Saturday, November 23, 2013

Best laid plans go mildly awry

Not a lot of free time lately, but I did finally squeeze out a morning to go visit the newly reopened art museum, with an eye to seeing what sort of free images I could scare up for Noism's current project.Tibet, yak ghosts, ogre magi, mangroves, Nepal, Arabian Nights, Sorcery!, Bengal, invertebrates, topaz, squid men, slug people, opiates, slavery, human sacrifice, dark gods, malaise, magic.   OK so I admit that I'd forgotten some of these simple words and reduced it down to "freaky Asian stuff," but it sounded like a good excuse to visit the art museum and check out the new People's Palace, which has sadly been partially closed for far too long.

Two flaws quickly developed.  Flaw one, I'd misheard and the last gallery wasn't open yet, which just happens to be South-east Asia, India, Himalaya, & China.  So no Lantern Night Excursion of Chung K'uei until next March. Oh well, I thought, those Japanese wood cuts will still  be mine.  Flaw two, they're prepping a big show for the Spring which will be focused around that particular era, which means the Japanese collection was limited to the classical era.  I couldn't get anyone to tell me what had happened to the collection of opium pipes.

Well " No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" and I still had a pretty cool day.  The interior courtyard they've opened up is pretty special and the price of admission is still a one of a kind, zero dollars, which mean's the people's palace is still the people's palace.    They've really performed a miracle on the place, the old lines of the original museum are still there, but they weeded out the rat's nest of galleries of the "contemporary" remodel, while keeping the shell. The interior courtyard really changes the whole museum.
This is an excuse to display this righteous chickenhead, modified with the help of
This is me admitting I lack real artistic skills.

What we have here is a few of  several of dozen snaps I took of a new Ai Wei Wei exhibit, he's the hot new escapee from China.  I have no real idea what the legal status of using pictures of bronzes based upon a set of 7th century zodiac images displayed in a public forum is, but I assume it is no different than using pictures of a pubic building.   Anyone with an interest in these bronze heads let me know, I'll shoot you the files.  Wei Wei is obviously one of those guys with a staff, but I do admit I like his animal heads.  I took a lot of pictures because I was trying to figure out which would lend themselves best to digital editing.

Here is a couple of other things I found which fit.  Dead guy art is always free.
Here is an opium smoking euncuh, dreaming of his love.


Iranian work, I converted to black and white. 

Stray Chinese  Lion

I have some other perspectives and lighting conditions for most of these, if something strikes someone's fancy.  Yeah I take pictures at the museum,  because stray images can come in handy, but because it also reminds me of what I saw that day.   If I had more time I'd monkey about with them a bit more, but not knowing exactly what you're looking for in the final form, I don't quite have the time.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mouse Trap #5

Today's gratuitous photo, what I think is some sort of Sumerian Lion-Pug crossbreed, then again it might be the Babylonian equivalent of lolcats.

  As the poet once said, "I have six pack and nothing to do, "  So I have a six pack, let me write something for you.   We may have missed the golden age of movies, rock and roll, scifi and comic books, but we do live in the golden age of craft brews.  Let me celebrate the release of Great Lakes Christmas ale with a few ideas gleaned from the old file cabinet, which I don't think I've touched much in years.  Let's just say sometimes time and a half equals too much pain to go out. We can also postulate that a belly full of caffeine requires a solution of the Christmas ale known as liquid crack, which means music and some blogging. 

So here is some old creativity from the mixed up files of Gort.  Glean what you can. I'm counting this as creative non-new mouse trap. Pardon my lack of visuals, but it eats up the time (a pledge which a couple more beers makes me break and I start pasting all sorts of crappy pictures in, but they're my crappy pictures. Note to self: one more beer and you might find yourself belligerent.)  You may call it worthless ramblings, but as "I have a six pack and I don't need you."  Just admit that is a sweet lion-pug picture or whatever.  It's not as if anyone but a robot in Russia ever reads this stuff.

1. The black man.  "black skinned, black eyes, black teeth and a curving, silver scythe."  A 13 hd supernatural killer who can track the party over sea or land. He  is immune to an assortment of magic. He "comes for you every new moon" until they return the jewelry of the plundered idol or flee over a hundred miles from the last attack and the plundered idol.   I find this as a cool idea, because brute force never wins over him.  The party keep killing him, yet he keeps coming back from the netherworld and screwing with the party till they steal back the loot and give it back This was used in a campaign where a player received a tract of land given out as part of the usual absurd result of a Deck of Many Things.   The player also ended up with a hermit, a fisherman, a dryad, a tribe of orcs, assorted stirges, and a flute of beguiling playing barrow-wight, but who needs more maps of stirge caves, let alone a discussion of stirge caves?

