On the Ecology of a Nightmare

"You can die in your dreams; to actually walk in the realm itself is the height of foolishness" - Ui-teh, Taurian Speaker

"I beheld a nightmare from up close upon the tree pits of Haly Karoek. I admit, beheld is not the right word ... It smelled so noxious that my eyes watered ceaselessly!" -Nightmare survivor, Phrain Tharbos

Nomenclature: Nightmare, Hell horse, Darkfire mount

Description: A dark horse, often aflame

Things that are known:

  • When seen, they appear as horses
  • They are often highlighted or colored with flame
  • They are known to fly

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • Nightmares are regular horses, raised on a special diet of salt, from the paraelemental plane of salt, collected near the negative energy side. 
  • They are the dreams of demon lords that have settled into darkness and then race out as steeds of flame, each one an ember or spark designed to engulf the world
  • They are souls of those who have failed their demon master, bound to the corpse of a horse, condemned to serve someone more competent
  • They are the results of drunk bets made between wizards
  • There are no stallions, they are birthed from the raw detritus of creation, warped to only destroy
  • They seek tragedy and ruins, decayed battlefields and mass graves, because that is where celestial and infernal stallions carry the dead to the afterlife.
  • Sometimes wishes are horses and beggars do ride. Witches are responsible for binding infernal energy into a stable mount capable of reproduction. This product of internal wishes reproduces my mating with the terror dreams that are inspired by its existence
  • They are a status symbol of the wicked, those who have torn free a piece of fire and ambition used to flee hell itself. They believe they've acquired freedom, when in fact the escape was a test. Those who do are horrific enough to lead demons against the last bastion of good on the prime
  • They are capable of bearing a rider while leaping into the dream of a victim
  • They are the used up, cast-off casualties of horses from the chariot that drew the sun across the sky. Burned and worn, they smolder still. They are tangentially real, disconnected from the divine, malicious, yet still able to travel between dimensions
  • A nightmare is a witch's infernal bond. When she bargains with demons from the underworld the nightmare is created, but the demon chooses the master of the horse, not the witch. Slaying the nightmare severs the witches infernal power
  • They are fallen Ki-rin
  • Nightmares are the beasts created when wendigo attack horses instead of men
  • Nightmares are actually the souls of children who died in a fire set intentionally for malicious purposes. They feast on the wicked, insane beasts driven by madness and eternal burning flame
  • They are bred by giants in a remote land, fed only human flesh and blood to obtain a precious human soul. They are then killed and the souls sold to demons, who ride them for eternity. The horses are quite intelligent and constantly seek to escape
  • The nightmare is a dream of a wicked man, potent and unfulfilled. They lack control and their personal ambitions release ethereal miasma. This mist can become different kinds of aberrations, those related to majesty and freedom become mares of the night. They are ridden by champions of evil, because they seek those who have the drive their creators lack. 
  • They are loyal, cruel and don't feel any remorse to leave a master who is a failure
  • Nightmares, hell hounds, and smoke raptors are all created by the lord of the hunt - when cultists found his avatar and corrupted him from a hunting god, to a god of death
  • True nightmares are only born on the field of battle. Enraged spirits of the slain, trapped by their fury, pour into wounded horses, setting them ablaze with their wrath
  • They aren't evil, just elemental. They have escaped from the stables of a volcanic titan. Their skin is cracked and folded like fresh lava. The flames at their hooves are from the objects they touch, not the horse itself
  • They are the adolescent form of a night hag
  • They can only be tamed by someone who isn't a virgin
  • Sometimes when riding through the dreams of victims, they leave their riders behind. Other times they never leave preferring to possess their victims instead
  • Nightmares are unconcerned about sexuality. When they refuse to be tamed by 'virgins' they mean those who have never slain another sentient creature
  • They will thoughtlessly abandon a rider for a more cruel rider
  • They are the smouldering remains of the hopes and dreams of a valkyrie while transporting a soul to Valhalla
  • Nightmares are literally nightmares of slumbering titans. Killing the titan will slay the nightmare. This is of limited utility
  • Nightmares are only corporeal in the dream realm. They are the shades of innocent horses that are slain by cruel riders
  • They are neither intelligent, nor alive. The sage Gno Ko No asserts that nightmares are the infections parasitised bodies possessed by larval efreeti
  • According to Wagghy Baroeka, savant and najib of the Nazraheem, the nightmare is a vampiric horse. The vampirism is caused by a blood curse of the seven fates of the three crystal moons, and increases the strength, speed, and blood lust, but only mares attain the full stature
  • The stallion counterpart to the nightmare, is the zombie stallion, rotting and possesed by a lust for herbivores brains. Carnivores have nothing to fear
  • Daymares are worse, they are not bound by night
