Monday, November 17, 2014

Secrets of the Old City, and a map

Immersive Ink have published a revised version of their winning entry in the 2009 one-page-dungeon contest, Secrets of the Old City.  You can get a copy over here.  It's specifically for Delving Deeper, but of course easily converted to similar systems.

I liked it enough to prepare an unkeyed map for use with "fog of war"-enabled software.

This was just made by taking Simon Bull's original map, as rendered by Tim Hartlin, and carefully stripping out the location numbers and hidden elements (traps, mostly).  I also blocked out walls in front of all the secret doors so that if you're revealing the map one room at a time you can show a room without necessarily giving away the fact that there's a secret door in there.  Most of them had a fairly obvious "non secret" side, which made that a lot easier.  I also moved the torch sconce icons so that they were more-or-less entirely on the side of the wall where the torch exists, with no overlap across walls into other rooms.

I may gin up some notes on making this all a bit more "Anomalous"--I suppose the fact that my players have just returned to Denethis had something to do with my interest in an urban module.  So we'll see about that.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Films Found in the ASE

Here's a description of some films I created for the players to find in the ASE, leftovers from the old Dynamat days:  The Three Films

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Anomalous Books: The Revelations of T'Son

The Revelations of T’son is a book which can be found in the Anomalous Subsurface Environment.  No one seems to know who T'Son is, but a few copies of the book have been circulating for at least a few hundred years.  It is a rambling manifesto of the sort written by paranoid maniacs in cabins in the woods.  All known copies are hand-written in tiny, crabbed script, usually on parchment of questionable origin.  It’s uncertain whether T’son himself produces all the copies, or others who wish to enshrine his ideas.

Revelations is a volume of natural philosophy centered on the four elements as building blocks of the universe.  All objects and creatures are composed of varying proportions of the four elements.  There is nothing uncommon about that but T’Son goes on to propose that earth (‘stone’ is his preferred rendering) is primary, and the father of the other three. All consciousness and will resides in stone except insofar as it chooses to impart these characteristics elsewhere. 

This theme is developed at great length to some surprising conclusions:
  • The deeper one goes the more blessed one becomes.
  • The Will Lies Below.
  • T’Son’s Hell is a shuddersome ‘abovestone’ location where the damned are tormented by ceaseless buffeting of uncontrolled waves, wind, and flames.
  • Liquid mercury is the distilled will of Stone and the fundament of the philosopher’s stone.
  • The undead are considered ambivalently.  They are ‘the blessed’ because they do not need to breathe, and are more are at one with stone in that regard.  However most human consciousness is insufficiently refined to withstand Stone’s rigor, which accounts for their malevolent and basically insane nature when turned into undead.  T’Son varies between envy and wariness in speaking of them.
  • The female is considered more earthly than the male and thus generally superior.  (T’Son’s own sex is strangely hard to discern from the book, pronouns and other self-references shift from largely male to mostly female as the book goes on.)  
  • Earth > Fire > Water > Air.  Air is equated with death, though he seems to conflate all manner of noxious vapors with air for this purpose.  Air with some degree of fire inhering in is breathable.
The book is at once a testament to the power of the ASE in promoting research and discovery, and evidence that Dynamat’s scientists were not the only ones to make use of this.  If T’Son had developed his strange philosophy in the customary Lunatic’s Cabin in the Woods all his furious concentration and theorizing would have led to nothing more than an unreadably long and tedious book, and perhaps the mailing of some pipe bombs.  However The Revelations is a fully functional spell book containing several novel elemental spells.  Magic Users and Elves can make use of these in the usual way.

Create Spring
Level 1
Duration: 1d10 hours
Create Spring causes a stream of water to emerge from earth or stone.  It produces one gallon of water per minute.  If a clear gem or crystal of 50gpv or more is used up in the casting the spring instead lasts for d10 days—and on a ‘10’ it is effectively permanent.  The surface upon which the spell is cast must be connected to the earth in general, not a mere block of stone sitting in a wagon, for instance.

