Friday, November 27, 2020

How did professor Barker run Tekumel games?

The first Petal Throne RPG is very close to 0th edition D&D. One of the ability scores is renamed, and they are expressed as percentiles, but there are no rules as written-type skills for them to be applied to*. Take, for instance, how we handle grappling:

 Players often ask about the possibilities of physically capturing a surprised opponent (rather than striking him). This, like many tasks requiring arduous physical or mental action, cannot be legislated easily by the rules... the character's strength, intelligence, and dexterity are added together and averaged... percentile dice are rolled, and if the score is less than the averaged figure, the action is successful.

So it similar to the roll at or under ability score that most D&D players were starting to resort to in order to figure out what happens when failure needs to be adjudicated.

 Later in the book, we get a play example, which further shows us how Barker would run games at the time he wrote the first Tekumel game.

Player: We listen at the door.
Ref: (rolling die) You hear nothing.

So it seems that Barker probably did the x in 6 method of listening at doors. Maybe an x in ten since he was so fond of percentiles though? BTW, in his book, d20s are actually numbered 1-10 twice and he feels the need to tell people how to use them to generate 1 to 20 numbers. He treats random number generation as a thing that people just weren't used to at the time, giving us lots of parenthetical advice and procedures that modern roll players ain't got no time for.

Player:  We have three men trying to open the door.
Ref: (rolling dice) The door opens.

So now I see dice plural, and that tells me either he isn't consistent with the singular die vs plural dice--but I think he is because he uses "die" a couple lines down when getting into surprise rules-- or he went with percentile chance to open a door with three dudes. Maybe he has their strength scores written down and does some mental math. I dunno.

Player: Our strongest warrior... is lying flat on his stomach and prodding the hasp [of a treasure box] with the point of his spear.
Ref: (Mentally giving the warrior a 20 percent chance of being hit by the tiny poisoned projectiles hidden in the hasp, rolling a die and finding that the spines missed...) A handful of little spines go zipping over the head of your warrior. He's not injured. The chest comes open.

So we see here that PC skill had nothing to do with avoiding a trap, it was all up to the description the players gave of their approach, as well as a little luck. Very old school.

Player: We're searching the chest for secret compartments.
Ref: You find none. That's all there is.

Once again, the players describe something, and the Ref just decides the results. No spot or search or INT checks are rolled. Let's see what happens when they encounter an obvious trap in an idol surrounded by coins:

Player: He pushes just one coin off the altar toward himself. What happens?
Ref: (Laughing fiendishly) That's all it takes to set off the trap. A great metal cage falls clanging down over all of you. I believe you were all up near the altar--nobody specified leaving any of the party behind to guard the door, and thus I assume you were all within the 20 foot square area covered by the cage. (Rolling percentile dice, giving the party a 20 percent chance to have had one or more stragglers outside the cage area...)

So it seems he was a fan of 20% chances maybe. Well, that's about all I have, but if you run across other examples of Barker's play style, I'd love to hear them.


*raw skills seem more like backgrounds. Barker seems to have a common sense approach to them. If you have the skill, you know how to do certain things. No dice involved in doing them.

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

D66 adventure generator

I've started a new project. I'm tired of all my sideways books of tables that are too complex. So I'm doing my own Judges Guild style take on Ready Reference Sheets. The first is below. Roll a few times on it with a d6 for a tens digit and another for a ones digit. 

d66 Adventure Instigator 

Incident  11 Dream or sweven 12 Last will and testament 13 Town crier 14 A contest 15 A drug-induced vision 16 A map 21 A mysterious coin 22 A trap has been laid 23 A noble 24 A curse 25 An anniversary 26 Overheard conversation 31 A juicy rumor 32 Creatures stalk the night 33 Someone has gone missing 34 An apparition is seen 35 Three witches doth prophecy 36 A crazed monk 41 The council has decided 42 A friend in need 43 You are not the father 44 An odd item has been found 45 A disease is spread 46 A survivor limps into town 51 Bad guys ride up 52 The sheriff is missing 53 Someone is on the lamb 54 Previous baddie toppled 55 Monster of the week 56 A secret society plots 61 Something has been unsealed 62 Someone has been framed 63 A secret must be kept 64 A group comes through town 65 An old friend is here 66 Rent is due 

