Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reliquum Monstrum

Some monsters I thought of years ago, put on a map, no one went there.
I drew them a few months ago, and am rewriting them better now.

HD: 2
AC: as Chain Mail; tongue as Plate Mail
Move: 1/2 speed of running human. Flight. Hop 5ft vertically and horizontally. 
Attacks: Tongue slap (1d4), Special
Special: The Batrachian will attempt to steal food and shiny objects from above with it's long, sticky tongue. If it makes a successful attack against an object, the object is held as if with Strength 18. The Batrachian may immediately retract it's tongue on any round it hasn't moved or attacked. (For instance, it could position itself quietly hovering over someone one round, then dart it's tongue in and steal a gem or rations the next round; OR move into position and stick it's tongue to something, then retract it the next round.)
On the round after a successful tongue slap, they will rip their tongue off painfully (1d4+1 damage, target -1 to rolls next round)
They fly with a Stealth of 3 (on a d6, or slightly less than 50%)

HD: 3+2
AC: as Leather + Shield
Move: 2x human (flying), 3/4 human (walking)
Attacks: 1d4 (claws), 1d6+2 (beak)
Special: The Hachetbeak's beak attack can cause extreme wounding or damage to armor - see below.
# on to hit die
If target wearing metal armor
If target wearing non-metal armor
If target unarmored
No additional effect
AC reduced by 1
Wound will bleed 1hp/rd until healed
See above
See above
Roll 2d4, one is for duration in rounds
D4: 1: R arm disabled
2: L arm disabled
3: blinded
4: knocked unconscious
AC reduced by 1
AC reduced by 2
as 18 but turns instead of rounds
See above
See above
As 18 but lasts until extensive bedrest or advanced healing magic

(in addition to damage)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RPG Voldenort Makes Me Think About Plants

...and now I make you think about plants.

+Zak Smith 's post/poll about plants got me thinking about a problem with plant monsters and other things I run into while DMing sometimes...

So plants. In "non-civilized" places, IE outside of town, mundane plants are often ubiquitous in the pre-industrial or post-apocalyptic type of places adventurers travel through to have their adventures.

Plant-monsters can be terrifying because they can hide in plain sight. The plant-monster, consciously or instinctually or incidentally, is hidden by non-monstrous plants until it acts in a way that violates the observers' assumptions about plants. You don't know what's dangerous or not dangerous til you're in danger, or if you've survived this particular danger in the past.

This is an ideal situation to create when DMing. The problem?

In visually immersive media (movies, video games, etc), you just show the background of plants-on-plants. The background noise from which the monster emerges, the normality which that specific type of monster violates, is instantly communicated visually. When the plants starts monstering, or like spraying seeds into your wounds, or whatever, the thing that shouldn't be moving moves, it creates a sense of horror. Something is wrong with the world, and it's being wrong all over you.

In a pen n paper RPG, the economy of communications often means you're not telling players every detail of the scene, only generalities and what they ask about specifically. When a monster shows up, even one like this, it doesn't produce horror so much as "another monster" and "oh shit it did damage to us before we noticed it."
Even with seasoned DnD monster killers, were they actual people seeing a weird green-haired lady pop out of a flower then realizing they have been walking through flowers a while and they don't know which ones have green-haired ladies and is she magical, poisonous, explodey? There would be far more of a sense of horror and nature gone wrong or at least forces-bigger-than-us-beyond-our-immediate-understanding.

This may be a trapping of DnD instead of like, Call of Cthulhu, and maybe I need to find more horror games to play in (someone with magically the same schedule as me start running horror games on G+ y'all).

The best horror-feeling situations I've experienced in DnD, as player or DM, were, like all the best results of DnD, emergent rather than planned. That's for the best, but the reason we tweak and tweak is to massage that emergence toward the results we want to happen most often.

DnD, sadly, is not a visually immersive experience. When done well, it veers between party-with-friends and collective-immersive-imagination. The visual experience is inside - sure, aided by pictures the DM shows you, minis on this Amazon box facing minis on that piece of painted styrofoam, every fantasy painting you've seen, etc - but it's not the same as wandering through a strange forest with pals and a plant suddenly opens to a face and says "Who the fuck are you and what is your nutritional content?"

Ugh fuck what was my point? I think it's to think about tools to capture this wrongness and innate hiding in plain sight that serves certain things like plant monsters in a way that's not relevant to other monsters. Methods to try and make up for the fact that characters have senses and players have senses and you're trying to account for the imaginary side of that equation and sometimes there's not a great way to make up for it.

Part of this in DnD revolves around your skill as a writer (prep before the game) and improvisationalist (gauging how to describe the stuff to your players to get across what they'd notice and what they wouldn't so they can react with meaningful choices).

