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Thursday, January 17, 2019

My Unwarranted Opinions Of Leveling Systems

Honestly at this rate I'm going to need a separate tag for long boring posts about my opinions on things.

1. XP For Combat

This method is dumb, it sucks, it takes too long and requires too much combat. I know the stereotype of Old School D&D is "Go into the hole, kill orcs and take their stuff", but combat is far too lethal and XP for kills in Ye Olde Dungeons & Dragons to make this method of leveling up logical or fun. Also just, murder for experience seems dumb, like "I am a cleric I gain my powers from my faith in God and I just murdered a bunch of dudes and now I can heal people better" doesn't make sense.

2. XP For Exploration

I think I read something somewhere about people giving XP for each room/hex/whatever they find, something like 100 XP for a room or something. This seems fun, I'm not sure how the progression would work out as one gains higher levels, but it seems like it would maybe work? 

3. XP For Gold

I like and use this method the most but it doesn't make sense. In a gameplay sense it does, since retrieving treasure is sort of the point of a dungeon crawl, so the more successful you are the more money you will get. However, the whole idea of someone getting better at life because they find money doesn't really seem logical. This can be worked around by having one have to pay money to train to gain XP, but that seems silly to pour thousands of coins into an NPC's pockets to gain +1 to hit and an extra few hit points.

4. Milestone Leveling

This is fun if done well and garbage if done poorly. Upsides: you don't have to worry about balance when it comes to coins and combat encounters, since that isn't what determines how fast characters level up, and it gives the game a more "epic quest" feeling to it, since after accomplishing some great goal the PCs become more powerful. Downsides: If the quest the party completes feels minor/pointless this whole method feels stupid for everyone involved. Like, if I'm a level 1 thief and I hit level 2 because I helped find some candles for an old man whose candles were stolen by kobolds I won't feel satisfied.

5. You Just Level Up After A Set Number Of Adventures

This is what happens in Into The Odd and Shadow Of The Demon Lord, and I think it works reasonably well. However, what constitutes an "adventure" could be debatable, and this makes it harder to run open ended sandbox games or megadungeons.

6. Whatever Maze Rats Is Doing

This is rad. I like this. I might just steal this and use it in my house rules. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

House Rules Update + Mini Bestiary

(Image taken from Realms of Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games)

Its that time again! Its time for me to update my homebrew system!!

Link is here

Brief summary of what has changed:
  • Rogues are overhauled because the d6 based skill system was too limiting in my opinion, and also made it hard for members of other classes to have anything in the rules pointing towards what to do when a non-combat challenge happened.
  • Instead of a cumbersome system for using a d18 or a d20, instead the rules now only reference a d20, but supply advice for simulating a d20 with d6s as well as other methods.
  • Minor tweaks and additions, including an alternate stat generation system.

ALSO I MADE MY OWN PERSONAL LITTLE MONSTER MANUAL THINGY

(Image unrelated but Holy Shit!!! Taken from the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide)

A while back I wrote a post about 6 occult tomes, including the Bestiarum Monstrorum, an incomplete manuscript written by a now-dead monster hunter. In the spirit of fun, I have named my own personal monster manual the Bestiarum Monstrorum.

This document I mainly made for my own personal use, so it isn't very well organized, but I though someone might get a kick out of it, so I decided to upload it here.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Player Advice For Elf Games

A lot of time is given to advising game masters on how to make a fun and enjoyable game, but I feel like something that is missing is advice for players on how to enjoy a game. I feel like my advice on this subject can be boiled down to the following points:
  1. Originality is overrated
  2. What is fun is more important than what is smart
  3. The world is yours to explore, and to help create
  4. Make your hero larger than life
  5. Rolling to seduce sucks

1. Originality is overrated

D&D is built on cliches, hackneyed plots, and other peoples' ideas. The city of Greyhawk is Lankhmar with the serial numbers filed off, halflings are hobbits, balors are balrogs, and heck, every slime based monster is almost certainly derived from a combination of shoggoths and The Blob. If you want to play a brutish barbarian, rippling with muscle and wielding a ridiculous sword, go for it! If you want to be a stalwart knight, clad in shining armor and riding a white horse, nobody is stopping you! It doesn't matter if its original or not, all that is important is that everyone playing is having a good time.

