Saturday, July 27, 2013

Locks as Monsters

What if different difficulty of locks had different hit dice?  And specific locks had hit points, even armor classes?  Then roguish characters could roll a special lock "attack" to "hit" a lock and do a certain amount of damage per "hit."  This "attack" would go up with level.

Not too different in conception from rolling against a percentage chance, but it would be more familiar with players.  It should be more clear that some locks will take multiple rounds to get through, that some locks might be "unhittable" or unbreakable for this rogue at this level.

And if you imagine that these locks are crude and require scraping and banging on, then rolling for wandering monsters each round could be a thing.  And players should have a good sense of how many rounds it would take to "defeat" a lock.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Silhouettes LVI

Even more silhouettes.  What can I say, I've got them.  I'll probably post more game-centric stuff soon.  First, another hireling, a bearer with a barrel:

Then this fellow:

I think that was a German idea of an indigenous person back in the day, but it works for me as a jaunty traveller.

Thanks to Jose's suggestion I went back to the book I got the village pics from and pulled out more (though, the bridge didn't look very bridge-like to my eye).

A windmill:

A wagon:

And by combining the wagon with another old building, I have what might function as a trading post:

Does that look  like a trading post to you?  Maybe I should put some bales or barrels around or in the wagon?

Here is a Tipi:

I want to find another, slightly different, so I can make an icon for an encampment.  These are all in the public domain so do what you wish with them.  I've included them as vector graphics in the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Silhouettes LV - Village

I've been looking forever for an icon to use for villages on a campaign map.  I think I found something that will work.  I'll give you the original pics too because they may be of use in their own right:
The hut unfortunately has a shadow of the reverse page.  Here are the same two images in grayscale:

Here they are as single silhouettes:
The Church:
A hut:
And here I've put them together in two ways:
Village A:
Village B:
So, could those work for you?  Which do you prefer?  They could also both be flipped horizontally.  Let me know.  These images are all in the public domain, use them as you wish.  I've included vector graphics of the silhouettes in the zip file linked in the sidebar to the right.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Silhouettes LIV - Map Symbols

Today we'll swing back toward the original reason I started making these-- for maps.  I've long had a vision in my head of a dungeon map that conveys most of the information the DM needs visually, no words to read during play.  But it has taken me years to try and cobble together the tools to do it.  Still haven't found everything I want.  But the following might be useful.  First, the things I tend to drop around my maps most, are what I consider toys, the magic items that let's players do new stuff:



and wands:

I'd add scrolls, but I haven't found a good way to represent them in silhouette yet.  The idea is to place them on the map and then remember at a glance "oh, this is the room with the ring . . ."  I usually can improv interesting details from there.  If there is more than one, which there often is for my potion caches, I'll use a number by the map image.  That comes from ZakS's idea to track keys that way, or was it scrolls?  Either way, it works.

Speaking of keys, here is a lock and key:
I want to add different key images, but this is a start.

The rest are possible dungeon features:
barrels for the Diablo fans:


a cocoon:


an anvil:

and a cauldron:
I'm not really thinking of these as illustrations, that you would make an illustrated map and place the barrel wherever there is one in the dungeon, but as symbols.  So, the barrel reminds you of a room full of barrels, the web of a particular corridor so filled with webs it's an obstacle.

Others I have in mind are trap, ladder, fountain, and arch.  Suggest others if you have them.  Eventually I plan to put up a dungeon for you all, that is solely visual and see how it translates.

These are all in the public domain, use them as you wish.  I've put them in the "misc" folder of my vector graphics zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Silhouettes LIII

Haves more, folks.  Small animal edition.  These are mostly for me to use on terrain sheets to show my players what small game is available.  I know I could just use a number but it's one of those instances where that's a bit too abstract for my tastes.  I'd like pheasants in some places and guineafowl in others in my world and have players know that.

Anyway, these are all public domain use them as you wish.

