Notes from the Keep VI

The Keep

We Three Kings

It is Christmas Eve, 1567. Mary, Queen of Scots has abdicated the throne and fled south to England, leaving her one-year-old son James to inherit Scotland. In my game, the players are traveling to Edinburgh, hoping that the uncertain political climate means available work for ne’er-do-wells.

An evening snowfall finds the players marching through a pine forest, whiting out the deep green-blue of the trees and blanketing the mossy undergrowth. Just as further travel becomes impossible, they emerge to find a sorry castle against the horizon. At least it’s shelter.

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30 Thieves-Guild Plots

The plots are roughly ordered in terms of their difficulty and scope. Roll 1d10 for a simple plot, 1d10+10 for a medium plot, and 1d10+20 for a master plot. 1d6+10 for plots against rival guilds.

A Procedure for Wandering Monsters

Foreboding is a difficult emotion to evoke, but amplifies the enjoyment of having wandering monsters in adventure games. This is a procedure for using them in old school D&D. I used a variant of this procedure in Emern, but this is the cleaned up version.

d100 Off Duty Monsters

So when not sleeping or at work what is a monster to do? Roll this to find what monsters are doing during their downtime when you sneak into their barracks like a murder hobo.

5e Basic Rules, updated

4D20 ADVENTURE HOOKS & HOW TO USE THEM

I was going to make a list of adventure hooks to steal, but I decided to delay it. It needed a preface. Adventure hooks are the sort of thing that never get good explanations in guides for aspiring dungeon masters, so I’m going to try my hand at it.

“The Bill Murray Stories” chronicles the star’s strange appearing act

Perhaps the key to Mr Murray’s unorthodox hobby can be found in “Zombieland” (2009), Ruben Fleischer’s undead comedy. Playing a fictionalised version of himself, Mr Murray explains why it is that he potters around a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, disguised as a reanimated corpse, instead of staying barricaded in his mansion. “Suits my lifestyle,” he shrugs. “You know, I like to get out and do stuff.”

Philotomy PDF

A brief word on some recent online controversies

Be kind to one another. For fuck’s sake. It’s not that hard. Just be kind.

(from the comments)

(It’s funny, because I was drawn to sandboxes and away from D&D 3/4-style scripted-combat games precisely because of my growing distaste for narratives of heroic violence. From my perspective, it’s new-school D&D which is really wedded to the idea that the One True Way is to kill everyone different from you!)

Alignment Distributions

So what I’ve recently switched to is a quasi-normal distribution, in which the majority of men are Neutral, and only the exceptional outlier has some ethical commitment, thus: 1: Lawful, 2-5: Neutral, 6: Chaotic. This seems to give a better flavor to my background campaign. Most men are merely self-interested, mercenary, and incurious; as seen, for example, in a Vancian or Leiberian work. The Lawful and Chaotic types are more rare and surprising (and the Chaotic one thus easier to hide themselves unexpected and unrecognized).

Luck Tokens

Whenever a player fails a roll they receive a Luck Token (poker chip, coin, die, etc). Luck tokens can be spent at any time to increase the result of any roll by 1, even after the die has been rolled.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Into the Dungeon

DM Notebook

Since I’ve found myself back in DnD for [woah] several years now, I’ve had a number of misadventures in design. I’ve fiddled about with the system more than anything, leaving the design of adventures to others but wrung my hands needlessly over the building of worlds.

I’ve misplaced my attentions many times over. Some months ago, however, I began the most analog of tasks: simply transcribing a popular dungeon (Tomb of the Serpent King) into a small notebook. It’s been a quiet little activity that I perform in the dark and quiet hours before I head off to the hospital for work, amusing myself at the notion that I inhabit this little notebook dungeon before I have to spend my day in three hallways of a critical care ward.

No one’s even cracked the door of, and I’m not certain when anyone will, but the shear act of making this little thing has given me several hours of pleasure.

Notes from the Keep V

The Keep

Andy Goldsworthy

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World Building and Old School Games

Believe me, crawling into a new wing of the dungeon through the hellish portal born from the belly of a statue of Vulgatis, the Archon of fecund and unseemly growth, will make a greater impression on your players than three pages of text wall.

