On Brilliance Illuminated

I do this for the benefit of my own reference.

Some of the most important things I've read in the blogosphere have been written lately by Roger at Rolls, Rules, and Roles.

They are summarized and linked below.

Analog, Digital, Procedural: "You see, in Old School play ... fluff is crunch. The sandy floor, moist walls made of soft stone, composition of the gate, and disposition of the kobolds all can feed into the players' improvised plans and the DM's improvised rulings. Critics of "fluff" in adventure writing, already prejudiced by that term, call it unnecessary. Indeed, the prose need not be purple."

OSR Contradiction: Play versus Fiction:  "you'll look in vain for all those pulp adventure stories featuring the sword-wielding barbarian and his wizard buddy. . .the four classes are classics because they set up instant character conflicts within the party, but on a tame enough level that the party can still work together."

OSR Contradition: Player Skill versus Minimal Dungeons:  "Many, many games were played with this mechanistic, 8-bit digital method. Many more would be played using the more sophisticated rules that interacted with character skills and eventually turned into Spot checks. What almost nobody was doing was the "player skill" method that's seized the Old School mantle. Next to no space in Dragon magazine was dedicated to elaborate analog mechanical trap descriptions in the manner of Courtney's Hack & Slash blog. What you saw instead was rules, charts, tables."

Apologies for linking my own blog.

These posts are the most important things written so far this year in the OSR.

On a Beastary of the Grim Rocks.

Giant Snails
Slow, Acid Bite
Drops: Snail Slice (3.0 kg food)
Notes: A fairly dangerous enemy for low level parties. Quite slow and easy to avoid. Either back away or circle around to attack.
(Giant Snail: AC 7[13], HD 2, Attack: 16[+4], Damage 1-6 Acid, Movement 4")

Undead Soliders
Immune to Poison
Drops: Spear (Reach Weapon), Shield (+5 evasion)
Notes: This opponent attacks quickly and does high damage, but is relatively slow when moving. They will often group up, making them even more dangerous. When in groups of 4, be sure to use spells to damage them all at the same time. It is not recommended to engage them directly. (As skeleton with spear and tower shield (damage 1-6, AC +3))

Level: 2+
Symbiosis with plants, Attacks with slams and poison
Drops: Fungal Cap (Food 3+ kg.)
Notes: There are several different varieties of these. The basic type is easy enough to kill. Use normal tactics to defeat it. The small ones have a ranged poison attack that damages all members of the party.  If your poison resist is low, it is highly recommended that you avoid the attack at all costs. The large ones are very deadly, casting a huge powerful long lasting poison cloud. (Herder: AC 8[12], HD 2, Attack: 16[+4], Damage 1-4 + Poison, Movement 9" Poison Save or take 1-6 damage)
(Small Herder: AC 8[12], HD 1+3, Attack: 17[+3], Damage 0 + Poison cloud, Movement 9" Poison Save or take 1-8 damage)
(Large Herder: AC 6[14], HD 8, Attack: 10[+10], Damage 0 + Poison cloud, Movement 9" Poison Save or take 2-12 damage)

Level: 3+
Drops: Nothing
Notes: The basic Crowern is a fairly easy opponent by the time you meet them. They have the disturbing tactic of being able to attack into the space they move. Also their animation makes them appear further away then they actually are. Defeating them is straightforward, it is their more powerful cousins you have to watch out for. The wyvern has a devastating lightning attack that damages all members of your party.  Attacking with ranged weapons from distance is encouraged, and ducking around corners to avoid fire is a good tactic. Do not engage the wyvern in a long hallway.
(Crowern: AC 5[15], HD 4+3, Attack: 14[+6], Damage 2-8, Movement 3" Fly 18") 
(Wyvern: As crowern, but with Lightning breath (4d6 damage, save for half, recharge in 1d4 rounds)

Level 2+
Poisons (Damages hit points over time)
Drops: Nothing
These opponents are very dangerous when you first meet them. You can make antidotes to address the poison, or if you have a decent amount of hit points left you may simply rest till the poison is gone. Poison resistance and vitality will make you more resistant. They often come in large numbers, and possibly spawn from destroyable nests. It is recommended to take them on one at a time, and avoid direct combat, due to the speed at which they attack.
(As giant spiders)

Level 6+
High damage
Drops: Nothing
These seem like a simple opponent, yet are surprisingly challenging. They have high hit points, high armor and do strong damage. The most deadly thing about them is that they are crabs. They walk sideways. This makes the standard circling around technique to destroy them very difficult -- the direction they appear to move is not the direction they actually will usually move. Sometimes they may also walk forward. Stay on your toes when fighting this opponent.
(Crabs: AC 1[19], HD 10, Attack: 8[+12], Damage 2-16 Movement 9") 

Level: 6+
Made of fire, Flies, Ranged fire attack
Drops: Nothing
Notes: This is the first of the common, exceptionally challenging opponent. They are dangerous not only because of their ranged fire attack that hits everyone in the party, but also because they do not have to move in the direction they are facing. Many times when you are fighting them, you will find yourself near pits or long corridors, forcing you to pay extra attention to your movement. (As medium fire elemental)

Tunnel Ogre
Level: 6+
Charge attack, Very damaging
Drops: Huge hammer
Notes: These are terrifying opponents. Do not engage them in any distance attacks. Once they note your party they will charge. Also, missile weapons do little or no damage to them (I often find values of 0 or 1 point of damage with my missile weapon user (skill 16+)). The best tactic is to find a 2x2 area and attack them from the side. 
(Tunnel Ogre: AC 7[13], HD 12, Attack: 6[+14], Damage 3-30 Movement 6", Double damage on a charge) 

Level 4+
Disease attack, directionless form
Drops: Nothing
Notes: These slimes disease you, a temporary effect that causes you to not regain hit points normally. They have a decent amount of hit points and tend to show up in large numbers. Their attack works through grates and gates. Be careful when engaging them and then other monsters while still diseased. (Slimes: AC 8[12], HD 4, Attack: 14[+6], Damage 1-8 Movement 6" 10% chance of disease per hit) 

Level 4+
Quick attacks
Drops: Nothing
Notes: These little lizards are fairly weak individually, but since they show up in groups of 10 or more they are quite challenging. The real key is to avoid getting surrounded. In my first fight with them, I made healing potions to keep up with the damage. They can pair up into a squad of 2, which has a fairly high damage output and is hard to kill. (Skinks: AC 6[14], HD 4, Attack: 10[+0], Damage 2-8 Movement 9")

On Interesting Treasure: The Alabaster Box

The Alabaster Box

This beautiful alabaster box has four square compartments. The top is square and the bottom is gently rounded.

It is a human carving inspired by the hand of the Zunel. This is an old piece. The stone itself is worth 80 gold. An art collector will possibly pay double for this.

On Alchemical Items, Oil of Phasing

Oil of Phasing
BSC:10%(R)gp:1400 gp
DC:26TTC:3 days
CC:10CGP::300 gp
NWP:-7XP:250 xp
D100:-15%Weight:- / 20
D6:1 in 6 / 6Difficulty:XXX

Materials: Powdered Gold (1 dram), Powdered Silver (1 dram), Powdered Platinum (1 dram), Rare Earths (4 drams), Almonds (10 drams), Grape Seed (10 drams), Sunflower (10 drams), Olive Oil (8 drams), Blink Dog Teeth/Transportation Essence (2 drams), Rakshasa Paw/Planar Essence (2 drams), Powdered Sapphire (5 drams)
Description: This oil once applied causes the user to phase in and out of the ethereal plane for the duration of the oil. On any given round there is a chance the user is ethereal. Roll a die at the start of the players turn. Even numbers mean the the user is on the prime material, odd mean he is on the ethereal. While on the ethereal plane the user is invisible, and only takes half damage from attacks that do not extend into the ethereal plane. They may also pass through solid substances, though if they phase back into the prime material while within a solid substance, instant death will result.

Rules are here.

On The Thursday Trick, Swiveling Doom

Swiveling Doom (Pit, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Latch or SwitchEffects:Never Miss
Multiple Targets
Save: None Duration:Special
Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)

Description: This is another player killer.

Why have a trap like this?

Mostly to create an environment that threatens high level characters who do not use their resources. If they insist on handling problems the same way they did at first level, this trap is designed to show why a lower level group of characters hasn't already dealt with the problem.

This is a hallway or stairway that is balanced on a fulcrum. When enough weight is put on the dangerous side, the entire hallway swivels dumping everyone on it down into the end of the hallway or staircase. This surface is often covered in spikes.

The hallway is usually a minimum of 140' long. This is to prevent characters from seeing the end of the hallway or stairway, where the spikes are located. The fulcrum point is usually located near the middle. This provides a 70' distance from the center to the wall.

There is a latch on the entrance side that prevents it from swinging down. Once more weight is past the fulcrum then the other side the hallway will swivel, dumping everyone into the spikes at the end of the hall. The fall is the length of hallway to the end, usually 60'-100' feet which is enough to kill most members of the party.

After all the oil, alchemist's fire flasks, wands, and various other items fail their save versus crushing blow, very few members should be alive.

If anyone thinks of it, and if you are kind, you could provide odd metal handholds on the walls. A quick thinking delver could grab one before they fell to their doom.

If you are concerned about this possibility, the hallway swiveling could always trigger a flood of acid or magma.