(Taken from the Holmes Basic D&D set)

2. What is fun is more important than what is smart

Logically, its not a good idea to go into a maze of subterranean tunnels and kill horrific monsters to steal their gold, there are countless safer ways to make a living for oneself. However, a role-playing game about managing a farm in pseudo-medieval fantasy-ville is unlikely to be as fun as grabbing a torch and a sword and plunging once more unto the breach! (Unless you do a cutesy slice of life game which has the potential to be quite fun, like Stardew Valley but with dice) Press weird buttons you find in the room full of gears! Mess around with the alchemist's chemistry set! Sure, it might end badly, but at least you'll get a story out of it, and that is much more important than being smart.

(Taken from the D&D Basic Rules Cyclopedia)

3. The world is yours to explore, and to help create

If the game master mentions somewhere that sounds interesting, express desire to go there! Prepare an expedition to travel to this location and to plunder its loot! The purpose of a campaign world is to be used and explored, not to just be read about in a musty old book. In addition, help the game master contribute to the world! Make up a village in your character's backstory where they grew up, give it a name and distinguishing characteristics! Mention relatives that could be used as NPCs by the game master, expand the world around you and make it personalized!
(Taken from the D&D Basic Rules Cyclopedia)

4. Make your hero larger than life

Nobody really wants to read or write about a boring, normal person. Even characters like Arthur Dent, whose whole schtick is being a boring, normal person, is so boring and normal that it loops right back around into being interesting! Your hero shouldn't be Bob, the level 1 fighter, they are Sir Robert Van Eisenbrand, excommunicated knight and worshiper of the vampire god! Give your characters eccentricities and trademarks specific to them. Maybe your wizard wears gloves because he fears having dirt touch his elegant figures, or your fighter refuses to slay a helpless foe. There are a multitude of tables online available to provide your character with quirks and personality traits.
(Taken from Zweihander)

5. Rolling to seduce sucks

This isn't really that important but the whole concept of rolling a d20 to woo an NPC is utterly stupid. That isn't role-playing, its just you trying to make a funny story you can write about on the internet of how you made your DM uncomfortable. Seriously, as a regular DM, don't do this, its just weird. 
(How it feels to have to play an NPC who is "seduced" by a PC. Taken from the 1st edition Fiend Folio)

This is just my personal taste of course, I'm sure there are those that disagree, and with all forms of advice, take mine with a grain of salt. This is written from the perspective of someone who likes to run things "old school", and that style of play is in no way the only or "correct" way. At the end of the day, D&D is a game, and the only goal of any game is to have fun.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

On Empty Rooms, Keyed Encounters, And Megadungeon Design

Warning: The Following Is A Pointless, Ambling Ramble With No Rhyme Or Reason

Rak-Arnesh is not properly a megadungeon, since each level has about 20 rooms (well, exactly 20 per level so far, but whatever), and typically proper megadungeons may have anywhere from 100 to 400 rooms per level! However, something to note about this is that classical megadungeons were not very detailed.

Lets take a look at WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins, a later attempt to publish Castle Greyhawk as a module. This is one of the few published megadungeons, and it is incredibly verbose, much more so than Gygax's original notes for the dungeon.


Even in Greyhawk Ruins, a module which is, in my opinion, nigh unusuable due to the vast degree of information given, there are some rooms that are just marked as empty, with no detail at all.

Sometimes multiple rooms in a row. And some keyed areas encompass such a ridiculously large amount of space that they may as well have just been marked as empty, such as this:

Except for one special room, that whole area is all keyed as 109. All of those other rooms are just empty, with no details beyond what was given in 109 and displayed on the map.

Lets take a look at a sample dungeon level, drawn by Gygax himself.