There’s quite a bit more here but this addresses at least one issue: knowing when to stop.

Unholy Land by Garske Games

Just in time for the holidays, Unholy Land has been updated. Now with God, the NPC (don’t tell the alt-right).

I’ve Got That Zelda Feeling, Whoa oh oh Yeah…

Leveling Up

There would be zero traditional leveling up in the game.  Everything would be earned through exploration and playing.  Going through mazes, shrines, etc. would grant boons from Priests, monks, etc. gaining hearts or increasing an attribute.

Magical items would increase attributes while worn (or consumed), grant special abilities, and so on.  All the rewards would be given through these means rather than through an arbitrary experience system.

Money would be important for new gear, arrows, etc.

starting over

My thoughts exactly. My social media plan after G+ is rapidly evolving into a no social media plan.

http://dmdavid.com/tag/why-gg/

Descending AC awkward? If by awkward, you mean PERFECT. Yes. 😉

20 Megadungeon Concepts (via Scrap Princess)

[14]It is not a dungeon, but a tower. They tried to build their way up to God. Something else met them, above the clouds.

HOW TO RESOLVE ANYTHING THAT COMES UP

2d6 Reaction Rolls = Old school DnD’s killer app.

Descend into Brimstone – Shrine to Hezzemuth Dungeon Map

I love seeing DM notes (surprise surprise), but this is above and beyond, also a reminder (with links!), that we can and should make things with made things.

Medieval Demographics Made Easy new host

This keeps bubbling up in my feeds. I’ve really got to look into it, because a) medieval b) demographics c) made easy. A glorious trifecta.

What Do PCs Want?

Answer these and you’ve built your entire campaign world.

Epic sandboxery

Here’s a simple formula for an epic sandbox campaign. Start out with zero experience characters and play through an intro module or two, Keep on the Borderlands or something like. Add to the treasure vault of one of the most badass critters in the module the first section of the Rod of Seven Parts (stats for which can be found in Eldritch Wizardry, but I like the associated fluff in the 1st edition DMG better). We’re going to cheat and only slip the Rod into the loot when the PCs find it.

Once the PCs have the Rod in their possession have an Elminster type show up and give them the bad news: they are the Chosen Ones.

What Reddit has to say about the Bullywug.

The archive of Meanwhile Back in the Dungeon.

Combat Like Dark Souls via Triple Suns

Chris Cold

Notes from the Keep IV

The Keep

I’ll make another post again, sometime. But for now, I’ve got to clear the cutter. So here’s a few things that are piling up in my machines.

Three Step Dungeons

d66 exploration and encounter table for The Lost City

“Magic-Users” in Gamma World Wilderlands

My “Gamma Wilderlands” are not post-apocalyptic in the sense that in the vaguely memorable past. there was a nuclear war and now you play a character named Speshul Ed wielding a STOP sign and wearing Gauntlets of Oven Mitt as he explores the wastes of Norf Merkin. They’re post-apocalyptic in the sense that default OD&D is always post-apocalyptic, i.e., there was this huge war but it was a billion years ago and that’s why everything is 99% magic instead of technology but no one remembers how to make a +1 sword. Just like Dying Earth, it’s so far in the future that the history and tech level of past civilizations are meaningless, although you can still find the odd bit of sufficiently advanced technology.

Pascal Blanché

https://www.artstation.com/egerkrans (via Jacob Hurst)

These Into the Odd character sheets are beautiful: BOOTSHIGHANDSOFT

IntoTheOddCharSheet

(ART) THE HYPER-DETAILED IMAGINARY CITIES OF BEN SACK (via Christopher Mennell)

Notes from the Keep III

The Keep

One of the goals for Untitled Dungeon is to consolidate my notes, links, and bookmarks scattered across google docs, my chromebar, and a private blogger blog.

It’s a lot.

But I want to own that material again, in a single place, preferably not in google. To that end, I’m spending a fair amount of time. Okay, a little bit of time. Okay, I’ve done it twice now. Anyway, there’s good stuff in there and I hope to rescue it. But I got to move quick, while the wind is at my back.

