Sunday, 15 March 2015

Pygmy Marmaduke - Eater of Tongues

Greg Acker asked and, despite having been distracted by the Santicore summary project, I SHALL ANSWER!

Pygmy Marmaduke
Eater of Tongues.

HD 3, MV unencumbered man, AC leather +2 (agility), ATK 1 DMG Special, ML 8

The Pygmy Marmaduke eats language.
Upon first encountering the Pygmy Marmaduke, show this picture to the first player to walk into the room. They have up to one minute to describe it without using words.
For the duration of the player's interactions with the Pygmy Marmaduke, they cannot use words to talk or to describe their actions
Words cover both writing and speech, and thus the players may make use mime, drawings, symbols, and other such contrivances in order to make their intentions known. Take too long and your go gets skipped. This effect persists for as long as the players are in the creature's vicinity.

The Pygmy Marmaduke attacks by springing onto one's face and placing its skull against the forehead, draining a language that person knows into itself. It will automatically hit on subsequent rounds unless the victim succeeds in a Wrestling roll to throw it off.
Each language eaten invigorates the creature:
1d4 HP if the language is local to the area (classically "Common").
1d6 HP if the language is not local to the area (foreign dialects, local Demihuman languages).
1d8 HP if the language is considered to be exotic (English versus Japanese, seldom-spoken or rare Demihuman languages).
1d10 HP and a permanent additional hit die if it is an ancient, dead or dying language. (Latin, Duvan'Ku)
This can heal it over and above its maximum HP, but any excess is lost after 24 hours.

In LotFP, when the creature has drained all languages players know it starts draining points from the Language skill. This heals it for 1d6 HP per pip.
If not using LotFP's retroactive language thing, skip straight to the tongue gobbling and catatonia.

When the last Language point is drained the victim goes catatonic. They are unable to subvocalise, unable to frame thoughts, and incapable of thinking in anything but raw concepts. With months of specialised psychiatric care they may recover.
As the victim falls drooling to their knees the Pygmy Marmaduke steals the person's tongue and leaps away. The stolen tongue dangles beneath its skull-jaw and enables the Pygmy Marmaduke to speak in the victim's voice.
It often uses this ability to pretend that the victim's consciousness has been swapped with it. Allow the player of the catatonic character to play as the Pygmy Marmaduke (the deception is perfect) until it has an opportunity to strike again. It should go without saying that a party that sleeps in its vicinity will be rolling up fresh characters by morning.


The Pygmy Marmaduke seeks to eat all language. It has a particular fondness for the culinary delights of foreign, rare and old languages. The anachronism-laden speech of player characters is a strange but somehow moreish treat.
It is highly intelligent and able to speak in the voice of any person whose tongue it is wearing. It uses this ability solely to concoct plots in which it can eat the tongues of scholars and speakers of obscure languages.
Its fondest wish is to savour the tongue of the last speaker of an ancient and beautiful language. It will go to any lengths to achieve this goal.

If slain, the Pygmy Marmaduke's brass necklace can be removed after cutting off the creature's head.

Necklace of the Marmaduke


This necklace allows the wearer to replace their tongue with the tongue of another.
The wearer knows any (and only) languages the donor of the tongue knows or knew. They speak with the donor's voice.
Casters take 1d4 days to get used to the new tongue before they can cast spells, unless it's something ridiculous like a lark tongue in which case spellcasting is impossible.
While actually bonding a tongue is painless, ripping out your tongue deals 1d6 damage.



Hey but I'm running LotFP how does anyone even re-learn languages

Dee-dubs, Doom Cave room 5 has you covered -

a character
is considered conversant in a language after
6 months of full immersion, fluent after two
years. A language can be taught by a tutor, but
that takes two years of at least five lessons a
week (at 3sp a lesson!) to become comfortably
conversant, and fluency does not come until
being immersed in the language.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Santicore Breakdown: Monsters

Next up on the Santicore breakdown - Monsters!
HD supplied if applicable.

As before, all content will be collated into Adrian's spreadsheet.

LINKS:
Adventures
Monsters
People
Places
Things


Monsters

Extra Gribbly Arachnid Facemunchers for Old School D&D. Peitsa Veteli for J.
Spiders. Think Esoteric Creature Generator but JUST for spiders. Tables for No. Appearing, size, hunting method, poison, and 50 goddamn fantastic spider mutations. You should read the now-destroyed Monstrous Television's spider post on the Wayback Machine if you haven't yet commited it to memory.
If your players don't nope the fuck out when they see evidence of giant spiders already, this entry is here to help.

Hellacious Die Drop Tables. Kálmán Faragó for R.R.
Die drop hit location tables. It covers, get this, humanoid (+extra limbed), quadruped, and winged creatures with a variety of critical effects based on what you rolled. 5's have a variety of weird spiritual effects like smacking a dude in his Third Eye Chakra or inverting someone's sense of balance. Honestly you could make an entire Monk class with this baby, just have a Fighter who rolls on this when he fights bare handed.
You can hit people in the dick. I never knew this was something I needed until now. Quality.

Daughters of Terror. Erik Jensen for J. A.
Medusae. Tables for creating ladies who turn you to stuff. Tables for what she does, how she does it, what she looks like. Results such as (roll roll) a lady with a long, prehensile tongue who transforms you into a black cat when she speaks your name.
Excellent.

