Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Importance of Status and Ceremony in Ancient Times

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing. - Robert Howard

In ancient times those who broke from decorum were seen to be actively disrespecting others. Correctly following ceremony and showing respect would not only be polite, but it would save one from being slain. This post will detail some principles of ancient ceremony for players to be cognizant of not only during domain play but also prior to its start.

A major principle in ceremony are the effects implicit once it is broken. Take for example a man insulting a king by not showing him proper respect. A man of power disrespected by a man of lower station would show weakness by not rectifying the disrespect. This would extend not only to the figure’s institution but to it’s members as well. When King Agamemnon is disrespected, the kingdom of Dolonia and it’s inhabitants are disrespected as well. There would be an obligation for King Agamemnon to act not only to secure his own power but to maintain the honor of his Kingdom and his people.

Another thing to consider are the effects on image from following ceremony, breaking ceremony, and punishing those who break ceremony. When two parties are both complicit in ceremony they reinforce each other as valid, which reaffirms their position in the society. When a party breaks from ceremony they not only jeopardize their position but that of others. Thus when the breaker of ceremony is punished it reaffirms the position by nonconsentually restoring both parties the position of reinforcing one another.

Player skill here is not only knowing the ceremony but also it’s obligations and effects. While different cultures may have different procedures the underlying principles for ceremony would be shared.

When encountering another a player should take care to determine the station of them and the other. Thus if they meet a lowly beggar, the beggar would be of lower station than them and would seek to treat them with respect they are owed. However a chance meeting with nobility would see their dynamic switched, the onus on the player to treat the king with the respect he is owed. A further component to this is encountering another in their home and being a guest. I have written about this before, but essentially the host has higher station because they ought to protect and provide for their guest. Thus meeting the same beggar in the lair they have made in the ancient tunnels beneath the city would be different as the player would be a guest.

Displaying status would be a manner by which player skill could then be tested. A band of men covered in grime and blood could not be let to enter a palace. But a band of men, each of them clad in fine furs and silver jewels, heralded by a standard bearer would have a much higher chance to meet with King Agamemnon.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mountain Keep of the Ytori: A dungeon for characters level 3-5

Upon the southern face of the mountain six giant stone faces can be seen, the bottom half seem through the fog. Each is identical gaunt face easily over 100' across. The faces are arranged in two rows of three. Upwards from the sprawl of ruined houses ascend five staircases up to the stone faces. Three eastern staircases rise upwards through the fog and each lead to the base of a stone face where a portal into the mountain can be seen. The two western staircases lead into the fog which covers the bottom row of faces.

Entrance 1, 2, and 3 (reached by the eastern stairwells which lead past the fog) lead to level 1 of the dungeon

Entrance 4 and 5 (reached by the western stairwells which lead into the fog) lead to level 2 of the dungeon

Floor 1

Room1.1 A single skeleton clutching a flute sits cross-legged in the northeastern portion of the room, a faint song can be heard by those who approach the skeleton. Tiles in the center of the room will release a dissonant note which forces a save vs hallucinations of song for 1 hour. Those that fail will hear a haunting song on even rolls of the wandering monster dice. Further there are stairs down to room 2.1

Room1.2 A mosaic on the floor depicts four black spirals each extending from a single white eye. Futher eight stone urns, each as tall as a man hold skeletons and mud within them. A corpse of a blond-haired man holds a broken shield in one hand and a sword (Bane(Men)) in the other. The man's armor is rended and his intestines spill out from him. The pommel of the blade bears an image of a raven.

Room1.3 A mosaic on the walls here is set in a pair of panels. The first panel depicts a large pyramids upon which a priest like figure holds up a heart above a corpse below the shining sun. The second panel depicts the sun cracked in two and a large slug descending from the sky towards the pyramid.

Room1.4 A trio of ghostly figures stand in the southwestern portion of the room whispering among themselves. Each figure wears a leather curiass fashioned with feathers and holds a mace. Upon approach they will fade away muttering to themselves "We shall avenge the princess."

Room1.5 A wide gash runs through the center of the room creating a boundary separating the room into north and south sections. Those who carry light sources will be unable to cross the room as shadowy figures will materialize and grab their shadow preventing them from crossing the gash.

Room1.6 A series of alcoves extends along the western wall. Each alcove holds a panel which depicts a decapitated head in a increasing state of decay as the alcoves go from north to south.

Room1.7 A ghostly figure of a woman sits before a ghostly figure of a bald woman who cuts her hair with a knife. The figures dissipate into the darkness on approach but whispers of "We shall have our revenge," can be faintly heard. A pair half-insectile corpses lie un-moving each attempting to take a necklace of gold set with 2 sapphires (800s) from the other.

Room1.8 A stone panel upon the wall depicts a man-like figure which has a axe-like blade for a head and is surrounded by kneeling supplicants. Hallucinogenic gas fills the room, those that breathe it in will have hallucinations of corpses speaking to them for 1 hour. Whenever someone effected sees a corpse roll reaction. On positive corpse seeks to feed false information, on neutral is silent, on negative corpse curses those present and wishes them death.

Room1.9 Sets of alcoves flank each other, each containing a mummified figure slumped backwards. Three golden panels (700s), each roughly 2 x 3, depict a naked woman with figures kneeling before her. In the northern wall panel she holds a snake in either arm. In the southern wall panel she stands upon a hound. In the eastern wall panel she tears open her stomach revealing a skull.

Room1.10 A pyramid of human skulls has been erected upon the northern wall and the skull at the zenith is that of a dog. 5 Slimes

Room1.11 Slumped along the eastern wall is a skeleton covered in mud with a cracked skull. Amid a crowd of half-insectile corpses a skeletal figure is bound to a pillar by a chain. His right arm holds an impossibly thin length of stone upon which a blade of crystal rests, His left arm missing. The weapon is a Bane(Monsters) Long-spear.

Room1.12 A stone basin stands in the center of the room flanked by a pair of stone statues that hold hands. Traces of green pigment remain on the statues tracing an illusion of a muscular form. Each of the statues is of a blindfolded man.

Room1.13 A headless bearing a tattoo of an octopus on the chest clutches a scroll of vellum in his hands. The scroll of vellum shows a crude sketch of the island with a red circle around a skull set amid mountains. Written in elegant handwriting is "Retrieve the emerald flame".

Room1.14 The northern wall is covered by thousands of petroglyphs which spiral outward from a mosaic of a green comet. Eighteen skeletons prostate themselves before the mosaic. Signs of blood shed fill the room. Several skeletons each with the same rune in their skulls lie in puddles of mud. A trio of corpses clad in leathers lie dismembered and headless. slumped along the eastern wall is a headless corpse in rusted metal armor which has 2 sacks tied to it's belt. One sack holds 115 golden coins (10s each) while the other holds 5 emeralds as long as a man's finger (150s each)

Room1.15 A mosaic of dark blue shards covers the ceiling. Sigils are etched in white lines and a central orange sphere radiates jagged lines. A stone sarcophagus stands upright in the center of the room. Those that open the sarcophagus will be pulled inside by shadowy tendrils as the sarcophagus will close itself. Those swallowed up by the sarcophagus will be transported to room 1.34 and be taken prisoners by the monsters there.

