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)

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

 

Notes from the Keep I

The Keep

First, a little wisdom

Writing and Illuminating and Lettering by Edward Johnston, via Jeff Rients

The good craftsman seeks out the commonplace and tries to master it, knowing that originality comes of necessity and not of searching.

Gamma World 1e (aka the best edition) is available in pdf and print on demand at drivethru

untitled

[Modern Book of Lairs] II: Aboleth – Secumbei’s Bath House

I come back to this often, for some reason. It’s a good scenario, but also the hand drawn to blog post, though impractical, is refreshing.

Dan’s Notebook of Unfinished Wonders & Dan’s Notebook of Unfinished Wonders, vol 2

I’ve been an inconsistent reader of Throne of Salt. I’m going to change that because wow, so many ideas!

The Door 1 by Eric Basiletti [via gorgonmilk]

BASTIONLAND: d100 Oddities for New Characters

The first photographed page from my DM notebook.

2d6 OSR games: Make monsters special

Olde House Rules ruined me some time ago. I’ll link to any good 2d6 mechanic.

Land of the free? How Trump has put America’s identity in peril

Taking it as a given that “meaningful individual agency” requires applying our brains, our experience, our memories, and requires as well making a sustained, good-faith effort to inform ourselves of our reality. This could be as profoundly simple and radical as going to the library every few weeks, checking out a couple of books on history, and reading them, as opposed to taking every post that Google and Facebook steer our way as the gospel truth. Not that books are sacrosanct by any means, but they’re quiet. They allow us the mental space to absorb, reflect, evaluate at our own pace. Learning essential stuff is as much a discipline as going to the gym or sticking to a diet, and an excellent antidote for the modern condition of being numb and dumb.

[BEYONDE] Beyond Google Plus, and Fixing the Internet

Just go read this.

Picture by Luka Rejec

Dear God,

Please show me how to draw.

A Deck of Many Things: Using AD&D’s Mixed Bag of Rules and Loving Them

Anthony, that’s so much money! No. Not really. Not really at all. To better understand the buying power of treasure and what it means as status in the world, I think of 1 SP as 1 $USD. A single GP is therefore $20 and a platinum piece is a Benjamin $100. A 6,000 GP jeweled crown is therefore worth $120,000. Whereas a real jeweled crown might be worth millions. In the ranks of millionaires and billionaires, your adventurers hauling piles of gold to town will still only classify as “wealthy”…and the money will go fast. When they divide the spoils among 5 or more party members, pay all the bills and then try to build a fortress they are going to need millions of GP to even begin to classify as “rich”. It is my opinion that magic items are too easy to come by in many campaigns while proper monetary treasure is far too difficult. Treasure stinginess bogs down progression and enhances the pain of character death. Plentiful treasure (combined with infinite demands for spending) make level-loss to undead, character death and many other things easier to swallow. Thirst for treasure is not really a silly abstraction, it is founded on the real principal that kingdoms are built out of wealth…and kingdom building is what high-level AD&D is all about. Treasure as XP is the foundation of balancing your game. The characters will literally need tons of it. So don’t be shy. Consider how quickly you could spend a million dollars if you had it. Then consider how quickly you would NEED to spend a million dollars if you wanted to rub elbows with the rich people living in your neck of the woods…or had to pay for enormous legal or medical bills. Money goes quick so make sure your hoards are worth the trouble. That’s it for now.

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