Thursday, May 9, 2019

d12 Gaze Attacks that aren't Stoning

While perusing this monster list, I came across an entry that dungeon-snapped me:
Floating Horror(C): AC 4 Move 6 HD 6+1 Bobbing loathsome squid beast with two great quartz eyes. Shrink-ray gaze attack (save vs stoning) range 60', their tentacle attacks also turn targets to solid glass (save vs stoning).
Gaze attacks: we rarely see them for anything but making people into stone. So here are 12 more ideas to make your PCs regret not carrying mirrors on sticks into the duneon.
  1. Stink-rays make you have intense constipation. The smell of poo starts to exude through your pores. Will save to shit. Failure 3 days in a row spells death via internal rupture. Risky click. Fumble means an embolism from straining too hard.
  2. Rat-ogle turns you into 3 rats. They have animal intelligence, and must all be together in a sack before magic has any hope of restoring you. Their instinct is to run away.
  3. Glamour-glare makes you charmed by the monster so long as you can see it. What's more, the power rubs off on you and mutates. Should you survive the monster, you will have the same power for a few weeks. This is great at first, but it doesn't take long before the charm gives way to stalking, obsession, and cannibalism by your admirers.
  4. Chilling-look turns you into a snowman or ice-sculpture. If you melt, you'll be beyond all but the strongest magics to restore. Any party henchmen will openly wonder if drinking you will give an imbiber your powers.
  5. Dopple-dazzler switches the monster's consciousness with yours. This is a good one to give to mute or animal monsters, but cunning monsters work too; there is little evidence that the transfer has taken place, beyond the DM mysteriously asking for a save and frowning.
  6. Rapturous-stare. Those who look upon this monster and hear the bell it holds at the same time are raptured-- they get translated to the heaven or hell they deserve.
  7. Withering, phytophotodermatitistic-glare. This gaze is actually a chemical cloud (maybe, or maybe it's a gaze if you want). It makes your skin and eyes sensitive to UV light. Plenty of that in sunlight. Enough to kill you maybe. Like being a vampire without the fun.
  8. Reverse-poop-peep. Your digestive system is completely flipped upside down. The rest of you remains the same. Clever players may realize that gazing again while doing a handstand can reverse the effects.
  9. Mother-blink. The DM casually asks you what your PC's mother is like. Was she an adventurer? Was she smart? Strong? Anyways, you just turned into your mother.
  10. Impregnating-stare. You are filled with eggs of the monster. They will eat their way out. If the monster was a fungal fiend (cordycepts-clops), you turn into a zombie and climb a tree before going catatonic.
  11. Binding-reflection. You turn into a large mirror. In the mirror, your reflection can be seen, mutely banging on the glass, asking to be let out. Breaking the mirror breaks your soul or otherwise dooms you. On the other hand, shards of that mirror are pretty helpful in a dungeon with monsters that have glare attacks...
  12. Inverse-polarity-vision. The DM instructs you to write down 3 adjectives that describe your PC. All of these traits are reversed. Strong becomes weak. Cowardly becomes brave. Republican becomes Democrat.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fueling Encounters and Using Resources with the Happenings Die

When exploring a dungeon, city, or wilderness hex of ye olde elf game, roll a d12 every ten minute turn, borough, or hex respectively.
This d12 goes to 16 on the table tho? Well, grow it to a d14 or d16 if the players have something going in their favor, like super-cautiousness or mentioning something in a world-buildy-way* that is just mmmmwah😗, or shrink it to a d10 or d8 if they have been loud or angering the gods etc.