Mission 11 fight the power 12 find the mcguff 13 catch a spy 14 finger a filcher 15 get there first 16 prove something 21 restore status quo 22 eradicate baddies 23 nip threat in bud 24 seduce 25 scare off 26 fulfill dying wish 31 find heir 32 unite the tribes 33 solve mystery 34 seven samurai 35 plumb depths 36 act as entourage 41 play bodyguard 42 accompany girl 43 renew/undo seals 44 hunt down 45 scavenger hunt 46 find cure 51 solve riddle 52 hold the fort 53 survive disaster 54 restore item 55 reconnoiter 56 give message 61 reclaim area 62 explore area 63 execute geas 64 break bonds 64 find ingredient 66 save the king 

But also deal with 11 g-g-g-ghosts 12 aliens 13 a double agent 14 false info 15 something broken 16 reluctant NPC 21 conflicting patrons 22 factions 23 other adventurers 24 barbarians 25 disease 26 curse 31 a dragon 32 long journey 33 sewer side-quest 34 being tailed 35 cultural faux pas 36 invincible foes 41 sky-island 42 sexy wizard 43 demonic agents 44 Fiend Folio roll 45 lost entrance 46 awakening volcano 51 you mom’s coming 52 two dates at once 53 terminator 54 someone’s body 55 fey trickery 56 one way journey 61 lesser evil 62 time constraint 63 complex ritual 64 preserve virtue 65 Sophie’s choice 66 big bad’s minion 

Journey & Destinations 11 snakes 12 strange thorp 13 guests of royalty 14 witch’s hut 15 three princes 16 cemetery 21 gassy bog 22 strange fruit 23 way too cheerful villa 24 cursed land 25 Moria shortcut 26 bustling burg 31 to the moon! 32 in the underworld 33 a dark dark wood 34 a series of forts 35 a castle 36 an abandoned keep 41 a haunted lagoon 42 micro-world 43 elemental plane 44 underwater 45 seven heavens 46 six hells 51 a doomed manor 52 the big city 53 winding canyons 54 a desert 55 a cave 56 the three vales 61 incognito 62 through a body 63 planes of dream 64 to a lonely isle 65 to level X 66 inside PC’s memories


Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tekumel Hack to get you into EPT

So embedded below is a hack designed to get the players going (the title is a reference to the subject first post of this blog, where I talked about Ebon Bindings). I personally, as the GM, am going to be using Empire of the Petal Throne's original 1975 game rules for the most part. The goal of the hack was to bring the percentile nature of the ability scores more into the game and to unify mechanics so it's easy for beginners to grok. Roll low is good for everything in the hack except damage. Of course you want high damage. The spells are a bit better too now, if I say so myself. I wanna see some gray hands and silver halos flying about soon!

BTW I recently discovered Jeff Dee's Tekumel take and it is sweeeeeeet.

Read below or on Google Docs.

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Fixing Drow

I was thinking about what all I should write about the drow, but a picture is worth a thousand words. So this picture is how I fixed the problematic skin color issue of the drow. Yay! Aren't you happy with your new drow? No more racism in your D&Ds. Happy Holloween!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Thin Veneer of Reality (a 1page RPG)

Sales pitch: Every action is risky, but risk is the only way to get stronger. 

It's hard to describe this one page TRPG. Your party has collective luck for dungeoneering. You have personal luck for surviving danger. If you don't push both, you'll never get anything done. Oh, and it's science fantasy. In fact, I'm hoping for some Wally Wood (NSFW link) shenanigans.

On with the embeddening! Click here if you cannot deal with a g-Doc in a Blogspot post.

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Bloodlines of Tiamat

You know those role-players that insist on writing down details like their eye color? Well, we're going to make eye color matter in DnDs. 

In the beginning, the Lords of Mutability Fought the Lieges of Stability. Jokulhaups, god of renewal, remained unconcerned in the fight, viewing time as a cycle and the conflict as pointless. However, the Elder Eye, a god that switched sides and was later imprisoned for it, wormed his way into Jokulhaup's heart and rent it in twain.

From the Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Dexterity, and Charisma of the divided god was born Tiamat, she of five heads that represented the five aspects. From Wisdom was born the god Bahamut. Being of a common origin, they created similar agents to enact their agendas, the dragons.

Bahamut has to play a patient game. He knows he can't beat Tiamat without eons of careful and considered stratagems.  Bahamut's most powerful creations are the psionic dragons, most of which became gods in their own right. Metalic dragons are also Bahamut's doing. In his wisdom, Bahamut has not deigned to rule his creations, but rather does parallel universe Mario64 Chess, prodding pieces into position.