Notice the abundance of corridors, dead ends, and empty rooms. There are some interesting keyed areas here, but they are buried in a labyrinth of unused space.

In this excerpt from Hawk & Moor by Kent David Kelley, Gygax's method of stocking dungeons is explained, a manner that was shocking to me when I first read it:

20 to 25 encounters were written, and then simply repeated multiple times. On the one hand, this is completely genius, saving time while allowing for an enormous dungeon. On the other hand, detail does suffer somewhat in the end.

Now, lets say that typically each monster encounter was repeated 3 times on average, and with just 20 encounters total, for a total of 60 encounters. Next, consider that "as a general rule there should be far more uninhabited space on a level than there will be space occupied by monsters" (Booklet 3 of OD&D), so lets say there twice as many empty spaces as occupied spaces, with 120 empty rooms. We are left with 180 rooms, 2/3rds of which are mostly empty (obviously some of these otherwise empty rooms may have traps and special things), while in reality one only has the content of about 20 combat encounters and the specially keyed encounters (lets just arbitrarily say there are 20 of them).

Consider modern dungeons, where every room has at least something. In my Dungeon of Rak-Arnesh, for example, every empty room has at least a single line describing something interesting about the room. In the 70s, where a dungeon would have over a hundred rooms on just one floor, that would have been nearly impossible to be any fun to make!

If there is any conclusion to this stream of consciousness mess of a post, I guess it is this: Its okay to be lazy when making a megadungeon, because the fun and excitement of megadungeon play comes from resource management, emergent narratives, and high risk versus reward. The details, while important in smaller dungeons, special rooms, and similar situations, aren't quite as big of a deal anymore. A lot of the magic of these dungeons comes from improvisation, player shenanigans, and role-playing, not whats written on a key or drawn on a map. Its okay to just have a room read "12 orcs, each carries 15 gold" once in a while. Its only bad if that's all that's in your dungeon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Dungeon Of Rak-Arnesh: Level 2

[Note: What follows is very much a work in progress, and is the beginning of a project to make a decently sized dungeon for use with my house rules, and old school elf games in general. I am making this for my own personal enjoyment and use, so do not expect the kind of quality that a paid product will provide.]

The second level of the subterranean vault of the Serpent-folk was refitted as a tomb for human warriors centuries ago. However, due to the foul magic that seeps into the halls, it is now home to murderous undead.

(Screenshot from Skyrim)
Level 2
1.
  • Ladder leads down from 1st level
  • 8 skeletons stand stock-still until characters enter, then they attack
2.
  • Open and empty coffins
  • One coffin has a small leather bag containing two 500 coin gems within it
3.
  • Spears extend from the walls if a pressure plate is stepped on, dealing 2d6 damage unless a saving throw is made
4.
  • Tombstone in the center of the room that reads the name and birth date of anyone who reads it, along with today’s date as the day of death
  • The tombstone doesn’t actually do anything, its just enchanted to scare off tomb-raiders
5.
  • Statue of the grim reaper cutting down a warrior
6.
  • 3 boneless hiding among some urns, waiting to strike
7.
  • Non-hostile ghost named Carolyn dwells here
  • Carolyn doesn’t know she is dead, and is invisible, the only sign of her presence is here muttering voice and a sense of cold
  • A Lantern of Ghost Seeing lies on the ground nearby, and Carolyn becomes visible while within the radius of its ghostly light
8.
  • Grave niches filled with bones line the walls
  • 100 coins can be found among the bones
9.
  • 1 regenerator and 2 zombies stagger about the room, aimlessly wandering
  • The zombies each wear a single gold bracelet worth 75 coins
10.
  • Glass coffin on a dais in the middle of the room
  • Contains a perfectly preserved corpse of an ancient warrior, yet the inscription on the dais says he died 500 years ago
  • Glass coffin perfectly preserves any corpse put in it
11.
  • Room is full of poisonous gas, anyone who walks through must take a saving throw or breath it in, taking 2d6 damage
  • A heavy bag full of 1500 coins is in the middle of the room
12.
  • Human organs are preserved in jars full of salt, with runes carved into them denoting which organs are contained within
13.
  • A mysterious old man in a robe meditates on the floor
  • He calls himself the “Shepherd of the Dead” and claims to be hundreds of years old
  • Carries with him a Rot Vial to dissolve the corpses of adventurers, lest they taint the burial grounds
14.
  • The floor has 2 inch wide holes in a grid pattern
  • If the holes are stepped on, a spear extends, dealing 2d6 damage to whoever stepped there
  • A saving throw is required to walk across the room without stepping on the holes
15.
  • 4 ecorches jitter and dance spasmodically
16.
  • Funerary urns of all shapes and sizes fill the room
17.
  • 2 ghouls chew on musty old bones, hungering for fresh meat (the party)
  • 1 ghoul is wearing a belt with a pouch on it, the pouch contains 250 coins
18.
  • A beautiful, ornate sarcophagus is the sole feature of the room
  • Within the sarcophagus is the mummified corpse of an ancient warrior, covered with 5000 coins worth of jewelry
19.
  • The ceiling collapses if the slightest sound is made, requiring a saving throw each turn the party is in the room from the loudest member of the group
  • If the saving throw fails, everyone in the room must make a saving throw or take 2d6 damage
20.
  • 1 unkillable and 3 skeletons guard the stairs leading down to level 3

