Saturday, April 30, 2011

End-of-Semester Hiatus

I don't expect to post much, if any, for the next few weeks, as my semester begins to come to a close and stuff I need to do for school increases. Flying to Texas and Indiana for two graduations only adds to the lack of time to blog. I'll be back, though, and might make a post now and then between now and the end of the semester. We'll see.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thank a Free Publisher Day

Matt Finch has a great idea.

I lurked for two or three years on the blogs before I started this, so I've amassed quite a pdf collection on my hard drive of free things. Here's a partial list:

Christian over at Destination Unknown pumps out a crazy amount of resources. My favorite, and the one I use the most, though, is his Freecity of Haldane setting. The really amazing part? He mails this stuff to you if you ask him to! In my opinion, Christian doesn't get enough thanks for what he does, probably because he does most of his contributing off-line through snail-mail.

Michael of ChicagoWiz's RPG Blog gave us his Swords and Wizardry Quickstart. This was one of the first modules that I ever ran and it contains a lot of good help for new referees.

Speaking of the first modules I ran, I'm pretty sure that my first module was this one page dungeon by the people who publish Dungeonslayers. They have a lot of other free resources too, like other one page dungeons, some rules supplements (firearms!) and, of course, their own RPG. While I don't use Dungeonslayers, I like that it uses the Metric system. That way I don't have to convert its measurements when I run modules written for it.

Telecanter has also put out some really cool stuff. My favorites are probably his Choose-Your-Own-Rogue class, which I've been using in my Skype campaign and his Alabaster Tower module- the first module that I've run twice. He also has a module that will both freak your players out and serve as a really cool introduction to an underground campaign in an evocatively described "Undersky." This module alone made me want to create an Undersky setting, just so I could kick a campaign off with this module.

Setting-wise, I'm also heavily indebted to Will the Coffee Swillin' Analog Gamer for his setting of the Barony of Northmarch. Along with Haldane, this is what has allowed me to run a sandbox campaign without very much prep at all.

Of course, thanks need to go to those who contributed One Page Dungeons to the contests these last three years. When I need a dungeon, these are the places I usually go to get them. In particular, Christopher of A Rust Monster Ate My Sword and John of The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms created really cool dungeons that provided multiple sessions of play.

Finally, the blogger who's post inspired the post that inspired this blog, Courtney at Hack and Slash, who's document and format for traps provided a way for me to make traps evil and fair at the same time. I've also started using his Out of Dungeon Living Expenses document.

And that's, I think, a good list of the less-obvious people who need thanking for things I use regularly in my games.

This whole issue, though, has got me thinking. I really do owe a lot to the online OSR community. It, more than anybody face-to-face, taught me what I know about the Old Ways, and it's provided me with the free stuff that makes up the vast majority of what I use in-game. I'm really thankful, but maybe I haven't been expressing that enough.

So here's a resolution: when I download something, I should comment as well to say "thank you." When I use it in a game, I should return to say "thank you, I actually used this and it made my game better in this way." That really doesn't sound so hard, and yet I've been lazily, un-gratefully not doing that. Time to change that, starting with everyone on this list.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One Page Wilderness System

So I stumbled across this today while I should have been studying. Seriously, check it out. There's also an example of how this would work in play here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quick note about XP

Looking through Trollsmyth's pixie class while getting the URL for the link in my brownie post, I realized that my dryad and brownie classes are missing something that most everyone else's classes have: XP charts. That's because I don't do XP in the normal way in my experimental campaign. Instead, inspired by this document by Beren Kinsman, XP in my campaign works this way:

Characters gain one Experience Point (XP) for every session their player plays them. Characters also gain 1 XP for each 1000 silver pieces of loot they spend. To advance to level L, characters need L^2+(L-2) XP. To advance to Level 2, a character needs 4 XP. To advance to Level 3, a character needs 10 total XP, but already has 4 XP and so only needs 6 more XP. To advance to Level 4, a character needs 18 XP total/8 XP more, etc. Basically, to advance to the next level, double the number of the next level and you've got how many more XP you need.

How does this change my game? Well, I think it makes tracking XP easier, if only because XP is earned in bigger chunks. This particular system also slows down advancement (shh, don't tell my players). For example, according to Beren in his document, it should take about 210 sessions for a character to reach Level 20 using either conventional XP or his system (I'm not sure which edition Beren's using). With my system, though, without spending silver for XP, it will take a character 418 sessions to reach Level 20. I'm still not sure just how much spending silver will accelerate that.