Tiamat has five heads of five hues. Each head has endeavored to create cult and cabals throughout the cosmos. These are known as The Heads to those--usually mad prophets--who have been able to glean her designs. Unbeknownst to Tiamat herself, she is a pawn of the Elder Eye, serving as his aperture into reality and as the get out of jail card he's been manipulating for half a kalpa

So where does eye color come in? Well, if a player chose to go with red, yellow, blue, green, or black for their PC's eyes, they are already an inheritor of Tiamat's legacy. She's the dark ancestor of humanity on a spiritual level. Bahamut counts for all the other colors. No, they (probably) didn't make humans and demihumans  personally, but they have manipulated the history of the races of Midgard. 

Now this has campaign potential. At first, the GM can mention the striking eye color of certain prominent characters, then the players can start to connect the dots and get paranoid of anyone with that chroma. Then a new croma is introduced. What color were so-and-so PC's eyes again? The same color? Huh. Have you ever thought of switching sides? This agent of Tiamat would like to make you an offer, and it's really tempting... 

Of course, eye color is just a hint at what could be in the complex makeup of one's soul. In fact, when people really consciously dedicate themselves to factions, their eye colors change to match their allegiance.

The Red faction of Tiamat is all about strength. They tend to be war mongers and generals. War forever! That's the ticket! They love riling up the demihumans, especially the "ugly" ones, to keep them on hostile terms with with humanity. Keep in mind that there are many Red agents within the orc and goblinoid tribes too; they work with their human counterparts to keep tensions and racism high.

The Green faction is concerned with constitution. They are into building up their bodies to unlock strange powers. One of their favorite tools for recruitment and recreation is psychedelic substances. They hope to engineer a plague that they alone will survive. They have many emissaries in the far realms, trying to get into the good graces of aboleths and illithids.

The Black faction is about Dexterity. They operate in the shadows, seeking for a way to return the universe to oblivion. They are up for chances to defile temples, open hell-gates, and summon slaadi.

The Blue faction is Intelligence. They enjoy manipulating others into doing their bidding and acquiring arcane knowledge. Lots of evil wizards are offered the secret of lichdom for joining. Their end game is another Gigantomachy. They were behind Venca, Zargon, and Kyuss. They'll be sipping amontillado as they watch the world go boom.

The White faction is Charisma. They tend to recruit kings, barons, and other politicians. Many vampires fill their ranks. Trump is one of their representatives in our reality. Let the rabble squabble for scraps while the White faction has their cake.

It is said, let not one head known what the other is doing, and may the best faction win. However, the great high priestess of Tiamat secretly helps all the factions. She has a diadem with three gemstones of different hues in addition to heterochromatic eyes. Sometimes she loses track of herself for days-long blackouts. She assumes that Tiamat takes her over at these times, but it is the Elder Eye. His name is Tharizdun, but it's such a blasphemous name that memory of it was sealed away.

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Monday, September 14, 2020

[MAP] Tomb of Horrors for DCC funnel play and beyond

Green devil nipples ahoy! Click that map to embiggen even more. All the $ signs are for secret doors, and they tend to point to where they are with their bottom stroke.
When you click this, it is gonna take you to a huuuuugely detailed file file.

First, have another map. I know. I make a lot of these and they are kinda my proud moments. 

This time, it is a North to South reversed take on the infamous Tomb of Horrors. I ran some dudebros' DCC zeros through there, and the results were very fun. I noted the upside down compass rose all over the place to remind myself, because Uncle Gygax's description used cardinal directions a lot, but it turns out that I can pretty much run the place from memory/ad libs (improvisational changes happened because I wanted to change it quite a bit and when I map out an area I can't help but change a few things). 

I'll detail the changes and tell what happened when we ran zeros through a dungeon Gary made for high level characters. A few people asked me, when I advertised the game on Discord, "How can you have level zero people do that place?" The answer is it's super easy, barely an inconvenience. We are dealing with role-players here, people that solve impossible problems every session. Sure, a lot of them died along the way, but that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Area (1): This was one of the false entrances, but I've modified the original module ones and added a few extra ones.  The players eventually explored them all. (1) was hit on a secondary outing from the town. The town was inspired by Return to the Tomb of Horrors, a TSR publication that expanded ToH into a second dungeon and added a death cult city to the tomb.

That's what the "Macrabre Misfits" part of the map refers to. The PCs are from that town, and some players really relished the role of fatalist PCs. Anyhoo, room (1). If the lever is messed with while no one is on the flushly-raised-with-the-floor, helical stairwell, it doesn't budge. If someone is standing on the stairs, the lever can be operated by someone else and the stairs will lower... very swiftly and hundreds of feet down into hellfire. Yeah, hell is under the tomb and red devils in hardhats work here.