d6 encounter table
1. 2d6 skeletons
2. 1d6 zombies
3. 1d3 boneless
4. 1d6 ecorches
5. 1d3 ghouls
6. 1d3 regenerators

Magic Items

Lantern of Ghost Seeing
This lantern is made from the skull of a one eyed humanoid. It constantly glows with an unearthly
green light, and any invisible creatures/spirits within the radius of the green light becomes visible.

Rot Vial
If the green liquid in this vial is poured on an organic substance, it will quickly rot away to nothingness
in the span of a few seconds.

Monster And NPC Stats

Skeletons
HD 1
AC light (12)
ATK 1 weapon
DMG 1d6
HDE 1

Zombies
HD 2
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6
HDE 2

Boneless
HD 2
AC light (12)
ATK 1 constrict
DMG 1d3
HDE 3

The Boneless are animated, undead masses of skin and muscle. Anyone hit by a Boneless must make a saving throw, otherwise the creature has wrapped itself around its victim, and begins constricting it. The victim then takes 1d6 damage each round they are being constricted, each round being given the opportunity to make a saving throw to escape the creature's clutches. Anyone who tries to attack the Boneless while it is constricting its victim deals any damage dealt to the Boneless to the victim as well.

The Boneless can easily slip under doors and hide in extremely tight spaces, such as urns, chests, and
cracks in walls.

Unkillable
HD 3
AC light (12)
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6
HDE 5

Unkillable resemble “normal” zombies, but their differences become obvious when they are attacked.
Whenever an Unkillable takes damage, part of its body comes off to form a smaller undead creature.
These smaller creatures have hit points equal to the damage that caused them, have light armor, and
have 1 attack that deals 1d3 damage. Similarly, the parts of the Unkillable that detach also divide when
damaged.

The only way to kill the Unkillable is to burn it, or dissolve it in acid.

Ecorche
HD 1
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 2 claws
DMG 1d6-1 each (minimum 1)
HDE 2

Ecorches are skinless humanoid undead that can move twice as fast as normal humans. If using a grid
based combat system, this means they can move twice as far as humans can.

Regenerator
HD 2
AC light (12)
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6
HDE 4

Regenerators appear to just be zombies, but when they take damage, they begin to mutate and gain
deformities. Regenerators regain 1d3 HP each round, even if reduced to 0 HP. Each time the
Regenerator regains HP, roll a d6 and apply the mutation from the table below:

1-2. New Limb: Gains an additional attack that deals 1d6 damage.

3. Carapace: The Regenerator's AC goes up by one category (light -> light with shield, light with shield -> medium, etc.)

