Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Monsters on the Map !!!!

A quick quiz:
Which sample map shows there is a 1 in 6 chance there will be a 2d6 skeletons coming down the hall?

As per last post ,maps can be made even spiffier (i.e. more interesting to look at and more immediately useful in play) by putting things on the map. Added a couple icons to the map and at a glance I can tell you where there's a mummy, a band of bugbears, and a possibility of bumping into a pack of skeletons. The monster icons need not even be as detail as here as little frowning faces would do the trick as well.

With more useful information on the map the DM can better play out what the response could be to things like the door being kicked in between #1 and #2. I'm curious about the relationship between those bugbears and the mummy as I can see the both at once without going through the room descriptions.

If there's room, put it on the map.

Sure one can argue agaisnt cluttering the map up with monsters that will be dead, that's what erasers, delete buttons and crossing out monsters is meant for.  If #3 had an x scrawled through the bugbears it should be pretty obvious there are bugbear corpses present unless the dungeon has a really good clean-up crew.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spiffier Dungeon Maps

Make spiffy dungeon maps when you are brewing up your own dungeons. Put more information on the map and make them look more dynamic if you plan on looking at it for more than a couple of minutes or are writing up something for others to use.

Bog standard dungeon on left, Spiffy map with more information on the right.

It isn't real hard to see which one is more interesting and has more useful information on it does it?
The stop signs with #'s indicate lock difficulty (written in this example as a level for illustration purposes). Ceiling heights are shown in case anyone climbs, flies, levitates, or is just plain old big (there is an assumed default becasue ceiling height isn't noted everywhere). Things are spread out and given more interesting shapes, and some pillars are put in a room for eye-candy and illustration purposes.  Room #4 was given a tilt to make it more interesting and the run of narrow corridor past the door connecting to room #3 creates a little more drama and sense (along with actual) distance. The intersection #1 is widen to give it some character and the tunnel leading to #1 from the west is also offset from the door to increase variety and to change sight-lines and firing arcs for dungeon explorers.

Just a little effort and a dungeon map can go from blah to interesting with increased utility.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Creative Struggle

Creating is a struggle. The creative muse is often described as inspiring but she is also often elusive and taunting. The artists struggle to put down on canvas, paper, or any particular medium is a serious one and it strikes DM's/GM's as well. For me the failure to communicate what I want to communicate or render can be crippling, the fear of using my skills poorly or perhaps discovering my skills can't meet my vision is as devastating as clinical depression (possibly related).

I have seen things in my mind's eye I have been unable to draw, or even properly describe with words alone. I have discovered emotional spaces while doing research and development  for a game project I didn't suspect were lurking there that have stopped me short and left me embarrassed for leaving the project still-born , cold, and incomplete.

RPG is still just a game and yet it is a channel for creativity bound up in a charade of competition and scaffolding of rules.  I get why some people think of RPG GMs as "story tellers" despite by criticism of the limiting nature of that model. For me RPG is a chance to enable others to tell stories, to share in someone else's creation and to create anew within that space someone else built for them. Building that space can be a surprising challenge when looking to make it something more .

The struggle in expressing that "something more" in a meaningful fashion is real and while similar to self-imposed artistic struggle it need not be a lonely one.  We folks that blog, G+, and visit forums to discuss and share gaming ideas are helping out each other in that struggle even if we don't realize it. I still worry and fret about my own creations (even my occasionally copious notebook style posts) that I am missing something and not communicating what I really mean to.

To everyone out there: Your struggle is real. Your struggle is unique. Your struggle need not be suffered in silence.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Inflicted Conditions vs Energy Drain and Paralysis

I’m not a big fan of level draining effects in fantasy campaigns. It’s a paperwork nightmare in all but the simplest of dungeon-crawling games, adjusting the impact of a lots level on attack chances, saving throws, and special abilities round per round is a colossal waste of time in a situation that is supped to be exciting and dramatic. Instant effects are ultimately boring and offer players little to worry about once suffered by a character. There are also limits on the utility of some undead throughout the the life of a campaign because of level draining,a Vampire would be darned horrible against a party of 2nd and 3rd level characters even without the level-draining as is but is virtually a TPK that all but the most clever will have no chance elf avoiding. Later in the life of a campaign level drain gin while still being a play slowing effect is also not a huge deal as restorative magics become available or levels climb high enough that level loss is bothersome but of minimal impact. Multiple undead also quickly become overwhelming beyond other threats in the campaign or relatively inconsequential. Here I’m going to propose inflicted conditions over level loss and overwhelming paralysis. I prefer a play style where players see the end coming, I favor "die slowly effects" as it enables heroic attempts to save other characters and enables foolish players to waste PC resources; there's more roleplaying opportunities presented to a player in having a character be slowly overcome by rictus or slowly descending into madness as opposed to instant effects (sudden paralysis had no real roleplaying challenge.

