) and gets dappered up to cavort under the many-coloured gas lamps and they take their cane-swords because you never know, we might go out to a Dungeon tonight.

Roymont is my alternative-history literary fanfiction fantasy heartbreaker. And you're invited.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bullshit tables part 2

I'm working on a biggish is post.

In the meantime, here's another Bullshit Table.

It's based on the Chamber or Room Contents Table from the 1e DMG, altered and abstracted to my liking.

Abstract result
Dungeon Room
Nothing special
Monster only
Danger and reward
Monster and treasure
Passive, hidden, or tricky danger

When making random encounter/event tables, they'll likely be based on the probability distribution above, where "nothing special" means something mundane that probably points to something interesting if you ask it enough questions.

Here's a picture I like:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What if you don't want to be good at anything?

So a while ago I decided to catch up on my Appendix N and ordered this whopping Dying Earth anthology. I'm currently reading through The Eyes of the Overworld and I fucking love Cugel. He's the kind of bastard I always kind of want to play in an RPG, and like any real-life D&D player he picks up opportunities at the bat of an eyelash and drops them as quickly and destructively as possible once he realizes they're no good.

But what class is he? The other thing I love about him is the only thing he's really got is his wits and blind fortune. Like he's no wizard; his fighting tactics usually involve cowardice, distraction, and lies; he's no good at sneaking or he wouldn't be in this fucking mess to begin with; and the only god he'd worship is a good of money and wenches and he'd probably like steal its favourite dog and get cursed or something.

So I guess he's this class (for retroclones):

The Libertine

This bird is going to offer you something awesome. Then it's going to fuck you over, and you're going to ruin its life and peace the fuck out.

HD: d6
Prime Requisite: Wisdom
Attack progression: As thief
Saves: As halfling (if this game separates race and class... as halfling thief. Being a halfling libertine doesn't give you saves as a double halfling thief. Don't be a smartass.)
Level progression: As cleric
Weapons: As thief
Armour: Heavier-than-leather armour is not sexy and you wouldn't be caught dead it in.

Wits - I lifted this right out of DCC. You have a Luck score, the starting value of which is equal to your Wisdom score. You can dump any number of points of Luck to boost the result of any roll by that much. If you are boosting a damage roll, the amount of luck may not be higher that half of the die's maximum damage (eg. you may add up to 3 damage to a d6, 4 to a d8, etc.).

Whenever you get a full night's rest, you regain Luck equal to your level, up to its original value.

EDIT: If you are using a percentile resolution mechanic, a point of Luck should be worth about 5%. On a d6-based skill system, the DM might decide that 1 pip = 3 Luck.

Ok that was fun.

It is 1 AM I should be in bed.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Bullshit Tables, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Improv

[WARNING: At some point while I was writing this things got NSFW]

Rambling Preamble (Preramble?)

When I started my DCC campaign a few weeks ago, in my mind, the campaign world looked like this:

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that it quickly turned into this:

Alex DeLarge is the quintessential murderhobo as far as I'm concerned
I celebrate this contrast. In my mind, D&Dlikes are always a destructive collaboration between the DM and players to create something that neither was expecting. The DM brings one set of ideas, the players bring theirs, and they rip each other's shit apart. The ensuing mess is at once beautiful, awful, and entirely unexpected. That is D&D at its very best.

Seriously, this scene is like remarkably close to something that happened in this evening's game.
All this to say that my players like to go off the rails.

This is fine! The last few sessions have been like this:

1. I imagine a beautiful vast sandbox with meticulously prepared locations that are fascinating and connections between them and cool items and challenges.

2. I don't have time to prepare all those things and prioritize the wrong ones in the time between actual games, my job, procrastination, and now school. I slap together something railroady but relatively satisfying on its own.

3. My players (roll 1d20) 1. go with it and dig it; 2-19. don't give a shit, want to do something else; 20. give a shit but get distracted

Today was a 20. After the cleric crit failed a spell check in a skirmish at the entrance of the dungeon and fell into disfavour, the party promptly turned tail away from the dungeon I'd stocked, away from the town I'd tabled, to perform some terrible fucking ritual to please the god of gluttony and avarice.

Luckily for me, this isn't the first time they pull this kind of shit.* I saw this kind of nonsense coming from a mile away. Or rather, from about half an hour before my players showed up. So I hastily threw together this:

The Bullshit Table (this is what you came for)

Whenever the players go off somewhere you weren't expecting and didn't prep, roll on this table:

What's over here then? (2d6)
2. Terrible, terrible danger
3. Serious danger
4. Something bad disguised as something good
5. Hidden danger
6. Danger and a small boon
7. Danger guarding a boon
8. Mild danger and a boon
9. Something safe that looks dangerous
10. Something safe
11. Something good
12. Treasure, boons, fortune, etc.

If you're playing DCC and the party isn't crammed with a bajillion 0-levels, consider averaging out the party's Luck scores and deriving a modifier for this table.

Then, roll on Michael Raston's handy-dandy Universal Aspect Table (it says d100 but you could just as easily use a d10). Or, if you have a local inspiration table/folder/whatever on hand, use that.

