Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z

Didn't work out. I found the pressing need to come up with something actually took all the wind out of my sails. Better if low commitment ensures spontaneous creation.

Ah, well. Next, I'm going to spend some time playing other peoples' things and making 40K scenery and that sort of thing.

I still dig the DCC in Space vibe, seeing as the Purple Planet thing fair hangs there.

I'm burnt out a little I think.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


(An imaginary strong reaction/rant to that Alexandrian thing the other day about railroads and illusionism etc.  Note: only one small facet of my feelings about many issues, and I am happy to say I see it both ways but often find myself veering toward illusionism in the interests of keeping it fun)

About to pull an upper decker on A Thing Most Holy
Tables. I love 'em; you love 'em. We play these games and have played them always.  Why, the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide is ponderous, yes, but it's regarded as inspired and sacrosanct and we must all agree that Gary's curmudgeonly wisdom is Paternistic and Authoritarian but only for the players' and The Games' collective good. Ahem.  There's 2 or 3 tables on almost every page in that thing.

I once was at the receiving end of some offhand comments from some jerk that stung me just badly enough to not like him very much any more and not want to be his friend in that way that it's clear in retrospect he hurt my feelings like I'm in eighth grade.  It was about Gary's predilection for tables, if I recall correctly, and I thought myself clever for noting that Gary's Dad was in insurance and SO OF COURSE THERE'S TABLES, they don't call it Accidental Death & Dismemberment for Nothing!  Ho Ho Ho

Anyways, it's my fervent and deeply held belief that "Random" Tables (let's be frank shall we? there's  almost nothing random about it once you throw in your shaved d12) even the Pseudorandom tables we use and proliferate so widely are strangling the hobby into lifelessness.  yes, that's right. Your tables upon which you rely so heavily are in fact an addiction, a phylactery by which your withered corpse clings to what it thinks is good about life

We all (well, maybe some) of us work, have jobs, do chores, write things, doodle maps. We don't always have time to prep for every Unforeseeable Contingency that arises in the course of our games.  Especially if you're running a game and you already thought about it all week and the Traps are so Clever and the Monsters are Like Unforgettable and the Twists O The Twists and then Rodney is like WHAT IS IN THE GOBLIN'S POCKETS and you've been focused on the architecture and the sheen of the Chromatic Pudding and how all it wants is to mate with somebody with a Comeliness of more than 8 and LET ME GET THIS RANDOM GOBLIN POCKET CHART AND FUCK YOU, EVAN THIS WILL BE SO SEAMLESS NOBODY WILL EVEN KNOW I DINT PLAN THI

that - that right there ought not to be trusted. That's why there's all these reams and reams of despicable Excel and fucking endless d66 and d13 and d200 charts. Somehow the notion that raw chaos may take away my culpability for _something_ is what sticks in my craw. I Feel Like Maybe After Twenty Years of Thinking About It, with my knowledge base I ought to be able to just come up with some fun shit on the fly like a daily special of awesome Roleplayingness and it ought to be clever and part of me and whether it will kill your 3rd level Halfling or not is of no consequence. Just because it comes from in me and I am nominally AGAINST YOU somehow and can't be trusted to be judicious and fun and easy-going means TRUST IN THE DICE INSTEAD

blech. Fie.  FIE I SAY

when you de-bone it, what you have is a cool/fast/nostalgia-laden way to get information across.  I get it.  Kind of like a speedball of information that conveys tone, humor, a feeling of the possibility of the situation. Nobody ever says "YOU GOTTA GO EXACKLY BY WHAT IS ON MY CHART". We all get, I think, that these are clever ideas to get your noodle rattling around when you are in a pinch and that at the bottom of the thing is your judgement and hard-won expertise. It's gotten to be the go-to blog post for us RPG guys and occasional gal - the d12 table of X. There are those who do it well - Sholtis, yeah that's some good shit.  Everybody else, merhhhhhhhhm. Charts strangle us!  burn your charts!  Commit and believe that your ideas, even under the (imaginary) intense pressure at the table, your ideas and judgement can be trusted even if it leads to a TPK.  The fiction is not more judicious and impartial and therefore fair just because it's been determined randomly.

