KU1: The King of the Unsergarten

The best work is the one that is never completed, let alone started. Such work lives, no, thrives and shines in our collective imagination, like the kingdoms explored by our younger selves, delving in big gardens, no adults around. Just the shadows of old, mighty trees, paths, stones and desire for adventure.

I might have a stab at this. I’m not sure where I should start with it, the kind of stance to keep regarding violence, what to do with the dogs and with other kids. Heck, I might make it ultraviolent and slap a fat “18+” on its cover. And I couldn’t even publish it before July 2013 anyway.

I’m not sure. Design decisions bring the matter of dreams down to earth, where it has to cope with limitations, inability, laziness, lack of interest and derision. Failure does not bother ideas. They’re just there, over the Hyperuranius, carefree, unfazed, timeless.

Well, I can’t even find the first volume of “The University Bookshelf”, which is supposed to hold the story. I have no idea about who the author is, or what the story is about. It might be an excellent exercise anyway.

And yeah, I wish the title was about “Undergarden” but, sadly for you all grognards, it’s not: “Unsergarten” means “our garden” in German, and from my daft speculations it’s a tale of a kid becoming the king of his house’s garden, exploring it with his dogs.

A bit of introspection and typing told me that my feeling of being unimpressed by reality is probably caused by my new job and trying to finish A Fantasy Game: both endeavours show interesting unexpected developments, but keeping the helm in the correct direction while seeing the boat drifting can be a bit daunting. No, scratch that: I’m afraid of  being afraid. I guess everything will be fine. 🙂

You know what’s awesome? A generator of Vancian spell names!

Go to the awesome Chris Pound’s Vancian Spell Generator Name Generator and enjoy (the link was broken for a while, now it’s been fixed). Also Noism covered the name-making Forge recently.

Here’s the first three I got:

Lehia’s immiscible defect MU2 Duration: instantaneous

Physically removes icky stuff from drinks, food and potions and compresses it in a solid, insoluble lump. Works like purify food and water, removes icky bits from badly done potions (making them useless) and mixed potions (if you used the potion miscibility rules, you can just pre-mix potions and make sure the brew is not baaad)

Paskobadi’s entire analysis MU3 Duration: instantaneous

Works like Unveil Arcana but on all the target item’s properties or spells.

Lehermari’s scarce guard MU2 Duration: 1 turn

Target 1d6 individuals at medium range will immediately check morale or leave the area, will also check morale at the beginning of a fight and will make an additional morale check at any time a morale check is needed for other causes.

The Chemistry of Dungeons, or: help me I need dungeons and I just have an old organic chemistry book. Also, writing to Gary.

I’m going to write possibly the nerdiest post ever.

Suppose your players left the village of Somewhere Away and decided to pursue the Dodgy Villager That Secretly Is A Pawn Of The Villain: you need a dungeon where the DVTSIAPOTV and his boss can meet.

And you just have a chemistry book: opening the book for inspiration, you see  meaningless chemichy blabber about lignin. Wood and paper are made of this stuff. What if you could turn all that drivel that allows us to keep our lifestyles possible in a fantastic adventuring locale? Behold lignin:

Instant Dungeon! And a big one!

First of all, the theme: lignin is about wood or paper, so it could be something like a dungeon full of constructs and animated objects, or full of books, or a library, or a magical miniature castle made of paper that you can enter if you touch, or a network of treehouses.

Now, what do you do with this map? how do you read it?

EASY!

And requires zero knowledge of chemistry:

  • the lines (bonds) that links atoms above are CORRIDORS: 3 in 10 are either hidden, closed by a locked door, closed by a door. To determine which room has the key, roll a dice on the map and that’s the room: It can be either hidden or held by a monster (50%).
  • C means CARBON and Carbons are rooms with four exits, or CROSSROADS. Roll content as per empty room. You should also come up with a small random monster table adequate to the location (6 entries are good, too many seem really random and nonspecific).
  • O means OXYGEN or OBSTACLE. It can be a room with some nastyness: usually to stop intruders; traps, guardian monsters, locked door, trapped locked room with monsters, or simply a cave in that makes the passage unsuitable. Oxygens have 2 exits, like a passage. If an oxygen is lonely next to a carbon you have a DOUBLE BOND (described later).
  • H means HYDROGEN, and hydrogens are room with a single exit. They contain stuff and nasties.
  • N means NITROGEN and also NETWORK: the (usually three) rooms connected to it form some kind of small cluster of logically connected rooms, like a guardpost with barracks, studio, den or apartment. Dress accordingly, and use for important stuff peculiar to the dungeon.
  • DOUBLE BONDS happen when you count the exits between rooms and some are missing, while in some graphs are displayed as a double line. Two distinct passages link the two rooms, usually one of them is secret/locked/hidden/trapped, or one of the two rooms is split into two parts by a chasm, bars or whatever you prefer. See it as an occasion for interesting tactical choices in combat or exploration. Also, read MinnenRatta’s comment below.
  • If you have other letters, throw in random stuff according to the atom, or not if you can’t be bothered: it’s just there to kickstart your imagination and its deconstruction it’s only for your benefit. If you see strange lines connecting stuff, treat as special/trapped/secret passages. If you see, like in the picture below,  three/four lines connecting, it’s a CARBON/CROSSROAD. If there’s a bend that bend is a carbon crossroad that has two hydrogen rooms next to it (unless double bounds are present, reducing the number of hydrogen/rooms adjacent). The bit to the right is a long corridor with 10 rooms spread between the two sides, and a room at the end. I guess the below dungeon is good for a drug smuggling hideout.

