Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One Page Dungeon Contest - Brittlestone Parapets

Hey look the One Page Dungeon Contest just ended!  My submission, the Brittlestone Parapets, is linked below.

Honestly I'm not especially happy with it, even though it has Owlbears and killer swamp hillbillies.  It might provide a few hours of non-setting specific fun though.

Above is the Map, a overland sort of thing, showing the broken trench of the Brittlestone Parapets, where lich and wizard once battled for petty reasons. It's theoretically a land ripped by strange sorcery with looming pillars of crystal and piles of mouldering bones - but the limitations of the one page format didn't let me get the level of detail I like into it. I like the idea though, exploring old battlefields torn by the mad wars of missing warlocks/gods has a certain appeal.

Here's a link to the PDF

Monday, April 29, 2013

Magical Teasures of the Ship Spirits - HMS Apollyon Magical Items

The Fortress of the War Dead, quickly erected from beams and slabs of broken deck plates is fallen, smoke and the stench of burning undead corpses now fills the buried vault wafting through the Rust Gates and putting the downtrodden there off their pitiful dinners of fungus loaf and kelp noodles. To the fanatical zealots operating out of the Rust Gate's shrine to the Ship Spirits, this is the scent of hard won victory, and the wake for the martyrs from the recent battle  looks like it will last a week, providing free food and drink to any who will light a candle in the martyrs names.

Yet few recognize that he victory is not Brazen Gear and the Sect's alone.  The hard work of throwing open the main gate and breaking up the dead's blocking forces was done by mercenaries including members of the rival Leviathan Cult, and Church of Lyriss.  Brazen Gear is a man of his word however and these hired killers will each receive one of the following items (of their choice) from the Sect's store of Holy artifacts listed below:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Table for Wermspittle - "Those aren't worms!"

Recently I was talking with J. Garrison of Heriticwerks and I mentioned how much I liked his Wermspittle campaign setting.  The entire game is set within a crumbling ruin of a strange baroque city.  Lots of slime and terror, a disturbing cross between Virconium and Gormenghast I guess is the best way to describe it.  In talking I also mentioned my desire to do a table for some random Wermspittle content.  So here it is...

In the alleys and cellars of the ruined district, wriggling in the dust or surging from the bloated corrupt flesh of a corpse, you find it ... and soon realize "Those aren't worms!"
Roll a D12

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Play Report - HMS APOLLYON - Uptown Ranking


This one shot ran a few months ago and I hadn't finished the play report. It was a very successful session for the party, though they ignored the mansion's upper floors.

Madam Bibi Laughs Last
Quartle the frogling aquamancer, and Semm, crusader of Lyris lounged outside Semm's bustling strorefront church, awaiting a delivery of salted giant pigeon meat that a local butcher had promised in return for the crusader's efforts to cure the terrible fungal infestation the man had picked up somewhere.  The meat would be going into the Lyris's stewpots and then most likely into the mouths of the many poor and desperate who clustered about the church. They might not be devote, but Lyris offered up good fare and other sorts of help in exchange for setting through a weapons lesson or two, without the sanctimony of the Queen's Church, or the exhortations to combat that the chapel of the Ship Spirits had lately become so insistent about.  As for the Leviathan's preachers, well when they managed to offer up food, it was always frog grub, and it took a special stomach to eat grubs and live fish on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

100,000 Hits and a random encounter table...

this morning this blog reached 100,000 hits.  Not sure what this milestone means, as I produce the stuff on here primarily for my own benefit and my own use, but apparently people enjoy it which has been great to see. So, thank you readers and commentators for indulging me in a singularly antiquated hobby.  It is nice to see that several hundred people a day are interested in whatever random nonsense pops into my mind about imagined worlds, poorly simulated with clumsy mechanics.

Without further ado - here's a list of several Extra-planar, Outsider entities that roam the decks of the HMS Apollyon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Swords & Wizardy - Appreciation - A Post About the Old School

The Swords & Wizardry Whitebox
Post has been slightly modified, as I was reading S&W non-Whitebox due to PDF confusion.  The core of this discussion though is why a simple, very lethal system for combat makes gameplay better - a philosophy that S&W Whitebox follows.

So today a whole bunch of game bloggers have taken the lead of Tenkar's Tavern and decided to post about and in appreciation of the Swords & Wizardy Whitebox.