4. Cancerous Mass: The Regenerator's maximum HP is increased by 1d6.

5-6. Poisonous Gas: Anyone near the Regenerator as it regenerates this round must make a saving
throw or take 1d6 damage.

Regenerators can only be killed/damaged without regenerating by burning them or dissolving them in
acid.

Ghouls
HD 2
AC light (12)
ATK 2 claws
DMG 1d6 each
HDE 4

Ghouls are emaciated humanoids with dog-like heads and claws. They feed on the flesh of the dead,
and it is rumored that one who lives with ghouls will die and become a ghoul themselves. If hit by a
ghoul’s claw, one must make a saving throw or be paralyzed for 1d6 rounds.

Carolyn
HD 5
AC light + shield (13, can only be hit by silver or magical weapons)
ATK 3 ghostly claws
DMG 1d6+1
HDE 8

Carolyn is docile, if confused and afraid, and will only attack if she feels threatened.

The Shepherd Of The Dead
HD 1
AC unarmored (10)
ATK none
DMG none
HDE n/a

If attacked, the Shepherd will not defend himself, and will die. But, the next time the party returns to the dungeon, he will be back, and will remember the events of the previous encounter. He may call forth some wandering monsters in retaliation.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Dungeon Of Rak-Arnesh: Level 1


[Note: What follows is very much a work in progress, and is the beginning of a project to make a decently sized dungeon for use with my house rules, and old school elf games in general. I am making this for my own personal enjoyment and use, so do not expect the kind of quality that a paid product will provide.]

This Temple of Rak-Arnesh was originally constructed by the serpent-folk in primeval times. Now it is inhabited by all number of creatures. From the outside, the temple appears as a small, gray stone pyramid, though in reality this is only the entrance structure to a much grander subterranean labyrinth.. The ruined temple is only a day's march from the nearest town, and is rumored to hold vast amounts of treasure, if one has the courage to brave the depths of the underworld for gold and glory...

(Image via David de Groot on Flickr)


Level 1


1.
  • Stairs lead down from above into the dungeon level
  • Pile of scrap wood
  • Small worktable with tools on wall
  • Drawer in worktable contains 250 coins
2.
  • Tripwire across floor
  • If tripwire activated, bucket of acid falls on head of triggering character, dealing 1d6+2 on a failed saving throw
3.
  • Pile of refuse and feces
  • 2 giant flies and 4 giant maggots
  • 90 coins can be found among the refuse
4.
  • 8 goblins, squabbling over some rotten meat
  • Each goblin has 20 coins
5.
  • 5 trained giant rats, 1 goblin handler, and a hobgoblin supervising the goblin
  • Chest against the wall is full of 1200 coins
6.
  • Hole in wall, 500 coin gem can be seen at the end of the whole
  • Bear trap at end of hole, deals 1d6 damage to anyone trying to grab gem unless saving throw made
7.
  • Puddle of dried blood on the floor
8.
  • Tent in the corner, burnt out fire as well
  • Strange old Hermit named Johannes sleeping in tent
  • Johannes calls himself a goblinologist, and is staying in the ruins to study goblin behavior
9.
  • Old wooden desk, with a broken lantern sitting upon it
  • Drawer of desk has a dead rat in it, along with 300 coins and a Ring of the Statue
10.
  • Mushrooms grow on the floor
  • If a mushroom is eaten, one has a vision and learns something about the dungeon
  • If more than one mushroom is eaten in 24 hours, one must make a saving throw or take 1d6 damage for each additional mushroom eaten
  • The corpse of a goblin is in the room, covered in the mushrooms, and has a pouch containing 700 coins
11.
  • Tripwire connected to a pendulum, if sprung, an axe comes down and hits whoever activated it
  • Axe deals 1d6+1 damage unless a saving throw is made
12.
  • An old hobgoblin lays alone on a cot, smelling of decay and disease
  • Hobgoblin’s name is Snotfang, he is dying of a wasting disease and has been abandoned by his peers
  • He has a key on a string around his neck that unlocks the trapdoor in room 20
13.
  • 4 hobgoblins, conversing in whispers about Snotfang
  • Each hobgoblin has 500 coins
14.
  • Defaced statue of an angel, covered in goblin scrawlings
15.
  • 2 giant roaches
16.
  • Crude, pressure-plate activated crossbow trap
  • If pressure plate stepped on, crossbow fires, requiring two saving throws, one to avoid being hit and one to resist the poison on the crossbow bolt
  • Crossbow deals 1d6+1 damage, poison deals additional 1d6 damage
17.
  • Loose scraps of paper on the floor, appear to have once been part of a holy book that was torn to shreds
  • A beautiful golden holy symbol with inlaid jewels worth 2000 coins lies among the paper
18.
  • Pool of luminescent water, a bottle of which will work as a lantern before losing its light after 1 day
19.
  • 6 goblins, led by a hobgoblin leader wielding a Knife of Bestial Form
  • Each goblin has 50 coins, and the hobgoblin has 500 coins
20.
  • Claw marks on the walls
  • Locked trapdoor on the floor leading to level 2, key is in room 12

