Friday, 26 September 2014

Mold-choked monsters from the mutant forest

I've been trying to kick out the sandbox area I made for a couple of weeks now and there's just so much stuff in a bunch of folders on my PC and some of it half-complete.
And I'm going off to South America for a month from Sunday and I've got to get Santicore finished before then.
So much to do!

So rather than try to kick everything out into one blog post, here's just one part of it.

The Forest of Moondine:
Once one of the most magically active forests in the world, the Forest of Moondine has long been suppressed by the anti-magic field of the wall. Now it's waking back up, stirring with dark magic and dangerous creatures. All the old tales are coming true.

The forest is most of the area to the right of the big wall in the middle. High quality scan, this.
So the main deal with the forest is that there's this mold which infests man and beast, warping them into new forms and taking over their minds. A large variety of Cordyceps fungi all keyed to a different creature.
The other main deal is that the anti-magic field of the wall has dropped recently due to events catalysed by a previous group of players. There are elves and dryads and stuff awakening after their sleep that lasted centuries.

My d30 random encounter grid for the Moondine Forest area can be found here.
Descriptions of the villages of the Gate and its Surrounds can be found here. If you're wondering why the villages have stats it's because I rolled them up like this. Really gets the gears turning.
Moondin is the largest town in the area and so isn't in my village doc, short version is that it's a walled town and ruled by the mad priest Moldus Vane who thinks he can turn all this mold stuff to his advantage.

The mold men were detailed in my first ever post.
Lots of the things in the forest are 0 level men equivalents.
The elves are these elves.
The mold animals have not been detailed. UNTIL NOW.
In my notes I always label creatures things like "guzzling beast" and "horrible beast" because it means I have to describe them better, I never let slip their actual nature ("ok the vampire attacks you for.. oh fuck I said vampire") and the players have to make up their own names for them just like they are indeed people seeing a creature for the first time.

All stats, as ever, in the LotFP mode where AC12 is unarmoured.

Creatures of the Mold:

Guzzler Beast:
The mold-corrupted form of a deer, its feet have been warped into blades. It leaps huge distances and seeks to guzzle upon the brains of foes, slurping their brain matter out through their ears.
Can leap huge distances as a charge for -2 AC but double damage.
If both its leg attacks hit it latches on with brain-suckers, hitting automatically on subsequent rounds for 1d12 damage. Sucking brains drains 1 point from a random mental stat of the victim and heals the beast for 1d6 HP.
HD 2, MV 120', AC 13, ATK 2 DMG 1d6/1d6 damage each + special, ML 8

Pouncing Beast:
Fluffy bunnies overtaken with ugly facial horns and with distended legs that make them crawl around like men on all fours. Climb on walls and ceiling as easily as the ground.
Jump haphazardly and on hit secrete a subtle toxin that gives victims -1 on all attacks if they fail a save vs paralyze. This stacks, and victims find themselves slowly overwhelmed by a bunch of creepy crawling rabbits they can't hit.
HD 1/2, MV 80', AC 10, ATK 1, DMG 1d4+special, ML 6

Scything Beast:
Squirrels whose arms are sharp like scythes. Piercer rodents, they prefer to drop from above and shank people on the way down. If they hit they grab on and hit automatically every round until dislodged. If they miss they have to spend a round getting back in position on a tree branch or what have you. Best protection is to get under a cover they can't climb although they will swiftly cut through roofs of hide or canvas.
HD 1/2, MV 100', AC 8, ATK 1, DMG 1d6 + special, ML 7

Bug-Filled Beast:
Pigs or boars who have become living hives for a variety of insects and biting flies of all kinds. Flesh pocked with endlessly weeping sores and holes which form the birthing pits and homes and food of the constantly birthing bugs.
The beast itself does not attack but is surrounded by a cloud of bugs which automatically damage all nearby for 1d4 damage and give them -2 to hit. Slow but bulky, hitting one is like smashing a beehive with a stick. Those firing from range will be chased by angry insects.
HD 6, MV 40', AC 15, ATK 0, ML12

Burrowing Beast:
Moles whose mold infestation has granted them sharply lashing tongues and a predatory nature.
When attacking they burrow the ground out underneath their victim, causing the ground to become soft and mushy and their victim to sink. Their presence may be telegraphed by a dead man half-sunk into the ground as in quicksand, pulling him out of the collapsing soil will reveal his legs and lower body picked clean of flesh and organs leaving only clean white bone.
Every round the ground becomes softer and harder to run in. Your encumbrance increases by one tier per round until you are immobile, at which point the moles lash at you with their barbed tongues. When you are dead they begin to feast upon you.
HD 1, MV 80' (burrow), AC 10 (when above ground), ATK 1, DMG 1d6, ML 6

A Horrible Beast:
A unique creature that is a slow but motile mass of mold. A big flat amoeboid the colour of moss and lichen. An ambush predator, its surface is squishy and soft like a carpet of mold but exudes moist beads of rank yellow fluid around points of pressure.
Popping spore-cannons fire chunks of oozing lichen at foes with the range of a shortbow, a splash of growth which crawls across the victim's body seeking any wound or orifice to crawl inside. Any who die to its attacks deflate rapidly, spraying chunks of stringy ooze from every orifice over creatures within 30'. Targets must save vs breath or get hit by the rapidly-reproducing growth.
HD 4, MV 40', AC13, ATK 1 (240'), DMG 1d10, ML 12