Roll a d12 plus or minus two sizes
Dungeon City Wilds
1An encounter!
Roll for surprise!
Hark! A vagrant!An encounter!
Roll for surprise and distance!
2Hunger strikes! Mark off a ration or lose a Con point.Nature calls.
You must find a lavatory!
Hunger strikes! Mark off a ration or lose a Con point.
3You stumble in on a meeting  between two other parties.
Roll for entities and attitudes!
You pass by two entities, whom you might know, encountering one another.You stumble in on a meeting, or the remains of one,  between two other parties. Roll for entities, time, and attitudes!
4Light source starts to sputter out.Roll to detect that pickpocket attempt that is going off on 
you right this moment.
Weather gets one step worse.
5Find spoor of something from a nearby room or wandering monsters table.Roll an encounter on the
harlots table.
Weather gets one step better.
6Something glints in the darkness... Roll Luck to see if it be weal or woe.Someone empties their 
chamber pot onto the street. Watch out!
Find spoor of something that can be either hunted or will soon hunt the party. The ranger will tell you which.
7A rest is needed. Push on and roll again, or take some stamina damage?Man with an Austral accent spreads open his coat to
show off his... rare wares.
Find ruins, ancient and giant statuary fragments¹, or standing stones.
8A smell is smelt.A vendor offers strange
critters-cum-snacks for sale.
You see the signs. You are in the territory of a forest faction or legendary beast. Roll again!
9Remains of d3 dead things are found. Likely adventurers that died in a way as to clue you in on what to look out for.A noble's litter, carriage, or exotic-beast walker comes by. One side, peasants!Exotic vegetation or rare herbs are here. Monster flora?
10A cold wind, drip down your back, rattle of chains, hideous cackling, far-off grinding, or other spooky thing makes for ominous atmosphere.A belligerent drunk waits for you to see them. "What are 
you looking at, quim-drips!?" They get pissed if you try to 
look away too.
A ravine or the like means extra time will be lost if you want to find a way around, or you could get a little risky if you're in a hurry...
11Something you have encountered before. Chances
are better that you have the drop on it this time.
Someone in need of help is detected. Are they a beggar? Getting mugged? Worse?The remains of a camp let you know that someone was here in the last couple days.
12You stumble into a trap, unless a thief retroactively detects it before you run into it...City watch passes by. Try 
to look inconspicuous, you murder-hobos.
Something big flies overhead. Hide?
13A friendly adventurer has written a hobo sign to warn travelers about what lies ahead.Weather changes. Probably
rain again.
Weather gets one step better.
14A dungeon curio is spotted.A happy hour sign is espied. If you give in, roll willpower to 
not turn it into a carousing.
Mating calls, hunting horns, or the laughter of færie revels are heard.
15A sprung trap is spotted.You notice a train of virgins coming through on their
way to be processed at
some temple or other.
An itinerant monk, salesman, or mushi-shi happens upon you.
16Rare fungi that will fulfill the party's greatest apparent need 
at the moment, be it food, medicine, psychedelics, or a light source.
A reoccurring, friendly PC is plying their trade. They have a new rumor for you.A forest god is spotted in the offing. Tread carefully? Notice me, god-sempai?

¹: You remember those fragments of statues in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring near where Boromir was killed or where Sam and Frodo ended the second movie?
If you liked this, share it with a friend!
Claytonian at the gmails.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Now that's a good cursed sword

Found in Dragon 42
Tyrfing was forged (under duress with death-threats) by the dwarves Dulin and Davlin, for Svafrlami, the grandson of Odin. The hilt and handle of Tyrfing are made of gold. The sword will never
rust and cuts through iron as if it were cloth. The sword has been cursed by its dwarven makers. It must take a life each time it is unsheathed. With it, three infamous deeds will be performed. While the sword will normally bring victory, because of the curse, there is an 3% chance (per battle) that the sword will turn on its owner, never hitting, possibly falling from their hand.
Claytonian at the gmails.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Geoffrey on Magic Items

This is pretty much the last post I could dig up on the Wayback Machine
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Magic Items in My Forthcoming Book
When my friends and I began playing D&D in 1980, none of us had any idea of what any particular magic item did. A snake staff? A potion of gaseous form? A dancing sword? These items were esoteric and puzzling to us, and as we probed their secrets, we experienced a sense of wonder. They were new and unsullied by familiarity. Unfortunately, as time passed the “magic” in the magic items faded and contempt was bred: “Another potion of growth? That’s good for being 30’ tall for an hour or so. Stow it with the other potions.”

