Wednesday, August 21, 2013

DUNgeon Crawl 3

I got this free copy of #3 of this Dungeon Crawl zine that +Wayne Rossi  puts out. I wanted to spend more time with it and maybe use some of it before writing this but it's clear I'm not going to have time do any of that for a while...

Most of the zine is by Wayne but there's a bit from +Zach Howard and a couple of other people.

1. It's really mostly tables and lists. This is ideal.

2. There is a d20 list of minor magic items to toss at new characters in a low-level, small party to beef them up a bit. They're mostly utility belt-style magic items, which are my favourite kind. And I love tossing one or two random things at each character at the start. Gives them something interesting to have or do that has nothing to do with their class. There is a lot here you could probably do with character creation, especially in iterative/meat grinder games. Everyone starts as a random level 1 with some random, cool item. This was my favourite bit.

3. There's an article on "Thinking Like a Fantasy Character," and it's a pretty good, short, look at ancient perspectives on the immanence of magic and divinity (it references a particular historical report of a Spartan army being delayed for religious reasons - I think this might be the same document detailing the delay of certain ancient soldiers that inspired Gene Wolfe to write the Soldiers of Sidon stories). Only a few pages long and might be useful to help create consensus around the table in re the setting's cosmology and its impact on daily life, especially if you've got newer players.

4. There are tables to populate empty rooms that have a lot of interesting options. Wayne (and Zach too, but these particular tables are Wayne's) is really good at populating tables with entries terse enough that you don't feel like you've got to do a ton of work to use the table, but also evocative/strange enough that it's worth using (like, we can all come up with "rotten, mouldy chairs"). My only complaint is that I wish there was a ton more of entries on each table.

5. There is a gonzo, pastiche dungeon that looks like it'd be a lot of fun. I kind of wished there was a bit more to tie it together, especially something in the way of an indication of what happens in the neighbouring rooms when you do something loud, like get in a fight. And there is a giant lobster and you can eat it but no butter is provided. Can you milk a goblin and get churn that into butter? Goblin butter is: 1. Gross, 2. Peppery, 3. Cinamonny, 4. Tastes like gravy, 5. Causes vomiting, or 6. Re-roll twice.

6. There's also a long-ish hex/exploration area that started out boring me to death and ended up being pretty interesting. It's packed to the gills with faction stuff and potential conflicts. Clearly a lot of consideration has gone into how this would be run, with the conflicts between NPCs and changes the players can affect to the area so even should you not use it, it's an interesting presentation of how to run a hex with moving parts. It's also generic enough that you can drop it in and out of any desert/badlands area and just file off the names/numbers that don't quite work for your campaign.

7. There's also a new class, some monsters, another magical item (that's pretty cool), and another set of tables on gas traps.

So there's a lot here. It's all clearly meant to be and is presented to be used easily and widely, which I really like and respect. To that end, I kind of wish something more was done with the layout of the hexbits and adventure that made cross-referencing a bit easier than flipping/clicking back and forth, but hey, this is a zine. 

Here are links.



Lulu (Print):


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Monsterparts (attribute-less D&D)

You are all children. No younger than 7, no older than 14. You live on the same block or nearby and you probably attend the same school. Something is wrong and only children and animals can see it.

The night is longer than it ought to be, the temperature drops and there are wolves bigger than cars in the streets. At night, the shutters clap against the house, brushed aside by the enormous grey-black, craggy knuckles of a vast and careless hand, the sidewalk is wet with ropey drool. "Always so rainy," the adults say, as the step over the puddles.

Something goes from house to house, tapping at the windows. It has large reflective eyes, like an owl. The adults do not see and they do not understand why they must not open the windows. Next door, they are all different. They are cold and you saw one killing a squirrel while its parents watched. Next door, all the windows are always open.

Childhood rhymes hold new secrets, open doors. Crouch down in hiding places and the branches grow wide and long, the bush becomes a knot of trunks, the trunks roads and everywhere they go strange and terrible, full of knights dead in their armour and beautiful women in beautiful dresses covering spider legs and they will try to drown you in a vat full of other small, floating bodies or wear you like earings or walk you like a dog.

There are signs and symbols. A threadbare shirt worn by your grandfather, a riddle in Latin, a saying in Greek. The broach in your mother's sock drawer. You present them against the dark and the worst things to turn them aside for a time.