Ford’s Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired by Henry Justice Ford

A bestiary inspired by the masterful work of Henry Justice Ford.

Meet the Moon-Headed Giant, the Leechlich, and the Fencer Familiar, and more than 50 other weird creatures fit for campaigns of every level. The full-page illustrations, often taken from fairytale books, have led our 15 authors to create original monsters that will give a quirky twist to your game. They all come with enough material to become the centerpiece of the session.

Mushroom Forest by WojtekFus via Tower of the Archmage

mushroom_forest_by_wojtekfus_dcr2pde-pre1

Masters of Reality (via Paul Czege)

“Put simply, the mind is a search algorithm. Minds make their living by being able to find things. Food, mates, a good place to hide, effective methods of revenge, and the means to reach your goals, whatever they may be – all of these and more are targets of the mind’s searching eye.

Whereas many animals use their brains to search in physical space, human minds (and those of some other animals) can search via simulation. That is, the brain can simulate potential future realities. This is possible because brains like ours encode a mental model of the world. By searching inside that mental model, we build narratives that tell us how to get from one place to another.”

Natural Language Roleplaying Games 

“But Luka,” I hear my strawman interlocutor say, “if you are after such a game, why not break free from the constraints of D&D entirely?”

The answer is because: I don’t want to, I don’t need to, and I’d set up a whole new barrier instead. In my experience the mechanics of D&D are good enough, pretty basic and, frankly, of secondary importance.

Knightly Orders 

I have a weakness for knightly orders.

Music Dragons

..and dragons, but really, who doesn’t.

The Tangled Origins of D&D’s Armor Class, Hit Points, and Twenty-Sided Die Rolls To-Hit

Me, ever a sucker for posts about the history of the game.

Smart Prep

Love this. I only do things smartly at work. Or at least strive to. Anyway, good advice I should follow.

How to be a great RPG player

I try. I really do.

Sniffing the Flowers in No-Man’s Land

It’s all game.

Bat in the Attic: Medieval Demographics Made Easy new host

Random Table: Slum Encounters 

I have no idea why I needed to save this but I did. Probably because it’s good.

Steven De Waele

 

First Distant Messenger

Mothership

Comets have long been a sign of troubles so it was to no surprise that troubles were upon the citizens of Earth when Oumuamua first speed through the solar system in 2017. Shootings were frequent from within the borders of this ‘most prosperous’ nation while the government continued to cast suspicion upon people thrust in regional conflicts halfway around the world and the resultant convoys of desperate refugees.

Elsewhere, governments closed ranks and nationalism and xenophobia spread like a virus. As the mysterious object gained speed and raced away, speculation dwindled to the occasional over-the-shoulder wonder.

Perhaps it wasn’t just a rock.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Meanwhile the oceans continued to warm and rise, fossil fuels dwindled, food supplies concentrated to enclaves of influence and power. Business, in other words, carried on as usual.

Everything was carrying on so much as it was, or at least the trajectory that it was heading, that few noticed the anomalies in the mapping satellites. Features on the ground exhibited nearly undetected traces of manipulation. A feature once there, now gone. A stretch of road subtly rerouted. Image details months older than other details miles away.

Notes from the Keep II

The Keep

I deleted my MeWe account. Too frustrating.

I’ve been exploring Discord, which has some features that I like, most notably the potential to jump in on a game while the children are napping, etc. It’s a mess of things going different directions, however.

Generally though, my OSR Social Media Plan is to just ride G+ out.

A lot of interestingness in these Ritualising D&D Spells. I enjoy mechanical elements that inform on the game world, and these certainly do that.

This good thing, better: Tomb of the Serpent Kings v4

The cover to the novel The Time of the Dark (Darwath, #1) by Barbara Hambly; Artist Unknown

QVPs122

How to Write Usable Room Descriptions A good reminder to be concise and packed with kinetic energy. Something that I fail at even when writing in my personal notebook.

Map by Quentin Forestier

B/X: Unearthed Arcana Illusionist Spells

Whispering Wind

Range: 1 mile per level

Duration: Special

This spell allows the illusionist to send a message or other sound via the wind to a distant location within range.

