Monday, March 20, 2017

Necropolis - Quick Random Generation

I love the idea of not just a single ancient tomb, but an entire necropolis of dangerous adventures.  I also would like to have quite a few of them in my new campaign setting.  So I came up with some quick random generation tables.  These are easily customized for other settings and are good for hex crawl type adventures.

The Imperial homeland has many resting places for the dead.  Most common is the official Imperial Necropolis but the New Faiths have their pyramids as well.  Each necropolis is a sprawling complex of tombs, statuary, archives, temples, funerary vaults, workshops, shrines, and pilgrimage hosting.  Each one has a famous dominant spirit who gives the place its character.  Some spirits are hostile, insane, or malicious, others are more mellow and even helpful on occasion.

A necropolis is a big place and will have quite a few important features.  The mix of features varies from place to place and so here is a method to help do a quick build:

Step 1: Presence (two 1d6 rolls)

Notoriety (roll 1d6)
1 = Lost & Forgotten (-4 to find)
2-3 = Obscure (-2 to find)
4 = Minor (no find modifier)
5 = Well Known (+1 to find)
6 = Famous (+2 to find)

Size (roll 1d6)
1 = Small (-1 to all Feature die rolls below)
2-4 = Medium (no modifier)
5-6 = Big (+1 to all Feature die rolls below)

Step 2: Features (1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, and 1d12)

Character (1d4)
1    Deeply Spiritual
2    Creepily Spooky
3    Relentlessly Insidious
4    Viciously Malicious

Temples (1d6; once for how many, again for what type is each)
1-4    Imperial Ancestor Cult
5-6    New Faiths deity, typically Anubis but sometimes Bastet, Mayet, or Thoth

Gardens/Plazas (1d8; once for how many, again for each one to determine the prominent feature around which it is centered)
1 - statue of a deceased emperor
2 - statue of a New Faith god
3 - cenote/moon pool
4 - fountain
5 - ancient obelisk or primitive menhir
6 - Yin-Yang tablet array
7 - eternal "flame"/illusionary display
8 - mysterious divine or arcane gate thing

Archives & Workshops (1d10)
1 - Mummification
2 - Incense refining
3 - Alchemy lab
4 - Scriptorium
5 - Library
6 - Archive
7 - Woodworking (coffins)
8 - Weaving (shrouds, banners, curtains, biographical tapestries)
9 - Metalworking (iron and bronze fixtures and furnishings)
10 - Distillery (ceremonial wines and alcoholic spirits)

Graveyards, Catacombs & Crypts
(1d12 for how many; d6 for type of each)
1-2    Catacombs (underground passages)
3-4    Graveyard (surface graves)
5-6    Crypts (aboveground structures; 1-in-6 chance of New Gods pyramid)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Simple Unpredictable Magic for OSR Gaming

 Okay, so I sort of lied there in the title.  You could use this with almost any game with fantasy magic in it.  I made up these tables to go with Old School Hack/Neo School Hack but then realized you could apply them to plenty of other rules sets. 

One complaint I have always had with D&D, and D&D based games, is the predictability of magic casting.  Sure, there are a few spells where a random roll is involved, but usually the spell is cast and the effect occurs without needing a roll.  This never felt right to me.  Also, certain magic items should become less of a sure thing over time.  Those potions are magical but after centuries or even millennia sitting in a chest in some tomb they might well go bad.

So here are some simple d12 based tables for potions, scrolls, and spellcasting to keep everyone on their toes.


Potions (roll 1d12)
1: Toxic!  No magical effect, but drinker suffers one wound
2: Flat!  No magical effect happens
3 - 11: Shazam! It worked!
12: Mana Rush!  Magical effect works and drinker gains 1 Awesome Point

Magic Scrolls (roll 1d12)
Anyone can read a magic scroll if they know the language it's written in.  In the case of a holy or unholy scroll, the reader must also at least partially share the same alignment as the deity to whom the scroll is dedicated.
1: Rebuke!/Backlash!  No magical effect, scroll crumbles into dust, and reader suffers one wound
2: Mis-read! No magical effect happens but you can try reading the scroll again later
3 - 11: Praise and Glory!/Shazam! It worked!
12: Mana Rush!  Magical effect works and reader  gains 1 Awesome Point

Magic Casting (roll 1d12)
1: Rebuke!/Backlash!  Casting fails, the spell is expended, and caster suffers one wound
2: Botched! Casting fails, but the spell is not expended and you may cast it again later
3 - 11: Praise and Glory!/Shazam! It worked!
12: Mana Rush!  Magical effect works and caster gains 1 Awesome Point

Conversion to typical D&D values:
  • for the damage, use 1d4 points of damage per level of the spell
  • for the Mana Rush either: add Awesome Points (or Hero Points, etc.) to your game, have the person gain 1d6 temporary hit points, or allow the scroll or spell to be cast normally.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Legacy--Life Among the Ruins...and more.

Okay, so I haven't been posting very actively lately.  I'm going to blame it on...let's see...too much gaming on Roll20, a welcome uptick in in-person gaming, and Netflix.  Also, I purchased several more gaming books which I'm slowly working my way through.

One of my latest acquisitions is Legacy--Life Among the Ruins by James Iles.  I came across this game while browsing all the games I could find at DriveThruRPG.com which use the Apocalypse Engine.  I bought another game "Powered by the Apocalyse" a little while ago (Dungeon World, see my review here) and was intrigued by the mechanics and its fresh approach to gaming.  I've been wanting to run some sort of sci-fi game to balance all the fantasy and superhero gaming my group does and so I bought Legacy and the two expansions: Legacy--Echoes of the Fall and Legacy--Mirrors in the Ruins.  I got all three pdfs for under US$20 so that's less than one typical print book for the whole set.

