If you fail at reading a scroll, inscription, or magical tome, it is likely because decay has eroded some necessary words and the remaining, corrupted text has a chance of giving you Cave Carbuncles. These terrible, boil-like growths emerge from the head and each (1d4) prevents the memorization of a spell.
Friday, November 13, 2020
If you are wounded in the mysterious underworld you may become infected by a small parasitic tree. These tree sprout from the back and shoulders like tiny bonsai. They eventually bear fruit of many colors and flavors that look a bit like plums. Each fruit is a secret of the host that is then lost to them. Memorized spells, locations of buried treasures, magical passphrases, simply gone from the memory. If someone other than the host eats one of the fruit, they gain one of those lost secrets.
Monday, November 9, 2020
Simon the Coward fell in love with a Guildmaster's niece but was told he could not court her unless he brought the Guildmaster three cave pearls. Cave pearls only being found in infested catacombs, this was an impossible task. But, smitten, Simon acquired all the silver and mithril wire he could and wove it into a crude half-dome of mesh and had it blessed by 3 different holy men. It was crafted so he could carry it over him with a stick and he went in and out of the caves unmolested and found three cave pearls and courted the fair niece.
It's impossible to climb a ladder while under this cage, impossible to swim, barely manageable to traverse stairs, but while under it, no one will notice you exist unless you hurt them (provides Sanctuary).
Thursday, November 5, 2020
So, twice now I've come to write a post for what I thought might be a cool, quirky idea only to realize, after searching my blog, that I'd already posted that same idea about nine years ago. I've thrown out so many blue-sky ideas I forget some of them myself. I kind of feel like revisiting some of them just because there may be newer gamers and DMs that weren't around for that exciting conversation in the blogs around 2011-2012. On the other hand, if you are reading this, it's likely that you've been reading my blog and know those old posts.
To be more specific, I was going to talk about the possibility of using Bingo as a way to level up the characters of kids or new players to teach them "good behaviors" in your campaign and to make it fun and self-driven. But I made almost the same suggestion before.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
It's said the first thing of note when entering the court of the Great Lich Ksawery was the many people bound to him by golden chains. Some say that Ksawery drew the thin links from the chests of the victims through daily incantations, while others insist that each chain was an artifact stolen from an ancient tomb. There is agreement on the function: each person so chained increased Ksawery's ability to store spells
(prisoners attached are treated as magic-user of level the same as their level or HD, with appropriate number of spell slots, now available for use by the imprisoner as if they were their own.)
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
"Give me ten warriors as brave as any,
And I promise to personally bloody as many."
These rare banners from various cultures have in common some kind of inscription in which the holder promises future battle valor in exchange for aid. When the holder says aloud the inscription, they promise to wound in melee as many foes in the upcoming battle as will be granted to them. Then that number of ghostly allies will appear. The warriors will appear and fight as the warriors of the banner's culture, whether bare-chested rhompaia-wielders or mail-wearing knights.
The ghostly warriors can be defeated themselves, but they fight as picked champions. They will fight until all foes are subdued and then disappear. If the oath-maker does not wound as many warriors as were granted, they will age a year for each they are short. So, if they call for ten warriors, they can sit back and let them do the fighting, but after the battle is over, won or lost, they will age ten years.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
These starfish have developed the ability to live on land, speak, and approximate human movement with their arms. They grow to various sizes. You can roll 1d6 for how many feet tall they are or just choose. While they can use weapons, shields, and various human implements, they are less dexterous than a normal human (-2). Although they are able to slowly climb most surfaces and ceilings using their tiny tube feet.
These starfish are incredibly difficult to kill (+2). Unless dissolved in acid or burnt to ash, whatever tiny part is left after they are "killed" will grow back into a new starfish in 1d12 days (1d6 in warm salt water).
But life on land is rough on starfish bodies so they only last a short time (1d4 sessions of play) before they have to spawn a new offspring.