Fever Dream. James Aulds for T.S
Viral infection zombies who (1/6) turn into oozes after a while. Both vomit multicoloured pus-vomit to spread contagion. Patient zero can, under the right conditions, become an unstoppable rolling juggernaut of "colours and hate and teeth".
Intended for weird non-gonzo modern horror and thus easy to convert to any game.

How to Train Your Giant. Legion for J.T.
Giants. These seem to be "small" kind of giants that are 10' tall or so. Skyrim not the one at the end of Troll Hunter. A variety of means by which one might break a giant and rules for training your new giant in a variety of skills. Rules for multi-headed giants included.
You could use these rules for breaking and training human beings too for extra fucked uppiness.

Secret Glyphs of the Minotaurs. Arnold K for T.H.
Glyphs in the style of the Symbol spell that fuck you up if you see or walk on them. Ten different glyphs including Vanity (stay protecting the symbol),  Fire (detonates all flammable materials on your person) and Naming (steals your name).
Loosely tied to a minotaur theme which is why they're in this section I guess.

Temerity Creatures. Dan Shiovitz for M.C.
Alien monsters. Flora and fauna of a strange planet from which "the boiling hot tide rises from within the earth every 24 hours to drown all but the tips of several small but lush mesas". Said mesas could be turned into a strange island chain for standard fantasy.
Creatures are cool, strange, and alien. Each entry leads into the next which is real neat, contains Butcher Birds that create jaggedy metal sculptures in which to trap prey who wander into the spikes.

Boars, Bears and Tigers. C. Weeks for A.F.
Various overworld encounters in a weird and foreign section of the world. Table-heavy, heaps of content. Runs the gamut from animals to weird foreign animals to supernatural foes to botanical threats.
Wacky results rare but possible like a 0.0001% chance for any encountered animal to be a primordial Deity beast. Mooses (meese?), deadly tigers, crazy natives, environmental troubles, hyperlocal gods, and other stuff rare and wondrous.
Tables easily taken on their lonesome if you want to split them up. Real cool!

Monsters! Joey Lindsay for J.D.
Sci-fi serial killers. A variety of killers in the vein of Jason Voorhees and other movie baddies. One guy hunts you down to eat your ego, another eats your brain and crawls in there himself.
Pictures supplied for each baddie, and each would make a good monster for any game with the right fluff twist. My favourite is the guy who pretends to be a henchman while subtly leading you to your doom.

Evil Yeti Wizard. Lucien Reeve for H.S.
A wicked sweet drawing of an evil yeti wizard. This dude's like an orangutan with bell-draped horns and a skull stave and badass robes.
If I got killed by this guy I wouldn't even be mad.

Spider Mother. Matt Adams for J.S.
Jesus fucking christ.

Ophiotaurus. Peter Seckler for M.E.
Giant 8HD flying creature. Includes a picture of a Halfling being ambushed by said creature, although I almost prefer my initial impression of a giant horrible snake monster picking the dude's pocket. Main schtick - impales you with its stinger then flies off to eat you and drain your stamina.
Burning its entrails and breathing in the smoke gives you a boost.
Stats supplied for DCC and thus easily convertible to whatever system you're using.

Mamesk. Henry Stokes for J.B.
A new god, "He of Too Many Tusks". Images of Mamesk, the high priest of the Mameskites (or "Skites") that worship him, and Mamesk's holy symbol.
Mad cool.


A variety of fiendish beasts with which to kill my players!

IF YOU ARE NOW FEELING INSPIRED:
 - You've got a month or so until the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest.
 - The Chaos Request Line is a sort of year-round Santicore and is running right now.

This summary/review/opinion piece/whatever is also available on this spreadsheet along with the other sections written by my collaborator Mr Ryan.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Santicore Breakdown: Adventures

There is an absolute shedload of content in Santicore this year.
Turns out doing this gives me a good reason to go through them properly!
Comes with authors and initials so you can search for yourself if you, like me, forgot what you asked for.
I'll go through them in order in subsequent blog posts because not even my refined mind can do all this in one burst.

Looks like Adrian is also on the case and collating it all in a nice spreadsheet
By our powers combined, we can do this!

LINKS:
Adventures
Monsters
People
Places
Things



Adventures

Plague of the Vermin Guild. Tim Snider for M.R.
Dungeon crawl through caves full of diseased rats and ratmen. Skaven-analogs lose control of the sentient rot they were going to use to destroy the surface world.  Lots of baddies and treasure, town above will be destroyed if the players don't do something.
I will definitely use this because I've got ratmen and a mold disease and I need adventures for characters level 5-7.

System Generator. Matea Diaz for A.R.
Sci-fi solar system/adventure maker. Two 1d6 tables and leans towards the gonzo. Entries are real cool and suggest their own adventures.

Super Lucky Cat. Dyson Logos for K.M.
Modern-with-magic weird adventure. Chinese defectors and double agents being stolen by magical conspiracy beneath a Chinese Takeaway. They become addicted to magic cat milk and die if they leave. Final boss owns tigers and lives in the dimension behind the skin of the giant catmother in the basement.
Should be fairly easy to translate into the generic fantasy game of your choice. I'll use this as a city adventure for sure.

The Grotto of Corruption. Eric Hoffman for J.S.
Dungeon crawl beneath ruined church full of fungal fungus worshippers and other beasties. Lots of treasure and secret doors, a false tomb, mold zombies. Table of Hallucinogenic Spore Effects is excellent.
I'll use this because I've got a big mold thing going on in my campaign, and one of the players has decided he's a Cleric of the Mushroom God.
I think maybe this was for me and they got my initials wrong? In which case thanks Eric this is perfect!