Jesus that's a lot of buildup for such a stupid table. I'm so sorry. Have another table.

Ok now here's a table for scalar success for d20 Systems

This table is based on the levels of difficulty outlined in the Skills chapter of the DCC Corebook but is generally d20/OSR compatible. It combines these levels of difficulty with the storygamey idea of partial success/success at a cost.

Child’s Play
Man’s deed
Hero’s work
Total failure
Major success

When you're making shit up on the fly, it's a good stalling tactic to let PC actions create interesting situations.

A lot of DMs like to handwave DCs and just look at the roll and decide then whether it's high enough. This makes me feel icky. If a player's going to risk rolling, I damn well owe them the courtesy of having a number they need to roll in mind. But even that produces situations where a PC is throwing themself across the stupid chasm I just pulled out of my ass and that's a feat of derring-do (DC 15) but they roll a 14 so here I am like "oh fuck it I guess you make it across" because killing them feels like bullshit.

This table gives me number to commit to, as well as defining in-between areas where I can say things like, "Okay, you throw yourself over the chasm but lose your gumption just as your feet leave the ground. You're hurtling across it now, but you can already see you're not going to make it. You can grab onto the edge, but you'll take 1d6 damage from hitting the wall. Otherwise there's some jutting flagstones a little way's down you can grab on to, but climbing up from there is no easy task." And if they roll a 9 I can feel pretty okay about saying "you fall to your death" because I have a table that says 9 is a failure and it doesn't stink of fiat.

In the end this table is in large part about having standards for fair adjudication. It means that no matter what I think of a course of action, no matter who's trying the roll, all I do is tell the player what success scale they're rolling on and the rest is up to the players and their dice. Not every DM needs one, but it makes me feel good.

*Now that I think about it, the biggest bastard in the party in my games always seems to be the cleric.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Alphabet of Stupid Dungeon Things / Hello this is blog

I've been running D&D fairly consistently over the last year or so and I've encountered a certain problem: Most of my good ideas are weird humanoids. I have considerably more trouble with tricks, traps, and basically everything that isn't weird humanoids. So the other day, in the interest of getting myself thinking in new directions, I challenged myself to make a fairly large list of interesting things that aren't weird humanoids.

I'm proud of my list. It gets strongest as of H, although I was getting tired and a little lazy near the end. I like a number of the ideas and will probably integrate a few of them into the Caves of Chaos reskin/remix/cannibal orgy I'm prepping. At least once I forgot not to make a humanoid. And a couple of the entries are a little samey. Oh well.

Without any further ado...

