Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dungeonless OSR Gameplay: Selling Occult Information as Generic Quests

Artist Unknown

So I think that the mechanic of a characters gaining XP for treasure collected inside of a dungeon are fantastic for numerous reasons. The majority of resource management within OSR games is based on the principle and all serve to mechanically incentivize the thematic elements of entering dangerous holes in the ground to become wealthy. I would even claim that it is as central of a component as modifying a d20 roll with bonuses or penalties in order to resolve character action for OSR games.

All that being said I still think that OSR game systems provide an incredibly resilient and robust method for running games and I don't think you would even really need dungeons for it to work. As far as I know, most OSR games function as either a series of dungeoncrawls or hexcrawls. This is one of the things that make them so thematically distinct from other "RPGs". While you can have intrigue and quests in OSR systems there are mechanical gaps in doing so. I think that one of the many reasons that they are so prevalent in other RPG systems which focus on a more narrative approach such as World of Darkness or Apocalypse World. Those game systems are designed with those objectives in mind and likely are able to mechanically incentivize their thematic elements so well because of that approach. 

I don't think that a complete reworking of most OSR mechanics is necessary to achieve the ability to run games with a focus on quests or intrigue. Instead one can simply integrate those two elements to the central mechanic of a character gaining XP for treasure collected by converting quests and intrigue into treasure. One of my favorite videogames is Sunless Sea for a variety of reasons, chief of which is the way the game mechanically reinforces thematic elements central to gameplay. The game has a type of item which is referred to as "curiosities", unlike fuel and supplies these items represent meta objects such as secrets or knowledge. I've seen a few blogs bring up the idea of secrets and knowledge as treasure which may be sold to others, and I think that may be a way to seamlessly integrate intrigue into the general OSR XP gain mechanic. While it may be a minor paradigm shift for players to understand the value of hidden information which may be sold for wealth or leveraged over others in order to achieve something. 

By giving players access to information brokers to whom they can sell secrets, a referee would create incentive for players to focus on the secrets and mysteries of a setting at relatively low effort. When creating NPC's or Dungeons a referee implicitly makes two sets of information. One known to the majority of people and one not known to many. People may know that there is a dungeon hidden in the swamp, but likely the majority do not know that there is valuable treasure inside or the tomb of an ancient warrior. Similarly, many may know that the chief of a tribe is named Mark but few may know that he is the bastard child of the emperor and would make a viable replacement to the current despot. I feel I've explained this concept adequately.

Generic Quests as Items Sold by Characters

The following table lists items which may be sold to information brokers or specialists and allow characters to gain XP as if they had gotten treasure from a dungeon. 

Terrain Map25 silver per 5 hexes mapped outCartographer Guild
Monster's Head10 silver per HD over 3Wizard College/King
Outlaw's Head5 silver per HDSheriff
Dungeon Map5 silver per 10 rooms mapped outAdventurers
Dungeon Histography100 silver per level past 2Historian
SecretVaries (1d6 * 1d6 * 5?)Information Brokers
Secret Spell Scrolls20 per spell levelWizards
State SecretsVaries (1d8 * 1d8 * 10?)Spies
Rare Ingredients Varies (1d4 * 1d4 * 6?)Pharmacists/Chefs
Tokens of FriendshipVaries (1d6 * 1d6 * 5?)Kings/Jarls/Chiefs

By allowing the characters to sell the following items you may incentivize different things. Terrain Maps would incentivize exploration in hex crawls. Monster or Outlaw heads would incentivize characters to confront foes. Dungeon Maps and Histographies would incentivize exploration of dungeons. Secret Spell Scrolls would incentivize robbing wizards. State secrets would incentivize espionage. Rare ingredients and Tokens of Friendship would incentivize exploration of possibly dangerous places by creating alternative "treasures". Rather than having a figure giving the characters a quest they would instead choose to attempt to get the quest objectives on their own. Ideally, this would provide characters internal motivation to do the quests for their own sake. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Clouds/Sky Terrain Mechanics + Wilderness Encounters and Bestiary

Author's Notes: Monster Statistics are given in the following notation:
HD – This refers to how many Hit Dice a monster possess and accordingly it’s bonus to hit
Def – This refers to the bonus a monster receives to its base armor class or defense rating 
Dam – This refers to how much damage a monster deals with one of its attacks
Movement – This refers to the distance/speed with which a monster moves a score of 12 being equal to an unencumbered man
Save – This refers to a monster’s chance to ignore magical or mundane effects out of 20. This would be ignorable if your system of choice does not give monster saves if not for a Save statistic of 20 meaning a monster is immune to magic.
Morale – This refers to a monster’s likelihood to flee from combat in 20. Monsters who are able to roll below their morale value remain in combat after first blood drawn, one of their number slain, and the tide turning against them. Adjust accordingly if your system of choice uses a 2d6 roll for morale.

Art by Eiichiro Oda

Cloud and Sky Terrain

The terrains of the skies is primarily composed of two substances, cloud-stuff and cloud-haze. Cloud-stuff has the appearance and density of cotton balls but can support weight as if it were iron. Cloud-haze has the appearance and density of water vapor and can be swam through. Occasionally, there are islands of soil and clay as down below and trees grow. Infrequently massive white statues of anthropomorphic figures are found hidden in the cloud-stuff. Rarely, massive globs of aluminium are also found hidden in the cloud-stuff.