It's also fighting that "monster" role any player will get in their head after a certain amount of time playing DnD, especially dungeon crawls. Like the serial monogamist trying to fit every person they date into the boyfriend or girlfriend role in their head, the players sort those they meet into NPC and Monster. I try to blur those lines often, with limited success, but if you have any great tools for that, let me know.

The thing to do when in doubt is describe what's happening to the characters and let them get themselves into more trouble, of course.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


+Jez Gordon reminded we FLAILSNAILers to fill out our section of the FLAILSNAILS quarter, so here I go -
J-L is empty courtyards and alleyways alongside the Red Lion, Hair Dresser, Leper Hospital, and Furrier. The Leper Hospital and Furrier seem to be part of the Bellowdecks Inn. All of those actual establishments are under someone else's initials. (I will add drawings to this post at some point)

Somehow, a number of useless retches actually manage to sleep in the noxious open area behind the Bellowdecks Inn called "The Reek". As this "courtyard" borders the parts of the Inn housing a furrier and a leper hospital, terrible smells abound and foul fluids run in well-worn rivulets through the damp muck and patches of hard stone. The presence of those stones indicates a past of well-kept footpaths and a gazebo all fallen into ruin. During the day, the homeless retches disperse and the open area of "The Reek" is home to animal skinning and impromptu surgeries on unfortunate persons, often at the same time.
-currently sleeping there at night: Dallas (male pleasure droid from Barovania), Bramski the Goblin Rider (shady looking human with a penchant for sneaking and riding enemies)

-dipping bare flesh into or drinking combined runoff from leper hospital/furrier: 1-75 contract a horrible disease (see various Santicore entries), 76-86 mutation, 87-93 heal 1d3 HP, 94-100 save VS Death or die; if resurrected, will be as furry animal

The Red Lion's outer courtyard is secluded and isolated from the public areas, but heavily patrolled by the establishment's special guard - all of whom are deaf, well armed, and well paid.

Occupying one seat at the Hair Dresser is Graxi Toth, a psychic floating octopoid who uses her tentacles and colorful secretions to give unique hair styles to select clientele.

Those passing in the alley should be wary of furniture falling from above.

A series of rooms perches like a spider at the intersection of alleys. Support beams extend from the courtyard walls of the Red Lion, hairdresser, and Bellowdecks, and an intricate and confusing series of ladders and ramps extends to all the surrounding alleys and courtyards. Guests and intruders often become lost in the network of slides and ladders, ending up on a much higher floor than intended, or having crossed the entire alley to the courtyard on the other side by accident without ever finding their intended room.
From the outside, the rooms appear to be wooden shacks, but guests of the vat-spawn Bascomb Blightchurch talk of elaborate and lush furnishings...and his loving care of various traps and secret panels.

Bascomb has heavily trapped the ramps, ladders, chutes, walls, and passages of the second floor. Unescorted guests trying to climb to the second floor must pass a WIS -5 check or wind up:
1- back on the ground on another side of the intersection clockwise from where they started
2- counterclockwise from where they started
3- the opposite side from where they started
4- back to their point of origin
5-6- on a higher floor

To generate traps, see the excellent Generative Mechanical Trap Tables by Noah Marshall on page 64 of Secret Santicore 2013 v1
In addition, Bascomb's treasure room is behind a false wall with a carving of a demon's face on it; to slide the wall aside, one must put their arm in the demon's mouth. Anyone who does not have a hollow compartment in their arm will not only not open the room but have their arm broken by a metal bar, putting them at -4 to hit until it is healed.

Dame Takahashi Narue and her retinue of 5 workmen have sparse accommodations, something between a barracks and zen temple. She runs combat and mindfulness exercises for those willing to attend.

Luxx, youthful vagabond of Vertique and "borrower of luxury goods" lives amongst his growing library of books (philosophy, supernatural, naughty stories), hidden jewelry, and empty wine bottles. Some can hear his cries as he dreams of giant men made of metal and ghosts that stalk you through your dreams.
Luxx is occasionally joined by Fritz, who is rarely in his own room, but more often found in the pubs, or the street. Fritz is an aging cleric of Derketa, goddess of death, the harvest, and secrets, who demands her followers gather stories of all of life to bring to her; Fritz obliges. It keeps him too busy to clean or attend to his lodgings, however.


Errant soldier Rakkal left as a human from Calian, returned as a being of radiance, and more recently returned as a cat-person. She's been throwing furniture out the window and having hammocks, stacks of boxes, and an indoor garden of catnip installed. Humanoids who are particularly short don't like the way her eyes follow them. Her armor seems to stand guard when she sleeps, which is often.
Drawings of her former unit, "Calian's Lost Battalion" litter the floor, the faces never finished.