And still things change. The world grows dark and shadows lengthen, take on new forms. From the trunks of passing cars, voices call your name. Under the floorboards, scratches. Things want to be let out, they want to be let in and they are always hungry, curious, violent, terrible.

Roll d8+6. This is your age.

Choose a character class/type: there are Tough, Studious and Truant.

Tough characters have 6 Endurance Points. 0 Secrets. Damage die: d6. Starting stuff: clothes, 2 other things.

Studious characters have 4 Endurance Points. 1 Secret. Damage die: d4. Starting stuff: clothes, books, notebooks, 2 other things.

Truant characters have 5(4) Endurance Points. 2 Secrets. Damage die: d6. Starting stuff: clothes, cigarettes and/or a key to a safe place or one other thing.

Jelly or Jam & Toast (heals EP when eaten at leasure)
Compass (works as normal, goes crazy around some bad things)
Vintage Nimrod Pipe Lighter w/ fluid
Whittling/carving knife
empty glass milk jug with twine around the neck for carrying
pet cricket, salamander or turtle
an old, tattered book of Latin verbs with your Father's name in the front cover
old, reliable, favourite pen
a really good sweater
a really good scarf
a really good pair of shoes
really sticky tape
a dusty plastic ink well full of holy water, stoppered
glasses frames
10' rope
A long stick
your backpack
golf club
baseball bat
swiss army knife

Secrets are rumours you hear whispered during recess or things you see out your window at night, clutching bedsheets. They are strange facts you overhear recounted on the news or They are the things in your weird Aunt's basement and they are the reason it's spring and none of the trees have grown any leaves. None of the adults will believe you. You can only know one Secret before they start weighing on you. Every Secret known past the first does Endurance Points damage (ie, if you learn a second secret, subtract 1 from your EP). For each of these additional Secrets resolved, restore one to your EP. Truants start with 1 point of EP damage.

Every week in the game or so, you learn of a new secret.

Resolve Secrets
Resolving secrets is also something only you can do, so things will just get worse, more families going missing or strange, until you do something about them. If you don't do something about what's happening, you'll slowly fall into darkness, despair, anxiety.

Resolving secrets usually gets you some kind of in-game reward. At least one special thing each. You also get better at doing something tricky or you know something special or you've made some kind of connection with something special. Discuss with the GM and write it down on your character sheet.

Special Things
d4 uses each.
Box with the body of your cat/hamster. Hamster ghost can unlock doors or find secret places if you point it in the right direction. Cat can unlock doors or defend you against a single attack (takes the attack instead of you).

Urn of Great Aunt Edna. Held aloft, produces light as bright as the sun. All bad things are held in place for a turn.

Old Flute. When played, will open a door or lock one against any force.

Cape from the School Play. When worn, may hide you in shadows as if invisible.

Anything that is really good will keep you safe against something bad, but only that one time. Afterwards, it's just normal, whatever was special or awesome about it has been ruined or effaced by the bad things and dark places.

Safe Places

Your fort, your bed, your friend's house.

If you're here, you can't be got at by the bad things.

Endurance Points
Tick down 1/round while in bad places, being pursued by bad thing or in combat. At 0, you can no longer forestall any attacks and start taking wounds, are exhausted. You can take a single wound. A second and you're dead.

A Warm, Square Meal
Restores all EP to current max. You can choose to forget extra secrets and restore all EP lost that way too.

Some Secrets
1. The neighbours were meant to come back a week from now, but they showed up in the middle of the night. But where's their car? They also don't go to work or school, they just stand around, looking out the windows as their house gets dirtier and their clothes more filthy.

2. Mr. Jensen's been staring into space ever since that trip to the museum and they've taken his wife away. They say his house smells terrible, like rotten fish.

3. All the cats are missing and all the single women in town are carrying fashionable, fur-lined gloves. Do they all know?

4. All the dogs won't go near the principal's house. He's friendly enough but they say there isn't any furniture inside.

5. Paul's parents go every night to that old factory but we've not seen Paul in weeks. One of your parents were just invited to some club that meets at the factory...

6. Put your ear against a pipe to hear the next person to go missing. You can't quite make it out, but it sounds like the name of your little brother.

7. Mirrors are doors and they break the doors when they climb through them. There are broken mirrors everywhere...

8. There are two of Judy. The one the adults see and the one we see. Both are pale and so cold and falling apart. The one we see is begging for help but she can't do much because the other Judy has her all tied up.

