On New Megadungeons on the Internet

Sometimes things disappear.

We may no longer have megadungeon.net (not linked, because now it's a club promotion site), but now we may have something better.

I've been getting a number of hits from http://www.megadungeons.com/, a site that:

"Hope to create a reasonably exhaustive list of megadungeon resources, categorized in a way that I at least find useful as I work. In addition to the Resources page, I’ll be blogging about my learning-by-doing experience of Knightley Keep, any resources I create myself, and anything else that goes down in the wide world of megadungeon creation."
He links several of my resources, which are great for megadungeon design, but strangely doesn't mention my own megadungeon, Numenhalla.

Even though the site is new, the resource page is robust. There's a single forum for mapping requiring a wordpress log in. It's worth dropping by and saying hello!

On Hidden Resources: Phonomicon ex cultis

Today's Hidden Resource is Phonomicon ex cultis, 100 cults, religions, and general beliefs of those who specialize in douchebaggery.

 It allows random selection of the 100 deities, each with a sound associated with a name, portfolio of influence, types of worshipers, granted powers, symbols, descriptions, even illustrations on some pages!

 It's written by Duncan Young and deserves a look!

On the Thursday Trick, The Vacuum Door

When is a stuck door not a stuck door?

The Vacuum Door(Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger:Mechanical: Latch or SwitchEffects:Never Miss
Multiple Targets
Save:DexterityDuration: Instant
Resets: Manual/AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)

Description: There are two types of these traps. The first is the vacuum in a closed chamber, the second is a door that leads to another realm.

In the first case, there is some sort of mechanism, either magical or mechanical that removes the air from a chamber or room. Then, when the brave delvers break the seal, the air pressure will suck them forward into a pit, spikes, or whatever heinousness you have prepared on the other side of the door. This should provide a hefty penalty (at least +4) to any saving throws or checks made to avoid the nearby hazard.

The second case, the door is a literal portal to space. In that case, the suction will not stop, as the vacuum is very low pressure. Now because this isn't a small, enclosed area, but is indeed a non-pressure zone next to an entire planets atmosphere, there is a great deal of suction that will occur as the atmosphere attempts to equalize (for real). This can be stopped by closing doors in the nearby areas, but then the pressure will equalize and there will be a larger vacuum.

Detection/Disarming: Depending on the substance of the door, the material may be bowed. A door that's stuck will be different and react differently then one where the other side is pressurized. The real danger comes from deciding to kick in the door. Normal attempts to open it will cause intense pressure and rushing of wind, giving a bit of a clue to what will happen if the door is swung wide.

However, if you are cruel enough to have the door open inward. . .

The inspiration for this trap is a quite near death in a certain online game by Jeff Reints

On the Preparation

Better than original content, it'sa bandwagon! (From Roger, Noisms, and RPG.net)

I'd like to start by saying; Noisms, I would have rather read about druids.

No one "doesn't prepare" for running a game. It's one of the things about role playing that makes it different than any other game.

It has to do with how you choose to prepare. Sometime during the week you're thinking about things during the game.

  • Lazyness when it comes to prepration has created the worst gaming sins imaginable
  • Being "not lazy" does not take a lot of work
What are the worst sins? Railroading. Off the cuff wildness. Off the cuff mediocrity. Wasting other players time as you reference at the table.

That not bad enough?

We all prepare for the game. The idea is to do it in a way that isn't shitty to your players. Unless that's your thing, and you'd like to defend forcing other people to listen to you blather on about some crap you just came up with off the top of your head.

If you were that interesting, you'd probably have earned more money last year.

Since you're preparing anyway, why not just do it well?  What does that mean?

I spend my "prep time" for a session doing just one thing. Discovering the minimum about of strokes I can make on a sheet that will avoid the sins above.(Even if it doesn't seem like it.)

That means, I create dynamic complex environments from where the players tell me where they are going next. I then figure out a way to represent those environments on paper in a minimalistic way as possible so that I can be present during the actual play of the game - using my improvisational skills to describe the environment the players inhabit instead of trying to create an interesting game from them.