Room1.16 The western wall of the room hold numerous alcoves all sealed by a portcullis. Past the bars are numerous skeletons each with rusted collars on their necks. Further there are stairs down to room 2.11

Room1.17 A 20' wide pit sinks 10' deep in the center of the room. Three sets of pews are arranged around the pit and holds dozens of skeletons. Inside the pit are a pair of skeletons each clad in shining armor. If one enters the pit ghostly visages will rise out from the skeletons and they will begin to clamor for blood (incurring a wandering monster check). One of the skeletons is clad in a suit of jade lamellar (1400s) the other is clad in a suit of pearl lamellar (1000s). If either suit is taken, the ghosts will being to boo and then will follow the party and double the chance of encountering monsters until there is a death of a living being. The eastern wall holds five alcoves. Within each alcove is a golden head (500s each) roughly 2' in diameter. Each head increases in decay as the head from north to south, the southern most golden head being little more than a skull.

Room1.18 Many skeletons (37) each with a rusted collar around the necks, fill the room each showing signs of violence.

Room1.19 Outside of a lip that is 4" around the room's perimeter, the floor is a 10' pit filled with 5' spikes. Pulling the lever in room 1.18 will induce a slab to fall down from the ceiling and create a path to every door in the room.

Room1.20 A pair of pillars stand in the western corners of the room. Each one is capped with a stone head with wide and flat features. A small waterfall makes up the majority of the eastern wall, pouring into a pool of bubbling water. Past the waterfall is a stone slab which depicts a pair of skulls facing each others. At the bottom of the pool is a stone chest which contains 300 golden coins (10s).

Room1.21 An orb of polished stone easily 10' in the center of the room softly reflects light.

Room1.22 A half-insectile corpse lies slumped along the eastern wall. Three arrows are embedded in the head and a wide gash extends along it's thorax.

Room1.23 A pair of almost invisible ghostly figures huddle in the southwestern corner and disappear into the walls if a light source is brought near. 10 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.24 A stone statue etched with brass in circular patterns stands in the center of the room. It holds a spear in it's left hand and rather than a face it bears a circular glyph on it's head. 11 Slimes. Further there are stairs down to room 2.19

Room1.25 Three panels on the wall each bear a mosaic. The left most panel depicts a howling hound standing above numerous corpses. The middle panel depicts a man with the face of a hound holding a skull in one hand and a mask in the other. The right most panel depicts a man with too many teeth wearing a crown flanked on either side by kneeling supplicants. A sword polished to a shine rises from the rib cage of an armored corpse, it's hands on the hilt. If one gazes into the sword one is able to make out a woman beckoning from the sword. She will introduce herself as the "Red Fang" and be able to teach the wielder how to prepare the sorcery of [Mirror Image].

Room1.26 A mosaic of 3 panels on the wall depicts a progression of images. In the first a kneeling man holds a spear in one hand and an orb in another. In the second the man's head is replaced with a skull and the spear pierces his chest. The last panel depicts his skull split into and a moth emerging from the spirals of his skull. 16 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.27 Upon entering the room silhouettes of wavering figures begin to appear along the walls. Upon movement of the torch the figures move in turn and it occurs to you that the figures are shadows cast by the petroglyphs etched in  the walls.

Room1.28 Upon entering the room, there is a flash and then motes of light appear to converge on the stone ceiling painted blue. Squinting in the dim of the complex, constellations are made out.

Room1.29 A stone slab 20' wide and 10' tall depicts dozens of isoceles triangles extending from the outer edges inwards like a vertical maw of teeth. The slab opens inwards if the song of the Ytori is played. In the center of the room is a an elevator with a lever. Those who pull the lever will descend down into the bowels of the earth over the course of a turn. The bottom of the elevator opens to a massive chamber in the earth roughly 250' by 250'. A field of a stone spearmen statues surrounds a 10' wall from which wet slopping sounds can be heard. Past the wall is a massive heart, the size of a house that beats seeps dark blood, bulging out from the remains of what may have been rib cage of some massive thing. Embedded within the heart are 8 needles, the size of spears, made of jade and gold (650s each), each time one is removed there is a number of removed spears in 8 of chance of the heart freeing itself and lashing outwards like a deranged monster (8HD), pulling men inside of it into it’s chambers where it crushes them to pieces. The heart regrows into the corpse in 3d6 days and it rises as a 100' titan destroying the complex as it crawls out of it.

Room1.30 A dozen stone masks, each with a fanged mouth, hang along the nothern wall of this room. A raised stone platform elevates a stone altar. Upon the altar, stands a golden statue of a kneeling woman wearing a crown (2000s). On either side of the of the altar is a pair of headless stone statues each holding a coiled serpent. The statue is clad in paralytic poison which lasts for 2d6 turns.

Room1.31 A stone statue of a man playing a flute stands along the southern wall. The statue's eyes will follow those who enter the room.

Room1.32 Several skeletons lie slumped down along the northern wall each with a flutes in their hands. Those who approach will hear a single song played. 10 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.33 A mosaic on the wall is hundreds of red shards assembled to become a large heron standing over a pair of headless corpses. Blood drips from the heron's maw and it holds a man's heart in one claw. Along the western wall is a stone altar, painted with concentric red and white lines, upon which a stone chest rests. On either side of the chest stand two stone statues of thin emaciated figures each pulling their mouth wider with their hands and showing teeth. If the chest is opened a terrible laughter echoes through out the complex. Inside the chest is a curved dagger made of obsidian and etched with silver. Those that touch the dagger with flesh have it fuse to their arm turning into a bladed appendage and it reduces their charisma by 4. If the blade draws blood from a living being it will slip into their flesh and turn them into a bladed monstrosity, granting them 1 HD and an extra attack.

Room1.34 From the ceiling, something drops drip into a puddle of glowing blue liqud. 9 Half-Transformed Nobles

Room1.35 Massive fallen stone lies in the center of the room

Room1.36 A head with the tattoo of a spider across the brow lies in a puddle of blood in the northwestern corner. 22 Petroglyph Shadows

Floor 2

Room2.1 A broken statue of stone lies in the southwest corner of the room, rather than a face it bears a single circular glyph. The broken statue spasms and shakes intermittently. Further there are stairs up to room 1.1

Room2.2 Amid blood splatter a pair of half-insectile corpses, both missing their heads, lie in the center of the room 2 Stone-Automatons

Room2.3 An alcove set in the southern wall holds the saffron heads of three woman each with their eyes gouged out. 18 Petroglyph Shadows

Room2.4 Upon a stone altar beset by either side by basins of burning oil is a golden skeleton (7000s), etched in writing, hanging in between a bisected Urn. The writing on the skeleton details a method to create Bound Spirits within Mud from skeletons. The process requires a weak of work per mud-man as well as 1 corpse and 100 silver in gold.

Room2.5 A cold current flows through out the room. Clouds of dust linger over the room and all in here bears a reddish hue from accumulated dust. There are two pairs of panels, half on the north and the other on the southern wall. Each panel is roughly 2' by 3' and depicts the sun in a different position in the sky and depicts farmers in different tasks. Each is made of gold (700s).

Room2.6 A corpse clad in rusted metal armor, missing both legs, clutches a roll of vellum in one hand and a broken dagger in the other. The vellum depicts part of a map now ruined by blood but the phrase "the song opens the ribcage" can be still made out.

Room2.7 A pair of dark stone panels depicts coiled serpents around a white triangle and a white pentagon.