The ABCs of Stupid Dungeon Things

·        A is for ASPS – This living snake, if inserted into one’s throat, allows you to speak the language of snakes – but no other language until you remove it. You can understand the language by sticking the snake in your ear. It wriggles around, so make a Dex check each time or risk thrashing damage as you pull it out.
·        B is for BEANS – Grows beanstalks superfast. These can't all be winners ok.
·        C is for CUBES – This cubic room has exits in opposite directions (eg the south door brings you out the north exit; you fall out of the top exit, and must climb out of the bottom)
·        D is for DICTIONARY – This gobbledigook dictionary replaces your knowledge of language with gibberish. You will not become aware of its effects until you try to speak. Thereafter, every time you speak, there is a % chance equal to the number of minutes spent studying the book that you will speak nonsense instead of a word crucial to what you are trying to communicate. The effects are permanent until the curse is removed. The player must keep track of which words have been lost, as the same words fail each time.
·        E is for ELECTRICITY – An electric train runs along rails along this crown. It is not in any way special, but it is extremely valuable.
·        F is for FALLING DAMAGE – This portable pit keeps anything within in a suspended state of falling. The angle at which any object within entered determines the velocity and trajectory of its exit from the hole’s next location. The hole only functions when stuck to a surface.
·        G is for GEESE – This wooden goose, when placed in water, is absolutely fascinating. Make a DC 13 Will save or be inexplicably transfixed by its magnificence.
·        H is for HERALDRY – The coat of arms engraved on this wall predicts the fortunes of prominent noble houses. If presented with the sigil of a house, it will alter to tell its future.
·        I is for ILL-TEMPER – This room is alive and it doesn’t like you, but will tolerate you. Unless you are mean to it.
·        J is for JIGS – this fay flute, when played right, incites fay to dance. When played wrong, it turns them into bloodthirsty beasts until the music stops plus 1d4 turns. While in this form, they will viciously tear apart the flute’s player, followed by any bystander and finally, lacking anything else to destroy, will turn against each other.
·        K is for KNOCKING – The dandy, Golimer, has enchanted a secret knock. Used upon any wooden door, it leads to Golimer’s hideout. Therein lies a series of devilish traps and safeguards, but great treasures and a luxuriant hearth beyond.
·        L is for LONGEVITY – The walls of this cave echo an ancient spell of no-aging. Within dwell many elderly souls hanging on the precipice of death. They are cowardly souls who fear death and refuse to leave the cave, but some still have earthly treasures to bestow on any who can settle their final affairs.
·        M is for MUSIC – This sheet music teaches a song that, if performed correctly, seduces simple locks (such as padlocks) and entices them to open. An excellent singer may open more complex locks. No matter the lock, if the singer fails to perform adequately the lock will tighten and become abnormally resistant to opening.
·        N is for NESTS – This room is full of rectangular stone bricks. These are actually beetles, withdrawn in their shells. Their eggs look like gold coins. The beetles are intensely protective of their young. They sometimes stack themselves into walls, stairs, or other structures, and secrete a substance similar to mortar.
·        O is for OPULENCE – This beautiful manor was recently erected by some snotty nouveau-riche and has since been the site of an ever-growing party. Any crude material (such as dirt or cloth) brought within its walls turns to gold, gemstone, and other riches. Unfortunately, the effect works both ways, and will turn vulgar any valuable thing brought without (this includes the gold with which you entered, which will turn to copper or worse).
·        P is for PINK – The monster in the room is terrible and deadly. But it cannot see pink things.
·        Q is for QUINTESSENCE – Shortly before his death, a famous alchemist managed to distill a single, tiny vial of the animating principle. It is the very stuff of life, and a single drop is enough to give breath to anything. Fearing what might become of the vial after his passing, he sealed his lab away in a mountain, protected by wards designed to turn away (or destroy) only the most virtuous and knowledgeable alchemists. He now resides in the Longevity Cave.
·        R is for ROLLER SKATES – How did these roller skates get in a dungeon? How do they work? Are they magical? No, they are roller skates. Move speed x2 and you can do tricks once you’ve had some practice.
·        S is for (ideas I immediately rejected for being too “done”: SERPENTS, SCEPTERS, SORCERERS, STEALTH, SPELLS) STARS – This glass orb contains a shrunken star. It sheds incredible amounts of light and if used to illuminate should probably be kept in something relatively dark or you’ll quickly go blind. The orb is made of normal glass, enchanted to contain the heat and gravity of the star. The star will return to its original size if the orb is broken.
·        T is for TRACKING – This sneaky predator leaves tracks identical to those of local big game. It then burrows, covers itself in leaves, or otherwise conceals itself awaiting the next hunter or predator…
·        U is for UGLY – This little necklace renders horrible the face of any humanoid wearing it, by the standards of the wearer. However, the necklace will not make the wearer appear as a member of another race – simply a particularly hideous example of their own.
·        V is for VITRIOL – Whenever anyone fails a check in this dungeon, the walls themselves scream insults. This applies equally to PCs as well as the place’s denizens. The dungeon does not usually give too much detail about who it is insulting, although it is more likely to mention what task it is they failed at.
·        W is for WINTER – This wintry hexcrawl region? It snows shards of glass.
·        X is for XAVIER – Xavier is the name of this child-prodigy painter who wants to come on your quest with you. He has run away from home to do it. If he survives, the painting he makes will fetch a nice price and improve your reputation considerably – as well as his. If he dies, his beast of a father (who trains attack dogs) will hunt you the fuck down.
·        Y is for YOLK – This hen lays normal-looking eggs. The yolks are liquid gold. If the hen is fertilized, the next batch of eggs will grow into normal-looking chickens that lay golden eggs.

·        Z is for ZIPPERS – This zipper can be affixed to any surface 5’ thick or under, creating a hole that can be zipped or unzipped at will. Once affixed, the zipper can no longer be removed, except by magical means. Removing the zipper makes permanent the hole in whatever state it was and strips the object itself of its power.

Wait a second did I just start a blog?

Apparently I did. What to expect from it? In the next few weeks/months, an emphasis on gameable content because I'm trying to fight my tendency to let my love for systems and theory and houseruling get in the way of my making playable adventures.

From me you can expect:

  • Stats for those brick beetles
  • Some monsters I've written including: Craplings, Scummers, Lantern-Fay, Memetic Trouble Sprites, Page Golems, and Clod Giants
  • Some setting fluff for the DCC Campaign I'm running. It's 2 sessions in and I've yet to do any serious world building. I'll try to keep this interesting. I think posting it here will give me incentive not to make it too boring.
    • Expect a long post about the Storm Dragon Kazarin-Ozthemoth Who Strikes Like Lightning, who commands clouds, roars thunder, and insists on being called by her whole name.
    • Also I'm on a fairy bent lately, so some whimsical fairy nonsense/political intrigue is in the offing.
  • Content from my Caves of Chaos remix/whatever, which from the looks of it will differ enough from B2 to not cause any copyright issues.
  • Drawings. Some silly, some hopefully decent. Also the occasional map.
  • Oh sometimes I'll post houserules and theory. I'll try to fight the urge, I swear.
  • More stupid alphabet lists? I'm thinking I could do some more focused ones.... an alphabet of non-humanoid monstrosities, of magic treasures, of enchanted weapons that don't just give +X, of traps? Passover is coming soonish - maybe a Hebrew alphabet of cruel Old Testament Dungeon Things? Lamedh is for Lamb's-Blood-On-Your-Door-Or-God-Will-Kill-Your-First-Born? Pe is for Plagues, 10 of them? Actually that list sounds really good. Expect that one.

That's it for this post. Thanks for reading? How do you end one of these?

Like this, I suppose.