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My Kickstarter just crossed 12.8k!!! Don't miss out.

You will be sad. You will say, "Why don't I have the special Kickstarter edition with extra monster gooey gonzo goodness." You can not buy it. It will make you sad when other people are happy with what you cannot have.


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On Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation!

 Hello friends!

My new Kickstarter for Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation is now live!

Well, from the depths of the diaspora of G+, comes monster ecologies. I've written a book for players and downtime activates. I've written a book for Referees and agency building encounters. To go along with On Downtime & Demesnes and Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas, comes Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation!

It's got tons of ideas for monsters, advice for building ecologies, and ways to integrate that experience in play! What's more is that Kickstarter stretch goals will be exclusive to Kickstarter backers. So if you want this, now is the time to get it!

Go get in for a dollar and check out the PDF, and participate with other Kickstarter backers as you decide which biomes to explore and which monsters to add as Kickstarter exclusives.

On Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas

Hi all!

My new book, Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas is out in PDF on DTRPG. It will be on Kindle and in Print on Amazon by early next week, and on DTRPG in softcover and hardcover by mid-march.

It turned out—well—people seem to really like it. There's a huge preview on DTRPG, and the video below is a pretty thorough walkthrough of how useful and beautiful it is. If you are wondering why I don't post as much lately, I personally drew well over 100 illustrations for this book. Here are some samples.





It's already got several 5 star reviews. Here's a video review of a preview copy:


You are already a great Dungeon Master. You run a game really well.

What's the difference between a room and a chamber? What's the difference between a mausoleum, a sepulcher, and a crypt? Would disarming traps be more exciting if you understood how those complex mechanisms worked? What does a magic trap look like? What does a solar room look like and what's usually inside?

What's in it?

Over 100 Illustrations of Lavish environments Guidelines for escalating threats while respecting player agency Hundreds of ideas for tricks and traps.

No longer will your players complain about traps or unfair encounters. Now when they meet their doom, they will blame themselves for their own foolishness! Be as cruel and devious as you want with these guidelines on how to do so fairly!

Looking for something to spice up an encounter? Pick one of hundreds of options of traps, rooms, walls, tricks or more! Fill rooms with ease, design encounters in ways that give your players the freedom to put their own characters in hot water!

What's it for?

Referees who run games and understand their role in facilitating the groups adventure. This book provides guidance on how to create encounters that respect players and allow you to make encounters as exciting and dangerous as you want, without fear of being unfair. Imagine a group excited to discover a trap. Fill in your gaps of knowledge raising your confidence and making you a master ready to lead players on an adventure.

These objective procedures give referees tools that fire a desire in players to dive into your creative world, discover its detailed history, and make their mark on it. Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas gives you the tools to eliminate doubt and provides a library of ideas that will take you decades to exhaust. It will be a vade mecum, at hand for every environment and dungeon you create. Design a dangerous dungeon, concoct an ingenious trap, develop a diabolical arena, all with confidence and without concern. Give yourself the power, all with simple and clear guidelines!

This is a book used in every game you run. Your next campaign, the one after that, the one after that. . . Not one wasted word. Every page is crammed with content and creativity. No filler. Tools that describe devilish traps and devious decoys. Explore your own Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas today!

Buy it now, Today!


Hack & Slash 

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On Artifices & Deceptions: Triggers, Timed

Timed Triggers

This trigger just regularly springs the trap. Note that the trap may be set to use a timed trigger after the initial trigger is sprung.

Timed triggers are great obvious traps. This can be gouts of flame or swinging blades. They are buzzsaws, vines, and swinging logs. It is spinning pillars, anti-gravity platforms travelling up and down, and sections of floor that disappear or collapse after you step on them. They are rarely a danger themselves, but can make other situations more interesting. 

They are best used in situations where other objectives need to be met, rescuing hostages, defeating a bad guy, stealing an item, made all the more complicated by the regular changes in environment. 

Traditional use

S2 White Plume Mountain by Gary Gygax

7. The door opens onto a stone platform in a large natural cave. The ceiling averages 50´ above the level of the platform while the floor of the cave 50´ below is a deep pool of boiling mud. Points A and B mark the locations of geysers. Geyser A spouts once every five minutes. Geyser B spouts once every three minutes. Opposite the entrance platform is another stone platform, approximately 90´ away. Between them a series of wooden disks is suspended from the ceiling by massive steel changes. The disks are about four feet in diameter, and three feet apart. Each disk is attached to it’s chain by a giant staple fixed in its center. The disks swing freely and will tilt when weight is placed upon them. The disks and chains, as well as the walls of the cavern , are covered with a wet, slippery algal scum that lives on the water and nutrients spewed up from the geysers. This coating gives off a feeble phosphorescent glow.