A Terrifying Beast:
A unique creature that is an enormous amphibious thing. Huge, many-eyed. Three or four times taller than a man, skinny arms and legs around a plump lizard body. Sickly pale skin, coated with vivid green pond slime. Bipedal with webbed hands. Scrambles along the ground faster than should be possible for a beast of its size. Tail like a tree trunk, but blunt and rubbery.
Bites those in front, swings tail at those behind. Grabs and throws and grabs and bites and tears. Devours the dead, then hunts those who remain.
Speaks like a parrot who's heard someone being eaten every morning.
"What is that thing? WHAT IS THAT THINGGG -"
"help me! help me help meeaaaaauughgh"
"Don't leave me! DON'T LEAVE ME!"
“Daddy! No!”
"Run! Run! I love you!"
HD 5, MV 120', AC 13, ATK 4, 1d6/1d6/2d6/2d4, ML 12

Glob of Shub-Niggurath:
Shub-Niggurath was released for its millennial bondage by a previous group who failed to complete the grisly ritual that would keep it underground.
It was Shub-Niggurath which exuded the mold from its heaving mass and it was Shub-Niggurath which breached the Wall and took down its anti-magic field. The Wall detonated when it was breached, throwing chunks of Shub-Niggurath's protoplasmic bulk far across the landscape.
These Globs ooze around the area, spreading the mold and seeking to reform. They attack with drifting acidic strands which eat through all but flesh. Their touch on bare skin overloads the victim's pain receptors causing them to judder into unconsciousness. Once pacified the glob belches mold into their lungs.
On hit the acidic strand stays in contact dealing automatic damage and giving armour one notch/-1 AC per round until severed. If it destroys the armour and touches bare flesh the victim must Save vs Paralyze or lose consciousness. It can attack with other strands in the meantime, potentially subduing a number of enemies at once.
HD 4, MV 60', AC 14, ATK 1 (60'), DMG 1d6 + special, ML 12

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Animal Arena - Beasts tearing each other apart for YOUR entertainment!

My players are getting close to the Twin City-States of Edge and Dwarrow, whose strange mutually-ignorant relationship I will detail another time.
Most importantly, Edge has a badass collosseum where they hold Gladiator fights and, on feast days at the end of every month, battles between creatures from across the known world.

Basically Telecanter made this years ago and I've finally found cause to use it.
Horde of koalas vs a crocodile? Great white shark vs hammerhead? It's the fight of the century!

The real reason for this post is that I have crafted an ODDS CALCULATOR to make it easy for YOU to mandate the payout bookies are offering on fights between creatures foul and fair.
The calculations are based on the average value of the dice roll, so 1d20 vs 3d6 is 1:1 odds because the average of both rolls is 10.5. This is not exact but it's close enough for some silly animal arena thing!

As in the original document, players can bet when the first creature is brought out (without knowing the odds, naturally), at the end of the first round, and at the end of the second round. They get the payout if their chosen beast wins the final bout.

Yes you have to roll real dice. Randbetween just doesn't feel the same, you know?

Excel version.
Google Drive version.


With thanks to Nadav Ben Dov for helping me work out how to compare 3d6 to 1d20 in odds terms (it was his idea to use average values).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

So you’re running Better Than Any Man.

There’s not much point reviewing Better Than Any Man. The best thing at Free RPG Day 2013, one of the best products LotFP’s ever put out, chock full of stuff, yada yada.
It’s free and good for 10 or more sessions of adventuring. That’s some damn good bang for buck.

And it's the best intro to LotFP out there.

I’d run sandboxes before, but nothing this dense. BTAM is now my model for my world map at the local scale. It’s actually pretty small compared to my big six mile hexes but it’s absolutely filled with stuff to do, and at it never feels small. Everything is close enough to the hub city for a day trip which is actually a really nice way to do it.
Alright, so you’ve got your hands on Better Than Any Man. You’ve got your hands on the free pdf of the long-windedly named Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying. You’re all set.

Here are some things that you need to know that aren’t explicit:

Monster HD = Attack Bonus. This rule is, bafflingly, only found in the referee book despite the referee book being unavailable and the rule being entirely crucial to gameplay. The referee book is not free and at time of writing is not even available since Raggi’s publishing a new one soon-ish.
Similarly, this is one of the reasons why some monsters have “2 Hit Dice (but with hit points of an 8 hit dice creature)” and similar which is confusing otherwise. It’s got 8HD-worth of hit points, but only attacks at a +2. The other reason is that they count as 2HD for things like Sleep spells which use hit dice to determine spell impact.
Also, if you were using Labyrinth Lord this is the HD you’d use on the attack matrix.
Encumbrance is simple but brutal. I was (and still am, truthfully) running off of the assumption that everything non-weaponry with the same name just goes into the same slot. Torch x3 or whatever.
Turns out that everything non-italicised in the equipment list, from rations to torches, each take up a separate slot. Harsh! They can likely obtain some porters somehow though, if only by promise of a better life and a share in the loot.
Considering the time limit on staying in the region, healing rates as written are very (or maybe, “realistically”) low. Chances are the characters won’t be able to rest up enough to get to maximum HP if they’re planning on getting anything done, especially if they have no Cleric support. I have house rules to bridge the gap (a First Aid skill and eating a ration healing d6 HP 1/day), but if you’re set on running LotFP as written keep this in mind.
Only a few hexes across but man, so packed.
Here’s a grab bag of things I added or changed:
Waking up in a dungeon is the best way to begin any adventure. Zak said that and he knows everything.
Rather than just wandering in from a map edge, the players wake up in the torture chamber under Goblin Hill. They are locals from the village of Thüngen who had been captured recently by the Bürgerfriedensmiliz. There is a single guard in the room distracted by the smells wafting from the kitchen. Their starting equipment is in the smaller cage in the room, and one of them has loose manacles. If there’s a demihuman in the party it’s them because the manacles don’t fit their wrists properly.
This isn’t meant to be a challenge to get out of, it’s just an initial setup, but waking up in chains means that the players have time to ask questions.  and build up an idea of what the room looks like and discuss their plans when the guard leaves the room briefly to grab some eyeball broth or whatever. It also means that they have a concrete reason to join up and stick together.

I expanded the random encounters into a larger encounter grid as seen here.
When people enter a village (“Entering a village should probably trigger an automatic encounter”) subtract 3 from the d6 roll, so they’ll find either spoor, a lair, or more commonly the thing itself.

As described in that post, I fantasy-ised the general early modern feel.
The Swedish became an army of demons.
Jews became Halflings.
Muslims became Dwarves.

The Watcher’s Detect Weapons spell only picks up objects that have been used in anger. Chiefly because the players had already been rejected from Karlstadt once and I wanted to let them in, but also because it neatly solves issues involving whether something counts as a weapon or not.
The Defiler’s creature as written sucks a person into their own personal sub-reality and fights their own creature tree. Fuck that, everyone goes down to the same layer. It was a heap of fun with people diving down the creature’s throat to save their friend and bring them back up a level. Make sure you make a foghorn-like BRAAAAAAAMMM sound every time someone goes deeper. The “real” creature fumbled and ate the Defiler herself at one point which was excellent, and to add insult to injury she’d just informed them that anyone who’s inside when it’s killed is lost forever.
Another thing about the Defiler’s creature – anything pushed into the creature’s second mouth (the one that recites the Canterbury tales) makes the object appear in the next sub-reality down but huge. They were nearly crushed by the Defiler’s spellbook at one point.
Beating the Joy at sex (or completing most of her increasingly seedy “missions”) means making an opposed roll, roll highest while staying below your stat as per house rules. You can use any stat you want so long as you can describe what you’re doing to make it relevant. Hee hee.
Up in Hammelburg there is a man who will pay good money (500sp) for help getting a pallet of his best wine out of the country. Payable once he's sold off his goods, of course. This is mainly because I wanted them to move off East to my main campaign map and the river goes there (heh heh heh). Incidentally, there’s a boat on the river and it’s not his…
Willibald Schwartz and Thungen’s “vampire” problem, which I expanded upon and might post some other time (basic gist at the end of this post), were relocated to Werneck. The players had never approached Willibald’s Mound and never encountered the glass tiger or even heard of the guy, so it felt legit to shift him around. Nothing’s canon until the players encounter it after all.
He made a great red herring. Crazy old wizard guy with a glass tiger meant that the player’s dominant vampire theory (until they found out the real culprit) was that the glass tiger was going and murdering people without Willibald’s knowledge.
Gunther Mohl the bandit chief in the Abandoned Farmhouse wore chainmail and had a big ol’ greatsword and 14 strength. He scared the shit out of the players, especially since I’ve got a house rule where great weapons add strength bonus to damage. The bandits also used the farmhouse-barn route to flank and disappear and just be generally tricksy in combat.