Seems to be from a period where I suspected someone of sneaking peeks at my notes as there are numerous insults scrawled in the margins, involving farm animals and children.

I unearth a file filled with old critical hits tables, which like most such things ended up crippling the party routinely.  Another filled with some cryptic alliance expansions from Gamma World.  One filled with some odd notes about mining something called crystals of illusion, but with no reliable explanation of what these were. 

2. One labeled Cosmos. An absurd number of possibilities for a world which was to involve both multiple universes and some unworkable sketches attempting to use Larry Niven's Ringworld to connect them all, including elemental planes and hell worlds.  Just a few notes which would allow a bit of improv if needed.  I seem to remember a quest for the tomb of Bozo the Wizard in this campaign world, which involved a dozen or so worlds.  Later campaigns revisited many of these ideas.  This is a pretty old folder, it's interesting to me largely because I used these gimmicks later, but with a bit more coherence.  Let's be frank here.  Bozo the wizard is as good a name as most of the hard consonants and random vowels which people come up with. 

These seem to fall into a few categories using a simple one to five word descriptor.  

 A number of worlds just contain a book reference often with a particular era or land, shades of infamous appendix N, such as Jack of Shadows, Horseclans, Lord Kalvan, Lankmar, Lilliput, Melnibonea (as well as Corum's and Hawkmoon's world),  Witch World, Earthsea (including the Land of Thirst), Arthurian, Fenian, Beowulf, Last Viking, Narnia, Pern, Titan, Changeling, Coramonde, Cthulu, Dragonlance,  Dilvish, Middle-earth, Operation Chaos/Magic Inc., World of Tiers, The Shattered World,  Jubbulpore, Midworld, Nonstop, Sanctuary, Tornor, Tarzan's jungle, and Moore's Lost Lands. Jack chalker could have a section of his own.  These were meant to draw heavily off the magic system or general worlds.  Even if people have read the particular book, they often won't recognize it as long as you don't use specific names. Cthulu for instance would often just be worlds of nameless horror in a desert temple or a medieval village where the people are crossbred with frog people who worship a terrible entity. Narnia might be the destroyed world of the Queen, except they don't visit the throne room with the queen in it, or it might be some part of it. At some point someone put a sword in Mr. Tumnus.  (There was rejoicing.)

 Some which are to emulate Hell, Hades, the Elemental planes, Chaos, etc...  All the usual back of the DM's Guide planes.  Oooo no it's a daemon, not a demon. 

Some referencing other games or supplements such as Gamma World, Boot Hill, Traveller, Role Aids, Greyhawk, Judge's Guild, Thieve's Guild's Haven, or the Morrow Project, with some indicators to various designs I'd used previously.  I always had some scheme to actually use the things I'd spent money on, but rarely did. I know this campaign didn't visit any of these places.  I like having a four inch binder of Haven, but I can count the number of times I've used it on one hand. Excepting inspiration of course. 

 Some will give a tech level such as stone age or gunpowder, often a historical era.   This would include the "World of the 20th century" bit, where they come out into the normal world and get scared by cars.  This category would also include historical worlds such as the Victorian Age, Vietnam War, Arab-Israeli War, Old West, Mongols, crusades, Pliocene, Arabia, 1930s,  Persia, Rome, Minoan, Columbian, post-holocaust, the middle ages (early mid and late), and Renaissance are all used. Too much time tunnel as a child.

Some which are based upon various myth systems or are just populated with worshipers there of such as Indian, Japanese, Celtic, Hawaiian, Egyptian, Greek, Finnish, Babylonian, Persian, African, Central American, American Indian w/ subcategories covering regional variations and specifics such as great lodge or happy hunting ground,  and the worlds of the Norse mythology (Asgard, Jotunhiem,  Alfheim, etc...).  All the deities and demigods mythologies are hit, as well as many others if they had folklore books.

Some reference a single geographical or terrain feature, followed by a  few dominant monsters, such as rain forest, ocean world, pleasant meadows, swamp world (w/ sleestak, dinosaurs) , polar world, forest world, tropical, cold world, hot world, and various combinations of these words. 