When the geysers erupt, they reach nearly to the roof of the cavern, and creatures holding onto the disks or chains may be washed off to fall into the mud below (an almost instant death). Characters with 18 Strength, or better, have a 65% chance of holding onto a disk that is adjacent to an erupting geyser. For each point of strength less than 18, there is a 10% lesser chance of hanging onto the disks (i.e. 16 strength equals 45% chance.) However, for each disk the characters is located farther from the geyser, there is a cumulative chance 5% greater of holding on i.e. one farther away (from the adjacent disk) equals +5%, two away equals +10%, et. Damage varies as the distance from the geyser. Adjacent disk: 5-50 points; one away: 4-40, and so on: 3-30, 2-20, 1-10, 1-6 and 1-4 for anyone in the cavern. Characters who make their saving throw versus breath weapon will take only one-half damage.

Timed trigger design

Early timed triggers can be as simple as a swinging blade, something obviously and trivially avoided, at least until you get hit with a Fear effect or henchmen fail their morale rolls and run into it while fleeing.

Moderate timed triggers are an effective way to challenge mid-level parties with beginning challenges. Take an encounter for characters of 1st-3rd level and add gouts of fire that criss-cross the battlefield and it becomes an appropriate challenge for higher level characters. Another type of timed trigger is one where a normal activity is given a hard time limit, you must defeat the monster/pick the lock/disarm the trap before the room crushes you, the ceiling falls, the guards arrive, or your get cut apart my laser beams. 

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On Artifices & Deceptions: Triggers, Light

Light Detection: This trigger only functions in always lit or never lit areas. It works by using materials that react to the interruption or exposure to light. The source of light can be natural (sunlight/moonlight), magical (light, continual light), or man made (incandescent, torchlight, lasers). The trigger can be set to go off after the first interruption or detection of light, or it can be set to be triggered after a certain number of counted interruptions or time exposed to light.  This simplistic description of light detection neglects the various ways it can be used.

This is an effective trick or puzzle when the sensor responds only to a certain color of light.

The default stance of the trick, is of course that once torch, lantern, or sun-rod light is shone on the trigger, the trap is set, but it is also a useful stance for constructing a puzzle.

Often the sensor will be visible as a colored opaque crystal sphere. This should be breakable of course but doing so should ruin the mechanism.

The trigger most certainly does not have to be binary. It can require a certain degree or configuration of light, or perhaps be part of a multi-part puzzle where the light that triggers the light detector also gives a clue to the next step in the process while allowing the puzzle to succeed (like opening a door or portal where something must be thrown).

Traditional Use

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
2. STRANGLE VINES: . . .These creepers are attracted to the strongest light source, i.e. Continual Light, bright ship’s light, light, lantern, magic sword glow, torch light.
. . . If the ship’s lights are on the viewers will see various forms of large and small fish, and have a one in six chance of getting a glimpse of the “frog-thing”. . . Glints of gems will be seen from the lake bed! If they use lights in the observatory they absolutely will not only see that creature, but it will begin smashing at the plastiglass observation windows to get at the tender morsels within. The chance to break through is 5% per round. Attempts will cease as soon as the light is extinguished or the party is out of the monster’s sight.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
1. SMALL CAVE WITH MANY TUNNELS
This low-domed chamber has its ceiling literally dripping with stalactites. . . A tribe of 18 troglodytes lairs in the five small tunnels which radiate from this cave. . . Unless the party is exceptionally quiet and shows no light, the trodlodytes will be lurking in ambush for them, and they will surprise the party on a 1-4 (d6) or a 1-2 if a ranger is leading the party.

T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax
339. HALL OF ELEMENTAL MAGIC
This huge echoing hall is constructed of polished black stones, which give back odd reflections of your light. The most striking features here are the symbols set into the chamber floor. To the north is a triangle of dull ecru stone, outlined with some sort of gray metal; a throbbing radiance seems to spread in dun-colored pulses that wash over the area. To the east is a great 10’ square of translucent stone, blue at the edges and shading to a deep green at the center, bordered by a strip of pale green; the whole gives out undulating sheets of blue-green light. To the south is a circle of translucent crystal ringed by a silvery band; the whole sends forth slowly rising clouds of pale light, that spread and disappear. To the west is a long diamond shape with four points radiating from the sides of the lozenge. The whole is fashioned of translucent stone mottled red and amber, outlined in red gold. It sends up sudden tongues of brightness, planes of pale fiery light that vanish as quickly as they appear.
All of these radiations gleam from the walls and floor of the hall. Any object in the center of the four symbols shows the four different illuminations, and the ghastly purple of their mix.. . . Any creature who steps into the area of an elemental symbol and stands there for 3 segments is transported to the corresponding Elemental Node: the Air Cavern (circle), the Earth Burrows (triangle), the Fire Pits (lozenge), or Water Maze (square). The only way to escape therefrom is to win through to another “gate” area or to possess the complete Orb of Golden Death, inset with all four proper gems.

Light detection design 
Early use can be situations in which characters must maneuver without light to avoid an enemy. Simple puzzles can differ based on the time of day or season. Mirrors to reflect light into certain spots (with multiple solutions so that players might discover one and not another). Later, more difficult puzzles can be avoiding light being used as a tripwire, or environments that change based on available light (such as a room that is different at night than during the day).

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On Unique Speech

That's right, keep raising the bar, guys. Anyway, voices, right?

In the article linked above, Arnold tosses off a paragraph about how things that normally don't talk to players talk.