Some highlights from when I ran it:
Initial party of two (a dwarf and a necromancer) escaped easily from Goblin Hill. The necromancer had never played before. After the dwarf slipped his manacles and knocked out the guard, the necromancer showed good old school thinking and stole the guard’s cultist robes. She snuck the Dwarf out under the pretence she was moving the prisoner and they escaped.
That very same session, the Dwarf had his kidney forcibly removed by a giant rhinoceros beetle.
The Joy’s brothel/tavern became the de facto home of the adventurers. One of their number spent every night with the Joy and impressed her to such an extent that she later joined the party as a henchman.
The chief bandit in the Abandoned Farmhouse was judged “way OP” in his chain and greatsword. They eventually got him by wrapping a glue-soaked carpet around him then setting him alight, before diving into the cellar to escape the flames. Old Man Braasch the zombie horror was a nice surprise just when they thought they were safe. Purging things with fire, predictably, became something of a theme.
Attempting to cut off a lock of the Defiler’s hair as per one of the Joy’s challenges led to a long and mindbending fight through multiple internal realities at the hands (or rather, mouths) of the Defiler’s creature. The Defiler herself getting swallowed by one of the Creature’s fumbles was the icing on the cake.
On a related but unrelated-to-BTAM note, this was also the inaugural session of my new crit and fumble tables and they worked magnificently. A barbarian had shown up for this session only, and he managed to chain a fumble into a crit against himself and keep going about 5 times. He would have disembowled himself had I not gone soft and let him get tied up in his own no-damage mancatcher instead.
A raid on Goblin Hill to kill the Mother led to a variety of horror. The people in the kitchen had Sleep cast upon them, and following several minutes of furious debate over the morality of killing children even though they are cannibals, our heroes chopped the heads off of all the kids, branded them, and lined them up as a “warning”. In order to keep the other cultists occupied, the chefs were “spatchcocked” and artfully sewn together in a horrific meaty confection and carried out into the dining room to applause.
In that same raid they captured a war-ant (some of whose legs were later stolen by the Mother’s creature) and the Mother herself was instakilled by a critical Sneak Attack which dealt a full 24 damage.
The ensuing escape from her enraged Creature in the next session ended up giving people multiple new limbs. Later, when the wizard had finally managed to get his new knee-arm under control, he used it to dual-wield both a bow and a flail.
Finally, in the twelfth session of BTAM-based gameplay, they successfully sailed a river barge full of wine off the map. Two characters, after surviving everything BTAM had to throw at them, died upon contact with A Single Small Cut. God rest their souls.

 Rating: 11 1/2 sessions of gameplay.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Spells of the Stargazer

One of my players had to depart for a few weeks. They'd finished the Tower of the Stargazer (by freeing the wizard) so he asked if he sign up to be Calcidius' apprentice as a convenient excuse for his absence.

I thought I'd make a little book of low level stars-and-fate themed spells for his trouble, so here they are. If you ever run the Tower feel free to give them to Calcidius himself!

This spellbook is:
Written on vellum and bound in wood. On the cover is carved an image of the solar system with sun and planets represented by glass beads. While you never see it move, it is always accurate.

Spells contained herein:
Level 1
Level 2
Summon Zodiac


Find the latitude of a stated person or location.

Count the number of stated things in a given area. The stated thing must be one word and the given area must be unambiguous lest the spell fail.

You or someone you touch has their light sensitivity increased dramatically. Great for stargazing and seeing in the dark, but light sources are literally blinding. Unwilling targets get a save. Lasts 1 turn.

See six seconds into the future. You can effectively rewind everything that happens on the round in which you cast this spell, should you wish it.

Summon Zodiac
Summon an avatar of the Zodiac which will obey your commands. Lasts 1 turn.
Elucidations on these spells:
Astrolabe fits my magical MO perfectly. On the surface it's fairly useless ("just latitude?! What use is that?!") but you could probably find some ways to exploit it, like you know a guy is in one of two cities and you can narrow it down.
Of course you can also use it like a real astrolabe by making your way to the latitude of a city and heading straight east or west until you arrive.
Enumerate is because Nadav Ben Dov has divination magic in his game and he reckons knowing something like the number of dudes in a building is super powerful. Courtney's got the Diviner wizard in Numenhalla too (sup Mad Bill) which is cool because he finds out cash and monster HD totals in the places we're heading so we know what to expect.
Anyway - exploitable, good for counting coins but useful for much much more, fits the Stargazer theme because he obviously used this to ask "How many stars are in the sky?".

Starsight is because I was thinking of light pollution and how many stars I could see in the Australian outback and when I spent the night in the middle of the ocean on the Barrier Reef. So many stars.
Multipurpose because it lets you see in the dark and you can use it on enemies to blind them. When I got laser eye surgery I was incredibly light sensitive despite them giving me super dark almost-opaque goggles, to the extent that the tiniest crack in the curtains caused me immense pain. That's what this is like if you're looking at anything brighter than starshine.

Precognition is a gimmick I spent a while trying to work out. Stars and fate and all that. Main influence was the 13 second rewind in Galaxy Quest if I'm honest. If you haven't seen galaxy Quest what is wrong with you.
Should be a fun mechanic because people can take a risk and see what happens. Walk into traps and kill themselves, get a second chance at not being squashed by the bog horror, that sort of thing. I have high hopes. My game rewards cautious players so it will be good to see what happens when they've got reason to be reckless.
And six seconds is enough for someone to activate something and the wizard to see only the very beginning of the impact. Gas starts flowing out of the pipes. Is it bad gas or good gas? Do I rewind or do I risk it? Such decisions!

Summon Zodiac, finally, is intentionally written vaguely so the actual mechanics will need a bit of testing by the player.
What it actually does is summon the creature (or thing, in the case of the scales) associated with whatever star sign the sun is currently in. Some months you get a lion, other months you just get a stupid crab. Not even a giant crab, a regular crab. It's always a high quality thing at least and can hit creatures immune to mundane weapons so you'd better keep your fish throwin' arm strong.
The other gimmick is that it's not the astrological Zodiac, it's the actual astronomical Zodiac (use the IAU numbers), so the months are all out of whack and there's Ophiuchus the Snake-Bearer in there and Scorpio's only around for 7 days and all the rest. Should be amusing from my end at least.

