Saturday, September 23, 2017

House Rules Summary page

Hey, folks. I just put together a new "page" on my web log:

House Rules

Wherein I summarize my house rules for table play.

This house rules summary compresses into brief form the house rules I suggest in my Perilous Realms supplement.

NOTE: I freely utilize DELTA's "Target 20" approach. Thank you, Delta and your D&D Hot Spot!

I look forward to any comments.

Fight on!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Treasure Focused Dungeon Stocking

Scott Anderson has been engaging me over at ODD74 on stocking dungeons based upon treasure, first, rather than monsters; seeing as how that is the goal of the game - it is what gets you "points."

I have lots of people around the table when I play and we cannot play that frequently so I have altered the stocking tables. I multiplied all pieces ten-fold and I doubled the chances of gems, jewelry and magic items per level.

Treasure by Dungeon Level
·      Always copper
·      2:3 silver
·      If silver, 2:3 gold
Level treasure table
Dungeon LevelCopper* & SilverGold Pieces% Gems & Jewelry% Magic Items
*Multiply by 2d6, all else by 1d6

Over at the Ruins of Murkhill, I shared the way I describe gems and jewelry based upon the tables for determining them. Later, I added them together for convenience.
Determine and Describe Gems
First, determine the chance that the gem is precious or semiprecious by basic gem gp value:
d%gp ValueSizePrecious on d6
*5K; 10K; 25K; 50K; 100K; 500K; etc.
Precious by type:
Semiprecious by type:
2Coral12Lapis Lazuli
8Carnelian18Tiger's Eye
If >1K gp value, the gem is always named, famous with backstory, and perhaps enchanted, cursed, charming, geased or any combination of the above. "Enchanted," indicates some magical affect for beautification and value, it does not perform any functional magic, e.g., glowing or sparkling on its own, humming, etc. 
Determine and Describe Jewelry
Jewelry combines metals with gems. Determine whether its setting is precious or base metal:
D%gp Value RangeChance Precious
01-20300-1800Never Precious
81-001K-10KAlways Precious
Determine metal type:
d4Precious Metald6Base Metal
1Colored Gold1Brass
Precious gems are never set in base metal. If metal is precious, there is a 50% chance it is inset with precious stones. Jewelry of 7k+ gp value will always be inset with precious stones. Role for stones using the tables for gems, above.
Determine type of jewelry item:
5Brooch15Ring, ear
6Chain, belly16Ring, finger
7Circlet17Ring, nose
8Clip, hair18Scabbard
Any jewelry of 7K+ gp value is named and famous with backstory and perhaps enchanted, cursed, charmed, geased, or any combination of the above. "Enchanted," indicates some magical affect of no practical magical merit that adds value and beauty, e.g., a precious stone set in a silver flower that opens and closes over the course of some meaningful time period, etc.
So, first come up with an amazing focal treasure for your level or lair. I think a level or lair cannot be less than 6 rooms, not counting connections. I think more than about 36 rooms becomes too difficult for both players and the referee. I would come up with some kind of key item of treasure for about every 12 rooms. So, a lair of 6 would have one key item. A level of 36 rooms would have three -- scattered about. In all these cases these items would not have any strategically useful magic (although they might have gonzo or beautifying magic - or a charm or geas that makes them difficult), but they would be culturally important and either famous or forgotten (and important once remembered).

So, flip a coin whether it is going to be a gem or an item of jewelry. If it is a gem make sure it is at least 1Kgp in value. If it is an item of jewelry, at least 7Kgp in value. Imagine it's background, fame, name and if it has some enchantment on it.

Next, determine what kind of monster is its guardian. Is the monster aware that it is guarding this treasure, or not? Is it literally guarding it, or is it wandering around madly, trying to find away to get past the same trap that your character is going to have to deal with as well? Etc.?

In future, I will come up with some way of matching monsters to treasures. This is a kind of reversal of monster lists with treasure types. I will probably largely base this upon the color of the gem (either alone or set in an item of jewelry)! Red dragons will obviously have some kind of giant red ruby or a golden crown set with rubies, etc. The adventurers will get hooks and clues about the treasure long before they can guess what monster may be that is guarding it.