This feeling of the commonplace is reinforced when the players learn that when their magic-user or cleric characters attain high enough level, they can potentially manufacture most of the magic items in the rulebook.

I aspire for my new book to provide an adventure setting which is purely magical and not at all familiar. No magic item that can be found in any published D&D product will find its way into the book. Nor will you find slightly tweaked versions of the standard items, such as a ring of fire that is otherwise identical to a wand of fire. In fact, magic items as such will be few and far between. No player character will be able to find so many magic items in the new book that he will be decked out with them like a Christmas tree.

Consider the fantasy tales of Clark Ashton Smith. Reflect upon R. E. Howard’s adventures of Conan. Bring to mind the exploits of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. How many magic items did these figures of renown carry with them? Most of the time, it was zero. Much the same can be observed regarding the heroes of myth. Over 90% of the heroes in the AD&D Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia have 2 or fewer magic items, and over 40% of these heroes have no magic items whatsoever. (And many of these items are humble and unique items, such as a canoe that moves by itself, or a cloak that enables its wearer to turn into a halibut.) The aforementioned Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser do not have any magic items whatsoever.

Any player characters in a D&D campaign based on the weird lands detailed in my forthcoming book will find themselves similar in this regard to the heroes of myth, legend, and modern fantasy (unless, of course, the referee adds magic items to the setting).

Places and monuments (rather than items that can be carried away) are much more likely to be magical. Consider, for example, my favorite room in a published dungeon module: the Room of Pools in B1: In Search of the Unknown. Some of the more than a dozen mysterious pools found therein have arcane powers, but your PCs certainly won’t be stashing them in their backpacks to later use to blow-away foes. That’s the general sort of atmosphere I’m striving for, hopefully as weird and memorable as the occultism you find in a Clark Ashton Smith story.
Posted by Geoffrey at 11:05 PM
Claytonian at the gmails.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Geoffrey on Names in RPG suppliments

 Another post saved via the Wayback Machine
What else is this book not going to have?
"OK, Geoffrey. You've told us that the D&D book you're working on won't include any published monsters, or any published magic items, or any published spells. Anything else your book won't have?"

Yep. Names. There will be no names.

Some who know me will suspect that my inherent laziness is coming to the fore here: "Aha! That laggard is too lazy to supply names to the locations and NPCs in his book!"

Though I readily admit to being lazy, this is not the case here. (This is especially apparent when you consider that every single monster, spell, and magical location is designed by myself rather than simply taken from another D&D book.) The lack of names in this book is an intentional feature.

The very first module I ever owned was Gary Gygax's B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. You'll notice that no one and nothing therein is given a proper name. Even the titular Keep is simply called...the Keep. The lands around are...the Borderlands. Within the Keep live the Jewel Merchant, the Priest, the Bailiff, the Curate, the Castellan, the Scribe, etc. In the wilderness reside the Mad Hermit, the Hero, the Evil Priest, etc.

This "non-naming nomenclature" reminds me of nothing so much as this: [pic of the tarot]

The Major Arcana of the Tarot would be far less evocative if, instead of archetypal figures, they bore particular names: Pope Leo II (instead of "The Hierophant"), Johnny (instead of "The Hanged Man"), Emperor Frank (instead of "The Emperor"), etc.

Evoking the archetypes of the Tarot is especially fitting for the archetype-based characters of the Dungeons & Dragons game.

On a more mundane note, I recognize my limitations and that I'm not a philologist. I relish and revel in the names found in M. A. R. Barker's Tekumel and those in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. In both cases, a brilliant philologist invented entire languages for his fantasy world. The names therein have consistent linguistic significance, like traditional names in the real world. The invented names of Professors Barker and Tolkien therefore possess a euphonious beauty. Contrast that with most of the invented names that I have encountered in many other works of fantasy, whether RPG products or not. Most of them are not far from Dildo Bugger, or (even worse) Ith'ilindri'eldriletha.

