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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Magic Item Through Tech

Heh, haptic shoes, ladies and gents.
They lead you by giving you signals to your feet not exactly the slight pull I mentioned with these magic shoes, but I figure close enough.

Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

After the Regatta

It's been a year since I DMed last.  We previously left our party after one of them had one the Regatta Gloriosa.  Now the adventures continue:

Anonimo - Rogue

Aphrodisia - Cleric
G - Cleric
Oma - Fighter
and various hirelings

We rolled on the Fad of the Day chart and negotiated the answer to mean bling was in season.  Which is fitting because there would be a procession from the docks to the central cathedral.  That is because in winning the regatta G secured the right to change the city's religion for a year.  

So, Shopping & Dragons happened for a while as players tried to bling themselves up.  I am horrible at estimating prices and may need to just buckle down and develop my own simplified price lists for the city as well as maybe develop a mini-game to make it more engaging for everyone.

After the blinged-out crew finished the procession there was a banquet attended by all the most important families in Ulminster.  After many courses of some of the city's famous delicacies there was a toast.  Suddenly one old priest lurch back and melted into a tarry substance.  Chaos erupted, people running and screaming it was an ill omen.

The party investigated the body but there wasn't much left except his staff that had scratch marks around the tip.  G asked the Captain, his diety, for the power to speak with the dead and was granted it.  After asking a few questions they determined the old dude had no clue what happened to him, but he mentioned a strange word "sevreson."  Asking around, the party ended up talking to Learned Henry who informed them that sevreson was a rare, rural digestif and proceeded to sing a song about it.  Talking to another old priest Bonny Burleson who was the deceased roommate, they found he often snuck off to the cellar, for what they assumed was a snort of the stuff.  On searching the cellar, though, they found nothing resembling the rare liqueur.  G asked the Captain for gudiance and they were led to a rack in one corner of the cellar that could be swung out.

On the other side of this secret door they found a natural cavern with a keg.  on top of the keg was some tarry substance that looked like a rat had died and its foul fluids were dripping down near the tap.  They just began searching the caverns when we stopped for the night.

Oh, I forgot, Aphrodisia can see the future and had a dream of a scantily clad person clambering up a wall in the cathedral to steal a jeweled cross.  and several times during the evening (procession, banquet)  strange masked figure appeared. 

Reflection
So, about the last two notes-- I'm trying to plant seed for a thriving Snake cult they can chose to investigate (the scantily clad thief) and also start escalating some craziness in the world related to people donning masks that will occur whether they get involved or not.

Backing up, while super simple, this is the first time I've ever ventured into something mystery-like.  It seemed to go ok.  I didn't even think about the cleric's ability to speak with the dead, though.  So, next time I try something like this I should have weird clues for the dead person to give.

Also, I introduced Henry and Burleson specifically so that the players would have different avenues to find out about things.  They are two of my three ideas for distinct knowledge npcs (the Veteran and the Storyteller).  It was a bit of a rusty start, but hopefully it will become more fruitful.

In addition to thinking about pricelists I mentioned above I want to create my own version of Chris Hogan's Fad of the Day chart.  I think the idea is brilliant, but I think I might be using it slightly differently than he intended,  I mostly want something fresh and potentially funny to differentiate social interaction each session.  So, I need less support from the chart for repercussion for not following the fad and more help with what the fad actually is.  I'll share it if I make it.  Hope you are all have fun gaming with friends.  See you next post.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New York Public Library public domain works

The New York Public Library recently started sharing public domain works in its collection online here.  I read about it here.  Looks like a possible new source for interesting game art.  I worked this up in about an hour:
But the unfortunate thing is they charge you $50 to get the high definition files.  Not a problem for me working with silhouettes, but I thought the colors on the original for this were nice and all you can get is a version with pretty bad jpeg artfacting:
Anyway, thought I would share.  Hope your new year is starting nicely.