  • A nightmare can teleport through the bad dreams of anyone who has ever beheld it
  • Shulao of Chuffre claims the nightmares were an abortive experiment by the Vilai who sought to create telepathic horses
  • Shulao of Tancra disagrees, the nightmares were originally created from several species of animals, including donkeys and beavers, as familiars to permit the wizard Li Vilai Kreisers to communicate at a distance through their dreams. The mares eventually got loose, but some creatures, such as the nightbear and the nightskunk remain docile
  • It is a corruption of their proper name, Knightmare, the gift of the moon goddess to her paladins
  • They are the spirit of wicked riders who have trampled to death the innocent and then burnt at the stake as punishment
Vipersbite - DA
  • People riding on nightmares are all too commonly controlled by the nightmare. They are not the steed but the rider
  • The dreamstuff nightmares are made up ignites in the waking world. Anyone who weathers the most terrible dream a nightmare can deliver is immune to any harm.
  • They come from the stable of Oneiroi, gods of dreaming, found on the wild plane of dreaming and the astral plane
  • Dwarven efforts to create a rideable nightmare pony have only resulted in delicious new barbecue sensation
  • They are composed of ash and flame, when it is slain it falls to smouldering coals
  • Fire giants, famed hell hound trainers, also train nightmares expertly. The prices are exorbitant of course
  • They are invisible, translucent and colorless. It is only the fear of the victim that colors them black and flame
  • Nightmare herds graze on the far side of the moon, trapped on earth they are driven to madness
  • Alzamrum, the antimage of Chuffre, nightmares are demons that possess animals in the night. They ride them through the air, scaring people
  • Nightmares have hooves of pure gold. They use fire-jet nostrils to melt rare metals out of ore, which sustains them. They are aurophages, eating gold in preference to all other substances
  • They are all female, and mate with other equine (unicorns, pegasi, and celestial mounts preferred) and bear only female foals
  • They go into heat only during the hottest part of summer. The female subsumes her flame, becoming a plane majestic black mare. Her beauty attracts mates. After birthing the foals are abandoned, they must find sentient raw flesh to eat in order to survive
  • A paladin's mount is an ordinary horse transmuted atom by atom into celestial matter. Hell, ever original, copied the idea. These lustful hell steeds mated with everything they could mount. Their offspring were all nightmares
  • Greater nightmares grow wings not unlike those of crows, which they then use to fly. Ordinary nightmares simply stride across the sky, slower than actual flying creatures, like pegasi, rocks, and the screaming stars of Phelogeon
  • They are actually shapeshifting goblin shamans
  • They are all created by the ritual "Nightmare" which targets a single individual, or the powerful "Plague of Nightmares" which the Academages of Askamandria claim was responsible for the fall of Gloaming Empire of Suskandahar
  • They are the steeds of fallen paladins. They have no immunity to their flaming hooves. They are tormented by them
  • They are possessed by a fiery demon, because hell creatures need steeds too.
  • Nightmares can torment victims by taking the shape of "psychic smoke" and invading the dreamers mind. The creature feasts on the terrors of the sleeper, leaving a dried out fear-stricken husk
  • They are actually a species of sheep
  • Hairshirts made from their hide remind all those akashics and pain seekers of the ultimate fire that waits 'pon all flesh
  • The aquatic nightmare had flippers instead of hooves and gives off steam instead of fire, called "notte di mare" in 'Talish
  • Each nightmare has only one eye, the other a soul gem, hiding trapped behind the dreamer who dreamt it. All nightmares have a blind side because of this
  • They seek damned souls of the troubled and disturbed. Souls are carried to various planes of torment or enslaved by the gods of horror to spawn new monsters to torment the waking world
  • There is a whole realm of nocturnal horror fauna, but only a few leak into our world. Pre-human races and damnable cults try to call them
  • There is a rare unicorn/nightmare hybrid. It poisons water with it's toxic horn and enters the dreams of virgins to tempt them to death
  • Nightmares are obviously and frequently used as riders to traverse the planes
  • Those that suffer from sleep paralysis often feel an unsettling or threatening presence in the room. This is a nightmare as is the sleep paralysis. Any person who wakes from sleep in the presence of a nightmare is unable to move until it leaves
  • Their teeth are stained pink
Special Nightmare Combat Attacks: 

Flaming Hooves: Their hooves may burst aflame! This means they do flame damage in addition to normal damage
Flaming Stampede: Nightmares may overrun their opponents. Either use CMB, or if playing in a system without CMB, use the grappling rules to see if a trample is successful. On a successful stampede, the target takes damage from both hooves, as well as double flame damage (usually 2d6)
Flame Stomp: By slamming their hooves into the ground, Nightmares may produce a flaming burst. This affects all opponents to the front or front sides of the nightmare. They take 1d6+8 damage from the flames, a saving throw versus breath weapon (Or Reflex, Dex based) will give 1/2 damage.