Room2.8 In the center of this room is a 10' square hole which shows the room 1.35 below.
Room2.9 In the center of the room stands a pair of stone pillars and the eastern and western walls of the room each bears a portcullis. Behind the eastern portcullis are 17 corpses of slaves and behind the western portcullis are a pair of corpses of giant serpents. Upon the altar are a pair of diamonds one in the shape of a triangle and the other in a pentagon (1000 and 2500s). Taking the triangle diamond off the stone pillar has it sink into the ground and raise the eastern portcullis, likewise taking the pentagonal diamond will cause the stone pillar to descend into the ground and raise the western portcullis. Descend of both diamonds will induce mist to rise up into the room that will cause the corpses to animate.

Room2.10 This room is full of ash and the walls here bear numerous scorch marks. A pair of derelict stone statues stands along the northern wall flanking a stone altar. Upon the alar is a golden statue of a man in the fetal position with emeralds for eyes (1900s). Four stone squares rise 2 inches out of the floor. Each one will sink into the the floor if weight is placed on it. If all four are sunken into the ground then the statue upon the altar becomes visible.

Room2.11 The Gelded Prince Below the prince lies a great iron axe (+1 heavy weapon) as well as a necklace of 5 orbs. Two of the orbs are silver and may be evoked to cast [Obscuring Mist] while the other three orbs are golden and may be evoked to cast [Warding Line]. The Prince will offer these as payment to slay his sister. Further there are stairs up to room 1.16

Room2.12 A pair of naked women of saffron skin hang upside down from hooks embedded in their calves, blood dripping from where their heads used to be. Half-insectile corpse, bearing numerous gaping wounds, holds a sack of 130 golden coins (10s each) in one hand and sword in the other. A trio of skeletons, each with a leather collar on their necks holds a now rotted club. The Half-insectile Corpse is further clad in +2 leather armor and has a scroll of [Alter Visage] hidden on his person.

Room2.13 Eight stone urns, each as tall as a man hold skeletons and mud within them. Catatosh The Lord in Veins

Room2.14 A pair of statues made of stone and brass each holding a spear stand in the center of the room. Each stands the height of a man, but their shoulders are twice as wide. Rather than a face each bears a circular glyph.

Room2.15 The floor of this room is cross shaped intersection and four 5' square holes show the rooms 1.22 and 1.23 below. The Handless Princess

Room2.16 In the center of the room, floating a foot off the ground, is an a obsidian doorway. Past the doorway is spiral of black and purple flame. Those who step inside the doorway will be transferred to a platue of black stone underneath a dark sky. Upon the platue is a giant stone head of a woman with two pairs of horns, one on her brow and the other behind her ears. The head will announce her champion had fallen in battle and she needs a new one. If one accepts then the platue will crack open revealing a corpse and a ghost will rise from it a replace the one who accepted. [See Friedan at the end of the Monsters section]

Room2.17 The northern and southern portions of this room both have a 10' square hole which shows the room 1.14 below.

Room2.18 A naked woman of saffron skin has been nailed to the wall by her wrists. Her stomach has been cut and her intestines have been pulled out. A dozen arrows have been embedded in her head. 10 Transformed Nobles

Room2.19 A trio of ghostly figures stand above a pair of ghostly corpses menacing one another with their daggers. Each, clad in a loincloth and leather headband, accuses the others of being infected with "the vapors of rebellion." 5 Stone-Automatons Further there are stairs up to room 1.24

Wandering Monsters 1d8
1-2 2d6 Bound Spirits within Mud
3 3d6 Petroglyph Shadows
4 2d4 Half-transformed Nobles
5 2d6 Slimes
6-8 3d6 Terrible Insectile Slugs

Monsters within the Ytori Keep

2HD, Armor as none, 1d8 dissolving and attaches, morale 7
Blue liquid drips from the ceiling, forming into a coalition of blue bubbles which meander towards you. Slimy appendages extend from them and grab at the stone floor pulling it’s body towards you.

Bound Spirits within Mud
2 HD, Armor as leather, 1d8 slam or sacrifice self forcing save on target vs drowning, if golden face mask damaged then dies, morale as undead, masks worth 35 silver if intact
From out of giant urns emerge men shaped from mud each wearing a thin golden mask. Terrible clicking sounds emanate from behind the mask and if removed a skeleton can be seen.

Half-Transformed Nobles
3 HD, Armor as leather + shield, raking claws for 1d8, once slain forces a save or their ghost attaches stealing 1 HP healed, the effect of multiple ghost is cumulative, morale 6
A pitiful creature which scitters on a pair of broken legs and multiple chitinous claws approaches you. What may have once been a face is contorted into a grimace of agony. The creature approaches hobbling onward, tears flowing down its eyes, it's spine crushed by numerous chitinous plates and a lopsided distribution of chitinous appendages.

Petroglyph Shadows
1 HD, Armor as leather, 1d8 bite, ambush on a 4 in 6, morale 8
An open eye hangs from the sigils on the wall, it tracks you as you wander inwards and then it runs along the wall, a series of lines contorting much like the surface of boiling water. It then goes on the floor and rolls towards you like a tumble weed.

Terrible Insectile Slugs
2 HD, Armor as chain, 1d8 bite with a [damage + 4] chance in 100 chance of cursing with loss of 1 point of charisma a day transforming into a Half-transformed noble once at 0 charisma, shine with unearthly green light from within as torch, morale 7
Slugs as long as a man is tall, covered in green chitin unfurl from their spherical shape and begin crawling forwards.

3 HD, Armor as plate + shield, spear stabbed for 1d8+1 or 1d6 conjuring fire by stabbing their spear into the walls which chases people at a range of 30', morale 12
A statues made of brass and stone looms before the torchlight standing the height of a man but with shoulders twice as wide. The face is replaces with a simple circular glyph holding a spear of stone in their left hands.

The gelded Prince, his eyes gouged out
5 HD, Armor as plate, 1d8 x2 lashing out wildly, each point of damage delivered incurs debt of 100xp, unable to leave the room, morale 11
A corpse of man, twice your height and of saffron skin, hangs from a pair of hooks embedded in his chest. His body bears two sets of bloody gashes, the first across his face. A pair of bloody craters, on either side of a nose, mare what may have once been a face of unparalleled beauty. A gash extends up from between the figures legs like that of a botched gelding. Ugly crickets, each with the face of a weeping woman and bodies as large as your hand, crawl along his body kissing and licking it intermittently.

The handless Princess, her throat slit
4HD, Armor as chainmail, 1d8 stealing vitality by sucking in air to a range of 20' or petrifying gaze range of 20', any melee attack which misses incurs 1d8 points of damage as she inhales vitality, unable to leave the room, morale 10
A naked woman, a head taller than any man you've seen, hangs from a noose. Her saffron breasts are covered with gore that slowly leeks from the gash along her throat like a red necklace. Each arm, supple and flawless, ends in bloody stumps. A single jade anklet hangs from a foot. Her face writhes as she casts her gaze over towards you opening a pair of golden eyes. The golden ring embedded in her nose quivers as she grimaces at your presence and the air grows deathly cold.