I for one will not inflict that sort of thing on my readers. Supplement V: CARCOSA includes a dozen or so proper names, but all but three of them were lifted straight out of the old stories of the Mythos. My current project takes that one better and purposefully excludes ANY proper names. The names I invented would probably displease the majority of my readers, so the names would probably (and rightfully) be replaced by them anyway. This helps the pontifical referee to more clearly and memorably supply names proper to his own campaign. If, for example, I were to give a hermit the name "Tilbit" in the book, the referee who wanted to rename him "Guilleaume" would have to remember that "Tilbit = Guilleaume". It is easier to remember and to comprehend that "Hermit = Guilleaume".

Further, the text is more understandable without proper names. The reader of B2: The Keep on the Borderlands can never be in any doubt as to whom the Castellan (or anyone else) is. But if B2 had given proper names to everyone, the DM would be continually scratching his head as he read the module, "Now who is this Figbert again? Was he the bailiff, or the captain?"

For any reader who might lament the lack of names in the text, I humbly recommend that he simply acquire a list of French names and supply them at random to the NPCs and places in the text. After all, the setting described is intended to be outwardly similar to Clark Ashton Smith's French Averoigne, but with an underbelly inspired by CAS's Hyperborea and Zothique.
Claytonian at the gmails.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Geoffery McKinney on Treasure

Appropriately, I dug the following up on the wayback machine:
Treasure in My Forthcoming Book
Have you ever noticed in your D&D/AD&D/C&C/retro-clone games that the equipment list is a lot of fun at 1st level, and then rapidly slides into irrelevance?

"Let's see, I rolled 90 g.p. for my new 1st-level fighter. This really limits my arms and armor options. I'm going to have to skimp on at least one or the other. Hmmm…"

But by the time, at the latest, 3rd or 4th level is attained, the equipment list is pretty much meaningless: "How much does a morning star cost? Is it 6 g.p., or is it 8 g.p.?" ANSWER: "Who cares? I have 3,342 g.p.! Here’s two platinum pieces. Keep the change."

Such a large amount of treasure has to get amassed (if you go with the traditional 1 gp = 1 xp, which I do not do in my games) to acquire the 8,000 or so xp required to become a 4th-level fighter, that the PCs can (without hardly even counting the cost) have anything they can wear, ride, or carry on the equipment lists.

What's more, once the PCs start finding magic armor and weapons, they aren't even interested anymore in buying new arms and armor: "I have +1 plate mail and a +1 shield. Why in the world do I even need to look at the armor list ever again?"

I think all that is a shame.

Read Fritz Leiber's Nehwon stories. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser seldom get a hold of treasure, and when they do it is often stolen from them. They are outfitted like 1st-level D&D characters throughout their lives, notwithstanding that in the AD&D Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia Fafhrd is a 15th-level ranger/13-level thief/5th-level bard, and the Mouser is a 15th-level thief/11th-level fighter/3rd-level magic-user.

That's the sort of thing I like: Characters who ALWAYS (whether 1st level or 17th level or whatever) have to consult the equipment lists and make hard choices. ("I finally have the 150 g.p. to buy chain mail, but in that last fight I lost my heavy crossbow. Blast! Now what do I do? Do I pony up for the armor, or do I replace the crossbow and have to KEEP WAITING for the armor?...")

When a hunter in the real world kills a bear, or a lion, or whatever, how many times does he find a treasure chest in his kill’s lair? Never. Given that the monsters in my book will be unique entities with incomprehensibly inhuman thought patterns (assuming any thought patterns at all), what would they be doing amassing treasures? Are they saving up for that new suit of armor for the next time they go shopping in the nearest town? Preposterous. Money is worthless to monsters who could never buy anything with it. Perhaps the monsters amass treasure because they think it is pretty? That’s not quite so ridiculous, but why in the world would the aesthetic sense be similar between a human and a legless half aardvark/half snake that crawled out of a wizard’s vat? If the latter even had a sense of aesthetics (which is doubtful), it would probably think that something like viscera was beautiful. That leaves for the monsters only a bit of incidental treasure that previous victims might have been carrying. But that will be a very small amount. How much money would you carry on your way to a potentially lethal fight?