  • To finish, sprinkle secret doors that link more or less remote areas of the dungeon. And pick a number of exits.
  • Of course you might expand the meanings above to elements of the same groups. Halogens such as Fluorine and Clorine are EXTREMELY NASTY ROOMS, chalcogens like Oxygen ans Sulfur are obstacles and so on.

DONE. Ok, my nerd club membership has been renewed for the next 15 years or so.

And now the occasional tiny letter to Gary.

Hello Gary,

I know you’re dead and you can’t read me me. Also I guess you can’t read wordpress. I guess this makes me look a bit stupid, or romantic. Well, I wanted to thank you post mortem for having published my favourite game. I never met you and I can’t say much about you, but thanks for having given me such an empowering hobby.

That’s it. Ok, enough time spent writing to corpses buried thousands of miles away. Back to science!

Toying with Zak’s Tables

Zak recently put up a table to generate adventures, sorta. As I haven’t done anything RPG related since early september and I have to run a Yule D&D Game (as most of us at the table are atheists), I have no clue what is going to happen and how I’m going to handle my sandbox using our homebrew.

Since I’m feeling quite rusty I’ll set up a major plot to happen in the background: obviously players will be able to thwart it in any reasonable way, but the NPCs behind it will of course change their plan in response to PCs’ attempts. Zak comes to rescue.

Let’s roll all the results, then look them up: 16,74,36,93,3,91,2,54

  • Where’s the basic plot of this thing coming from?

16 The Triumph of Death painting by Breghel

Uh, it’s actually Bruegel, love his art to bits. Zak suggests to run the thing as a guerrilla scenario. The painting also somehow reminds me of a certain LotFP adventure which fits perfectly with the location. Yay for tie ins. At this point there are six different factions capable of mustering armies big enough to invade the Free League. Plus, of course, there is the option to spin this around into an allegorical army, but a real one will do for now.

  • With a side of what?

74 Such logic as reigns in the Realm of Beelzebub (mm1 v 1).

I don’t own the book and my campaign is disgustingly mundane, as in “all the evil is caused by humans being human”. Extraplanar stuff and weird logic annoys me. I hate what i’m about to do, but a reroll is in order. I hope the OSR Police is not reading. 😉

56 Motorhead

Ok, I’ll add the missing hëavÿ metäl umlaüts. I know f*ckall of Motörhead, so i grabbed the lyrics for first song I found on google (Iron Fist): it mentions a dark moonless night, flying hooves, dark beasts of Satan and a healthy dose of Doom & Gloom. Metal propah. Two of the above factions qualify, so it could be an occasion to narrow it down or to add an ally or an enemy to the invaders… interesting. I can see some nice dynamics as PCs try to influence factions.

  • Where am I going to get an idea for the big, crazy fight?

36 That Jack Vance story with the eyeball-collecting monster.

FUUUUU-

Erm. I gave a glance at the list a while ago and, while reading this, I though I’d never be able to fit this in in any way. First, I’ve never read Vance. Second, a search did not return much. Third, eyeball collection? FTW?

Maybe a spell requires a huge numbers of eyeball, a Carcosa-style summon for example. Or the monster is a human obsessed with making people half blind: maybe he’s the warlord of the invaders, and all his army is half blind. Or maybe the eyes stolen are “eyes of the mind”. I’ll probably go for the first.

  • And the totally incongruous element?

93 Roll a random monster. Build the most stereotypical situation you can around this monster. Investigate all possible naturalistic inconsistencies in said situation.

Ah, incongruous elements as random aspects for the evolutionary refinement of a campaign. I love the stuff: that’s what I love in sandboxes.

Well, ok, the homebrew doesn’t have a random monster table, and neither does the League. Google returns this.

My mouth is still slightly ajar.

I guess I’ll cope.

I can picture the thing as a huge behemot 200 feet tall. I have no idea how it’s gonna interact with the other factions, but the ecology is easy.

  • The multivalent trick the PCs can fuck with and turn against the adventure?

3 Frank Miller Daredevil (Run 2–you wake up to find your greatest enemy is slowly destroying your life for fun using his/her political influence.)

Urm. PCs have no greatest enemy. Oh, wait, I forgot about greed. No, not PCs’ greed. Now they have an enemy. Oh, I forgot about someone is holding a massive grudge, someone with scarce political power but with a big smile and an even bigger stick. The big stick can provide great leverage, and she’s quite nasty. Also players have no idea that she is a she.

