Sunday, October 11, 2015

Visualizing the Dungeon

As a DM I'm often wondering if I'm presenting the dungeon to the players and even myself as best as I can.

Do players see the same thing I do? Can they? I've noticed over time groups if players tend to develop a shorthand to describe a dungeon environment to as quickly and meaningfully as possible (unless it;s an insanely boring campaign) but I wonder what is lost in that shorthand.  While I still spend plenty of time analyzing and exploring the traditional dungeon maps I do tend to find the classical empty dungeon map boring, there is so much wasted space to convey information and keep notes but we habitually split it all up or keep the details lite.  I understand some of the reasons to keep the details on the low end I tend to scribble on maps as the PC go rampaging through noting doors broken, piles of bodies, and missed loot on my copy of the map so I can track and present those changes (and other that may follow) to the players later in the adventure, yet  I still wonder if more could be put on the map in the first place. There was a brief trend for isometric looking dungeon maps but these fell out of favor becasue not every DM is an artist and the time spent prettying up isometric dungeons didn't always add to the play experience, sure it made the maps less boring for the DM to stare out compared to a set of squares and rectangles with numbers in the middle but didn't really add significantly to the experience.

I wonder to myself if by keeping to old tools we are keeping our campaign and adventures from developing beyond old boundaries. My imagination can picture vast dungeon environments that the classical graph paper method is just sorely lacking in properly recording. Maybe the computer has given us the means but the exact tool-set isn't here yet as compter and video games allow impressive spaces to be designed but the means these are explored by players are still significantly different from how tabletop play unfolds.

Are we visualizing our dungeons well, and are the other players really seeing what we think they are?

Friday, September 18, 2015

To open the bag or not?

Still here, just swamped with contracts and the work that goes with them.

A coupe weeks ago my dead friend Tom's girlfriend entrusted his gaming bag to me. It's one of those college kid backpack/book-bag deals. I haven't mustered the will to open it yet. Inside it there is probably a gaming book or three and a couple notebooks or folders and character sheets from the past few years.  I'm curious to look inside, to get this one last insight into someone I knew for over 30 years but even typing this brings up tears.  Should I open it myself or call together other gaming buddies to all share in the experience? Do we divvy up the goodies and entrust the character sheets to the "hall of the dead"  (a character sheet record I've been keeping for decades)? Maybe the bag should be propped up in a corner of Gamehalla ? To open the bag or not: to look into the past and a future that can never be...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Solar System of the 78th Aeon

Some of the  11 planets of the 78th Aeon solar system.

Charon- constructed to replace ancient Mercury and Venus as the mass was deemed necessary to allow for safe use of Interregnum hyper-drives.

Earth and Luna- Ancient texts speakign of Telluria refer to Earth and Luna together. Modern Luna retains a thin but life supportign atmosphere thanks to gravity supplied by Telluric Engines and was repositioned to about half again as far from Earth as it was during the first three eras of space exploration. The prime polity of the solar system (The Telluric Throne of Earth & Mars) claims Luna as it's Throne-world.

Mars- While it managed to evolve it's own delicate lifeforms it was deemed necessary to Terraform the planet in the 3rd Aeon as it would have surely been lifeless again in but a couple Aeons were it not for ancient Tellurian engineering.

Saturn and Titan- Saturn had it's rings harvested in the distant past and all references to this lost marvel are decidedly archaic. Life evolved on Titan to go extinct in absence of sentient interference but life was restored but is now feared to have gone extinct again despite the historic significance of Titan being humanities only refuge during the 17th Aeon.

Pluto- Yes my dear reader Pluto is a plaent and deservdely so as it is the fourth body in the solar system to independently evolve a native biology.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Aeon

Aeon as defined by The Incomplete Encyclopedia of The Tellurian Throne of Earth and Mars 541st edition:

Aeon, a galactic season defined as 1/4th of a galactic year (63,000,024 neoclassical Tellurian years).
There is much debate in the least significant digits, some scholars insist tit should be as few as 13 or as many as 67 but the majority find 24 to be adequate. It should be noted some numeric heretics insist on simply dropping the two least significant digits and rounding off to an even 63,000,000. Some scholars point out that the length of the neo-classical Tellurian year is an educated guess that is in conflict with the time-span reported by chrononauts but it has held as the modern definition since the beginning of the as of yet unresolved Andromedan conflict.