Golem Complex. Stephanie Bryant for R.S.
Dungeon crawl through a vast dormant magma-powered machine. Native robot guards and giant golem lady dormant until meddled with. In fact, the whole place is fairly safe until meddled with.
Even better, the dungeon is written without stats but with tips to scale it to your party and system.
My players are threatening some Underdark action so this comes at just the right time!

The Torture Chambers of the High Inquisitor. Joshua de Santo for S.
Dungeon crawl in torture chambers full of angry undead. Pentagram shape, keys found as trap bait in corner rooms unlock door to central room. No map but easy enough to make.
Easily placed in a city and good for about a sessionsworth of adventuring.

Drawing Down the Moon. Jeremy Friesen for S.R.
Village-based adventure wherein Kenku steal the moon. Village's traditional harvest ritual is surprisingly effective due to shenanigans. Disaster looms unless someone can find out what actually happened last night.
I'll probably swap out the Kenku for something more generic like goblins or cultists because I'm boring, but I will definitely keep their fantastic names like Wicker Vicar and Lord Pretty Feathers.

The Abyssal Bog of Doom. Victor Garrison for J.J.
A hexcrawl through bogs and swamps. Holy shit did Victor pull out all the stops for this one. 67 hexes of content and explanations of the local factions and their goals? Hexes containing such things as a man who lives in a giant catfish, a bunch of dead boars with the Alien inside them, and a centipede made out a whole bunch of crying, vomiting babies!?
This entry is the absolute tits.

All Along the Watchtower. Matt Jackson for J.H.
Fantasy caper wherein goblin PCs attempt to save the princess in her zombie-infested tower. Two wonderful tables of weird goblin traits and abilities suitable for jazzing up any generic goblinoid. Tower itself contains zombies, zombie owlbear, a slug demon that eats adventurers to make more zombies, and in a shocking twist the princess is evil.
Neat, useful, and a good session filler. Unlike Raggi's ha-ha-the-princess-was-a-ruse thing it's got treasure in it.

Howling Frontier. Conor Toleson for J.
Hexcrawl in a weird west setting. Demon-powered train leads to the suspiciously death-themed frontier town of Gravedust which the suspiciously death-themed Countess would have people believe has fallen on hard times of late. Goblinoid natives live in the hills and forests while herds of oryx roam the plains. Asks more questions than it answers which is what you want out of a hexcrawl.
I love a good undead conspiracy, and there are enough moving parts between factions that the PCs will be upsetting the precarious balance of power as soon as they step off the train.

Manon, Witch Pirate of Guernsey. Steve Albertson for P.N.
Small island chain (Guernsey) filled with pirates and Lovecraftian entities we know and love. The eponymous Manon is trying to spread her cult of Yog-Sothoth via a crazy drug. Drug effect table supplied. Competing factions on different islands and the party has been sent to capture the witch pirate herself.
Whaddayaknow, my campaign's set in a weird sorta-UK! This one's an easy one to plop down and gives me a reason to stall them if they decide to sail the seven seas some session.

A Telephant Never Forgets. Justin Davis for S.F.
Location-based sci-fi adventure for Mutant Future. Poachers on motorcycles seek to poach the brains of telepathic elephants within the ruins of your nearest zoo.
That's the long and short of it, really! The elephants are 10HD terrors with psychic powers out the wazoo so if you're joining the poachers you're in for a hell of a job.

Space Dungeon Adventure. Paul Schaefer for M.F.
This is a dope picture of space mans fighting a skull crab in space and it is dope as all get out. Quality.

The Cubemen from the Woods. Nathan Ryder for C.W.
Location-based somewhat gonzo adventure with clay people. Clay people's goal is to make more clay people, closest source of clay is nearby human settlement. Trouble ensues. Cubemen are main foes and have cube heads with different faces on each face. They shoot fire from the angry face. Various internal issues make clay people faction unpredictable.
Easy to fit into anywhere fairly remote, I'll be putting this on the road to somewhere else.

Pit of Slimord. Andrew Bellury for E.H.
Dungeon crawl in... wait did Joesky write this? Who is this Bellury guy!? This is sick. There's a shower that Nickelodeon-slimes you and makes you mutate and the final boss is a slime monster called SLIMORD who has a magic hat.
Five room one page dungeon with a big bit of page taken up by a silly "squares are 10'" pictogram and a picture of a slime skeleton playing Go Fish.
This is joyous.

The Eye of Melchizedek Antigropelos. Tom Fitzgerald for ???
A whole dungeonsworth of traps, tricks, doors, dooms and other anomalies. The framing device is some sort of pants-obsessed gnome's fever dream into which the PCs are drawn should they express an interest in his choice of trousers. 144 whacked out dungeon things from Mr Middenmurk himself, along with some delightfully renamed spells. Also present - a picture of a horrible little gnome.
There's like 20 pages of this stuff.
Very useful and immediately usable in your game, whether it's for running as presented or for stocking a dungeon. Like most things by the author, his writing causes me to form even longer run-on sentences which sound mellifluous to my interior ear but no other.



Some real good stuff this year! And the vast majority I can use directly which is brilliant.

IF YOU ARE NOW FEELING INSPIRED:
 - You've got a month or so until the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest.
 - The Chaos Request Line is a sort of year-round Santicore and is running right now.