Getting into the Sky

If a character possess a means of having a flying movement score of 12 or greater for at least an hour they can fly up into the clouds. I don't have a weather system in place, but if you do I'd have 1 in 6 chances of cloudy weather being explorable.

Branching Cloud Mechanics

Author's Notes: I guess you could also use this to determine where islands are in the ocean. by replacing "empty sky" hexes with "wide ocean" hexes.

Every hex of walk-able cloud terrain has 1d4-1 adjacent hexes where the clouds can be walked upon. Every other hex is simply open sky and unless characters have a movement score of 12 flying are unable to cross such a hex. In order to assign what edge of the hex has adjacent walk-able clouds simply roll a 1d6 and use the figure below. I'd recommend that you roll the full cloud system rather than doing it procedurally because if you're a mile up in the sky, you can see a great deal more. If you roll a zero for the number of adjacent hexes for a cloud hex already connected to another cloud hex then simply treat it as if you had rolled a 1.

Moving Skyscapes

Every day there is a 1 in 4 chance of the cloud system moving 1d4 hexes in a random direction and a 1 in 10 chance of the cloud system dissipating and floating across the sky. If the cloud system dissipates then only the hexes adjacent to the hex where the characters are and their contents remain. The cloud system also moves 1d10 hexes in a random direction.

Author's Notes: Anything that can swim in the ocean or a lake can theoretically by re-fluffed to swim through the sky in the same manner. The Sky Serpent has the exact same stats as an Oar-Fish and the Pusedo-Cloud has the exact same stats as a Manowar.

Clouds/Sky Wilderness Encounters

Wilderness Anecdote Table

1Lair of something
2Spoor of something
3Tracks from something
4Traces 1 of something
5Traces 2 of something
6Monster encounter

Clouds/Sky Terrain Encounter Table

13d6 Bandits
21d6+1 Laptain Pilgrims
3Floating Thalid
4 Prismatic Owl
6 2d4 Giant Birds
7Derelict Ornithopteron
8Dark Kingdom Moonfolk
92d4 Silver Millenium Moonfolk
10Fisher of Men
11Winged Whale
121d2 Sky Serpents
17Panopticon Fragment
18Kheldonian Dirigible
19The corpse of a (Roll Again)
20Conflict of two (Roll Twice)

Clouds/Sky Wilderness Bestiary

Name: Bandit

HD: 1
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6 or 1d6 ranged
Move: 12
Save: 6
Morale: 6

Lair: Crude encampment made from a broken hot air balloon is lit by few torches
Spoor: Poorly made traps now broken
Tracks:  Boot-prints leading deeper into the cloud-haze
Traces1: A pool of cloud-haze which seems to sink downwards
Traces2: A single arrow embedded in the clouds-stuff
Name: Laptain Pilgrim

HD: 2
Def: 2
Dam: 1d8 or 1d12 ranged
Move: 12
Save: 8
Morale: 13

Natives of the Above: Laptain Pilgrims, spending most of their life stalking through the cloud-haze have a 5 in 6 chance of surprising characters.

Lair: Ivory white redoubt made of stone stands a bastion among the cloud-stuff
Spoor: A echoing hum repeats intermittently
Tracks:  Ordered boot-prints from a small patrol here a while ago
Traces1: A massive stone figures lies half-buried and half-mined out of the cloud-stuff
Traces2: A stone obelisk stands bearing the mark of a single man
Name: Floating Thallid

Within a gross cloud of spores, a dark shape can be seen. Soft phosphorescent shades spawn from a variety of holes. An amalgamation of numerous fungal polyps, it floats through the air extending a few wayward tentacles and hardened teeth.

HD: 4
Def: 1
Dam: 1d6/1d6
Move: 5 floating
Save: 12
Morale: 16

Porous spores: Each character hit three times by the attack of a Floating Thallid must save or disease 1 point of constitution  (at 0 points, body collapses into 1d6 0HD Floating Thallids)

Lair: A field of spore mounds litters the otherwise monochromatic skyskape
Spoor: The scent of mildew pierces your nostrils
Tracks:  A few granules of some organic substance can be followed
Traces1: A vast mushroom grows from a spiral of psuedopods
Traces2: What was once a gaunt bird lies here, it's innards explosively expanded.
Name: Prismatic Owl

HD: 3
Def: 4
Dam: 1d3/1d3
Move: 16 flying
Save: 15
Morale: 12

Blinding Flash: Everyone within 25 feet of a Prismatic Owl must make a save. Those that fail their save are blinded for 1d3 rounds. A successful save does not make the target immune to future uses of this ability.

Strobing Flash: Everyone within 25 feet of a Prismatic Owl must make a save. Those that fail their save fall to the ground and are incapable of any action for 1d3+1 rounds. Those that succeed at their save are completely immune to future uses of this ability by the same Sigil Bird.

Lair: Shimmering and glistening scraps are piled all around a nest of cloud-stuff.
Spoor: A cry like breaking glass falls from the sky
Tracks:  None
Traces1: A momentary flash of light is seen in the distance
Traces2: A large stone was once here, now it is simply shattered
Name: Zephyroth

Within a panoply of beating wings you can see the strained face of a perfect man. His eyes filled with wrath smoke billows from his mouth and nostrils. A fractal blade glistens in his left hand, chaning shapes every few seconds.