Extract Fire
Level 2
Duration: instant
This spell can affect up to ten pounds per level of any flammable material, causing it to be immediately consumed in a blast of flame.  In the case of relatively flammable materials such as wood or coal this flame is substantial enough to damage those within five feet of the material, causing a d4 of damage per five pounds of material.  Less flammable things such as leather or mold will only cause half this amount of damage.  Other nearby materials may of course be set on fire as well.  If the item to be affected is carried by a creature it is allowed a saving throw to stop the spell from taking effect. 
Any item affected is reduced to a light, pumice-like, ashy stone skeleton of its former shape.

Level 2
Duration: until extinguished
Trueflame causes fire to act more in accordance with the odd elemental philosophy of T’Son.  It can be cast on any existing fire.  So long as it burns the fire produces no smoke (but twice the usual quantity of ash).  Oxygen in the air nearby is not consumed by the fire, in fact ‘dead’ air becomes refreshed and breathable once more(!)   More fuel can be added to a Trueflame fire, but the effect is localized.  Any flaming items removed from the enchanted fire do not convey the effect and burn normally.

Embrace of Stone
Level 1
Duration: one combat (d6 rounds per level if you’re into that sort of thing)
The Embrace of Stone can only be cast if standing on a stone surface.  It causes the stone to flow up and around the caster, providing an armor class equal to six minus the 'level' of the dungeon one occupies, to a minimum of zero.  However the effect is ponderous.  Any dexterity modifier to AC is lost and the caster’s movement rate is reduced to 90/30.  Above ground it has no effect other than to shower the caster with dirt.  

Stone Shape
Level 2
Duration: one minute per level
The caster is able to work solid stone as if it were heavy clay, though only with his bare hands.  Crude tools or weapons can be formed at the rate of one per minute.  Tunnels can be dug, though only at a rate of one cubic foot per minute.  A door can be dismounted from a wall with one minute’s work.

Voice of the Earth
Level 3

This largely duplicates the level 6 cleric spell Stone Tell.  The stone, however, is not compelled to answer specific questions.  Instead make a reaction roll to determine its disposition toward the caster.  On a negative reaction a dungeon elemental (or any indigenous creature outside the ASE) may be dispatched to bedevil the party.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, Skills. Don't kill me

Whether to have 'skills' in your game is a notoriously contentious subject.  I won't revisit the argument, but for my LL game I wanted to have a simple guide to deciding common situations where player description alone might not suffice.  I also wanted to allow for a somewhat greater degree of individualization for the characters while avoiding an "ever-escalating DC" kind of situation like one has with third edition.  What follows is the system I came up with.  It's based on Venger Satanis' system, but is less "Fate-y".
The only effect on the LL classes is that the thief skills table is junked (yay) and replaced with a larger-than-normal amount of skills for those characters.  You might make a 'thief' with none of the classic thief skills, so really they become more like 'Specialists' than anything.  
Characters can have three levels of competence in a skill: skilled, superb, and world-class.  Each level costs one point.  Specialists and halflings start with five points to spend and can purchase skilled or superb level training.  Characters in other classes start with three points to spend and are limited to the ‘skilled’ rating.  
As characters advance in level they get additional points to spend--specialists get one point every odd-numbered level, halflings every third level and other classes one per five levels. 
Resolution mechanic: “Making a skill roll” involves rolling a pool of d6’s.  Roll and note the highest result, see below for how you did.  If you got at least one 'six' then extra sixes indicate some degree of exceptional success, if that's even possible.  In all cases the result is basically a guide to how to look at or judge or narrate the attempt and its results.
Everyone always gets one die by default.  You get an extra die for being skilled, another for being superb, and another one if you’re world-class at the skill.  A character with 13 or more in the skill’s controlling attribute gets an extra die. A hard task subtracts one die while a stupendously hard task subtracts two.  Having excellent tools or a good “storyside” rationale adds a die.  If you end up with zero dice to roll you roll 2d6 and take the lower one.
                6 = total success                  
                5 = success, possibly with complications
                4 = partial success
                3 = failure, perhaps with a silver lining.
                2= failure
                1= critical failure
The skills and their governing attributes:

Knowledge: (specify)
Profession: (specify)
Sleight of Hand
Skills with two attributes listed are amenable to different approaches (intuitive vs. analytical, etc.).  Use the higher of the two attributes for to see if you get the extra die for a high stat.