Whatever the case, though, that makes for slower advancement, since I don't think I'm over-generous on treasure when I place it (like when I'm running some One Page Dungeon modules), though I tend to leave treasure as-is in modules I run that already have treasure placed in them. So, if you're interested in a prolonged low-level campaign, you might consider this system.

Another nice effect of this system that isn't exclusive to this system is that players aren't as fixated on killing things as they would be otherwise, but on acquiring loot, since they don't get any XP for killing things. That's still something my players are working on, though. They almost got themselves a TPK last session in a fight with Mad Trees they totally could have outrun.

Finally, not having to worry about XP charts that I don't totally understand frees me up from that worry when I want to make a new class. Someday I'll re-read "Building the Perfect Class" and probably apply it to creating new classes, but for now it's nice not to have to worry about it.

Disclaimer: I downloaded the document "A Level Advancement Alternative to XP" from Berin Kinsman's website a long time ago. When I tried to find the link for it for this article, I couldn't, so I contacted him and asked him if he'd repost it, since I thought it had gone down. He kindly gave me the URL of the page linked above, which apparently had never been down (bad Google-fu skills on my part, apparently). This isn't a big deal, but qualifies as "prior contact" according to my disclaimer down there on the right. It doesn't affect anything, I don't think, but I want to keep myself honest.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Calling All Grognardlings!

So, almost a month ago, Bob at Cyclopeatron spotlighted my blog as an example of, well, a grognardling. That felt really awesome, but I couldn't help feel that I was getting a disproportionate amount of attention just because I had a mini-manifesto over on the right. I've been trying to figure out how to give a similar boost to other grognardlings. I don't have nearly the readership of Cyclopeatron, nor do I do enough browsing of newer blogs to be able to highlight new blogs like Cyclopeatron did for me.

After toying with other ideas, I hit on this: I'll populate my blog roll entirely with other blogs whose authors self-identify as grognardlings. If you read the description of "grognardling" on the right and think you qualify, if you have a blog and if you want to be added, let me know in the comments and I'll add you. If you know someone who you think qualifies, send them this way; I'd rather not add people without them self-identifying themselves as opposed to having someone else sign them up.

What's the point? Well, it's two-fold, I think. The first is to give grognardling blogs more exposure. Most blog rolls, mine included up until today, have the same big, really good blogs on them. There's nothing really bad about that- it helped me find those blogs when I first started lurking- but we could probably use more blog rolls that shine the spotlight on other blogs too. Some blog rolls do that by including huge amounts of blogs. I find that really daunting, though I've certainly found my way to new blogs through some of those huge blog rolls and I've also received traffic from them, so they absolutely are a good thing too. My aim is to tighten the focus of my blog roll compared to the huge blog rolls to just one theme: grognardlings.

The second point? Well, I figure if anyone wants to prove that there is a generation of us grognardlings out there, they can just point people to my blog roll, simple as that. This should put to rest any question of whether we exist or not, assuming anyone wants to sign up.

Foray into Dungeon Building, Part 9

Dungeon dressing time!

From what I can tell, most dungeon dressing advice centers on the original use of each room and there are often a lot of tables to determine what kind of room each room is/was. That's helpful if…

1) those tables are used sparingly instead of for every room. Otherwise you can get really weird rooms next to each other.

2) you haven't already mapped out the rooms yet. It's a bit awkward when you roll "auditorium" for a 10x10 room.

3) you're dressing a section of your dungeon that has actually been inhabited in the last thousand years or so, so that the actual remains of what the room was used for in the first place are still in the room.

That's all well and good, but not the situation I'm in. I'm looking for tables that I can use for each and every room, for rooms that I've already mapped out. I also don't really want PCs to be able to tell what rooms in Level 1, Area 4 used to be. This area has been uninhabited by sentient life for a long, long time, as it's the "front door" of the whole megadungeon. No one wants to live in it, as it's pretty unfortified and it is the first place intruders go. Whatever vestiges might have been left behind of the original trappings of these rooms, they've been removed or have rotted away hundreds of years ago. Whatever is now found in these rooms is unconnected to the original uses of these rooms.