HD: 7
Def: 5
Dam: 1d10
Move: 20
Save: 16
Morale: 13

Windish: A Zephyroth's defense score is considered 12 vs projectiles such as arrows

Son Ein: At the start of an encounter with a Zephyroth roll a 1d4+1. The Zephyroth ignores damage that is a multiple of that value i.e. on a roll of 3 a Zephyroth would ignore damage amounts of 3, 6, 9, 12, etc.

Chain of Perdition: An attack by a Zephyroth branches out to other nearby targets. If an attack deals damage to a target, the nearest adjacent target rolls defense and if it fails takes one damage die less of damage i.e. 2nd target takes 1d8, 3rd target takes 1d6, etc.

Lair: A crom-lech of alabaster stands from beneath the cloud-haze
Spoor: The wind howls as if being sucked upwards by some great vacuum
Tracks: The cloud-stuff has been left as a gash here if some great blade swung by
Traces1: A corpse hangs downwards facing the soil, numerous chains embedded into dead flesh
Traces2: A dagger like feather, long and metallic is embedded halfway into the cloud-stuff
Name: Giant Bird

HD: 3
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6
Move: 8 or 14 flying
Save: 8
Morale: 7

Lair: A nest twice the size of a man is made up of cloud-stuff here
Spoor: A shrill cawing is heard from above
Tracks: None
Traces1: A large feather floats on the cloud-haze
Traces2: A single heavy branch hangs broken off a tall tree
Name: Derelict Ornithopteron

Looking like a metal mockery of a bird, a roiling contraption of two steel wings is set into motion by gears and pistons. A central gear rise along the spine of the contraption, spinning and undulating.

HD: 4
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 15 flying
Save: 20
Morale: 10

Faster Turn: A Derelict Ornithopteron can choose to spin the gears within itself to go faster. By dealing 1d6 points of damage to itself, it can increase it's Move score by the same amount. When a Derelict Ornithopteron does so it begins gains a 1 in 6 chance of shattering for 1d6 rounds, if it shatters it deals 1d12 damage to itself and sprays 1d4 damage at everyone in a 20 foot radius.

Punchcard Innards: There is a 1 in 6 chance that a Derelict Ornithopteron still has the ancient punch-card used to code it's intelligence intact. This gives them 2d6 words they can use to communicate with others to explain their intentions. These punch-cards are made of electrum, are worth 450 silver, and if extracted can be inserted into other Derelicts converting them to the purpose of the Ornithopteron

Lair: The cloud-haze is stained dark and bears more resemblance to ink than water
Spoor: a thin spiral of black smoke rises from something in the distance
Tracks: A trail has been blazed through the cloud-stuff
Traces1: Some black particulate stains the cloud-stuff here
Traces2: The remains of a wild-fire ravage the cloud-stuff here
Name: Dark Kingdom Moonfolk

Long silver hair sits at the top of nearly bleached skin. Armored in the shade of the night sky, a single silver sword is slung across the figure's back. You squint and can barely make out a sigiled eye in it's hilt squint back at you. The figure turns back and you see a face full of iron piercings and scarified symbols.

HD: 3
Def: 4
Dam: 1d10
Move: 13
Save: 9
Morale: 13

Curse Slinger: Every round a Dark Kingdom Moonfolk may attempt to place a curse on a target which must save else gain a random curse from the Dark Kingdom Curse Table below.

Dark Kingdom Curses: Roll 1d4
1 - Jadeite Coils: For 1d6 rounds target takes 1 point of damage and the Moonfolk heals this amount
2 - Nephrite Tentacles: The shadow of the target grapples the target
3 - Zoisite Shackles: For 1d4 rounds all damage within 10 feet of the target is split between them and whatever would take that damage
4 - Kunzite Chains: For 1d8 rounds the target must save or else seek to betray their allies

Silver Serpent Sword: These swords bear clairvoyant truth reflected in their blades, allowing anyone wielding them to re-roll initiative. These swords fall from the dark side of the moon towards the earth. Anyone who spends a round wielding one must save or disease dealing 1d6 charisma damage, at 0 charisma they resurrect as a Dark Kingdom Moonfolk.

Black Srysalid: Each Dark-Kingdom Moonfolk bears a petrified black insect in their chest which allows them to walk upon air is it were land. Anyone wishing to insert such an insect into their chest must save rolling a d20 thrice and taking the worse result, if unsuccessful they perish.

Nosferatu: A Dark-Kingdom Moonfolk may spend a round drinking blood from a corpse once healing itself a number of hit points equal to the corpse's HD.

Lair: A dark cloud hangs low illuminated by the moon, barely covering a coffin shape within
Spoor: The moon hangs heavy in the horizon above, gibbous and estranged
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Glyphs of sphinxes are etched into the cloud-stuff with some black ichor
Traces2: A desiccated corpse with two ragged scars on it's neck lies underneath an inch of cloud-haze
Name: Silver Millennium Moonfolk

Light shines of the jewels embedded in the armor of a blond figure. White leather covers each limb and heraldry in blue can be clearly read from afar.

HD: 2
Def: 4
Dam: 1d6
Move: 12
Save: 11
Morale: 12

Erudite: Each set of encountered Silver Millennium Moon-folk are able to cast 1 random Wizard spell as if they were reading it from a scroll.

Crystal Prison: 3 Silver Millennium Moonfolk may combine their magical forces to trap a target in a crystal. The target must save or become encased in crystal for 1d6 hours. If all characters are thus encased they are taken as prisoners by the Silver Millennium Moonfolk.