The offspring of a starfish will retain all the memories of its parent, but have a different personality. To determine personality roll 2d6 and apply them to this split table:
- Assertively (A)
- Awkwardly (E)
- Flamboyantly (I)
- Mischievously (O)
- Quietly (U)
- Naively (OO)
- Curious (th)
- Helpful (sh)
- Lazy (ch)
- Distracted (nd)
- Diligent (st)
- Protective (nt)
To name your intrepid starfish adventurer, you can choose a consonant and then add the appropriate results for your current personality. For example, if I choose "T" and roll 1, and 1, my name would be Tath. Then after 1d4 sessions, my starfish would have to spawn and then I'd roll again, say 2, 2 and get Tesh. I add that to the previous name and get Tathtesh. This way your character's name is a running record of each generation.
Though, your newly spawned character has all the memories of past starfish, they may view things differently through their new personality. So, the time you risked yourself while Assertively Protective, could seem ridiculous if you are now Flamboyantly Lazy.
A starfish offspring that has a the same personality as an ancestor, because they share all memories, might seem like a reincarnation of that ancestor: "Hey, Tath is back!"
A curious Starfish might serve as a decent scout, but they would have difficulty picking locks and such. A starfish might make a good magic-user because they are tough and will remember any learned spells even if they "die."
Obviously, pick your own name if you like, or change the personality words to others you like better. I did try to pick some that could be fun without necessarily causing friction in a party. It's mostly a proof of concept for how you could add a variety of personalities to a party without having to change characters.
I thought about making a table for color/appearance for new offspring, because of the potential vivid color possibilities, but I'll leave that to you and/or your players.
I don't have races in my game at all. I'm much more interested in having the weird and wonderful be encountered by humans. But I remember the fun of rolling up gnomish thieves or half-orc fighters, so I hope someone will find this idea fun.
My undergrad degree was biology and I was always fascinated with starfish and radial symmetry in general. I would daydream about how different types of biological life might have evolved intelligence and then into different types of cultures. For starfish I always imagined how a culture might develop if offspring retained even a part of the skills learned or memories of parents. Anyway, that's your bonus science fiction idea.
Friday, October 23, 2020
The first sage said, "The Ghost Hone is lumpy, meteoric rock the size of a loaf of bread. It has a rough slot worn in it from blades being dragged edge-down, across it. If you do this to a blade it will ruin it for normal foes (-2 to hit) but allow you to hit things that could not otherwise be touched."
"No," said the second sage, "it is as you describe, but dragging a blade across its rough surface releases the soul of a creature that blade has formerly killed to, now, fight for you (summon undead of last creature slain)."
"No," said the third sage, "there may an item such as you describe, but the true Ghost Hone is a cursed jian that the three liches of the Southern Archipelago war over even now. If a spirit is struck with the blade it carves away the weakest part, each blow making it stronger.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Once, a Fakir saved the daughter of a Caliph from drowning when she fell from the royal barge. The Caliph offered him anything his heart desired. The Fakir, replied "Grant me a bed of nails I don't have to carry to the market place." Taken aback, the Caliph did as he wished-- his most sage magicians imbued a thousand nails with magic so that, however scattered, they would fall into perfect lines, balanced on their heads. And with a single magic word they word fly back into a bundle tied with a golden ribbon.
Centuries later, the Fakir's Bed, is just a few hundred rusted nails bundled with a dirty linen strap. A local rogue is said to possess the bed, and throw it out behind her when she flees the guard. Late at night, you might hear her call the nails back to her by singing out the magic word.
