Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Whence Monsters? And Wherefore?

Where do monsters come from? I've thought of a few generators over the years.

Drunk gods: Gods have too much ambrosia ale and mate with things all the time. This creates ur-beasts, immortal monsters that sire many progeny in turn.

Mutations: In the last few æons, tech evolved to the point where someone smashed atoms (usually the harbinger of that æon's end). Slow mutants are a common result, but Godzilla style beasts are out there.

Death: Humanoid souls are ridiculously hard to keep asleep. There are multiple aspects to a soul, BTW. The egyptobuddists warned us!

Underworld spontaneous generation: Some of the most common dungeon baddies seem to sprout this way. Orcs, goblins, slimes, &c. Maybe a spore-based phenomena.

Sin: Many is a mortal whose outer form comes to represent their dark heart. Dwarves know the wages of sin. Great evil doers may get their own domain. Evil people make for evil dead.

Wizards & Mad Scientists: They love a good hybrid. Or robot. Or cyborg hybrid. Most lose control of their creations.

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Monday, December 27, 2021

Retroactive theivin' in elfgames

You don't want to narrate tapping sticks throughout the whole tomb of horrors


This is not going to be a long post. It's just a little tip.

The following is usually my default rule. Instead of having the player declare that they are checking for traps, I just wait until a trap is sprung and have the PCs roll retroactively to see if they noticed the trap ahead of time and so were able to dodge it, roll to disarm it, &c.

When I notice that PC paranoia is slowing things too much, I often restate this procedure for the players.

This procedure is best for trapped chests, nefarious doors, cursed treasure, Arduinian hallways, and the like. It's probably good to have obviously dangerous areas in most situations. For instance, a swinging scythes hallway is something to solve, not to detect. Give big ol' clues. Players will die in entertaining ways anyhow, and it won't be the DM's fault.

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Monday, December 6, 2021

Feels good thief skills

One of my players of our Arduin hack said I should post about how the thieves work. As the rules are currently written, any class can attempt any mundane action within reason. To do so, they just have to roll their check number or higher (each class has one and it gets one smaller each level up)*. The thieves get +1d to do a litany of thievy things though. +1d means at least a d24, but species or whathaveyou can bump that up to a d30 or more.
Any class can try skullduggery, but thieves do it better.
And that's it. But actually, I have been thinking of doing something similar with the other three classes. For instance, fighters have the worst check number to reflect that they are mostly focused on killing. But I've been thinking that instead of a better Base Attack Bonus, maybe I shouldn't have BAB in the game and instead just let the fighters get +1d to combat... not to mention bending bars, kicking in doors, intimidating infants, and so on. Yes the temptation to hack my hack is rising. You'd best make a copy of the google doc before I do if you like it as it is.
*: Think I heard this was a Swords and Wizardry thing. But maybe you roll low in that game? I dunno. This ABAM game is an unholy alliance between Dave Hardgrave's books, old DnD, and DCCisms. You can even find mighty deeds kinda hidden in the variant classes.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

When You End the Session Still in the Megadungeon

Roll 2d6+Hubris. Hubris is the difference between your level and the dungeon level you're on. It is negative if your level is lower. For example, a level 1 PC ends the session on dungeon level 3. They roll 2d6-2.
  • Snake eyes/1 or less: You died, and your possessions  and body were atomized somehow.
  • 2-3 or less: Vaporized body; each item may be somewhere that can be found.
  • 4: Died. Items on body 50% of time. 30% chance of body destruction each day.
  • 5: Kidnapped for ransom or enslavement. Items gone. 50% chance of hobblement.
  • 6: Lost, in need of rescue. One session before you die. 50% chance you are in wilderness.
  • 7: Changed: Mutated, bodysnatchers-ed, maimed, curst, &c.
  • 8: Naked, but alive and out of dungeon.
  • 9: Take a crit. If you live, you get out.
  • 10: Escaped. Make a luck check for each item you have to see if it got lost.
  • 11+: Escaped. Give up one item of your choice.
  • Boxcars: Got out with a random item!

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Saturday, October 2, 2021

On the Procreation of Dwarves

It is a little known fact outside of dwarf communities, but dwarven kind do not reproduce by anything as silly as mingling gametes.* 

When a community decides they need a new dwarf, they start the great chiseling. They find a rock worthy of dwarfiness, such as good marble, and begin to carve away until a statue of a dwarf is made.

You may have noticed there are no dwarf women, or heard speculation that their females are bearded. This is because there are also no dwarf men. There are just dwarves. It's a species designation, and gender is a somewhat alien concept to them. But most people use male pronouns because dwarves don't correct them.

So the statue looks a lot like any other dwarf. Many clans have developed tribal embellishments over the years. Mohawks are a popular "mutation" for example. But all dwarves have beards, and usually mustaches. The statue will not become a flesh and blood dwarf without treasure. Gems, silver, gold, et cetera are added. Runes are inlaid with diamonds. Ancient words are chanted, and blessings intoning the names of the fourteen dour dwarf gods are muttered. The dwarf statue glows brilliantly, and is transfigured into blood and sinew. The newly born dwarf blinks and is handed a hammer, battle ax, or ale. This is the way. 

