Friday, March 27, 2015

Wyrding The Underworld

The underworld of classic fantasy dungeon adventures has many origins and a cliched one is "A Wizard Did It" and for some that is enough.  Why would a wizard do it, even if mad building a dungeon complex seems a huge and tiresome project, sure there's the security provided by not being easy to attack from the air and enemies teleporting into a library or summoning chamber is probably tricky with a host of rooms, corridors, and chambers spread across multiple levels but is that really enough?  Here I'll look at ways of making the underworld weirder by weirding up the place and offering reasons for any wizard or similar folk to begin construction of a dungeon.

Magic works better in the underworld and this encourages powerful wizards to begin construction of dungeon complexes. Magic working better in the underworld can have a number of different ways in which that can be presented.

  1. Magic is Weak on the Surface But It is Stronger in the Underworld. In this arrangement magic spells only function past their base effectiveness deeper and deeper into a dungeon.  All those variable effects that make a spell more powerful only work deeper and deeper into the dungeon.
  2. Magic is Tricky on the Surface and  Easier to use in the Underworld. In this arrangement spells are not always cast successfully. The deeper one goes into the underworld the more likely spells are to work. Magic-Users don't lose a spell when they aren't cast right, they just don't work and the magic-user has to try again...
  3. Magic Only Works in the Underworld. In this arrangement Magic only works in the underworld or perhaps only works when deep enough in the underworld. 1st level spells only work on level one or lower, 3rd level spells on the third level or the dungeon or lower.
  4. Magic Spells are Quickly Recovered in the Underworld. In this setup magic spells cast by a magic-user instantly return to the caster after an appropriate period of rest and don't require lengthy or bothersome spell memorization/preparation after that (so long as they are the same spells used yesterday). It's probably a good idea to have this feature keyed to dungeon level so 1st level to have those 1st level spells restored, 2nd level for those 1st and 2nd level spells (and so on). The period of rest can be as long as the DM decides is appropriate for the campaign or dungeon. If the rest before recovery is brief Magic-Users are more powerful but it also encourages parties to stick around in the dungeon and clear out a safe area to rest,
Having the power of magic tied to the underworld and having magic be ineffective on the surface could create interesting dynamics for a campaign. Surface lords don't have to worry all that much about the depredations of hostile wizards and can live in castles resembling those of earth with no real threat to verisimilitude; the surface world can be "realisitic" while the underworld can be unusually weird or mystic.

The creation of magic items can likewise be tied to dungeon level. That help's to explain what dungeons are doing under castles and wizard towers in the first place. This can be used in a number of different ways.
  1. Magical Earths and Minerals. In this setup magical earths and minerals required to fashion magicl aitems of all sorts are mined deeper and deeper within the underworld and lose their effectiveness if brought above ground for too long before being used in the construction of a magical item. You could key such materials to levels or a range of levels. Regional variations in what earths and minerals are available will also give cause to dungeons in multiple regions.
  2. Magical Forges Must be in the Underworld. In an underworld where this is the case a forge capable of fashioning +1 magical weapons (or equivalent items) may be no nearer the surface then the 2nd dungeon level and +2 magicla gear may be fashioned no higher then the 4th level. This would give ample reason to dig deep to construct workshops capable of fashioning the required magical gear.
Clerics can have their powers tied to the dungeon depths as well as above but there may be more esoteric reasons for Clerics to descend into the earth.
  1. Clerics Worship Dark Gods with Deep Shrines. Clerics are required to make a pilgrimage to secret temples and shrines deep in the underworld before they may enjoy the abilities of earned with experience points. Sure a cleric may have enough experience points to be 3rd level but until that cleric offers sacrifice in a shrine on the 3rd level of the underworld there will be no benefit gained.
  2. The Dead Must Rest Deep in the Underworld Before Being Raised. For any form of magic that brings one back from the dead may be effective they must rest in a sarcophagus deep in the underworld. This can tie to the level of the person to be restored to life, cleric level, or spell level as the DM feels is appropriate for campaign or dungeon. Time spent in such a sarcophagus shouldn't work against the success of such vilification and there may be special sarcophagi that extend the time the remains can be restored.
  3. Portals to the Afterlife. There are portals to the afterlife in the underworld and these very portals may be opened and the glooms may be traveled to bring soemone back from the dead. The spells may act as a key, or only function when the spirit has been dragged back from the beyond.
The dungeon underworld can certainly be excavated becasue a wizard did it if any or several of the above are applied to a campaign. The dynamics of a campaign will undoubtedly shift and the importance of exploration, mapping dungeons, and forming alliances in the underworld should be more apparent and necessary for successful play, even the nature of the adventuring day and balance of classes will shift (20th level wizards should be very careful in a world where their powerful spells only function deep within the underworld).