Skill Descriptions
Athletics – allows climbing, tightrope walking, tumbling past enemies, breaking down doors and similar feats of strength, etc.  Climbing is at 10’ per round, frequency of check depends on the surface (smooth wall=once per round, typical wall once per turn, mountains once per day).
Bushcraft – allows tracking, orienteering, ‘survival’ tasks, and animal handling.
Diplomacy – Only applies if a reaction roll is being made anyway. Grants a bonus on reaction rolls of +1 per level of skill.
Heal – allows restoring of one hit point on a roll of four or five, 1+1 per six on a roll of six.  Can be used after each fight.
Intimidate – can substitute for normal reaction rolls, though perhaps with lasting resentment.
Linguistics – being skilled grants literacy.  Superb or better grants the ability to puzzle out a bit of any language encountered.  This allows for scroll use—spells of level 3-5 are hard (deduct a die).  Higher level spells deduct two dice. 
Mechanician – Covers opening locks, disabling traps, and general low-tech mechanical operation or repair tasks.
Knowledge: various – there are numerous specializations possible here.  Some of particular use to adventurers:
Arcana – knowledge of magical items, spells, and magical paraphernalia. Includes knowing about monsters who are creations of magic or which cast spells/spell-like effects.
Religion – knowledge of various religions.  Includes knowing about the undead.
The Planes—knowledge of the various planes and extra-planar creatures such as demons and elementals.
Area—the ‘area’ can be anywhere, but by default is “the region we start in”.  Covers geography, politics, and common monsters found in the area.
Science—knowledge of the scientific marvels of the past.  And the not-so marvels.  Includes knowledge of robots or similar techno-creatures.
Other areas of knowledge are certainly possible.
Perception/Search – Covers search, spot, perception, finding secret doors, all that sort of thing.
Professions – These represent formal training at a specified trade or occupation.  Only a thief can have two professions to start with; starting members of other classes can have no more than one.  Some of the more interesting professions for adventurers: 
Actor – This governs any sort of disguise attempt, and is the skill used to tell convincing lies.  You can acquire either of these skills separately without it being a ‘profession’.  This is a CHA skill, unlike most professions.
Animal Training – Can teach a domestic animal one 'trick' per skill die.  (Attack, bear burden, etc.)  Wild animals, one less.  Hostile or fierce animals, two less.
Captain – Allows one to operate and repair watercraft, navigate, and manage the crew. 
Fencing Master—Training of combatants (often in swordcraft but not always).  Also grants the fencing master +1 to hit with a single type of weapons (melee or missile).  Superb level skill grants +1 with the other weapon type, and world-class converts the bonus with one type to +2.
Trapper/Leatherworker—Covers skinning and preserving of creatures and creature bits, setting simple traps, taxidermy, and turning hides to leather.
Armorer—Production and repair of armor and shields.  You’ll know if one you handle is magical, and have a good idea what plus it is.
Assassin—Covers poison use and striking for increased damage from behind or upon surprising an opponent. (x2 if level 0-4,  x3 if level 5-8,  x4 if higher level).
Weaponsmith—Production and repair of weapons.  You’ll know if one you handle is magical, and have a good idea what plus it is.
Less adventurous professions include: Farmer, Lumberjack/Carpenter, Miner/Stonemason, Jeweler/Gemcutter, Alchemist, Courtier, Lawyer, Scribe/Accountant, Artist, Engineer/Architect, etc.   
Ride – Anyone can ride a trained horse overland.  You’ll need the skill to employ a mount in combat or to control an untrained mount.  Controlling exotic or flying mounts is a hard task.  If riders are chasing each other (and have the same movement rate) ride rolls determine if pursuit is successful.
Sleight of Hand – Pickpocketing, shell games, prestidigitation, hiding things on your person, etc. 
Stealth – A roll of four or five succeeds but allows perception rolls to spot the sneak.  A roll of six just works.  This task becomes harder (deduct dice) in well-lit or open areas.  Wearing armor heavier than leather also imposes a penalty—one die for scale or chainmail, two dice for anything heavier.
Swim – The die roll x 10 is the percent of your actual movement that you get when swimming—a roll of one means you start drowning.  Roll once per round in combat, once per turn otherwise.  Note that even a modest amount of clothing and gear gives a one die penalty on swim rolls.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ferayn's Exterminators