 Some just say heavy on or no and then state a major race or condition,such as humans, elves, ogres, barbarians, magic, drow, dwarves, halflings, giants, evil, druids, horses, demihumans, etc...   Easy enough to have a world where humans don't exist.   You could categorize these, screw with the normal mix. 

Even a few with simple changes like "six fingered people."  I seem to remember liking the idea of a crowd suddenly shouting "He only has five fingers!  He's a witch/mutant/freak!  Let's kill him/arrest him/sacrifice him to the gods!"

Lastly, a few of the most interesting and elaborate. Projects I've worked on at one point or another.

Dimensionia, which consists of pocket universes consisted of encounters such as a single room with a three-headed dragon or  mysterious, half-understood forges.  Mostly caverns where the laws of nature and magic would shift, such as depriving them of invocation or alteration spells. At least one included an annoying attempt to suspend gravity and provide magnetic switches (which sounds cool till the physics majors start figuring vectors and claim you're doing it wrong.)    

The Crumbling City, a motif I'd used before, which was just an infinite, empty city filled with oddities and random encounters.  At one time I started a set of geomorphs (maps which can be assembled and rotated to produce random maps) which were based on the idea of a random city which would stretch to eternity.  Think of trying to walk out of LA, when the city is mostly strip malls and culs de sac. One of those things I meant to really use some day and placed in numerous worlds (in theory), but never really used for long. It just turns into a major dungeon crawl.

The Outworlds: Much like the Crumbling City, these were based not just in Jack Vance, but depicted wastelands and spoiled worlds which were destroyed in the "God War."  I don't really remember what this war was supposed to involve, but it was a good excuse for some beat worlds.

Mygladia, a "market place" of an interstitial space between the worlds.  Somewhere (once again) I have some maps I started drawing of an inter-dimensional magic shop, a series of interconnected spaces which were allegedly a single structure, but contained doors which opened on other worlds, departments which sols potions or swords, and windows on alien landscapes.   It quickly became overly complex and like most such absurd projects got set aside for the press of a campaign or some new idea.  it included alchemist and bazaars. The idea was a once in a life time visit to a magic shop.

Rubik's World:  OK, forgive me this one, but I did at some point design a world which was based upon an old Rubik's Cube.  The idea was that periodically the world was spun which allowed access to new lands, organized in six flat lands, fifty-four lands in all.  No mention here of my Flexagon or Tesseract periods. I was going to keep flipping it randomly and then allow the players to control some spins. 

3. One labeled Community.  This was a city in a campaign I ran in a repressive police state, which ultimately was inside a space ship.  It pisses me off, because I lost most of the computer files I did for this when someone did a B&E and stole my laptop. Yeah, call it my cheesy version of Hemingway's lost suitcase.   I had two different worlds on it and it's lost forever, along with the Doom game I had saved. 
Each color was the building height
This was one of my early experiments in the possibilities of computers. That you could draw a map and then establish a sand box by blowing up various parts as needed.  What pisses me off is that I have the large maps, but didn't save to disc the smaller maps.   So I have printouts which say intriguing things like the White Pig Cafe, Brotherhood of the Undying Flame, Shrine of the Sore, the Weeper's casino, Swamp of Scales,, etc.. but I've lost the texts.   There are nice prints of floor plans of various buildings, but I still lack most information. I made these by hollowing out the buildings which I'd designated a certain height, as opposed to drawing the buildings (the ground up sandbox.)

Here is what can be drawn from this.  First off, the best way to do a sandbox is to think of infinity. The type of infinity that hippies think about when they say things like "What if one cell of my hand was actually a solar system. Whoa, what if our solar system is just a cell in the hand of God?"  So you start with a rough sketch of the world.  Then you blow up the particular land.  Then you make a rough sketch of the one kingdom in that land. Then you make one city or village in that land.  Then you make one section of the city, one street, one inn and one room. After that, you just bother to make what you need.   You never make NPCs which you aren't planning to use, except in the general way of "Here are five possible innkeepers which they will eventually meet in one of the inns, someday, somewhere. You might make a spare village or in my case too many city maps, but it's all optional. It's all about which adventure stubs they follow up. Some people like to randomize such things, some like to plan them, some just like to use what they'd been thinking about. Secondly, as recent teen fiction has shown, a story set in a police state can be pretty cool.   The default of D&D is often a stock kingdom or frontier which the players operate in as either mercenaries or agents of good.  They're just one of many adventurers who operate. This particular campaign borrowed some from Paranoia, where a police state is always hounding your every move, but it just as easily could be said to borrow from 1984 or dozens of other novels. In this case it was a corrupt theocracy.  Why? Eh, my atheism or early exposure to Revolt in 2100. It made for some cool city encounters, where everything was forbidden. Anyways, consider the idea of ending the "safety" of town. Personally, I'm thinking my next campaign will have the theme "nowhere to lay your head" with the entire campaign aimed at making the party anxious all the time, no "we go back to town and rest" because town is just as dangerous.