Legacy is set in a not-too-far future after civilization has collapsed.  The game does not lay out any specific timeline or even a specific location on earth.  There is mention of stories passed down by grandparents and great grandparents.  It could be that the very oldest people around (90+) still remember the pre-fall world, or maybe it's a generation or two beyond that, depending on what suits the GM's concept best.  But it's not so far back that everything old has crumbled.  There are still a few working vehicles, weapons, tools, and machines around.

Players play both a single character, as one expects in an RPG, but also that character's family.  There are eight character classes and five types of families.  Because this is a PbtA game, there are Moves which represent what you can do.  Each class has a set of unique Moves it can perform but so does each family.  Characters have four stats but families have three: Reach, Grasp, and Mood.  Reach is the family's influence in the wider world; Grasp is the family's ability hold onto what it has; and Mood is the family's overall well-being.  A family also has points of Tech which can be hoarded or spent.  An average family is posited to be 20-30 able-bodied adults.  Interacting with other families in your area is intended to be a feature of any campaign.

Another feature of Legacy is "Ages".  Ages allow you to move the game time forward, apparently by a couple generations.  There is a move for this called The Age Turns, the roll for which is modified by your family's Mood.  This feature may not appeal to all groups but it is a nice addition to the PbtA system overall and could easily be adapted for making other campaigns multi-generational.

As noted above I also bought the two expansions, Legacy--Echoes of the Fall and Legacy--Mirrors in the Ruins.  Echoes of the Fall adds two new family types and one more PC class.  Mirrors in the Ruins adds four very science-fictiony families and a new PC class to go with each.  While the main rules and Echoes are about humans in a near future Mirrors goes much farther into the realm of science fiction and I would definitely use it in a Legacy game to spice things up.

Friday, January 13, 2017

I Hate Keeping Track of Stuff in RPGs

As I peruse various articles on old school gaming I come across a certain thread from time to time.  Old school dungeon crawling and hex crawling campaign rules had a definite resource management side of them.  Players and DM alike were supposed to carefully account for every potion, torch, ration, arrow, coil of rope, etc. acquired and expended.  This, allegedly, provided a challenging mini-game within the larger game.

Frankly, I hate having to keep track of stuff whether as player or GM.  It's just a annoying, boring distraction from the fun stuff.

I prefer games which either hand-wave resource management or build it smoothly into the rules.  For instance, in Dungeon World you have the option of losing one "ammo" if you fail a shooting roll.  Outside of that you just assume the character is being careful shooting and scavenging arrows along the way.  The character does need to possess at least one notional "ammo load", but that's it.  Delightfully simple.

This also goes for keeping track of various conditions or effects, particularly spell effects.  In a lot of games when battle is joined you will likely have multiple spells functioning at one time to either buff the PCs or hinder their opposition.  Each spell has a different duration, may allow/require saves each turn, etc.  That's just more crap to have to keep track of--and who really wants to waste mental energy on that?  I'm thinking it would be much better to frame durations in a way which eliminates that sort of micro-managing.  A suggested set of duration frames, which I'm using in my Neo School Hack rules, is:

- Instantaneous (same round as initiated)
- One round (lasts into the round after the round initiated)
- Until end of action scene (some GM judgement on when to call it off)
- Set number of hours/days/weeks/etc. (okay a bit of tracking, but low granularity)






Sunday, January 1, 2017

So I made this Kraken...

My buddy Steve is running a great campaign for us.  In our last session our intrepid heroes boarded a surprisingly small ship and headed across the big ocean to the undead-infested mainland on a quest.  I figured that at some point while we sailed around we'd get attacked by a kraken.  I didn't have a kraken figure so I decided to make one.  I needed something big but something I could do pretty quickly.  I decided to go with foam core poster boards and soft foam sheets, plus some styrofoam balls.

Made several small scale models using stiff card to test out shapes before cutting the posterboard.

Cut a foamcore sheet to make the two sides and positioned on a base sheet.

Messed about with the positioning til I was happy with it.



Used tape to keep the boards in place while I used the hot glue gun.

Cut the styrofoam balls in half for eyes and warty bumps; also grabbed a conical piece left over from a previous project.


Clued on horn, eyes, and small warty bumps.

Decided I needed a tail (or fin) sticking up for dramatic effect, so I sketched one on a foam sheet and cut two pieces.

Tail glued on!

Proper kraken have spiky bits down the back.

Must have scary teeth: soft foam teeth on top, foam core on bottom.  Deliberately made teeth slightly different sizes and added notches and chips for "ooglyness" (yes, that's a word).

Proper monsters are green.

Painted eyes yellow for contrast.  Decided to add appropriately weird tongue; sparkly purple seemed like a good color choice at the time.


Black spray paint on inside of kraken, darkest at the back but light near the mouth for blending later.

Just add water.

Added some watery effect squiggles with markers.  Also carved out horn and eyes to add small wooded button pupils.

Decided the eyes needed edge rings, partly to pop better and partly to hide the gap.  Burgundy goes well with golden yellow. Noticed the base warped due to the dampness of the paint; used books to form back flat. (Knew I'd get some use out of those 4E books some day!)

Tongue shaded with black at back and glued in; red pupils glued in place.

Eye rims glued on and final paint touch-ups.

Rawr!