Lair: A glimmering construct of transparent crystal fades in the distance
Spoor: The moon hangs heavy in the horizon above, pale and afar
Tracks:  None
Traces1: A faint and cracked crystal lies half sunken into the cloud-haze
Traces2: The cloud-stuff here has been bleached white by something
Name: Fisher of Men

A pale blue figure, almost cartoonishly elongated, sits atop of a dim cloud. A fishing pole in his hands limps down through a hole of the cloud-stuff towards the ground. Several thick hooks glimmer along his belt.

HD: 4
Def: 2
Dam: 1d10
Move: 12
Save: 13
Morale: 8

Fishing Rod: Anyone hit by a Fisher of Men's attack must save or become entangled in his fishing spool. Entangled characters treat their movement as half and may only attack with light weapons.

Servitor Cloud: Each Fisher of Men drifts through the sky upon a cloud bound into his service. The cloud is what allows the Fisher of Men to fly giving him a Movement score of 8 flying. If a Fisher of Men is killed there is a 1 in 6 chance of the Cloud remaining after his death and passing on to the service of his slayers.

Loose the Hounds: Each Fisher of Men has a kennel of 1d6+1 starved men (Stats as Bandits) hidden within the cloud. If a Fisher of Man fails a morale check, instead of retreating they instead unleash their starved men first in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

Lair: A long chain leads upwards where it moors a ivory white cloud to the cloud-stuff below
Spoor: A strand of string can be seen hanging in the distance from the sky down past the cloud-stuff.
Tracks: None
Traces1: A thick iron hook lies abandoned here.
Traces2: An emaciated corpse lies half sunken into the cloud-haze.
Name: Winged Whale

A gross beak, nearly fifteen feet long breaks from beneath the cloud-haze. Numerous myopic eyes all along the top of it's maw shiver and attempt to gain a new perspective as two pairs of wings beat a cacophonous tumult billowing fierce wings.

HD: 8, ATK 2
Def: 3
Dam: 1d12
Move: 12
Save: 13
Morale: 15

Swallow Whole: On a successful attack a Winged Whale swallows a target. The target is immobilized and may continue to attack a Winged Whale from within but only with light weapons.

Lair: The cloud-stuff looms in large dunes
Spoor: Something stirs nearby, disturbing the cloud-haze
Tracks:  None
Traces1: A shadow looms from the sky above, some vast height above
Traces2: A swarm of birds furiously flutter by, as if fleeing from something foul
Name: Sky Serpent

This twenty foot long white snake is decorated with numerous red feathers. It cork-screws and loops as it meanders through the cloud-haze.

HD: 6
Def: 3
Dam: 1d10
Move: 19 swimming through the sky
Save: 11
Morale: 12

Lair: Billowing pillars of steam emanate from a tepid cloud-stuff
Spoor: Red smears of lights undulate and convulse in the distance
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Red feathers, the size of your arm lay long abandoned here
Traces2: A single scale the size of your palm reflects the suns prismatic rays
Name: Psuedo-Cloud

This bloated lilac tumor sits upon many translucent tendrils and pulsates fluids through its membranes. It is approximately 10 feet in diameter and sweats clear droplets as it floats upon the wind

HD: 4
Def: 1
Dam: 1d4/1d4 + save for poison 1d2 points of damage
Move: 5 swimming through the sky
Save: 12
Morale: 12

Poisonous Tendrils: Anyone who attempts a melee attack at a Psuedo-Cloud must save or otherwise come into contact with their tendrils (as being hit by their attack)

Lair: The cloud-haze here seems clouded by translucent particles
Spoor:  The stench of brunt hair fills the air
Tracks: None
Traces1: A thin translucent sack floats by the size of a fingernail
Traces2: A dead bird bloated to twice it's size floats by as if a balloon
Name: Dragon

HD: 12
Def: 9
Dam: 1d12
Move: 12 or 15 flying
Save: 17
Morale: 19

Gout of Flame: Dragon's deal their current hp in fire damage in a 120 degree cone for 150', save for half damage. If there is a barrier between the flames and the target they instead take half damage and save for no damage. A dragon may unleash a gout of flame ever 1d4+1 rounds.

Lair: None
Spoor: A foreboding sense of doom is inflected on the surroundings here
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Clouds spell vile omens upon the sky
Traces2: The firmament above softly drifts as smoke
Name: Raiju

An awkward mixture of horse, weasel, and fox tumbles almost drunkenly through the sky. Plush blue fur surrounds each limb in a halo and three streams of white grow from it's head. It opens a pair of ruby red eyes, screams a shrill cry, and charges you.

HD: 6
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 12 swimming through the sky
Save: 14
Morale: 12

Bolt From the Blue: Every 1d4+1 rounds a Raiju can transform into a bolt of lightning and travel in a 120 foot line. This travel is instantaneous and anything in that line and must save or else take 3d6 damage.

Lair: A hole has been made into the cloud-stuff here, burrowing into realms unseen.
Spoor: Thunder booms in the distance, but no lightning can be seen.
Tracks: A few stabs into the cloud-stuff remain.
Traces1: The sky above is the shade of a harsh bruise
Traces2: The cloud-stuff here is blackened as if it were burnt by something
Name: Nergal

Known as those who bathe in the sun, they come forth, spilling fire and leaving white ash in their wake. Wreathed by smokeless flame they float through the air much as serpents glide upon land. Each wields a golden sword.