I am working on scaling by dungeon level / party level / monster level. That will help me to determine the treasure to creature table. So, more on that to come.

Now that you have a treasure and a guardian you should have all the inspiration you need for a theme for that level or lair. Now (and only now) start drawing the map. Once the map is drawn, if you know the obvious place for the lair treasure to be guarded, trapped, tricked or hidden - go for it. I you know the obvious best place for (one of the key) guardians, again, go for it. For the rest of the rooms it goes like this: Take a six-sider for each room:

  • 2:3 hold treasure. Of those with treasure:
  • 2:3 have a guardian or monster. Of those without treasure:
  • 1:6 have a monster. Of those with treasure without a monster: 
  • 2:3 are trapped
  • The rest are hidden or tricked in some way, TBD by the ref
When rolling for the rooms with monsters:
  • 1:2 it is the main level/lair guardian (or type, or minion, whatever)
  • 1:3 it is a random monster (no relationship needed. The dungeon is a mythic underworld)
  • 1:6 it is a unique random one-off monstrosity
I've also worked up my own underworld stocking tables that actually allow every kind of creature listed or mentioned in the LBB possibly to show up, but this post is already long, so I will stop here.

Comment. Let me know what you think. Fight on!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Dungeon a Day Challenge

I found these great composition notebooks. They have graph paper on the top half of each page and lines on the bottom half. These beg to be used for dungeons, levels and lairs: map on top, key on bottom!

I've stalled out on my mini module project to do the paralysis that goes with perfectionism.

So I've decided to challenge myself. I am going to draw and key a dungeon (level or lair) a day! I already did yesterday and it was a lot of fun.

I really do not enjoy mapping (I do love keying, though!). So this is a challenge to build my chops and perhaps break through a barrier that is keeping me from enjoying something fairly essential to the game. Again, I think it is my perfectionism that keeps me from just doodling at maps. 200 sheets of paper in a cheap composition notebook should help!

I will share what I want to, when I want to, without any blog performance pressure! But I will update every now and then to let you know I am still going on this.

Perhaps this will get me closer to what I meant by the mini modules. And it may help me get back to that project.

Anyone care to join me?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Questions for Generating a Dungeon of the Mythic Underworld

Inspired by Jeff's Gameblog's list of twenty quick questions for your campaign setting, here are some sets of questions for generating a dungeon of the mythic underworld. Should contribute to generating some find "funhouse" dungeons:

Questions for Generating a Dungeon of the Mythic Underworld

What is the treasure it hides? Is it named? Famous? Backstory? Will any of the above give the characters any clues as to how to find and recover it? How do the characters find out?

Why did chaos want to swallow the treasure in its mythic belly? How did chaos swallow it up? Was it done through chaos’ own occult magics, or were chaotic creatures or characters involved? Has law even become aware? Does neutrality find the capture to bring balance or imbalance to the state of things?

What tricks, monsters and traps did chaos manifest to hold its treasure tight? What wonders, magic-items or clues has law provided as an immune-response to chaos? Are there any pockets of neutral homeostasis, providing brief oases of respite for weary characters?

Is there a single main monster, type or kind? Do the monsters know or understand their role at all? Do they also want the treasure? Do they fear it and would love to rid themselves of it? How can the characters find out?

Is there a single trick or a series of related or random tricks? Are some random tricks simply kooky manifestation of chaos? Does the trick conceal, mislead, harm? Can it reveal, inform or aid if understood and used well? Is the trick a giddy or cruel irruption of chaos? Is the trick actually a miraculous manifestation of an immune-system response from law? Is the trick indifferent to characters, maintaining an odd but neutral balance? What kind of clues are there for the characters to figure these things out?

Are the traps ubiquitous or rare? Obvious or hidden with scattered clues? Have the monsters devised the traps? Or did chaos herself devise them from her own insanities? Has neutrality closed the loop, leaving behind the carnage of those who previously tripped the trap? Has law provided helpful clues and means to disarm the traps?