This summary/review/opinion piece/whatever will be available on this spreadsheet
once I've had a sleep. It's late here, ya know.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ten Random Facts About Loegria

Lore Garbage! I am so down for this.
Some random self-indulgent facts about the country in which my players are currently embroiled.

1. I only decided on the name "Loegria" a couple of weeks ago, even though this campaign map has been in use for several years. Loegria itself is an alternate version of England, the result of me mashing my original map onto the real world and messing up the geography.
Originally it was called "Tralsk" but I stopped using that after a year because I thought it was lame.

Here it is crudely overlaid. Behold that wacky new coastline.


2. The world's history is a mashup of Dwimmermount, Hammers of the God, real history, and my own ideas of how demihumans and magic fit into all that. Thus the Gods are giant satellite-golems, elves are half-blooded descendants of the Red Elves of Mars, and Dwarves were once lords of it all.

3. Humanity was enslaved by the Halfling Empire until 0AD when Yeshua the First Cleric found the Gods and catalysed mankind's rebellion. Real world history generally reasserts at this point. The the Roman Theocracy echoes the Roman Empire (they liberated Loegria from the Halflings in 43AD) and replaces Dwimmermount's Thulians.

4. AD stands for After Domination. BC stands for Before Choice.

5. The immortal Fated King rules Loegria as he has done since 1066. While tradition states that the Fated King is the same king that conquered Loegria nearly 500 years ago, in actual fact there has been a succession of rulers since then. As each King dies a new host is secretly found amongst the populace. When a new king is acclimated their soul and personality is sucked into the Fated King's crown to join the souls of all previous rulers. Unless the host is particularly strong-willed the resulting personality-melange is actually pretty moderate and far-sighted.

6. The planet's core is host to a creature called Shub-Niggurath, a planet-eating organism that reproduces like a virus. Its initial impact formed the moon. Over the course of aeons it takes over a planet's core then grows and grows, eventually detonating to scatter thousands of space-faring spores to continue the cycle.
Such an organism seeds life upon the planet which it infests. This is merely an accident of biology. All life on Earth owes its existence to the organism in the planet's core, an organism that will be the cause of the planet's death. Its lysis draws near.

7. The tendril of Shub-Niggurath in Loegria was released by the actions of a previous band of PCs, indirectly causing the mold and slimes and all the rest. The Undead Army currently ravaging the country (as it has been for a couple of real years now, thanks Death Frost Doom!) are part of an ancient failsafe to counter and re-imprison it. The undead aren't affected by the mold, and the ritual to imprison a tendril of Shub-Niggurath requires over 1000 willing sacrifices.

8. The Twin Cities of Edge and Dwarrow are two cities sort of overlaid upon each other. The citizens of one "city" completely ignore the citizens of the other. This is not in any way a magical effect, although supernatural entities consider them entirely separate and thus will only attack one or the other.



9. Fortress City Fate is the only place in the known world where people can be brought back to life. Living there is both hedonistic and incredibly expensive as a result, with an economy based on the buying and selling of the "Raise". Professions are encouraged to enter or leave the enclosed economic system via a byzantine and constantly changing system of taxes, levies and incentives. Outside of the Actuarial Corp, few professions have any real security within Fate's convoluted yet socially responsible framework.
People put up with this because living in Fate is the best standard of living one could attain in this life.


10. An ancient dragon known as the Grudge Drake was captured and de-winged by the goblins of the Drudge Wastes long ago. It it many storeys tall and covered in crudely worked armour plate, its movement powering the great goblin machines built all over its body. The goblins use it as a walking fortress, moving factory, and regenerating food source.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Arcana Skill for LotFP

I've added a few skills to the Specialist's suite of options before, namely adding Music, First Aid and Sailing. They all get used occasionally, Sailing not so much (yet) and I doubt anybody'll take Music unless I leave Orpheus' lyre lying around somewhere. First Aid gets a good workout though, and conveniently doesn't upstage magical healing.

But there's an odd one out in the original nine skills - Architecture.
This never comes up. For one, if someone asks if one part of a structure was built at a different time to another I'll just tell them. For another, I don't write this stuff down until players ask me what the cave walls are made of and I blurt out the first sedimentary rock that comes into my head like an idiot.
And worse, I gave Dwarfs the ability to innately know direction and feel whether they're ascending or descending underground, which means they don't even need their architecture bonus by level.

Hence, replacement.

Thieves using magic scrolls (at a risk of failure) is pretty standard in trad D&D.
I also dislike both the "take a sip to identify the potion" and "skull the potion to see what happens" models of potion identification. People identifying potions wrong though... that has appeal.

Hence, Arcana.

"Oh this is definitely a Scroll of Sidelong Smirk"

_______________________________________________________



Arcana: This skill is used to identify potions and scrolls and to cast spells from magical devices such as scrolls, wands and staffs. Intelligence modifier applies.
Identification of magical devices takes a turn and is rolled in secret. Success means you have correctly identified the item (but not necessarily its effects). Failure means you have misidentified the object as a random other object of its type.
You can use Arcana to cast spells from magical devices, but it is perilous. If you fail, look up the number you rolled on the Casting Failure table below.

Casting Failure:
6 – Casting fails, no ill effects.
5 – Item charge or scroll wasted.
4 – As 5, and a Chaos Burst is released.
3 – As 4, and a random spell is cast instead with the caster as the target.
2 – As 3, and a Summon spell is cast with creature HD equal to spell level.