HD: 9
Def: 8
Dam: 2d12 + save or catch fire taking 1d6 damage every round
Move: 15 (flying)
Save: 15
Morale: 20

Invoke Plague: Every 1d4+1 rounds a Nergal may curse all within 40' with a plague who must save else gain a disease dealing 1d6 damage to a random Attribute

Smite: Every 1d4+1 rounds a Nergal may deal smite a target, the target takes a cumulative 1d6 damage from fires for 1d6+1 rounds. (1st round is 1d6 fire, 2nd round is 2d6, and so on)

Golden Sword: If a Nergal is slain, it's sword may be taken as a trophy of combat. It deals 1d12 damage and those stricken by it must save or catch fire taking 1d4 damage every round

Lair: A throne stands elevated before you, seemingly instantly cast from stone. It sits high upon the barren hill before you.
Spoor: Your skin now wet with sweat, your breathing grows more labored under the oppressive heat
Tracks:  None
Traces1: The remains of a great bolt of flame stain the surrounding area black with ash
Traces2: The sun shines it's oppressive rays directly at your eyes
Name: Panopticon Fragment

An enormous construct the size of a house looms from out of the cloud-stuff. Metal spires jut out at odd geometric angles, each etched with sigils of eyes. Within the center is a massive yellow eye encased in thick glass. Thick veins throb and push black ooze through its girth as it slowly turns.

HD: 11
Def: 6
Dam: 1d8 + 300xp drain/1d8 + 300xp drain/1d8 + 300xp drain each ranged
Move: 0 A Panopticon Fragment is immobile
Save: 20
Morale: 20

Backlit: A Panopticon fragment glows with numerous lights illuminating 100 feet in every direction from it.

Wills Dissolve: Anyone who spends a minute within 60 feet of a Panopticon Fragment takes 1d4 points of Wisdom damage. If a character's Wisdom Score is reduced to 0 this way, they become a slave to the Panopticon Fragment.

Syndic Calls: A Panopticon Fragment is partially omniscient and will know the names and secrets of every single character.

Altered Course: Once per round a Panopticon Fragment may make a character reroll any d20 roll and choose the worse value.

Grinning Mouths: A Panopticon Fragment is only able to communicate with others by moving their mouths. If encountered with a reaction neutral or kind reaction roll a Panopticon Fragment will randomly choose a single mouth to speak through, if it is encountered with a hostile reaction a Panopticon Fragment everyone within 100 feet of it must save or the Panopticon Fragment gains control over their mouth.

Lair: n/a treat this roll as if encountering one
Spoor: No sound can be heard here other than a thin piercing sound echoing in your ears
Tracks: n/a A Panopticon Fragment is immobile
Traces1: The air is thin here and your lungs burn
Traces2: The cloud-haze here is denser and pulls at you like water
Name: Kheldonian Dirigible

These are going to be floating dungeons which travel around the hex map occasionally spilling their contents. They will be properly covered in another post I promise.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dungeon Construction and Stocking in Around 20 Minutes

Hopefully this can help you quickly make dungeons, if something doesn't seem to make sense to you or doesn't necessary fit the theme or tone of your game you can simply change it. Proof of Concept here


1d6 Cumulative Dungeon Layout Table

1Level 1a: 2d4+1 Rooms + Entrance
2Level 1b: 1d4+1 Rooms
3Level 1c: Secret Door to 1d4+1 Rooms
4Level 2a: 1d4+1 Rooms + Visible Stairs from Level 1a to Level 2
5Level 2b: 1d4 Rooms + Secret Stairs from Level 1b to Level 2
6 Level 3a: 1d4+1 Rooms + Visible Stairs from Level 2 to Level 3

Explanation: You roll a 1d6 which determines the contents of the Dungeon. If you have happened to roll a 4 for this dungeon it would then have 2 levels. The first would have 2d4+1d4+1 Rooms (Levels 1a and 1b), 1d4 Rooms hidden by a secret door (Level 1c), and 1 set of stairs going down. The second would have 1d4+1 Rooms (Level 2a).

Now, nothing says that Levels 2 and 3 have to be below Level 1. In theory they can be above Level 1 and the overall complex can be a ziggurat or tower ascending upwards.

Layout of Rooms

Level 1a

Imagine the possible layout of the 2d4+1 rooms as a 3x3 matrix. Each room is connected horizontally and then each row is connected by a single vertical pathway.

Level 1b

Imagine the possible layout of the 1d4+1 rooms as a cross. The Level 1b complex is then connected to the Level 1a complex by two random pathways.

Level 1c

Arranged as Level 1b but is only connected to the Level 1a complex by a single pathway from a hidden door.

Level 2a and Level 2b

If there are both Level 2a and 2b then Level 2 as a whole is arranged as Level 1a. Otherwise Level 2a is arranged as Level 1b.

Visible Stairs: A single Room on Level 1 that connects to 3 other rooms contains stairs which descend to Room 1 of Level 2.
Secret Stairs: A random Room on level 1 contains stairs which descend to a random Room on level 2.

Level 3a

Arranged as Level 1b and with visible stairs as previously explained in Level 2.

Example Dungeon: On rolling a 6 on the Cumulative Dungeon Layout Table

So the Dungeon has each part with the following number of rooms
Level 1a 2d4+1 possible, rolled a 4

Level 1b 1d4+1 possible, rolled a 4
Level 1c 1d4+1 possible, rolled a 2

Level 2a + Level 2b 2d4+1 possible, rolled a 6
Level 3a 1d4+1 possible 1d4+1 rolled a 4

Author's Notes: Our example dungeon looks like this


The Deepest Level of the Dungeon has a single room which serves as the prime function of the dungeon.

