Friday, October 2, 2020

Of Symbols and Suffering

I've slowly been building a mass of things good for filling your dungeon. I think one day I'll collect it to make a PDF.

Magic Symbols: 

Symbols of Death, of Insanity, of Clownification, or of Un-scratchable Itch. Whatever they do, they interest me. I think they are a good case study for how to make a good trap.

Depending on your system they can be activated in a ton of ways, but I wanted to focus on the symbols that activate upon being closely looked at. This is very contradictory as often the best way to determine if something is dangerous is, well, by looking at it. Therefore I think the distinction of close inspection as opposed to just looking at it is important.             

All my symbols look like these.
 Example: 

The party looks down a hallway and sees a strange symbol at the end of their light sources. It's a symbol of death! Save or die! 


That's not fun.
Here are some people smarter than me talking about traps. Traps often teach a lesson about the dungeon they are in, and about you as a DM. If you throw in symbols in that are triggered by a glance, you are telling your players that to succeed they should never look at interesting, magical-looking things, and looking at interesting, magical-looking things is like 90% of my games. 

The there should always be a warning that something is going on, if a party sees a glimpse of a symbol and decides to ignore the warnings and inspect it anyway, go ahead and make them suffer the consequences. If the party is careful and smart (or like to sacrifice hirelings), they can circumnavigate the symbol and maybe even use them against their foes. 

Once a symbol is detected, it doesn't go away, and that makes things interesting. How does a thief pick a lock on a door that has a big old symbol of pain on it? How do you fight a random encounter in a room where you need to close your eyes? 

In Summary: First: trap symbols cane easily become unfun, so think about what lesson they teach as a trap. Second: symbols that trigger on sight should trigger when looked at closely, not just at first glance unless you have a very good reason. Third, detection of a symbol can be where the fun begins; now they have to get around it or figure out how to exploit it. 

Cool, so after all that nonsense ranting, here are some of mine. 

All of these symbols detect as magical, and with a roll can be identified as a certain type of magic, (usually something scary like necromancy) they will look strange and arcane, maybe they glow,  whatever you need to get the point across. ("When in doubt, throw dead bodies about"; your players can never complain about a trap if there are dead bodies from said trap lying around) 

 The Reflection Trap: There are arcane looking drawings on the wall and there is a reflective surface on the ground below it; a reflecting pool or mirror. Nothing happens while looking at the nonsensical scrawling on the wall, he symbol is only activated upon looking at the reflection below. 

 1. The Goblet Trap: A big fancy cup, filled with liquid, on the inside of the goblet is the symbol, obscured by the liquid. Once the liquid is removed, (as say, someone drinks it) the symbol can be seen and thus activates. A hasty party may detect magic and only assume the magic coming from the symbol is from the liquid, spelling doom for the quaff-er. If you're feeling nice make the liquid semi-transparent; the water refraction is enough to prevent the symbol from going off. Then, the shimmering image can give another hint that something is off. 

2. The Clean Up Trap: The Symbol is just covered by something. Dust, blood, trash, work, but I like this one as a punishment for greed. Have it be covered by a vein of a valuable mineral (and be accompanied by a rude phrase describing dwarfs) or simply a floor filled with gold coins, take a lot and walk home rich, take them all and save or die. 

3. The Sliding Puzzle Trap: Unless you're going to actually make a sliding puzzle like this one crazy DM I knew, don't make them do one via descriptions or something. Just an intelligence test to see if they can do it quickly or risk taking either too much time or a random encounter or something. Once the puzzle is all put together, time to make a save, it was a symbol all along! Like the others a detect magic and the strange, arcane nature of the image they were putting together should be enough to warn the party.

4. The Thematic Trap: Symbols are obscured in some way that has to do with the dungeon. Maybe this is the tomb of paladins that hunted devilkind, so they put symbols that are only activated when read and understood by those who understand hellspeak, thus deterring devil-worshippers who seek to defile their tombs. 

5. The Different Perspective: Early in the dungeon, the party comes to a large room with a high ceiling, think a spire of a wizards tower or something. The floor is completely the tell-tale runes of something magical, but is incomplete: nothing happens on its inspection. However above there are other platforms or objects that complete the symbol (like a bridge, floating platform, or chandelier) and when the whole room is viewed from above, the symbol is activated. Put something valuable at the top of the ceiling and watch the party scramble to catch whatever fool climbed/flew up there and looked down!

 (Side note: a good early warning for this one is dead bodies all over the bottom floor, people who looked down from higher up and fell down to their deaths as the symbol affected them, figuring out how all these people died from falling will be interesting and paranoia-inducing)

6. Don't Look Up!: The Symbol is on the ceiling, and there are reasons to look on the ceiling, maybe it's gold trimming that can be chipped away, maybe it's smug goblins armed with crossbows and rude remarks. (Murder-holes and trapdoors make sense, but i like the idea that they just duct-taped themselves up there.) 