Footnote.
What of those poor classes with magic tied to the wilderness on may be asking: Rangers, Druids, and the like might not be bound to the dungeon realm and will have greater relative power if allowed in a campaign with a wyrd underworld but mayhaps they must visit stone circles deeper and deeper in the wilds to gain access to their magics in a campaign with a wyrd underworld.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spiraling to Death

A couple posts back Erik Tenkar asked how people would deal with death spirals (assuming they wanted one) in S&W along with other games in comparison to how they happen in Tunnels and Trolls. I commented:
"If you have a death spiral is S&W (and similar games), the monsters thatbkeep onn fighting into negative HP or berserker like foes shouldn't have a death spiral, undead shoudn't have one either (as they are dead already) unless being attacked by holy weapons. Regenerating creatures shouldn't have one either unless a DM wants to go insane."
 Of course about 10 seconds after I hit send I thought some more on the topic and instead of posting more there I figured this was a good place to put the options.

The tunnels and trolls death spiral for monsters is an easy mechanic to track in that game as fighting ability and HP are the same thing really; there are a number of minor variations but essentially when a monster attacks yuo take it's current MR (monster rank which is usually 5 or more points per dungoen level) divide that by 10 and roll as many d10's as you have and add the MR to determine how effective the monster's attacks are. As a fight goes on in T&T the monsters get weaker. Character types suffer damage to their CON stat and as such don't really get weaker until they flop over dead.

Option1, new combat charts: In D&D monsters and player characters have the same mechanics in regard to durability (those good old HP) and how well a character or monster fights is keyed to their level or HD not the HP total. One could of course redo the combat tables to reflect HP totals and that really isn't very hard to track at all and requires no additional record keeping or math than is already used in the game.

Option 2, wound tally: Another way that does require some a little more record keeping but instead of really worrying about HP scores is based on wounds suffered while keeping some significance to level and hit dice. I'd do so by scoring a hit as a wound if it does more damage then the target's level/hitdice and each such wound inflicts a -1 penalty to attack rolls (and possibly saving throws and movement rate). I'd recommend this be a fate suffered by PCs as well with each such wound is removed by an application of healing magic (don't worry about hp per wound afterward, too much to worry about). PCs and monsters could (if they survive a fight) take the time to tend to their wounds, nullifying each one with a full 10 minute turn of nursing their wounds. The ability to nurse wounds gives the PCs a chance at a longer life as they are typically often hit and have a longer table-life than most monsters. I'd likely keep in mind berserkers, undead, and regenerating monsters as in my original comment copied above.





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Goblins

A few goblin-kin to haunt your megadungoens, rotted faerie-woods, and goblin markets.

Loblin
Loblins are small long armed creatures (4 ft tall or so) that inhabit dark woods, mountains, underground caverns, and faerie realms with a distdistinct talent for missile weapons. They may attack with thrown weapons at +4 chance to hit. Loblins may if in possession of a basket of darts or sack of stones lob a volley of fire for 3 full melee rounds hitting all in a 10’ area up to 100’ away for 2-8 pts of damage( save for 1/2). They attack at -1 in the full sunlight.
    •    Goblin: HD 1d6+1hp; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6) missiles attacks at +4; Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL: 1; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight. Lob Volley for 3 rounds.