The devils were relatively friendly in a water-cooler shlub kind of way, but not at all on the players' side. One was convinced to give some hints in order to get a PC to put in a good word with the PC's goat (devils dig the goat horns). But the devils actually have clipboards with information on how things work with special notes to give to the PCs sometimes. The notes are lies. The devils are evil after all, and PCs are like bothersome rats messing up a dungeon that the devils will have to clean and fix it again.

So here are the other false entrances. You may recognize the sliding rock one (2), which is modded with death flames for people that are insistent on messing with those knockers on the green devil's knockers.

The pincher: I ended up putting a couple daises with hand-prints on them at the two east-west ends of the room. Nothing happens if just one is pinched. Two PCs work together to put their hands on the two prints, the devil faces slide closed in a macabre make-out session, and the PCs are trapped inside until they die of hunger. Actually, if I run this again, I think I will make the kissing devils steam up the room, steaming trapped PCs to death.

I don't need to explain the rocks fall room, right?

During the first trip into the tomb, the PCs threw rocks at this statue, a god of death effigy. Some devils taking a lunch break on top of the tomb leaned over and yelled at the PCs about that. Was a good way to introduce the devils. Later an old lady made a Japanese style pilgrimage to the statue (clap and pray). She gave the PCs some advice. She was a death cultist, so it was bad advice.

So this is the actual entrance. Of note is that I put a P where the door painting is. I put PT symbols to remind me to see if PCs trigger a pit-trap as they are walking through. Since I didn't want to worry about exactly where the PCs are stepping (in the original, the path means almost nothing), I just had quantum pit traps here. The PCs detected almost all of them with guile and goats. What I did have the path do was be a Morse-code so the smartest PCs get the poem that gives vital clues to keep them getting deeper and deader into the tomb.

But before we jump through that portal, lets talk of the catoblepas. This loathsome beast wanders the swamp. PCs that walked up to it made a save. Failing would spell death (all my players were lucky), but passing the save still gave spooky glimpses of horrible deaths possible in the tomb. Nobody died in the way foretold. Doesn't matter. Was a great mood setter.

This is the place the PCs tried before they learned to love the portal. The monster was not a "mutant gargoyle" but a four armed, winged, snake demon frozen in temporal stasis till a PC opened a door. It killed many people. I forgot to mention it's necklace to the players at first, and went back and re-illustrated it. DON'T FORGET THE NECKLACE!

Okay, so once the party finally got through the portal, the entered (11) (statue room, nothing to do at first because I forgot to mention the necklace) and then the hall of spheres. I hate the name because it sounds like "spears" and we have players from around the world so we really have to take pains to use clear language. And besides, there are spear traps in the original module. Also, heck, how can you use the word sphere for a 2D image. That's a circle, man. So, to avoid at least one aspect of that confusion, I changed the spear-trap doors to the ant trap and gas trap. The gas gives super-plague buboes within moments of inhalation, and the super army ants can eat a henchman in 10 seconds flat. Both were triggered.
One thing to note about the secret but necessary passage that leads to the cathedral is I switched the entrance side to the other wall of the hall. It's pretty annoying to work around passages that go under other areas when you are using a virtual tabletop and fog of war. I added a pit that was bottomless and one detour loop too. Players did not really go for either, sensing rightly that it would be bad for them. There was a hand-print dais here, and the PCs wisely did not touch it.

Adding fun green devil bits was very fun for me. The players encountered this green devil ass and wisely chose to shove a whole cheese wheel up it. This brilliant move saved them from the fear gas. They killed the false lich shortly thereafter.

  a sarlacc pit, basically

I asked the players to just role-play the effects of the idiot gas here. I didn't ask for saves. They role played the heck out of this and raced to fulfill the sea-devil's demand. I was so proud of them. One sacrifice later and we had the PCs transferred to (25) as a reward. You may note the OG module's siren is missing. I relocated her to the room of despair.

(25) is where the tale ends for our adventurers, because a PC, still under the effects of idiot gas perhaps, made a wish with the monekey's paw diamond it turned the party into a bunch of atomic bees doing a plank-length vigil over the tomb's true treasure. Was a bit of a shame; I wanted them to experience the doors bleeding like The Shining's elevator. Ah well, I'll probably run it in a few years again.

Speaking of which, if you want to join any of the games on my discord, email me at claytonian at the gmail.coms and I'll send you an invite. This is what I currently run:

Tokyo, Japan Weds at 08:00 JST
New York, USA Tues at 19:00 EDT
London, United K Weds at 00:00 BST
Los Angeles, USA Tues at 16:00 PDT