Monday, October 19, 2020
Shepherd's Stone - These simple enchanted stones of various sizes are prized by merchants. If domesticated animals are allowed to see one and smell it and it is placed on the ground, they will cluster around it. Even if stolen or driven away by predators, the animals will eventually wander back to the stone.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
When then hill tribes came down conquering the city states of the coastal plain, nothing could stop them. In desperation, the King of Kings, Ur-melem-nungal, had the heads of the great priests that died in those battles, saved. His alchemists placed them in lead boxes mounted on poles. And the boxes had a hinged front with a thin brass chain attached. And they were carried in front of the army like standards. And when the enemy was met they pulled the chains and opened the boxes. And the hollow mouths of the heads continued their last prayers. But they came out as a high keening and would stop for nothing. It is said, a whole army dropped its weapons and fell asleep at the dark prayer of one, that another caused a wind of fire, and a third had to be buried for it wouldn't stop raining for as long as it screamed.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
The Vigilant Bullet - This almond-shaped, lead sling bullet has an image of a closed eye molded into it. When placed close enough to a fire to be warm to the touch, the molded eye will appear to open. If danger approaches it will warn its owner by flying through the air and striking them hard enough to wake them.
Monday, October 12, 2020
One of the last mini-games I posted about was for shopping. And, in play, it didn't work that well, most of what it did was make what you wanted to buy harder to get- it wasn't available or the wrong size, or too expensive. It wasn't fun. (I have a different solution I'm fleshing out). But what surprised me in looking back at that post was how I had players choose which dice to apply to which column. I had no recollection of using that mechanic whatsoever. And looking at it now, that seems like the coolest part of that whole idea.
What other uses could we have for a roll all the dice table which let players choose which dice should apply to which column? I'm at work, a bit under-caffienated, but it seems like the general principles are: higher is better, but smaller columns are less important. So, for example if you roll a "1" on your d20 you really want to sacrifice a result lower on the table to bump up that d20 column's result, like moving a "6" on you d6 column up and taking the "1" on the d6 column.
So, one idea that springs to mind is a wild magic mini-game. It would be just a matter of fleshing out the columns. I'm thinking of something along these lines, though that was more designed for completely random effects. Players would want to have a bit more control over being able to cause damage in combat etc.
What other possibles uses? Maybe monster breeding where you select for traits. Maybe an abstracted NPC conversation mini-game where it lets you choose what you learn from them and what you have to reveal in turn. Maybe potion making where you are trying to get the best balance of ingredients that have side effects.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
I had an idea for a mechanic that might be fun for in-person games. I'm always on the lookout for mechanics that 1) use stuff people have around (like cards or dominoes), 2) is dramatic fun (players gather round to see how it will turn out), and 3) kind of matches up with the situation in game (a Jenga tower feels like an oncoming inevitable disaster). So, what about stacking dice? We all have them, it will be amusing to watch, and it can simulate pushing your luck to get some gain. Here are some ideas of what you might use it for:
- DM places down a d20 to start the Dreaded Stack. Any time a player gets a damage roll they don't like, place that die on the stack and roll again with a different die to try for a better result. But, when the stack tumbles that player's weapon breaks. Or, maybe, you roll an additional immediate encounter.
- Magic user variant that uses dice for casting determines how many dice they use for a battle/session by stacking. The stack tumbles, you get half that many.
- Skill use, the shopkeep's wisdom is worth 5 dice, you've got to stack more dice than that for him to believe your lie.
Obviously, some dice are easier to stack than others. I can't stack my precision d4s at all. But anyone rolling d4s for damage is probably not going to want to re-roll anyway. If you needed to give players a pool of random dice to stack from and want to vary which ones they have to work with, you could grab a handful, roll them, and then let the player choose dice from all the even results.
Anyway, I might try it for a simple mini-game at least.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
You've got villages full of people, there's going to be dancing. Here are some ideas of how to use folk dance to give players reasons to explore the sandbox and talk to some npcs.
There is an important ritual dance to drive off plague, but too many people in this village are sick. They need performers. Can you tour local villages looking for possible dancers (yeah, don't worry about spreading the disease, those other villages don't have any miasma surrounding them). Maybe the dance requires mother-daughter combos that know the proper steps. Maybe it requires sister pairs and players have to:
- convince a reluctant daughter to take part.