d6 encounter table
1. 2d6 goblins
2. 1d6 hobgoblins
3. 1d3 giant roaches
4. 2d6 giant maggots
5. 1d6 giant flies
6, 2d6 giant rats

Magic Items

Ring of the Statue
Anyone who puts this ring on their finger turns to stone until the ring is removed.

Knife of Bestial Form
If one cuts themselves with this knife (light melee weapon) for 1 HP of damage, they briefly transform
into a bestial humanoid monster. They gain a +3 bonus to AC, and gain 2 claw attacks each dealing 1d6
damage. This effect lasts for 2d6 rounds and the knife can be used once per day.

Monster and NPC Stats

Hobgoblins
HD 1
AC medium+shield (15)
ATK 1 weapon
DMG 1d6
HDE 1

Goblins
HD ½
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 1 knife
DMG 1d6-1
HDE ½

Giant Roaches
HD 2
AC medium (14)
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6
HDE 3
Even after being reduced to 0 HP they will continue to function for 1d6 rounds, regardless of damage dealt.

Giant Flies
HD 1
AC light (12)
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6
HDE 1

Giant Maggots
HD ½
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d3
HDE ½

Giant Rats
HD ½
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6-1
HDE ½

Snotfang
HD 1 hit point
AC unarmored (10)
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1 point
HDE n/a

Johannes
HD 1
AC unarmored
ATK 1 dagger
DMG 1d6-1
HDE 1


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Blood Goblin (Also Survival Horror Update)

It began after you sliced your finger by accident. You were in the attic, and had bumped into a pile of boxes, causing an old model ship in a bottle to fall to the floor, shattering its container. Cursing your clumsiness, you leaned down to clean up the shards, noticing for the first time the strange magic circle carved into the attic's floor. Distracted, you got a nasty cut on your index finger, causing the blood to flow like a waterfall of crimson.

Nothing has been the same since then.



The Blood Goblin
HP 48 (4 per every hit die the player characters possess in total)
AC medium
ATK 2 claws (+4 to hit)
DMG 1d6+2
Special: The goblin can appear anywhere where there is spilt blood. If even a drop of blood falls to the ground or splashes on to the wall, it is possible for the goblin to teleport to that spot, absorbing the blood as it does so.

The Blood Goblin is a demonic entity that feeds on the blood of humans. Every year, it must drink the blood of at least 10 individuals, before going back to sleep. However, it is possible to trap the demon in a magical circle, turning it into ash. But be wary; if even a drop of blood falls into the circle, the spell is broken, and the demon returns. Of course, first one must figure out how to make the circle in the first place...

The Blood Goblin looks like a short, fat humanoid with red skin, the sucking mouth of a lamprey, and pure black eyes. While it prefers to drink the blood of fresh corpses using its mouth, the goblin has hypodermic needle-like claws that allow it to suck up blood as well.



This was made for my survival horror ruleset that I made, which I also have just updated! Click here to check it out!