Hog Loblins
Elite hog riders of the Loblin folk. They are usually mounted upon their riding hogs and are able to use the Lob Volley if moving slowly on the mount (1/2 speed, target area can move 10’ a round). They may charge with their riding hogs to disrupt and confuse folks but usually cling on for dear life hooting and equaling as the hogs gores and perhaps knocks down foes. Anyone struck by a charging Hog Loblin Riding Hog must make a save or fall down.

•    Hog Loblin: HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
 •    Hog Loblin Riding Hog : HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 gore (2d4); Move 15; Save 16; AL C; CL/XP 2; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight. Knockdown.

Scarflin
Scarflin are small creatures that inhabit dark lands and fairy woods and when first encountered there is little to differentiate them from more typical goblins but when they start to feed they can grow larger with ridiculously distended stomach. A hungry Scarflin will try to eat virtually anything and anyone that can’t fight back, they will attempt to close with prey and crab with both hands,if both are successful they will distend their jaws and try to swallow the victim whole. A Scarlin can easily swallow a housecoat or small dog and after doing so they will be stretched out enough to swallow slightly larger foes (gnomes, halflings), and then larger ones (elves and dwarves) and even full grown men that get in reach, each time they swallow anything or anyone bigger than a small dog or housecoat their move is reduced by 3. Anyone swallowed by a Scarflin in helpless but can be pulled free by allies or cut from the distended bellies of the creatures and they will suffer no harm if freed within an hour (after that hour they will have drowned in stomach fluids and copious amounts of drink). Scarflins will fall asleep and snooze for 3 days straight after eating 4 or more HD of creatures. They attack at -1 in the full sunlight.
    •    Scarflin: HD 1+1 AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 grabs(special) or 1 weapon (1d4); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP B/2; Special:Swallow Whole, -1 to hit in sunlight.

Bog Scarflins
These sewer and swamp dwelling cousins of Scarflins are even less choose in their fare willing to settle for table scraps, offal, and dung if nothing fresh is available.  Bog Scarflins may swallow foes as the Scarflin above but they are more patient and not as willing to engage in combat, it is not unusual for one to dwell inside a privy making use of fresh delivered fare and the occasional visitor.
Horrible stench, anyone attempting to engage these creatures in hand to hand combat with a sense of smell must save or be -2 to hit due to nausea caused by their stench,
    •    Scarflin: HD 2 AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 grabs(special) ; Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL: 2; Special:Swallow Whole, -1 to hit in sunlight, stench

Kettle Knight
Small goblin kin that often dwell on the edge of faerie woods noted for their propensity to wear ridulosuly oversized helmets (that serve to them as well as plate armor). The large helmets make it difficult for them to use missile weapons (-2 to hit).
    •    Kettle Knight: HD 1d6hp; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP B; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.

Hogaboar
    Hogaboars are bugbears (and some other sorts of goblins) afflicted with swinish lycanthropy appearing as large headed grinning boars with pointed goblin ears running about on all four limbs.  Anyone brought below 50% hit points by the hogaboar will contract lycanthropy, humans will become wereboars and goblin kind if 2 HD or more will be hogaboars otherwise they will simply berserk until saline or they collapse in exhaustion. Hogaboars can be harmed by non-silver weapons but only suffere1/2 damage from such weapons.

    •    Hogaboar: HD 4+2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 gore (2d6); Move 12; Save 13; AL N or C; CL/XP 4; Special: Lycanthropy, suffers half damage from non-silver weapons


Stabling (Stab-ling)
        Hit-men of goblin kind willing to work for anyone with coin, they will follow a master anywhere calmly and quietly until combat breaks out or they are ordered to stalk and stab a victim.  They go berserk when so ordered to kill and are a whirlwind of limbs and stabbing blades. After a victim is slain they will go their way as their contract is fulfilled. If a Stabling has surprise or can attack from behind they are +4 to hit and inflict double damage. When berserk they are +2 to hit but are also easier to hit themselves.  A stabling can be hired for 2 g.p. a job.
    •    Stabling: HD 1+1 AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP 1; Special:backstab.


additonal notes:
 There are more goblins coming. Stab-lings are based on a memory of someone explaining how their D&D group had no clue what stabling was on the D&D price lists when first playing.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not Just Damage

One of the annoyances with D&D combat over the years is the seemingly limited nature of common D&D combat resolution: Roll to hit, if hit roll is adequate roll damage.  It makes combat feel very...repetitive.  Here's some simple guidelines for making combat a bit more dynamic without a ton of extra rules.