9. So many people have a little worm sticking out of the back of their neck. Pull on it and the person dies. Everyone with the worm spends the night in graveyards or old cellars, stuffing dirt into their mouths.

10.  The giant animals that stalk the night are all going to one specific place in the woods that only exists at night. The floor rattles with human bones and a talking big with a crown of fire sits on a throne of thorns and bones.

11. There are weird lights out on the mountain. The dead are dancing and holding an enormous celebration. Terrible things happen when the party ends.

12. Every night, a horn sounds right outside your window. It used to be so loud that it shook the panes, but it's getting quieter and quieter. You can hear things outside, climbing the walls now too, they get closer and closer.

Imagines: Donn/John Kenn and Edward Gorey.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine

+Scrap Princess asked what these potions did and this was my answer. I guess it was well liked enough that I want to put it here so I don't forget about it & I've tweaked some of the original post.


Each character consumes one of four potions. There are as many potions as there are characters. Nearby, you discover empty vials, some of which are broken, crushed. It's hard to guess how many others have consumed these potions.


All potions are lethal after 48 hours, though this final affect can be delayed an additional 48 hours if you consume the liver of someone who has also consumed one of these four potions (any of the four will do).


Consuming all four variety of potion (either directly or via liver) delays the final  affect indefinitely. "Special affects" of consumption fade, with weird after affects persisting. Information to this affect will be relayed to the characters by a talking fox with two tails and seven eyes once the last potion is drunk. Or maybe they just know it to be true. Or maybe some creepy consigliere types lets them in on the situation. Flavour to taste.


  i. Blue Moon Jelly This is an exceedingly rare deep-sea creature. Consuming the creature grants you a rubbery consistency (you can't wear armour or bear heavy loads but  you're immune to most bludgeoning damage). You are virtually immune to high-gravity affects and being above deep-sea pressure levels lets you leap incredible distances (like 50' horizontally and 30' vertically) by compressing your body and shooting away, like a spring. Your skin dries and cracks, longs for salt water and by the end of the second day you either die of dehydration or dissolve into sea water.

After affect: if this is the potion you first consumed and you manage to consume all other varieties before they kill you, you survive, but you are always cold, clammy, your hair hangs wet and you may add up to 10' to any distance you could otherwise jump and you take falling damage only after you've fallen 30' (ie, d6 for each ten after 30).

  ii. The Frog Your knees snap and your leg joints invert. Your jawline joins your shoulders as your neck vanishes and your mouth grows enormous. You can dance across water and tree tops if unencumbered and you can swallow whole things half your size. Eventually, your mind fails, grows strange, hateful as your organs de-acclimate to this environment and you die, hyperventilating, suffocating on now-poisonous air, longing for steaming green jungles of a planet far, far from here. 

After affect: if this is the potion you first consumed and you manage to consume all other varieties before they kill you, you survive, but you are never happy, always longing for a land you've never actually seen outside of dreams. Similarly stranded brothers and sisters will send you a map to a possible way home.

  iii. The Shrimp Your eyes bulge, extend on stalks and you have all-around vision and wide spectrum vision. Your skin hardens and becomes chitinous  You cannot wear armour but your skin counts as plate. You eat trash, smaller creatures, whatever you can find and you become strange, secretive. Eventually, your skin grows too heavy and gravity peels it from the flesh below, killing you in the process.

After affect: if this is the potion you first consumed and you manage to consume all other varieties before they kill you, you survive, but your skin is now translucent and your hair becomes a stiff and brittle mass, like coral. Your eyes remain larger-than normal and brilliantly-hued, and you retain wide-spectrum vision.

  iv. The Fish You bud scales, gills and you can see  and breathe underwater as on land. When under water, you can attack and evade by darting suddenly. Save v paralysis instead of rolling to hit or using your AC; attacks made in this way ignore armour and attacks avoided in this way deal no partial damage if missed and require no additional save for area/breath affect damage. Eventually, you can no longer breathe in water or land and die in a panic, asphyxiating, flopping.

After affect: if this is the potion you first consumed and you manage to consume all other varieties before they kill you, you survive, and you can breathe under water but you're totally hairless and you've got fluttering gills from the side of your face down to your nipples.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Wild Hunt

You saw something you shouldn't have...