Friday, 1 August 2014

How to run a Raggi.

So there’s been a fair amount of stuff around of late about Negadungeons and the use thereof, with Death Frost Doom being the ultimate example. You have no reason to go deeper, and yet you do in the hopes there's something at the end.
Raggi Screwjobs are a slightly different genre, God That Crawls is a Raggi Screwjob but isn't a negadungeon. Going deeper does not damn you and unleash unspeakable evils, and there is a fuck ton of treasure down there let me tell you, but once you're in you're not getting out in a hurry. Raggi is screwing your players, but isn't screwing your campaign world.
I’ve run a bunch of them now and have made my share of mistakes, so I feel like I have some authority with the subject matter. For instance, don't be drunk when you run the God That Crawls.
Alright, so first thing to know about Raggi Screwjobs/Negadungeons is that you can’t just throw these at people and expect them to stick. “This is the adventure today, chaps” is not how you go about this. That’s just being a dick. Here's an old blog post of Tao fucking up royally by doing just this and to be fair he'd never seen a Raggi Screwjob before and so hadn't prepared properly.
The bit at the beginning of the God That Crawls about how to railroad people into the dungeon? Trash. Nobody’s going to believe a priest who asks them to jump down a hole. You can’t trust bishops, everyone knows that. They move in diagonals. And worse, it feels really fucking unfair. You can't laugh at players for going down a hole if you forced them in there in the first place. Same with Death Frost Doom, anybody in their right mind will see the horrible trees and the swirling mists and the faint cries of the souls of the dead and go “fuck that I’m outta here”.
No, the whole point is to make them want to go there themselves. They should get to the church and fucking leap down that hole with slime at the bottom. They should see the abandoned inn and go “shit yes, this is the trapmaster’s place we’ve heard about, got the map? Let’s go in”. They should hear about the magical mystery house on the hill and go “Sure, Derleth Lovedoom’s mansion sounds like a great night out, lets do that”.
You've got to get them committed.

And that starts many sessions before the negadungeon.
Jack Mack goes into it a bit here. See, the whole point of a Raggi Screwjob is that it's a reversal of the status quo. It's weird because the regular dungeons are normal and non-hateful, or at least not actively trying to fuck the players over. You can't do a LotFP campaign of Raggi module after Raggi module because your players will never trust you with anything ever again. It's like filling every room and hallway in every dungeon with a Grimtooth trap. Sooner or later they're just not going to bite.
There's that thing where you should make sure the vast majority of NPCs the players meet are honest, truthful people so that the one guy who betrays them is a surprise, not the norm.
So in the same way you should make the majority of dungeons honest, truthful dungeons with fabulous cash prizes and mysteries to solve and depths to delve and traps to die to and weird monsters to avoid and all that good stuff, so that when they get to a Raggi dungeon they're like "Fuck yea! Dungeon! Let's see what's in here!"
If they're not in a mindset where they think all dungeons contain a whole lot of treasure they'll never keep going deeper into the mountain in the hopes of finding the one haul that will make this all worth it.
If you're throwing Raggi Screwjob after Raggi Screwjob at the players they will start telling you to fuck off, and worse, get wise to it and stop fucking touching everything.
So here's some things to do first.
Start with something else 
Don't begin your campaign with a Raggi Screwjob. That's going to set the tone forever and make it much harder to screw the players again.
Better Than Any Man does this perfectly. Weird shit for the LotFP vibe, but the dungeons aren't screwjobs except for the insect god's home and who the fuck has ever managed to get there? Regular dungeon crawling can be deadly so long as you're not fucking them around every corner. Start them with BTAM and throw in a few negadungeons later once they've left the area to spice things up.
Place the locale on your campaign map.
Put it down somewhere. If you're not doing a sandbox it's time to put down the Raggi module and pick up an Adventure Path and never darken my doorstep again. The players have to be in control of their decision to seek the place out, otherwise you're being a dick.
This is why the God That Crawls advice is trash. Priest throws you down the pit by hook or by crook and you've been fucked over with no choice in the matter other than "let's check out this church". My players Charm Person'd the guy and he told them everything and they still went down the pit. That's commitment.
And for god's sake, if you're trying to bait people into the Scarecrow module make sure it's in an area with lots of beautiful swaying corn so they're not immediately suspicious. One day I will bait someone in there. One day.
Put it on your rumour table
Put a bunch of rumours and shit around it. "The Church at place has an underground complex full of demonic artifacts! It's gotta be the biggest black library in the world!" really sold my guys on God That Crawls, "Mr Foxlowe, a rich trader, hasn't been seen for months, his house stands unguarded" got people champing at the bit to raid Death Love Doom, and the Cleric was super pleased to hear his party god's mug of infinite beer was rumoured to be up Mt. Death Frost.
Add impetus. Bait them there in the same way you bait them towards regular dungeons. Raggi Screwjobs are like spiderwebs, they wait for the fly to come to them. That way it's technically the player's fault, even if they didn't know it was going to be a player fucker going in.
Touching stuff should usually be good
You know how touching stuff in a negadungeon is usually bad? Only effective if touching stuff is usually good. Not to say that your regular dungeons shouldn't have bad-to-touch stuff in them, put mysterious magic fountains and cursed stuff in there as much as you want, just balance that shit out. In a similar vein, if you're running a campaign I'd put Tower of the Stargazer post-BTAM rather than as a starter adventure. It's very good, but there aren't any people to talk to other than the plainly evil wizard who tries to betray them from the very beginning and there's something about save or die doorknobs that makes people not want to touch anything with their hands ever again.
Use encumbrance and stuff before they get there
If you foist encumbrance and movement-per-turn and light source penalties on the players only when it matters, like God That Crawls, they'll know something's up. Same with Death Frost Doom - if you're never rolling for wandering monsters in a regular dungeon they won't be spooked by the silence. And if they don't have that mild but insistent worry about light sources burning out they won't be scared of the dark and careful to make sure they know where the exit is.