A final final caveat: players using symbols don't necessarily need to be held to these kinds of rules. It is easy for a DM to get the party to look at things, it is harder for a character to get an NPC to look at something. Therefore symbols that fire off at a quick glance are more permissible for the players as opposed to the DM, in my book at least. 




The Key of Solomon is full of Rad Shit

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Formation of Pantheon



I've been dreaming of a post-apocalyptic bronze age setting for awhile now, something like Dominions 3: The Awakening meets The Land of One Thousand Towers (from ASE). Replace the wizards with gods and tone down the gonzo a little (only a little) and you pretty much got it. I'd probably wind up adding guns and ruining everything as I usually do, but it did get  me thinking about old-school pantheons and how they were formed, and thus it's time for a lil history lesson.


Waaaaay back in the day when the good old cradle of civilization was still cradling civilization, each early city had its own patron god, who usually was believed to live directly in the temple.



That large Ziggurat is where God lived


The temple was the biggest thing in your city, it was what everyone prayed to, and it was the first thing visitors saw when coming into your city.

 Now of course, what was the best way to understand which city was the most powerful? 
By who had the most powerful god, of course.
And how did you tell which god was the most powerful? 
By how big, pretty, and impressive looking that god's temple was.

Citizens Bank Park: A Decade in the Stadium We Didn't Want
By the way, I gotta teach this the way it was taught to me, with sports
Now in obviously it was the other way around, the most successful city economically or otherwise was the one with the capability to provide their god with a nice place, so it was all just classic dick waggling. Nevertheless, this is one of the ways religion went from just being important for rituals, lessons, culture, etc. to being important politically and strategically.  It's how you impressed traveling merchants, and maybe even kept people from fucking your shit up. 


Cities of Mesopotamia // history of architecture – architect to be
However, the lone city wasn't a thing forever. Eventually empires formed, some cities and rulers got so big they could conquer and control other cities.
But when you take over a city, what do you do with the god that lives there?

 It's not easy to get everyone to just switch over to your god, and you can't really kill a god so that temple probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The solution is: you connect the gods. Maybe Babylon's Marduk is (all-of-a-sudden) the sibling of  Uttu from Nippur. Then later Marduk gets a brother, or was the father to another god, or is the son of an older god from some other city. As more cities are conquered, as the cultures are mixed together, the Pantheon forms. The stories intertwine, gods get absorbed into other gods and a bunch of other even more messier shit.
These tarot cards are pretty alright
That's the gist of it, I like the idea of taking this literally, and having a setting where a conquering tribe or general could collaborate with his patron god to conquer other temples, subjugate their gods and gain their boons and powers to further your conquest. All the gods would be super esoteric: obelisks, ever-burning willow trees, angry statues with glowing eyes, a big weltmaschine thing where every visitor has to donate a trinket to its ever-growing mass. They can't manifest in the world, but can present omens and grant powers, and direct rituals that can cause plagues and curses and shit. I imagine lots of old-testament pillars of fire and city walls collapsing type shit. Maybe if you get their temple big enough they can create apocalyptic world changing events, like the sky always rains blood that burns non-believers or something. 


A final note: 
Hokey sports analogy aside, this kind of "pantheon making" (scyricism is the better word) happens throughout all of history. As religions got more complex (and monotheistic, particularly in the west), so did the processes in which they were blended. Shinto blending with Buddhism, Christians having holidays line up with pagan solstices and rewriting parts of Beowulf  are ones that come to mind. Some random more modern examples would be Hoodoo, Catholicism in Mexico and Guatemala, and Cheondoism.

I hope my meager training at history can help you think about your table-top stuff differently, if you dig this kind of thing check out the first one I did, about time and the apocalypse 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

High Elves and Low Elves

If you were immortal, how would that change how you live your life?

Elves do not die of old age. They can be murdered, however, and are susceptible to most diseases. These last two facts are why humans have been able to wrest control of the world from elves in the last few hundred centuries. Nevertheless, there are elves who count among the oldest living things in Oris, and with such vast amounts of time often comes knowledge, power, and opportunity. The most powerful among such elves are known as High Elves.

When you hear High Elf you pretty much get the picture on what I'm talking about, powerful immortals with wide spread influence or power, probably magic users, etc. Their intellect is far sweeping and their machinations unfathomable to the mortal brain. The only real difference between my high elves and most is that it's not really a race, more of a choice.