Next file is sketches used for an off the cuff raid on a magic order. Lots of stick men and a complex chart detailing which spells who has as well as what their spell books contain, a product of a campaign where you could read spells out of other's spell books as a scroll, resulting in many explosions and hilarity when people failed.  This was a rough sketch of where the towers would appear.  They never went in any of them, but merely nuked a major ritual, broke things, and ran off laughing. 
At this point mentioning I can't draw is just redundant.  Maybe I should claim to be an outsider artist.
The next file has sketches of a wizard's spire set in the center of some giant trees. Crude maps of rope bridges, which never mattered because they flew in, went etheral. and were ultimately busted into the wizard's throne room in the first hour.   One of the best moments I've seen played out as one player willingly had his character turn evil and swore fealty to the wizard in return for letting his friends escape. One of those times where you're just damn proud of how fuckin' awesome your friends can be at times.  This one is for Rich, wherever he is now.  This needs no visual. However, I will now break for some middle-aged, white-boy toasting to my homies who are departed.  As a different poet recently said into my ears at great volume,  "And I salute you brother."

The next file is just the type of endless "random table" I churned out in the long ago and which I've seen a lot of on some people's blogs lately. It is just a long list of possible decorations, cross referenced with assorted types of possible artwork.   As in it is a battle near a tower on a statuette.   The type of crap which is virtually useless as unless you're completely burnt out or retarded, you could improvise things like this by merely applying what your adventure is about in the moment. "OK so Cthulu is going to show up eventually. OK,  squid sword hilts all around. Kelp motifs up the bunghole!"  Or maybe if you're the type of of guy who snaps pictures or surfs the net for little to no reason you say, "you found a horn that looks like this."    

 Gratuitous photo number two. Let's pause as I credit the Cleveland Museum of Art for still being  the People's Museum and not costing a dime. I'm now drunk enough to say " Bite me NYC Metropolitan on my hairy bean bag. "
The rest of the file resembles the AD&D appendixes which just cut and pasted part of a thesaurus for kids who didn't always know how to describe things.  It has lists of types of metals, woods, and  cloth.  It has a type-written table I used to have taped to my homemade DM screen which required you to roll three ten-sided dice and a twelve-sided to determine random objects and room features, everything from a mummy case to rotting fruit.  I won't name names, but the type of crap some people are still churning out in some sort of hope they will someday automate their entire world.  Zork will never replace the human mind. You can railroad a story, including random tables,  but a sandbox will always fail if you rely on automation.

Next up is a miscellaneous world, nothing special, but representing an hour of play once. The paucity of this file is due to my not looking back, but fully meaning to one day. It's just sketchy notes of no worth to anyone.

4. The Dungeons of Arl:  The type of thing I used to spend time on.  Well until I realized I rarely used such things later.  It has all the basics, monsters, treasure, secret rooms, and a few traps.   I never used it because it has no narrative. It isn't part of a campaign.
Slides, pools statues, and nothing special
This is just the stock dungeon crawl, it predates most of the plotting I'd learn later. There are some elaborate notes for a troll who sings dirty songs, largely borrowed from Oscar Brand, as well as some odd impersonations. Most of my early role-playing involved repeating comedy routines which my friends found funny.  There is nothing of worth here except the lesson to not make dungeons like this anymore.

5. Garbanzo's Tomb.    A one page dungeon drawn in purple ink.  I thought I'd invented such things. They were usually side missions and often were tombs. This one featured a lot of crocodiles and what I thought was clever, a room filled with 500 minions, an invented monster with the strength of about half a kobold. 

Stupid idea. We basically had a tedious time where every round saw high level fighters skewering their level in minions while the wizards burned them to the ground in huge piles. All I got out of it was this tiny picture. I'm sure most of you have done it as well. You want an orc fight like Moria and then you find out it;s just burning huge a pile of corpses until they run low on magic.