At the time of this writing it is currently the 68,415th year of the 78 Aeon. It is what many consider the last Aeon as near the end of this Aeon the tellurian engines will fail and without the energy stabilizing transfer Sol unchecked will resume it's expansion and consume Earth and Mars, even worse, this incident will unchain Thanatos and all the galaxies that could be reached using tri-light drive from the dawn of the 63rd Aeon to approximately 14,000 years post Telluric Apocalypse and the Thanatos Consumption will ( for lack of a better term) be consumed.

Footnote in regard to fleeing the Telluric Apocalypse:
Some have questioned "Why the population of Earth can not be evacuated by time travel" ?  This question is of course based in ignorance as transporting even even a tenth of the known sentient population of Earth and Mars would require the consumption of about 13% of the combined mass of the Milkway/Andomeda galaxies; such a monumental project is agreed to simply not be worth the effort. 

Footnote to the footnote:
Some engineers of the Reformed Church of Neo-Arhcaic Olympian Trans-h-umanity claim  it would be entirely possible to use a significant mass appropriated  from an adjacent multiverse to move the population of all suspected sophonts in the core of the Thanatos Consumption Zone to a safe portion of a nearby cosmos. Serious consideration of this endeavor recognizes the need for unprecedented cooperation of many moralities, species, and polities and the reaction of residents in portions of the multiverse with useable mass is unlikely to prove to be favorable. Even the most senior of engineers can't all agree on what constitutes the core of the Thanatos Consumption Zpne (representatives of polities on a defined fringe always seem to insist they are part of the core).  Relocation to a nearby cosmos seems to be an unlikely prospect.

Further footnote:
It should be noted appoximately 1.3% of the mass of the Milkyway Galaxy was consumed by tri-light drive and other means during The Great Sentient Exodus of the 62nd Aeon. It is also suspected a similar exodus may have happened in the 13th Aeon but one must wonder why they were in such a hurry in that distant age (none of the surviving species evolutionary descendants involved in the earlier exodus can provide an adequate answer if aware of the event at all).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Using Anomalous Subsurface Environment

A week or so ago I finally got around to picking up Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1 and 2-3 by Patrick Wetmore (blogging here: Henchman Abuse).   I'm not going to write a review of a pair of modues (one of which is about 4 years old) but I do have to say it's good stuff.  I enjoy the mix of standard D&D fantasy and wahoo post-apocalyps.  I suspect the humorous elements may have kept me away in the past byt reading what other have done with the modules over the years inspired me to pick them up finally and I'm glad I did.

I'm surprised how well it fits in with my MOG campaign stuff , which while not as humorous doesn't go for being overtly serious. I spent the last couple hours copying and pasting from both modules, David Bowman's Dismal Depths Bestiary and my own undercity monster collection to make a combined monster doc for when I get around to running a campaign with this (along with MOG as it fits so well); i'll be copying in a few more monsters for other sources.

I'm wondering on how to setup the campaign to shove together MOG and ASE, I'll likely start out with bog standard races and in a couple sessions add in the variants from my MOG stuff and then the options from ASE 2-3. First characters would be Fighters to Clerics along with elf, Dwarf, Halfling to have Cyclops, Pygmies, and Amazons added into the mix and then Insect-Men, Moktars, Robots, and Scientists. I undoubtedly going to use house franken-rules over rigid adherence to any one set of published rules ( I already edited the moster doc to have S&W style AC to make ready for this).

High Tech weapons are a little too wimpy in damage and pricey in custom ammo costs in ASE so that will change but not too radically, I already have/had firearms in my old MOG campaign and they didn't actually dominate play with few shots at all being fired after the 3rd round of most fights.

Certainly going to pepper in spells from Space Age Sorcery .   I had many of them in the spell lists for MOG but I think they should be moved from direct PC knowledge (i.e. not in PC magic listings) and be used as unusual findings for PC spell casters who otherwise will have limited access to a more bog-standard old school spell selection. Ink and Alchemy tables similar to my old ones should be reworked to involve more of the features of the mixed post-apoc setting.

My Gods of Mog certainly work mixed in with the Gods from ASE but I'm also tempted to make use of Petty Gods...but that work assumes a different nature of dieties than does ASE, but maybe many of those Petty Gods would work well as NPC Wizards.

The biggest problem I'm having reading Anomalous Subsurface Environment is all the darned ideas it keeps giving me as I read it. Good creative stuff inspires more creativity.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Low Magic Campaigns and Healing.