Spellcasters do not need to use Arcana to cast spells from wands and staves, and can cast from scrolls with no chance of failure if they have previously cast Read Magic on the item.
A spellcaster who has Identify prepared and uncast gains a +2 bonus to Arcana.
______________________________________________________

Some corollaries to the above:
 - Identifying items only tells you what they're called (eg. Potion of ESP, Wand of Fireballs) not their effects or whether they're cursed.
 - You only get one try per object, but of course multiple people can have a guess and hopefully argue about it. If two people guess the same thing it's probably correct.
 - You can't use Arcana to identify anything more interesting than your bog standard limited-use magic item. It's useless against cool stuff like LotFP-grade magic player fuckers.
 - Using Arcana to identify an item sets off Explosive Runes and similar magical defenses if present.

If you are wondering how you are supposed to keep track of misidentified potions and scrolls, give scrolls and potions and stuff a tracking number.
What you do is give them the correct tracking number but the wrong name.
So if potion #161 is a Potion of Invisibility they just write down "Potion #161" on their sheet.
When they go to identify it they think it's a Potion of Poison, so they write that down (if they trust themselves, that is).
Later when they're trying to spike the Duke's dinner with the poison you go "what number potion was that again?" and laugh when the guy turns invisible.
This is also useful for working out just what the "red potion" a player picked up months ago actually is. Plus if they find the same potion number at a later date they'll know what it is for sure! Look at that player skill coming in useful.

The idea behind the Casting Failure table is that someone with a higher Arcana skill has more chance of success and less bad possibilities if they do fuck up.
Someone with a 3 in 6 Arcana skill has a 50/50 chance of casting correctly and will definitely not accidentally cast random spells or Summon if they fail.
If they've got a 5 in 6 Arcana skill the worst outcome is that nothing happens.

Int modifier applies because LotFP's ability score descriptions are pretty firm on Intelligence representing pre-game knowledge and magical aptitude. That fits the Arcana skill to a T!
Wizards are also likely to start with a better-than-average Arcana score since Intelligence is their main thing.
Anything that increases the usefulness of the mental scores is good, too.

The spellcaster Identify bonus is due to cantrips. In LotFP, Identify requires a lab and some dosh and a day. Having it grant a bonus makes Identify more of a valid option when you're dungeon-crawling the wizard's tower.
Between a +3 intelligence modifier and Identify, an 18 Int wizard can have a 6 in 6 Arcana score.


"Ahhh yes, the Most Efficacious Ritual of Get the Fuck Out of My Office"

WOAH BUT HOW CAN THIEVES BEAT WIZARDS AT KNOWING MAGIC

Thematically it's a bit like Knock and Spider Climb. Wizards can open locks and climb way better than a Specialist, but only a limited number of times per day and they've got to prep it in advance.
The Thief/Rogue/Specialist does it all day long, but imperfectly.
Same with Arcana, a Wizard can use Read Magic or Identify to work out what stuff does way better than a Specialist, but only a limited number of times per day and they've got to prep it in advance.
Doing stuff perfectly a few times per day vs doing stuff imperfectly all day long is THE spellcaster/skillmonkey divide.

Arcana doesn't actually tell you what an item does, mind you. You'll need Read Magic or Identify for that. At least the Specialist can help you work out what's worth identifying properly!

In terms of in-universe justification, Wizards are basically just crazy people who do magic by feel. It's not fancy book learnin', it's scrawling-insane-gibberish-on-the-asylum-walls-in-you-own-faeces learnin'. It's voices-from-beyond-talking-to-you-through-your-dog learnin'.
If you're not quite so insane you might discover that there are disturbing parallels between the writings and works of different wizards, and it's these parallels are what allow the Arcana-focussed Specialist to decipher and use their writings. These Specialists are likely a little bit mad themselves or have just a touch of the Sight.

Alternatively - maybe like in Harry Potter, wizards are just too lazy to learn anything for themselves because magic does everything for them. If you can mumbo-jumbo yourself a perfect answer, why bother learning something you might get wrong?
It's like doing maths in your head when you've got a calculator right there. Sure you could carry your old sofa all the way to the tip by yourself or you could just call up your mate Gavin to come get it in his ute tomorrow. Learn how to read Japanese or use Google Translate. Read fifty books to get an idea of both sides of a debate or just look it up on wikipedia.
Wizards are either super lazy or too caught up in the whole ripping-through-the-skein-of-reality-for-personal-gain thing to spend time learning how to tell a Potion of Flying from a Potion of Oh Fuck My Skin Just Flew Off.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Terrence Rapmaster's 31st Annual Trap Expo and Dungeon of Terror

I ran this dungeon filled solely with nefarious traps for the UK OSR game day last Saturday.
If you live in the UK you should come to the next one! Join this G+ community to learn more.

The basic setup is thus -
The players wake up in a dungeon.
Above them, members of their family are trapped in cages suspended from the ceiling. Above that, maybe 60' from the floor, are long windows of a viewing gallery. A fancy looking eccentric is surrounded by a large variety of well dressed individuals sipping champagne and sampling canapés while peering down at the PCs.

"Hello and welcome to Terence Rapmaster's 31st Annual Trap Expo and Dungeon of Terror! Any traps you see here today are available for purchase after the show.
"Below us are our involunteers. In the likely event of their death and dismemberment at the hands of the traps of this establishment, another member of their statistically improbably statistically identical family members will be released to take their place.
"Around the maze are chests which, though potentially also trapped, may contain items that will give you a competitive edge. Find the exit and you and your remaining family are free to leave.
 "In the centre of the room you will find some mercifully untrapped items to assist you, don't say I don't do anything for you lovelies. Good luck!"