Here is where I go to check up on why I seem to be in the C-D section of the file cabinet and instead discover a bunch of weird doodles and comic strips I made in junior high. Why do I have these? Because once it is in a folder, you never throw it out. I labelled it, that's permanent and all. 

 Note the influence of the classic basic box Dragon.

A D&D comic strip that was anything but comical.

Near as I can tell this is a violent mixture of Star Wars, Starman Jones, & Battlestar Galactica as rebooted with a cast of intelligent boogers with arms and legs.  I have twenty pages of this strip.   For historical purposes, I'll state that I drew this while waiting to play atari at someone's house.  Friggin' space invaders meant a lot of down time. while you waited for your turn, so we'd draw odd comics.  If I remember right, we also listened to a lot of Rush at about this time, although I do not blame them for my devotion to boogercentric narratives.   
7. The City of Relthorn: Another project greater in memory, largely due to theft.  Another example of top down sand box.

You have to admit, such things start to give the old graph paper a run for it's money.  OK, so the labyrinth thing got out of hand a bit. I drew this city with a number of temple complexes and palaces.  You can see that I was still working on blowing up smaller maps, which is why the complexes are all uniform squares. Later on I'd learn to disguise such things, reducing maps and pasting them back on the previous maps. So rather than say this dot will be the walls, I now just say this dot represent mostly structures. 

It involved a good tomb-robbing dungeon on one of the islands though. The party returned to the surface only to find the authorities waiting for them, Indiana Jones fashion.  I believe that was when I discovered that it isn't enough to have a cool map for yourself, you need to quickly render it for the players. 

Well no longer a six pack have I.

So, despite the pause for junior high cartoons, I think I put out a few ideas.  I now intend to go sleep the sleep of the just, which is always slightly drunken. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mouse Trap #4

Sometimes I get frustrated by the mad scientist trope for wizards.

What I mean is, if wizards are so common, why aren't more of them boring engineer guys like Tommy Edison?   The original Continual Light spell is a great idea, you'd think more wizards would routinely use them like light bulbs, just as most parties will do eventually.  You'd think more cities would give off a nightly glow like a strip mall.

I'm not saying every city should be that way, but how many ancient civilizations have you whipped up that would have done such things.  So here is a list of ten products from the wizards at GE.  Like all magic items, they can be game changers with the right players.

Warmth Rock:  Size 1'x1', 30lbs, equivalent of an equal-sized fire.  It's worth it just to watch people try to steal it.

Jumbo Warmth Rock:  Size 3'x 3' x 3', the equivalent of a metal forge.  Will smelt metals.

Cold Box: Size 1'x 1' x1', 10 lbs, keeps temperature in box at -30 F to 50 F.

Stasis Box: Size 3' x 1' x 1', 20lbs, keeps non-alive goods in stasis.

Stasis Box, Jumbo:  6' x 2' x 2', 100lbs, keeps non-alive goods in stasis.

Detection Globes: Reveals invisible beings in a 20' radius.

Jumbo Detection Globes: Reveals invisible beings in a 200' radius.

Load Lightening Candle: Reduces the weight of a given object to 1/20th for duration of the burning candle.  Even wizards need to move a credenza at times.

A Clock:  A simple sundial that works without the sun. Think about how preoccupied the medieval alchemist.inventor was with precise time measurement. A basic scientific instrument was the pendulum for time keeping.

True North needles:  Early compasses were often thought to be magic.  If you have friends like me, you've gone around and around on whether the compass is a medieval invention and such suitable for D&D or not, with spiteful declarations occasionally being used such as "well maybe this world doesn't have a magnetic north."

OK and here you go, a gratuitous picture for inspiration of what I think is a monkey raping a cat.  The look of terror is worth it.  I've just been looking through old image files lately.
OK so I like taking pictures of other people's art.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Un-Mousetrap #3

Detail of Ryder painting, added just because it looks cool.

The King of Kobolds

OK for today's bit of creativity, something I haven't play tested yet, but is an idea I've been kicking around.  It comes out of a low level starter dungeon, an over-sized band of kobolds living in the sewers.  Somewhere I have some sketches of goofy things that can be done by PCs or the kobolds to water levels.  Just a basic sewer crawl against low level stuff, a shake down cruise.