ALSO: TPKs are good and your character is not a special snowflake and even his/her/its Pseudo-Death has no meaning since its an imaginary event and the tumbling of dice is not somehow binding. Do your game science dice have the bound gods of Law contained within them?  Are they Donblas the Justice Dice?

a difference between the OSR/trad players and quote-unquote STORY GAMERS (some of you may read it as a slur)  that I see as almost laughably blatant is how the former trusts in charts and tables and the latter trusts in PEOPLE'S BRAINS. LARPERS (another slur!) do away with dice almost completely and so are not to be trus- There's the rub!  It's our traditional need and reliance upon the safety of impartiality that causes us to invest so much in dice and (it follows as Night Upon The Heels Of Day) charts and tables. Goddam, shit-sucking, charts.  The Dice run you, subcreature!  Stand up and say with one voice I RUN THE DICE THE DICE DONT RUN ME

The whole of the hobby is lousy with them.  I seen some cats trying to foster the die-drop table and maybe it's a good impulse, but I don't know.  The use of dice is a pernicious and wide-spread evil.  A malaise.  Yes, I said it.  A goddamn malaise.

here's the prefigured declaration in handy d9 table format (see what I did there? Ho Ho ho). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU ROLL ON THIS TABLE UNLESS ITS A d8/2 plus a d5 so it'll skew your probabilities all fucked up

1) The Oracle at Delphi was high as fuck and relied upon divine inspiration to get her players to do cool shit. I don't need Apollo or to smoke bay leaves to come up with good ideas for my players.  I don't need also: Excel.  Word.  InDesign.  Molybdenum-laced, laser cut polyhedra.  Complex digital or solid-state circuits, including but not limited to my iPhone. 
2) my cleverness is better than Some hunk of plastic's and further God doesn't play dice with his Universe, why you gotta play dice with yours?  In some cases, my cleverness fits better the game I'm playing with people and there is no way to fit in some other dude's table into my game, and if I do and that (7) laser-sword becomes a Mithril Frostblade, I mean, why the fuck am I using that chart, anyways?  It's like a crutch for nothing.  An imagination crutch. WHAT'S IN THE GOBLIN'S POCKETS....??? (you fucker)  CHICKEN BONES, USED KLEENEX, AND THE MF ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL.  Better by far than UH HOLD ON UH HOLD ON I GOT THAT TABLE AROUND HERE UH WAIT FOR IT JESUS IM SORRY GUYS I HAVE THE PERFECT YOU KNOW WHAT THERE'S A LINK FOR THIS ON WIZARDDAWN (no offense to Wizarddawn, I love that shit)
3) don't take the impartiality of dice and the impartial, spiritless safety of imaginary people as a positive development. Risks of even minor heroes are more meaningful when they can come to a messy end. If your characters aren't dying (even if they are later being resurrected/reanimated/buried forever) you're playing a boring game.  It's my opinion that Random Encounter charts are the worst and most egregious offenders, here.  In the hopes for impartiality and for the sake of nostalgia, I sacrifice a meaningful encounter for some quirk of the die, and then (don't get me wrong I love the Moldvay reaction roll, I almost swear by it) we spend 35 minutes tossing dice about whether the party can off some rats.  Why's it gonna be rats, or a centipede, or stirges?  Just fucking make something cool up, why don't you?  You know why?  You been looking at those goddamn random encounter tables your whole damn life!  If you were sane, and that lobe of your brain wasn't addicted to tables and nostalgia, you'd never have another stirge in your game, ever.  EVAR.
4) 5 tentacles or 50 tentacles or 15 makes no discernible, meaningful difference in a story.  If it does, it's bad writing/thinking
5) nobody is random when they write a table. They always put the best shit on the bell curve ends. C'mon "roll again and discard duplicate results?"  Yeah we all know it was late and you needed to work the next day.  I mean "pseudorandom".  That's fucked up.  That's like pseudopregnant.  pseudotruth.  Either it's random, or it's something else.
6) engineering and rules are not better than humanities and drama. There is no safety in predictability, no surety in the accurate simulation of some fantastical notion's adherence to pseudoreality. Or else there shouldn't be (more on this shit, later if I'm not summarily executed)
6) humanities and drama ought to be fostered. The rules should not account for all the permutations of the system in which you play. That's like 3.5 type stuff. Yeah - you grimaced because you know what I mean
6) if you had a bad reaction to my criticism of 3.5, then see #6
B) unexpected results cannot, by their nature, be found on any chart