So, for my purposes, for Level 1, Area 4, I'm using this table, rolling 1d4 times for each room. The first nine entries are OSRIC tables (pages 151-154).

  1. Air Currents Table
  2. Odours Table
  3. General Table
  4. Noises Table
  5. Furnishings Table
  6. Alchemy Lab Table
  7. Container Contents Table
  8. Personal and Miscellaneous Table
  9. Clothing and Footwear Table
  10. Beyond the Black Gate Sub-Table (Roll 1d4. 1: Random Trap/Secret Door Disarming Table [with no effect if messed with] 2-4: Weird Things in Rooms Table)
For doors, I'm also going to use Al's Doors tables, except that I'll only roll a d6 instead of a d8 on the "Door is made of…" table.

Obviously, this is a lot of rolling. I may use this electronic dice roller instead of rolling them all by hand. I'm also not going to bore you with the details of all my rolls. Two rooms should suffice…

Room 1: The smashed remains of a crate and some dirty white cloth lie in a corner. If inspected, the cloth is found to be a rotting apron with huge gashes in it.

Room 2: Along a wall lie a rusting sifter, half-covered with a blue-greenish semi-liquid, a rusted, broken chopper and the rotting remains of a wooden stand.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brownie Race-Class

While I aim to cut down on "human" classes, I really don't have much of a problem with race-classes in my Skype campaign. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that humans have, so far, usually been a significant portion of the PC party. Maybe it's the experimental nature of this particular campaign.

This is the first race-class that I wrote, slightly touched up. I wrote it for a player whom I introduced to pen-and-paper roleplaying and who introduced me to free-form forum-based roleplaying. She wanted to play a brownie so I borrowed heavily from Trollsmyth's pixie class and came up with this:

Prime Attribute: Dexterity
Dit Dice: 1d4-1
Saving Throw: 14
Weapons Allowed: Brownie-sized
Armor: None
Shield: None

Brownie weapons do 1d2 damage single-handed and 1d4 damage two-handed. Their AC is modified by +2 against all enemies larger than a kobold and by +4 against enemies larger than a human.

Brownies can see in the dark up to 30 meters away.

Brownies are inherently magical beings and get a +4 modifier to any saving throws against magic. They may cast referee-approved spells with the alternate magic system in Green Devil Face #4.

Brownies can sneak or hide on a roll of 8 or less on a d12. In addition, they can become invisible three times a day, remaining invisible, unless they engage in combat, for as long as they wish.

Unfortunately, this player is no longer playing with us due to scheduling issues. She played a brownie named Biddy who had a large copper pot thanks to the 100 item list her player rolled on at during chargen. Biddy would lug that around and spend most combats under it, invisible, which might have something to do with why I didn't think that letting her turn invisible three times a day overpowered her at all. She used the invisibility to scout ahead for the party, and also to moon a cult's altar in an attempt to defile it without being seen by the rest of the party.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Narnian Dryad Race-Class

In my Skype campaign, though we use Swords and Wizardry as the foundation we build on, we don't use race-as-class except for "magical" beings. So far, magical PC races are gnomes, brownies and dryads. This is our dryad race-class. It's based more on the dryads in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia than on the dryads of Greek myth, since, well, everyone in the campaign is a Narnia fan. No Dryads, PC or NPC, have appeared in our campaign yet, but we drew this up after one of my players requested it.

Prime Attributes: Wisdom, Charisma
Prerequisite Alignment: Any Barbaric
Hit Dice: 1d6-1/level
Saving Throw: 13
Weapons: None
Armor: None
Shield: None

Dryads are able to cast any Druid spells specifically approved by the Referee or from sources approved by the Referee, using the alternate magic system found in Green Devil Face #4. (So far, approved sources are OSRIC and Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets.)

Each Dryad has a tree; in fact, each Dryad is the spirit of a tree. The Dryad dies when the Dryad's tree dies (and vice versa). It is physically impossible for the Dryad to travel more than a day's journey away from its tree. The Dryad may also animate its tree as a Treant of three more hit dice than the Dryad's level. While animating its tree, the Dryad cannot use magic.