Detection/Disarming: Sending a scout ahead while someone is standing to counterbalance the hallway is a good plan, otherwise when the trap is triggered, a wall will rise up and they will never see their companion again.

Other methods of detecting the trap include spells, such as Wizard Eye or Legend Lore. Several magical items like eyes of the eagle will also reveal the trap.

X-ray vision and other abilities will note that the space beneath where the hallway will swivel down.

Items and magic such as Feather Fall, winged boots, and contingency spells triggered while falling, can save the party from death.

This trap is a classic, appearing in Tomb of Horrors as well as a variety of other books and sources throughout the years.

On an Analysis of Death

I wrote a transcript the other week describing the in-play event of a character's death. It was unedited and contains the exact sequence of events that led to his demise.

There were no die rolls involved -- except for the saving throw.

This is a crucial issue to the kind of game I like to run.  Is this fair? Was the death due to player choice or factors that were outside of player control?

Player Agency:  There are several factors regarding the discovery of the mold.

First: Yellow mold (like green slime) is a classic trope of Dungeons and Dragons. From the very first OD&D books and modules, items that look 'golden' are often just colonies of yellow mold. There is a historical precedent for the description of yellow mold as a 'golden' color on objects.

Second: The players were in a hurry. They had 'cleared' the house. By that, they had (mostly) survived the major conflict in the area. As you can see from the transcript, they are moving forward in a hurried manner, attempting to 'clear' out the house.

Third: This is the subtle but key point to player agency. It is also often where people get upset about 'DM Fiat' and games being unfair.

The rule is, if it can have an effect or is important, then it must be mentioned to the players. In this case, on first observation the mold was mentioned.
"DM: Sure! You pull the door open. Inside it's empty, except for on a hanger, there is a dark cloak that looks like it has a gold lining."
Compare this to "It is empty except for a cloak on a hanger".

Because they were in a hurry and I was feeling rushed, I did make the error of stating if asked if it was torn or decayed, "It looked fine". The original module I was cribbing from, does indeed note that the cloak is tattered. I am only human. However in true DM tradition, "It looks fine" doesn't mean that it is.

This style of agency is straight from the first edition DM guide.

DM: "The sacks hold rotten grain, so the cleric will go and help the magic-user as ordered. They find the refuse consists of castings, some husks of small victims of the spider, hide, bones, a small humanoid skull, and 19 silver pieces. Do you now fire the webs overhead?”
LC: ”Examine the skull first. What kind of humanoid was it? Can we tell?”
DM: ”Possibly a goblin. When you are looking at it more closely, you see that there is a small gem inside - a garnet.”


DM: "First, the others checking the containers find that they held nothing but water, or ore totally empty, and that the wood is rotten to boot. You see a few white, eyeless fish and various stone formations in a pool of water about 4' to 6' deep and about 10' long. That's all. Do you wish to leave the place now?"
LC:"Yes, let's get out of here and go someplace where we can find something interesting."
OC: "Wait! If those fish are just blind cave types, ignore them, but what about the stone formations?  Are any of them notable? If SO, I think we should check them out."
DM: "Okay. The fish are fish, but there is one group of minerals in the deepest part of the pool which appears to resemble a skeleton, but it simply - "
OC: "If the pole will reach, I'll use the end to prod the formation and see if it is actually a skeleton covered with mineral deposits from the water! I know the Shakespearean bit about a 'sea change'!"
No search rolls. No character skills.

Pure player skill.

Fictional Positioning:  This discussion after the fact was delicate but necessary. One of the errors I made was that I called for saves before resolving the positioning of each character. Having rolled the die, forced Garth into a situation where he felt strongly that addressing his actual position would be regarding as cheating.

One offhand comment was made that this was a case of "Mother may I". This is explicitly incorrect, because he wasn't asking for permission. As I've noted, fictional positioning is addressed as a group with verisimilitude as the metric. Part of his hesitation was in wanting both to be fair and confronting what is traditional one of the vestiges of DM empowerment. Fictional Positioning in this game is something decided by the group. The players are in charge of their characters after all -- who have personalities of their own.

On Some Interesting Numbers

So, I figured I'd share some information with everyone.

This website popped on metafilter the other week. This resulted in 2,567 hits the first day, and 1,379 the second. This is higher traffic than normal.

There were more hits than that. Because metafilter is full of inconsiderate bastards, they directly linked the files instead of the blog posts. (ED Note: They are not really inconsiderate, nor were their parents actually not married. They linked the blog, the posts, and the series in addition to directly linking the files.) I had 607 downloads of the Tricks, Empty Rooms, and Basic Trap Design document (total for April) and 337 of the Treasure document (same).

The blog posts for tricks got 779 views and treasure got 329. Being that some people must have downloaded the files after they visited the webpage, not nearly every web page visit resulted in a download.

Secondarily, During the 48 hours that metafilter hit, I picked up 1 new google follower, and 0 new RSS subscribers.

This doesn't mean it didn't have any effect -- perhaps some will read the documents later or find them useful and come back at some point soon and subscribe.

Also: I've been playing Legend of Grimrock, and figured I'd write up a spoiler-light guide to my experiences with the game.

Since that post went live? 6,119 hits.

Also, the day it hit, I picked up a new subscriber and 4 more google reader subscribers.

What's the message here? There isn't one. This is a hobby, and I do it for fun. If I wanted a part-time job, I'd blog about something with a larger reach then 2000 possible interested people, like politics, movies, or celebrities. And in that niche, I certainly wouldn't be blogging about DM specific theory topics that encourage people to comment "You think like a Vulcan, I just play".

Conversely, as a reader and a blogger, I know the possible maximum traffic numbers, and if you're running ads, rest assured I've un-followed your blog. Not because there's anything wrong with ads, but because you're both inconveniencing me and possibly making ten whole dollars a year.

In the rush to publish the post, I forgot to thank and welcome all my new readers!


On Renewal

"And the day will come when the earth will not sleep. Winter will not come and the earth will remain awake during the long night. When renewal strikes the earth, she shall be invigorated, burning longer then the creatures upon her can stand.

She will remain awake because it is her duty -- her final task of years before she can take a long rest. For she does not sleep so she can shepard the end of man."

On the Village: Seamoor

Seamoor: Decrepit Fishing Village
Small Town: "Familia Vocat Nos" (Family Calls Us)

Mayor / Town council -- Elected for life (Plutocratic)
Population: 2015
Breakdown by Race: Human (1950), Elf (40), Dwarf/Gnome (11) Other (14)
Breakdown by Class: Citizens - 1797, Hirelings - 7, Officers - 17, Clergy - 17, Freeholders - 134, Nobels - 43
Languages: Common, Ichthys (rare)
Local Gods:
Oizys, the corrupt (Titan), Ruler
Enato (M), Sea, Storms, The Moon / Merchants & Fishermen / Human, bronze skin, black hair
Lalai (F), Fog, Sleep, Prophecy / Wanderers & Tricksters / Human, ivory skin, grey hair
Taisk (M), Fish, Chaos, The Deep / Son of Enato / Appears as a fish with golden skin
Notable NPC's
Cecil Youngmay / Helpful / Lord Mayor
George Sirett / Intense / Master of Scrivners
Farnok Troll / Goodfella / Lieutenant Commander of the Guard
Albert Osmer / Gloomy / Son of town founder / Secret / Council Member
Baden Medwin / Irreligious, Squeaky / Uninterested in politics, Council Member / Building an inn
Vivian Freegard / Mournful / Guardian of Seamoor / Council Member
Portia Stannard / Analytical / Priestess of Enato / Council Member
Neil Elphee / Caring, low-pitched / Young, Unmarried / Council Member / Rumored to have poisoned parents.

The Drunken Urchin / Tavern / Proprietor:  Curtis Wolsey / Wicked
The Fresh Loaf / Bakery / Guildhead: Aylmer Azo / Whiney
The Fish's Cock / Tavern / Proprietor: Godfrey Lambrick / Shameless
Wicker Goat / Inn / Proprietor: Rowan Almond / Humble
The Anvil / Guildhall of Smiths / Guildmaster: Thomas Bedloe / Talks to self, solitary

Locations / Interesting Features: None

Resources: Coastland, Temperate, Swamp
Fishing (Fish/Crab), Pasture (Underutilized), River (Underutilized)

Obstacles: Corruption (leaders), Hunted (Bandits), Impoverished, Population (Unskilled Labor)
Adventure Seeds: Workers building Baden's Inn are diappearing
Church Parishioners have ceased attending
A shipment of valuable metal intended for Thomas Bedloe is gone.
The Drunken Urchin is all out of the special berries they use to brew their wine

Some examples of names

Men: Thaddeus Brunker, Mervyn Trumble, Joshua Aylwin, Valentine Kenward, Grimbald Yonwin, Baden Winbow, Harry Alston, Alfred Orrick, Mickey Burrage, Clifford Outridge, Wilfred Almer
Women:  Carolyn Alflatt, Vicki Goldburg, Jasmine Cutteridge, Tracey Medwin, Sophia Wymer, Lauren Balding, Elizabeth Elphee, Geraldine Alvar, Jemma Freelove, Clara Elsegood, Georgina Ashwin, Grace Leavins

This uses the Village Resource Guide.

So is this useful or not?

On Interesting Treasure: The Wooden Monkey

This appears to be a statue of a carved monkey. Upon close inspection it appears to be a painted mischievous monkey.