You're all in this together
Once they're inside, take off the blinders. If they go "what the fuck" say "yea I know, what the fuck". You can safely deflect blame. You're with them in this now. If the players get fucked over it's not you, it's the module. "Yeesh, sorry about this guys, er so you touch the thing and - ".
This is especially important in Death Love Doom where reading things all cold-dispassionate and being disgusted with them (not at them) is part of the fun.
Not that you'd give the game away or tell them the way out, of course. You've got standards to maintain.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The London Underground is a Damn Fine Pointcrawl

Here's one for the "how have I not seen this done before" stakes.
The London Underground. Just look at this shit.

Each line is typified by a different faction.
How large is this? Look it's rectangular just overlay it over your world map and see what matches up. Alternatively, this is under a city, but that might be more boring.

These aren't train lines. They are tunnels and underground routes ravines and rivers and other places you can go in the underdark or underworld or linked-dungeons-above-the-water-table.
Whatever you want.
But -

Each stop is a dungeon.
The zones? Numbers are intended average party level. None have travelled to Watford Junction and returned.
The line colours? Factions.
The large white circles? Big dungeons, probably with access to the surface.
The disabled symbols? Super easy access to surface. You could roll a wagon all the way up and down there.
The Thames? An arbitrary line where everyone on one side thinks they're better than those on the other.

I would have a goblin faction in the green line, say, and a race of proud dwarves on the red.
What happens where the lines cross? The factions meet there! Maybe it is a war zone. Maybe everyone trades there. Who knows?
Also good, the place names are evocative. Of course there's a bank at Bank.
This probably works less well if you use the New York underground with its boring numbered streets. Who thought it was a good idea to name the stations after the street they emerged at? Bo-oring, get your shit together America.

It is probably better to use a subway system your players know though, because when the ball drops they'll be able to use their player knowledge to their advantage and that's always a good time.

It helps that this is London and it's a tangled mess.
If you were super lucky and could get schematics for train stations you would have a shitload of pre-drawn dungeons, but unfortunately blueprints are sort of in the "things for terrorists" pile.
At least London has a few 3d drag-stuff-around type maps (done by hand mainly, donchaknow) which are super neat and get you that 3d perspective that's hard to get from regular rpg maps. Kinda boring due to the lack of staff-only corridors and fucked up London Below stuff, of course.

As for other layouts, if you want a more centred-on-one-place thing you could always go for Sydney:
 Everything goes to the city in the east and is poorly managed and basically the shittiest public transport service in the southern hemisphere.

And I guess New York is pretty alright except the interesting parts where lines clash have boring names and the boring parts where everything does its own thing have interesting names.

And Paris is actually pretty tops because they have some rad naming schemes and is even more tangly and fucked up than London.

What happens in Bel-Air dungeonstation? I think you already know.

Oh, and for +Patrick Stuart , you can do this sort of thing if you want to go deep -

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Ten Foot Polemic Unified House Rule Document

Ok I think I’ve finally got my house rules to a point where I’m only changing minor things.
This document is both a record of house rules and a player handout, so some of the stuff mentioned is unchanged from the base LotFP ruleset.
What follows is justifications, explanations and expansions on the house rules enclosed.

Click here to get it!

First up
It is always a little bit irritating when I'm reading some rules and there's no foreword to tell me what's different about this particular iteration. OSR rulesets are horrible for this - 90% of the game is going to be the exact same as any other competitor, so I have to read the entire thing and compare and contrast it to others to see the difference.