Swords and Wizardy is an early edition D&D clone, designed to evoke the 1979 or earlier edition of TSR D&D.  It does a good job and S&W Whitebox is an excellent retro clone, but how closely does it actually mirror the old edition and is that a good thing?  As someone who plays, and enjoys playing a long running campaign using Little Brown Book Rules I want to contrast the two, and talk about a couple of small, but incredibly significant tweaks that S&W makes which make it a bit less then the 1979 Whitebox experience, but generally hold true to the original rules.  Specifically the effect that incredibly deadly nature of combat in the Little Brown Box, and its brutal simplicity have on gameplay.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Further Thoughts on Older Edition of Dungeons & Dragons and Cooperative World-Building Play

In this recent post I discussed why I enjoy the casually lethal nature of early (pre-1980) editions of Dungeons & Dragons.  The principle idea is that if you view the game as a narrative of the adventuring party collectively becoming more powerful and successful over time, losing individual characters but building a group identity and engaging in a cooperative game of world-building/exploration with the GM, the death of one's personal character is less of a serious letdown and more of an expected set-back.  A way of analogizing it would be that running a OD&D PC is like playing the main character in a Shakespearian tragedy...it's a great role, but you have to die at the end.

Upon thinking a bit more about the topic, there might be a way to capitalize on the fun of running a PC that has a high chance of dying where the character development is not "lost", and where dying doesn't feel so punitive (there are still penalties for death in ODD, they're just less steep because of the relatively flat power curve).  The method I think might be fun takes a nod from a set of novels popular with table top game folk, specifically Glenn Cook's "Black Company" novels.

The Black Company - Yeah these are the "good guys" of sorts

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ruminations of Beni Profane - A Pahvelorn Play Report Digest

My thief in the Pahvelorn Campaign has reached 6th level and is quite the dastard at this point, he began as simply a doodle of a 16th century rat catcher, abut through play and in game jokes, carousing rolls and strange coincidences he's not a bit of a vain cynical fellow who worships a strange rat spirit and has started really resenting the party's clerics.  He's also become ambitious lately and wants to set himself up as a robber baron to feed his appetites for garish clothing and his aspirations of respectability. I never intended to play a character that was a secretly kindly, horse faced blonde version of  Nicky Santoro from Casino - but that's what's fun about developing characters through play.

Beni Profane, self proclaimed "Rat Catcher General" is a 6th level Whitebox D&D Thief who has made a fair bit of coin in exploration and recovery.  He affects shirt with a ridiculous silk floral motif, and a well worn scarf of a similar make when not on the trail.  He prefers his wine rough and mixed with a bit of pine resin, and has been seen in the company of priests despite his obvious impious nature.  The stories Beni tells of his experiences beneath the ground and of the wilds are undoubtedly the product of cheap spirits and other narcotics.
It's been a long time since I've seen the dank halls of Pahvelorn, been on a vacation from the pit.  The margins there were never any good once we put down that wizard with the stag demon master and the obsession with making animals out of men.  Demon worship doesn't pay, worship doesn't pay in general, but with those things from outside the world it costs more than a few coins to pay a priest's brothel bill and time spent on the autem.  Pahvelorn had killed Satyavati, the only sorcerer I ever met that a fellow could respect, and left me the lone sane fellow amongst a band of priests and a spooky spell flinging child.  Well compared to the priests the child's tolerable, can't hold her liqour, but she's coming around to the Mother of Thousands perhaps, and with a better understanding about the nature of the world than the vestment wearing fellows. Pahvelorn's margins are scant, but it's still a place for fangs in the dark, so my band and I alighted for better chances.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Treasures of the Fetid Pit - table 1

Treasure Table I for the Fetid Pit. These are “small caches”, and valued at the location’s “X” multiplied by the number proceeding it. The Fetid Pit is for the most part a Level 1:100GP per X area, but the table is appropriate for other fungal forest type areas with incidental scavenged treasure.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thoughts Regarding Character Mortality and Old School Dungeons and Dragons

You're playing this group
One of the more frequent complaints about older versions of D&D is that it's high lethality -- that characters die too often.  More irksome for these detractors is that characters die randomly.  They die from a single hit, a giant rat bite, falling down a pit with no saving throw, failing a saving throw that had a 4 in 20 chance of success.  Sometimes there's nothing the player, or worse the whole party, can do to survive: ambushed by a rain of arrows from 30 bandits in the wilderness for example.  It's understandable that this seems like arbitrary cruelty written into the system -- pointless, meaningless death without reason.  I've come around to accepting this though, and even relishing it -- because I think that there's a fundamental misunderstanding built into these critiques.

It's not to say that they aren't valid reasons to dislike classic play, but they're a critique of the kind of game that OD&D is not of broken rules.  Classic D&D isn't heroic fantasy, it's low fantasy, and it's not a game that indulges the power fantasies for each player, but a game of collective world-building between players and GM.  By "power fantasy" I'm not trying to be dismissive to other games or genres that are about the individual advancement or story of an avatar, I'm attempting to draw a distinction between a fantasy narrative of individual success (empowerment) and the broader narrative of a fantasy world (historical).