Knock Back-  If you roll exactly the score required to hit the foe may be knocked back. If the targets level is less then the attackers level/HD they are knocked back(and away) 10'.  Foes of same level or higher are a allowed a saving throw to avoid this. The foe is still injured as normal by this random knockback.
If a combatant is knocked back and they have not attacked yet this round they lose their attack. The attacker that scores a knockback on a foe may follow them and draw no instant counter attacks from allies of the foe.

Knock Down- if you roll a 20 on the D20 and a score of 19 or lower could score a hit you may have knocked down the foe. Knockdown is automatic against foes of lower level, those of same or higher level get a save. If knocked down a combatant is now prone, if that combatant has no adjacent allies the attacked and adjacent allies of the attacker may be allowed a free strike against the prone foe.  The knocked down foe is still injured as normal. The attacked may choose to stand above the foe immediately if they so choose and keep the foe from getting up if the foe is roughly the same size or smaller.

Don't worry about knocking back and knockdown down on the same strike, knockdowns take precedence.


Trying for an intonational knock back or knock down-
A combatant with superior initiative can try to purposefully knockback a foe. On an intentional  Knockback the attack is made at -2, any successfully hit roll will cause but one point of damage and foes of any level are allowed a save -2 for foes of lower level, +2 for foes of higher level (they can see it coming). other wise rule as knock back above.

A combatant with superior initiative can try to purposefully knockdown a foe. On an intentional KnockDown the attack is made at -4, any successful hit will inflict half normal damage and a foe of any level is allowed a save, foes of higher level will gain a +4 to the save (they can see it coming). otherwise rule as knock down above.

Note: Fighters are allowed as many intentional knock back or knockdown attacks as they have levels vs a body of foes 1HD or less.

Additional notes for a bit more brutality and verisimilitude
* if combatants roll 1 one on that save vs knock back they drop the weapon in hand.
* if combatants roll a 1 on that save vs knockdown they are stunned until the end of the following round.
* large creatures are +4 to save vs knock back and knockdown

Friday, March 13, 2015

Megadungeon Food

What folks eat down in the megadungeon, in the deep dark corners of vast subterranean caverns and labyrinthine complexes of darklords is a matter of concern for those looking for a trace of realism or just a tad of verisimilitude to make the megadungeon environment work within a vaguely plausible set of bounds that isn't too far removed from something the players can deal with.  How is lord dark  feeding his vast army of humanoids and dastardly turncoats if there aren't caravans with food supplies arriving on a regular basis, or the megadungeon is not surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland? well with food that can be gathered from the environment itself of course and to that end I present melch. Melch is a pale grey frothy slime that grows throughout eh deep dark underground realms in fissures, cracks, dark nooks, and burbling pits.

Three quarts of melch will feed a mad for a day but it's a dreary, loathsome, nearly unpalatable diet. Most surface dwellers would not be pleased at all on being survived their second meal of raw melch after the first meal of raw melch.

Raw meclh will remain vaguely edible for months on end if stored in stone containers with secured heavy lids. While melch will not win any records it can slowly move maybe getting as far as a foot or two in an entire day (picture your cupboard if peanutbutter could go for a slow walk now and again).

Some subterranean folk know secrets of cultivating melch that involve other subterranean slimes and jellies in the process along with a portion of organic waste. Soem underfolk will fill a great stone basin with as much as 100 gallons of melch, a corspe and a small amount of green slime and seal the mess up to return in a few weeks to find a harvest of 300+ gallons of melch pretty much waiitng for harvest.

Melch dries out an collapses disappearing into barely noticeable dusty traces if exposed to sunlight and also does poorly if exposed to fresh rainwater.

Some sages have argued the agressive and hostile nature of subterranean peoples is not just due to the constant pressure of inter-species conflict but the desire to eat something other than melch.