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

On Lulu Codes and Discounts

Lulu is having a sale today, till the 19th.

I'm doubling down on that, and knocking 10% off the price of the book On the Non-Player Character until the sale ends. Lulu is giving a 20% discount with the code (SOCIUS)

One of my players has been gone for a week or two. When she was here on Sunday she asked to see the book. She ended up just flipping through it for half an hour, reading the table entries and talking about ideas for gaming it was giving her.

She noted, correctly, that it's useful as an 'eternal document' for pretty much any role-playing game you might play ever. And that all the non-player character descriptions and physical traits made her want use them because of how much fun they sounded to run.

And she didn't even look at the combat commentary, social combat, wandering encounter design, or encounter activity table! And I didn't have any printed off, so she didn't get to gander at the free handouts either!

Did I mention it's on sale now, until the 19th!

It's in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow.

On the Non-Player Character: Physical Traits

Here are 100 options out of 400 from the physical trait tables from the book On the Non-Player Character" available in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow.

These options are in the middle section of all the physical traits. The first two hundred are more common traits meant to apply to villagers, while as you go down the list they become more and more strange and befitting adventurers. 

1. Gout
2. Birthmark, small
3. Birthmark, large
4. Jowls
5. Red cheeks
6. Red nose
7. Thin eyebrows
8. Bulbous nose
9. Button nose
10. Square jaw
11. Jutting jaw
12. Overbite
13. Underbite
14. Stutter
15. Flips hair
16. Constantly twirls hair
17. Handsome/pretty
18. Jaundiced
19. Nasty cough
20. Sleepy
21. Shaved head with top knot
22. No nose
23. Wears armcuffs
24. No nose (prosthetic replacement)
25. Sings to self
26. Wears wolfskin
27. Smells of pine
28. Wearing bearskin
29. Exceptionally hairy
30. Wearing a full animal mask
31. Wearing animal headress
32. Hands covered in dried blood
33. Wears ostentatious rings
34. Carrying a chicken
35. Covered face with metal plate
36. No eyebrows
37. Appears frustrated/distracted
38. Extremely intense
39. Very long fingernails
40. Claw-like nails
41. Speaks of self in 3rd person
42. Adds Mr/Mrs and Sieur/Madam
43. Oppositional/Defiant
44. Borderline/Attention Seeking
45. Narcissistic/Violent @ criticism
46. Excessively long hair
47. Ostentatious neck jewelry
48. Nose piercing – Bar
49. Nose piercing – Hoop
50. Labret piercing
51. Missing eye
52. Metallic skin
53. Spiky hair
54. Welts/bites all over
55. Clawed hands
56. Foppish
57. Says the same one or two phrases, repeatedly
58. Hyper-hydrosis
59. Runny nose
60. Flips coin
61. Constant itching
62. Rash
63. Scaly skin
64. Flatulent
65. Obsequious
66. Necklace of coins
67. Necklace of finger bones
68. Necklace of teeth
69. Wears tights and curled toes
70. Has metal lightning bolts over ears
71. Wears eye mask
72. Has jaunty green hat
73. Has golden hemispheres on side of head
74. Wears colored cape
75. Goiter
76. Elongated skull
77. Stone in forehead
78. Withered limb
79. Prominent birthmark
80. Back is currently out
81. Has a small pet dog
82. Has a pet ferret
83. Hums constantly
84. Mute
85. Calls everyone honey
86. Extends sibilants when speaking
87. Eye is slightly off center
88. Slightly cross eyed
89. Dreadlocks hair
90. Patching balding
91. Left handed
92. Head half shaved
93. Hair extensively braided
94. Otherworldly ancestor
95. Bad, rotten teeth
96. Piercing violet eyes
97. Albino
98. Sexy
99. Excellent skin

100. Round. ‘jolly’ looking

Like this table? Get 300 more entries and more by grabbing the book, "On the Non-Player Character" available in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow. It has a lot more than just tables in it, but you should know that the tables that are in it are pretty cool!