First, another goat:

A screech owl:
A rabbit:
A pheasant:

A guineafowl:

A quail:

A songbird:

And a couple iconic insects that I've never done.  The first because it never occured to me as I was mostly concentrating on threatening monster types and the second because it took me a long time to find a good image.

A  butterfly:
A dragonfly:

As always, these have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Silhouettes LII

Nothing too exciting this time, but these things have started cluttering up my desktop so let's get some more out there.  Here are public domain silhouettes for your maps, charts, and counters:

An addax:

 A goa:
A gemsbok:

A mountain goat:

A Musk ox:

This stegosaurus has been sitting around on my computer for years, but I haven't ever found a better example so I might as well give you this slightly lumpy one:

And, finally, a gila monster:
I've got more of these animal silhouettes coming soon.  Mostly wilderness related and not very useful as monsters, but I like having a lot of parts to make weird mashups with.  Here's an example:
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.

Milestones Update

Yeah, it isn't working.  I should have known myself better-- that a strict deadline would just stress me out and shut me down.  I just thought that it would be nice to celebrate the ~4 years of the OSR I've had symbolically.  I don't have a lot of ritual in my life and it seems I'm worse off because of it.  But as my friend said "Why does it have to be the 1000th post?" to which my answer was "I don't know.  It's a big round number."

But by tying the timeline to # of posts it made me avoid posting which I love to do.  Also posting is what fuels the ideas of what could go into my booklet, usually in unexpected ways.  So, cutting off posting cut off my main avenue of working out ideas.

Anyway, I'll still put out a celebratory booklet.  But I'm no longer holding myself to the 1000th post.  You'll have it when it's done.  And with that, I will resume posting and conversing with you all.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Secret Cult Temples

I love exploration in games.  It was interesting for me to play around with modular dungeons (the Dwarven Outpost) because of how players can get to explore and learn patterns.  So, exploration with some recognition built in.  Learning these patterns lets players get to feel like they are learning the world.

I wanted to play around with those kind of patterns a bit more.  But not with the dungeon itself so much as the dwellers within.  So, what if the dungeon was held fairly constant, say a series of hexagonal rooms:
but what goes on inside varies.

These dungeons should be made out of some type of material that the players will easily recognize, maybe alabaster, or whitewashed bricks or something.   They are home to secret cults.  The cult, trying to remain viable even in the event of partial discovery, has spread its operations out to multiple buildings.  These underground hexagonal temples of hexagonal rooms are located roughly in a ring on the campaign map.

In other words, once the players find one, they will eventually learn how to snoop around to find the others:
Now, the six rooms of each temple could be standard, with a barracks, mess hall, kitchen, ect.  But the central rooms will have the bigger, specialized function.  The library will have a place for the librarians to eat and sleep but the central room will be books and scrolls.  The armory will have a place for the guards to eat and sleep as well, but the central room is all about weapons and sparring.

So, once players encounter this cult's temples (whatever cult it is, though I'm assuming it is fairly lawful), they will be able to learn several patterns.  1) the types of rooms in a temple, 2) the types of specialized temples, and I even think 3) the time schedules of the inhabitants of each temple. 

The cultists need to go out and recruit new members, they need to skulk about and maybe get food and supplies.  So there should be some time of day that a percentage of the cultists will be gone from a particular temple.  I think I will randomly determine this for each type of temple and then record it as a standard.  So if I roll that librarians leave at midnight for book gathering missions, libraries for this cult will always leave at that time.

For this pattern learning by players to be relevant, they will need to run into these cult temple complexes several times in several different world locations.  But I think that should be fine if other dungeons delves and adventuring is spread out between those discoveries. It seems to fit a secret cult's attempt to spread across your world, too.

The interest of recognizing a pattern will always have to be balanced with the boredom of too much of the same thing happening.

What I've written so far kind of assumes the players will want to root out the whole cult.  But that doesn't have to be the case.  Maybe they're on a mission to try and prevent someone from being sacrificed, so they just want to locate the prison or, if running late, the main altar temple.