- talk to the elders to see if an adoptive daughter would work (sure, why not)
- settle an argument about which younger sister would get to come perform from a family with lots of sisters.
In the end the dance might look something like this:
The village was recently raided by bandits and they smashed or stole some props the village needs for the upcoming festival dance. Players might have to
- talk to dancers to find out the exact specifications of these props.
- find the bandits and get the props back.
- find an old craftsman that can make the props or has some on hand.
- find materials needed to make the props.
- convince a rival village to lend their props.
The props might be something like these Banga pots used here:
Or the props could be elaborate costumes like these the scissor dancers wear:
This is just participants on hard mode, but maybe this particular folk dance requires superb skill or rare knowledge. Maybe they need you to find another fighter for their fighting duel dances and:
- convince an old fighter to teach the skill to youngsters.
- convince dancers that hate each other to not actually hurt each other.
- convince a troupe to let a younger fighter have a go at it.
- rescue them from bandits (not a real fighter)
the dance could look something like this:
Or maybe the village needs you to find a particular dancer who knows their secret "floating step"and:
- convince the dancer to come back and perform one last time.
- convince an aristocrat to let them have time off to come back and perform.
- convince the dancer to teach the secret to a rival village.
- convince the dancer to teach one of the player characters.
the dance in the end could look something like this:
Maybe the dance is not something traditional performed the same way each time, but more a competition between several villages to out do each other in choreography. And the players will have to:
- find a legendary choreographer.
- spy on a rival villages practices.
- find participants of various ages or sizes to complete the ensemble.
Maybe these folk dances need to take place in a particular location and players need to:
- clear the area of monsters
- find the lost location of the mountain meadow or forest clearing.
- find someone to bless the cursed spring or fountain before the dance.
And, hell, all these dances require music! We haven't talked about traditional instruments or musicians. Where are we going to find them in time . . .
Sunday, October 4, 2020
The Haunted Spear - When found, it doesn't look like much, a spear of cornel wood broken on both ends. When grasped with both hands, smoky figures will start to appear, each carrying a spear 6 yards long. Over the course of a turn, 256 will shuffle into place around the wielder to form a ghostly phalanx. As long as the wielder can stand in place and keep their grip, this formation will remain and nothing can push through it.
Friday, October 2, 2020
When we saved the vis kvinna from the filthy pen, she was so happy she'd see her grandbabes again, she taught me the Greater Kulning. Now, once a day, when I sing this sound, every animal comes from miles around.
It sounds something like this:
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
I've seen a few comments around about the OSR being too grim. And while I feel like I am good at coming up with creepy ideas more in tune with the spirit of early fairy tales or a savage, swords and sorcery type world, I'm completely sympathetic to someone that wants to just escape this rough ol' world a bit when they play. So, for those of you that want something more cute or fun, I promise to try and keep you in mind with my posts too. With that in mind, here are six animal companions for your players to find, tame, or buy:
6 Animal Friends
1. Blossom Moths - These moths the size of a fingernail are white on top and various colorful shades on bottom. They perch on their owner in the dozens as a clump that looks something like a white mum. When a stranger approaches, they burst into flight and flutter around their owner's head in all their color.
2. Long Fox - Two yards long or more, these creatures prefer to curl and clamber around their owner. At a simple command, they will fluff up their silky-soft fur to its utmost, protecting their owner from even magic cold.
3. A Troupe of Hamsters - This dozen or so hamsters are found living in a keg fitted with straps to be carried on their owner's back. The keg smells of sawdust and has a tiny door from which, when asked "Hey, what happened here?", the hamsters will trot out in little paper costumes and reenact whatever event happened in this location most recently.
4. Scout Gecko - Call its name, point to a room, and salute and this gecko will salute back, crawl ahead on walls and ceiling, and chirp when everything is clear.