To be a High Elf is to insert yourself into The Game, which I keep talking about and will get into sometime. Basically it's a war between every long lasting immortal, dynasty, secret organization, and even every idea on the planet.

Ralph Steadman
When a elf believes that they have gathered enough experience, power, or some other form of leverage, they may declare themselves to the local Elven community as a High Elf.  Within a week, the assassination attempts should come, if anyone actually respects them. It's considered VERY disrespectful to not have assassins sent after you by other High Elves.

High Elves have wide-sweeping, century spanning plans, their conflict between each other is both very clandestine and very orderly. Political and institutional warfare, puppet rulers behind puppet rulers, spells and rituals on a massive scale but a slow, subtle pace. As long as they play their cards right, they will be there when everything else is not, so then, should they not be entitled to shape what is rightfully theirs?

Most elves never survive to be high elves. Some do, and choose not to. Some have the same level of power, knowledge, and experience required, but become Low Elves.

The Low Elf is the complete rejection of The Game, of society, of existence. The Low Elf is the Dada artist, the gonzo journalist, the nutter living in a barrel down the street from you who can kill you with a look.

While the High Elf seeks to rule the world, or unfold some grand scheme, Low Elves seek artistic fulfillment, esoteric experiences, or just pure hedonistic pleasure. Low elves exist in complete rejection of policies, rules, and purposes of their brothers and sisters. Immortality has not given them purpose to shape the world into a place that they see fit, instead it has made them bored, and they're gonna get real weird with it. I think this is really what the difference boils down to, the question of; "If I live forever, what do I do?"

Both types of elf can be excellent allies or quest givers to a party, as well as antagonists. A Low Elf might be a fun guy at a party, paying for a new kind of psychedelic, or a journalist seeking to upturn a regime. They also may be a serial killer, or a wizard who wants to decimate a town for aesthetic purposes.

Occasionally, low elves can have as wide-sweeping influence and plans as a High Elf, and the difference between the two is sometimes impossible to spot, it's really just a matter of branding and intent.

High Elves fucking hate Low Elves.
Low Elves mostly don't care what High Elves think. Those that do find it hilarious.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

THE DEAMON DRINK (d8 and d6 Random Beverages)

Recently I had my players in a bar, as you often have your players.
 They asked me what was on tap, or if they could see a cocktail menu.
"uhhhhhhhhh"
 Like an IDIOT, I hadn't planned farther ahead than beer or ale.
Never again.
Here's a list of booze with a little lore (and some historical rants) to go along with, but as always, take whatever you want.

"Mundane" Beverages: Only minor magical effects at best.
  1. IMB Special Reserve: The Iron, Misery, and Blood Corporation is a terrible, East Indian Tea company-esque organization run amok. This hyper-manufactured, watery beer is the only drink served in areas they control, and the only beer their employees are allowed to drink. Wise barkeeps in zones near contested corporate zones keep bottles of this stuff around, in case a party of executives decide to visit. Not only does it avoid class-action lawsuits, but you can just kinda fill it with whatever, no corporate slave would dare make a comment about it tasting different (better) to his boss.
  2. A Cut of Purity: A melted chunk of an iceberg, taken from the very, very cold north, outside Polis, home to the Temple of Law, one of the most boring and bureaucratic places on earth. It's simply the purest water on the planet, which stays permanently chill. Devils find this extremely intoxicating, but for most humanoids it has little effect other than the being the drink of choice for designated drivers or un-fun Lawful Goods.
  3. Last Empress Absinthe: Absinthe is an anise flavored liqueur that many say tastes like licorice (though personally I
    Albert Maignan, La Muse Verde
    find it a bit more complex than that) You may have heard stories of Absinthe being hallucinogenic, however if you were to try some today, you would be pretty disappointed. The old school absinthe was often made in a toilet, and had all kinds of fun ingredients, like embalming fluid. It was extras like that which was making french artists to go mad in the streets. And when the good constable demanded to know the reason behind your drunken relatively? Were you gonna say you were drinking toilet hooch? No, the green fairy made you do it. By the way, Last Empress Absinthe is a toilet hooch that is totally loaded with all types of crazy shit. Fort save or black out, and wake up in some sort of trouble of the GM's choosing.
  4. Hanlon's Mushroom Wine: Distilled from pulped mushrooms from your local cave, underdark society, or post-apocalyptic moon wasteland. Murky, awful, and viscous, but the fungi particles seem to stick to your stomach, keeping you blissfully drunk for far longer than your standard libation.
  5. Rose Brandy: in some corners of Oris, the rapid industrialization which has ruined all creativity in wheat beverages and forced people into drinking things that make them go blind/lame (see #3 or here) has not touched parts of the world. Here the craft of making alcohol is still celebrated in style. Villagers in the north, near the lands of the Burning Dove still celebrate tasting days, where they gather around their stills and taste the product gradually until its ready. (This tends to take all day, for some reason) In many ways is analogous to the craft beer/liquor movements we see popping up all over the place. 
  6. Salt of The Earth: A fermented drink made from dark bread. Worm-like grubs that produce ethanol are introduced to intensify the alcohol content. Any good brand will have a single (still living) grub left at the bottle. 
  7. Goblin Vomit: They keep 'em in the basement, feed 'em lots of sugar. The worst beverage.
  8. Och're Valley: Expensive tasting wine, though never goes for more than a few gold. Crushed cherry and chocolate-like flavors, medium body. Good starting wine.  At one point, the Cult of The Burning Dove banned all alcohol in their territories, and proceeded to burn down every vineyard. One family pleaded clemency when the inquisitors came to their chateau. Their son, they said, was a minor warrior saint. He came home from a great battle mortally wounded, and his blood soaked into the ground. Eventually, the blooded soil began to grow grape vines. The inquisitors were moved, and thus the oldest vineyard in Oris still exists today. When drunk it tends to remove inhibitions more drastically than other, in excess compared to other alcohol. Quaffed in large amounts, total ego-death, in the Jungian sense. 