On Poor Communication

I have difficulty communicating.

People say "Your blog is challenging to read".

I agree with this. I feel it is superior to provide material that is challenging.

Not because it is inherently more virtuous to be challenging. But because of agency. Human Agency.

On the First Problem

The problem of subjective definition:

So one of the tools in the Quantum Ogre series, given to maintain agency is "Yes, but. . ." where you describe the consequences of an action before the action is taken.

You don't do this to make the game easy. You do this because it is very very super difficult hard to communicate a complete setting and scene in your head to another human being using words.

So a non-challenging blog will say something like "A widget is bad". Only they don't define widget. And wiget is a term that could mean one thing to one person, and another to a different person. Both go away from the article thinking entirely different things from the same text.

On the Second Problem

On the problem of intent:

But the difficulties don't stop there. Some people type "The new movie has many logical flaws." Some people interpret this as a literal statement that means nothing else besides this. Perhaps they liked the film, perhaps they didn't. Other people reading this see the person saying also, [the new movie is bad and I didn't like it] in addition to the actual literal text written.

Everyone is looking at those two options and saying "Well everyone knows that's the right one to do." about different options.

On the Third Problem 

On the problem of coherence:

This is the most difficult to talk about.

This is a blog - not a scientific journal, research paper, journalism article, biography, or other formal work. The primary goal is to communicate, entertain, and engage an audience.

People read it for fun.

This means, personally, I strive not to be pedantic. I do not itemize every bit of text out into clear statements of "This is my opinion." "This is fact." I work from the belief that A) My readership is erudite and can reasonably parse what I am saying. B) Any questions can be asked to me in multiple channels and I will respond to any clear questions or claims. I am never intentionally obfuscatory. I write what I mean and will always clarify upon request.
There is too much, let me sum up

I believe, that because of this, I often run into two specific situations repeatedly:
  • Someone tries to apply a specific piece of advice globally that should just apply to the situation it resolves
  • Someone reads one sentence out of context with the rest of the article. 
I am writing this because all too often, these communication problems are getting in the way of actual discussion. It is my responsibility to communicate clearly. This is the first step in a larger clarification and reorganization of some long standing points.

On the Ecology of the Neo-Otyugh/Otyugh

Via Gamebanshee, Concept art for Otyugh
"I hate these things!" - Arcaila Moreu, Adventuring Sellsword

Nomenclature: Gulguthra, Otyugh, Neo-Otyugh, Shit pile, Refuse

Description: A tri-pedial thorny tentacled beast with dun colored rocky flesh, a gaping maw, and a set of 3 eyes on a mobile stalk. It is noteable that it is usually covered in fecal refuse.

Things that are known:

  • They live and eat refuse and fecal matter
  • They also eat people

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • They are particularly sensitive to their environments, picking up traits from wherever they happen to live. Swamp Otyughs cause rotting when they strike, cave otyughs can seep acid through their skin from the acidic water
  • They often have psychic powers
  • It doesn't actually feed on refuse. It feeds on residual psychic energy from pain and terror. This is best communicated through refused in ancient battlefields, mass graves and dungeons
  • They are all unwanted children, abandoned by their parents
  • They are the discarded, diseased and sick heads of a hydrae
  • They aren't an animal or creature as such, but instead giant semi-sentient colonies of bacteria living in monster dung
  • They aren't live children abandoned by their parents, but instead children who died and did not receive a proper burial
  • Alchemical waste and detritus ends up somewhere and becomes an otyugh. Neo-otyughs occur when this process is performed on purpose
  • They are the formed rage of a planet against those who dump their waste instead of sorting and cycling it again
  • They are the droppings of the many-handed Setebos, the god of rage and blind violence
  • It is the result of a vicious ingested magical poison, transmuting the filth in their gut into a baby otyugh which bursts from the rear orifice of its owner
  • They are sentient creatures produced from hemorrhoids by the curse of a witch
  • The otyugh has a more primitive form the paleo-otyugh, with tentacles that have spines and fears fire
  • Some otyugh have been known to shoot beams of fire or light from the tentacle containing its eyes
  • They have a rare third stage of evolution known as the ultimo-otyugh, powered by the massive consumption of methane. This large armored form drifts through the air from place to place, attacking all life with beams of light and fire, gouts of flame, and streams of noxious poison
  • They are secretly star spawn from beyond the outer crystal barrier of the heavens. They mine refuse for methane, stored in a hyper-pressurized extradimensional space, storing enough until they can blast away from the surface of the earth on a pillar of fire.
  • These star spawn explode when killed. The historian and philanderer Mockoropius says that it was the explosion of a single one that took out the entire shimmering spire quarter of Massansopolis in the year of the cancer rat
  • All otyughs may use the methane they collect to levitate
Christopher Burdett. Go Look.
  • It is the final fate after death of all those who were annoying and abrasive to existence before death
  • Refuse to an otyugh is profound, the degree to which it is rejected and shunned is the beauty and purity of it. Adventurers are outcasts themselves, proving irresistible for most otyughs 
  • Otyughs communicate via modulated smells, which is why they collect dung
  • The otyughs view the world through a strange lens, with an aesthetic sense completely reversed from our own. They attack out of strong revulsion, as we would a spider or insect.
  • They are the shit of the gods, proof of their existences
  • They are what happens if you try to raise the dead long after it is safe to do so.
  • Otyughs are demi-gods elevated by sentient anthropomorphic dung beetles worshiping offal pits in the mists of early time. Each settlement of beetles raised their own god, and these gods turned out to be capable of breeding true. Back in the day, the biggest settlements pumped enough sincere worship into otyughs that they could grant spells to the high priest of the settlement.
    • Goblins discovered this by accident, and many goblin tribes have a guardian otyugh they worship and feed with sacrifices. This is the source of some goblin shaman spellcasting ability.
  • A grove of powerful swamp druids defended a border against incursions for a thousand years, constantly animating the swamp itself to defend against intruders. The composite residue built in the swamp, and has been responsible for shambling mounds, otyughs, and a variety of carnivorous plants. Otyughs are centered on enlarging parasites feeding on corpses, merging them with the corpses, and granting dark sentience.