An inflicted condition is a contra-ability that is tallied as it is inflicted upon a PC/NPC/Monster. When the condition exceeds 1/2 it’s paired attribute a character is disadvantaged (-4 to related action in old-school talk) and when the paired attribute is exceeded a character is helpless.

Suggested Inflicted Conditions
over 1/2
-4 to actions and move is halved
-4 to related saves and healing effects are halved
overcome, Will die after 3 days. May cause sickness in others nearby.
-4 to actions and 50% chance to temporarily forget a spell or command word
-4 to related saves and 25% chance to descend into gibbering madness in times of stress
Raving lunatic incapable of coherent and directed action.
-4 to related action (melee attacks and damage). can only carry half as much as normal without begin encumbered,
Too weak to move under own power.
-4 to related actions, 25% chance to be overcome with horror or ennui in times of stress. -2 to reaction checks/loyalty/morale checks of minions if using 2d6.
Collapse into a near comatose state. Hirelings and Henchmen will become forlorn and may abandon character.

Recording an inflicted condition:
As attacks that causes one of these inflicted conditions are suffered the score should be tallied for the condition and as a character recovers the condition is decreased.

How many points are inflicted on an attack? 
This is a matter of campaign style and scale. As it is tied to ability score the flexibility and range of score should be considered. If attributes are fixed and or rarely increased the effect of inflicted conditions is going to remain essentially identical across levels of play.

I recommend 3 points of a condition be inflicted where the effect would take place or drain a level normally. Yes ghouls would be less dangerous with their attacks inflicting Rictus and not paralyzing one completely on a single failed save.

If a saving throw is normally allowed against the special attack it will allow defend completely against the inflicted sate on that attack with a successful save.

Recovering from an inflicted state.
Each full day of rest will allow a character to remove 1 pt per level from inflicted states they may suffer from. Magical effects that restore ability damage will equally reduce inflicted states on paired abilities and those that restore levels will restore points lost on an attack.

Additional notes on use of an inflicted state:
•Varying The inflicted State an undead begin causes to meet the origin or use of the undead within the campaign/adventure. Ghouls that cause sickness with their filthy claws and Vampires that cause Dread with their Gaze will have a different feel and use in an adventure.

•The enduring but not indefinite nature of inflicted conditions make them something to be avoided but are not campaign changing following a survived encounter.

•Items can be utilized that allow for the inflicted conditions to be suffered as well. Filth Flasks that inflict sickness could be hurled, Mummies may have weapons enchanted to cause madness on those they strike.

•Necrotic transformation…just when a character is transformed into an undead begin by the results of begin overwhelmed by a condition are up t the DM and should reflect the nature of the monsters so harming characters. Unless the attack states a specific time after begin defeated in monster description I recommend 3 days after being overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Deep Tucker, Delver Chow, Troll Munchies

A table of food both fair and foul for the packs and larders found deep in the depths of dungeons.