Catatosh The Lord in Veins
6HD, Armor as plate, 1d8 from ripping blood from your veins + save vs dying and becoming an attendant ghost, damage dealt can only be healed by breaking a curse, only harmed by magic weapons, must fail morale to give chase outside his chambers, morale 11
A crimson crown of shards rides on a bulbous latticework of pulsating sacks. Red ichor flows from fleshy bulbs slowly dripping down red tendrils wrapped together like the ligaments of an exposed wound descending from the crown. The tendrils then branch, organically like veins rather than roots, branching out into limbs granting the crowned figure the shape of a man. Behind the figure a scarlet cloak trails on the ground raised up by two spires rising up like pauldrons from the figures shoulders. The red figure slowly drifts ahead of a crowd of a gray, a sharp contrast against the bleakness of the congregation behind it. Vapors ebb and part as the gossamer grayness of their bodies hardens out of the mist. White eyes peer out of jagged and angular headdress with a vacant loathing reminiscent of the jailed leering at the free.

Level 4 HP 19 SV 9 Skills 1/6
S 13 E 8 M 8 T 11 W 11 C 8
Alignment: Chaotic
Sword may be evoked to cast harm
Weightless Armor as Plate making Evasion 11

Monday, January 20, 2020

Xenia: The Reaction Roll and Hospitality

Related image

This is primarily for Swords and Sorcery/Sandals games.

Xenia is the Greek term for hospitality and is the ancient code of conduct. It provides ample content to be used in an OSR game. This post draws from Greek hospitality rituals to explain a different procedure for the reaction roll.

So classically, Xenia referee to the relations of guests to hosts and hosts to guests. Hosts would provide food, drink, and gifts to guests. They would also offer safe escort to their next destination. Guests would be in turn courteous and not a threat nor a burden. Guests would relay information from whence they came. Hosts were able to call upon the Guests for assistance during their stay in their homes.

In many OSR games, many players are suspicious of those who would be kind and nice to them. Encountering people offering you food and gifts may set off alarms as to “can we trust these people?”.  But if the players know how to expect the rules of hospitality then they don’t have to always be on their guard and positive reactions roles can be greatly expanded to days not just mere moments.  A major component to the Greek Xenia is the idea of the gods walking about the world. The man seeking shelter form the rain could be Zeus, so you do not dare turn him away. I would say this easily fits into OSR games with spirits, demons, and Magic Users.

Use in a game

So encounters have a few components
1 Surprise
2 Distance
3 Reaction

So without Charisma modification, reaction rolls have a 25% chance of hostility, 25% chance of friendliness, 50% of neutral. There is a further 3% chance of combat. This means that almost all encounters with speaking people results in conversation and player skill informs the outcome of these conversations. Further even if it is a hostile reaction roll it does not mean that it cannot be diffused with player skill. As a reminder hostility does not mean combat. A negative reaction roll could mean that the other party charges a toll, wishes to exploit, or even to take command of the players. This can be expanded on even if hospitality is kept.

So players entering a settlement/home would be offered food, water, and exchange gifts with the master of the domain and the reaction roll could dictate what happens after the customs. A negative reaction roll could be that the master decides to call upon the party to perform a perfidious task for him. Certain masters may seek the death of the party and send them into cursed locations to retrieve treasures, to slay terrible monsters, or to even save a princess. To many referees this will read like quest-hooks, and it honestly is a great way to do it. For example you stay at the hall of the chieftain of the tribe and after you exchange gifts and feast the chieftain calls upon you to enter the ruins of the ancient civilization to search for the healing herb. A roll of 1,1 on the reaction roll could even be the host flying into a murderous rage from having too much to drink, which fits well with the swords and sorcery aesthetic. It’s worth noting that back in the day there where wizards who would come out of their towers and geas players to go into dungeons. So this isn’t all that wild of a notion. Xenia also fits in well into domain play where it would be not only people asking things of the players as rulers but the players could in turn ask things of their guests.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Giant's Drown: Small Hexcrawl + 2 Dungeons

This pdf details the island for the past 9 sessions of the games. I will upload further island hexes as they get play-tested by myself and a few other referees. Some references of magic and magic items within correspond to a game-document that is still being play-tested but it should not be difficult to replace them with other OSR rule-sets.

The 2 dungeons within are for characters levels 1-4. The Burial Tomb of the Tridobaktrus has been previously uploaded to this blog, but the PDF should be a more useable format. It is 3 floors and has about 45 rooms. The Jotun's Tomb is 4 floors and has about 80 rooms.

The Jotun's Drown

If you use these in your games, please let me know how it goes!

Another two documents that maybe useful are the 2 primers I gave my players at the start of the game.

Campaign Primer                          Visual Summary

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Very Canon Adventures of Oogi (Campaign Fan-Fiction Authored by a Player)

The Very Canon Adventures of Oogi

“South west of Giants Drown” said the man, pantomiming the directions. “A right big tower, can’t miss it, made of stone. You’ll find Arkad there, and I bet he can forge that horn into somethin’” Oogi nodded “thank you”, before getting up from the barstool “Hey!” said the man. “I don’t give information away for free you know” “O-of course” replied Oogi, scrambling for his coin pouch “No no no, I aint need your coin, I want that good stuff” Oogi paused for a moment before nodding in understanding, pulling out a waterskin, dripping with a red oily substance. The man snaps his fingers at the bartender. “Gimme a bowl, would ya?” he says. The bartender nods, and returns with haste with a bowl awkwardly carved out of wood, he holds the bowl towards Oogi, who squeezes the waterskin. A crude chili drips out of the tip of the waterskin, into the bowl. The man shudders in anticipation, before reaching for spoon and hastily shoveling the chili down his throat. Oogi observes for a moment, eyes beaming, before stepping away. “WAIT!” shouted the man. “What? What? Can you see I’m trying to leave here, I can’t miss my party going on, probably going to explore the ruins of an ancient king said to tore the earth asunder or something. I gotta be there for it” “You can’t to Arkad. You need something” “Outstanding charisma? Charming personality? I’m sure me and Arkham can make out a deal.” “It’s Arkad, and no...I’ve heard tell you need something valuable” “I have silver” The man shakes his head, chili dripping off his chin. “I can’t claim to know exactly what he wants, but I’m going to take a guess it ain't silver.” “What do you think it is?” “Something valuable, oh HEY” the man says, snapping his fingers. “This stuff is good!” “Yeah yeah I kno-” “No, you don’t understand, we got a thing coming up in Lestryhonia called ‘The Black Pot’, and it’s…” the man pauses before reaching for a cue card, squinting at it. “It’s...non-canon” he says. “The winner receives a huge golden cooking pot lined with jewels! Surely something like that is sure to entice Arkad, the whole gimmick is that you make something in a black cooking pot provided to you by the judges, and the best pot wins. Trust me, just make some of that chunky- “It’s chili” interrupts Oogi “Yeah yeah yeah, make some chappy into the pot and I swear by the Gods you’ll win by a landslide!” Oogi nods. “Thanks for letting me know” “No problem” replies the man “You’ll find some more information on ‘The Black Pot’ on a bulletin”. The man continues to stuff his face as Oogi steps out of the tavern and into Lestryhonia.

