Friday, September 1, 2017

Treasure Hunting Module

Would it be ridiculous to make a module like this?

Follow the main road to the T and take a left
Small house on the right, gather salt from field, watch for scarecrows
Cut through field till small creek
Follow the for thirty paces and cross on the brown rocks
You're now in the Burrow-Woods
Moss on trees indicates fairies, stop
Find cave nearby, collect green flowers near slumbering red panther
(these ward fairies)
Go back to the exact spot you crossed the creek and recross it twice (you're now back in the Burrow-Woods)
Follow a deer path until pond, drink from pond
One person (ONLY ONE) swims to bottom to retrieve obsidian clam
REST OF PARTY!!! Watch for bat-owls in the trees, they attack after clam is touched
Remove pearl from clam (obsidian clams can only be opened with diamond-tipped tools)
Climb tallest tree and hold pearl in the sun all day
At night, light from pearl will make path, follow it
Do not follow the green path that comes just before dawn, massive treasure but guarded by assassins
Reach house at sunrise, give guardian an offering from a bloodied god and she will let you pass
Read the oldest book in the house to learn forgotten spell, fight the lawful spirit that tries to steal your identity
Follow path outside of house, take a right, then a left, then another right
Go around village up ahead (full of demons)
Watch for assassins
Hire the caravan at the crossroads, if you reach Embersmarch you've gone too far
They'll ask if you want to go to Bethammer, say yes but slip fifty gold to driver and say "but first let's go to grandma's house"
Trip takes several days, contemplate life, wonder on the emptiness that led you here
When wagon goes off road, do not sleep
At the base of mountain, sacrifice the scapegoat (you did bring one right?) and cast the forgotten spell
Trapped demon will possess goat
In exchange for a favor, goat will pull cart up the mountain.
Griffon-masked men live in the mountain, avoid at all costs (they can't fly but they fight on horseback with whips, you'll know you're too close when you see bodies handing from the cliffs from vine-nooses)
Treasure is located near cave around peak, cave is fake, scrape the paint from the mountain side to reveal vault door, put the obsidian clam's pearl in the third slot from the top right
Gather the lost treasure of Drake Vayoom, sky pirate

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Humans fit in the tiny places...

Entire civilizations die out in the hilt of a giant's sword. Battles are wages in their footprints. Their corpses are continents. Their eyes are moons. Out of their orbicular sockets spill the milky space that holds everything in its cold yawn. We are but a stretched version of their truth; a minuscule reflection of their form. They stride the globe and we wait in a hole, too afraid to march out and face the Massive.

If an ant crawls on your arm you may stop and look at it for a moment before flicking it off. That is our entire history. Crawling on the backs of beasts that have no regard for us. All of humanities knowledge could fit in the palm of a giant's hand and there would still be enough room for the giant to coddle its child and fight with a spear.

Then what good are we? We have no voice in their struggles. We have no sword in their fight. At times when our wars are like bird migrations in a winter sky, the giants might stop and stare, viewing us a beautiful little accident in nature. When they fuck, our worlds are broken and remixed into bloody variants. A fist fight is an apocalypse.

Well, humans fit in the tiny places.

When you are large, doorways are tight, beds sag, the mundane is uncomfortable, and a tight slip become impossible. We don't squeeze our heads in rat holes. We don't climb down ant hills. And the giant's world is full of metaphorical rat holes and ant hills. The ruins of one of their civilizations makes mountains that reach to our physical limits. A war of theirs leaves enough hidden to keep us busy for all of our history.

We go where they can't. They hire us to do this. They created currency to support this.

Adventurers like yourself can do one of these quests and live forever on the rewards. But they are hard to come by. Fatal. These quests change humans.