  • A goblin hero once saved a lesser demi-god from a dark fate. The bemused and grateful god said the goblin could have a mount. The goblin wished for something stable and not too fast (he was easily travelsick) that could grab and break stuff, and was heavily armored, and could peek around corners, and was not too dainty. Oh, and it could wade through anything. His name was Otyugh, and his mount was named Otyugh too.
  • Lizardfolk shamen were getting pounded by constructs their civilized wizard neighbors built to go into the swamp and root them out. Frustrated, they pooled their collective energies and tried to figure out how to make constructs of their own, to bring the power of the swamp to bear against civilization. This was the best they could do. However, the fecundity of the swamp allowed them to manage something the wizards never could with their constructs--otyughs can reproduce.
  • A furious court wizard cursed the courtier who used intrigues to oust him, making him clearly visible to all as the spying, muckraking, lecherous, disease-riddled piece of shit he was. Unfortunately, he also told him to go screw himself, so the resulting monstrosity could reproduce without help.
  • Otyughs are slaves brought from another dimension to do heavy lifting and swamp work, by the Makers Before Time. With the fall of the Makers, no one else had the knack or the inclination to tell the otyughs what to do, or to send them home.
  • Modron trapped on Prime lose their crispness and gain infections and unsightly growths, becoming otyugh. Driven mad with shame and pain, they degenerate to animal intelligence.
  • Otyugh are the individual sperm of the god of rot, filth, corruption, and fertility.
  • Otyugh are massive striding constructs of swamp pixies playing Godzilla. They are inside the armored torso, giggling madly as they smash stuff.
  • Otyugh are larval Eye Tyrants.
  • Giant Otyughs exist, one was sighted in Sham Padmoen. They rise from the decayed souls and corpses of dead giants outcast from their society
  • Otyugh are the result of civilization. For every intricate sculpture, every profound play, every elaborate painting, every organized government, and even the ordered philosophy of law, there is an otyugh. They recall the work of their birth, those born of music can emit a deafening scream, those of painting a mesmerizing display, those of sculpture can petrify those near. They bud from themselves, full of loathing and hate for themselves and all men and their works. Their existence is suffering. They desire nothing but to devour all of civilization. A ruined, filth and decay covered dungeon is as to ponography for them, a brief glimpse of the end of all things
  • Otyugh are beautiful creatures turned inside out
  • They are exceedingly intelligent, with a highly literate culture. However all their communication is olfactory and their writing is in smell coated excrement pellets, making their works unknown to men
  • They are said to run a prison known as the otyugh hole, where if one can survive a week, internal reserves of strength might be found
  • They have been known in large enough piles of refuse to swarm
  • They are dungeon overlords, who hold a shadow council to decide the contents of every underground realm in the land. 
  • They often act as 'watchdogs' for tribes of primitive screwheads
  • The watchdog bit is an excellent cover for their rulership over tribes of primitive screwheads
  • Smart and organized societies integrate the Otyugh into the cycle of waste disposal. This often makes them the best person (thing?) to talk to when things get lost
  • They have a tendency to form unions and then strike
  • The type of waste they eat determines which special abilities they have
The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

On the Magic Bell (Curve)

So I've been using Chainmail style roll to cast in my games for a while now. It was originally mentioned in a post here by Jeff, and followed up with these posts by Brendan.