~Oogi and The Black Pot~

Oogi steps up to a bulletin and rips off a poster advertising The Black Pot, on it, a crudely drawn picture of a pot lined with jewels. THE BLACK POT DAY FOUR OF SPRING MONTH TWO BE THERE! FREE SAMPLING OF FIVE TIME CHAMPION ‘CRAVEN DEL’LESTHA’S FAMOUS GRUEL (Lestryhonia Market District, 12AM) “Day four of-...that’s tomorrow! I’m going to have to skip tomorrows adventure, I’m sure the team will understand, and when I come back with this golden pot, they’ll be all like ‘wow Oogi you’re actually cool and good!’” Oogi says, folding up the paper... “Why would they call a five time champion a craven?” Oogi gets to work, writing down a list of ingredients. “I’m definitely going to need mushroom powder” he mutters as he shuffles through his notes “Ah, we saw some mushrooms in the tunnels beneath Lestryhonia, very convenient. I definitely have enough beans...could never really have enough though, definitely could enhance the dish with a roux base. Maybe Bark Flour? Meat from the birds in the Tomb of Jotun are a must.” Oogi says as he walks up to a wooden stand with a disinterested looking man slouched behind it. The words “The Black Pot” are neatly engraved on a large sign above the stand. “Hi there” “Hey…” replies the man, unabashedly picking his nose “I’m to sign up for The Black Pot” The man begins to bite his fingernails. “Craven’s in it again this year” he says. “Yeah uh...okay. Well I’d still like to sign up.” The man sits up, revealing his pimpled face and greasy hair. “It’s a waste of time” he says, his voice growing more nasally. “Just give me the damn sign up sheet” The man begins laughing “H-hey! Get a load of this guy! Yondal! Yondal!” “What” groans a deep voice, as a mountainous man steps behind the stand. “Man-tits over here is going to try and beat Craven!” They both let out deep belly laughs. “By the Gods just give me the damn sign up sheet!” Oogi shouts Both men pause, before the scrawny one leans forward. “There is no sign up sheet you fucking idiot. You just show up.” The men erupt into laughter once again “F-fine! I’ll be back here at 12 tomorrow!” “Alright see you then, pork rind” “I’m going to have to pull out all the stops if I want to beat this Craven guy” Oogi mutters as he returns to the tunnels of Lestryhonia to gather mushrooms. He pulls out the map. “Wow, nicely drawn. Whoever drew this is a real artist and is loved by everyone” Oogi’s thoughts were interrupted by the skittering of a giant tick. He pulls out a throwing axe in preparation. The giant tick reveals itself, and in a flash, leaps towards Oogi’s face. Instinctively, Oogi shields his face with his hands. The tick jumps into Oogi’s hands, and it’s twitching legs flailed around searching for a solid place to latch on, it’s teeth biting mindlessly. Oogi grabs it firmly and holds it away from his face. It squirms even more, and in one swift motion, Oogi takes a hand off the tick slams it into a nearby wall, and plunges his throwing axe into the center of tick, blood drips from the wound and onto the blade. “Gods this is easier when you have like, seven human proxies”. The tick spasms a few more times before becoming limp. Lighting a torch, Oogi returns to the place where Dvain was swarmed and killed by rats. His body is no longer there, there are black feathers strewn across the floor and claw marks all over the walls. The rats that plagued the team previously seem to have all been killed. Some kind of monster roams these tunnels. Oogi steps back from the scene and into an intersection. Mushrooms are growing from the cracks and corners of the walls here. He picks them promptly, and exits the tunnels with haste. It’s nearly sunset. “Bark Flour next…” he mutters “The roux should thicken up the chili”. Oogi makes way for the tree where the team discovered eight statues with lilac gems for eyes. He makes it there in the dead of night, rain gently pittering. The bloated corpses which once hung from the tree are now gone. There are claw marks going from the base of the tree to the top. He peels off several pieces of bark from the tree. The rain begins to pour, Oogi takes shelter beneath the tree. “Claw marks again” he mutters. “Maybe something is following the team around…” He quickly jots this idea down. “Whatever the monster is, it’s claws are as fine as knives, and they seem to be extraordinarily large.” He takes a look at his reflection in his throwing axe. Oogi dozes off beneath the tree. He jolts awake during the twilight hours of the morning. The rain has died down. “OH Gods I have to get that bird meat from that tomb!” The grass is tipped with morning dew. He gets up and cracks his back, before heading to the tomb. The sky is clear, and he makes his way east without much incident. “It’s getting close to 12AM.” Oogi mutters, looking at the sky. A pillar of smoke arises, and Oogi notices a campsite near the tomb. “HALT!” shouts a voice. Oogi looks around and sees no one. “H-hello?” A large man steps out of a tent. “Who goes there?” “Uhm...Oogi.” replies Oogi meekly. “Who are you” “We are the Sons of Kronus. We’ve already sent a group of dimwitted adventurers to slay the Magi of the Trepanted Circle, so you’re going to have to-” “Uhm...I’m not here for that, sorry.” The man’s brow furrows. “Why do you wish to enter Jotun’s Tomb?” “Well I was here a few days ago and there is some birds in there, could really use the meat for a meal I’m making for The Black Pot.” “Ah, The Black Pot! You know that’s…” the man takes out a cue card and squints at the text on it. “Non-canon, right?” “Yeah yeah yeah, I know. I’m kind of tight on time here, can I go in.” “I don’t see why not. Gods be with you on your journey.” The man shrugs, and Oogi scoots past the encampment. A crashing sound lances through the tomb as Oogi enters. It sounds like someone chopping wood, suddenly a cracking sound and a slam. Oogi heads southeast, passing the disturbing statue of a giant. There are blood splatters on the walls, and arrows litter the ground. “They really cleaned house…” Oogi says as he steps forward. “Why did you make her cry!?” a familiar voice explodes through the complex. “I better get outta here fast before things take a turn south” Oogi enters the room where the party killed the giant bird. Another bird is there, pecking at the corpse of the old one. Oogi opens the door a crack, the bird spots Oogi and a stream of black vomit flies out of its mouth, to which he closes the door quickly and can hear the splatter of the vomit on the other side. Oogi opens the door again and throws his axe with all his might, it merely glances off the bird and it rushes forward with its talons outstretched. Oogi holds another axe out in from of him and the bird charges into it, it’s talons dig into Oogi’s massive stomach but the axe lodges itself in the birds throat, with a flap of its mighty wings, it retreats. Oogi pulls out his final throwing axe. The bird’s laser focused on Oogi, a blood and black bile swill drip out of it’s throat, along the edge of the axe. Oogi looks down and sees his blood piling up on his shirt. “I’m on a time limit…” “FUCK!” screams a voice from the distance, the sounds of a scuffle echo through the tombs. Time slows as Oogi winds his torso back and releases, like a spring board, throwing the axe with incredible force, and with incredible force it slams against the wall behind the bird, before limply falling to the ground. Black vomit oozes from the cut in its throat, it covers the axe and the bird rears its head up. Oogi ducks and rushes in as a stream of the vomit flies overhead. He grabs the handle of the throwing axe lodged in the birds throat and rips it forward, twisting the head of the bird 180 degrees, and with a satisfying snap, the bird falls to the ground, and blood and vomit being to pool beneath it. Oogi collects his throwing axes and begins to drag the bird out of the complex by its feet. It leaves a trail of blood behind it. “By the power of the almighty lizard queen, I strike thee down!” shouts a voice “W-what the-” Oogi looks around “I’m just leaving! Just leaving…” Oogi picks up the pace. “Lizard queen...lizard queen, I gotta write that down for the party, there’s some crazy stuff in here. I don’t remember those Kronus boys mentioning a lizard queen…” As Oogi exits the complex, he’s greeted by a Son of Kronus. “Greetings!” the man says heartily. Oogi looks up in the sky, the sun is almost in the middle. It’s almost time. “Excellent haul” he says. “You don’t wanna go in there” “We sent warriors in to slay the -” “Magi? Yeah. There’s a lizard queen in there.” “Wha...I’ve never heard tell of such a thing” “Yup. Lizard queen. I may return with my party and assist in the extermination, if your current hirelings happen to perish that is” The Son of Kronus nods “Can you help me out here?” Oogi says as it motions to the bird. “Where do you need the bird?” “I’m taking it to The Black Pot.” “Ah! Me and some boys were going to go there anyway, I’ll be glad to help you out. It’s the only time of year when we get to try Craven Del’Lestha’s gruel.” The man hoists the bird over his back and walks with Oogi. “You’ve got some stones to take on the Craven herself” says the man “Ah, she’s a girl, whats the deal with her? Why do you call her that?” replied Oogi “Well, she calls herself that. Rumor says she was banished from Hils, for what, we can only speculate. Apparently he first name was erased by the curse of a witch, and now she only carries around her family's name as a mark of shame. I can’t really confirm any of this, but she’s a strange old lady. However we appreciate her, whatever she did to get banished, it was a long time ago. She’s helped us enough, and everyone deserves a second chance. Her amazing cooking skills help too.” Oogi nods. “I’m rooting for you, second place I bet” continues the man. “Nothing beats Del’Lestha” “I’m hoping to be a challenge” Oogi and the man return to the stand. “Here for The Black Pot!” announces Oogi. The scrawny man behind the stand shakes his head. “Oh, it’s you again” he scoffs “Didn’t think you’d show. Only a few more moments and we’ll be starting” he points Oogi towards a man giving out large black pots. “Grab one of those and head to the show area. You’ll know when it starts” Oogi nods and he and the Son of Kronus part ways, Oogi grabs a large black pot and carries it and the bird to the show area. It’s a circle, marked with a yellow outline. It’s all dirt, and there are six sets of kindling in a row. “Contestants! Please place your pots on the kindling, and when I sound the horn, you may set it alight and begin cooking! We’ve supplied basic ingredients but anything not there you’ll have to bring! You’ll find your ingredients in a chest next to you!” Oogi places the bird down, and puts the pot on the wood. A few other contestants place their pots down. An old woman hobbles up to the pile of wood next to Oogi and places a black pot down. Her back arched, her nose hooked, she has long frazzled black hair and a large backpack. Her shawl is torn, and her long boney arms seem scarred. “Hey.” says Oogi. The woman ignores him, and waits patiently for the