Magical Beverages: These are pretty rare, only one per bar, or alternatively, as treasure. 
Picasso, Table in A Cafe
  1. The Firebreath Challenge: A supremely spicy beverage, which burns the throat somethin' fierce. There is no flavor here, only pain. Anyone who wishes to pay 10gp to try the drink are told they only win if they can down the beverage without a cold glass of milk as a chaser. If they agree, tell them they take 1d4 burning damage, and that the pain feels like it's about to get worse. Ask them if they'd like to give in and drink the milk. They will likely refuse. Then deal them 1d6 damage, inform them, again, that the pain is only getting worse, and if they'd like to drink the milk. Continue this, going up the standard dice, d8, d12, telling them again and again that they feel as if they are RISKING DEATH. Go up to 1d20, 2d20, and 1d100 and higher. If they stay in until their hit points are gone, inform them that the world goes black as they lose consciousness. Of course, the damage is not actually lethal, but they shouldn't know that until after they drop. The contest is one of bravery, the drink knocks everybody out if they don't drink the milk. Victory gives the winner a fire-breath usable 1/day, dealing a 1d6 per their level.  The culinary magic only works within the surprise of the first drinker.  Or something. We can't have the whole party buffing themselves if only one of them isn't a wuss.
  2. Downwards Dark Azure: A blue beverage that tastes of seltzer and math class.  The next game of chess you play, you will always play the (statistically) most perfect move. During it's effect,  you are also extremely allergic to a specific blend of copper and pure silver, which is what most chess-playing wizards make their pieces out of since the invention of the drink.
  3.  Life of The Party: A contract in beverage form. The clay bottle should be buried when not in use, preferably in a urn filled with holy-water blessed dirt. (This also keeps the drink nice and cool). Under no circumstances should you allow the drink to breath. Pour it into a cup, quickly, and note how the amber liquid makes small etchings onto the glass. This is a contract, and finishing the beverage acts as signing it. You have now allowed a devil to possess you for a full 24 hours. Why? Because this type of devil is, as the name would suggest, really fun to be around. Excellent at dancing, skilled at every manner of party games, knowledgeable in every form of reversely from high class soiree to crusty blood orgy. While possessed you are guaranteed to entertain, but make sure you have friends watching your body, as the devil WILL try to get you into as much trouble as possible. 
  4. The Shot: Take a bar straw and poke it through a napkin so it's going through the top and the bottom. Then, take the heavy, almost pudding like liquor and roll it around the inside of a glass, coating it. Pour excess into shot glass. Light the coated glass on fire, (it burns fast) and then slam it down onto the shot glass, trapping the burning alcohol. Then use your straw/napkin combo to inhale the fumes. You get very inebriated and also wind up with a small Ethanol Elemental, summoned during the process. Ethanol Elementals can act as either Water or Air Elementals, as Ethanol is a volatile compound. They have the same stats as standard elementals of their type, but are always flammable and are good at getting people shitfaced. 
  5. The Miracle: Very expensive, only a bottle is made a year, in a hidden monastery by very drunk and happy monks. A clear fluid that comes in tiny dropper bottles, for even a small amount of this holy water can turn an entire lake's worth of water into a sweet, but otherwise excellent wine. 
  6. Not Love: Black, bitter, uncomfortably cold, dessert liquor. Normally this is a mundane, and bad liquor, however if the drinker harbors dark and toxic feelings of unrequited love, something else happens: The imbiber will vomit forth a long, inky,  mess, which forms on the ground as a two-dimensional serpent.This thing will hound the drinker's object of twisted love. The thing is a stalker, it will never harm the one it follows, but instead kill anything it comes into contact with. It slides along walls and floors, sneaks up your leg, and bleeds through your veins like a acid-tattoo. To stat: Find the mental ability score (INT, WIS or CHA) with the highest difference between  the drinker and the person they love, and that number is Not Love's Hit Die and Attack Bonus. Additionally, the higher this number, the more intelligent Not Love is, a 1 or a 2 means it will attack recklessly, but any more and it is more tactical. With 5+ the object of Not Love's stalking may never know it exists, even as people around them disappear. 
The Name of this Thing is ____