Well, that's super important. Everything or nearly so should talk in a fantasy game. I'm sure I can't recall the last time I played where someone couldn't speak to animals or plants or rocks or something. In a 4e game I played, someone figured out speak with dead along with the ability to speak with animals/insects allowed you to have access to effectively infinite sensors as long as you had enough access to mice or insect corpses.

The point is, if players can talk to stones, well, they are going to want to do it. The question is, how do you portray such creatures in game. This has an interesting intersectional tangent to my own beliefs, which is that pretty much all creatures have the same experience of life, even if they lack certain higher order functions. So, I'm asking a real question here, When the dogs can speak, what will they say?

Luckily, I'm preeety sure I can answer that question.

"Throw the ball? What are we doing now? Are we going somewhere? Did you say you were going to throw the ball? Is it time to eat? You're the best. I can get the ball for you. Or the stick. What's that over there? Here's the ball."

I mean, anyone who owns pets communicates with them all the time. Let's look at how to portray these things in game.

Speak With Animals


Dogs, Pets
Happy, hedonistic, insecure. Seeking approval from pack leaders. Poor at making judgements or decisions. Can perform basic but insightful analysis of interactions. Unsure of answers. Can't count higher than two. Sees in black and white. Concerned with primarily relating scent information: Will talk about garbage, what people ate, what animals were nearby, in preference to what people are doing or saying.

Dogs, War
As pets, but more rigid and disciplined. Can count to three. (One, Two, Three, Many). Speaks laconically and loudly, like a drill instructor. Calls all soldiers sir, doesn't take civilians seriously.

Cats
Selfish. Give no f%&*$. Narcissistic. Want to know why they should tell you anything. Acts superior, often bluffing. Haughty. Very self centered, when relating stories, every one is how about what happened affected them and their day. Secretly and urgently desires praise and attention.

Mice
Skittish. Nervous. Somewhat compulsive. When they've learned something, they can only relate it by rote, from the beginning each time. Everything is large or large and dangerous. Focused on the immediate world in front of them.

Rats
Focused on their needs. Totally convinced that they are part of the coolest organized crime group in the world and everyone should be terrified of them.

Speak with Plants


Moss
Totally unmotivated. Unconcerned with things. Not stupid, just lazy. Big plan of growing here, gonna keep it up. Speaks normally, but talks like a depressed person. ("That doesn't matter. I didn't pay attention, no one cares about that.")

Slimes/Algae
Observant. Talks like sleezeball in a bar. Offers to grow on intimate places. Fond of damp, wet, organic matter.

Grass
Communal. They are all part of a drug-free commune, and are just not concerned with your petty concerns, man. Complains about being walked all over, but thinks that their marxist unity will elevate them.

Trees, Coniferous
Stoic. Slightly arrogant. Terrified of fire. Talks a lot about the sky and clouds. Completely uninterested in creatures on the ground.

Trees, Deciduous
Varies based on the season. Bright and happy in spring, full of excitement and promise. Talks about the future a lot. Becomes very slow and relaxed in summer, taking a long time to say anything. In the fall, becomes morose and vexing. Threatens and plays tricks on people. Whines and moans when not doing that. During winter, wails and moans constantly, is acutely depressed and apocalyptic.

Baby Shoots
They speak with the enthusiasm of a powerpuff girl.

Speak with stones


Igneous
When new, these rocks are violent, and their voice is inconsistent and constantly changing, and they speak of change and revolution and tearing down the old order in fire and suffering. Older igneous rocks speak in a deep gravelly voice, that comes across as restrained power. They are jaded and have little insight into the world around them. Granite, especially cut granite, longs for the past, and believes things were better back then, and comes across as depressed and slightly lonely like old men.

Sedimentary
Constantly contradicts self. Personality suddenly changes frequently. Disagrees with self. Confused. Clipped speech.

Metamorphic
Slightly paranoid. Insightful but worried. Talks about instability and unpredictability. Cautions against depending on anything that it says. Believes the world is hostile. Somewhat pleased with itself and it's own traits and beauty, but then immediately falls back into paranoia.

Flagstones
Lots of different opinions, but all in the same voice from people who have identical experiences as them. Complains constantly about how nobody does any hard work and how they get taken advantage of by other people.

Gemstones
Narcissistic. Haughty. Spoiled. Throws tantrums.

Pebbles
Infantile wonder and amazement. "Whaaaaaaat?"



This article isn't meant to be a reference, but rather a starting point for thinking about the nature of things that normally don't speak. It's straightforward because the fact that the cat talks is the interesting thing. If, for whatever reason, that's expected, then it's no longer interesting. Players won't have thought about these characterizations; when they hear them, it will make sense. "Of course grass is a communal creature!" they will think. But if they are expecting it, then feel free to play against type to break expectations, once the thing talking is no longer the interesting thing.

Also, seriously, speak with rocks? Whoever invented that one was a jerk. Everything is made out of rocks. It's as difficult to manage as Psychometry is in game!

This post was originally published on 6/9/15, and is linked on Links to Wisdom.
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