sound of the horn. “Are you...Craven Del’Lestha?” The woman nods, and waves to Oogi. “Good luck” she says, her voice gravely and scratched In the chest, there is a bucket of water, some spices, some bases. It’s general stuff for any kind of stew. Tools too, a mortar and pestle, large wooden spoon, bowl, knife, a torch for lighting the fire among other things. Oogi waits for the horn to be sounded. He looks over to Craven Del’Lestha, who’s as still as a statue. Her backpack wiggles for a moment. “What the-” A horn blasts through the air, Oogi grabs the torch and sets the kindling alight. Pulling out the tree bark he begins to grind it into a fine flour. “You have three hours to present us with a dish! What do you think of the competition Yondal?” says an announcer. “Same old same old, it seems” chimes in another. “I hope they’ve brought something new else Del’Lestha’s gonna sweep the whole thing again!” “We got a newbie this year also! What are your thoughts on him?” “Well I think he’s in for a shock, Toka, Craven is getting right at it, pulling out ingredient after ingredient from her huge backpack! She knows exactly what she’s doing! She’s got a plan! This new contestant looks a little green around the gills if you know what I mean” “I understand completely Yondal, our other contestants are pulling out the usual stops, if newbie doesn’t pull off a miracle I don’t think he stands a chance!” Oogi tosses the newly made flour into the pot along with some butter. He turns around and chops at the bird with an axe, getting a cut of breast, he rips it up further “I don’t know what our new guy has planned but if he’s trying to show up Craven he’s about in for a nasty surprise” “Ignore them Oogi” Oogi mutters to himself, dumping some water into the pot, he begins grinding up the mushrooms in the mortar and pestle. He looks over at Craven who’s working like a machine. He dumps mushroom powder into the mix and adds beans. “He’s making some kind of bean mix! What do you think about that Yondal?” “I can't quite make out what he’s making Toka, but whatever it is, it’s going to have a kick to it, see him add those peppers and tomatoes? Going for a savoury flavor it looks like to me Toka!” “Let’s take a look at Craven and, dear Gods she’s adding mince meat! For all that is holy, who can stop this woman!?” “I can smell it from here Toka, I got a cravin’ for a craven and it look likes Del’Lesthas gonna deliver!” Oogi works up a sweat as the pot beings to boil, he tosses in onions and places a metal sheet on the top of the pot and begins to grill the bird meat on it. “We are only fifteen minutes in and the competition is heating up! But Del’Lesthas unphased! She’s an absolute monster! Our other contestants are at it, Griff’s adding, oh damn is that parsley? Holy fucking shit Yondal it’s parsley” “He better be packing more heat than parsley, Griff, a very consistent contestant. Always in the top three. He always brings his best, always a bridesmaid never a bride though, think that can change Toka?” “Potentially, we don't know what newbies going to bring to the table but he’s unlikely to kick Griff out of his spot, a stubborn guy that one and- oh, OH! Amazing play from Farsoni, he’s adding three sticks of butter! Gods he’s putting his all into it!” Oogi ignores the announcers and the cheers from the crowd to focus on his craft. He grabs a spoon and stirs gently, he scoops his grilled shredded chicken into the mix. Craven puts a lid on her pot. “Goodness gracious it looks like Del’Lestha’s finished adding ingredients!” Only half an hour in and she’s done, she has this down to a science, Yondal, a science!” “I like to think cooking’s a little art, a little science, and a lotta love” “Well said Yondal, well said” “This has to cook for a while so I better hurry up with the ingredients” Oogi mutters as he dumps spice after spice into the mix. He swiftly puts the lid on the pot. “What the- What is this!? Newbies done too! He’s clearly put in the work, he’s put in the practice! Finishing right behind Del’Lestha, can you get me this guys name? This guys amazing, Yondal” “I-...yeah, I just got word in and his name is Booger.” “Amazing job Booger! Our new guy is really showing up the competition with his prep time and planning, our other contestants seem dazed and confused by comparison!” Oogi lifts the pot lid and stirs gently before closing it again. Craven Del’Lestha walks out of the ring. “Dear lord! The absolute disrespect from Craven! She’s walking out like she doesn't even need to be here! Her pot in still in the ring, what do you think she’s heading out for?” “I’ve no idea Toka but honestly I think she has this planned. Maybe she’s off to relax beneath a tree while her gruel wins her the competition, she’s that good, and as long as she returns before the 3 hour mark, she’s still in!” The crowd erupts Oogi eyes Craven as she leaves, her backpack rustles and shutters, Oogi adds a pinch of salt before following her. “Oh- oh and Booger is stepping out too! This is unprecedented! What do you think this means Yondal!” “This is obviously about a message, Toka. Booger came in strong and isn’t going to be shown up easily, but can his bravado alone win The Black Pot!?” Oogi follows Craven behind a building, everything becomes quiet as the shadow of the building encompasses the two. “It’s not polite to stalk, young man” “Where are you going?” asks Oogi “You needn’t know” she says as her backpack wiggles some more, she puts her hands on it. “What is that? What’s going on here!?” “Back away sonny, back to The Black Pot. I’ve got some business to attend to.” she says as she darts into the woods. Oogi trails behind. “Something isn’t right here” he mutters “There’s some kind of bullshittery going on and I’m not about to lose The Black Pot to someone who pulls suspicious tactics…” He heads into the woods, there are black feathers along the ground, its quiet, a gentle breeze sways the branches of the trees. “You shouldn’t have come here, young one” says Del’Lestha, her voice seemingly coming from nowhere. “What is it!? What’s the secret!? What are you trying to pull?” A haggard Craven staggers out from behind a large tree, hands dripping with blood. Her backpack bursts open, huge black raven wings unfold, and a blast of wind swirls around the two. Craven’s hair flies back revealing a wicked smirk, razor sharp claws extend out from her fingers by at least a foot. Oogi snaps his fingers “I knew it! The secret ingredient is people! I knew it!” The wind calms for a moment “Wha-..what? By the Gods no. Criminey” replies the Craven in a cacophony of voices “But...but what about the missing corpses...and the...the claw marks and feather I saw” “I’m looking for something you have, a mystical bone that melts metal. I’ve scoured every place you’ve been to, I’ve looked through every corpse, asked every person you’ve interacted with, Ive-” “Wait...the secret ingredient isn’t people...why do you want that skull” “’s a skull.” “” “I’ve heard enough” announced Del’Lestha, as the winds picked back up. She raises a finger towards Oogi. “Now die!” Hundreds of crows seemingly appear out from behind Del’Lestha and rocket towards Oogi in a swarm of beaks and talons. Suddenly out from the swarm, Craven appears, one claw extended towards Oogis gut as she rushes forward with the winds. Oogi steps to the side and trips as Craven charges past. The crow swarm dissipates, Oogi scrambled up and wields two axes at once, Craven jumps forward and crashes both of her huge clawed hands into the ground, ripping up dirt and grass. Oogi steps back, only evading by a hair, he ratchets back and unleashes a flurry of axe swings, all to which Del’Lestha deflects effortlessly with her massive talons. The Craven’s wings whip up a gust of wind that Oogi gets pushed back by, he digs in his heels. Del’Lestha whips her claws out from the left in an attempt to slice Oogi in twane. Oogi crashes his axe into the claws, and they only barely graze him as they fly by, blood is drawn. Oogi kicks Del’Lestha in the chest, she stumbles back. As she gets her footing back Oogi jumps forward, arms outstretched, axes in both hands. Without a moment of hesitation Del’Lestha swipes away one of the axes, and the other one lodges itself firmly into her face. An ungodly shriek fills the forest as a swarm of crows surrounds Del’Lestha, and she rockets into the sky, a gust of wind pushes Oogi down as Del’Lestha’s giant wings flap in the air. She sails through the air with extreme speeds before disappearing behind the trees of the forest, on the ground, Oogi’s bloodied axe. “W-wait! I still have questions!” Oogi shouts “Why’d you leave the competition!? Why do you want the metal melting horn? Why were you in The Black Pot!? Who are you!?”. The attempts to communicate are fruitless as his shouts echo into the forest, the only thing remaining is blood stains, claw marks on the trees, and a few jet black feathers. Oogi looks directly at you. Yes you, the reader. He’s looking directly at you, and says “Wow, huh, I guess there are some open ended questions that may be resolved if I happen to go on any more wacky adventures during downtime. Maybe there is like a narrative unfolding here, maybe like if I miss our parties adventuring date it isn’t all bad because it furthers my own personal narrative, you know maybe-” A thought enters Oogi’s head. “Oh shit, The Black Pot!” Oogi leaves a trail of blood behind him as he staggers back into the ring. “Booger’s back! But where’s Craven!?” shouts an announcer “I don’t know Toka but she has 15 minutes left until the deadline, her gruel shoulda been stirred more in my opinion! Whatever she left for, it must be important!” “This is the edge of your seat action you get when you pay for a tick-blah blah blah blah” The sound faded out for Oogi, his vision blurry, his hands shaking. He looks under his shirt, the gash Del’Lestha left was deeper than he thought, and blood poured out of it like a crimson waterfall. The sky grew dark as Oogi collapsed onto the ground. … He awakens on a cot, a bandage wrapped around his wounds, caked in dried blood. “Whats going on?” he stammers “Relax, Oogi. You’ll be fine. You’re being tended to by the best apothecaries in Lestryhonia” speaks a soft feminine voice “D-did I win?” “Ahahahahahahaha- No. You threw up in the pot and tipped it over trying to steady yourself and got all your blood in your chili” “Give it a few days, and you should be up and back in action.” “What about Craven? Craven Del’Lestha” “No one knows where she is…” Oogi pause for a moment, before he gets up, and the world tilts. “Sit down, sit down” commands the voice. “Relax for a few days please, these gashes are pretty deep. Where did you get them?” “Del’Lestha turned into a giant bird monster and gouged my stomach with one of her incredibly long and incredibly sharp claws” The woman pauses for a moment. “A few days rest, then you can get back on your adventuring like nothing ever happened, alright hun?” Oogi nods before drifting back to sleep, the dream of a quick payday from The Black Pot shattered. “I guess it’s just back to regular old adventuring”