How many ways in are there? Are there ways in at different levels? How many connections are there between levels? How many open and closed loops of passage does a level have?

How do the characters find out?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The General Line-up

Yes, that's right, its time for another web log post about alignment. Not that I have ever done one before. This is my first. But I suppose it was inevitable!

Some preliminaries

The abstraction of “Alignment,” corresponds to the battle “line up,” drawn by the King of Heaven for the Last Battle. Alignment is therefore archetypal and mythomorphic. The primordial chaos monster, Mater Chaos, is Leviathan, Tiamat, Yam, Cyclone. Monsters and Fell are her wicked spawn and brood.

• Lawful = good for flourishing of all free races, e.g., both human and fay, thus implying a kind of "universalism:" “Universal Law of heaven against the Chaos”
• Neutral = good for local family unit, clan group, in-group and thus a kind of tribalism, still trying to keep chaos at bay: “pagan struggle with immanent forces for survival”
• Chaotic = bad for the flourishing of free races and therefore monstrous, fell: “of or having to do with the primordial chaos and the entropy of things”

Three-point alignment

Law, Chaos and Neutrality represent one's orientation to one of the the fundamental principles, defining, therefore your own goal, and what you believe to be the goal of reality.

Law = Order, beauty, structure, form
Chaos = Power, energy, flux
Neutrality = The Void

All the great philosophers, and even some of the theologians recognize these three fundamental principles or archetypes to exist. But they only name one as truly primordial.

There is Lex Pater, the God of Law, Mater Chaos, the goddess of the gods of Chaos, and then there is the Void.

You could understand the hierarchy of these fundamental principles in many different ways:

Law then Neutrality
Law then Chaos
Chaos then Neutrality
Chaos then Law
Neutrality then Law
Neutrality then Chaos

End and means

So the first alignment principle would represent a character's ultimate goal and the second would represent the characters chief means for attaining that goal. If the character is philosophical or at all self-reflective, it might represent their understood chief principle or deity, and then the key subordinated archetype.

You could be lawful / lawful. Clear enough. But here are some other outcomes:
My character is lawful chaotic! That means he thinks order is fundamental to all things and should prove our true aim. But this takes energy and embracing the flux to empower our ride there!
My character is chaotic lawful! That means he thinks all is flux and the best thing to do is seek to release all energies. But this takes order and study and strict hierarchies to achieve well.
My character is neutral. That means he thinks he is a chance formation out of the Void and to the Void he will return. If he is Neutral Lawful he thinks that order will sustain him on the way to the Void. If he is Neutral Chaotic, he thinks that the release of energy will take him back to the Void by the surest (and perhaps most fun) route.

In this way, neutrality is not "half way" between law and chaos. It becomes a "3 point alignment." A kind of triangle defining a continuum or set of continua along which people and creatures "align" themselves.

Some philosophy

Notice that this description of the general line-up may roughly be compared to the six classical philosophical schools:

LN = Platonism
LC = Aristotelianism
NL = Stoicism
NC = Epicureanism
CL = Skepticism
CN = Cynicism

Now that seems possibly ripe for some fun campaign stuff! Seems like it would be fun to abstract and fictionalize some of these things in some crazy old books they find and some crazy old sages they encounter.

"Look here," says the crazy wizened old man, "here be the scrolls of Epictirius [Fictional fantastical Epicurean, NC]. He tells the true nature of things, 'From the Void erupts the Flux, out of Flux men fashion laws. So eat, drink and be merry. But do so in moderation, for your dissolution is sure to come in time and you will take no enjoyment if you journey to quickly along the way of all things. For the way of all things is also the way of all the Cosmos: total dissolution in the great final conflagration!' Ha ha ha ha!" he laughs robustly, darting wild eyes at each of you.