The following are some means of preparing melch that increase its portability, utility, and willign consumption.

Melch Boil- The most basic form of preparation of melch involves putting a quart of the stuff in a small pot with a cup of water and slowly stirring while bringing the mess to a boil, it;s ready to serve when melch starts to dissolve and lose some of it cohesiveness.

Melch Paste- If melch is boiled in a solution of vinegar and water until it thickens into a paste (almost as thick as peanut butter) it ends up a slightly more appealing paste that may be eaten by itself but it is typically used in other dishes.

Melch Flour- properly dired melch paste results in a powder that can be mused much as flour is used by surafce dwellers.

Melch Drop- A soup made by dropping dollops of melch paste into water, broth or oil that has just been brought up to boiling.

Melch Loaf- a bread of sorts that has an odd texture not too far removed from a cross between dense bread and dray cheese. Almost flavorless by surface dweller standards and that probably expalins it's widespread used by some folk of the deep dark.

Melch Strip- fried strips of melch loaf.

Melchins- a dumpling formed from melch flour and paste with a variety of fillings. The sort of filling used will typically lend istelf to the specific dish beifg served  (i.e. "Sausage Melchins", "Fishy Melchins"...).

Traggy- a candy chew made from reconstituting and melch flour into a stiff jelly. Normally served sweet, salty, or spicy hot.

Natters- gobs of meat putrified in a solution of brine and melch. The gobs are typically served fried.

Squaltch- a paste formed by mixing melch, slightly rottign meat and worm larva in vinegar for a period of months. It is served as a spread or sometimes used to stuff sausages. Palatable by most surface dwellers until they discover what it is.

Jollies- a piece of animal intestine stuffed with melch paste and baked.

Moosh- a mashed lump of roots mixed with a roughly equal portion of melch, melch paste and melch flour.

Soggies- toasted meclh loaf slices soaked in a syrup, wine, spirits, or dungeon honey.

Grayervy- melch flour, grease, water and some seasonign (hopefully) mixed together to form a thin gray gravy served with many other dishes.

Servings for dishes in under taverns will vary for 2 to 20 copper pieces in cost depending on method of preparation, seasonings and local tastes, the more elaborate dishes will of course be more expensive.

A quart of raw melch will typically fetch 1/2 to 1 cp, the vessels to carry it in are much more expensive typically costing about 1/2 to a 1sp per quart of melch they can hold.

----
Further notes: This comes from my pondering megadungoen ecology and diets after reading a bit about slime molds and how much they are found all over (and within) the real world. 

Wanderign encounter or dungeon stocking charts shoudl probably have an entry for a Melch Drip. Such a Melch drip would be a crack or fissure that would in 10 to 200 feet lead to a larger amount of the stuff.  Some folks claim all true deposits of the stuff are connected and part of one large being but most dismiss such nonsense.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

[REAL LIFE] Had a nasty fall

I had a nasty fall on my night job over a week ago, it hurt like hell but I kept working.  I gave my supervisor a drive home and drove home myself. I pulled the car into my driveway and climbed out of the car, the pain amplified insanely. I hobbled up the stairs and needed my wife's help to get my work-shoes off and a crawled up the stair and lied down in bed: and the pain shot through the roof when I tried to lay down I  started shaking and felt like I was going to vomit...off the the E.R. we went.

It turns out I have a compression fracture in on of my lumbar bones. Still waiting on a visit with a specialist and an MRI to see if anything is worse. I heal quickly so I'm already a little better but standing for over a couple minutes is ridiculously fatiguing, it is uncomfortable to sit for long and the pain mixed with meds makes it hard to concentrate (which makes my day job in front of a computer almost impossible).

Visiting specialist tomorrow, and physical therapy on wednesday unless the specialist says "no that would be bad". Not sure when I'll be able to get back to day job or night job.