When your fever breaks, you find you've no job, barely any money - just weapons, gear, an address for the huntmaster's meeting, a pass sign for the meeting, a bit of food and this mask.

Choose a class (Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, Thief) (or really, just be a Fighter or Magic-User), roll for mask, how you get to the meeting called by the huntmaster and then join the hunt.

The Masks (d12)
1.The Cock
Immune to sleep and charm.
2. The Crow
Eat the dead for sustenance and health.
3. The Fox
Flee pursuit; can hide in a 2' cube.
4. The Hound
Tireless pursuit of fleeing foes.
5. The Hippo
Swallow something your size whole.
6. The Hare
Burrow deep.
7. The Badger
Defend your allies long after others would have died.
8. The Owl
Never surprised.
9. The Owlbear
Deadly embrace.
10. The Wolf
You've got a vorpal knife.
11. The Heron
Handily navigate rough terrain.
12. The Bat
Can see in the dark.

How to get to the meeting? (d8)
1. Tavern under a bridge, blue lights, only ghosts come here anymore.
2. Room full of corpses, most of which looks just like the party. Close your eyes, whisper a childhood prayer and open one of several doors to get there.
3. Long-abandoned shrine. Offer a blooded sacrifice.
4. String up the outline of the door in the entrails of an innocent, a bully, a liar, a thief, a vagrant or a magic-user, and then step through.
5. Light a branch of a hazel tree and use it to burn a sprig of holly and a sprig of mint. Breath deep.
6. Eat the flesh of the plague-slain.
7. Douse your mask in arterial blood of a sentient creature.
8. Consume unclean meat.

The Huntmaster
Waits for you at the meeting; is someone you've never seen before but once you've met them you'll see them all the time, rummaging through garbage, dead in a gutter, arguing in a coffee shop, on a wanted poster, as a barkeep, as distant relative of the Empress.

In ceremonial garb, when leading a hunt or celebrating a glorious kill, the huntmaster appears differently:

A man or woman well-muscled, tattooed, nude but for the trophy heads it wears about its neck, wrists, shoulders and waist.

In the Spring, the heads are all alive and each knows a great secret (the name of the rock, where the last of the first dragon's slumbers, how to unwind time, etc, etc); the huntmaster's head is the head of an elk and it speaks thunderously, telepathically. It walks upon the ground barefoot and each footfall leaves behind cinnamon-scented ferns of curative potency.

In the Summer, the heads are dead and rotting. The huntmaster's head is that of an eyeless stag. The huntmaster rides a rotten, limping boar, wears a coat of feathers and hangs from its antlers the tongues and fingers of each sort of people in the race of man. Its touch brings pestilence, its mere presence sours food but it may also consume any disease, decay or rot, if it so desires.

In the Fall, the heads are mummified and the huntmaster's antlers are hung with glistening glass shards. The huntmaster's head will be a skeletal stag's head. The huntmaster will ride upon an enormous elk and be attended by two deaf mutes, each of which will bear a legendary weapon or armour on a silken pillow.

In the Winter, the huntmaster appears to be an emaciated human wearing a stag mask. It wears a cloak of quills and will speak as if human. It is born on a palanquin to its court by the Grugach and his son and two daughters. On the palanquin lays more wealth than any can imagine.

The Hunt is called to (d10)
1. Kill all of the royal line, their children, their bastards, their most distant relatives. Their power, secrets and treasure are yours.
2. Ruin the wealthy and raise up the poor, including yourself.
3. Empty the area of all human life so that something stranger can grow there. What takes root will call you an ally for long after your death.
4. Find a lost relic of the hunt (The huntmaster has lost its shield, the effaced Shield of Galahad, and its dagger, Carnwennan. Should the Shield be found and returned to the huntmaster, the wild creatures of the wood will rise up on two legs, speak as man and overthrow all his works. Should the dagger by found and returned, a great, tangled highway will appear and run through each city and town; the highway will lead back to the fairy court and other, even worse domains and hell will empty its outhouses, lounges and barracks onto the earth.)
5. Find and kill the last huntmaster
6. Destroy a city but leave its buildings intact, for a dungeon to soon take root. The wealth of the city is yours for the plundering.
7. Wage a war in fairy country with lances made from holly trees. Castles and lands to the survivors.
8-10. The huntmaster simply wants you to hunt and consecrate each kill to it.
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