Sometimes when set down for a little while, small hairs are found near the statue. Previous owners have complained that small objects have gone missing. Wise people have attributed this to unreliable staff. Others say the small statue is cursed.

It's a wonderful piece and goes for 5 gold on the open market.

On Alchemical Items, Ointment of Water Protection

Ointment of Water Protection
BSC:30%(R)gp:200 gp
DC:22TTC:4 days
CC:6CGP::90 gp
D100:+5%Weight:- / 20
D6:2 in 6 / 4Difficulty:Hard

Materials: Rare Earths (1dram), Powdered Malachite (5 drams), Powdered Alum (4 ounces), Nitron (4 ounces), Olive Oil (4 ounces), Beeswax (4 ounces)
Description: This substance protects objects from water damage. One vial is enough to coat ten square feet of material. It must be applied and allowed to dry and it will preserve any item or surface from water damage.

Rules are here.

On The Thursday Trick, Slaughtering Staircase

Slaughtering Staircase (Melee Attacks)

Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure PlateEffects: N/A
Save: Armor Class Duration: Instant
Resets: AutomaticBypass: Disarm

Description: Staircases are dangerous. All too often, stairs are just used as a passageway from one area to another.

They are an opportunity for excitement.

The party comes across a staircase. At the foot of the stairs are a few bodies. The bodies may not be visible from the top. Several of the bodies may not have made it to the foot of the staircase and are lying near the bottom half..

Each of the bodies appears to be shot from behind by wooden 'spears'. Not full size spears, but 3' long sharpened stakes.

There is a pressure plate on the staircase. When triggered, this triggers a spear thrower located in the vertical wall of the stair. Three stairs above the trigger are primed with this trap. There are two stairs of space between the trigger and the spear throwers.

The spears attack from the rear if the players are descending, so remember to add that bonus. They may do whatever damage is appropriate.

Detection/Disarming:The bodies are the first clue. This trap is substantially more deadly when coming from the top of the stairs. You may allow the party to see the bodies as they descend for extra entertainment.

When the bodies are examined, they have clearly been killed by the spears sticking straight out of their bodies. If the spears are examined, they all appear to be perpendicular to the bodies, as if shot from behind, not as if shot by archers at the top or bottom of the stairs.

Those checking the vertical section of the stairs closely may not notice several uncovered holes. They are small, but large enough for spears to shoot out of.

The pressure plate has a slightly different texture then the rest of the stairs. Also, there is a slight give before the trap is triggered.

On the Legend of Grimrock

The Legend of Grimrock is a very good game.

There are lots of reviews lauding the lighting and graphics, easy user-friendly game-play, devilish puzzles that make you feel dumb and then brilliant simultaneously.

I personally am a fan of secrets you must actually locate, versus them being detected based on a skill.

Let me highlight one brilliant example of the gameplay.

Like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder, The Legend of Grimrock has real-time combat. A common tactic in this type of combat is to pull an enemy into a 10' by 10' room and move to their side. Then when they walk in front of you, strike them and move to the side again. Rather then ignore this, the developers created opponents such as the crab.

Crabs walk sideways.

So those carefully honed skills you've developed are thrown out the window as you have to relearn which direction your opponents is going to move.

Then you're thrown for another loop as you discover they can walk forwards too.

Just a quick rundown to cover the bases.

There's a Dungeon Selector on the title screen!
Magic is cast using a rune system.
Four races and three classes, each with a unique selection of skills
Wonderful interface with exceptional graphics and lighting
Challenging combat
Brilliant puzzles
Engaging hook leading you to seek out what's happening in the dungeon
Great monster design
Dozens of interesting armor and magic items (nothing generic here!)
DRM free, I bought it from them and they gave me a free steam key so I wouldn't miss out on achievements

You spent more than 10$ on pizza this month. Go get the game now!

On the Wild Wilderness

Beedo wrote a post here, decrying the difficulty of wilderness encounters.

Since the encounters are so infrequent the players can just expend all their resources against each encounter!

Primarily my experience has been with 1st edition and the encounter tables therein. This cannot address his issues with Tsojcanth. But it can explain why wilderness encounters are interesting.

Number encountered and % in Lair: Both these values are astoundingly important. First, if the monster is in their lair, then it's not just a random beast, it's a decision about crawling in a hole in the ground. Second, being that these are random encounters, the full brunt of the number appearing tables from the monster manual come into play. Which leads us to our second point. . .

Distance and surprise: Have you noticed the encounter distances are longer? Elves do not like trespassers. Elves are all proficient with ranged weapons. Say you encounter (2d10x10) 90 elves at a distance of, lets be generous and say 10".

What party can survive 90 short bow attacks per round.

In fact, in what world can going nova allow any party to survive that encounter.

Let's look at some common number encountered for wilderness encounters.

Elves: 20-200
Bandits: 20-200
Hobgoblin: 20-200
Berserkers: 10-100 (I'm sure parley will work great with these guys.)

Science forbid you run into a buccaneer! 50-300 of those guys.

Ok, what about non-humans?
Wild Boar: 1-12 . . . with a movement rate of 15. An enemy that does 3-12 damage that you can't escape from?
Bugbear: 6-36
Crocodile: 3-24
Dragon: 1-4; You come across 4 black dragons. Nova that, bitches.
Eagles, Giant: 1-20
Preyton: 2-8; No, doesn't seem like much for creatures that are immune to normal weapons, attack at +2, have 4 hit dice, fly at 21" and do 4-16 damage (average of 10) per round.
Stirge: 3-30

All of this leads to the final factor, which is Pursuit.

Thankfully, because this was actually used in play, encountering something faster then you isn't instant death. You have an 80% chance to evade something chasing you.

-20% if they are faster
-50% if you're on a plain, desert, or open water
-30% during daylight.

Just, wilderness encounters are terrifying. Some things are easy (Dinosaurs), many things are not.

On a Masterwork Illusion

I've used illusionism in games before -- I've run a game built on the very ideal of that.

It was so entertaining that at one point we had upwards of 10 people showing up to watch.

It was a different time.

The real question is how did it work?

Why was it successful?

Is there anything from this that can be used or adapted for use in an illusion-free high-agency game?

Might some of the techniques be useful in a game that allows players to actually influence it?

Here is how this would normally work. The games took place within a single city. The city was a Space Structure. A real world map was used. Usually I ran the game in the city we actually resided in. The characters had their own goals and were within a Power Structure, containing all the relevant NPC's and factions.

During the week, I would come up with the idea for three or four scenes.

And then, during the game, no matter what the players did, those scenes would happen. Often, if I needed some particular behavior from the players, or perhaps them to visit a specific location, I would spend the preparatory time figuring out how to manipulate them to that location. I would design increasingly manipulative scenarios to cause them to accomplish the tasks I needed to set up the scene.

I'm a much different person today.

There are some things to note:
  • I would design the scenes in such a way that they were very easy to trigger. They would rely as little as possible on player choice.
  • I would start with the most subtle manipulation. It was not heavy-handed, just the small things I required were mentioned as reasonable options.

The downside? No matter what the players did, these scenes would occur. They could not avoid them or stop them. At best they could cause the scene to be delayed.

I had 'my story' and I was going to tell it.

Was it as bad as all that? No. Each session started in a 'virtual sandbox'. ("It is evening, you awake. What do you do?") And they would go about trying to accomplish their goals. Within the scenes themselves they would do anything they wished. But much like a quick-time events in video games, the choices in scenes were simplistic, telegraphed, and of minimal consequence to the final result of the story.

There were two reasons this design functioned as well as it did.
  1. Theatrics: The game was designed around being entertaining. NPC's were interesting, and portrayed to break stereotypes. Those involved were encouraged to play up their thespian skills. Character voices, atmosphere, ritual, and setting were of paramount importance. 
  2. Illusionism: The game was designed on two levels. The players were all trying to accomplish their own goals. These goals were only tangentally associated with the actual overarching 'story' that was being told.
Even though it worked, it lacks the virtues of my experiences in the last five years. Here are the problems.

It was entertaining in the same sense that a movie or book was entertaining. It was fun to experience. Sometimes. Because it was a game that actually involved physical people, sometimes people were tired, unmotivated, or generally uncreative. This meant, as much as the atmosphere and setting were enjoyable there were long periods where things might be boring and uninteresting.

This is generally ok if there are other things involved that are engaging. But if this is the primary activity and source of entertainment, then 'boring and uninteresting' are serious problems.

A description, no matter how long, detailed, engaging or entertaining cannot replace engagement. It can make a good thing better, but it cannot make a bad thing good.

{Long description of creepy forest, history of the forgotten keep, and the approach to the keep}
"What do you do adventurer?"
"I explore the keep!"
"You are victorious!" {Long description of the victory}

This is just an example to show that description does not make an unengaging roll any more engaging. If the system is 'chunked poorly' no amount of fancy presentation will make it fun.

You cannot, ahem, polish the proverbial turd.

As for the illusionism? The time spent during character creation designing their background and creating their character and their character's goals was only as useful to me as it allowed me to have tools and hooks to insert them into my plot.

Most of the actual game-play between my scenes was very reminiscent of OSR play. Players would try to accomplish their goals and problems would appear in their way. They had freedom within this structure only as it didn't actually interfere with the overarching story.

When they did try to affect the outcome of the story, it was a brick wall and magician's switch apocalypse. Why? It had to be.

I wasn't a player in this game so I can't speak to 'if it was worth it or not'.