Alignment for characters

Alignment is nevertheless descriptive rather than prescriptive for characters. Thus alignment changes easily based upon character decision. Alignment terminology does not describe a character’s personality or their relative predictability, as in Advanced Edition Rules. Lawful is definitely not “goody two-shoes.” The Lawful often rule with an iron fist (some of them, sometimes). Do they want to slay the primordial chaos monster and establish cosmos out of chaos? Then they are Lawful. Do they want to unleash the primordial chaos monster and revel in the supposed riches unleashed and go down in flames as long as that might last? Then they are Chaotic. Have they not yet heard that there is such a thing as a universal Law (still pagan), or are they skeptical of this new "universalism," worrying that it might wash out what is unique about their tribe or race or people? Then they are Neutral.

Only law and chaos are "active." Neutrality is for equilibrium, balance, homeostasis. It will fight to preserve this, but it will avoid sides when it comes to the "conversionalistic" tendencies of law and chaos.

This makes sense of why there might be neutral adventurers - or even whole civilizations. Gone is the description of neutral as "selfish." No way. It also makes sense of why there are no "neutral" clerics. Clerics are crusaders. They are forcibly bringing their cause to those they "convert." This is a law / chaos thing only.

Okay, that's what I've got so far!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Questions for a Campaign

Somebody (sadly, I can't remember whom) pointed me back to Jeff's Gameblog's list of twenty quick questions for your campaign setting.

As with just about anything I run into, I can't take it as is -- I have to play with it and make it fit my way of thinking and my way of campaigning. So, inspired by Jeff, here are my questions.

Please note that they can work for every level of campaign scale: cosmic, setting, territory, settlement. (I think however, a different set of related questions are necessary for generating dungeons and the underworld. More on that to come.)

Questions for Campaigns at Each Level of Scale

What is the name of this place?
  • ·       Why
  • ·       Backstory
  • ·       Size
  • ·       Population
  • ·       Army and size

What race is in charge here? Really?

Do they speak common? Something else?

Is anything illegal?
  • ·       Weapons
  • ·       Magic
  • ·       Something odd or absurd?

Who is in charge? Really?

Secret societies? Cults?

Who is the wealthiest? Different from above? Really?

  • ·       Motte & Baily
  • ·       Castle & Keep
  • ·       Curtain Walls
  • ·       Wood
  • ·       Stone
  • ·       Enchanted

What is the religion? Really?

Who is their cleric? Really?
  • ·       What are “clerics”?
  • ·       How do clerics “work” here?

Is this place for law, chaos or no-side?

Can we change alignment here?

Who is the most powerful?
  • ·       FM
  • ·       CL
  • ·       MU
  • ·       TH
  • ·       Dwarf
  • ·       Elf
  • ·       Hobbit

Who knows the most?
  • ·       Book knowledge
  • ·       Experience

Is there a _______ here?
  • ·       Tavern / inn
  • ·       Stable / livery
  • ·       Jail / Prison (Who is in it?)
  • ·       Church / Temple
  • ·       Bank
  • ·       Town / Guild Hall
  • ·       School

Can we buy?
  • ·       Supplies
  • ·       Equipment
  • ·       Weapons/armor
  • ·       Magic Items
  • ·       Transportation

Can we find?
  • ·       Healing / potions
  • ·       Antidote
  • ·       Cures
  • ·       Raise dead
  • ·       Curse / remove
  • ·       Lycanthropy cure

Can we hire hirelings? Retainers?

Where is the nearest treasure to recover?
  • ·       Is it legendary
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich

Are there any problems around here?
  • ·       NPCs
  • ·       Monsters
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich
  • ·       Will it make us landed

Is this place its own problem?
  • ·       Deception
  • ·       Intrigue
  • ·       Corruption

Does anyone need something done?
  • ·       Are they rich
  • ·       Powerful
  • ·       Will they pay:
  • ·       In kind
  • ·       In coin
  • ·       In land

Is this place at war?
  • ·       With whom
  • ·       How long
  • ·       Is it just
  • ·       Who is winning

Where is the nearest dragon? And hoard? Or any creature that:
  • ·       Petrifies
  • ·       Paralyzes
  • ·       Drains Energy
  • ·       Poisons
  • ·       Breathes a weapon
  • ·       Contagious condition
  • ·       Regenerates
  • ·       Enchants

How do PCs find out about these things? Rumors?