Long ago, a white elf lived on a hunter's perch on the first floor, tracking passerby as if they were game. The erratic mechanical being Dread Noslum relocated that hunter's perch to the fifth floor and has been building strange and winding platforms and hallways off of it, some leading to nearby roofs (and reportedly, somehow, local basements), some leading back to his platform, some leading to open air.

I went on a platform without guidance and ended up...
1. Outer courtyard of the Red Lion
2. Back on Dread Noslum's perch
3. Roof of the Red Lion
4. Basement of the Red Lion
5. Roof of the Hair Dresser
6. In a chair at the hairdresser (how did...HEY WAIT)
7. "The Reek", back courtyard of the Bellowdecks Inn (see "Ground Floor", above)
8. Roof of the Bellowdecks Inn
9. Meeting room of the Bellowdecks Inn; all doors hidden and locked (50% trapped)
10. middle of the Leper Hospital
11. Basement of the LIBRARY
12-14. open-air drop (6d6 damage fall)
15. a cell at the PRISON
16. a cell at the ASYLUM
17. subterranean meeting room, sewer exchange, and temple to SOLICRON LORD OF CHAOS
18. a cloud that seems to support your weight. How did you get so high up? Hey, there are some coins floating above that other cloud...I bet if you jumped you could juuuuuuust reach it.
19. roof of the clockmaker (map area p-x)
20. The Some-Times Room (EDITOR: I'm eager to see what this is, get to writing you T-E's or T-D's!)

There is a 30% chance the platform you traversed is available for backtracking, -1% for every platform previously traversed. Traversing a platform takes 1d20 rounds, and random encounters are checked for using the "Astral Encounter Table" on page 181 of the AD&D 1e DMG. All creatures are chaotic and bored.
Dread Noslum's treasure, maps, magical sword, and other detritus are left in piles on the hunter's perch. The ladder from lower floors requires a DEX-6 check to reach from the platform, missing it causes a 6d6 damage fall.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Run When I Run Games (for now)

I'm starting to run games on G+ again - here's my current thinking about what rules I prefer.
This isn't the result of ponderous study and careful evaluation of each edition of DnD and OSR games and the implications on gameplay of each rule involved. This is the result of thinking about what I do instinctually, and how to communicate that to others, so that we may all take the fastest route to where the fun is. I may revise what I'm doing as I get back to reading rulebooks, and I'll try to let people know, but this is how I'll be doing it this month for sure.

Lamentation of the Flame Princess will be the base for most things.
Non-combat actions are as AD&D (2e?) - the player tells me what they want to do, I ask questions, and if necessary, they roll against a relevant ability score (trying to roll under). Some rolls (especially social) will be heavily modified by roleplaying or otherwise convincing me.

PCs will be FLAILSNAILS at the start - IE characters from other settings. They will use the ruleset of their originating game for things the players resolve, and using the above and below when the player doesn't remember the relevant rule, or I deem the original rule incompatible.

Spells from LotFP, AD&D, and AD&D 2e are available to PCs - but...

MAGIC WORKS REALLY DIFFERENTLY from other settings and rules. 

I'll post more about how magic works as the PCs discover it.

I'll post more about everything as the PCs discover the setting - monsters, factions, environments...

Including native PC options, should the current PCs endeavor to gain native allies or otherwise cultivate goodwill from native factions.

Any questions?

Oh, and there's an itchy part of my mind that wants to go full Stormbringer! next year, and run a modern horror game, but we'll see what time allows.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Goat-men direct Q-Bot to the launch controls, the scientist Grantz caught up directing other Goat-Men at another set of controls.

Q-Bot quickly intuits the complex and alien system of controls (crit WIS), and goes to work helping the craft launch.
The castle shakes and tumbles, and all your instincts are to run for cover. It feels like every earthquake, a warfare of space, stone and metal, glass and air in a territorial battle. Then -liftoff! -BUT!!
Q-Bot realizes a critical stabilizing control is just out of his reach. He leaps for it, just missing (failed DEX)! Sir Ward sees what is going on and leaps in, only managing to topple on top of Q-Bot. The Goat-men scramble for the lever, but Q-bot knows it is too late.
Grantz helps up the grim adventurers, whispering "Thanks for distracting the Goat-men with the simulator so I could get this thing launched without distraction."
(got a couple weird results that meant Grantz succeeded in launch without your help. Not a likely thing to happen in any step.)

Lucien deftly commands the team of Ward and Q-Bot at several banks of controls (INT&WIS successes), steering the craft in a trajectory toward Grantz's home planet.
The dungeon levels of the structure burn off in the atmosphere, and any NPCs left in the cells are dead. The castle area is secure and has a life-support system, so your characters are ok.
However, all the goat-men and dog-men turn into normal goats and dogs and infants. Congratulations, you now have 266 Goats, 34 Dogs, and 300 infants.
Oh yeah, and one spider.