I can say we had fun then. I can also say that my current players (some of whom are the same) appear to be much more engaged in the current game.

After all, it's one where they can smash the head of the boss in and be rewarded for it rather than punished.

On Decisions & Delvers

Did you hear? We're playing D&D.

There's no sense in calling it something different. Because it is D&D -- there's not one part of this that can't be implemented in the game you're playing now.

What are our virtues?
  • Lucid Agency "Player Agency + Informed Choice"
  • Negotiated Rulings ("stakes") and Negotiated Fictional Positioning
  • Simple to start, easy to learn
  • Quick, abstract, resolution of combat
  • Focus on play for the players
  • Pleasure-Convergent Significance (game-play)
  • Strong Fictive Structure (associated mechanics, logical and natural consequences, and verisimilitude)
  • Player skill focused
  • Simple flexible classes that are "philosophies of problem solving"
  • Impartial Adjudication

What a mess of buzzwords! Bullsh*t and double-talk you say!

Me too. How about in English this time?

Lucid Agency: The players have an idea of consequences before they perform actions and they are free to perform or attempt any actions they wish. This includes unspoken consequences such as, "Things inside dungeons are dangerous and can kill you without warning" as well as explicit ones presented before characters declare actions.

This also means no mind-reading, pixel bitching, palette-shifting, or illusionism.

Negotiated Rulings: The players and the DM discuss the rules before action is taken. The players are given options of actions and the consequences for those actions are made explicit. They player may then choose to take the action or not.

Negotiated Fictional Positioning: Where the players are actually located within the game world is not always immediately apparent. When there is some question as to the location of the players, their locations are determined as a group. The metric the group uses to decide the location of the characters is one of verisimilitude.

Simple to learn, Easy to start: No big rulebook. Random non-gaming friends should be able to join with little difficulty. Game play is focused on easily enumerable choices (7 +/- 2) with clear consequences presented in plain language.

Quick, abstract, resolution of combat: This is not a wargame, nor a study of tactics. The interesting part of this game is the problem-solving and decision-making. That is the focus. Combat remains very abstract in structure.

Focus on play for the players: The game requires no activity from the players outside of play to be successful at it. They do not have to worry about builds or spend time outside of the game thinking about the optimum advancement path for their character. They may choose to spend time outside the game engaged in thinking of ways to further their characters goals, but time spent in this way will not cause one character to be more successful than another in the play of the game.

Pleasure-Convergent Significance: I know, right? Bzzzzzzzzzz. All this means is the metric by which we decide what we do at the table is 'which of these things is an interesting and significant choice with interesting consequences'. What is interesting is constantly in flux and dependent on the people involved.  Obstacles are not put in the way of players who wish to reach these activities at the table.

Strong Fictive Structure: This means that the game is focused and set within a flavorful fantasy universe.
Lords of Shadow and Darkness manipulate things from their ruined lairs. Malign Titans absently rule all men, distant Autarchs ensconced within abstruse acropoli. Hideous Tarragons take form and seek to rend the world open to the elder realm. Dragons, hideously deformed beasts from elemental forces terrorize the land. Strange arcane crossbreeds stalk the hidden wilds.
The Gods are absent, gone or long dead, for what use is a heavenly lord when amaranthine titans stride tediously upon the earth, leaving only their perpetual selves to praise man.
Death stalks the world, astride a bacchanale of winged terrors from antediluvian nigh-black ruins and serpentine buried temples of forgotten demons. A hideous terror behind silk-hung walls that humanity cowers from, trusting in the uncaring extrinsic titans.
This fictional structure provides a grounding for the play. This isn't a mechanical numerological masturbatory fantasy -- it is a game based off conversation, imagination and fantasy.

Player Skill Focused: Your success at the game has little to nothing to do with how many plusses are on your sheet. The numbers on your sheet merely relate to your philosophy. Your skill at problem-solving, critical and lateral thinking, and creativity will define your success. Impulsively act, actively ignore information, and try to solve every problem the same way and you will be rolling up new characters often, no matter how high your bonuses.

Simple Flexible Classes: You should be able to play your ideal character, within seconds of starting play. No needing mechanical things in order to make your character work. Your characters are abstract (Fighting-man, Sage, Expert) to allow you to color and characterize them any way you wish right from the start. And what's more, each class exemplifies a method of solving problems (Respectively: Strength and brute force, Planning and resource management, and Smart risky and bold heroics). Specialized classes involve specialized methods of play (Psionicist is creativity; Alchemist is craven manipulation)

Impartial Adjudication: The people playing the game are more engaged in auguring the reality of an unknown realm rather then 'attempting to win'.

On Interesting Treasure: The Goldmani Maikp Ornament

The Goldmani Maikp Ornament

This is a miniature emblem made from gold in the shape of a panther head. It once was said to dwell on the Rhyton of the lord of panthers, though this claim is much contested.

It maintains a relatively high polish and the eyes are embossed to shimmer and appear alive.

Perhaps the lord of panthers watches through this emblem, or perhaps it is just a trick of the light.

It is worth 25 gold, perhaps 100 to an interested sage.

On Alchemical Items, Powder of the Convulsive Cachinnate

Powder of the Convulsive Cachinnate
BSC:40%(R)gp:100 gp
DC:20TTC:2 days
CC:4CGP::35 gp
NWP:-1XP:- xp
D100:+15%Weight:- / 20
D6:3 in 6 / 4Difficulty:Difficult

Materials: Rare Earths (2 drams), Cannabis Sativa (4 drams), Powdered Nickle (2 drams), Powdered Khat leaves (1 dram)
Description: When a target is dosed with this powder, they are seized with an overwhelming compulsion to laugh. Everything becomes hilarious. They may save versus petrification to avoid the effects (Will Save DC 16). If the saving throw is failed, the target(s) begin laughing uncontrollably, falling prone on the ground. This only lasts for 1 round. After this round they may stand up again, but they continue to laugh for the next 2-5 (1d4+1) rounds. While laughing they receive a -2 on all attack and damage rolls.
This only affects targets of intelligence 4 or higher. 

Rules are here.

On The Thursday Trick, Detection of Triggers: Part the Second

Mechanical Triggers
The following is the text from the Empty Room, Tricks, and Traps document. The additional information is added to increase agency. 

Tripwire: These refer to strings or wires stretched taut that will trigger the trap of their tension is altered. Although difficult to see against a varied background, these can often be detected by careful observation and bright light. In addition to being strung across corridors, they may be attached to the inside of lids of containers, behind doors, along stairs, or to objects on pedestals. 
The most important thing about detecting these is lighting. It is quite easy in good light to miss a low strung tripwire. The material the wire is made from is an important fact, as well as how it is prepared. If the characters are carrying a light source and state that they are inspecting the floor, they should discover any exposed tripwire.

If the wire is made from metal and not covered in some sort of non-reflective material, it may reflect the light from a sun-rod or torch. If the line is made from rope, cord, or twine, wetness, mold, rot, and decay may cause the trap itself to be triggered if left alone long enough.

A tripwire, over time may sag, stretch out, and eventually be laying on the actual floor itself. These will still trigger the trap, however there should be a reduced chance (~25%) of actually triggering it for each character that crosses the trap. 

This category often covers snares also. These and other types of tripwires are often camouflaged and hidden from view. In this case, the object hiding the tripwire can be described.
  • Leaves choke the hallway ahead
  • Rubble is lying all about the hallway
  • Mist swirls about the floor 
  • A curtain hangs in the hallway
If the delvers ignore the obstruction, then they trigger the tripwire. It is a good idea, as always, to have lots of instances where these items are present without traps. 
Lids: These “mechanical” triggers are very simple - any object that covers a pit that doesn’t look like the top of a pit is a lid. This may also refer to false doors that open into walls that spring traps. Prodding and tapping are very effective at detecting these kinds of traps.
 This is mainly about how to detect non-visible pits. Note that pits, like pressure plates, usually have a 50% chance to not be triggered. Since lids are literal covers for holes, water usually tends to be very effective in detecting these traps.

Breakaway pits are usually camouflaged, but any sort of testing or prodding will indicate either that the floor is not solid, or that the covering has some give to it. You must also consider the terrain and the substance used to cover the breakaway pit. Leaves and sticks outside, and a carpet indoors.

Latch pits have moving parts. There is some support for the latch, and usually some way for the latch to reset. This means a wheel or gear hidden nearby. Also, it is more difficult to hide the seam of a latched pit.

Teeter-totter pits are easy enough to detect by prodding, but as a side effect from heavy use, may not center correctly. One side may be raised up an inch or more, while the other is low. Or if it is poorly made, the wrong side of the pit could be present.

On a Strategy Guide for Legendary Grim Rocks

The LEGEND OF GRIMROCK comes out today, and by science you should get it!

It's old school dungeon crawling in the vein of Dungeon Master or Eye of the Beholder. It has a selector on game start up for which dungeon you want to enter! Think of the re-playability!

A superb engine for endless dungeon crawling fun!

Here's a strategy guide for surviving in the depths of the realms. This Strategy guide for the Legend of Grimrock will be updated over the coming weeks. Expect non-spoiler clues to tough puzzles. And if you like Legend of Grimrock and this FAQ/Spoiler light walkthrough, take a look around the blog - it's a bit of the old school dungeon crawl and how to do it right at the tabletop.

If you have any advice yourself, comment!