HD: (See above) Attack: Bite (See above)

AC: Leather (High DEX)

Movement: 2D Slithering, 40'

On a successful attack, Not Love attaches to the skin of it's target like a tattoo, and begins to poison it.  1 CON/turn in damage. Also, each turn it is attached, target must make a will save or blurt out heinous and cruel lies about the drinker of Not Love's obsession. Not Love can be attacked while attached to someone, but damage is halved between Not Love and the person wearing it.

I Don't Want To Hurt You: The blood of Not Love's stalking target acts as if it was acid, and if it was on a person at the time, that person would not split the damage with Not Love. 

2D: Can only move through connected flat surfaces, like walls and floors. Can only attack creatures who are touching a flat surface shared with Not Love. This means levitation is a good counter, and if you could somehow trap Not Love on a floating platform or wall, it's fucked. 

After drinking Not Love, the drinker will feel better, almost forgetting their twisted obsession. Almost. The feelings will return within a few hours, much worse. So they will likely drink Not Love again, and again, and again.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

30(ish) minute dungeon challenge

I read about a challenge, which you can read here. I have not the time nor talent to do one a day, but it seemed like a spot of fun. I started with the idea of flavor cultists, which might be cheating. Oh well. 


The Hook:  "There's a new soup-place in town, it's real good. Too good. On top of that, a few people have gone missing in the area. Investigate the place for me and I'll make you wealthy if you turn anything up." 

General Background

A soup serving restaurant that could fit in any urban area. Placed in the basement of a building with a entrance leading down from the street, and an sluice gate exit in the back to some waterway or underground area. The restaurant is only open one day a week, and this post assumes the party is here one of the days it is closed. On its' day open, there would be a large crowd of customers and double the amount of flavor cultists in the building. Also this dungeon assumes a gold standard mostly because I was tired when I wrote it. Aside from some mentioned specifics, feel free to tie the rooms together however you like, smaller numbered rooms should be closer to the store front, larger numbered rooms closer to the back exit. 


1. Entrance: 

The front door is locked, but is easy to break or pick. The room has a few chairs, tables, and a counter where orders are made and picked up. A doorway leads to the back, and there is a small sliding window which connects to room 2. The furniture, as well as the cutlery, bowls, and etc. are all very cheap and poorly made, but wow, does this room smell great. 


Wandering Encounter: Sentient Fruit Fly Cloud 

1HD Swarm traits, Movement: flies fast, 40'/turn. 
Can do no damage, but occupying the same space as the swarm means one is blinded ( they go for the eyes). Standing in the swarm also means  taking -1 to all actions out of sheer irritation. Sentient  Fruit Flies have a standard chance to be encounter in the dungeon but also have a cumulative 25% chance to be encountered anytime a smell is discovered. They love to hide on walls and then swarm those about to fall into traps. 


2. Kitchen: 

Prep-table, cabinets, a wooden larder, knives, ladles, pans and pots. Three large ovens connect to chimneys for ventilation, leading up into the roof. The soup smell is strongest in this room, but none is prepared right now, though various spices and vegetables are stored in the larder. One of the ovens has a kettle on it. When approached, the kettle begins to whistle menacingly. 


 Encounter: Guardian Kettle 

3HD AC: Chain, Movement: Floats, 10'/turn. 
Sprays boiling water up to 60' (1d8 fire damage) and can create a cloud of steam, obscuring vision 30ft around it.) The Guardian Kettle takes damage from cold water as if it were instead acid, (cooling it down) and double damage from any cold damage. The guardian kettle hates fruit flies and will target them first before attacking other intruders. 

There are lots of fancy and very pungent cheeses stored in the cabinets, (6 wheels worth 1d20x10gp each) but anyone carrying them will attract the attention of the sentient fruit flies much more fiercely. 