  • And the new monster?

91 The people who were supposed to be doing this would have no problem with it, but we’re stuck with the PCs.

Ooook. This is hard.

It might be PCs becoming vampires/werebeasts.

It might be PCs creating monsters. As in golems and stuff.

It might be PCs “creating monsters”. And it happened thrice already. Nommy option, I’ll keep this, and possibly one of the above

  • Dumb prop/DM gimmick?

2 Frank Miller Daredevil (Run 1–fall in love with someone who wants to kill you.)

Easy-peasy.

  • Nondeath situation-altering punishment a PC might face?

54 The Younger Edda.

Ugh. The first part of the younger edda is some sort of epic. As result of the invasion the regime change might strip them of their chartered group status and crenelation benefits: in fact, changing their group of recognized adventurers to a group of adventurers armed and dangerous.

Overall comment: it’s a useful tool. Feels like divinating with a postmodern tarot deck, a welcome addition to my toolbox, where I also briefly discussed usage of an actual decks. I’m really satisfied with the table even if some of the entries are a bit extraneous to me (like those regarding american comics), but nothing forbids from swapping entries with more congenial stuff.

Morlock Tinkers

Somehow a morlock joined my players’ party. Yay for we playing a mix of gonzo and serious fantasy! 🙂

But I found the original morlocks did not fit the role I wanted them to play in my world. This is how Sham describes them:

Morlocks(N-C): AC 5 Move 9 HD 1+1 Once tech-advanced time-travelers, now lost devolved species of cannibalistic subterranean men. Covered with pale fur, they are extremely sensitive to bright light. Able to slink silently and track foes. Wield clubs and spears. Favorite dish is pickled Mole-Man.

Right, we have a race of “fallen” chrononauts to mod. This is more or less what happened:

  1. Misread the monster entry and notice just 5 months later when you’re blogging about it. They used to travel in time, not space. Well, so wha’? 😀
  2. The party stumbles in the workshop full of morlocks in the first level of the Dismal Depths, after stumbling in countless pieces of odd and deadly machinery.  One of them notices the party and gets charmed to stop raising the alarm. Come up with name: Ugub, come up with a number of gimmicks for the race (because everybody’s weird):
    1. Keep the cannibalism, change aspect to pink skin with sparse white bristles (think of a pig, or of a kinda glabrous mouse lab), give them coloured overalls with pockets full of tools. Thin frame, like an elf, but about 1 meter tall. Long prehensile ratlike tail. Basically a rat-elf-space-midget, wielding spanners their height as two handed weapons.
    2. Goggles, as they need them. No, wait, make the goggles glow a soft yellow from the inside.
    3. push the weird even further: during the dungeon crawl Ugub takes the goggles off and shows that morlock eyes are bright as lanterns and can illuminate the room.
    4. Morlock hands have about 20-30 fingers. Lots of them come out of strange places (like wrists, back of the hands, other fingers…).
  3. This was all fine but I made the error of make a humanoid alien. Humanoids are not alien. Well, District 9 crabs are alienish, but erect posture, bilateral symmetry, 2 walking and 2 manipulating limbs arranged the human way make aliens too similar to humans to my tastes. Epic fail for me. Time to compensate with some behavioural and cultural weirdness.
    1. Ugub takes travel notes about lots of mundane stuff because everything’s alien to him. And he makes strange questions. He’s an alien engineer after all.
    2. Whenever morlocks speak in common about anything not from the non-local world put the “space-” prefix before it. Space-worms, space-ship, etc. Ugub even referred to his long-time-lost home planet as “space-planet”.
    3. Playing an alien alienation is another meta-tool that can be used, for example, to highlight societal structures and mores belonging to the game world, such as feudalism and marriage being very similar in their oppression of personal freedoms, or how odd is that PCs don’t see anything wrong in being a roving band of murderers and tomb raiders but have problems with killing kids. Or simply that they don’t eat the corpses of their comrades, because “saving your corpse for your friends’ next lunch is the best gift you could do to them”. See, alien. An alien is alien to you.
  4. Laser weapons! Pewpewpewpew! And gimmicks!
  5. Morlock’s space-ship crashlanded generations ago and, due to problems evident to anyone who ever tried design-by-committee, didn’t manage to rebuild one. One that worked, at least. Only a morlock of great leadership will be able to stop this stupid design practices and lead everybody back to space-planet.
    1. Here’s your morlock tinker endgame: reach level 14, build a sonic screwdriver, put together a research lab, gather a project-team with the best morlock tinkers, spend a heckton of money into the project and, over 10 years (same time BECM advices for elven flying ships and dwarven undeground vessels, less if many research labs are parallelized) you’re ready to take off and “win the game”.
    2. Or use the thing to bomb the f*ck out of cities from low orbit if they don’t recognize you as their overlord. Orbital insertions are always fun.

This improv-session took maybe 5 minutes, while the PCs were making friends with Ugub.

Last bit I needed to put together were the actual game mechanics…