"Your squad broke under fire, and failed their Ld roll.  Commisar K has a bolter shell for you."  I wonder if a failed orders roll would prompt that.  Hmm.  Maybe another blog entirely.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cairn Golem for Space Dungeon: A to Z challenge

C is for cookie, and that's good enough for me, but that don't make no sound in Spessss

It's late.  I dig the notion of unrecoverable, single-delve disposable dungeons.  The kind I been doing, of late, are chock full of Necromancy and Super-Science, since I dig undead, and I dig ray-guns, and I dig bubble-helmets and rampaging robots.

So randomly generated is great, but that block of stone you see on top of that thing that keeps you from getting in it and the sweet sweet loot that's underneath is dull.  Been done before.

I had a couple of good ones, so far, in the Space Dungeon campaign.  The first one was a gate that was tied to multiple dungeons, and you could get to new ones by switching the glyphs on the front and smearing it with bodily fluids.  We forgot about it, I think.  Lost in the shuffle.

This is a Cairn Golem, a big jumbly or alternately well-constructed guardian at the front steps.  Maybe not just the steps but also the gate and the grave marker, and positively brimming with lasers and crushing maws and paws, and a one-track mind designed to not-permit-you-to-enter

Like ED-209, but magical and made of expensive rock.

Missed my time frame on this.

18 HP, 3 Points ablative armor.  2d6 crushing fists, 1d10 maw.

If both fists hit the same target, you can still wiggle free with a fort save (DC12) but otherwise, it's going to chew you into a fine red paste and maybe keep your skull for decor on the front stoop.

BTW it's the front stoop.  It looks like a big pile of slightly-dressed stone, arranged in the manner of a forbidding entrance and when you come near (or alternately when you've brought something out) then BAM


Now for bed

A to Zpace Dungeon: B is for Barrow

No reason not to keep on with my theme of choice, namely low-fantasy, tomb-robbing, post-apocalyptic Ice Pirates in the Barrowmaze thing that grabs my own attention, these days.  Tell me if you grow weary, O Reader!

Using the handy Dungeon World flavored on-the-fly generator by the ezsteemed +Jason Lutes (See his awesome blog and stuff OVER HERE NOW) I discovered in some musty scroll-case in the hands of a dead Tcho-Tcho, I made this for you, today.  Themes were: Transformation, Criminal Activity, Divination/Scrying, Chaos/Destruction, Tricks and Traps, and ALL IS LOST.

It was built by some cult and functions not just as a burial site, but also as a Portal!

The Barrow of the Pyrocaustic Eye

When the party arrives, they find that Rocket-Bikes are parked outside the entrance way, 1d4+1 of them to be exact (these may be worth money in and of themselves!).  This represents the number of tomb-robbers present in the complex, give or take an extra rider on one of the bikes as needed. In Space Dungeon games, the one-shot dungeons are generally claims so that means that these folks are claim-jumpers and fair game for harsh extermination but YMMV.  A funny twist could be that they are distant descendants of the inhabitants of the tomb, and are there on legitimate business.  No matter, all but one are dead in convenient fashion.