Here's an idea  that could lead to hilarity.   The focus of the band is an ugly, heavy crown of beaten red-gold and low grade gem stones, which has the power to exert a charm spell over anyone who is in it's presence, who also happens to be a kobold.  
Why?  Because this at first glance will seem to be a powerful item. It allows the party to achieve the first goal, that of defeating the kobold band and possibly acquiring their stronghold.  It also can likely be parlayed into a defeat of the next goal, a dimly sketched in Sewer Hag.  A seemingly powerful item which when acquired by a low level party is a game changer for their tactics.

Why seemingly?   If you've ever experimented with hirelings and henchmen, you already know the answer.  A band of less than a hit die kobolds are just so much dragon fodder, no, make that so much gelatinous cube fodder.   Most PCs will run through their supply of kobolds like disposable tissues.  Which will leave them either trying to hunt up more kobolds or with a clunky magic item that they lug around on the off chance they might meet kobolds.   A careful band of PCs will use them up sparingly, but is still going to run through them like native porters in a Tarzan movie, a few disappear in the night to set the tone for a werebeast, a few get lost probing a trap ridden dungeon, and then suddenly they're down to one cosmically stupid guy who holds their horses.

What's the point?  If you play long enough with veteran players, you already know the ins and outs of the stock magic items.  You know what having the ability to fly does.  This is your chance to explore what a party leading a mercenary band of wimps is like.   It's an odd toy, let them figure out what to use it for. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mousetrap Challenge Day #2

Recurring Villain

OK, today's entry for the creative challenge is what I like to call the Tontine Bortherhood.  This idea is borrowed in part from Lloyd Alexander'd Prydain Chronicles, although I don't remember the mechanics.

The idea is of a Brotherhood of Assassins or Holy Warriors, which as the members die absorb the strength of their fallen comrades.   You could view it as a bit like Highlander, except the Brotherhood is not adversarial, but sworn to avenge each others' deaths.

Their powers are generally minimal.  They are able to see their brother's killers and vaguely track them.  Beyond that they are warriors often tasked with guarding a hidden temple or stronghold.

This is how the scenario unfolds.   Through their normal adventuring, the party kills some of these heavily tattooed warriors.  Then periodically more of these similar warriors show up for revenge  They aren't morons, so they will try mass together in larger groups, rather than running into the wood chipper.   The structure of when they will show up is a variable, as these warriors are often scattered across the world.

Now this is why this gets interesting.   As they're killed they gradually increase in hit points, levels and strength.  So as attrition thins their ranks to half of the total, they are twice as strong.  One quarter, they are four times as strong, etc...   You can see how a rather minor threat starts to snowball, especially with strength, which I usually calculate as 18/00 being the strength of two men, 19 of three, etc...  Fudge it.  Their hit points I straight out add and use a standard for all of them to make the math easier.  The levels are even easier.  Just make a page in your notebook to check off their deaths, with the corresponding upgrades in power.  Fifteen minutes of math, you can lay out how strong the next guys will be and be ready for dozens of eventual fights.

So over a lengthy period of time, you have these groups show up and try to kill the party.   It's a running battle, one which they might figure out or might not.   The idea is to give your campaign a longer story arc, which isn't necessarily related to your other story arcs.

Probable FAQs

How large a brotherhood?  I've done this with a hundred, two hundred and five hundred men.

Isn't that an absurd number for hit points for someone to have by the end of the scenario?  No.  There are ways to immobilize people without killing them.  The party can always run away or run away some more.   I usually do a quick estimate of how long till such a guy can steal a conveyance and come after the party, as they can't hide, even in other dimensions. The end game doesn't always have to be fighting one guy with a hundred hit dice and a titan's strength.  It can be though.  Remember that it will often start with group attacks, they'll attack when they think they'll have the edge.

How I've used this in the past.
   The first time they were one of a number of guard types in a celtic temple complex in a distant land.  The party flew in from out of town, stole an artifact, and skedaddled.   I believe it was a largish alter, several tons, which would Cure Disease anyone within fifty feet.   Which is a pretty cool thing to have, especially if you want to establish your own holy shrine and really bring in the pilgrims.  This led to other problems of course. Some other clergies were a bit jealous, thieves were always trying to steal the tithes, etc...  The party  was off on other quests as well, the campaign had hit the point of everyone getting their own special quest for what they wanted.  Meanwhile on a regular basis these guys with tats keep showing up and trying to kill them.   They shrug off some of the attacks, but it eventually gets serious. Long story short, a guy ends up in a volcano.
      Since then I've pulled it more than once.. Sometimes the last few guys get imprisoned, sometimes the campaign breaks up before the end game starts, and at least once attrition killed off everyone.   As I mentioned, this is never the focus of the campaign.   Some campaigns I use a variety of enemies, who's anger typically grows at the damn kids who keep interfering with their plans.   Reoccurring characters who are villains are pretty sweet.