But giants die. They kill each other in wars all the time, creating new dungeons and dropping currency into the world. Gold is not a monopoly. It is buried under death and eons every day. Delve a cave and you'll find something. Climb a mountain. Same thing. We fit in the tiny places. Whats lost is only found by us.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Otherville is tall and leaning in a beautiful way.
Even though it exists in the farming region of the world, there are no farms, only personal gardens that are judged every season (winners are celebrated like pop-stars).
The coal mines went deeper.
They found something down there.
It wasn't gold, but it was mysterious.
Steel mines of the Dwarven metal-gears.
Instead of exploring they just  keep digging.
Coal mine ridges that go down miles.
Mountains made from displaced earth.
A once-flat landscape rendered treacherous by constant landslides and long rains.
Gold-rush-style town turned into micro-metropolis, two miles long, a mile tall.
Train tracks laid instead of paved roads.
Travel by minecart is the norm.
Large forest grown out of control, surrounds edges of town, constantly swallowed by mile deep mines.
No one questions why the Dwarves are gone.
One day digging reveals monster hives.
Monsters are hungry for flesh and have hides made of steel.
They lay traps like spiders and travel in packs.
Years in the mines make them sensitive to sunlight, retreat to mines in the day.
Town attacked nightly by these creatures.
Watch is formed. The Shooting Star.
Miners become skilled in killing.
Many die.
People travel from all over the region for a chance to dig and fight.
Many more die.
Alcohol consumption sky rockets.
Personal breweries sprout up using fruit from personal gardens.
Every house is a bar with specialized beer that give special properties to the drinker.
Some get big, some die out.
All empty space in town is filled with new occupants looking to strike rich.
Shooting Star grows larger and polices town with brutality.
Tyrannical grip on mayor and the streets.
Crime is dealt with swift punishment.
No death penalty, but people are sent into the mines.
Sometimes they return, but not really.
They seem normal for several days but then they lash out.
When they are struck down they turn into gelatinous masses.
No explanation is given.
Many many more die.
Some mines collapse in on themselves after heavy rain or a misplaced stick of TNT.
Some mines purposefully collapsed to bury bodies, or hide things better left unseen.
Dark magics discovered deeper in the mines.
Literal dark magics. Things seeping dark matter.
This dark matter warps things, the earth, the holder.
It's undetectable in the darkness of the mines.
Crude electric lamps and moonboxes grow dull near these objects.
Outside in the sun, in a radius equal to the strength of its magics, vision is as if wearing sunglasses.
These objects are complicated, like rubix cubes made of valves and nozzles.
They are sold for high prices to strange men in gold armor.
Some are activated and things happen.
These "things" are hard to write in any other words than--
Many, many, many more die,
Technology isn't medieval, or modern. It's rail-punk.
Lots of coal-burning fire.
Lots of coal-burning electricity.
Huge smoke stacks stand from tall buildings.
Large dungeon-like coal burning facility pumps clouds into the air and is run by ancient war machines left by the dwarves.
These war machines break down sometimes.
No one really knows how they get built.
But I do.
They build themselves.
At nights they go into the mines and mine.
Inside the facility, they smelt minerals into metals and build machines using coal-based power.
No one goes inside the facility until the power goes out.
Then adventurers go in and the power comes back on.
They come back covered in blood and oil.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Magic Users

I've always had a problem with magic users in 5e and it started back when I played 3.5. Even though the newest edition of dnd tries to differentiate the magic users by giving them some fluff and such, there isn't that much of a different between interacting with the world as a warlock or a sorcerer. You can put this up to fluff vs. crunch, but I think a powerful tool in the world building of a class is how the crunch of it is used. The mix of fluff and crunch is what creates a compelling class and helps spur the inspiration of the player choosing that class.

So what makes an interesting class? There are two things:

1.) The tools that the class gets allow it to interact with the game world in a way other classes don't already do. Fighters get to beat people down, clerics get to heal, thieves get to sneak attack, all magic users cast spells. 5e tries to alleviate this with sorcerer bloodlines, warlock patrons, and wizards school specialty, and does a decent job, but these things are left to the player to make important. A sorcerers bloodline might never affect the game, a warlock's patron may never be heard from, a wizard might still be boring. I say push these things into the face of the game.

2.) They need to be fun.

Easier said than done, but I think I'm getting close, at least for my own campaign.

There are several magic users to choose from: wizard, witch/warlock, sorcerer, shaman.

Wizards study magic by taking on (or being stuck with) a familiar. These are based on GoblinPunch's popular post. YOU'RE DOING FAMILIARS ALL WRONG. Familiars are mysterious, powerful, and creepy figures that come from somewhere and have a direct connection to magic. Are they demons? No. That's laughable to them. Demons are so petty. Are they gods? Depending on what you worship. They know the secrets of magic, and how to wield it without fault. They are willing to teach in exchange for favors.

Why is this fun? It gives the player something to interact with. The tables that Arnold has in his post are fuel for the imagination. I want to expand on them and make familiars a tool for DMs and players to interact with magic.

Witches and Warlocks (the only spellcaster to have feminine and masculine nouns because it is in ancient practice) are dabblers in the diabolic. They wield dangerous magic because it's the magic of demons. Unlike a wizard they have no familiar to conduct this magic through. They just try to store it in their brains.

These spellcaster learn spells based on the book Wonder & Wickedness and follow Zak S's level up tables for wizards/witches. They can gain spells by reading from others spellbooks and attempting to copy them down in their own (which can cause a catastrophe), and by eating the brains of other spellcasters.

Why is this fun? It's chaotic. It's random. It's dangerous. You have to eat a brain to gain a level. Why is your character okay with this? It raises questions a player has to answer.

Shaman's are based on False Machine's Shaman. They learn their spells daily by hunting beasts in their dreams. My tables are slightly different and more random. A shaman can choose to hunt any creature they choose, the bigger they are the more powerful of spell they hold. Failing is much easier if you're hunting spells outside of your level and failing is dangerous.

Why is this fun? Hunting spirits in your dreams. I'm sold.

Sorcerers are ones I'm working on, but I'm basing them off of Magica Madoka. Sorcerers make a pact with a being (I haven't figure it out yet, but let's just say it's the little bastard from the anime). They make this pact in exchange for a wish. So yes, at the beginning of a campaign a sorcerer makes a wish, like the spell, and this wish comes true. It's not some bullshit wish that gets turned on its head. It's a  true wish. It happens,  and then the game begins.