Prime Function Table


Tomb Room 25% chance of entombed person to be undead
Entommbed Figure has 1d6+1 HD and is covered in wealth worth Level of Tomb * HD * 10 silver

Prison Room 25% chance to be empty/dead
Prisoner has 2d4 HD

Treasury Room 25% chance of the treasure to be rotted/ruined
Sum of wealth worth Level of Treasury * 1d6 * 15 silver

Reliquary Room 25% chance of the relic to be horribly cursed
Relic may be sold for Level of Reliquary * 1d6 * 5 silver

Author's Notes: For Our example dungeon we rolled a 2 so it's base function was a Prison,  turns out the prisoner also escaped. well have Room 4 of Level 3 be where it was kept.

Aside from this room every other room is filled by the following table
1-5Empty aside from Aesthetics
6Monsters (HD based on Level where encountered 1=1HD 2=1d4HD 3=1d6HD
7Treasure (75% chance of monster) worth Level * 1d8 * 5 silver


I like to have dungeons as a result of at least two different aesthetics because this allows for a comparison and contrast of each room

General Dungeon Aestheics are based on the Prime Function Table

Tombs often contain: statues of soldiers, mummified servants, emblems of victory, busts and frescoes of ancestors, rusted arms and armor
Prisons often contain: sigils of protection, dire warnings etched in archaic languages, long burnt out candles, rotted scrolls
Treasuries often contain: chests and vases, impressive stone work, inlaid mosaics, beautiful craftwork
Reliquaries often contain: religious artworks, faded paintings, urns of oil and water

Specific Dungeon Aesthetics are added as the result of the environment or the passage of time

Inhabited: Top filled with inhabitants who use the dungeon as a fortified structure
Flooded: Half of bottom level flooded, upper level damp and dripping from roof
Fungal: Walls covered in fungi, spores fill the air, awful stenches
Hiveish: Signs of many insects, empty egg cases, incessant buzzing
Tangible Darkness: Torches shed less light, eyes follow you from the darkness, haunting laughing
Burnt: Many rooms covered in ash, faint remnants of smoke, blast shadows on walls
Once Reused: Many rooms contain artifacts of a different era, remnants of some shadowy purpose
Crystalline: Some floors and walls translucent and can be seen through, each step causes resonance echoes

Finishing Touches of our Example Dungeon

Author's Notes: We rolled a 3 on the Specific Dungeon Aesthetic so our dungeon is Fungal!

Room Contents

Level 1
Room 1 - Empty
Room 2 - Empty
Room 3 - Treasure (10 silver) + Monster + Secret Stairs to Room 3 Level 2
Room 4 - Empty
Room 5 - Empty
Room 6 - 1HD Monster + Stairs Down to Room 1 Level 2 + Secret door to Room 9
Room 7 - 1HD Monster
Room 8 - Empty
Room 9 - Empty
Room 10 - Empty

Level 2
Room 1 - Empty + Stairs Up to Room 6 Level 1
Room 2 - Treasure (70 silver)
Room 3 - Empty + Secret Stairs to Room 3 Level 1
Room 4 - Treasure (40 silver) + 1 HD Monster
Room 5 - Empty + Stairs Down to Room 1 Level 3
Room 6 - Empty

Level 3
Room 1 - Treasure (75 silver) + 3HD Monster + Stairs up to Room 1 Level 2
Room 2 - Empty
Room 3 - Empty
Room 4 - Treasure (120 silver)

Room Contents + Aesthetics

Author's Notes: There is nothing within the prison and it's fungal with a large HD monster at the bottom so I figure that thing will be the cause of the fungus spreading (The corrupted guardian of what was kept here originally). I figure level 1 will be largely well maintained and as you descend down the dungeon there appear more and more fungal and ruined.

Level 1
Room 1 - A vast pair of doors opens into a small chamber filled with lithoglyphs of eyes.
Room 2 - Two vast basins of oil long expunged fill up the room as well as a pile of rotted scrolls.
Room 3 - Covered in grime a elongated vase carved from bronze can be seen in the corner (10 silver) + 3 shambling statues of clay animated by mushroom like tumors [Stats as zombies] + Secret Stairs to Room 3 Level 2 activated by pulling a lever on the wall.
Room 4 - A vast frieze of a giant skeleton with a expanding ribcage and eyes of flame can be barely seen above the various fungal mounds in the room.
Room 5 - What may have been once a cloister is filled with the remains of candles and rotted scrolls.
Room 6 - 2 vast eyes on the south wall + 4 shambling statues of clay animated by mushroom like tumors [Stats as zombies] + Stairs Down to Room 1 Level 2 + Secret door to Room 9 activated by pressing on both pupils simultaneously.
Room 7 - A two headed serpent spilling spores from the numerous gaps in it's body [Stats as snake but with two attacks per round] + water slowly dripping from the ceiling.
Room 8 - The walls are covered in thin mushrooms 
Room 9 - An entirely barren room, clean unlike the other rooms.
Room 10 - A pristine room still illuminated by candles, a mural of a massive toadstool with eyes instead of spots it's center piece.