Congratulations It's a Mouse Trap Challenge.

OK, having just read Zak's thrown down gauntlet , I'll transform it into a 30 day challenge which seems to popular in blogapaloozaville.   Something I've given up on before, in the case of the Dungeons and Dragons Thirty Day Challenge! and most recently the Nanowrimo bit.  I'll add in my stated self-avowed goals as to what I intended to blog about, which I then see have been done to death by others and so I skip repeating their routines.

So here we go.  Thirty days of weird encounters and such, some of which I've used and others I've just wanted to use. Warning, I will likely skip searching about for the perfect pictures to go with this, let alone drawing my own, as such mechanics seem to eat up the little bit of time I set aside for this. If your bastards would stop with the interesting posts, which make me want to argue or voice my opinion, I might write on a more regular basis.

Swiped from What on Earth Catalog
This in an NPC/Encounter/Artifact I like to call  Redcap, which is based loosely on a Scotch folktale I read once.  OK so he doesn't look quite like this.  He's basically a wizened goblinlike character in a red hat, one I describe as being in the fez style.   Unlike the legend, he is often a  genial host, useful for dispensing information, but with one sore point.   The mere mention of his hat will drive him into a murderous berserk rage, which will not end until the person who mentioned the hat, whether friend or foe, is dead, dead, dead.  Even the death of the wearer does not cease the object's cursed allure to the owner or his murderous rage.   Upon the person's death, the owner will immediately wash his hat in the fashion critic's blood and put it back on his head, an action which will give him the deceased hit points until the blood dries out.   A secondary effect is that the owner never sleeps, as he knows if he does, someone will steal his hat. 

Possible FAQs
Yes, the player can slay the current redcap and take his hat.   That is the whole point.   Which is why you can skip the goblinlike dude who may or may not beat the PCs with a pike staff or whatever and use the gimmick on pretty much anyone you wish. 

Yes, he will kill anyone who mentions the hat.

Yes, this will make every encounter with new people complicated, as the player is wearing a hat which either reeks of fresh blood or of rotten, old blood, as he will never wash it or take it off.    A surprising number of PCs, when warned about the hat, will still stubbornly feel the need to mention his hat.   I'm sure you see possibilities for havoc in this item.

Yes, I call this an artifact.  For a couple of reasons.   It's quite possible for a rampaging lunatic or a cynical PC to kill a lot of people, temporarily gaining their hit points.  Items like this tend to snowball sometimes.   So it is pretty powerful.  As such, I make the standard "remove curse spell" either ineffective or require it to mention the hat in the spell, so the wearer kills plenty of priests and keeps his hat.  I also use the extreme conditions to destroy clause, rather than allowing it's destruction in the standard ill-placed fireball.     I enjoy tainting the milk.  I like folk tales where the magic betrays you.  Power with consequences is more fun. 

How long does it last?  Up to you. I usually allow the blood to be damp for twelve hours to thirty-two.  Keep in mind that new blood will redampen the old and water will just weaken the magic.   Also, you can't heal the extra hit points back. 

What if we steal the hat form the PC who is wearing it?  Berserk rage until he finds his hat and general mayhem against everyone who is likely to have stolen the hat.  You may wish to make intelligence rolls as to whether he knows who must have done this. 

Berserk rage?  Yes, but not mindless rage.  He will use each and every power he can. He will use cunning and guile, but can not wait to exact his revenge. 

Is there some compulsion to don the hat?  If you want.   I didn't ever need one, but then again some parties will always be more cautious than others. 