General advice:
  • Your party formation is a 2x2 square; 1 and 2, in the front left and right respectively, and 3 and 4 in the back left and right. When you turn to the left, your party members 2 and 4 are now facing the direction 1 and 2 were. Remember this when you're turning away from monsters. The 1-4 keys also open up the character sheet for the respective party member.
  • 2x2 rooms are great for fighting single enemies in, you can strike and move away before they can turn and retaliate. 
  • Enemies are tough. If possible, you should attempt to pull them in order to take them on one at a time.
  • There are only a limited number of tile-sets. This is by design, not because their wonderful art team couldn't create more tile-sets. Many of the secrets are noticeable because of small differences in the walls. (Real player agency secret detection! Imagine that!!)
  • It can be pretty easy to miss things. Remember that you can resurrect at resurrection stones on each level.
  • The magic system is rune based, which means you can discover new spells by playing around with the runes! The runes are, in order:
    Fire, Life, Air,
    Spirituality, Balance, Physicality,
    Earth, Death, and Ice.
    You don't have to wait to discover the runes to learn new spells, but you may need to get your skill mastery high enough!
    Shock: Air (Air Magic 4)
    Lightning Bolt: Air + Spirituality (Air Magic 14)
    Fire Burst: Fire (Fire Magic 3)
    : Fire+Air+Physicality (Fire Magic 13) 
    Freeze Bolt
    : Air+Ice (Ice Magic 13)
    Poison Cloud: Earth (Earth Magic 3)
    Poison Bolt: Air+Earth (Earth Magic 7)
    Ice Shards: Earth+Ice (Ice Magic 3)
    Light: Balance + Life (Spellcraft 5)
    Darkness: Balance + Death (Spellcraft 5)
  • Remember that the back row needs either magic, a ranged weapon, a thrown weapon, or a weapon with reach. Don't handicap yourself by arming them with weapons that they can't attack with. 
  • You can change your party formation by dragging the portraits of your party. 
  • Don't forget about your other character sheet tabs!
  • If an item slot is red, that means you don't have enough skill points to use the items.
  • The characters that damage the monster most receive the most experience! Use this to control your development.
  • You'll be eating the flesh of monsters to sate your hunger. 
  • You will need to find and save 3 torches, a skull, 3 rocks, an arrow, a key, and a bone necklace for puzzles later in the dungeon. Some of those items are for an optional puzzle. Some are not.
  • The final boss is immune to ice and weak to lightning.
  • Any party or group can beat the game -- no class is needed. 
  • Evasion has a slight edge in protection then to heavy armor.
  • Dexterity is not used AT ALL for ranged weapon use.
  • Bonuses to your vitality are better if gained earlier.
Level 1: Into the dark (Minor Spoilers)
  • Just get into the dungeon? Look behind you!
  • In the small cell where you find the eye, triggering the plate before finding the hidden stone will help you escape. 
  • IRON DOOR: To open the large Iron Doors on the first level, there are hidden switches right in the room the door is located in. Take the opportunity to open it before descending. 
Level 2: Old Tunnels
  • Torches are the key to the "shelter left/cells right" room in the south east corner. 
  • You will find a teleporter to some cells in the northwest corner. Inside these locked cells are a skeleton, and a bag. Some switches on the wall will teleport items between cells and down to the end of the corridor. Playing with them will allow you to access both the bag and the skeleton.
  • The section with the crows requires a bit of a button loop to find the first key.
  • The second key involves a bit of lateral thinking. Find the hidden switch and perform a feat of speed to bypass the teleporter (walking backwards mightmake it easier), and then send something over the pit before traveling over yourself. 
  • Late in the level is when you first get the mortar & pestle to produce alchemical items. 
  • There is a room where when you hit a switch, you are ambushed by some mushroom men. Don't miss the nearby sling. 
  • IRON DOOR: This is as it appears. You must be patient for the door to open. Just step on the pressure plate and wait. I would be ready for a surprise. 
  • TREASURE: In the spider area, in the room before you find the note, you'll find a switch on a pillar. . .
  • You are probably becoming near encumbered at this point. Take a moment to find a safe place to stash some items. 
Level 3: Pillars of Light
  • The first room has the clue by the door. The entrance room has a pillar in the center. It should be easy to figure out what to do from there.
  •  The room with the skeletons can seem overwhelming, but you can lure them onto the pit and drop them down. You may have to fight them later if you want to access another skull.
  • You'll notice two pits in an early room blocking access to a gate with a pressure plate. It appears there's no way to trigger it. There's a secret in the bypass around this room, and another secret inside that secret. Then facing the correct direction will allow you to throw a stone that will trigger that hard to reach plate, for your second missile weapon. 
  • The rotating transporters can be a bit imposing. There's a pressure plate to the left of the room that will close the center pit. Move to the right, and face that pressure plate and throw something to have it trigger. Then, once the pit is closed, you can stand on it to manipulate the room. Duck over and drop a rock to open up the gate. Run through quickly before the teleporters drop the rock at the entrance.  
  • Secret: Sacrificing more often than you need to never hurt anyone. 
  • IRON DOOR: This is your first one that's not given to you on a platter. You'll find a second chamber with a pillar that has no torches in it. If you put torches in the wall sconce, and not the pillars, you'll open up the iron door for a very nice cloak.
  • The spiders are deadly and numerous. Ice magic to freeze them is helpful. Watch out for being trapped and cornered, and use antivenom only after taking out a group of spiders.  
  • Seriously, the spiders are dangerous.
  • For all your trouble with the spiders, don't forget to grab the gold key after they are all dealt with. I found it in the middle of a hallway.
  • The spectral relay may give you pause, but remember that you can trigger pressure plates by dropping something through a grate. 
  • Don't miss the secret entrance to level 4, it contains a hard fight against green slimes for a secret TREASURE. (There's a symbol for door, and sometimes it is on the wall).
Level 4: The Archives
  • This floor starts with a difficult combat. Once completed, pick up the key and move on. 
  • There are 4 sections here, the iron door, and a gate between the stairway and you. There are also 4 cubby holes, with text clues for items that go in them.
  • Trails of thought
    • The first puzzle in this section is a 9x9 grid. The teleporters act as walls. The trick is to follow the pattern in an indirect sequence. A bit of trial and error will get you through this no problem. If you're having trouble with the sequence, write down the order you're going in to try different paths. 
    • You may see no way to both get the key and move forward, but remember, you can step on the closed pit to get the sequence of opening pits to align. 
    • In the side passage here, you'll find a small switch. This gives you seven seconds to walk down and hit a switch over the closed pits. This gives you only a short time to dive in the hole where the teleporter is, for an IRON DOOR key.
  • Time and Tide
    • Why did they give you throwing daggers instead of rocks? Because they are weapons, and should be used like them to solve the puzzle. 
    • Of course, now that you can cross, I wonder where that teleporter leads?
    • In the long hallway where you have to step by step navigate the temporarily closed pits, there is a switch on the right hand wall. It opens a passage, giving you access to the second piece of insect armor - the Chitin Mask.
    • What to do about the pit corridor? Across the two pits with no lids, there's a bit of a pressure plate in plain sight. Remember those throwing daggers?
    • Beast Gardens and Menagerie
      • This may seem endless, and indeed they are. No matter how many you kill, more will arrive. Will you starve to death in endless combat? Put some of them on display as centerpieces of the cells.
    • The Catacomb
      • Some fights that provide a bit of challenge. Nothing difficult here, just release the pressure plates to pass.
    • IRON DOOR: grab the key from Time and Tide 
    • When you finally put the scrolls in their correct spot, be ready for a bit of the rough and tumble. This is a tough fight. I found myself crafting potions to keep up with the damage from the little skinks. Afterwards you have access to a resurrection stone and a stairway down.
    Level 5: Hallways
    • Right at the start, you must find a hidden button to progress. Don't be too hasty, check for a another button on a wall in the room right past the button for a cloak made from mysterious scales. 
    • Near the caged crabs, there's a switch on a wall that leads to a hidden dagger. 
    • The pit room follows a regular pattern. Once beyond, you have several tough fights. You eventually find a room with a key, where a major combat will take place. After the dust settles, if you're still stuck in the room, perhaps leaving a gift where the key was will grant you freedom. 
      • Don't miss the switch on the far wall. It raises a platform worth investigating.
    • On the other side in the abandoned hallways, there's a switch and a pressure plate. The teleporter flashes on to knock items off the pressure plate. When you hit the switch, the gate opens to your left, and the teleporter flashes on. The plate opens the nearby door right past the gate. You can't reach the pressure plate in time to trigger it with your body, perhaps there's some way to trigger the plate from down the corridor so you can make it past the closed door in time.
    • IRON DOOR: And the clue says to rest where the Dragon(s) gaze. There are more than one of them. Perhaps where their vision intersects will point you to the place.  
          Level 6:Trapped
          •  The maze of madness isn't so maddening, you just have to be on the lookout for some hidden switches. Pay close enough attention and you can gain access to a necklace that gives bonus experience. 
          • In the Halls of Fire you will find a mage's entrance that works like you expect, being that you find a fireball scroll nearby. If you can't cast fireball, there's a nearby hallway with a hidden switch. Hitting that switch will give you a little hidey hole which may allow you to reach the end of the hallway. There you might find a tool that will give you what you need to cross. 
          • The walkabout is a walkabout. Go round once (Click/Click/Click) and get a stone. Keep walking for some bones and then a sack. 
          • There is a lot of fighting on this level, especially against ranged fire throwers. Use ranged weapons and quick dodging to slay your opponents. 
          • There are secrets within secrets near the hallways with the heads that shoot fire, both of them. After three secret switches, one leads to plate (seen on a level above), the other to a challenge for fighters. 
          • IRON DOOR: This isn't too difficult, there are four keys, one in each section.  Find them all and open the iron door.
          Level 7 Ancient Chambers
          • Lots of fighting on this level, but you should be powerful enough to handle it
          • To find a dagger fit for slayers of men (Assassin's Dagger) look for five switches. Only three of them make noise. Playing with them should do the trick. 
          • Near the Crystal on this level is a hallway with two doors. There is a pull chain to get into a room with two pressure plates. One raises a gate, and the other fires a missile. A bit of quick stepping will get the missile in the bucket. Prepare for a difficult fight. Afterwards, don't forget to walk around, to find a powerful Earthbound Staff. 
          • Stuck in the room where the floor opens and shuts? There's a switch hidden on a wall inside the room, in addition to treasure in a cubby hole. Remember, your body can block the spectral ray. 
          • IRON DOOR: Three demon faces. Any ball makes it to the goal and you get to start over. Your reward? Chitin Boots and a Scroll teaching you the Fire Arrow Spell.
          Level 8: The Vault
          • This level is short and sweet, if you bypass all the goodies.
          • You'll find a lightning conduit if you find the hidden entrance from level 7. If you come to this floor the normal way you'll find a note with a map to the secret entrance on level 7.
          • Down the lightning conduit there are secrets within secrets. I suggest you keep looking till you find your way around the bend.
          • IRON DOOR: You'll find the key for this door, past the lightning conduit
          • Down the halls you'll find several tough fights, and a teleporter. Take it for a couple of keys. These will get you around where you need to be.
          • Eventually, you find what the vault contains. Much like an archeologist, you'll have to find a way to get the treasure here. No boulders though if you fail. Just lightning.
          Level 9: The Temple
          • That flicker you encounter isn't just your imagination. Double check your maps.
          • You get a clue about moving like a snake, a while before it's actually time to. The checkboard room isn't as complicated as it appears.
          • Wall hangings, that's new! Perhaps they can be manipulated in some way.
          •  In the room with the 3 teleporters, you will find a scroll near the central statue. There is text in each chamber. The scroll and the text are related.
          • Finally you get to simulate a snake in that long pillared hallway. Don't quite know how it's working, but blindly following the directions seemed to work for me.
          • You have to find all three center sections of this level to advance. How does the game know you've done this? It happens if you've removed all the items -- so go ahead and put that scroll of lightning bolt on the floor even if your mage doesn't cast air spells. This has stymied more than one delver.
          • Finally you reach the riddle room
            • When you put down the correct object you get a click
            • "Game" refers to hunting animals
            • What is something made of earth
            • Something that is severed from a body that you are carrying around is dreadful
            • Is there something that opens your way?
          • A tough fight in the wrong environment is here.  Pump out that damage, and be careful of the charge. 
          • It may appear that you are trapped, but check around and you can find your way back to the crystal
          • IRON DOOR: You might have been carrying around something for a long time that goes here. . .
          Level 10: Temple II
          •  These puzzles are actually pretty simple. The red stone will open a gate on the side it's one, and there's some keyholes (one of which is hidden). It's also useful later. . .
          • Gathering the keys results in some tough fights, but it exposes a wall basket and a demon head. A bit of timing will open up the inner sanctum.
          • At which point you will be horribly murdered. Rest assured, that although they have a bit of resistance, you can plow through their defenses. Stay away from their heinous magic attacks. Either fight in the open room using ranged weapons (those bombs are a good idea at this point) or try to pull them back. You can always avoid direct engagement also.
          • If you do get mostly slaughtered, and you run back to the stone on level 9 only to find your path blocked, you've just got to open the path by finding a small wall switch. . .
          • IRON DOOR: You have something from earlier?
          Level 11, 12, and 13 are connected.
          • A combination of high hit point titanic enemies and spellcasters make for some tough fights in the opening areas of 12.
          • You're in 12, because for now 11 is closed off.
          • You'll get messages from your 'savior' while awake here.
          • The mechanism needs fixing. You don't need to bother with the heavy generic parts. You have to drop down to 13 to find parts on the walls and floors.
          • Once you find all the parts, put them in the place and pay attention to where they are put. You'll need to know later.
          • OH NO! Disaster. I suggest running towards that 'portal' that was mentioned in the North-West! Welcome to the very short level 11!
          • You're given a final puzzle. It's hard to look in the darkness with all that light around.
          • Once you have the ultimate weapon, head back down to 12 and dismantle your enemy. He's invulnerable until dismantled.  
          • The room is thick with enemies. Thick, I say. What to do? Level 13 is nice and quiet, and no one is regenerating, if you know what I mean.
          • Those doors on 12 that you couldn't open? Some of the random enemies will drop keys, giving you access to those supplies. They are neither a secret nor necessary.