Deep Tucker
Two gallons of Raw Melch in a bucket
Warm Melch Boil in a clay pot
Cold Melch Boil in a bottle
A small clay pot of Melch Paste
Stonebread and Melch Paste Sandwich
A alb sack of Melch Flour
A sealed copper pot with luke warm Melch Drop
A loaf of Melch Bread
A sandwich made from a whole loaf of Meclh Bread and fish-paste
One dozen greasy Melch Strips
Some really dry Melch Strips
One Dozen Sausage Melchins
Half a dozen Fishy Melchins
A score of stale Empty Melchins
Two dozen Honey Melchins
Handful of Sweet Traggy in wrapped in a handkerchief
A wooden canister packed with a couple dozen pieces of Salty Traggy
A big glass jar half full of Spicy-hot Traggy
Three pieces of Sweet and Salty Traggy wrapped in waxed paper
Fresh fried Natters in a wax paper lines paper sack
One serving of cold Natters in a small clay pot
One dozen large Squaltch Sausages
One Quart of Squaltch Paste
Half a dozen Jollies
One loaf worth of Wine Soggies
Six Soggy slices dripping with dungeon honey
A cold pot of Grayervy
A bottle of “Toll Mamma’s #1 Grayervy Sauce”
An unlabeled packet of Grayervy Powder
A leather gob-box with Dry Melch Strips, 2 small hard sausages of unknown origin, and a double dollop of Reekish.
A gob-box with 3 “Empty” Melchins, a handful of Edible Fungus, and 3 stripsof Smoked Cave Tentacle.
One Dozen wax sealed Gob-boxes each holding 3 Stonebread Biscuits, one dozen dried eyeballs of occult origin, and a tiny bottle of Vinegar
A quart of Sugared Vinegar and Three loaves of Stonebread wrapped in cheesecloth
One score small loaves of Twice Baked Bread
A sealed half-gallon clay-pot full of Seasoned Bread Crumbs
A half quart jar of Gobs and Tatters
A tin with half-a-dozen FireBeetle Grubs in Garlic Sauce
A three pound Hard Salami
A clay pot full of Peas Porridge
A quart jar full of pickled vegetables
A small barrel packed with Salted Fish
A sack of three dozen Journey Cakes
Hard Cheese with Peppers and Nuts
A small sack holding one pound of Troll Jerky
A jar of Pickled Pigs Feet
A jar of Bat Wings in Jelly
A jar of stunted Rot Grubs in Vinegar.
A massive tin with 3 Whole Giant Snail steaks
A dozen smoked Cavern Crickets wrapped in a cloth
A small tin of Jellied Cockatrice Feet.
A big glass jar full of rotten meat writhing in Crusty Maggots
A small jar with Ants dipped in Chocolate Sauce
A tiny jar full of Spicy Salted Mosquito Larva
A small jar full of Roasted Coffee Beans
A Meat and Mushroom Pie sealed in it’s own cooking tin.
Elfin Way-bread
Dwarven Stonebread
Millet-mash Pygmy Loaf
Black Bread with Raisins in a tin
Moleman Rootloaf
Large Dungeon Spider packed in Aspic.
One Huge Grub lightly roasted packed in Salt
A string of Dried Rats
One Jellied Unlucky Cat in a tin
A dozen Sewer Swine Sausages in a tin
A jar of Brined Carnivorous Squirrel
An amphora full of Soured Army Moles
A small tin of Crunchy Grat Toes
One Deep Raven jarred in Marinate
One live Rock Lobster with claws bound by wire.
One large jar of pickled Ladder Adders
One whole dried Dungeon Weasel
A clay jar full of Toasted Gravel Gremlins
A large tin of Smoked Metal Mites
A barrel of Pebble Gnomes in Brine
A large jar of pickled Fungus Fairies
A jar of Hairy Eyes floating in Nectar
One Very Large jar of still swimming Blind Fish
A small tin of Smoked Spicy Gutter Eels.
A small tin of Mole Pate
A Barrel stuffed with Ox in Hot Sauce
A large tin of Eloi Strips in Mint Jelly
A large pouch of Crunchy Wolf Ears
A sealed barrel of Ensanguined Fishman in Salt
A Dried Trollkin Head wrapped in cheesecloth
A string of Cured Goblin Hands
One dozen Split Dungeon Squab in Mushroom Sauce
One Dozen Elf-Ears in rendered Kobold Fat.
Huge tin of Quartered Dungeon Lizard in Special Sauce
A wax packed Triple Stuffed Hob-Gno-Brownie-Kin
One tin of Mechanically Separated Basilisk
A jar of Brownie meat in Cream Sauce
A jar of Troll Yogurt
A sealed tin of Orcish Headcheese
A jar of Onions and Dwarf in Broth
One Pickled Roc Egg
One Whole Roast Giant Badger with Onion Stuffing in a sealed barrel.
Minotaur Shanks and Apple Jelly
A barrel of Neutralized Green Slime
One Case of slightly rusted Iron Rations

This clearly isn't all meant to be considered wholesome food by surface folks engaged in monster stomping and dungeon diving.

 More rations here:

Items 1 to 31 in the chart above are mostly explained in this older post of mine:

 Remember kids  "Melch, it's what's for dinner" is fighting words in some taverns and feasting halls.