Terence and the socialites will follow the party around from room to room watching their progress. Every room has some sort of viewing gallery, usually high up, which allows the guests to view the proceedings. Terence himself will make pithy comments and bad puns as the PCs experience the many traps in the maze, occasionally spruiking their price and describing the vagaries of magic items for the assembled audience.

The family members are replacement characters with identical stats. They have two spare family members each, and when they die another character is released from their cage in the central chamber. Due to Terence's ongoing commentary the new character knows pretty much everything the old one did.
Three lives! Use them wisely.
When replaced, the player must name the new character and state their relationship to the deceased.
"Bob 2, Bob's brother" is, of course, totally acceptable.

The Map

Bereft of scanner, I present this crudely cropped photograph


The dungeon is loosely themed around a bunch of different elements. See Room (8) for a picture of it.
The layout came to me in a dream and since I only had a couple of days to go until game day I was very glad to have the inspiration.

The traps are meant to start out more classic and traditional in the centre and get more ridiculous and esoteric as you get to the edges. Magic items found in one side of the dungeon tend to be useful for traps on the opposite side, both for irony's sake and to make the dungeon get easier over time, and if the players happen to head away from the exit they'll generally find more helpful items for the same reason.

Rooms are usually lit by ever-burning torches in sconces which can be removed easily and safely. Light's not meant to be a big issue here. Every room and corridor has magical unbreakable glass (installed after the contestants broke through and killed everyone at the party a few years ago) through which the trap and its effects can be viewed.

Obviously these traps are based around player skill. If you use pathfindery perception and disable device checks it'll be much more boring.
Pictures of the original design/inspiration included when I can find it!

Though the map has charming little memory joggers drawn all over it so you might be able to use it like a one-page dungeon, here are the traps in detail.


Hallway Traps

a. Flame trap operated by pressure plate. 2d6 damage, save vs breath for half.
b. Covered pit trap. 10' deep. 1d6 fall damage.
c. Stairs become ramp halfway down, slide towards (11). Save vs Paralyse to catch yourself but anyone that fails knocks down everyone below them anyway.
d. Ramp drops at the top to release a rolling boulder when a pressure plate is stepped on halfway down. Checks depend on what the players do to escape. If it gets them they're squished no save.
e. Mirror gives impression of continuing corridor across 50' deep pit but is, in fact, reflecting a fake corridor set at a 90 degree angle. Fake corridors lead to short fake room painted like the lava room in (4), candles behind holes in wall give impression of glowing lava from a distance.
f. Entire staircase built on axle in centre. If weight unbalanced at top, whole thing spins into spikes.
g. Foot caught in step by snare, gas ensues ten seconds later. Save or Die for victim and anyone helping them.
h. Gravity trap switches "down" to "east" when crossing halfway point, sending people flying out into (13) where they will be dumped in the piranha infested water.
i. 30' pit behind black curtain. 3d6 damage.
j. Long, low passage requires crawling. Rubber wheels in walls send them flying into spike wall.
k. Spikes on ceiling seem connected to some sort of stamping mechanism. In fact, swings outwards on a hinge. 3d6 damage, save vs paralyze to jump out of the way in time.
l. Pit has spiky iron bar across it, foiling attempts to jump across. Feeding items into the nearby hopper (1/3 chance any particular item is enough) retracts the bar.
m. Green slime. A classic!
n. Metal vault door has wheel to open it and lifts upwards. Warm to the touch - contains molten lead that spills out under the door and down the stairs if opened.
o. Spring loaded door blasts opener backwards, likely into the fire-and-spikes pit. Save vs Paralyze to land "safely" on the M pillar as you fly past.
p. Dip in passageway (see picture), upper section contains pure hydrogen. Detonates if torches brought in. 3d6 damage, Save vs Breath halves.


Room Traps

1. Central room. No traps! Replacement family members in cages.
Four coloured archways: North - Red, East - White, South - Blue, West - Brown.
In centre of room - Two 10' poles, a sling, a bag of 20 rocks, a lantern with oil.

2. Room is warm.
Weapon rack attached to north wall holds a sword, axe, hammer, spear and shield. Each, if examined, has metal wire spiraling down the hilt from the head.
Weapon heads lean on incredibly hot metal nodes, conducting intense heat through the heads and the wires. Picking one up without taking it off the node and letting it cool down deals 1d6 damage.

3. Black stone golem on slim walkway across a lake of boiling wax.
Wax vapor fills the steamy air and the bubbling wax has slopped all over the walkway.
The golem has 6HD and is made of flint. Striking the golem with steel creates an explosion in the paraffin-fume air for 2d6 damage, throwing the golem backwards 20' and the striker back 50'.
See, Patrick? It's in the book!
4. Glass floor over glowing magma.
Room is stinking hot, especially close to the two open holes in the glass in the corners of the room.
Long, low corridor has a chest and a glowing sign at the end, but the words on the sign cannot be made out at distance.
Halfway along the corridor the magma begins rising in the main room, being forced up through the open holes and spreading across the entrance to the long corridor.
Sign says "You blew it!", chest contains Helm of Internal Oxygen Supply. Works via a small portal that leads to a Rapmaster-brand Air Box in which your personal supply of air is stored (array of scented airs available for premium customers). The portal, of course, works both ways, so taking the helm off underwater or in poisonous gas will fill your personal air storage with that substance.