• The destination must be known to the illusionist.

• The message travels on the wind, unnoticed, at a speed of up to 10 miles per hour.

• Once it reaches the designated destination, the wind delivers the illusionist’s message — up to 100 words or one minute of other sound.

• The message is whisper quiet, relayed by the susurrations of the air, but can be heard by all within 30′ of the destination.

• Even if no one is present to hear it, the message is automatically delivered.

Away With the Faeries (a racial mechanic) I’m wary of new stats but this simple little thing adds quite a lot, reinforcing the peculiarities of the game world.

I Swear Upon Your Death I love this sword.

 

Rambles: Digging up the past?

Once I removed the strata of garbage which composed the wasteland, such as all the modern fantasy and science fiction, once I dug deeper and deepr and uncovered the real dungeon did it all start to make sense. Fantasy genuinely only began making true sense to me when I found Conan, Elric and the stories of Vance..

Impromptu OD&D Session Report On my gamestart bucketlist.

A Severe Lack of Creativity (But Also 3 New GLOG Classes)

Fencer

The Fencer is a melee glass cannon: it’s able to do way more damage than seems reasonable, but a single good hit could get him rolling on your favorite Death & Dismemberment table.

The Fencer rolls 1d4 instead of 1d6 when generating HP.

Face net not mandatory.

A: Improved Critical

B: Challenge, +1 Critical Margin

C: Bleed Out, +1 Critical Margin

D: Nimble Strike, +1 Critical Margin

A: Improved Critical

The Fencer’s experience makes it easier for them to accurately strike: they Critical Hit on rolls of 19 or 20, decreasing with each Fencer template. (On Template D, a Fencer would Critical Hit on rolls above 16.)

B: Challenge

The Fencer can challenge opponents to duels: in combat, the target must Save or be goaded by his calls. Outside of combat, nobles, knights, bandits, mercenaries, and similar will begin combat: if the Fencer wins, he gains +3 to Charisma when persuading the duel’s audience.

C: Bleed Out

Successful attacks by the Fencer deal 1d4 CON damage as well as their normal damage.

D: Nimble Strike

When using a one-handed weapon, the Fencer can make 2+DEX mod attacks per round.

Further Into The Forest As Zak pointed out, these are not only good, they’re concise and good. A worthy ring. Also, I’m currently building a forest and some of these are definitely going in.

John Harris

even if it’s eight different games

At the Table

Imagine a table at a wedding:

There’s a conversation going on. Everyone can hear it but not everybody has to talk. There’s rarely an embarrassing silence, though, because there’s at least one person there who just really wants to get to the heart of the matter of whatever this conversation is about and so will start talking if there’s a lull.

Once in a while, no matter who you are, you will be called upon to perform simple, well-defined tasks. “Can you pass the peas?””Are you going to hit the rust monster or do something else?” This is easy for pretty much anybody and doesn’t put you on the spot.

Nothing necessarily stops you from doing something mechanically novel like, say, putting olives on your pancakes, but the conversation and the meal will keep on even if you don’t.

Nothing stops you from interjecting with your own ideas “Well I think Sigmund Freud was full of shit!””I think we should tie the displacer beast up before we try to sell it to the mountain gnome,” and thus taking the conversation in a whole new direction, but the conversation will keep going if you don’t.

This is normal, this is what all kinds of people do every day. They are shy and insecure or apathetic about the subject or the company they’re in and when they become comfortable or the conversation moves to a place they have ideas about, then they talk.

In D&D, as a player, you can (often, not always) choose to grapple hard with the scenario (“I look in the desk,””I write ‘xvarts suck’ on the wall with a rock”, “I mix the growth and shrinking potions together to see what happens”) or you can sit back and roll dice when it’s necessary and just regard what the DM and the more aggressive players are doing as entertainment, like a movie where you have a choice.

In other words, D&D supports several playing styles simultaneously (assuming the DM’s any good). In a good game, everybody’s playing the game they want to play, even if it’s eight different games.

Right here, I should say something: the ‘passive player’ is rarely forever passive.

Playing D&D with Pornstars: How Much Do You Want To Be A Wizard?