The Wizard Ferayn is one of several described in ASE.  Since he's shaping up in my game to be a substantial nuisance to the players, I wanted a little more 'depth' to his exterminators.  I also had some concern that if Ferayn is killed, the rifles become a treasure of considerable value.  Und zo I came up with the following:

The Red-Eyed Men, aka Ferayn’s Exterminators

There are two basic types, recruits and veterans. All are insane killers mentally enslaved by Ferayn.

Lightly clad zero level guys, basically as in ASE1, with red eyes and boots. AC 9.  Half are armed with single-shot breechloading rifles. Treat as normal rifles except rate of fire is only one. These rifles have bayonets on them, making them almost as effective as javelins (-1 to hit) in melee. The other half have two-handed swords. All these weapons drive people nuts, as per ASE1. When encountered on “an operation” a recruit with a rifle has 1d12-1 rounds of ammo. One in ten recruits is new enough that if relieved of their weapons they become normal again.

For every four recruits there’s one veteran. All the recruits earn XP for killing and looting (hm, just like our heroes). Those who live long enough to get 750 XP become veterans. Veterans are first level fighters for all purposes. They still don’t wear much armor or anything (AC 7 one way or another), but have d8+1 hit points.

Veterans get a random item added to the rifle or two-hander specified above. Those with rifles have at least three rounds of ammo, if they get low they take some from the recruits. They each also get one item (d10) from the list below:

1. Dreadknife:  When drawn it is dripping with blood....its magic forces one's opponent to save vs. fear or run for d4 rounds. Of course when he runs you get to stick him in the back, and with one of these you do double damage.  If he saves the bloodlust leaves you fighting with just a knife until one of you die, you nut.

2. Oil bomb with mechanism to ignite it on impact.

3. Random bits of armor, AC4.

4. Three Throwing Knives, and skill giving +1 to hit with them.

5-6. Loot for the wizard (d10xd20 value).

7. Grenade (per ASE)

8. +1 snapper weapon (a +1 weapon in all respects, but it gains its damage bonus via some pincering or toothy bits that clash together—think hedgetrimmers or mancatchers or an alligator).

9. Potion of Ogrefication (turns drinker into an ogre for one hour, then save vs poison)

10. Leg bone & Skull Wand. This contains one attack spell (d6: Magic Missile, Sleep, Burning Hands, Ray Of Frost, Stinking Cloud, Minute Meteors (lasts 6 rounds, 1d6 per round unless caster is killed)). Anyone who has one of these must have really gotten the favor of Ferayn in a big way.

Dreadknives and snapper weapons are all Red Weapons, like the swords and guns. The other items are ‘normal’.

The Red Weapons
These all have a permanent enchantment. Even if Ferayn is killed they will make people into insane killers. His Red Ryder rifles are mass produced and the ammo is interchangeable, unlike normal Denethix weapons.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Volarians - a new race

These are fairly "Mutant Future"-ish, but I like 'em.  Have one in the current game.

Volarians (aka “Giant Prairie Dogs”)  
Prime requisite: str & dex (as halflings)
Attack table: same as dwarf,elf,halfling, fighter etc.

XP                Level  d6’s HD  Potion Level    
0                      1          1                1            
1200                2          2                1
2400                3          3                2
5,000               4          4                2
10,000             5          5                3
20,000             6          6                3
40,000             7          7                4
80.000             8          8                4
160,000+         9          9                5

Saving Throws          Death/  Petrify/
Level   Breath Poison Paralyze  Wand       Spell
1-2        13         8         10            9            12
3-4        10         6         8              7             10
5-6         7          4         6              5            8
7+          4          2         4              3             6