How I Originally Used This:  I placed this in a world which was more or less a pathway to another world.   You don't need to really build an entire world or even know yourself what is going on behind the scenes to use it for an evening's entertainment.  You just make it odd enough, dying or dead worlds filled with shadows and bizarre oddities, always unexplained. In this case, I described a world of eternal night, where the trees had died and the rivers ran dry.  A land of eternal thirst and darkness.  The roads were guarded by black-cloaked wights who road upon nightmares and the woods were haunted by pale faced ghouls, who wished to drink the blood of man. In their journey from Midgard's gate to gate which led to the Realm of the Fey, they found a lonely, broken tower.  This tower was the home of the wizened redcap, who feasted them with pork and wine, while regaling them with tales of the fey lands.  Then, despite a whispered conference and warning, someone felt the need to say "nice hat."  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Here is a bit of inspiration for Noisms (the least I can do for him winding me up about Cyberpunk)

Haven't had much time to write lately or even read much, but after seeing this on Noisms' page "I could do with lots and lots and lots of little sketches and doodles that I can insert here and there wherever there is a sizeable blank space in the Yoon-Suin."  

Yeah but I can't draw.

However, when I read his two line description of his supplement "Tibet, yak ghosts, ogre magi, mangroves, Nepal, Arabian Nights, Sorcery!, Bengal, invertebrates, topaz, squid men, slug people, opiates, slavery, human sacrifice, dark gods, malaise, magic"  I immediately thought of this bit of artwork I scanned at some point late in the 90s. I have no idea where I got it and the only online image I found it on is in black and white and in Persian.

This is one of my favorite pieces of asian art I've seen, my  go to image when people start to yammer about Manga.
I have no idea where I got it from.  I had a scanner, the internet was lacking in such things then and I had a lot of second-hand magazines I'd buy for the art.  Then again it could be off some old roll of film I shot or out of some book. I was scanner happy and at some point trying to butter up a professor with no computer skills and a desire to do powerpoint.  

Now this I know was a post card from a travelling Mongolian art exhibit I saw in San Francisco circa 1995 at what I remember as a crappy little asian art museum they have in Golden Gate Park.   I might be spoiled by the volume of the Cleveland collection though, especially when it comes to the Japanese woodblocks and 19th century prints.  Oh and  as I tiresomely like to point out to people, it has the best collection in America to be found at a free museum., no matter what those pricks at the NY Met like to pretend with their "donation" sign, which is somehow still required.

It was this odd mix of Mongol masks,  and tapestries.  I liked this image so much I bought the T-shirt.  I think I can now claim seventeen solid years of strange looks for doing so.
This particular traveling exhibit was great, put the regular collection to shame. 

I've always wanted to use this idol as a monster in something.
Then again I want Ray Harryhausen to put it in a movie too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Autopsy #2

Party assembled, underearth entrance assured, I started by pulling up the Palace.
Shifted the black to brown, it's easier to work on.  This way I could do some quick caverns for the sewers.  All those jakes and storm water grates have to go somewhere.  I figured large drops.  Water flow matter in the city, it's a rain forest. 
 Sketched in the old kitchens, then took what thy thought they were going for, the old treasury and stuck it under water. Come on a treasury?  Long ago looted and flooded to boot. So I swapped in the Old King's Wizard's quarters as the goal for booty.  The cool thing about drawing on the computer is it makes it easy to cut and paste floor plans for new levels. You just erase what you need to erase.  It lets you line up things, which in the case of this party came in handy once that dwarvish cleric got high in enough in levels to start casting rock to mud, lower water, and assorted mining related spells.  That gray grid is just a convenience really.  It makes drawing a room for a combat quick. I paste it in and out as needed, you use the color clear a lot when doing this. 

These are the sketches, so don't judge the final product on them (check out the previous post.)
I just keep pasting in the map as I continue, the elevations start to make things tricky.  The player's map will often contain alterations.  The one below has filled passages, collapsed ceilings, and a flooded puzzle.

So a quick synopsis.  We have the old storage rooms of the basement, the dungeon, which is filled with skeletons and a ghoul I decided became a ghoul by devouring his fellow prisoners.  So rather than enter the kitchen through the rat filled tunnels.  To the north are some irregular caverns, the usual spiders and ants.  Water filled passages might be half-filled, as good as a dead end to the Smith.  Beyond that was the front door to the Mushroom men section, a campaign specific race of myconids.  Their chief skill being they can grow new crops of troops in six weeks, modified to fit the party's last attack.  So the original sluggers eventually became black mushrooms who's spores neutralized magic, but that was for later.  Meanwhile what I thought would be the focus, a series of puzzles instead was a deadend.  The yellow star room for instance was never used and nobody ever entered the flooded room till they cracked it open by accident.   So in the mean time they set off to the south to explore the old servant's quarters.