The place has strange topology.  The corridors near 6 and 4 are linked, and 9 and 4 as well - meaning travelling the length of these corridors will take one in an almost Moebius-strip fashion to the opposite point but on the ceiling.  The decor is such that the transition is seamless and without interruption, and no one can tell what has happened without a landmark of some kind.  Ought to be easy enough to sort out but possibly disorienting and who knows what kinds of metaphysical effects occur when these things happen - does your left hand become your right?

Alcoves in the walls are similar to Barrowmaze. Between any two points (with the below admonition) determine how many alcoves there are with a d100 - round up to the nearest 10.  Each PC or meatshield can search 10 alcoves per turn.  Each turn the random monster check is a 1d6, and a 5 or 6 incurs a random encounter.  Each turn spent searching, or any noise or party squabbling or discussion, incurs a +1 penalty to the roll.  It starts over again after each encounter.

Random Search Results, per 10 alcoves: (d12)
1. Ultrabronze Axe Money - money shaped as partial Ultrabronze ingots, hacked by laser or waterjet into crude rectangular chips, threaded in 5's or 10's.  Worth 1 credit each (1d20)
2. Jade Skull Tokens - self-explanatory.  Maybe the size of a marshmallow.  Worth 50 credits, each.
3. Ivory and Turquoise tablet - prayers to the Pyrocaust and glimpses into the End of All Things.  Reading too many of these (with magic or computer assist) will incur a minor corruption in that the reader will have terrible nocturnal visions of bleeding eyes, scorched landscapes, and supernovae. Worth 200+1d4x25 each.
4. Opal Amulet - Opal gives prophetic visions.  In this case, some ominous writing and worth 100 credits
5.  Peridot wristband - Peridot gives glimpses of alternate possible futures, in which the seller receives 200 credits
6. Fluorite Earrings or Noseplug (1d2 for either) - Fluorite channels energy, and these are worth 50 credits
7. Amethyst and silver facial jewelry - extra holes needed to accommodate these piercing jewelries.  100 gp each.  Amethyst will provide visions under the right circumstances.
8. Amber-encased insect or subcreature - 25 gold each.  Possibly sound genetic sample lies deep inside, awaiting the chance to cause ecological havok.  Amber generates light and heat.
9. Bronze or Silver Torc - weighty and could be used as a weapon in a pinch.  75 credits.
10. Liftwood club (a macahuitl), with meteorological obsidian chips for blades.  Wicked deadly, causes fantastic wounds and 1d14 damage OR 1d6 damage and the opportunity to re-roll initiative for that PC.  The crit range is 19 or 20.  Only find this one once.  It is light, drilled with holes for speed, and an ominous prophecy is carved on the sides in relief, depicting demons devouring the stars and planets.  You may go mad if you read this too many times.  Possibly priceless.  I suggest 2000 credits as a lump sum but the Gods will chortle if you give this up.  Maybe not so effective against Robots at the judge's discretion.
11.  A singed scroll with a level 1 Wizard OR Cleric spell, usable as normal but not easy to decipher.
12.  A prophetic coin - Leering Quantum Jaguar Who Devours Quasars is depicted on the obverse.  The instructions on the reverse, in a long-dead language.  Offer it to the undead things here, and they will answer your query with full knowledge but the thing will come to pass irrevocably damaged by burning, withering, or ionizing radiation.  They will speak to the user telepathically.  If used on the Pyrocaustic Eye, a dangerous Phlogiston Disturbance will occur and the topology of the structure will rationalize instantaneously (for starters) and then resolve the disturbance as per the text, or if you're brave use the Purple Planet charts!