          Now to try it on hard/with different builds/in old school mode!
            Skull Locations
            • North section of the Old Tunnels, There is a switch where you find the key in the fungus rooms. Pulling this switch opens a secret chamber nearby with a skull on the ground next to some Nomad Boots.  
            • This second skull is technically in the archives, but can only be reached from Level 3. Fall down into the pits, and in the back corner, you'll find this skull on the ground. You'll have to do a bit of fighting first.  
            • Near the 'real' entrance to Level 8, right past the room with three faces and three pits, you'll find a skull in a wall cubby hole.  
            • You'll find another skull on level 8 just past a teleporter that takes you to a room filled with herders. 
            • Your fifth skull comes from level 11. You reach it through falling down a pit on level 10.

                  On Transcripts: Character Creation

                  After some discussion, Character Creation.

                  This is an example of the speed at which character creation takes place. One player, Garth, has already created a character in this system. Rachel has played and ran many different role playing games, but has not played this one.

                  With bullshi&&ing, explaining each choice in total, and goofing around, both characters were rolled up and geared up in 25 minutes. The first thing the player did was grab dice and start playing.

                  It is nine in the morning on a Sunday.

                  DM: Me
                  Rachel: Creating Female Sage
                  Garth: Creating Male Alchemist
                  Jordan: Grant, Male Sage

                  DM: Ok, So, um, uh- What we're going to do is 4d6, droppin' the lowest, switch any two.

                  Garth: I would like to roll dice.

                  DM: Down the line, of course, so like you're gonna get to switch two.

                  Rachel: Ok. I'm very slow this morning, so uh--

                  DM: That's fine, there isn't-- there isn't-- no reason to hurry

                  Rachel: 4d6 drop the lowest, that's what we're doing--

                  DM: 4d6 drop the lowest.

                  Rachel: {Continues} I don't even need to know anything else right now. Ok.
                   {Dice Clatter}

                  Garth: 13 Strength.
                  {Dice Clatter}

                  Rachel: 18!

                  DM: What!

                  Rachel: I got an 18.

                  DM: No kidding! That is exciting.
                   {Dice Clatter}

                  Rachel: That's not as exciting.

                  DM: No, but it's a good start to the morning to get an 18.

                  Rachel: Actually it's not as bad as I thought.

                  DM: Even with drop lowest it's still like 2%, the chance of an 18.

                  Rachel: Oh, I was talking about my next roll. Uh, I'm too slow to even explain myself.

                  Garth: 14 Int.

                  Rachel: You know what--

                  DM: Don't you get up this early normally?

                  Rachel: Yeah, but I'm not feeling well this morning.

                  Garth: Hey 17.

                  DM: Wow, you guys are rolling really well. It's a lot more forgiving than 3d6, with the average being 12 instead of 8.

                  Garth: 13.

                  Rachel: All right.

                  DM: Ok, Ok, You can pick two and switch 'em. So you can basically put that 18 anywhere you want.

                  Rachel: Can I decide what I'm going to be first?

                  DM: Yeah, yeah, ok. So there are five classes. There are three basic classes and two advanced ones. Um, There are 4 races. Non-human races include Elf, Dwarf, and Gnome.

                  Garth: Are they their own class?

                  DM: No. They pick from the three basic classes, and then the multi-class. So you can have an Elf Fighter/Thief {Sic: Expert}, or an Elf Fighter/Mage {Sic: Sage}or an Elf Fighter/Thief/Mage {Sic: Expert/Sage}. But the thing is, these classes have a lot of options and as the racial classes, they don't get to pick any of them. Like Elf doesn't get to decide what kind of little things their fighter gets because elves are all fundamentally the same. So if you're human, you just pick one class and it has no limit. Uh, there are, the five classes are; Fighting men. Fighting men are tough letting them jump in and lead on the action. Obviously they hit things really well and they get feats every level. They get some special fighter ability. The get automatic cleave at first level and they use the fighter experience point table. Sages are fragile and have to plan all their spells in the morning. Sages get a d4 for hit points. Uh, they are restricted to gear as a magic user. They use the magic user saves. They pick from at first level, three categories. Thaumaturgy, Ordained, and Aboriginal. Thaumaturgy gives them 3 random first level spells like a wizard, Ordained lets them Bless, Heal, and Turn Undead. And, uh, Aboriginal gives them a familiar. Like, uhhhh, I dunno a cat or a wolf or uh hawk -- Grey Ooze, I don't care.