3. Storage:

Spare sets of bowls and cutlery are in this room, as well as copious amounts of to-go boxes. Hidden in the floor boards is a cash box with 110gp and a key which unlocks the wall safe in 9.  

4. A Bathroom:

 With the usual stock of amenities, and the room is placed inconveniently from entrance and kitchen, as if purposefully out of the way. The door only locks from the outside, which is strange. Dried blood, hair and a finger with a ruby ring (120gp) can be found in the floor drain. 

Trap: A  hallway that leads to the bathroom holds a trap. The hallway seems rather un-used, as if little foot traffic passes through here, and a dark brown stain is lies on the floor 40' down. On the ceiling, inspection will reveal a extended two-pronged fork from the middle of the ceiling. Anyone over 4'8'' passing under the fork or magical lighting will leap from the fork. Those underneath must make a reflex save or take 2d4 electricity damage, and then a will save or be stunned and involuntarily walk forward, where a well-disguised pressure plate will cause a heavy metal bolt to drop from the ceiling killing them instantly. Anyone over 6'5'' would instead just smack their face into the metal fork and take the electrical damage, but it would block them from walking forward into the drop-bolt. 


5. Shrine to Gulaxis:

A dark, cold room, that reeks of rotted food and flesh. Gulaxis is the demon of decadence and wasted food. Inside a statue of a slovenly over-fed man is the focus of the shrine. Gulaxis gave the owners of the restaurant the inspiration for the delicious soup, but in return demanded regular sacrifices of unwitting customers. Rotted food coats  the shrine and statue, the traditional way of honoring the demon. Under the grime, the statue is actually made of jade (250gp) and has magical properties:


Statue of Gulaxis

If a humanoid or expensive and well made meal (100gp+ in value) is sacrificed to the statue, Gulaxis may be entreated to answer any food-related question he is asked. Gulaxis will also take time to offer forbidden recipes in exchange for horrible, food related deeds. 

This room also acts as the meat storage, victims are stored here to honor Gulaxis, chickens are stored here to go into the soup. 


6.  Obulette 

Where victims as well as milk and cream are left to be kept cool. The hole in the ceiling is the only way out, barred iron pipes. Ropes attached to clay jars of milk and cream are nicely cooled down here, and pulled up when needed. Trapped at the bottom is Scrungus a Thief (lvl 1) who broke in here to steal soup, but instead got himself caught and forced down here. He will feign gratitude and grovel but attempt to betray the party at first sign of weakness. Scrungus has the lever to operate the sluice gate in room 10. 


7. Mushroom Farm:

Earthy smells flood the senses when the door to the room is opened. The floor is dirt and hundreds of purple, glowing mushrooms are being grown here. These mushrooms are the secret to the soup, when made into a cream of mushroom then mixed with spices and chunks of cooked chicken. Though discovered through horrid means, the soup is just a really good recipe, nothing more. 


8. Break room:

Smells of sweat and tobacco. A table with cards and ashtrays. Hairnets and personal effects litter the room. Inside sleep 1d6 Flavor Cultists, who have stats of level 1 fighters, and wield cleavers. (1d4 damage) They may investigate sounds of combat or loud noise. They are lead by a level 3 fighter/cleric, who wields a +1 Frying Pan like a club (1d6+1 damage) The leader also holds a key around his neck for the locked drawer in room 9. 


9. Back Office:

A desk with paperwork pertaining to running the business. In a locked desk drawer is the full recipe for the soup, worth 500gp to most, and a larger fortune to a interested connoisseur. Behind a very abstract painting of the demon Gulaxis (you'd really have to be told what you're looking at for it to make sense) is a safe, unlocked by the key in room 3. Inside is a Thermos of Warming with four helpings of the famous soup inside. Opening it floods the room with a powerful smell that makes most humanoid's mouths water. 

Thermos of Warming : Magical item. Metal and with a screw-on-top, the Thermos of Warming keeps anything inside perfectly preserved and warm indefinitely. Anyone touching the outside of the thermos cannot feel the heat inside. Whatever the temperature was upon entering the thermos is the temperature that it will remain. Holds enough for about four servings of soup. 


10. Back Exit: 

A hallway leading to a heavy metal sluice gate, which leads to the sewers, a waterway, or deeper underground. The lever which operates it is broken (by Scrungus, see room 6) Opening it from the other side, or without the operational level requires the strength of at least four people and makes a lot of noise. 


Trap: The entire path of room is covered in cheese wire, strung across at various angles. Walking even 10ft into the room carelessly will deal 1d10 points of damage as well as acting as if the person had stepped on a caltrop. Running into the room at full speed is a reflex save, succeed and only lose a limb, fail and die. 