The 2d6 curve is a real thing of beauty.

But there are problems.

First, there is add level + stat bonus and subtract armor worn value. This is easy enough, it becomes a 'magic bonus' which works very much like a 'to hit bonus'. The real issue comes in when you have to subtract both the level of the spell and the number of times you have cast per day! That double subtraction option is a real tough pill to swallow.

Here is my new idea.

You get 2d6. You get an additional d6 to your pool for ever level you have and every bonus for your statistic.

Table stays the same, you may roll as many as you wish to cast a spell.

Any die that comes up with a number equal to or less than the level of the spell you are casting is lost and cannot be regained till you rest. Armor reduces the number of dice you have available.

2 Spell fails. Lose the spell
3-5 Spell goes off at end of the round. Lose the spell
6-8 Spell goes off at the end of the round, you can cast the spell again
9-11 Spell goes off at the start of the round, you can cast the spell again
12 Spell goes off at the start of the round, you can cast the spell again
As in the current system, doubles are wild surges, boxcars are spell surges, and snake eyes are spell mishaps.

If you get hit, the spell for that round is canceled, it is only lost on a roll of 5 or less.

On the Essential Logic

From "Out at Five" by Matt Johnson
Important enough for permanent record. . .

If someone is offering to sell you the secret in how to be successful in something, look at the successful big name people in the industry. Are they selling you how to do that?


Why? Because they are successful.

If someone has the secrets in how to be successful using "neuroscience", then why aren't they using it to be successful?

Oh, for free, here are the ways that you succeed at breaking into an industry.

1. Work very hard for a long time
2. Produce unique quality work
3. Be consistent and a good communicator to maintain an audience
4. Build genuine long-term relationships with people in the industry
5. Do better at working harder and faster

And, I mean, that's really the rub of it, isn't it.

See, if you're looking at spending money on something like this, do you know what you're not doing?


On the Non-Player Character: Personality Traits

I'm A5 Digest Sized!
This is a selection of 100 of the 400 personality traits from my book, "On the Non-Player Character" available in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow.

Personal Trait Table 1
1. Searching for a long lost twin
2. Having an affair with a married man/woman
3. Peeping tom, looking for a place to set up
4. Trying to conceive, badly wants a child
5. Was selling something illegal that is now missing
6. Low self-esteem over scars
7. Traitor of a nearby country
8. Loves his pet excessively
9. Saw parents murdered
10. Plagued by an ex
11. Actually a were-creature
12. Actually a well behaved undead
13. Suicidal, has a death wish
14. Heretical, angry at religion
15. Penitent, carries a heavy burden of irrational guilt
16. Curious about killing something
17. Physical fitness buff
18. Secretly royalty
19. Possesses strange mutation
20. Has drugs, wants to sell

Personal Trait Table 2
1. Is from something they call “the mother ship”
2. Loathes all mages, poor at hiding it
3. Vegetarian, fond of kale, tells everyone
4. Atheist, won’t shut up about it
5. Believes they are the last of their kind, clearly not
6. Dreading an arranged marriage
7. Desperate for a date
8. Just looking for a friend to spend time with
9. Married to a relative of the player characters
10. Married to an enemy of the player characters
11. Constantly trying to guess the command word of players magic items
12. Killed one or both parents, pursued by the law
13. Killed one or both parents, guilty, tries to garner sympathy by saying parents are shitty
14. Sociopath, pleasant. Secretly kills small animals
15. Good work ethic
16. Constantly praising the gods. Talks about it given any opportunity
17. Has a song in his heart
18. Roll again, believes the person they are talking to has the trait rolled
19. Deals poorly with stress
20. Defiled temple and stole holy artifact. Hunted by priests, templars, knights

Personal Trait Table 3
1. Has demonic patron
2. Kleptomaniac
3. Aggressive teetotaler
4. Has a dream. . .
5. Liar, not very good at it
6. Obsessed with being prepared
7. Pyromaniac
8. Is at one with the universe
9. Illiterate, tells everyone
10. Looking for small loan
11. Has a rich uncle, looking for him
12. Only survivor of a shipwreck that they caused. Heard rumor someone else survived
13. Illiterate, tries to cover it up
14. Nice but secretly jealous of the player’s character
15. Has severe phobia
16. Always hungry
17. Rebel at heart, despises authority
18. Has wellness anxiety (hypochondria)
19. Constantly sketching and drawing everything around him. Refuses to show it off
20. Believes he has secret magical ability