5. Probable Pup - What is your favorite breed of puppy? What a happy coincidence, that's the breed of this pup! A single pup in your hands when scritching its belly or letting it gnaw your finger, when you set it down on the ground it blossoms into hundreds of pups loping and tumbling in every direction. A roiling mass of pups covers the floor, but only where a pup wouldn't be hurt, so dangerous spots-- chute traps, trigger stones, snares, rotten flooring-- become quite obvious.
6. Golden Joke Frog - A tiny green frog will drop a coin from it's mouth once a session when told a joke. Rumor has it, it will drop two coins for each joke if you've given it a cute hat to wear.
Monday, September 28, 2020
If the caster makes a mask of the face of someone slain, for as long as they wear it, they will know which direction to take to find the killer.
It's said that the cruel lich of the North, Two-Thumbs-Digging, mistakenly performed this ritual on someone they had killed themselves and spent their last days paranoid, confused, and traveling in circles.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Friday, September 25, 2020
The Traveling Shrine of Anyavati - A teak box as long as a tall man that is a shrine to a forgotten saint. The front has several horn windows through which a small body can be seen. It is difficult to see through the yellowish windows whether the body is that of a child or a tiny woman. Both corners on the back of the box has a tumpline of braided black hair attached. If two holy men carry the box using these tumplines anyone touching the shrine will be unharmed be demons, foul spirits, or undead.
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
A sash of heavy linen with thin sheets of brass sewn into the front and back. Inscribe that brass with the names of friends and hirelings who have perished in your sight to have a better chance of escaping their fate (+1 hit points for each name).
Monday, September 21, 2020
Rescuing someone in a dungeon may lead to them offering you a reward. It may lead to players having a local contact for information and interactions in the future. But what if the person rescued was so talented the reward they offered was like a magic item?
The Royal Jeweler - I can make a brass automaton that mimics the movement of a real creature so truly it can pass as that creature! Come to me in the future and I will make one for you. Whatever creature you wish as long as it is no bigger than a small dog.
The Wise Woman - Take me to some dread place you will enter and I will ask my ancestors about it. Then I will give you a walnut that will roll toward treasure, an acorn that will roll toward lost friends, and a maple samara that will flutter back to the exit.
The Mad Hermit - I have gathered foul herbs enough to slather three of you so you will appear dead to the dead and beast to the beasts and foul impertinent to gentlefolk and scholars.
That's the idea anyway. I want it to be a kind of one time service, not something the players would go back to again and again. So it needs to be unique and powerful enough that the NPC can only afford it once. But also want it to function as another tool in the Player's adventuring toolbox. Something they will keep in mind for future heists or schemes. So it can't be a straight up reward, like if the wise woman gave the three seed to them and they would work in the next dungeon with no further help from her.
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Alejandra the Shepherdess spoke with animals and could heal them with a touch and the peasants prayed to her because of it. When she died they put her in a simple cave and sang songs and danced for the animals that had gathered from miles around. A rumor is a lie people want to be true and a rumor sprung up that she'd been courted by a prince who sent a coffer heavy with gems as a dowry. Some seek to profane her humble cave in quest of those gems and the animals have taken up to try and keep them out and drive them out and stop them.
On entering the cave, a wave of rats will threaten and gnash their teeth. If these are overcome a group of small dogs comes biting and barking. Any rats that have been killed will be joined to the bodies of the dogs and now lively again and biting. Then a couple boars will come to drive away the unwanted. Any dogs slain will writhe and yap from the shoulders of the boar as if joined in birth and rats slain will be there too. And finally a great old bull will come spinning and kicking and goring with great horns. And any boars slain will jut from its shoulders, tusks flaring, and any dogs slain will jut from the back of the bull, all along its sides , and any rats slain will be peppered about like fruit from a briar, grasping anything it touches and trampling it and rendering it asunder and this is the sum of your sins.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Six Magic Treasures for the Roguish
1d6 magic items for rogues:
Demurest Cap – When seen by someone who knows the wearer by name, they appear to be wearing a coarse, lace veil. Anyone else will see the random face of another person.