Maybe they just want to rob the treasury.  That could still be interesting, with players discovering one temple, stealthily observing to figure out which it is, and then knowing approximately where their chosen target would be.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Into Red Crystal Cave

I'm not dead yet, just lazy, procrastinating, and currently obsessed with finding a donkey in Minecraft.  :)  But I had two fun sessions of D&D at a cabin in the mountains last weekend that I wanted to write about.  If you're normally bored by after-play reports, skip to the bottom where I reflect on DMing and design.

Gino - Divine Petitioner (worships Captain Morgan)
   Adrian - non-combatant hireling
Aphrodesia - DP (worships Victoria and her secrets)
   Mine - hireling
Anonimo - Rogue (my first thief like character I've allowed)
   RP - hireling
Oma - F

The party was camped outside the Red Crystal Cave after last session's brief exploratory visit.  They decided to go back in.  There were sticky black guano droppings everywhere.  They found a mummified goat carcass that appeared to have been drained of all moisture and had puncture marks.  But big puncture marks and all over the body.

They came to a room with natural flowstone that was tall enough to disappear into darkness.  Anonimo used is skill at climbing to explore and eventually secure a spike and rope.  The party ascended to find a shallow, concave area that used to have water and had flowstone falling off into darkness on the opposite side as well.  Anonimo descended to explore, heard a coughing and saw a very thin women shuffling into the darkness.

He tried to find her but couldn't, though the cave appeared to be a dead end.  He also found a cluster of rosy-pink crystals growing.  After rejoining the party they all headed down a smaller passage.

They found a room with puddles of thick, red liquid.  The party quickly started bottling it up, emptying a wineskin of water to help.  They continue exploring the only other exit.  The passage becomes narrower, causing them to move through it sideways with no shield coverage.

Gino, in the lead, feels something under his feet.  The guano is up to their calves now.  He pulls it up to find it a mummified human hand.  It has been drained of its liquid too.  They press on.  The passage opens up to a cave.  The ceiling is covered with bat-like creatures.  Gino gets the drop on them, throws a flash firework, and goes out swinging.  Luckily, the firework blinded most of them, he quickly comes to his senses and backs back into the corridor.  Adrian pitches several bottles of oil and it is lit.  The critters are mostly toasted.  A few blows and the final big ones are killed.

They find another cluster of crystals, a mother-of-pearl statuette of a limbless woman, and a earthenware religious yoke that Oma recognized to be her own family's.  They left the cave and headed back to the nearby trading post.  They discovered that the statuette might be of interest to the Sisters of Perpetual Abnegation (worship St Cecily) and sell the crystals for lots of gold (they are apparently useful in scribing magic scrolls).  Gino decides to drink some of the red liquid he collected.  It makes him feel more robust and yet weaker as well.

That night Anonimo had a terrible dream about a thin woman squatting over him, pulling pearls from his mouth while he was unable to move.  In the morning he woke to feel literally weaker.  The party decided to head back to the cave and kill the "witch" he'd seen.

Excursion 2
On there way back to the cave they got lost, traveling in a big circle and finding themselves back at the trading post.  They spent the night and tried again the next day, carefully building piles of stones along the way as they went.

On reaching the cave, they made a beeline to where Anonimo saw the woman.  The whole party descended exept for Adrian who was to guard the rope.  They found nothing but a filthy nest of sorts with a small string of pearls.  While searching some small creatures attacked Adrian out of the darkness.  They looked like caterpillars with hard, crab legs.  She scampered down the rope and the creatures didn't follow. 

After climbing back up the flowstone, the party decided to explore the passages they hadn't gone down.  They came to a room with more puddles of red liquid which they gathered.  They eventually heard the sound of a baby crying.  In the next cave they found an infant lying on the ground.  Aphrodesia was quick to pick it up, though the party had reservations.  Only feeding it some softened rations quieted the baby.  There was another cluster of crystals in this cave.

Heading back to town, the baby began crying again.  They noticed it had aged by two years.  This happened several times on the walk back to the trading post, the baby getting bigger and heavier in Aphrodesia's arms.