Old style D&D is not a story about any one PC, it's a story about the adventuring party as a whole, or ultimately about a fictional world as a whole.  That's why replacing characters is so easy.  That's why power levels are relatively compressed and monsters randomly encountered rather then balanced by encounter. At an even more abstract level classic play is about the game world and players slowly revealing it in cooperation with the GM.

Not this group

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Down the Devil's Railroad - HMS APOLLYON Play Report

The hardened band of scavengers led by Quartle the frogling water elementalist and Semm, anointed priest of Lyriss had successfully cleansed a demon haunted mansion in uptown, seeing sunlight for the first time in months, and returned to a hefty reward.  Still greater rewards beckoned and when news got out that the factors had an offer for 30,000 GP to anyone brave enough to undertake an expedition deep into the hull, Semm and Quartle began to gather themselves a skilled group of delvers in the hopes of claiming the reward.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Towards a Taxonomy of Rayguns

There’s nothing wrong with having rayguns, blasters, laser rifles or various other kinds of science fiction weapons in your D&D – it’s a tradition really.  What’s wrong though is handing out these toys without giving some thought to the mechanics, especially in Flailsnails games – where the ray-gun from your gamma world one shot becomes another GM’s problem right quick.  I don’t propose people stop handing them out, I give out strange guns all the time – but I propose the following information be provided with any strange firearm that is provided:

1)      Type of Damage – This is important for shooting things like elementals and dragons.  This can be encoded as the color of the beam (red=fire, blue=electricity etc.)
a.       Heat/Fire - RED – Basically the standard.  If anyone has a laser or raygun of any kind this is the default.  Additionally if the ray is red I will call it fire damage.
b.      Lightning -YELLOW – From steampunk voltaic discharger to Gauss cannon.
c.       Frost - BLUE – rare, may also include other strange kinds of entropic weapons
d.      Necromantic - PURPLE/GREEN – Death rays, ghost bullets etc. Not so good for killing the dead.
e.      Physical - CLEAR/BLACK– Something like bullet or a particle beam.  Not so good against creatures requiring magical weapons.
f.        Magical – PINK/WHITE/OPAL Something strange like a gun that fires strange time distortion effects. Basically treat as a Magic Missile

2)      Damage – Yeah This is real simple, and always included, but let people know what the standard damage for a long sword is in your system – maybe in parenthesis next to the weapon damage. Otherwise your gamma world (where HP is really high) guns or you high HP homebrew will wreak havoc on someone’s OD&D game. Additionally some discussion of appropriate saves is useful.

3)      Charge/Ammo – Seriously we need to know this.  Please don’t hand out ray-guns with endless power sources.  It’s not sporting.  I propose the following rule in general for such under realized weapons.  If ammo is not given the ray-gun will run out of power/ammo on the first fumble by the user.  It's out of power for the rest of the session.  It's up to the player to work out if the ray gun can be recharged between sessions.  An alternative is a variation on the simple wand charges rules, where after every fire fight the player rolls a die (bigger or smaller depending on the weapon's reliability) and on a "1" it's exhausted.

Since I've been talking about rayguns, here's a list of random ray guns for your game.

Ray Gun
Red Laser – Standard space pilot side arm, smooth black gun shape that fires a red beam with distinctive sharp noise.  Range 100’ 
solar recharge (1day)
10 round battery
Array Pistol – Golden bundle of tubes atop an ornate pistol grip of fine grained wood. When triggered a blast of orange bolts will plaster a target up to 40' away (+1 hit)
30 round clips
Phase Disruptor - A chromed ovoid with a ringed emitter jutting from the front.  It fires rays of white light that disintegrate portions of the target.
Magic Missile/1D6
power packs
30 charges
Mass Rifle - A bulky modernistic weapon of a compressed boxy design.  Usually in camouflaged ceramic.  It fires bursts of charged particles that rip through targets up to 200' away with a sound like tearing paper.
Internal: Converts gems to ammunition at 50GP per shot.  20 Shot power cell.
Gyrojet Launcher - Launches miniature missiles with deadly accuracy up to 400'.  A Steel and Brass rifle with complex dials. +2 Hit and may shoot around corners.
Gryojet Missiles
Single Shot
Crystal Ray Pistol - Grown from a softly glowing pinkish Crystal, these pistol shaped weapons are disposable and send a lance of frost up to 80' while emitting a soothing hum.
Cannot Recharge
40 shots
Metabolic Lance - An 8' weapon that appears to be made of a living bundle of tentacles and bone knobs.  The lance converts protein into energy at a slow rate and then stores the energy for later discharge.  Attacks as a 60' line of boiling acid that vomits forth with a wild contraction and gaseous belching sound.  Targets in line of fire may save vs. Breath weapon to avoid damage.
10 lbs of fresh meat per shot, takes 1D10 turns to eat.
4 shots
Voltatic Cannon - Short barreled cannon of brass and rubber that generates a huge blue blast of lightning. The weapon takes one round to "spin up" after triggering/between shots, and then discharges a cone 30' long and 20' wide at the end. Targets in cone may save vs. Breath Weapon for 1/2 damage.
3 Shots
Ghost Pistol - Rusted Revolver with a sinister glyph carved into the cracked wooden grip.  Fires screaming ghost bullets up to 200' as streaks of purple light that cause necrosis on impact.  Ineffective against undead.
Manifest at 1 bullet per turn
6 rounds
Gamma Emitter – A cracked stone egg set on a flanged titanium frame, this weapon silently emits an invisible poisoning radiation beam up to 100'.  Target must save vs. poison or suffer wasting disease that reduced all rolls by -1 per day, until death at -10.
Internal :
Recharge with souls using special machines
6 round battery