After editing this took a bit more than 30 minutes, but it was a very, very fun exercise. Thank you to this talented person for posting the challenge. 

EDIT: Here are some other very talented peoples' try at the challenge. Good reads. 

https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-nautilus-shrine-30-minute-dungeon.html
https://selfportraitasagiant.blogspot.com/2019/02/30-minute-dungeonliterally.html
https://eldritchfields.blogspot.com/2019/03/dungeon-30-minute-dungeon-chaldean.html 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Loyal, Undying, Reflection

It had been a bad week

for the Appropriation Syndicate, and their boss Purloin Pete. Recently, the town guard of XIV  (the northernmost settlement of the hyper-effiecent, wizard controlled state "Magi Lamentorious") had made thirteen arrests and foiled four separate robberies (well-planned robberies, too.) It was all because of one man, Sargent "Mud" Malcolmson. The good Sargent was the worst kind of guard for a gang of thieves; the type who wouldn't take bribes, worked too hard, and was really fucking lucky.
The problem with Sgt. Malcomson, however,  is that he was supposed to retire last week, but he's still making arrests. Worse, he's more efficient than ever. Sgt. Malcomson has been personally involved in every single of the above arrests. The thieves who have gotten away have told stories of the old soldier being around every corridor, leading every patrol route.
Purloin Pete is fucking scared, and he'd love to write it off as made-up stories from his shitty employees. When the ruler of your town is a Magus Vizier, however, you can never be too sure.

So Pete assassinates the guy, puts a knife right into Mud's neck himself.

But he's back on patrol the next day. More specifically, he's leading every single patrol group in the city. At the same time.

Plot hook: So Purloin Pete has put the word out, looking for anyone who would be willing to find out the fuck is happening. He'd pay a handsome reward, and double it if whatever is going can be stopped, plus you'd gain the favor of a major CRIME KING.


What's really going on:

The Magus Vizier of Settlement XIV doesn't have time to fuck around, he wants to do wizard stuff. So when crime is on the rise and the captain guard is going to retire, he's in a decidedly non-wizard spot. So he found a solution. He made Sgt. Malcomson into a Mirror Man. Basically turning one loyal and effective warrior into eight mirrored copies, who can be reborn every day.
Artist: Araki, JJBA

Creation

The process of making Mirror people is this:
Feed the poor bastard a mixture of deadly poisons and vital mimic essences. This will kill him over the course of a single night. As he does, strap him down in front of a large mirror, shine a night’s worth of constant moonlight onto them, and then letting them dissolve in agony. Spread the person-juice onto the mirror, and begin casting commanding spells to sustain and control the beings which will come out.
 Then, depending on the purity of all the components, (poisons, moonlight, and the victim’s loyalty to their master) anywhere from three to hundreds of Mirror People will pour forth.
They are perfect copies of the original, with whatever basic materials they were wearing when they died. (Anything too magical or sturdy won’t melt with the corpse, however). They can be slain, but will re-appear the next night, bleeding out from the mirror.


Strengths

Mirror Men are perfect copies:
They have the same stats as their original version, in Sgt. Mud's case, a 3rd level fighter. They have the same thought processes, skill with their gear, etc. 

Mirror March
Mirror People are incorporeal to each other: They can occupy the same space as each other, and as their weapons count as part of their form, they can fire and attack through each other as well. This can lead to some interesting tactics, they can dog pile on top of you while their copies shoot crossbow bolts right into you, five of them can hold a single door frame, attacking from the same exact spot, looking like a multi-armed god of death. (When they do this, successfully attacking one will hit them all, however.)

Mirror People don't need to eat, breath or sleep. 
They simple persist, like a semi-tangible illusion. This makes for excellent guards that you don't have to pay any sort of upkeep for.  The laws of gravity only sort-of apply, they walk through liquids like air, unless it would cause immediate bodily harm (acid or lava).

Weaknesses 

Mirror People are chained to the mirror which spawns them. 
If the mirror is broken, the Mirror People explode into a shower of glass. Due to the specific natures of the ritual, the mirror cannot be altered in size, shape or durability, so the creator needs to guard it well. The drawback is, if a Mirror Man is killed he reforms the next night from the mirror, so you can't really have it locked away too much, or you're gonna be running back and forth to let them out, giving them instructions, etc. Safe but accessible are two things which are difficult to have together. In our example, the Magus Vizier just keeps his in his central lobby, disguised as a decorative full-length mirror. 

Mirror Men stay the same:
While they can remember orders and instructions as well as anyone else, they do not gain levels, and when killed come back from the mirror with the same memories. Any non-original gear as well as assignments/instructions need to be handed out over and over. The Magus Vizier particularly hates this monotony.