Personal Trait Table 4
1. Former gravedigger. Needing to repair shovel
2. Haunted by ghosts, or possibly schizophrenic.
3. Has several lovers in positions of power
4. Vermin control specialist, likes to talk about it
5. Recovering drug addict, today is a difficult day
6. Cursed, vomits birds, scarves fall from sleeve, first object removed from container is rabbit
7. Riddled with parasites
8. Devout missionary
9. Occasional hunger for human flesh due to a past experience with cannibalism (“longpig”)
10. Always has something pleasant to say
11. No short term memory
12. Has a piece of property in a terrible place that they want to sell badly
13. Obsessive about war, fighting, and military history
14. Ex-military, dissatisfied with civilian life
15. Has sex slave, constantly having slave do sex to them
16. Nihilist
17. Wants to save and protect vicious monsters
18. Is a ghostbuster
19. Out-of-depth, wishes he would stop running into players
20. Absent-minded, accident prone, fearless, and impulsive

Personal Trait Table 5
1. Sexually attracted to bizarre species. Asking about, seeking, questioning, etc. Playing with the idea of a relationship
2. Adventured once before. Mentions it often, refuses to elaborate
3. Actually possessed by a demon, bound to hide until his task is revealed
4. Encyclopedic lore on wands. Knows the makers, brands, effects, different makes/models
5. Actually a polymorphed simple animal, fearful of wizards due to fear of being changed back (into pig/toad, etc.)
6. Zen master, always reverses saying (“he who questions training only trains himself at asking questions”)
7. Knows how to speak the language of oozes, currently having an argument with a mold. Minimizes this
8. Possesses wild talent. Manifests for first time during this conversation
9. Currently in a relationship with relative or significant other of a player’s character
10. Wants to be a good solider, feels obsolete (due to age, infirmity, etc.)
11. Blood has secretly been replaced with another substance. Currently bleeding
12. Reputation as greatest something. Challengers constantly appear.
13. Found half a treasure map, knows where other half is. Looking for help to find ‘treasure’.
14. Law abiding citizen made nervous by any activity that might be breaking a local law or statute
15. Wants to start an orphanage, not selective about the origin of orphans
16. Has pica. Obsessed with eating a strange thing (lichen, spellbook pages)
17. Constantly creating new brilliant inventions. All are focused on the preparation of vegetables for cooking in easier and more tasty ways
18. Talks to all inanimate objects as if they were intelligent
19. Directly related to a player, or by marriage if that’s not possible
20. Desires fame and fortune of adventuring life, repulsed by hard work and danger

Like this table? Get 300 more entries and more by grabbing the book, "On the Non-Player Character" available in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow.

On Reader Mail, Encounters

"I'm running a west marches style old school game. It's a hex crawl, and I've been trying to make a dynamic distribution of encounters that are highly dangerous, and encounters that are more matched to the players level (they tell me where they want to explore that week and I detail the area for them). 
I find myself creating one random monster & encounter table after another, and as I've done so I've been thinking a lot about how to determine what dangerous encounters should go where and how likely they are to be rolled from my tables when I'm designing (meaning encounters I'm creating for the adventure before the game).
So far I use about 60-70% matched and 40-30% that are much more dangerous. So far it has worked quite well.
So, my question: How do you go about monster generation for your worlds? Do you randomly generate your creatures/encounters with tables? Is there an equation you've made and follow? I'm interested to know what you think."

This is an ever evolving process.

If you wish an area to be thematic, reduce the total number of encounters. They total numbers of encounters are infrequent, and if you want them to be thematic, there must be few of them.

I highly suggest a 2d3 or 2d4 bell curve.

Use something like this and automatic contact with random encounters to give the flavor of an overland.

Encounters don't have to be with monsters, they can be events and things.

Encounters don't have to be hostile. I almost always preconstruct 'narratives' to my encounters. ("What's this? Has Hack & Slash lost his marbles?") Ha! No I haven't. What I mean is, you don't ever just meet 9 Gnolls. You meet Tark Rogkak who leads 8 Gnolls that are looking for their lost companion. Why is he lost? Well, they were looking for treasure. They found it, and their 'companion' absconded with it. (I wrote a little something to help you generate those types of encounters!)