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tomb of the Rocketmen - Illustrations

Attached are illustrations prepared for Tomb of the Rocketmen - the project continues apace....

First Feh-Ling the Verdigris Dragon...

A Fungal Rocket Zombie...

Contest Winners! - Tomb of the Rocketmen

My Tombs of Rocketmen contest is done and I was so pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of maps from the internet RPG community - I will not say the OSR community, because it looks like some of the best maps are from folks outside that/my particular circus.

Since I got such a good response I've decided to provide two prizes.  First, one for "Overall Best Map," and second one for "Best Classic Map".  This was a close contest, there's plenty of maps I would have really enjoyed stocking, and I can see a level of excitement and craft in all the entries, so please, even if your map isn't a winner, consider keying it (some folks already did and great ideas are contained within) because a Necropolis of the Rocketmen is better than a single tomb!

Without further delay - below is the winning submission, whose fungus infested verticality and amzing detail got me really excited about designing a Tomb largely submerged beneath a fen and filled with all manner of alien infestations, bizarre archeo-tech (matter transmitters! commune-ication crystals!) and ornate chambers.

 Logan Knight's Winning Map

Elementalism, Elementals and Froglings - HMS APOLLYON

The HMS Apollyon is a ruptured environment, while the general questions of what seas exactly it sails, and how long its been adrift cannot be adequately answered, it's clear that the space and time it exists in are not normal or natural to it and the majority of life aboard the vessel and has some strange effects.  The long noted time dilating effects - decay is both strangely slowed, accelerated and possibly even reversed aboard the ship, at seemingly different rates depending on what happens in a given area - are coupled with a a susceptibility to magical influences and a certain animism that infects almost all objects aboard the vessel.  Besides the tendency for bodies that are improperly laid to rest to reanimate or leave dangerous necromantic entities behind, and the ease that Outsider entities can force themselves (or be invited) aboard the Apollyon, there is a third category of manifestation - elemental spirits.  Elementals are common and varied aboard the Apollyon, and like anything useful, the hulk's inhabitants have made use of them to increase their own powers.

The principal known practitioners of elemental magic aboard the Apollyon are the Froglings, both Sterntowers and the uncivilized tribes within the hull.  Water and earth shamanism and elemental magic form the basis of traditional frogling culture, and it is likely that much of the knowledge Froglings have of these disciplines predates their time aboard the Apollyon.  Yet the Apollyon's highly magical environment, while most often malicious, has enabled contemporary Frogling practitioners to raise the art of elemental magic to unexpectedly high levels.  While not all Froglings are accompanied by an elemental familiar, many are, and the rulers of Frogtown are a circle of powerful water and earth shaman, each of whom has formed a symbiotic relationship with a powerful elemental that the shaman constantly seeks to make stronger by feeding them lesser elemental creatures and using totems and sigils to supplement their elemental's natural powers. Human magicians, mostly outside the summoning traditions of the passenger caste, have also turned to elementalism on occasions, but most often consort with fire elementals rather than earth and water, perhaps as a way to avoid any appearance of competition with the more powerful frogling practitioners. Below is a brief description of the Elementalist wizard and Frogling class skill set.

Wild elementals also abound, though they tend not to be 'pure' elemental forms of the cardinal elements (Earth, Air, Fire & Water), but rather strange para-elementals formed of the unnatural environment of the Apollyon.  these creatures are almost always hostile and are hunted by elementalists as feeding on their essence will allow 'pet' elementals to grow in size, power and intelligence.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tomb of the Rocketmen - Locale Ideas.

Tomb of the Rocketmen is winding up and I've gotten a fair number of maps submitted, so here's a sneak peek at what I've been doing to prepare for the PDF.  Not all of these ideas will be included I fear, it's a bit much for an adventure with ten to twenty keyed locations.  Additionally I don't want to give too much away while people may still be plugging away at their maps - but here's what's been stewing about in my head.