5. Billowing, heavier-than-air poison gas in cavernous room, giving the impression of a large, gaseous underground lake beyond a small sandy shoreline.
An island pokes out from the lake, on which can be seen a chest.
An illusory boat bobs about on the gas, anyone attempting to get in will fall through into the poisonous cloud.
A fishing rod is buried in the sand of the beach. It seems to have something tugging on the end of the line. If the sand is dug away, it will be discovered to be merely two foot deep with the fishing rod held steady within a stone tube. Any person gripping the rod will have their hands magically glued to it. Pulling the rod from the stone tube or otherwise releasing the tension means the person will be slingshotted far across to the island where they will take 2d6 damage on impact.
The chest contains a Belt of Levitation that causes the wearer to float 5' above the ground. Needless to say, the poison gas is not solid ground.
6. Rickety room laid out like an empty room of a dilapidated house. Hole in centre of floor goes clear down three storeys.
Rickety wooden beam across hole in centre is safe but looks splintery and awful. North wall looks like it could collapse any moment but has thin ledge you could walk on. If you walk on the north ledge the wall will collapse and throw you to your doom. South wall looks safer but the thin ledge is much more cracked and horrible. If you walk on the south ledge it will collapse from under you and send you falling to your doom.
Behind north wall is a chest on a section of dependable dungeon floor. The chest contains a Whistle of Turkey Summoning which, if blown, summons a turkey onto your head. It is the same turkey each time, so if you get the turkey killed you'll keep teleporting the turkey's corpse onto your head.

7. Doors close on entry and re-open on their own after 30 minutes.
3-inch holes in glass floor, murky and poisonous green-tinged water beneath.
Lever in centre of room. Pull it and the water heats up, becoming hot enough to create steam in a couple of minutes. This fills the room with poisonous steam and cooks those within for ten minutes.

8. Balcony overlooking diagram of dungeon theme areas, oriented to the dungeon layout.
The layout is painted on wooden floor. If someone jumps off the balcony the boards are spring loaded with blades between, annihilating their legs.

9. Pit trap seems to be a short jump over a 40' deep pit to the chest on the opposite side of the room, in fact there is just a wall painted like that attached to the ceiling in between.
Chest does actually exist if you can swing under the wall somehow and contains a Crown of Darkest Timeline - creates a ghost of you who goes towards the nearest trap and gets killed by a spectral version of it. 3 charges.
Door on west wall releases poisoned dart from small hole in east wall to hit the opener at arse-level. If party members are in between they might get hit instead. Save or die.
Behind door, a chest containing a Ring of Door Passing - allows you to walk straight through doors (and only doors) like they ain't even there.

10. Chest in centre of pool on small island.
Pool contains three 2HD water elementals. Chest contains a Ring of Plant Control - psychic mastery over plants and plant monsters.

11. A bare room with three trapdoors on the ceiling and holes around the upper walls.
The trapdoors have got a skull, an hourglass and a black cat painted on respectively.
Steel wall slams shut over entrance from (c) and water begins pouring into the room over the next ten minutes.
The trapdoors are set up such that only one can be opened at a time.
The skull trapdoor contains thousands of poisonous spiders. Save or die.
Opening the hourglass trapdoor causes the water to rapidly drain from the room... then refill.
The black cat trapdoor is the exit because cats hate water.

12. Scything blades swing through grooves in the ice-covered floor. Getting the timing right would be easy were it not for the ice. If proper precautions aren't taken, Dex check per blade to avoid 2d6 damage.

13. Pool full of piranha and shark-infested water, small island with chest across lake.
Boat against shore begins leaking halfway across and will sink unless swift action is taken.
Chest contains Ring of Fire Resistance - immunity to flame and steam, half damage from thicker hot substances like lava and boiling wax.

14. 30' pit trap followed by another 30' pit trap with an illusory floor hiding it. Jumping over one will make you fall through the floor into the next.

15. Floor covered in gold coins, ten foot poles, and a chest. Chest contains a Decanter of Endless Water.
Floor is actually thin planks of wood covering murky black piranha-infested water, the weight of a single adventurer will cause everything to collapse.

16. Room halved by glass wall with door in between. Room behind glass contains a chest, a noose attached to the ceiling, and a chair beneath the noose.
When the chest is opened the door slams shut. Inside the chest is a note saying "Tough luck buddy, you're here forever" and a Knife of Eternal Wounds. The knife inflicts wounds which never heal, dealing 1 damage per turn per wound inflicted by the knife... forever.
Sustained weight on the noose for 20 seconds opens the door.
17. Spongy black floor. Two eyes in middle of room retract as party enters. Floor safe, smooth grey ceiling is actually a Lurker Above.

18. Fourteen glass statues stand at attention around the room. If smashed form very sharp shards that go everywhere. If chest opened the guards do not animate as one might expect. Instead the floor hinges downwards at the dotted line to form a funnel that slides everything in the room into a heap in the middle. Deals 1d6 damage plus 1d6 for each statue that has been smashed. Those shards'll getcha.
Chest contains an Armlet of Schadenfreude. Any character who witnesses the death of the wearer gains 1d8 HP even above normal maximum.


19. Spikes slowly emerge from floor and ceiling, ceiling begins moving downwards to crush anyone inside in three rounds. Holes in wall outside north door contain insects and a lever each.
Reaching in to pull a lever requires a Wisdom check (or Willpower, if available) due to the squickiness of the bugs. If failed, next round anybody inside the room can make a Charisma check to force the lever-puller to reach in.
East lever opens the east door but a hand grabs their wrist as they get their hand around the lever, pulling it requires winning a wrestling roll versus the hand.
The west lever opens the west door but its hole contains poisonous bugs which force a Save or Die if gloves or other precautions aren't taken.