At this point, the players can kill them like the same random encounter of 9 gnolls. If they don't, well, then, you have something else to go on. I have absolutely no preconceived ideas or goal to how the encounter should play out.

An entry should be reserved for 'wandering monsters' which is different then 'random encounters'. I discuss this point here.

These are the thoughts as I have them about encounter tables.

On the Non-Player Character handouts

There's never enough room to put in everything you want.

These had to be left out, there's indications in the final document of these tables in the 'here's how to create an non-player character' section, but the forms themselves had to be cut for space.

Why? Because it's 62 dense pages, packed full of useful information. What I have here is 3 pages of charts and game aids. 62+3 is one over the limit for the A5 center staple book option.

Luckily we have this thing called the internet! Here are forms to track NPC's and factions, individual NPC sheets and encounter sheets to track fluctuations reactions in combat.

Download the non-player character sheets from here for free!

Think these sheets look interesting? Find out how to use them by grabbing a copy of "On the Non-Player Character" available in print from Lulu, and in .pdf from Lulu and RPGnow.

On Ruins of the Undercity

So my wife and I have been playing a bit of solo Dungeons & Dragons.

My first thought when playing Ruins of the Undercity was "Wow, this is a great game." Then it occurred to me, isn't it Basic/Expert that's the good game?

My second thought was dying at zero hit points is harsh. We have some level 2 characters, but nearly a dozen have died!

But this isn't really about Ruins - I'll be talking about that once we've sussed out a little more of the upper levels. . .

It uses tables, although altered, that are similar in structure to the tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide for solo play. These tables work like so:

What's next?

Door->Location->Type->Locked->What's behind?
Chamber->Size->Exits->Exit location->Door table->Lighting->Content
Room->Size->Exits->Exit location->Lighting->Content
Trap->Type of trap
Wandering monster->Roll for level->Roll for type->Roll for number encountered

This isn't vague, it's very specific. Yes, Room and chamber are reversed from their classical use. 

Is it necessary to have all these rolls? It's a lot of rolling, and takes a lot of time. 

This type of gaming is essentially gambling. Here are the important rolls - the ones where some gambling rides on the outcome.

Type of corridor structure
Is the door dangerous (the type/locked rolls) and what's behind it.
The content of the room
The type of trap (and the roll to disarm it)
and The type of monster.

Although the rest of the rolls provide information about the environment, there is little to nothing riding on them the majority of the time. The majority of the rolls simply provide minor detail and take up a great bit of time. 

Other games do this same process - Munchkin! is the most well known. It's been modified so far away from the root that any similarities are thematic only. Is there a good solution to this? 

Minds are working on the problem.

On the Non-player Character

I'm A5 digest sized!
I published a useful thing!

Buy it in Print at Lulu!
Buy it in .pdf at Lulu!

I'm putting it up for sale. What is it? Obviously it's about non-player characters, but like what's in it?

Well, the most interesting thing is that I believe I've uncovered a hidden social combat system within Dungeons & Dragons for over 30 years.

I also think I've navigated a method of resolving social situations via player skill, rather than by personal social skill or by character skill. This is really interesting because it ties into a long series of discussions over what you choose to roll for at the table. Of course interacting with non-player characters is one of those things you can actually do so there's no need to roll. But doing so, means that your interactions and their success or failure are based on your personal social skill - the skill you have as a human being at social interaction.

This is really a mechanical solution to provide objectivity for social interactions and relies on your ability to gather information and make intelligent choices (i.e. player skill) for success.

You know, and that's not even the majority of the book. There's also useful tables and systems for generating memorable and immediately gameable long term non-player characters. I worked very hard to insure that you would never get a result and think "How am I going to get that to come up during a game?!"

It works seamlessly with whatever version of the classic game you are playing. It doesn't require anything from your players other than what they do now. They continue to interact with the game world as they always have, but you simply have an objective, impartial method of resolving their actions. This means it eliminates Dungeon Master mind reading, "Mother may I?" play, and pixel bitching.

Players don't need to master any new skills - the player skills they have will work just fine. There's no chance for anyone to have a game-breaking diplomancer, but now an 18 Charisma can actually be useful in concrete specific ways, as much as an 18 Strength can be.

I'll be putting up various sections from the book over the coming week. If you're curious why I'm charging, read this here. As an update, we're over 10,400 downloads of Tricks, Empty Rooms & Basic Trap Design. The book is also available at Onebookshelf (RPGnow and DriveThruRPG) but is slightly more expensive there, due to their increased costs.

Buy it in Print at Lulu!
Buy it in .pdf at Lulu!

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