As you get further into space, a wormhole appears! After some debate and nervous looks at oddly rectangular asteroids on the viewscreen, it is decided to go through it. Again, Lucien deftly navigates and the crew manages to steer the craft while the rest of you try to corrall farm animals and infants.
(good rolls all around, damnit.)
You speed through tunnels of light, glimpses, that's impossible! But that looks, he's dead...AHEM anyway.
Grantz has awakened the castle's computer system to try and help with controls.
The wormhole was a shortcut to Grantz's planet! (goddamnit your dice luck). He initiates landing protocols as you speed toward the planet's atmosphere...

The ship's computer takes over controls! It refuses to answer questions and settles into orbit around the planet. The controls do nothing. (finally! The dice do something interesting).
S.pace T.ravel A.utomated N.avigator and A.dvanced S.ecurity wants you to tell "him" riddles. If he likes them, he may give you certain controls. If he is not amused, well, he doesn't need the life support to stay on...

You are currently orbiting the planet, with 12 hours' oxygen...WHAT DO YOU DO?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creepy "Empty" Room Features

Inspired by a recent post by +Humza K , and just in time for Halloween, here's a list of features for "empty" rooms that hopefully help establish or maintain a creepy horror vibe.

1. Rat corpse, dismembered in a way that indicates cannibalism by other rats.

2. A feast has been prepared, a fire is roaring in the chimney/pit, but the floor is caked with dust and the footprints of vermin. The feast has not been touched by decay or animals.

3. A lived-in room, once-nice things worn with use, a radiator along the wall is roiling with building heat and releasing steam in a growing hiss.

4. A stark but clean room, full of life-sized figures seated on their ankles. It is nigh-impossible to tell if they are very still but alive, well-made statues, or automatica. The ambient breeze complicates testing for breath. There is a sense of intruding.

5. Items lay in disarray, covering the floor and every surface; papers, food scraps, clothing, tools; clear signs of use but not any sane organization.

6. A workbench with tools hanging from hooks. Someone has recently crafted a perfect replica of an item owned by one of the PCs, which is still on the workbench. (Then the candles blow out?)

7. Air rushes into the musty room as you open the door. A chair moves, the curtains ruffle as if shaken.

8. A comfortable, well-appointed seating room with a severed finger in a goblet.

9. Prison and torture chamber, empty now, cleaned poorly.

10. Everything in this room is in visible negative, including any who enter it. Color and shade are reversed.

11. Growling and scratching from within the walls. You are compelled to whisper.

12. Scratched stone, burnt wood, scattered plant dyes. A crude replica of something the PCs have recently discussed is on the floor, fashioned by clumsy, large hands.

13. There is a map of this area beautifully engraved and painted into the tabletop or wall. In some of the rooms, there is a red X next to a recently painted name - some the PCs, some not.

14. Many live rats hang from strings attached to the very high ceiling; there is also one cat.

15. All the shadows are the wrong direction from the firelight; any PC entering the room's shadow will detach and flee.

16. Half the room is carpeted green, half red. An old skeleton with a dagger through it's heart and a scrap of parchment that reads, "the bravest move left". Old "armor" that turns out to be made of upholstery.

17. Many insects lie dormant under rugs and furniture in this room, only stirring as creatures enter and make noise.

18. 1-2 raggedly dressed figures with horribly distended features do nothing but scream. Manacles hang from the wall. The creatures will not defend themselves, or stop screaming.

19. A large black horse, grunting and steaming, it's eyes red. It's too big to get out of the room, and will turn toward any intruders to stare intently.

20. Exactly like the room in this spot in the last area, down the the finest detail.

Discuss or keep the table going on G+ here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dispatch from Airlann

To: Daimyo Matsushita Katsu
for immediate copy to The One Honorable Shogun of the Empire of Three Suns

An Elephantitan has been spotted near a town at the edge of our occupied territory. It is unknown at this time under whose providence it appears.
-the Seamair Óg rebels have acquired one and are preparing for a raid
-The Sidhe required an illusory cover for some trick or other mischief
-A Thamud group have travelled here from near the Colossal Wastes. As trade has not been interrupted, it can be surmised there is no war party, but otherwise the motives of such a group would be mysterious.

If the Seamair Og, they likely acquired one from the Thamud or Waste Giants; either way, it may be a way to get one of these groups to assist in patrolling our farther borders.
If the Sidhe, a high alert for shapeshifters and new love must be issued, but proof must be gained first. I await your wisdom in this matter.

Your faithful warrior,
Takenaka Daisuke