Monday, November 18, 2019

System Matters

So recently on twitter, some people have spouted the idea that “rpg systems do not matter/ their importance is vastly overrated”. Their claim, from what I can understand, is that if game/system/procedural design is irrelevant because people will deviate in their own games and that this is a means of avoiding rules and play discrepancy. This avoidance is seen as a thing to be accepted and utilized. It boils down to “the vast majority of rpg play non-compliant with Rules-as-Written which mean Rules-as-Written is not important as it doesn’t not even come up at the table”. That seems reasonable enough, but I think it shows a significant lapse. The idea of making systems/procedures which lack rules and play discrepancies and instead have a unified design and practice which works well at the table is for some reason skipped. Rather than seeking to make good usable content, which would stand out on the merit of how it is in play, for other people to use, it’s as though people have just given up on making good Rules-as-Written. 

I think a significant divergence in our views is the view of what is the purpose of an rpg game. Obviously different rpg’s have a different play design as Nechronica, Dread, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess will all have different “goals” of play and as such are designed to produce different play. But I think the divergence of views comes from what is the goal of playing a game.

When people sit at a table, virtual or real, each has a reason for playing. Fundamentally RPG’s are social activities so certain people will join games to purely socialize with their peers. There is a spectrum of reasons for playing an rpg with purely using it to socialize with others on one end and on the other is seeking to engage with the medium as much as possible. Hence reasons to play an rpg would range from “oh god I am so lonely, I haven’t had the touch of another human being in years and I need to leave my basement” to “I am here purely to engage in the medium and I would not piss on any of the people here if they were on fire”. I have previously posted a screed about how players having fun is not indicative of merit of a rpg system but it seems to me that the proponents of the “system doesn’t matter” group are far closer to the rpgs as socialization where people hang out and just have fun and that “it’s just a game bro”.