Random Encounter (d10 - determine 1d2 if the encounter is on the floor or relative ceiling!)
1) A pyrocaust cultist, re-animated.  He/she trudges down the hall, empty sockets blazing with fire, burial shroud singed and smoking.  Relatively wimpy, but two touch attacks will burn with Aether Fire for 1d4 points additional damage with no save - if both hand attacks hit, then the victim has a bleak and searing vision of his/her/its homeworld reduced to cinders.
2) Dead Looter (up to the number determined).  Eye sockets burned into hollow ragged holes.  Surrounded by 2 loot items as per the chart above.
3) Ghostly voices whispering about pyromaniacal events
4) A radiation hot zone erupts, causing 1d10 burn damage or half on a succesful DC 14 Fort save.  A geiger counter will detect the spike before it occurs and the party can move to safety without harm if they have one (indicators on radsuits and vac-suits will ping or turn color suddenly)
5) A looter runs past, oriented on the relative ceiling, fleeing screaming and on fire.  He takes a round and falls to the ground, smoking and sputtering until his corpse erupts into white flame and disappears.  This only happens if there are sufficient remaining looters - else reroll.
6)  A sound TOK TOK TOK TOK TOK erupts in some far-off hall some distance from the party
7)  The wall begins to glow white hot and emit strange radiation that allows viewing through it - see some unexplored area the party has not yet explored within the complex.
8)  An ashen demonthing, Level 1 in the DCC text on page 401.  It is subject to the prophecy coins, and will attack otherwise and seek to carry off some PC to an extradimensional zone and flay and brand and worse.  If not destroyed or successful in kidnapping, it may be encountered again.
9)  A floating skull-drone.  Harmless.  Will tell the story of whomever is nearest in an alcove and move down the hall.  The prophecy coin can be used to over-ride its programming and it will answer in the same manner
10)  A ceiling-mounted (possibly the floor) laser swings out and delivers a warning blast to d4 party members, for 1d8 damage, but a DC 15 Reflex save will negate it.

The numbered areas are these:

1) Trinkets.  Ultrabronze and bone/shell hairpins (maybe a nose-pin).  Discarded in haste.  Footprints in the dust go further down the hall.  Signs of crowbar damage.  Some looted alcoves have the remains strewn disrespectfully on the hallway floor.  A long-bone is somehow on the ceiling, here.
2) Supplies. A small pick, made of plasteel.  The handle is cracked and it ought not be trusted for hard use.
3) Chopping Trap - a macahuitl mechanism erupts from the floor AND the ceiling - these 2 rows of 3 are synthoak and silver-inset blades, covered with dried blood.  They will hit any character who fails a DC 9 Reflex Save for 2d10 points.  TOK TOK TOK TOK TOK
4) Pit Trap - a hole opens wide below. Suddenly the floor is no longer there, in a quantum sense.  Some long-ago determinate state has collapsed and you hang in mid-air for a moment.  If you are unable to grab the edge, or are not tied to a friend and also fail a DC 16 Reflex Save, then fall into a randomly determined Phlogiston Disturbance.  (note: try not to make it instantly lethal, your Judge-ship)
5) Oddity - The Pyrocaustic Globe-Eye:  It sees all things, and is a local manifestation of the Jaguar That Will Come at The End of Time.  It will gleefully take Prophecy Coins, manifest the Phlogiston Event in the most damaging way possible, and the wink out with a thunderclap. Don't touch it, or else you are burned to cinders and what comes back is like you, but without a tongue, and it's bonded to Obitu-Que in addition to whatever Patrons your previous incarnation had.
6) Blasted skeletons in a loose circle
7) An oracle.  You must be an unmutated Aerethian, possibly descended from the lords of ancient Aereth that commisioned this place (Halflings, Humans, Elves or Dwarves only).  A 3 point Sta loss of blood manifests if you touch this Ultra-bronze scorpion-like device; it quivers for a moment, and a graceful pedipalp whips out to take a blood sample.  If you pass the genetic test (automatic for the character types described), then you are offered some vision of yourself; burned and scarred but powerful and vengeful, atop a stone pyramid with a solar eclipse behind you.  You toss a head down the stairs of the pyramid and see that it is ...
8) A dying looter, poisoned, bleeding, and scorched.  He has 3 loot rolls worth of goods.  He won't last long unless healed of 3 points of damage.  If the party wishes, they may acquire a untrustworthy but absolutely loyal (to the character that saves him) 1st level Chaotic thief as a follower or backup character.  His look matches the flattened foreheads and filed-down teeth of those in the pictoglyphs that surround you, here.  He also has a dataslate that offers the coordinates for this Barrow but no other information.
9) Texts/Prophecies - 2 Level 3 spell scrolls, either one of which (and only one) may be copied by a Wizard into her spellbook
10) An Ultrabronze Statue - The outstretched arm of a muscular warrior defiantly gestures to the approaching party to retreat.  He appears to be wildly dangerous and his head-wear suggests a crackling pre-supernova sun, somehow.  His pierced nose has an adamantium spike through it.  There is an actual skeleton interred within this thing, and it will radiate evil and chaotic magic, but will not interact with the party in any manner except to warn it away. This may be a long-dead god, or some depiction of one yet to be
11)  The abode of 12.5 Quicksilver Panther - he is a cyclopean skeletal high priest, an Eye of Fear and Flame, without the Flame.  He yearns for discussion and news from outside.  He will answer honestly any questions put to him with the prophecy coin, but will resent it, and will do his best to obfuscate otherwise.  Any attacks or transgressions will generate a teleport attack, with the offender being teleported away d100 miles unless they save vs magic.  He is not above teleporting the offender UP if they are also rude.  He will propose a walk down the hall for a while, and it will be hard to put him off.  He will offer a Patron Bond to this area's local manifestation of some evil Patron (whatever the player might desire, but an evil and/or chaotic version of it) - this is a one-time offer and only open to those one will stroll a complete circuit of the complex with him and discuss teleological philosophy and end-times.  He lets on that he knows the End is Nigh - but will gleefully withhold concrete details.