It's weird to be a Mirror Man.
They are only partially aware of what has happened to them, and will not naturally fight or coordinate to the full extent of their abilities. Mirror People are all copies, so they all think exactly alike, but they are not linked by a greater hive mind, or are capable of explicitly interacting with each other. Because of this, their reactions to problems is often quite similar, only changing depending on their situation. Some examples of this:
If we took all eight of the Mud Malcomson clones and stacked them on top of each other in the same exact space, and then swung at them, they would all block with their dominant hand, in the same spot, in the same way. Or they might all duck, or jump back to the same exact spot. 

If an intruder was detected in an area some Mirror People were guarding, and the original would have ran for the alarm instead of fighting, they would all do that. They wouldn't say "ah, some of us should run for the alarm, and some of us should fight the intruder." The strangeness of their condition makes it so they simply are unable to strategically or creatively think about themselves that way.

In order for mirror people to be able to use their abilities (moving/attacking through each other, etc.) they must be specifically instructed to do so (you, stand here with a shield, the rest of you shoot crossbow bolts through him, or everyone stand in this one spot, but you hold up a shield, you attack with a dagger down low, you use a spear up high etc. etc.) Having such instructions helps, but the longer combat goes on for a mirror man or woman, the harder it is to plan for every possible circumstance. Therefore, the longer a fight or other situation is drawn out, the likelier the Mirror People will just wind up stacking onto themselves fighting one person the exact some way.


Same strengths, same weaknesses. 
Troop diversity is often a good thing. An army consisting of one person has all of that person's strengths, but also all of that persons' weaknesses. Sgt. Mud Malcomson is (to his shame) terrified of rats, so all of his mirror clones are going to panic when lots of rats are around. Long standing injuries, verbal/emotional quirks, etc. Learning about these can allow you to easily manipulate Mirror Men.  and this  is why a smart wizard will never rely on just Mirror People to guard his stuff. Having a more traditional sentient creature to guide a few Mirror People around is a much better strategy.



Conclusion

Learning about what happened to Sgt. Mud Malcomson proves challenging. The local magic archive has been purged of all literature about Mirror People, by order of the Magus Vizier. Savy magic users in the party may know a bit about the process. The best bet would be breaking into/infiltrating the wizards tower, or killing some Sgt. Malcomson clones and observing the tower to see what happens.  Non-violent options may included gaining an audience with the Magus Vizier or bribing the few servants/advisers they keep. Purloin Pete is true to his word and pays well for info on the Mirror People, and may decide to keep the information to abuse it (thieves in XIV start carrying bags of rats), or he made decide to pay the group to just smash the mirror. If they already have, he'll pay them extra. Purloin Pete may have other jobs for the group, but beware the ire of a Magus-Vizier.

I hope any of this makes sense, Mirror People are a tricky and persistent enemy that can allow for players to further master a dungeon in a creative way.

Originally I was going to name them "Speculum" the Latin word for mirror. Thank god I googled it first. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Microscope Initial Thoughts

Last Thursday I played my second game of Microscope, by Ben Robbins,  a very free-form storytelling rpg. I'd like to talk about my initial reaction to it,. Perhaps later, I shall do a larger review as I have a better grasp of the system.

The short: I liked it, if it sounds interesting you should buy it here.

The slightly longer:

Microscope is basically a extremely large scale group storytelling game, it feels like a writers workshop/improv game. I won't explain too much of it, as that would give the game away, but basically you create a beginning and ultimate end of a free form story, (so no dice rolls, no GM or referee) and then through the games' rules, flesh out major events, time periods, and act out small scenes along the way.

This is what it usually looks like.
Photo Credit
I explained the gist of it to some of my other table top pals who hadn't played it,  and a big question some had was: if it's so free-form, why have rules at all? Why not just story-board and create scenes as a group? While the rules are light, the ones in place are extremely effective in guiding play, forcing you to think outside the box. The order in which dictates who contributes to the story, what topics are going to be focused on, and who is going to be who in a scene is carefully laid out, forcing the group outside their comfort zones, creatively speaking.

It works well, I could see it maybe being good for collaborating on a world/setting with your players, and then using another system to enter the setting, but because after the initial discussion on the themes of the game and what will be focused on/banned,  you can add whatever you want, kill whoever you want, it can easily go off the rails. This is very much part of the fun, but unless your pals are die-hard dramatics, things are likely to take a silly turn, no matter the seriousness of the game.

Another note, I think this is a very good way to get someone who is not as comfortable with role-play or improv to get comfortable contributing ideas to a narrative, etc. I'd throw it on the pile of "great games to start a group off with" (other examples being Everyone Is John, and Dread)