So - I'm trying to make my rules do these things:
- Make it newbie friendly. Lots of newbies come to my games, and even people who've played before have only ever usually played late edition systems. I don't want them to have to learn rules and other crap when they could be having fun, so char gen is super simplified and anything complicated faces towards the DM.
- Make non-humans much more weird. The whole benefit of race-as-class is that you don't have to make the races boring humans-with-funny-ears so as not to skew class balance. I replaced them with weirder varieties with weirder powers.
Differentiate clerical magic. As explained in this post, I'm trying to make Lawful magic dependable and Chaotic magic unpredictable to accentuate this whole Law/Chaos thing.
- Differentiate magic users. By default, Elves and Magic-Users have the same spells which they use in the same way. Not any more! Similarly, when I add a new magic using class I try to make sure they have a different cost/benefit tradeoff to spellcasting.
- Make healing a little easier. Healing is hard to come by, especially at lower levels. With food healing and a dedicated non-magical healing skill for Specialists, it's possible to get by without a Cleric.
- Amp up the classes. While not exactly intentional, a side effect of adding all the extra little powers to classes has meant that everyone's jumped up a little in terms of PC power. They still die pretty easily, but between this and the extra healing options they've got a bit more survivability than normal.
- Make combat more chaotic. Weapons break. Shields shatter. Armour notches. Crits and fumbles make everything unpredictable. Gambits can turn the tables. Death and Dismemberment leads to flying limbs. Together it means I definitely don't know who's going to win in any given battle, which leads to higher highs and lower lows.

With that out of the way, read on for more detail!

Char Gen
I always say this, but I run for a lot of newbies. Complex char gen is dead boring as per this post so I’ve cut this down to random rolls in as many places as possible.

Leading with stats and failed career means that they’ve already got an idea of who their character is in their mind before they go into choosing a class.
Quick class breakdowns are dead good to have around for that part.

Charisma-based starting cash is something I picked up from somewhere and thought was neat, especially since Charisma doesn’t really come into its own until you can afford retainers.

Equipment buying has long been known to be the bit in old school games where people suddenly undergo option paralysis, so I made some little packs for people to buy. If they’re new to my game I also let them buy gear retroactively in their first session, everyone has different assumptions about resource tracking in their D&D so I don't want to screw someone over because they didn't know I'd be tracking torches.
Notice also that I actually give them fuck all starting cash. They can afford an equipment pack maybe, but other than that they're relying on the current party to fund them or hoping to scrounge some cash on their next expedition. It lends the sort of penniless desperation I look for in a new level 1 guy, and means any new character is already indebted to the party which is a pretty good reason to stick together as things go. 
Luckily the Failed Career table gives them a weapon.

This post punctuated by photos of places I've been.

Ammo Tracking
This cascading dice thing is way cool and I got it from here.
I extended it to the comparatively larger ammunition containers from the firearm rules fairly simply. Filling the container to full keeps this simple, the flat cost is half what it would be to fill it from empty so it should even out over time.

Wear and Tear
I’ve tried this and it works well and it’s pretty fun. Probably tied with Death & Dismemberment as “most complex house rule” though.
Based on Logan’s work here with additions from here and my own blog post on the subject is here although this very post supersedes a few things on there.

Your weapon gets more damaged over time until it breaks, I put the break roll on the damage die because I like combining multiple meanings into the one roll if possible.
A little bit silly because your weapon only breaks if you hit your target and so plate mail is less likely than leather to break your weapon, but I like that weapons at least get a last hurrah by doing some damage before they shatter.
An unstated aside – slings never break. I said this accidentally one time and it made everyone buy a sling as a backup weapon they can tie around their arm that never breaks and can fire rocks. I thought that was rad so I let it stay.

Guns is guns, I rolled misfire chance into Notches because it seemed neater. Explodes like a scattershot charge when it breaks. Rolled matchlock misfire in the damp into there too.

There’s an Armour Shall Be Splintered thing going on here, seems to have worked nicely in play. Not as good as Shields which negate all damage, so if you’re damaged at 0HP you’re still rolling for Death & Dismemberment, but better than nothing.
Downsides to using it because your friends can’t nick your armour when you die though. Sometimes leads to amusing Ghosts ‘n Goblins gameplay, but also leads to sundry looting of mundane enemy armour which was always the goal.

Upkeep is way simplified from before, just a one-time Notch cancel per day. Considering my players rarely get in fights having it as an extra resource to track was too much and everyone forgot about it.

Backpacks and Pouches
I assume they start with these and only make them buy a new one if it breaks or something. Pouches are for stuff they might want in a pinch like flaming oil or rope or a potion or whatever. Three maximum to keep it under control.

Sleight of Hand makes you adept at grabbing stuff out of your inventory, Specialists can be the dude who always has the right thing at the right time.

 You end up with three levels of accessibility - in your hands at start of combat, in your pouches and a few rounds away, or in your backpack and you might as well just book it out of there.

Skill Checks
Apparently this is from another game which I picked up from a blog then lost the link.
Regular checks can crit if you roll your stat.
Opposed checks are roll high but stay under your stat. Dead easy, dead good.

Defined standard and iron rations because they’re not explained in LotFP, presumably so you can explain it yourself? Anyway, turns out nobody's ever explained it properly.
For me, standard rations go off and need to be cooked. Iron rations last forever and don't. I usually handwave the cooking unless they’re somewhere where it’ll have an impact.

The only change from the LotFP foraging rules is that it shrinks your ammo die by one size. This does mean that you use a full 30 sling stones if you hunt with a full pouch but oh well. You can use rocks in your sling and hunt for free but I’ll leave that for them to work out, it’s true by base LotFP rules anyway.
You can also use your Failed Career for a bonus if you were a mushroom farmer in a forest or a fisherman by a river and things.