I don't think I can keep up this pace for the whole A to Z Challenge!

Tomorrow: Cairn Golems!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A to Z kickoff: Space Opera Item 1

The Altarspace Apparatus for DCC

Space Dungeon flavored (but transportable to other settings)

a DC 12 item to activate: the action die for clerics is a d20, for everyone else it's a d14.

This is a non-descript box with a toggle switch and a flashing indicator. It is a simple but powerful hyperspace generator, attached to a tachyon communicator system on the extra-dimensional side.  It exists semi-permanently within its own continuity and complex mood detecting intelligences scan the user and comrades when in use. Depending upon the user's alignment, the following pertain:

The toggle switch activates it and the air hums serenely (Law), coolly (Neutral), or ominously (Chaos).  The indicator flashes 3 times, twice, then once and a strobe of light escapes and the user and any allies are now in a low, dimly lit room with religious trappings appropriate to the user's alignment.

If a non-cleric, the space exists long enough to pray, collect one's self and bandage a wound.  Comforting music and noises surround the party, depending.  Then the indicator light flashes in a 3/2/1 pattern and the entire surroundings vanish again, leaving the users at precisely the moment and orientation in space-time at which they activated it.  It will not recharge again for use until 1d6+1 days have passed.  Items left in the space will be available in real-space as if they were not dropped in the extra-dimensional area.

if the user is a Cleric or other Ordained minister of some religion, then the device actually opens a chapel!  The chapel is furnished in the tasteful (or whatever) trappings of whatever God or Gods the cleric worships. There will always be some simple (non-spell) text of the deity in the space, as well as a single vial's worth of holy/unholy/sacred water.  In addition, if the cleric has need of it, a standard holy symbol is available.

The space allows a communing with the God at an advantage, and an attempt may be made to do within the space , or the cleric may cast a spell of choice that he or she knows and is available at that time.  Roll two action dice and take the best, but incur disfavor for any failures regardless of success or failure overall.

If a fumble is ever rolled, then the device burns out and may not ever be used again.  If a Double Fumble (with the advantage die, you see) is rolled, the. A Phlogiston Disruption results

Go Forth and Do Their Biddings Subcreature

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