Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Pools of the Ancients

I want to make something almost toy-like for players to interact with in my dungeon.  Sort of tools that they might use in ways I can't predict (hopefully without breaking the campaign).

My current idea is containers that do things.  The type of container could vary depending on the vibe of your dungeon: jars, chests, stone alcoves, or pools.  I like the idea of containers with lids.  That way you can't watch what happens to what you put in the container, it's a mystery until you open it again.  But I like pools too, maybe the liquid in the ppols will turn opaque when something is placed in them.  Other features of the liquid in the pools could be determined as a potion.

Here's a possible lay out of pools and what they do:
Aa: Item placed in A will disappear and appear in a, reduced to a 10th in size.  Item placed in size a will disappear and appear in A enlarged 10 times.
Bb: Item placed in B will disappear.  A tiny replica in brass/plastic/wax will appear in b.  Removing and replacing the replica in b will cause the original item to appear in B.  Think a 4th dimensional wharehousing device.
Cc: Item placed in C will disappear and reappear rejuvenated/younger in c.  Item placed in c will disappear and reappear in C aged.
Dd: Item placed in D will be coated/plated/painted with material of whatever item is in d, using up that item completely.
E: This pool will subject whatever is placed into it to temperatures from hot enough to melt metals (1) to cold enough to flash freeze (2).
Ff: Item placed in F will be transmuted completely into material of item placed in f, using the item in f up.
G: Item placed in one of these pools will appear completely disassembled, its constituent parts floating above the other pool.  Parts placed in one of the pools will appear assembled floating above the opposite pool.  Living objects can go through this process generally without harm (a human re-assembled without their heart wouldn't do very well, for example).

Now, I know these seem a little too rational, like microwave ovens of the elders.  And I toyed with the idea of pools that did weirder things, like cover objects in hair.  But as a player myself, I don't think I would ever use that kind of device after a laugh or two.  These others I might make a dangerous trek just to use.  F is potentially campaign breaking, but if it is in a dangerous enough place, that and encumbrance might make it feasible.

I like B, and can envision a dungeon with little wax crowns and royal regalia scattered about it befuddling players.

What would fascinate you in an alien machine as a player?


  1. I may find a place to tuck this in the depths of CotMA... Thanks for sharing! I agree; a pool that grows hair has limited applicability, but a few wonky pools are fun -- players sometimes surprise you with their ingenuity. Quick idea: Hair pool = freezing cold level/challenge/room. YMMV.

  2. I like this a lot.

    And I wouldn't worry about them being tooo rational--especially if the 2 pools are in different places, just that will seem weird.

    plus it always takes players a minute to notice anything happened.

    plus half the time this should be during a crazy fight with leechfaced bonebats or something so the pool's magic isn;t the first thing they realize

  3. Thanks for the comments. You reminded me of something else a DM would need to think about: whether to have these all clustered in one pool room like an alien kitchen, or scattered throughout a dungeon like . . well who understands the ancients and their betentacled ways.

  4. Aa seems like a game breaker too.

    At least, I know the first thing I'd try is repeatedly chucking a gem through the enlarger until it no longer fits.

    I'd then break the giant gem into bits and repeat the process with each of the shards.

  5. I like this a lot. Spreading the pools geographically would be a way to balance onces that might be problematic. The scenario bombshelter13 suggests might not be much of a problem if pool A was hazardous to get to. Or the effect could be temporary, I guess.

  6. As for other pools, one that resurrects might be dead useful. More so if it is better than a resurrection spell. Depending on your system that might mean that you don't lose Con or don't need to take a system shock roll. Or maybe that creatures don't need to be consenting.

    I especially like the last one.

  7. Very nice! I've been meaning to steal some of the pools from In search of the Unknown but these seem pretty fun, and less lethal.

    The effects may not be permanent if clever players try to break the campaign with them.

  8. Thanks folks. Rubberduck a life/death pool, yes! I will have to include that. Reminds me of a creepy Robert Chambers story where a pool of water petrified people objects. I suppose that is very similar to F, though.

    @bombshelter13: Yeah, probably right. In that situation I could probably slow it down by making a buyer hard to come by, or someone skilled enough to cut the gem without ruining it, but what if they plop a gold piece down in it? Might need to put that deep in the dungeon as Paul suggests.

  9. A bunch of these are mythic navel of the world devices: you have a fountain of youth, untold riches and miniaturization in here. With multiple iterations of the shrinking pool you could do a Fantastic Voyage adventure... Reminds me of Heinlein's Waldoes. I love them all, but if I were using them I'd have to limit access in some non-rational bizarre way, so you could never prepare before going in.

    What if the shrink/grow pool never returned you to quite your original size?