In exchange for this wish, the being gives the Sorcerer access to magic to fight evil (or whatever the being perceives as evil, probably Liches). Sorcerers cast magic based on False Machine's article here: Narrativist Spellcaster. Also, much like in Madoka, when a sorcerer finally dies they cannot be resurrected. They become a Lich. This is how all Liches are made.

Why is this fun? The wish. The consequences of any wish happening are enough character development to last an entire campaign or more. Plus the fear of becoming a Lich.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

'Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, a long time ago, the Chinese wiped out a tribe few people have heard of. Most of history is like this.' - Matthew White, in his book "Atrocitology"

Your party is standing somewhere. Where did you leave them? A lair? Village? Their own homebase?

What was there before them? No, before that. Before they were born. Before man was civilized. Before man was man.

There was something there. A being, a culture, a war.

If you were in Westeros, you could roll on this table and find out:

What stood here before you?

1. A village of the first men
2. A forest filled with horse-sized spiders
3. A cult of Children of the Forest
4. A battlefield of first men and Children of the Forest
5. A White Walker massacre
6. Dragons

Or, if you were in the Everwood, my world, you could roll on this table to find out:

1. Tribe of Elephant Men
2. One of the ancient Druid circles
3. Giant the size of a skyscraper
4. Building site of a Moon elevator
5. Elves before they were cursed
6. Lonely witch with her archaic spells

Think about it. This is another thing to think about when your players are in a place. Any place.

What was there before? Make a table of the possibilities. Why? Because the more times you roll it, the more you have to think about it. Like say you're like me and you write "sentient elephant" on your table and you end up rolling it like six times in a row you might make up this Elephant Men thing and have a deeper understanding of your world.

I'm a firm believer in Stephen King's writing advice when he says that he doesn't make his stories, he discovers them. They are already in his head and he is excavating them. These random tables are a tool to help dig.

So do it. Come up with 6 things that were in your world before adventurers. Make them weird. Make them things you don't fully understand. Then roll every time your players go somewhere new. See what you dig up.

Creating the world

I don't know a thing about poetry. I don't think there's anything to learn about it. Art and language go together in a way that even the wrong things can be right. Most times I think in images, pictures. And it's hard for me to put a thousand words for each picture because I see so many. So poetry makes sense. Poetry is just images, I think.

Anyways, this is what I thought about when I took a shit this morning.

The world gawks at me
it forms crippled words that limp from page
into my head
half-formed ideas
half-life thoughts
I graverob from gods
illicit help from mind thiefs
steal the words of others
I frankenstien a thing to life with
lightning trapped in bottle
a word sparked by insanity

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


“Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The stricture of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operations – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time strictures pertains to the manufacturing of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters and likewise number their days of game life…YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.” - Gary Gygax

I like this. I read it and I think "yeah, that's how I feel". But I've never done it. I've never done a lot of things that I want to do in campaigns. I think it's because I never know if they're going to last. I've only planned out one campaign (my campaign last summer) and it was some of the most fun I've had. I had a map, which is something I never do, and I mapped out dungeons, something I never really do. But I didn't track time. Only abstractly.

It's because I don't like difficulty. Or, I don't like the kind of difficulty that seems like ego-stroking. Like many dungeon master, I take pride in my world, but when I look at calendar systems that other DMs have made, they always make it complicated. They don't treat time like the tool that it is. It is only there to show the passage of time. It's a ruler laid under the campaign that shows progress and change. It should be THAT first, and then it can be used to add to the world, to the lore.

How to make it an easy tool though?

Just look at Stardew Valley. Sun-Sat, 4 weeks to a month, one month to a season. Simple. I'm sold already. 

What do I like about this?

1. It's easy to understand and to grasp. Anyone can look at this and be like "okay, yeah, I get it."

2. It's easy to manipulate. You can make it 12 months like our year, you can switch it to two summer months, two winter months, keep the world in a perpetual spring, whatever.

3. It makes me think about tracking weather and stuff like that. Give each season a small table of weather with some results for wacky weather in each and you're done. Automate it with lastgasp's generators and you're ready to go with the click of a button.

4. There's a chance of making variable encounters based on weather/seasons. Maybe dragons sleep in the winter and the forest is safer then? Maybe manticores migrate in the spring and are extra horny so more likely to be vicious? Stuff of that sort.

5. It lets the party track their own time. Give them a blank map (or a map with some stuff on it, like festivals, migration dates, etc) and let them mark days off and write down special events of their own.

6. BIRTHDAYS! Let the party roll randomly (or just choose) their birthday on the calendar, and there will be a little sub-table of birthday surprises that can happen on that day. Things like: your mother sends you a plate of cookies and eating them heals 1d6 hp, you gain advantage on one roll today, for some reason you feel like you cannot die (if you were to drop to 0, drop to 1hp instead. Thinkg like that.

I'm going to start working on these things right now. So the next few posts will probably be the tables and weather and shit like that. Or maybe I'll finish my map. I'm excited for my map.