When they had almost reached their destination a group of ragged and hungry men surrounded them in the darkness demanding food.  Gino was angered and took a swing at the men, missing.  The two women were more sympathetic throwing bags of food and gold.  The men, satisfied disappeared into darkness.

Upon reaching the post, they sold the crystals and tried securing the now ~8 year old child, but he ran off naked into the night.  The trader told them it might be a Bantling and best left alone.  Somewhere along the line Gino's weakness subsided, but not his robustness.  The other party members decided to drink of the red liquid gaining some robustness and weird symptoms.

First, you can see a bit of my process with my map.  I just rolled dice and traced them to make a cavern-like location.  Then numbers are elevations.  It looks like they never visited one room but I think they did the very first foray, when I called it a night due to lateness and being unprepared (this cave was one of 4 locations I had half-ready).  I'm really happy with the way the simple method gives a decent sense of verisimilitude.  This method will be in my 1000 post booklet (though there really isn't much to it).

The bat things were a flock of stirge, ~12, which I was sure would kill half the party.  I forgot Gino had the firework.  I have a tradition of giving players stuff on their actual birthdays.  And Gino's player wanted fireworks, so I let him chose from a list.  That was a few months ago.

With the red liquid I was trying to train these newer players that there can be rewards to trying things, so I made drinking it give permanent, extra hit points.  I also wanted them to be a little leery, so I had them have a random side effect for a day.  It may have been too much of a freeby, now Gino has more hit points than he should.  But I think it was worth it.  He was ecstatic when he realized I was giving him hit points for drinking it.  It was also fun to watch the rest of the players waiting to see if he had any bad effects before drinking it themselves.  And me pausing just long enough before asking him to roll again.

The "one ration a day or bad effects" rule combined with the poor availability of rations at villages has made food seem real in this world, or at least a sense of hunger and famine.  The players are concerned about it and trying to buy it everywhere.  Of course that made me think the bantling was the perfect creepy creature to have them find.  It ate a week's worth of rations and stressed out Aphrodesia's player :)

I'm still trying to figure out my economy/store stocks.  The trading post felt too much like Walmart with infinite rations and plate mail available.  I'll have to implement a system that limits goods like some of you suggested in comments.  My players have tons of gold, now.  I need to figure out some gold sinks.  I mentioned giving villages heath points.  I want to do that by next session and come up with some suggested improvements.  I think labor would be an easy ongoing cost, maybe allow the players to fund local village watch/guards.  Or tell them they can hire peasants to make roads/cut trails.  After getting lost for the first time that might interest them.

I tried out a simple hunting/foraging system based on Talysman's and I think it worked well.  Foraging gives rations/time based on how "Lush" a terrain.  With the plains' low lushness, hunting small animals and foraging are pretty close to equivalent.  I remember now, that before heading into the cave the first session the party spent a chunk of the day hunting and gathering.  The women decide to forage.  I told them they were finding dandelions, wild onion, and wild strawberries.  The men hunted feral goats and a few of them got lucky but one of them didn't.  So, it was a good indicator to them of how available food can be.

In terrains that are more lush, like jungles, they should be able to gather enough food for the day just walking along the road.  Though I'm thinking foraging (and hunting) might need to be "unlocked" first by having a local show you the foodstuffs and game they usually go after.

When I was scrambling to make the sandbox ready two session ago I was thinking the whole point of a sandbox is for multiple choices to be laid out in front of the players.  While that is true, I was silly to forget that the size and scope of sandboxes are usually gradually revealed.  That, no sandbox is revealed completely at first.  I'm speaking from video game experience here, but I think it would translate.  So it's fine for them to putter about around these initial three villages before I expand the map and reveal more, and more brutal terrains to come.

Since we had two sessions and this was the 4th, we aren't playing this week.  I'm curious where they will head next.  I didn't ask them again.  But it seems like "where do we go now?" is a natural start-of-session decision, not something after the release of tension of surviving a dungeon delve and tallying up your xp.  That's it for now.  Hope you have a great weekend.