Does it take a long time? Not particularly. Since I enjoy it, I spend more time than I need to. But you can spend an hour of prep to cover weeks of in play content. I will get 3-6 weeks of play from a 60 room dungeon with one map page, 2-3 pages of room information and 1 page of treasure, taking 4-6 hours to prepare. Doesn't 6 hours a month seem like reasonable prep time?

Some thoughts I have:
  • If you think someone's anecdote about "some game they didn't prepare for went just great" means that it's a good idea to go without preparation, then the nicest thing I can say about you is that you lack the ability to engage in rigorous thinking.
  • Nobody can be prepared for any eventuality. Concluding from this that you shouldn't prepare for any eventuality puts you in the category above.
  • This is an example of where an array of quantum encounters can can come in useful without impacting agency.
  • Improvisation is a GM skill from necessity, not desire.

On Interesting Treasure: Sapphire Golden Ring

There is nothing unlucky about this ring. Even if it was forged on the night of a Friday on the 13th day on the 13th week of a year, under the light of a blood moon.

Worth 8,600 gold to anyone unaware of it's history.

On the Thursday Trick, The Fatal Illusionary Death Corridor

Fatal Illusionary Death Corridor (Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: VariesEffects:Poison
Multiple Targets
Save:Armor Class
Duration: Varies
Resets: AutomaticBypass:Special

Description: This trap is simple. They players are in a confined space. A devastating environmental hazard is barreling down the center of the corridor, like the cleaners, a boulder, or a giant saw blade. There is enough room to the side of the corridor to avoid the device.

Those who "Duck out of the way," "Dodge" or "Reflex save" to avoid the trap, spring it on themselves. The walls are jagged and covered with sharp metal flanges and spikes. These are coated with a thick poison. Anyone throwing themselves out of the way is attacked by the spikes and poisoned to death.

How to avoid the trap then? The deadly onrushing object? Nothing but an illusion.

Detection/Disarming: There are several steps one must take in presenting this trap to players to maintain agency, and one tricky part to navigate.

The first is the jagged, spiked nature of the corridor must be apparent. It can be subtle, the spikes need not be the size of ink pens, they can be smaller and more needle like, but if so, this should provide a huge bonus to the save for anyone in heavy armor.

It is also very likely along the sides of the corridor there will be corpses or other signs of dead creatures.

There should be at least a single word in the description of the object to indicate it's chimerical nature. For instance, an onrushing boulder could be described in any of the following ways.
  • There is a click and forty feet ahead of you a large boulder, seven feet in diamater appears at the edge of your torch light. It's rolling quickly towards you, at a deadly speed. The terrifying noise of stone grating against stone gives you pause as you imagine your bodies being crushed between the boulder and the floor as it continues to roll down the preternaturally still corridor towards you and your inevitable doom. What do you do? 5. . . 4. . . . 3. . . .
  • A dark shape appears out of the corridor ahead. It is a stone, larger then the tallest among you. It rolls towards you as fast as a running man, silently, as the halls will be after your demise. What do you do? 5. . .4. . .
  • Ahead, you see a huge boulder rolling towards you. It came out of the darkness ahead and is rolling faster and faster towards the party. It passes over everything in it's way!
These are simply specific verbal cues you can give players to allow them the opportunity to disbelieve (that is, make the save with the bonus).

Regardless, when exposed to the actual danger from the deadly onrushing object, they get their save versus illusion.

The biggest pitfall when presenting a trap like this is the minor control over player actions. If they 'dodge out of the way' does this necessarily mean they've exposed themselves to the spikes?

There are two important factors here. First is that the players of the characters feel pressure to make a decision.  I personally maintain this tension at the table by starting the count at five while also holding up my hand with fingers extended. Then saying four, and listening to player responses.

I am not actually counting down seconds. I stop verbally stating numbers at four, and lower just the finger to three, and then wait for responses. The idea is to make the players feel time pressure, not actually not give them enough time to make a decision. If they hem and haw, then feel free to lower another finger to two, but keep your hand held up as you go around and take actions from the players at the table. Another option is to have the count at three for each person and as you do question and response, lower the count by one.