If you want treasure, you’re going to have to get it (whether by honest means, or otherwise…) from humans. The setting presented in the book is going to assume the relative poverty of, for example, France in A. D. 1310. How much treasure do you think the French peasants had stashed away? You can bet they didn’t have 4-24 g.p. under the floorboards in their hovels. They probably did not have any treasure whatsoever. How much do you think you could get for that 15-year-old tunic the peasant is wearing?

So if the player characters in your campaign want to find treasure chests overflowing with gold, they are going to have to sneak into the palaces and castles of kings, princes, dukes, and such. I’m sure there are no places more heavily guarded. Jewelry? Worn by royalty. Again, heavily guarded. Caravans? Lots of guards once again.

Practically speaking, the treasures your PCs will find will be stuff found on the equipment lists. Have the PCs killed the bandits that ambushed them? Treasure time! “Hey, that one has a long bow!” “Look, the leader is wearing chain mail.” “Ooh, that’s a nice morning star.” “Score! Food and wine to last us a month!” “Horses! We could use those.” Etc. The 17 copper pieces found in their pouches will be the least exciting thing retrieved.

Of course, all of the above assumes a D&D group that is motivated primarily by exploration rather than by treasure. Some groups simply would not have much fun without relatively plentiful heaps of treasure. In that case, it is a simple matter for the DM to toss some randomly generated treasures in: Roll-roll. “OK, the monster’s treasure chest contains 1,000 g.p. and 200 p.p.” (Or whatever.) What is certain is that nobody needs me to do that for him. I aspire to make everything in the book something fantastic, something that is not easily generated in a few seconds by any DM.
Posted by Geoffrey at 8:10 PM
Claytonian at the gmails.

Inventory-Initiative and Bags that protect themselves

I will cut you if you think of messing with my bag.
It's so simple! Your carrying capacity is your Stamina/Con/Str/whatever the GM likes score.

Your Initiative is your number of empty slots+your Dex/Agil/whatever modifier. Higher numbers will act first.

Keep in mind: Armor takes up slots. In most elf games, it will be the same as the armor's bonus. Or you might want to go with the armor's penalty score.
Small weapons take up one slot, and standard ones take two. Large weapons can either be high damage or have reach. The high damage ones take up a third slot.

Does this mean we will see people take off their packs all the time? Yes! That is a thing that makes sense; more sense than fighting with a rucksack flopping about. But it's kinda crazy to try and take one off in melee, so choose the right time.

If you need a spell to guard your pack, you can find one in this little RPG I wrote.
Gordian knot: Tie your bag closed in such a way as it cannot be opened by mundane means, though it readily opens at your commanding snap. If would-be thieves attempt violence against the bag or its knot, they find that their sword is tied fast in its scabbard, their hand tied behind their back, etc. The knot is always protected by strange circumstances tying more and more things up, and is very hard to outsmart. The knot grows like vengeful kudzu the more people want to harm it. Given time, it could cover the world… Alternatively, this spell can untie an extant gordian knot, and kill its knot-babies.

           Casting Fail: Pratfall involving knots tying or untying.

            Great Casting: If someone thinks about getting into your bag, their brain gains a new knot, rearranged in such a way that they cannot conceive of it further.

            Casting Crit: If someone thinks about getting into your bag, their brain gains a new knot, rearranged in such a way that they decide to guard it instead. If someone were to eat that person's brains, the prions in it would re-tie the proteins in the eater's brain to carry on the guarding cycle.
If playing DCC or other DnDalike that lacks monster ability scores, a monster's initiative count is its Reflex save plus 10 minus weapons and armor.

One more idea: Spells take up inventory slots (until cast). Contributes to that whole weak wizard trope and encourages to not use heavy arms or armors.

On MeWe, someone pointed out that it would be a good idea to carry gear on a hobo-stick, like the romans once did.

Claytonian at the gmails.