                  Rachel: Wizard, Cleric, Druid

                  DM: Yeah, but the thing is, at second level then if they have picked Thaumaturgy, they pick a school. And the school can be a couple of -- I have like a list of 100 different things. Like Thunder or Time or I don't care. And then if they are Ordained, they start picking spheres, uh, areas of influence, Fire or Diplomacy, and then they will get a selection of spells from under that. If they are Aboriginal, they will get nature oriented primal powers, so they'll get things like Druid spells and the ability to shape-change. But it's very specific. It's going to be very specific about where you're leveling up.

                  Garth: What about tree ability. Can you turn into a tree? Summon trees?

                  DM: Humans get a lot of freedom, now if you're playing an Elf Sage or whatever, you're not going to get to pick between those. You're going to have a specific thing that they do. We're using the Memory Cell Chart for spell-casting.

                  Rachel: Wouldn't that kind of screw you guys?

                  DM: What?

                  Garth: What?

                  Rachel: Like if we're being attacked -- *poof* I'm a tree.

                  DM: Who cares, about them, really? {Indicates the other players} "I turn into plants". Shrubbery!

                  DM: We use the memory spell chart which means that each spell has a shape, and you can cast any spell that's equal or less then your level. So if you're fourth level, you can cast fourth level spells if you can fit it in your brain and if you know it.

                  Rachel: Ok, I understand.

                  DM: Ok, and then there's Experts. Experts are lucky but not good at fighting. They have a d6 for hit points, they get five skills. They can have a skill at expert when they start. They every level, automatically get a new skill. Per level they get a mulligan. So a second level expert can re-roll a die they've already rolled like twice a session. Like a saving throw, or an attack roll, or a damage roll they get to re-roll once per their level. They can trade out one of their first level skills for Backstab or Poison Use. Uh, they are restricted to gear as a thief. They use the thief saves and experience. Every even level, they can also gain a +1 to hit, a +1 to AC, or an ability like a fighter. Nobody else increases in their ability to hit but fighters. So like if you're a sage, you're always going to have a +0 attack bonus. Unless your spell requires an attack roll and then you'll add your level. Um, and then there are two specialist classes. Alchemist and Psionist. Which is in the other supplement that I wrote. Did you see? Did you see? This is the playtest draft. *Thud* {163 page document hits table}

                  Rachel: I did start doing some rough drafts of art for you.

                  DM: Yeah.

                  Rachel: Mostly at work while I'm waiting for queries to run.

                  DM: So like I wrote that. It's like 163 pages.

                  Rachel: It's huge.

                  DM: It is huge.

                  Rachel: It needs some art.

                  DM: Yeah, yeah.

                  DM: I have I do have about 40 pages of art that I've done. The only piece that's in there is the one right behind the cover.

                  Rachel: I've seen this one before.

                  DM: Have you? Yeah.
                  . . .
                  DM: So there's that, and then there's the other class, the Psioncist. Alchemists are dicks. They create toxins, powders, potions, and poisons to punish and sicken their opponents. They are weak and opportunistic. Lacking natural skills they goad other members of the party into keeping them safe and free from harm.

                  Rachel: Can they make healing potions?

                  DM: Yes. Yes. Psionicists are physically weak --  Alchemists can make any potion in the Dungeon Masters Guide, plus, I don't know, about 500 I made up. Psionicists are physically weak with few powerful mental powers. They have a few abilities and they must be very creative in the way they are used. It's basically like a spell-caster with spells that they can cast at any given moment. They have a lot more flexibility then spell-casters than the effects of spells, but the effects are not particularly powerful.
                  You know there are a lot of limitations into Hypnotism. It sounds great, you can force somebody to do something, pretty much at will. But they have to have an intelligence within a pretty narrow range and they can't have more hit dice then you, and you can only affect so many hit dice at the same time. So when it comes up it's super-powerful to be like "Look, we have a thrall! And we're going to make him walk into traps!" But like, finding the thing that you get to do that to and keeping him, it's challenging. Like there's in game -- you've got to be creative.
                  The idea is that each class matches the actual play style that you'll be engaging in. Sages require a lot of planning. Fighters are tough and they can get out there and do stuff. Experts can take big risks because they get mulligans and can deal with a bunch of different situations. Psionicists have to be creative and alchemists have to hide behind people and make other people sick and do their shit.

                  Garth: And read a lot.

                  DM: Yeah and look through a book. Oh, yeah. If you're doing Alchemist again we're going to get a sheet of paper and we're going to write down everything you have and everything it does.

                  Rachel: Yeah, that was my next question. I thought you already had a character.

                  Garth: Yeah, he died.

                  Rachel: Already?

                  Garth: He had the best Alchemist name. Ambrose Whithers-Grigsby. It was a good Alchemist name.

                  Rachel: How'd he die?

                  Garth: Well, he took a -- he came down with a case of sword through the lung.

                  Garth: He made it out, barely, because he was carrying a little healing kit, so uh, the other characters grabbed that, barely healed him, I think I had a 15% chance.

                  DM: 15% chance. I think Hawley rolled like a 6?

                  Garth: So she kept me alive, dragged me out of there. I had to recover for 40d6 weeks --

                  DM: No, 10d6. From Organ Damage.

                  Garth: With a 10% chance of death per week, which equals death. If it were descending, I think that would make more sense. 10% the first week, 9, 8,

                  DM: Definitely, it should have been lowered, but it was like week 3 when you finally kicked the bucket.

                  Garth: And I rolled an 8 which means I would have still--

                  Rachel: It took 3 weeks to get to town?

                  DM: No, he recovered in town. He was like "well, I'm not going out again." So he was rolling to see how long -- I just don't feel that the ability to recover from a punctured lung in a fishing town I describe as --

                  Garth: You're right, you're right.

                  DM: Decrepit fishing village.

                  Garth: The only thing is that the rule for the recovery. It should start at maybe higher than 10%. But it should descend 1% at a time. Because it doesn't make sense to make it 39 weeks and be like "Hey, I think I've got the hang of this -- OOPS Instant death!"

                  DM: Ok. I think it should probably only be like 10% for the first 6 or 8 weeks and then done. When you get 0 hit points, nothing bad happens except you start taking criticals.

                  Garth: So the hit points are just our buffer. It's petty handy.

                  DM: Before you get to actual wounds.

                  Rachel: {Sigh}

                  DM: What's the deep sigh for?

                  Rachel: I'm thinking Sage.

                  DM: Ok.

                  Rachel: What do you think?

                  Garth: I think I'm going to go back to Alchemist, try that. I will choke the rivers of this land with dead Alchemists.

                  DM: Which one do you want? The spells, the blessings? Ordained? Thaumaturgic, or uh, Aboriginal.

                  Garth: We could use an Ordained.

                  DM: You let her do whatever she wants.

                  Rachel: I'm trying to decide. I definitely don't want the last one.

                  Garth: The Shamanistic

                  DM: The familiar?

                  Rachel: Yeah.

                  DM: It's not really the best first level pick I don't think. Because then you're like "What can you do?" "Oh, I have a dog." {ED: this has been addressed}

                  Garth: Wait, they have no spells?

                  DM: No, just the familiar.

                  Garth: What?

                  DM: Well, later on they get to turn into animals and stuff.

                  Garth: That's not a class, that is a choice at the pet shop on the way to the adventure.

                  DM: No, it's a faaaamilllliar. You get to have it be special. It's getting to take two actions a round.

                  Rachel: If you can make healing potions. . .

                  Garth: I will hopefully. Now are basic healing potions common? Potions of cure light wounds?

                  DM: No, No, Uncommon, elixirs, uncommon.

                  Rachel: So you said that there was a fire sphere. How does a blessings person have a fire sphere?

                  DM: Well, when they get first level, all they can do is Bless, Heal, and Turn Undead. Anytime. There is no limit. They don't need a spell sheet. They are just like "now is blessing time", everyone gets a +1 bonus to saves versus fear and +1 to hit.

                  Garth: Do they have to check to be able to do that?

                  DM: Or they can bless water. Yeah, same thing with turning undead. Light healing. When they hit second level, it's just like wizard. Instead of picking schools of magic, they are picking spheres of influence. Like a sphere is Chaos or Diplomacy or Travel or, you know, it's almost identical to a school, except it's {mostly} cleric spells instead of wizard spells.

                  Rachel: I guess I'll do the healing one. It'll keep us alive better, because we have a warrior.

                  Garth: Plus, this is a lot more free-form, so you can just come up with some cool spheres.Now do they only have one sphere? Because the old gods used to have --

                  DM: No, but if you pick from different ones, you'll keep getting low level spells. You have to pick the same ones to get the more powerful spells. So specialization is rewarded. Then again, the lower level spells don't take up as much space in your brain. So you can have a bunch of low level spells.

                  Garth: I have swapped my Dexterity for my Wisdom. All right. The only thing I know about this character is that his initials are going to spell out PBAU.

                  Rachel: Why?

                  Garth: Because that's the symbol for lead and gold.

                  DM: Not healing potions, but there is a common curative tonic that heals 1d6-2.
                  {Jordan arrives}

                  DM: I'm sorry, I'm wrong. The elixir of healing {Ed:Elixir of Cure Light Wounds} is common. Purified water, Rare earths--

                  Garth: Purified like, blessed?

