Monday, June 20, 2016

Ideas from the Mountains

I've had the privilege of getting to spend some time up in the mountains this summer (haven't really the last two summers).  Being up in the cool, clean air and the quiet always gives me tons of ideas.  Here are a few:

Class-based Maps for a Space Game
I've been interested in some non-D&D one-offs, or mini campaigns.  One that I think would be fun would be a space ship crew investigating a derelict ship.  In trying to figure out how to catch some of that genre flavor, I thought giving each player different maps of the ship being explored would work.  The idea is the ship itself is a familiar entity, a federation ship, or one from their own corporation, but their individual knowledge of the ship is limited to their field of expertise.  So the engineer knows where the maintenance access ducts are, the medic/science officer knows where life support air ducts are, ect.  Then let loose some alien threat and only allow players to share their maps by verbally describing them to each other: "If we get to bulkhead B, there is an air duct there."  "Yes there is a maintenance duct access near there too, I think we should head there."

Phoenix Balm
A magic item that you rub on and suffer great burning pain (1d6 hit points lost permanently) but allows you to come back after death-by-fire a whole level higher.

Spell Beetles
A rare beetle mages catch, whisper a spell to, and then send to a friend in need.  The beetle travels at normal speed to where the friend is, and if eaten, grants that friend the ability to cast that spell once.  Until they do, that spell slot is lost to the beetle-sending mage, though.

Yahtzee Mechanic
I've long been a proponent for using common parlor games in my D&D-- Jenga, cards, charades - both because if it is that common it is probably good at being amusing but also it is probably something players will have knowledge of, so reduces the amount I have to teach them.  I don't think I've  written about Yahtzee in this regard.  I think it would be perfect for a gambling type situation where you can take small gains that you know, or risk them to push for bigger gains-- two situations that spring to mind are spell research and social maneuvering.  Maybe getting to know the local politicians could be that player throwing Yahtzee dice and the higher the hand they end up with the better the relationship established.  Or, I was just talking about wanting some type of shopping mini-game, maybe this mechanic could work for that.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Under the Cathedral

The party's exploration of caves under the city's main cathedral continues.  Oma's player was out of town, but the sometime-player of Toss had work off, so joined for the night.

Anonimo - Rogue
Aphrodisia - Cleric
G - Cleric
Toss - Fighter
and various hirelings

I cut off last write-up a little too soon.  The party had actually explored a passage to the left that ended in a sturdy oak door with a steel lock.  Anonimo tried to pick it but failed so they proceeded to break it off.  One of them step on a pressure plate and darts started pouring from the walls-- not shooting, apparently that mechanism was broken-- but the pile around their legs was enough to knock out Aphrodisia, her dog and hireling Arpe.

While they were deciding what to do, Anonimo scouted past the now opened door to find the natural cavern passage ending in a downward sloping passage only high enough to belly-crawl down.  He went far enough to see there was a room of some sort full of jumbled idols.

The party decided to go back up to the cathedral to rest.  After everyone woke back up and refreshed, they headed back to the small room with the idols.  They spent a lot of time rummaging through these.  Anonimo especially looking for gems and valuable bits.  I tried to give the impression that these were lots of different gods formerly worshipped in the city that have been pitched here.

As they were messing about the room they heard movement and a weird barking below them.  Aphrodisia started to talk to it.  The thing seemed to call itself a dark swimmer and it got excited with its simple language, when she mentioned humans, saying "feed!, feed!"

The party decided to go back up to talk to the two priests.  The learned one recited a few lays about dark swimmers and humans turning into them.  Then they went on an extended shopping and dragons spree, I think to buy materials to try and trap what they imagined was down there.

Then back below the cathedral.  They decided, before committing to going deeper, that they wanted to explore the other direction more.  So they proceeded to the right, found a filthy hair sack, and a room of quivering pigeons with little tentacles writhing from their breasts.  They also heard a huffing/ roaring sound and it was now G's turn to try and talk to whatever was ahead in the darkness.

It seemed territorial, and angry at another of its kind.  It eventually came into the light and they saw something like a muddy hippo body but a bear-like head with sharp teeth.  It didn't attack them.  So they decided to explore back the other way a bit.

Toss stripped of armor and explored forward a bit in the cold water.  Finally, turning back when the water didn't open up before she started running out of breath.  So then it was back to the idol room and down to where the dark swimmer had been.

Under the pile of idols they found a hole.  They descended down into the darkness to find hallways covered in a pitch black substance and roughly shaped, almost as if they were burrowed out.

This hallway had a few side passages that led to locked doors.  Anonimo got a chance to pick them.  In the first two rooms were weird sensory experiences: shifting colors, smells.  As they continued down the main hall, little hoof taps greeted them.  Then this thing showed up out of the darkness.

It begged and pleaded with them to let it touch their forehead.  G was ready with a club, wanting to brain it, but Aphrodisia allowed it to and her greatest regret melted out of her with a feeling of warmth.  Then it clattered of in the darkness and we ended for the night.

Thoughts and notes
I gave all my players an index card at the beginning of the session that had the instruction to "Write your character's biggest regret" and when the thing touched Aphrodisia I asked for her card and dramatically tore it in half.

This was the first time I as a DM have ever played animals talking to players.  It was fun.  I made it less funny language and more the players understanding what the creatures were communicating in broad terms like "be alert, everyone hunting now", etc.

The players seemed to think the one creature they were talking to was referring to the barking "Dark swimmer", which was just a weird seal, but it wasn't.  There is another even larger bear-hippo on the other side of the water cave.  They got a lucky reaction roll on the first one, they might be in trouble if the keep messing with these big creatures.

The whole thing is a chaos area leaking out underneath the cathedral.  I set up a Jenga tower and asked the clerics to pull when they cast a spell.  If the tower fall bad chaos things will happen.  I have another mechanic in mind for the next session (hopefully tonight).  I have some colored stones of about the same shape.  I'm going to let the players examine they as long as they wish, then put them in a sack and ask them to pull a stone they name before hand, by touch alone.  I think it should be fun, and probably hard.  I am trying to use it to convey the idea that Chaos is so strong hear that they are having a hard time communicating with their deities.  So each time they try to cast a spell, they will have to successfully draw a stone for it to succeed.

The lockpicking minigame seems to be working well, when I introduced it a while back, Anonimo the rogue's player said something like "Finally something to do"  Which made me fell a bit bad, but, I'm working on it.  I need to give the fighters more to do.  I'm thinking a magical chaos weapon down this hole might do just the trick.