Level 2
Room 1 - The air here reeks of mildew and as you enter you find the air is humid + Stairs Up to Room 6 Level 1.
Room 2 - A vast candelabra of silver, 2 feet high and 1 foto wide, a miniature silver tree  (70 silver) + spores filling the air
Room 3 - Fungal mounds descending down from the ceiling each dripping spores + Secret Stairs to Room 3 Level 1
Room 4 - A lengthy and ornate silver spear (40 silver) + 8 shambling statues of clay animated by mushroom like tumors [Stats as zombies] + Sigils of eyes at each corner of the room, looming almost watching.
Room 5 - Massive Toadstools half the size of a man make travel through this room slow + Stairs Down to Room 1 Level 3
Room 6 - A broken ceiling and a massive mass of mushrooms emanating from a large corner.

Level 3
Room 1 -  Argus Morel [Stats Below] + bronze diadem with a thick ruby embedded within the Morel (75 silver) + Stairs up to Room 1 Level 2
Room 2 - What may one have been the site of a large tree is filled with rotting wood and the stench of rot
Room 3 - A massive skeletal arm fills up the room. Each digit twice the size of a man's forearm. It reeks of acid.
Room 4 - 40 feet of ruined shackles made of Orichalchum (120 silver) alongside a massive man-sized hole 50 feet deep into the earth

Argus Morel

Description: A vast toadstool the size of a large tree looms before you on a litany of chitinous psuedopods. Where each spot would be on a regular toadstool, this being instead has vast luminiferous eyes. It reeks of ozone and glows in the darkness.

HD: 3
Def: 4
Dam: 1d8 ranged
Move: 1
Save: 14
Morale: 16

Focus Eye: Every 1d4-1 rounds a Argus Morel may open up another one of it's sigil eyes. In doing so it may either dispel an ongoing magical effect or force a target within 10 feet to save or become paralyzed for 1d4-1 rounds.

Feed on Necrosis: If there are any corpses brought within 20 feet of a Argus Morel it heals 1d6 HP and the corpse disentigrates

Author's Notes: This is just a quick guide for making dungeons in more or less 15 minutes. If something doesn't make sense or you want to change something, go ahead.

Traveling Outlanders Post 8/8: Far Distant Outlanders

Name: Cut-Throats

Beneath a furrowed brow, two eyes bulge from a head crudely shaven bald. A peculiar apparatus hangs from the man's shoulders looking like a mask with a thickened proboscis where it's mouth would be. A red gash from an ugly scar is visible across his throat. What appears to be a suit of leather armor hugs his body tightly underneath a large black coat made of some vulgar cloth.

HD: 2
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8 or 1d8 ranged
Move: 11
Save: 11
Morale: 15

Aura of Ruin: Each Cut-Throat is followed by a bane against anything that would harm one. Each weapon attempting to strike a Cut-Throat must save as whomever holds it -4 or otherwise turn to rust in 1d4 minutes.

Breathalizer: Each Cut-Throat carries with them a gas mask and 1d6 spare filters

Lair:  Two wooden Lean-toos meet at a firepit, thin smoke rises from the glowing embers
Spoor:  Thin wisps of whitish cloth hang from nails embedded in nearby trees, rocks, and ground.
Tracks:  Bootprints trace a lengthy journey here
Traces1: Some salt stains the ground white
Traces2: A nail to which a thin white cloth is tied to lies on the ground. Seemingly tossed to the side at random

Name: Mytikan Exorcist

A white cloth spotted with red splotches sits tightly as a turban upon a man's head. A thick black mustache hangs on the bottom of his face as he raises his gaze towards you. A mantle of red and green cloth hangs from his shoulders over his otherwise white robes. An ornate hammer hangs from his belt.

HD: 4
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6+2
Move: 14 or 3 flying
Save: 14
Morale: 10

Invoke the Astral Guillotine: When in combat a Mytikcan Exorcist may spend a round in invocations setting the HP of everything within 100 feet to 1 for 1 turn.

Lair: A singular pale pillar of stone rises up a dozen feet into the sky
Spoor: Soft chanting can be heard nearby
Tracks:  Few footprints each a wide distance from each other mark the ground here
Traces1: The absence of a tree is notable in the gap it left
Traces2: An abundance of mushrooms grow here


Name: Fasulian Jannisary

An ornate blond mustache covers half of a man's face as he looks at you. A wild crop of blond hair hangs from his green-skinned head. A coif of tight chain mail covers the rest of his flesh, but from what you can glance the rest of his skin is also green. A pair of scimitars hang from a red sash on his waist as he strides forward upon pristine boots.

HD: 3
Def: 4
Dam: 1d8
Move: 11
Save: 9
Morale: 12

Magic Seed: Each Fasulian carries with them 1d4+2 magic seeds which they can use in one of the following ways:
1. Ladder to the Heavens: A single massive vine that is fifty feet long and climbable grows in some direction and fades in 1d6 minutes
2. Barricade: Creates a fence of vines 15 feet wide and 5 feet tall this fence fades in 1d6 minutes
3. Entanglment: Throws a seed at their opponents 15 foot range who must save or become entangled by vines and incapicated for 1d6 minutes
4. Healing: The Fasulian eat the seeds healing for 1d8+1 hp (if eaten by anyone else these act as a poison dealing 1d4 points of damage)

Lair: A tall tent of emerald and golden silks stands in an open clearing
Spoor: The air is filled by the scent of cooked lentils
Tracks: Heavy footfalls leave a follow-able trail here
Traces1: A singular x shape has been etched into the ground here
Traces2: The sun shines down feverishly overhead

Name: Thithunwan Spiral Dancers

Smoke proceeds a figure in luminescent dark green robes. A wide brimmed hat casts shadows on their figures, though their teeth can be seen. A carved staff in their hand holds them upright casting their own shadow away from the sun.