When they go around the room and say "Can I duck out of the way?" or "I try to duck to the side." etc. you can reply "It looks like you have enough room if you press yourself up against the wall, is that what you wish to do?"

Finally, narrate the results of their choices. Remember, as you go round robin, I do not suggest going back and letting players change their options.

On Some Random Arts

Art on a Sunday Gameday?

 Art on a Sunday Gameday.
Royo and the Female Form
Manara and the History of Man
Artwork by the under-appreciated and represented Steve Crompton
More Mr. Crompton
Snarf and Telerie
Although many decry Elmore for his naturalistic painting style, there are few inked artists I have ever seen who have made line drawn characters so three dimensional and appealing.

I'm not just talking about Telerie and his women. His male figures are just as interesting and damaged and human in his personal work as in any I've seen.

More character and line-work by Elmore.
 Finally a few pieces by my favorite artist

On Interesting Treasure, The Bejeweled Dragonfly

This broach is beautiful and is clearly valuable. it even radiates a warmth and detects mildly of magic (requiring three turns of study).

However, if identified, it is difficult to determine what exactly the item is just supposed to do. It appears to provide some sort of protection, but the effect is barely discernible.

However any spell user wearing this or within 10' will not notice but their spells are marginally less effective (hidden -1 point of damage or +1 to opponents saves). The dragon fly is collecting magical energy, and once powered, will become alive, and serve whoever provided the final energy.

Of course, it has a high market value outside of this purpose.

Sale price: 8,000 gp
Sale price to a mage if the faint magic is detected: 14,000 gp

On Hidden Resources: 600 Ioun Stones

So, you know, the biggest problem we have as a community is how we are fractured.

I mean, if you're playing Pathfinder, a table with 600 ioun stones can be useful. Same goes if you're playing B/X. But since it's just squirreled away, hidden in some corner of the internet, how will anyone ever find it.

I've linked to some other resources in the past, and I think it's time to make it a bit more frequent and structured.

So here is today's hidden resource: Quann'Ra-Tioll Moorchlyne's Most Excellent Compilation of all the realms known Ioun stones.

It is a free 104 page document with 600 Ioun stones of multiple power types, monsters, rules and information on cursed stones written by Matthew Hargenrader. Only 300 downloads? That's just insane.

Why don't you have this?

On the Thursday Trick, Natural Hazards

I've given some examples of this before, but one of the things that makes a useful trick is using the properties of natural substances. As I finish up alchemy, it's given me plenty of ideas about natural substances and the dangers that can result from their use.

I've already talked about phosphorus and what can happen when it's exposed to air. Here are some other ideas for deadly natural substances.

Sodium (Wiki Link): This is silvery metal (Looks like platinum!) that has wonderful properties when exposed to water. It begins to leak a damaging alkali and a highly flammable gas. The classic example from Grimtooth is having a giant "platinum" statue in a room behind a waterfall or beyond a pool. The explosion should do both large flame damage, but also spray their wounds with solvent, causing lots of damage over time.

Agency: Have your resident dwarf or appraiser identify strange metals before carting them off.

Methane (Wiki Link): Silent, Natural, Odorless and highly flammable (If you didn't know, methane in your house smells because they add something to it). And it's not really the explosion damage, but the likely cave-in afterwords that's the real danger.

Methane is also a great example of an asphyxiant. Even if your players don't carry a single flammable item, methane and other substances displace air, and there is little notice. The first thing that will happen is the characters will begin to feel drowsy as they start to suffocate. Other simple asphyxiates include propane which is also flammable, and Carbon Dioxide which is not for a nice change of pace.

Agency: Tradition was a canary, but any small creature dependent on oxygen will die long before humans. Your wizard wasn't really that attached to his familiar, was he?

Another natural danger is radiation. Normally radioactive materials make you ill a few hours after exposure and soon cause death, but because this is a fantasy game you can have it cause mutation which is much more enjoyable, for the DM. (And here's an awesome table by Scrap Princess)

Agency: Your best bet, for players is to pay attention to the local flora and fauna. A well described radiation danger would include lots of subtle but tertiary descriptions of strangely altered local inconsequential flora and fauna.
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