20. Fleshy fungal pillar in centre of room has four tentacles and 4HD and can attack up to 4 targets for d4 damage. Killing the plant monster collapses the ceiling around its corpse, dealing 4d4 damage to all inside.
21. Rolling boulder from (d) stops in a depression at the end of the room. If touched, a metal rod blasts it back out like a pinball and it rolls all the way back up the stairs and up the ramp, resetting the trap and squishing anybody in its way.

22. Chest in middle of semicircular room. If chest opened, the room spins to reveal a wall of fire arrows which shoot anybody standing back in the corridor. 2 rows of 5 arrows dealing d6 damage each and setting victims on fire as though they're covered in burning oil. The opener of the chest is perfectly safe.
Chest contains Ring of Poison Resistance set with three glowing green gems. Each charge allows the wearer to automatically pass a save versus poison. Three charges, as each charge is used one of the gems stops glowing.

23. Metal fan on ceiling, holes high up on walls, sandy floor, chest.
If chest opened - door locks, fan starts on ceiling, sand flows in from holes, sandy whirlwind starts up. After 2 rounds the sand blast deals 1d6 damage per round for 5 rounds.
Chest contains a geiger counter that crackles based on proximity to magic.

24. Ridiculous wheel trap. Behold diagram. The only difference is that there's no metal wall at the top and the wheels are attached to the walls by long bars, allowing the trap to be reset.

25. Sheep-in-sheep's-clothing. Lovely forest glade, four trees strewn with vines, the ground is covered in flowers and lush green grass, stepping stones lead from doors to centre. In centre, rabbit sitting on stump turns to face any door that opens.
Vines on trees are venomous snakes. Grass tangles your feet and releases a deadly soporific. Even the soil is corrosive.
Rabbit is simply a painted wooden model of a rabbit mounted on a swivel in the stump, and the garden paths are not dangerous.

26. Cut-off pillars are the only means of getting across this room. Fire and spikes cover the floor 100' down. On each pillar is inscribed a letter. The wall reads "Walk in the Name of God".
On the diagram players can jump 6 squares distance safely.
The correct path is IEHOVA.
The wrong pillars do as follows -
J: Collapses. Fall into the fire and die.
S: Sticky. Permanently stuck to pillar, but you could conceivably take off your shoes and keep going.
U: Unstable. Top of the pillar wobbles around, dex check to stay on, another dex check to jump off.
M: Madness. Go insane, attacking anyone who jumps near your pillar.
E: Explosion! Deals 2d6 damage and throws in random direction. Does not apply to the E on the right (soz Patrick).
H: Hands. Hands grab from the wall and hold you while other hands punch you in the face for 1d4 damage per round.
Possible other paths are JEHOVAH, JESUS, IESUS and (in case they went that meta) JAMES. If you're running this dungeon yourself I'd suggest putting your own name in there somehow.


Movie mystery: If there's no J in the Latin alphabet, who wrote it on the stones?

27. Door to room has "Over thinking, over analysing, separate the body from the mind" carved into the wood.
In the centre of the room is a dais upon which rests a chest. Mounted on the wall is a glowing green sign depicting a running man, a downward arrow, and a vertical rectangle. If you are running this in a place with an exit sign nearby, describe the nearest exit sign in similar terms.
All of these things are perfectly safe... until the psychic metatrap comes into play.
Whatever traps or evidence of traps the players search for are there. They exist and were already in the room when they entered it because the psychic trap has read the characters' fears via their players.
If outside the room, traps are set off by opening the door. If inside the room, opening the chest or messing with the exit sign sets off all the traps at once then makes the wall slide back to reveal the way out.
For instance if the players check for arrow holes in the walls, there will be arrow holes in the walls from which arrows will fly. If they check for evidence of a crushing ceiling they will find grind marks down the walls. If they look for the seam of a pit trap on the floor they will find the seam of a pit trap all the way across the floor.
If the players don't check for traps they'll be completely safe. It's a pity you've spent a whole dungeon making them paranoid.


To illustrate the final room, when I ran this Chris assumed the clue meant a blade would come out of the wall and cut his head off if he opened the door without courage (literally separating the body from the mind). Verily, when he checked there were slots in the walls through which blades might pop out! Unfortunately even if he had been right they spent another ten minutes or so deliberating and trying out another door, and so they were sprung when he opened the door and cut his head off.
Inside, Paolo (I think it was?) checked the chest for all sorts of poison darts and a poisoned lock and scything blades and discovered it was covered with the things all over every inch of the surface. When Patrick pressed the exit sign, everyone had to save vs death against a spray poisonous darts that hit everyone in the room. Luckily he and Nathan passed their saves and managed to escape the dungeon. Good end!

Since I'm naming people, Barry got the fishing pole from (5) stuck to his hands for basically the whole game, surviving the trap since Paolo had Unseen Servant'd the levitation belt over from the island. The people hanging onto him (Patrick and Nathan) died on impact with the island. Nathan later talked about the game day (including this dungeon!) in a podcast.
My favourite bits were Paolo managing to take off his Belt of Levitation just before he jumped into the mirror pit trap in (e), and everyone's massive paranoia in room 25 as I described a nice safe forest glade with what everyone knew was a wolf-in-sheeps-clothing in the middle of it.