Volarians are a race of intelligent giant prairie dogs.  A fully-grown Volarian weighs 90-120 pounds; they are nearly human in size.  They live in underground warrens and are highly gregarious and sociable creatures.  Volarians speak common as well as their own language, and often seek to trade with humans or any friendly creatures.  Volarians generally do not have a very high level of technology or magic use.  They understand the concepts, but their communities tend to be pretty self-sufficient without these items.  Volarians do a lot of farming.  They grow tubers of various sorts, planting them directly into the ‘roof’ of shallow tunnels so that they sprout naturally.  Many Volarian communities have domesticated giant weasels and use them for defense.  
Of course some Volarians desire to see more of the world and meet other creatures.  These might become adventurers.  Stats are rolled normally.  As adventurers, Volarians have the following advantages and disadvantages:
Volarian paws are prehensile, they can stand on their hind legs and fight with weapons.  They can wear armor, but it has to be specially made--double cost for anything heavier than leather, which they can make themselves.
Volarians have 6” infravision, but their depth perception and ability to judge distances is terrible.  They suffer a -2 penalty with missiles.
Volarians can burrow in earth and clay at a rate of 5’ per round.  They have no particular abilities with stone, though.  If the spend a turn rather than a round per 5’ they pack the earth around them tightly enough to make a permanent tunnel 2’ in diameter.
Volarians can prepare potions from natural ingredients.  These tend to be made on a one-off basis for immediate use.  Once per day they can create a potion that duplicates a spell that affects a single person.  The process takes one hour of intense concentration.  These potions spoil after three days.  Volarians automatically know how to make the following:
Level one: cure light wounds, purify food/drink, strength
Level two: charm animal, invisibility, +2 on next three saving throws that day
Level three: neutralize poison, PFN Missiles, comprehend languages
Level four: polymorph self, stone tell, cure serious, tongues
Level five:  transmute rock to mud (only rock they touch, allows burrowing through stone for one hour), haste, water breathing

A Volarian can research other potions as a magic user researching a spell (DM determines level as with a new spell).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I'm maybe too much into Gygaxian naturalism but I feel like parts of the ASE are a little 'food poor'...there's just some places where I'm left wondering how these guys survive.  I've had a couple ideas along these lines, but this is a magico-techno device from the Dynamat days that can be dropped in anywhere:

Rejuvenation field – These devices are permanently installed and run off Tesla-type broadcast power within the ASE.   They appear to be a large metal box about six feet tall with two handles sticking out that you can grasp.  There's a small visual readout that's basically a progress bar.   If you grab hold of the handles you feel ‘energized’—like your hair is standing on end, though it isn't.  Hold on for ten minutes and you regain one hit point and need not eat for a day.  One box can sustain 140 people if they rigorously schedule their sessions. For every minute after ten you start seeing stars and take a point of damage as your cells start to explode.  They're usually found in areas where Dynamat had guardposts or other semi-permanent installations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Boomsticks of Denethix

I elaborated some thoughts on how the guns currently made in Denethix actually work, and ended up with my own set of stats for these things.  The document describing all this is here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Computerized Cube

I'm always interested in ways of integrating traditional D&D critters into the ASE.  Here's one I came up with....

Computerized Cube
When a gelatinous cube engulfs a robot, it can not fully digest the robot.  If the robot cannot escape the cube, over time the superconducting nature of the cube (immune to lightning, recall) causes a strange transformation to take place.  The robot's mind merges with the ooze nature of the cube to produce a new creature, the computerized cube. When encountered, the appearance is that of a robot frame floating in mid-air, with electric pulses and bits of wire and circuitry flowing through it.
AC 8
6 HD
Move 6"
Attacks for 2d4/paralysis plus 1d6 electric shock
Ranged attack: plasma cannon
save F5
Computerized cubes retain some of the robot's intelligence.  They often seek to add additional technological items to themselves to augment their powers.  Most retain the single-minded aggressiveness of their cube nature, but others may have larger plans in mind.  They all have some telepathic ability to command 'normal' gelatinous cubes and other unintelligent ooze creatures.


Just a small "blog" on the internet for me to post ideas about D&D and its progeny,  The focus, for now, is on my Anomalous Subsurface Environment campaign.