HD: 2
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6
Move: 12
Save: 9
Morale: 10

Procession of Smoke: Each group of Thithunwan Spiral Dancers contains 1 holding an heaving goblet of smoke and inscence. In combat this goblet may be commanded to overflow spilling it's contents around the Thithunwan Spiral Dancers granting those that oppose them a -4 to their Attack and Defense scores unless they save

Invoke the Emissary of Waukheon: A group of 4 Thithunwan Spiral Dancers may take 1 turn in order to summon an Emissary of Waukheon for 1d6 turns in order to assist them in some godly task.

Lair: A yurt stretches upwards thrice the size of a man, thick black smoke billows from it's zenith
Spoor: Remnants of smoke and inscence linger in the air tracing grey trails
Tracks:  A series of boot prints are accompanied by the scent of foregin inscence
Traces1: The stench of incsense hangs in the air here
Traces2: Long burnt out coals litter the ground here

Name: Watchers in the Woods

A female face of hard angles and pale hair stares daggers through you. A cloak of crowquils spread from beneath her neck warding her from the ground and sky. A crown of iron thorns rests on her brow and a singular stiletto hangs on her hip.

HD: 4
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 16
Save: 11
Morale: 12

Out of Sight: Any Watcher in the Woods may choose to fade away into the shadows if no-one observes them. Further a Watcher in the woods who roll poorly on a reaction roll surprises the party on a 5 in 6.

Lair: None
Spoor: The sky is darker and heavier here, as if it is the distended belly of a pregnant beast
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Each shadow here seems darker as the clouds cover the sun from shining as bright
Traces2: A single crow's feather is embedded in the earth here

Name: Islander of the Empty Throne

Few thin strands of hair hang from a balding head above lacquered lamellar armor. A pair of curved swords hang at his waist from a once ornate belt. His head hangs low as he gazes at the ground beneath him.

HD: 2
Def: 2
Dam: 1d10
Move: 12
Save: 8
Morale: 10

Lair: A lean-too stands before you, meticulously cleaned and pristeen
Spoor: As you travel, more and more of the surrounding folliage seems garden like, seemingly constructed for greater aesthetic value.
Tracks:  A series of calm and measured tracks leads parallel to the shrubbery
Traces1: A tree sits before you, each branch full of life and luster
Traces2: A man-made post bears the marks of numerous sword-strikes

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DUNGEON#1 - Steeples of Erythroxyl

HERE is a pdf of the dungeon, the rest of this post is essentially a long series of Author's Notes of me explaining inspiration for the dungeon and my "vision" of it. I hope this communication will help you as a referee.


The Swedish artist Yung Lean release the album Warlord in early 2016 and I really got into after a break up. One thing that really struck me were the visuals in the lyrics. Lines like "Nine cat lives got nine silver knives, I got big red eyes and I'm feelin' so immortal","What's your blood type, what does it taste like?", and "Ridin' on a horse with a dead man". I thought that these were really cool, but it wasn't until this quartet on Pearl Fountain that I had the idea to make a module based on the album

"SBE, we some vampires, Dracula
I'm in an Acura, hoe I think you stack them up
I'm not good with calculus, I need a calculator
Glass elevator, shoes made by alligators"

So from this point I just went through the lyrics on the album and each one I thought that was especially evocative became a room. I got 29 rooms this way and then I just had to figure out how to put them together. I looked a little into the backstory of this album with the tragedy of Barron Machat's death and Yung Lean's breakdown afterward and got the idea of the dungeon being the remnants of the apartment where Yung Lean stayed during the making of the album.

I think if you just listen to the album, you'll find that each room is essentially a reference.

My Notes 

This is the map a player drew

One of the things I noted different from other dungeons/modules was that the players had an understanding of layout of the dungeon by simply looking at it. The players noted the three towers on their approach and as they explored the interior of the complex they kept trying to figure out which passage led to each. I think the idea that the players knew the general outline of the dungeon gave them implicit goals to reach rather than simply meandering through the dungeon hoping for the best.

The player who play-tested the dungeon seemed very open to the idea of speaking to things to gain information and friends. A player surprised me by speaking to the blind horse roaming near the wreckage and I had to figure out how much a horse, that's blind, would know about a dungeon. They quickly befriended Bladee and despite him being "undead" kept him around to aid them in their explorations. When they met Aldo they sought to become best friends with him and even offered to share their food with him. I'm sure they would have spoken to the first vampire thy encountered if not for the fact that he had killed the horse. There is plenty of opportunity for characters to conversate in the dungeon.

The players kept focusing on trying to travel across the roofs of the module and trying to figure out how to overcome the locks in Room 13. I don't know if that is a result of my dungeon design or if the players were especially perceptive in utilizing lateral thinking to get to different locations. I would imagine that characters with the ability to fly or teleport would attempt similar alternative means to get through it.

Fundamentally this was a top-down approach to dungeon design and I hope that you either enjoy it. If you run this module please let me know how it goes by commenting! The format should be system agnostic enough for you to be able to use it in most OSR systems.

TL:DR I'm James Raggi but with Cloud Rap instead of Death Metal