Non-Magical Healing
I thought taking a break was Patrick’s doing but he reckons it was Arnold K. Still can't find a direct link though. It's a good rule because it means people eat food proactively like “sweet I can eat to heal!” rather than reactively like “oh whoops yea forgot to mark off a ration today”.

By base LotFP it takes ages (well, at least a few days) to heal up from 0, which is strange because Better Than Any Man gives you seven days to get in, get rich, get out. Anyway, more about that if and when I do a review thing about it.
The healing in comfort is to make players feel that civilised towns and villages are safe and have them actually stay at inns rather than your standard casual vagrancy.
If you’re in town you heal quickly, if you’re in the wilderness you heal slowly and are vulnerable to wandering encounters. Towns good. Wilderness bad. Goodo.

First Aid is the absolute tits and I have praised myself enough for it already.

Basic Combat
Simple initiative because I hold round-by-round initiative in the same esteem as complex char gen. Unspoken variation – If it’s a spider or something and its super fast the ties break in its favour instead.

Crit and Fumble tables found here and have gone way better than expected.

Fancy Combat Options
Trimmed down from LotFP because the rest I’ll just flip out if they come up, this is the more proactive stuff that a player might not know they can do.
Gambits are from Logan except that I made it a bit more forgiving. Generally someone’s giving up their chance to damage by doing something funky, so making them lose their next go on a double miss meant nobody ever tried it.
I should clarify that gambits are for things that are too off-the-wall to just go "ok +2 to hit" or whatever.  
"I throw my stuffed cat into his arms so he catches it like 'wuh' like he's in a Jackie Chan movie then I punch him over the top of it" was a +2 to hit.
"I'm gonna chuck my net over the spider!" was a gambit.

In the net example, if someone got a double hit the net would have ensnared the spider. If they'd got a double miss they would have just missed. 

They got 1 hit and 1 miss so I gave them a choice between "ensnare its legs a bit so it'll be a bit slower and can't jump away this round" and "it covers the spider alright but you stumble right up close to its mouth so it can attack you on its go".

Big Purple d30 Rule
This one’s from er, Jeff Rients I guess? Yea here it is.
Fun in play, gets me extra booze, not bad at all. Sometimes makes short work of beefcake monsters (Like the Grandma from DLD) but the doom of imminent revenge hangs over them like a cloud for the rest of the session until the storm breaks and it hits them like a thunderbolt when someone’s ankle gets blown apart by a rat.

Weapon Types
Another one of Logan’s and it’s top notch.
Different weapons have different strengths with swords as the best all-rounder.
Hammers smash armour, axes chop flesh, flails do flail things.
The players are now scared of knife wielding maniacs which is good because daggers are a fairly lame 1d4 damage proposition in some of the games I’ve played in.
An axe with a hammer on the other side can be pretty badass as loot which I like.

Melee Options
Logan again for the Reach thing, I think the dual-wielding was from Scrap in a thread some time, Shields are, of course, from Trollsmyth, and Large Weapons are from... me! Yes I actually used something I made up myself in the weapon type rules, incredible.

I like these trade-offs a lot. I like long weapons keeping people at a distance, dual wielding works best when you pair two smaller weapons, shields are extra good as a defence, and great weapons are for beefy strongmen who can cut off a horse’s head in one blow.

Ranged Options
Unchanged from LotFP, just explaining for the players. No flintlocks in my timeline yet but they’ll get there eventually.
Oh shit yea, guns do exploding damage now for headshot purposes. Considering all guns do d8 and most times you’ll get one shot per combat this seems fair.

This is all the little ways I give people bonus exp. Murder and theft are as per LotFP.

The What The Fuck Did I Do Last Night table is Zak’s. Everyone loves carousing and waking up with new and unusual problems.

Exploration exp is to encourage going far afield and travelling around my fantasy land. Miscellany means my exp emails double as a recap, and surviving adversity means people are rewarded for getting into scrapes.
My current bonus exp doc is here. I add more stuff as it comes up.

As per LotFP.

Death and Dismemberment
The most complex house rule. Works fine in play but I seem to have confused the shit out of people with my explanation.
Basically people roll more dice on the table the more hurt they get, and higher results are deadlier and more hurty. More can be found here.

What to do when somebody dies
Pretty standard save that my guys have the flawed option of resurrection as per my most popular post of all time. Or they would, if they’d got to the capital yet.

Retiring Characters
The end goal. I’m down with people having multiple characters but I like the idea that they have to travel back to their other character to pick them up.
Sort of a thing where the party might have to adventure to far flung and half-forgotten lands to do the whole “The world needs a hero! The world needs a level 7 Fighter! The world needs YOU, Burgermann McDoland!” bit.

Class Tweaks

Haha! Stuck on the end where you wouldn’t read that far down!
These are new and improved rules for my rune magic stuff.
Armour now mitigates rune beam damage in a manner wholly inconsistent with the HP/AC idiom because they are wacky. If anybody is interested in a rune supplement maybe I will make one?
Nobody has found the rune dungeon since I changed the rules so this are untested but hopefully better than previous.

And that is that!