Aromatic Sash – This sash emits a strong smell of perfume when worn. Turned inside out, emits a strong smell of burning smoke.
Rogue’s Wardrobe – A simple, hooded robe. Inside are four small pockets and one small brass ring sewn to a cord. If the ring is placed in these pockets, the wearer’s clothes under the robe will be changed, depending on the pocket, to those typical of a pilgrim, cleric, merchant, or lesser noble.
Quick Slippers – The wearer of these simple slippers can move through crowds unimpeded, walking or running, the crowd will part as if not there.
Portly Vest – The wearer appears jollily fat. If thin enough, they can use the fake belly to hide a pack or carried goods.
Barber’s Bag – A linen bag of small, white ribbons. When tied in the hair, each will result in a different length and look of the hair.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
I went to buy groceries in my N95 mask. Had to wipe ash off the windshield of my truck. The sun was just a red circle in a grey sky. Felt like I was on Tatooine. Here are some more magic items. The fourth is more a novelty, that might serve as a hard to find but valuable treasure item. The rest might be good for schemes.
6 Treasures that Change at Sunset
Mukade – A boxwood comb rubbed with camellia oil. At night it turns to razor-edged obsidian.
Humbling Leaf – Ornate comb of solid gold, at night it turns to simple boxwood.
Pilgrim’s Comfort – A simple gourd canteen. Water filled in the day becomes wine at night.
Royal Harem Candles – Fat candles infused with perfumes, invisible by day.
Nightsman’s Box – A simple pine box with leather-hinged lid. Opening after sunset reveals it’s nighttime contents, after dawn, its daytime contents
Telecanter’s Frugal Reader – A heavy, burlap-bound book. Each night its contents will change to a copy of another book nearby.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Reclusive Coffer - A small strongbox carved from a single oak burl that has a brass badge inscribed Plant me here, Harvest me there. If buried, anywhere the burier digs they will find the coffer. Each day it is left buried it is more likely to start whispering "Do you have need of me?" to each passerby.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Phoenix Breviary - A hand-size book bound in what appears to be black ostrich hide. Its pages are empty. Placed in a fire, the book will be unharmed and reveal the canonical hours of a banned cult for as long as it is surrounded by flame. Anything written in it will disappear until revealed similarly. Plenty of room in the margins or endpapers to add notes and maps.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
The Iron Poem
A silk vest in sea green and yellow made loose and light to be worn over armor. When it gets wet it becomes as hard as a chain shirt while staying just as light as silk.
The Green Song
A long chain shirt masterly crafted with a pattern of large shell-shaped rings and smaller connecting circles. When wet it becomes a white silk shirt with a silver pattern embroidered exactly like the pattern of the rings.
Known in stories as the Twins, these were meant to be worn together. Once worn by a great pirate captain, they have been long separated and lost.
Monday, September 7, 2020
Concubine Wind Puppet
An especially ornate sari with a small ivory peg sewn to one end. The peg is meant to be pressed into soft earth to anchor it. If caught in the wind, this cloth billows into a lifelike person able to gesture and converse. It is likely to know about the history and geography of the location it was found in. Stories say they can be found in male, female, and ambiguous representations, though all beautiful and exquisitely ornamented.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
It's almost three years since I last posted. It has been almost that long since I last played D&D. Part of the reason is the lockdown, but also the two couples that were my core players recently had babies. They are occupied with that cool adventure right now, otherwise I think I would have tried starting back up virtually.
I'm feeling pretty socially isolated and just wonder if there are any folks from the DIY gaming community still out there gaming and posting. If so, I'm curious to here what platforms you are using to game and how it's going. I'd also be interested if anyone has a good list of creative gamers still blogging (I never kept a blog roll).
Anyway, I hope you are well and finding some joy in creating and gaming with others.