The whole stupid thing is eating into my game playing  and blogging of course, had to cancel the last session of the game I DM. My blogging already suffering from change in job schedules has suffered more becasue of the injury. I'm not gone and I can't even say I'm not going to post more soon (the wife's tablet might allow more frequent posting). So not gone, not saying goodbye just another reason for less posting than I would like.  I do have a notebook that gets my drug and fatigue fueled scribbled into it now and again, hopefully I'll get a few good posts out of that.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Megadungeons need vast spaces

Megadungeons don’t just need  huge number of rooms, doors, and corridors, they need vast spaces. Even a maze of rooms and halls is in totality a vast space. Describing and making use of these vast spaces is a challenge for the DM.

Just how big a vast space is a “vast space”? A vast space should be identifiable as unique onto itself in some manner and link other locations. Such a space can serve as a hub to link together sub levels and even smaller areas that might otherwise be considered their own dungeons.  There is no one answer but when it’s being enough the size and reach become a feature it’s likely vast enough to qualify.

A few examples as outline:

The Huge Cavern, a huge cavern that forces a change in mapping scale or even means of description. If the place is big enough to fit a skyscraper and a multiplicity of subterranean features you can not see in but moments you’ve got a vast space. There are some truly huge caverns in the real world here’s but one: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/01/largest-cave/peter-photography, good luck mapping that out in 10’ x 10’ squares.

The Chasm/Canyon, at first this is just like a huge cavern but it enforces a separation from point A to point B and forces people to think about the third dimension that they likely don’t want to fall into or get lost in. Sure you can explore the Chasm or Canyon but most of all you want to get to the other side.

The Well of Worlds, A great hole/shaft/stair going down it may or may not actually link portals between worlds but it does link hugely separated areas within the megadungeon that should feel like one has travelled from one domain to another.

The Dark Lake/Sea, a vast underground body of water (or other liquid) breaks the normal mode of travel, you can’t just walk across the expanse different modes of travel an action must be considered. the real action may be beneath the surface of the water or isolated on lonely islands that are invisible in the darkness. Can one sail in the still waters of the dark sea? Is there a current? Is the party equipped to deal with aquatic hazards?

The Lost (or not so lost) City, a city space that is clearly contained stands apart from the rest of a megadungeon with the needs of occurrent or former occupants begin visible. Folks live(d) here and their needs were met, everything you could expect to find on a surface city and more may be here. Roaming about an kicking in doors to pillage everything beyond may prove an unwise strategy in a such a lost city where the occupants should be more familiar with the surroundings and have more routes of travel than are typically found in a dungeon.

The Pits of Toil/Forges of Might, a vast mine or industrial space geared to it’s own purpose will set a vast space apart from a collection of dimly bigger rooms. A factory is a very different environment from a civic center and that should be the scope of difference between the pits and other dungeon spaces.

The Monster Coliseum,  huge gathering place geared to sport and combat can have multiple layers of use and focus for a megadungeon campaign form prison breaks of unwilling gladiators to exciting competition on the arena floor and possibilities to mingle and pickpocket among the curious crowd of onlookers. A Coliseum is a great environment to place challenges to meet characters of all different skill levels and offers more then the daunting challenge of mapping a vast space.

The Deep Wilds, similar to the huge cavern but the locations and behaviors of local life become more important and the prime feature in forest of roots and/or fungus. The comings and going of the local fauna and peculiarities of indigenous flora are far more important then mapping a 50’ stretch of space.

The crossroads or highway, an obvious travel route much much larger than a normal corridor is a vast space underground. Perhaps instead of a huge corridor it is an aqueduct or canal. It’s just to big to control the entirety of by a stationary foe and encourages much more mobility than is atypical in a dungeon environment and offers clear routes of travel.

These vast spaces can serve as stairway between levels, or a clear threshold separating low level, midlevel and high level play.A dungeon that contains or links one or more of the examples above can’t help but feel mega to the players in a megadungeon campaign.

A DM has to consider visibility, mobility, and even noise differently in the vast spaces here. A typical dungeon fight seldom involves more than a couple chambers of foes but with the ability to travel more and be noted from a wider array of potential foes the tactics used by player and descriptions of the DM may have to vary and the Megadungeon building and runnign DM should keep in mind and anticipate the differences in scale and scope.