I've read a few good posts the past few days on running a minimalist "low magic" fantasy RPG campaign with a rule set such as Swords & Wizardry and I couldn't help but think to myself: Isn't bog standard classical D&D (and as such Swords & Wizardry) already Low Magic when magical healingis considered?

As it was (or is depending on your rules) a Swords and Wizardy campaign and Originak D&D campaign starts out Low Magic with very limited magical healing, so limited there's none at all without the DM bending the setting to give players extra access to healing magic; clerics have no healing spells available to themsleves at 1st level and Magic-User are walking about with just one spell to their name and it's healing no one at all.

It' a good long time measured in experience points earned before healing spells become frequent. A cleric gets one at 2nd level: one cure light wounds spell after earning 1,500 xp.  Eventually there could be a whole 2 cure light wounds and 1 cure serious wounds spells on hand per 6th level cleric after the successful accumulation of 30,000 experience points. That's not a lot of experience points and still not a whole heck of a lot of healing magic  for a party of adventurers if there is only one cleric per 4 to 8 other adventurers. That's a total of 4d6+4 pts of healing, in 3 spells, that 7500 exp per d6+1 of healing is that really enough to define an entire style of play?

The rules as written Swords & Wizardy (and original D&D) are already a low magic setting when measured in healing spells with a fairly standard starting party.  Sure as the campaign rolls on there will be more and more magic items.  Out of every 1000 GP worth of loot earned there will likely be at least 1 healing potion .... maybe.

What are the odds of finding a randomly placed (rules as written) healing potion in S&W?  Not so high really.  For every 100gp worth of treasure there is a 10% chance of trading that out for a roll on a tabel that provides a 5% chance of getting a minor magic item, 25% of all minor magic items are potions, 36% of randomly determined potions are healing potions of some sort; there's a 0.045% chance of finding a healing potion instead of 100 gp. A cleric has about a 0.5% chance of discovering and keeping a healing potion by the time they reach 2nd level.... that's not a lot of magic healing. 

By the time a cleric earns 30,000 exp there will have likely been 21,500 gp worth of  loot discovered. If 10% of that is swapped out for better loot and 5% of that is magic items with a 25% chance of a potion and 36% of potions are healing potions of some sort that's (215 x .1 x .05 x .25 x.36) a 9.675% chance of discovering a healing potion between 1st and 6th level.   Not a whole lot of magical healing there at all is there?

Add in scrolls and the odds of finding healing magic increases a lot.  Those 21,500 gp worth of loot will likely include 1/2 a scroll with a chance of under 12% that scroll will be a healing spell. Still not much magical healing going by the rules as written.  

In consideration of the rules as writtne Swords & Wizardry (based on S&W Core Rules) is a Low magic setting when access to healing magic is considered.  If there is more healing available it is by DM fiat and clever play. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Necrotentacles and other squirmy horrors

Here are the Necrotentacles and other undead horrors to lurk in forgotten ruins, filthy sewers, dark dungeons, and fetid tombs. A half dozen (or so) squirmy monsters fro your old school campaigns.

 Necrotentacle, Small
Horrid clambering undead heads supported by eight tentacle-like limbs able to climb quickly on rough surfaces and swing through tress from limb to limb, the last thing their victims often see is the tentacles and then blackness as the undead horrors wraps about their person and begin to suck out their blood.

The Small Necrotentacle does not harm it’s victims with it’s tentacles but should three or more successfully strike a victim it will latch on make a bite attack (+1 to hit per tentacle attached) and begin to drain 2-7 hp of blood per following round until victim or necrotentacle is dead. A Necrotentacle will temporarily gain 1 hp for each 2 hp of blood it drains while latched onto a victim.

A strong character may be able to rip a Necrotentacle free but if they have been bitten they will lose blood for the next 2d6 rounds if not quickly treated for the bleeding wound.

A Small Necrotentacle will reflect Psionic/Mental attacks back at anyone foolish enough to attempt such a tactic vs this hounded 50% of the time, Small Necrotentacles are otherwise unharmed by psionic attacks. They are immune to charms and sleep spells as are most undead.

A human/humanoid slain by a Small NecroTentacle will rise as a Tentaghoul Type-I in 2-5 rounds following death.

Necrotentacle, Small HD 3; AC 8[11]; Atk: 1-6 grab attacks + Bite for 1-4; Move: 12; Save: 14; AL: C; CL:5; ML:8; WIL: 13; Special: Blood Drain, immunities, and Reflect Psionics