There are times when a tribe will fill a great need by crafting specific traits into a dwarf. Genetic engineering by another name. Usually it is to fight a threat. Other times it is to fulfill a task. Such creations often turn out to not be dwarves at all. Some tribes call them mulls. Others might use the word golem. And many think them abominations that shouldn't be created even as a last resort. There are rumors that these creations sometimes escape and become monsters capable of reproducing somehow. Dwarves don't talk about it to outsiders though, and their runed walls don't ever record this shameful secret.

The need to gather treasure is instinctual, nay holy and pleasing to dwarvenkind. But this desire gets perverted into greed all too easily, especially if the dwarf is not around his own kind. If dwarves don't reproduce and instead hoard their wealth, they start to undergo a blasphemous transformation. They grow scales, wings, horns. They turn ravenous and consume great quantities. They become ogres, giants, and even dragons. They all guard their hoard jealously. So if you see a dwarf muttering to his treasure and hissing at anyone that gets too close, beware! 

*: Now, non-dwarves that discover these things are mighty curious about certain facts of dwarf anatomy, but I'd rather not get into that. They eat and drink. They go to the bathroom. They don't like to peeped at in the bathroom. So don't. 


I need a preview image for this post, so I'm going with a pic of a drow take I did previously on the blog. If you want to read on what's up with the drow on my world, you can't, because the pic is all I really need to say on that topic (old post will tell you much the same).


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

No levels follow up: Experiences, not XP

This is a sequel to my ramble on levels. One could expand or transplant the following idea into a full RPG.

There are no levels. Whenever you can claim an experience with something, you roll twice and take the better result. You know, the advantage mechanic.

Fought porcs before and in a porcine-humanoid fray again? Advantage! 

 The sphinx has demanded a fashionable makeover and you were a barber in your backstory? Advantage! 

Have to peruse De Vermis Mysteriis and majored in French in college? D'advantage! ----
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Leveling is a Disease

Leveling is an Abomination 

This skreed probably won’t be long. But I’ve been wondering what could happen if we bucked the trend that a vast majority of RPGs follow. As far as I know, may only a few games don’t have leveling outside of the storygames (Powered by the Apocalypse’s decendants these days?). I think Traveler doesn’t. But maybe it should, let me promise to get back to that thought and then break the promise. 

 So, what’s so bad about leveling? Well, it kinda makes the game about getting better. The game becomes about the game? Eh, it’s not so bad. Well, anyways, I want to challenge myself to see what could be good about gaming without levels. 

Imagine, if you will, a different kind of campaign style. The DM emails her nerd crew with a message like this:

 Dear dorks, 

Congratulations on your theft of the 39 girdles. Everybody roll your Luck, and if you pass, your fence has not gotten tortured to the point where he sells you out and you are not in jail during the next leg of the campaign. 

Now onto the next adventure. Rumor has it that a gnome has been subtly probing patrons at the Howling Grognard Tavern & Cockfighting Ring. Seems the gnome is looking for some bad enough dudes to infiltrate the Baron’s Mistress’s cousin’s boudoir and make off with a specific necklace. There may be turtles involved, and a few theify types might be good for this one. What characters heed the call? 

So now the players have a choice: Do they make a brand new character--something that some players do on the regular to pass time anyways-- or do they bring an old character, risking one of their favorites? See, in a game without levels you don’t get new HP, you just get scars. And maybe an ignominious end. 

But there are plenty of nominious ends out there too. See, without levels, a character is kinda freed up to have an arc and and a well-earned retirement. They don’t have to worry about finally gaining the level where they learn to punch three times instead of two. Leveling is not particularly realistic. Which is fine, I mean, we are talking elf games here. But maybe without HP and ability inflation gumming up the mechanics, the players can actually experience some dadgummed stakes? 

And the DM doesn’t have to think, “When my players gain a few more levels, I can finally run them through The Tomb of Whores.” I got news for you, players don’t want to risk their level 11 characters. They’ve grown too attached! Nah, you can have your PCs face anything in a game where there are no levels (the trick being to use rules that give them a fighting chance) and the PCs are a rotating ensamble. So, how bout it?

Ah, so wait, the post is over, but I remembered what I heard about Traveller. Without levels, things get a bit dull. Reportedly. But I think the way of doing campaigns I described above would work well for that. Or imaging playing Star Wars without levels! Each mission could let a different person play a Jedi (everyone wants to be Jedi when you Star the Wars). One other aspect that is a bit of a fix to the traveller issue is having the achievements be in-world as opposed to on the character sheet. This is not the campaign style I’ve been thinking of, but gaining land, money, and spellbooks could be a fine play style. ----
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