                  DM: There's a recipe for pure water. Troll blood/Healing Essence one dram, Powdered Pearl one dram, Powdered Silver one dram.

                  Garth: What? What's the crafting gold cost?

                  DM: So you need that stuff. 10 gold.

                  Garth: So it must be tiny amounts of the stuff.  Because healing potions are relatively common.

                  DM: Yes, anything you can convince me you can get a healing essence from.

                  Garth: Is that a creature or dead--

                  DM: Something with fast healing or regeneration or life oriented.

                  Garth: Is it possible to buy items.

                  DM: Like buy drams?

                  Garth: Like buy something that can be dissolved or concentrated into  --

                  DM: Yeah, a living creature that you can convince me  -- you have to extract the healing essence.

                  Garth: What about from fish.

                  DM: You can get cold, and you can get water from fish that have full hit dice. But I don't think you can just be like "Salmon!". Who signed up for the obsidian portal?

                  Garth: It's weird, because if you sign up, it won't show your name on the player list. Just the list of other players.

                  Rachel: But is still shows up on your list of games, right?

                  DM: Percentiles. When you add a picture, I will give you 500 bonus XP.

                  Rachel: A picture of my character?

                  DM: Any kind of picture associated with your account so you don't have the simple default face.

                  Garth: My picture looks just like me.

                  DM: It doesn't have to look like you at all, it just has to be a photograph that's not the basic head.

                  Garth: 15. What am I rolling for.

                  DM: 15 is coins, this is your bonus for signing up on Obsidian Portal. Roll again
                  {Some rolls later}

                  DM: You get 20 hard silver. You can keep the same equipment list for your last character.

                  Garth: I think that the Alchemist -- I mean you've got a class that's a person with a dog so I don't think the Alchemist deserves a ton of starting stuff, but uh, I think it's very fun to start with a little bit of everything. So you might have a random pack of beginning alchemical items.

                  DM: That is an excellent idea.

                  Garth: They could even be themed. Like roll 1d6. You get a 4. That's the outdoorsy, the other one was the tomb-robbery.

                  DM: That's an excellent idea. Done. Sold. Are you waiting on me?

                  Rachel: What am I supposed to be doing, I thought you were working on his character?

                  DM: So you're sage and you decided to go ordained. Your stat bonuses are at 13, 16, and 18.

                  Rachel: But I need to probably move Dex, to like Wisdom? And you can only make one move, right?

                  DM: Wisdom is going to be the stat cap -- I mean the spell cap for Ordained.

                  Garth: Do you get bonus spells?

                  DM: No, you get the brain size. But it affects the maximum number of spells she can know. She can know twice her level plus twice her bonus. So right now, she can know 8 spells.

                  Rachel: Ok, that's done.

                  DM: Which at this point, I'm not going to give you a sheet, because you -- how many slots are there? Five? So you have five 'battle healing spells' because you can bless at any time.

                  Rachel: Do I write these abilities down anywhere?

                  DM: No, don't worry about it.

                  Garth: You start with those special abilities and additional spells.

                  DM: No. Just bless, turn undead, and heal.

                  Garth: But each of those abilities have to take up a slot.

                  DM: No. Only for combat.

                  Garth: The druid is still super weak.

                  DM: It's not really a druid - it's a familiar.

                  Garth: That class choice is still pretty weak. It's a person who happens to have a dog.

                  DM: It's not a dog.

                  Garth: Whatever it is.

                  DM: If you picked dog, that would be 'dire wolf'. Does a dire wolf do more damage than a magic missile? I bet it does more damage per round. On average.

                  Garth: I still think their should be spells. Especially Duridic things that would function like those abilities.

                  DM: {To Rachel} I'm sorry. It's a D4 for hit points. So you do that and you add your constitution modifier.

                  Rachel: 4!

                  DM: Congratulations! You said your Constitution is +1? That means that weird little trapezoidal shaped box right there is your system shock. It's 90 + Three times your Constitution modifier. I have some gear sheets for you. Roll 3d8.

                  Rachel:  Ok. 21.

                  DM: 210 gold

                  Rachel: Where do you put gold? Do I put that somewhere?

                  DM: Yeah, the back, the bottom, I didn't print of equipment sheets again. Your base bonus to attack is 0. Your melee is strength and your ranged is dex.

                  Rachel: What about my movement?

                  DM: You're movement is going to be 12"

                  Rachel: My race?

                  DM: If you're going to be picking Ordained, you're going to be human.

                  Garth: Because only humans are the gods chosen people.

                  DM: If you picked Dwarf Fighter/Sage; the first level Dwarf Sage automatically gets ordained. They don't get to pick, that's just what they get because they are Dwarves. You pick Elf Fighter/Sage/Expert the first level sage would get animal companion. Because they don't pick, they just automatically get whatever.

                  Rachel: Ohhh! I can get an elephant!

                  DM: You can afford an Elephant?

                  Rachel: Yes I could.

                  DM: "What do you have there?" "Oh, nothing, just a pachyderm."

                  Jordan: Ok, I'm signed up for obsidian portal now and have a picture.

                  DM: Ok, Jordan is like "Bonus!"
                  {Some rolls}

                  Rachel: Are we doing stuff like blankets that we have to pay for?

                  Garth: There's a master kit that's got all the-

                  DM: She's got them.

                  Garth: There's the kit selection stuff. Where if you select the kit--

                  Rachel: Ok there.
                  {Jordan finishes his rolls}

                  DM: You have a 50 gold piece pair of silk trousers. They are embroidered -- and where are the other things?

                  Jordan: I sell them.

                  DM: They are silk. There's little buttons on the side made from rare crystals. Rare furs. Trousers worth 50 gold pieces!

                  Jordan: I sell them.

                  DM: Why would you sell them!? They are fancy pants!
                  {All Laughter}

                  Garth: You can have a middle name of fancy pants!

                  Jordan: I'll be ok. I'll take the gold.

                  DM: You cannot buy pants like this anywhere.

                  Garth: You probably cannot sell them to fishermen {All laugh} who's yearly income taps out at like 10 gold.

                  Jordan: Fine, I'll keep the fancy pants.

                  DM: Are you going to wear them?

                  Jordan: Yes. I'm going to wear them.

                  DM: That is awesome.

                  Jordan: Of course I'm going to wear them. I'm not keeping them for show. I can't be called 'fancy pants' if I don't wear the fancy pants.

                  DM: "Two hours later, Your pants are torn".

                  Garth: I like to imagine that everything is just rainbows and laughing as you're walking along with your fancy pants. And then like we camp for the night and wake up, we're all happy. And you come out of your tent. You're not wearing the fancy pants and just sadness. Rain.
                  {Hawley speaks up}

                  Hawley: Wait, we get points for doing things on that website?

                  All: Oh yeah.

                  Hawley: You didn't tell me that part.

                  DM: That's right, I didn't. It's a surprise.

                  Hawley: I just signed up.

                  DM: Well then you get a roll. You too may have a pair of fancy pants!

                  Garth: {deadpan} You may have already won.

                  DM: There are stat bonuses on that table. 2400 is the experience point total for second level sage.

                  Rachel: All right?

                  DM: Can you just show Rachel your sheet so she can copy your saving throws?

                  Rachel: The modifiers aren't the same as his, right?

                  DM: No, the modifiers are based off your stats. It's just the numbers in the circle you're concerned about.

                  Rachel: Ok, I got the numbers. Now what about the modifiers. Poison/Death is what? Constitution?

                  DM: Yeah, what is he have modifiers next to.

                  Rachel: There's saves and then there's a line with modifiers.

                  DM: Yeah, yeah, uh.

                  Rachel: Poison, Death, Constitution? Do you take the 14 into account or not?

                  Garth: 14 is a +1

                  DM: You roll a die, and you add the number that's the modifier and if it's over the number in the circle you get it.

                  Garth: Those are both +1, those are 0's

                  Rachel: Oh a 12 is a 0?!

                  Garth: It goes 13, 16 and 18.

                  Rachel: Well, that's annoying.

                  DM: That's the statistical bell curve.

                  Garth: Nobody likes that.

                  DM: I like it.

                  Garth: they want a +1 for a 12 and a +4 for an 18.

                  Rachel: So annoying.

                  Garth: You see? You see?

                  DM: I see that her 18 is really special.

                  Garth: It would still be special. It would be an extra +1

                  Rachel: Anyway. So what do I put in my modifier column.
                  {Adding save modifiers}

                  Rachel: All-right Garth. Should I just take the master kit and the expert scholar's kit, or do I need other stuff? I don't know. I don't want to think.

                  Garth: Then just start with the elephant.

                  Jordan: You don't want to think. No thinking! Hack!

                  Rachel: I'm not getting the elephant, that will take all my money. And it's probably a work elephant, not a war elephant.

                  Jordan: So? That thing can still trample people.

                  Garth: Do you know the difference between those?

                  Garth: One overzealous slap.

                  DM: One panics a whole lot?

                  Rachel: Can I just write master kit?

                  DM: Yeah.

                  Rachel: Maybe I should just write all this crap down. Unless I can look at this whenever I want.

                  DM: You can keep that. You want to keep that? You can keep it. This is not "exercise your writing hand for an hour in the morning". Just write down master kit and keep the sheet and then you can look at that. I won't need it.

                  Garth: This is brilliant. I'll just keep making alchemists and each one will will the accumulated horde to the next one. Eventually I'll reach critical mass.
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