I would think that those who engage with rpg’s with the goal of engaging with the unique aspects of the medium would instead tend towards the idea that system’s matter. If you’re trying to utilize rpg’s unique aspects as a medium to explore deep emotional aspects of being a vampire and watching your friends die of old age or to literally explore an ancient tomb by the merits of your wits and lateral thinking I would wager that you would agree that systems of a game are likely the most important aspect. 

A while back I posted a request for people to playtest their materials before they pollute the Internet with it. I would make another similar request, make better systems. Rpg design and play should be unified and reinforce each other, but they should also be worth following. I agree that you can make the discrepancy of design and play in a system work, but why struggle to shove a square in a circular hole. You have a limited time to make and refine rpg content so you shouldn’t choose a system which hampers play. As a referee/DM/game designer there should be an explicit goal for play and the system should be designed around that. This way people will be compliant because they don’t have a reason to diverge from rules-as-written.

I would say that discrepancy in designs and play is the exact reason for so many people having issues with WotC DnD. 1) the systems are incredibly complex and choose system mastery as a virtue 2) the systems are a bastardized mix of old-school exploration game derived mechanics and story game narrative goal of play 3) people don’t read all the rules and because they don’t, they do not enforce all aspects of the rules resulting in uneven and awkward play experiences. The systems are prolific due to marketing not through the virtue of their design, and thus people run them non-compliant. 

In contrast, OSR games (TSR compatible ones) tend to run rules as written because there is such a tightness in between the design and play. They are games of physically exploring dangerous places and their rules converge in order to facilitate this play. OSR is generally rules light but many have delved into analysis of how the system works in its individual components and how they add together to make a sum greater than their parts. 

System greatly matters because a good system offers better play. If you are using a system with a high disparity of design and play you are doing a disservice to your players. Those that run games have the option to choose systems and their role as DM/referee makes the responsible for choosing a good system. If you run a game you obviously need to prepare to run it, but one of the things you need is to choose correct tools. One can prepare a fish with a spoon but it’s far easier with a knife and it will further result in a better fish preparation. It is the same in running an rpg, you can choose to run a system with high design/play disparity and limit the engagement with the unique aspects of rpg as a medium or you can choose a system of interwoven design and play whose parts make a up a sum greater than the whole. 

You might cry out, “I’m just here to have fun.” If so then why even play a rpg? Just go play sports or go on a hike with your friends. Your friends can make anything fun, so maybe consider that rpg’s aren’t what you want, maybe you simply want to hang out with your friends. However, if you want to engage in the unique medium of rpg’s and broaden your friend’s horizons choose a system with high fidelity of design and play and run it rules as written.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Tokhari: a demihuman for a Howardian swords and sorcery game

After weeks of travel you, enter their village amid repeated cackles. They gather before you tall, red headed, with sharp noses and pale skin etched with blue spirals. They call themselves as Tokhar and are clad in various animal skins. A few hound-headed man-things cover at their feet, each an ugly wretched thing often kicked and struck by the Tokhari. You beseech that they join your lord in war against the Ytori. Their elders cackle and shake among themselves and then return to speak to you. They do not ask for silver or for wives as the other tribes have. They instead offer their spears in exchange for a claim to all of the corpses which result from this campaign.

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Their priest speak of how they came to be

In the beginning, the Star Father and the Earth Mother came together. From their mating sprang a great vine, on which grew a gourd. It was so big it took up all the space between earth and sky. Star father took his burning spear to pierce the gourd and let the world out. Inside the gourd was the first Tokhar. He was so eager to look upon his father's face that he was pressed against the skin of the gourd. When Star Father pierced the gourd with his burning spear, he struck Tokhar and burned his face. Tokhar climbed through the hole in the gourd, but could not see his father anymore, because there was no light and his eyes were burned. Star Father took pity on Tokhar and said "I will give you all the faces of the world as your own". Star Father took up his spear again and pierced the gourd a second time. Out came all the people, animals, fish, birds and plants of the world. Then Star Father threw his burning spear into the sky and it became the sun. Tokhar could see all the creatures and knew that he could wear their faces. Tokhar took the face of his little brother, Man, who was most like him, and took Man's sister as his wife.

The Tokhari keep to themselves in thick forests. Those who trespass are swiftly slain and then eaten. Those who survive forays into their lands whisper of being chased by hairless man-things with the faces of wolves. Some claim that the Tokhari can take the shape of wolves and call them were-wolves, others claim that they are instead a noble race of wolves which can take the guise of men

In truth the Tokhari are a demi-human race that becomes what they eat. Few live among men and those that do are employed as assassins. If they eat enough of a corpse they will turn into that man entirely but many make their homes above mausoleums and burial chambers of dead folk and share a singular presentation. They etch their names into their skin by blue ink which tends to be keep it's form despite their changing visages. Some wander the lands challenging men to duels and taking their corpse as sole prize. Their women are trained in arms as well and make up a small portion of their fighting forces.

They consider hounds unclean animals and punishment their criminals by forcing the miscreant to live off the meat of a dog. These degenerate beings are sicced on enemies with the belief that those that eat enough man-flesh deserve to be returned to the Tokhari.

Rumors about the Tokhari 1d8

They eat the flesh of their fallen brethren to honor them and keep their spirits safe 
They transform under the moon into terrible-wolf man things
They view meat as unclean and will not feast with most tribes instead preparing their own food stuffs and bringing it with them
Each has a secret name that if spoken binds them to serve until death
They have secret rituals to alter their faces to anothers
Each tribe seeks to slay all others they encounter seeking to be the only bloodline so that they may be returned to their throne in the stars
As they grow in age they being to uncontrollably laugh and shake until they are slain by their kin and eaten.
They sacrifice under the darkness of the new-moon in order to prevent their dark gods from descending stars and drinking the sea dry
Evens are falsehoods

Tokhar Racial Class

As Fighting-Man except
XP requirements: As Elf (double Fighting-man XP)
Max Level: 4
Alignment: Chaotic

A Tokhar must maintain a diet of clean (human) flesh or degenerate

Eating Clean Flesh: A Tokhar is able to spend a downtime action to consume a corpse to gain one of the following benefits: Gain the appearance of the corpse, replace an ability score with the corpses, obtain answers to 1d4+Level questions that the corpse would know, or heal a degeneration of flesh

Eating Unclean Flesh: A Tokhar must purchase specially prepared rations at triple cost eating regular food causes a save versus lowering their HP by 1. A Tokhar may choose to eat the corpse of a non-human as a downtime action in order to gain an aspect or ability of the creature. Eating un-clean flesh requires a save vs gaining degeneration of the flesh (essentially a penalty based on the flesh eaten). A Tokhar that has a number of degenerations greater than their level before turning into a monster and being added to the wandering monster table. Healing such a degeneration by eating clean flesh also removes the boon from eating unclean flesh.

Let's look at cockatrice as an example of eating unclean flesh.

Upon eating a cockatrice an Tokhar would be able to bite a man and turn his flesh to stone, but if they fail their save they may have their teeth coalesce and jut out and their lips shrink resembling a beak and limiting their speech to a total of 20 intelligible words. They might instead gain hollowed bones like a birds which decrease their weight enough to reduce their chance of setting off traps and reduce falling damage or it may cause one of their arms to atrophy to a misshapen wing limiting them to a single working hand.