Dryads do not normally have any use for treasure. Unless the Dryad has some pre-set, unique reason to desire treasure, Dryads do not share in any loot gained during adventuring.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Assassin's Guild

So, the Order of the Green Hand needs an assassin's guild to go with it, no? Taking a cue from Zak, I'm presenting this guild as all rules, with any "fluff" I think has to be included in brackets. This assassin's guild doesn't have any official name, but goes by a few unofficial names, including "the Group," "the Gang," "the Workmen," and, most commonly, "the Monopoly."

Guild Law:
  • Guilded assassins may not kill other guilded assassins, on pain of death.
  • Guilded assassins may take apprentices, who are not considered guilded, but who may kill under their master's supervision. [Apprentices are the way enemy Guild members get rid of each other.]
  • Apprentice assassins may only gain guild membership by replacing a retiring guilded assassin, killing a guilded assassin and taking his place or by co-founding a Guild franchise in a new location.
  • So long as it is expedient to do so, guilded assassins have the responsibility to kill any non-guild murderer they become aware of in an area claimed by the Guild. The cornerstone of the Guild is its violent insistence that it have a monopoly on killing. [This leads to clashes with the Thieves Guild, who like to keep everything, including hits, in-house instead of sub-contracting with a specialist guild.]
  • Guild assassins may take any job they choose, but must complete any job they accept. If they fail, they must try again until they succeed.
Characters from any class may become an assassin's apprentice, but they also keep all of their class restrictions. Assassin is a Glantri-style prestige class that I'm working on, but Dyson also has a Glantri-style Dark Assassin you could use.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unique Items

The latest issue of Encounter was recently released and the PDF is free. I haven't spent a lot of time looking through it, but I did find an article by Howard Olsen that is just a list of 20 unique things to put in a dungeon. I'll probably be using them the next time I roll "unique" on my dungeon-stocking chart. Go check it out.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To-Hit and Damage Rules

Around the turn of the year, Al did some thinking on non-variable damage. He got me thinking and this is the to-hit and damage system my Skype campaign recently switched over to:

Roll a d20 to hit, as normal. If you roll a natural 1, roll on the Arduin Critical Fumble Table. If you roll a natural 20, roll on the Arduin Critical Hit Table. If you hit, but without a natural 20, roll for damage as follows.

There are three types of weapons: Light, One-Handed and Two-Handed. They can either be Melee or Ranged (or sometimes both). Ranged weapons each have a range increment, with penalties to hit if targets are farther than one range increment away.

Light weapons are the relatively wimpy things that Magic Users are allowed to use. Darts, slings, daggers, etc. They do 2d6 damage, take the lower result.

One-Handed weapons are pretty self-explanatory. They do 1d6 damage.

Two-Handed weapons are also obvious as to definition. They do 2d6 damage, take the higher result.

Dice explode; if you roll a result of 6, keep the 6 and roll again. Add that result to the total amount of damage inflicted. If you are rolling two dice, roll them both and take the lower or higher result, depending on your weapon type.

If a character fires into melee and doesn't hit the target, the referee rolls to determine which other character in that melee has a chance to be hit. The player then rolls to hit that other character, with standard to-hit chances and damage. If that "attack" misses as well, the missile is deemed to have passed through the melee harmlessly.

Monsters fight in exactly the same way, except that their damage may or may not be based on a six-sided die.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beginning Gear

Taichara asked some interesting questions about gear: "What gear, if any, is assumed in your games? … Does your campaign have "fast packs" or similar, to make kitting out new characters simpler? … Conversely, are there items of gear that are Very Strongly Recommended a character have on their person if at all possible?"

In my campaign we assume clothing and not much else. Magic-users buy their spell books. I do have each character roll on E.G. Palmer's "100 Item List of Random Objects for First Level PCs", though. Rogues are allowed to forfeit their random object for a lock-smith set instead.

We don't use fast packs for my Skype campaign; my players are really, really into choices and have made it clear that they don't want them. I have run, and plan to run in the future, one-shots and mini-campaigns (SoCal Mini Con IV, perhaps?), though, where spending much time at all buying starting equipment is really an over-investment in a PC. For those situations, inspired by Al's post on starting equipment, I worked out a three-step character-equipping system.

Step one is really simple. You've chosen your class and get something class related automatically. Magic Users get a spell book. Rogues get a lock-pick kit. Fighters and Dwarfs get either a two-handed weapon or a one-handed weapon and a shield. If I had clerics in my games, I'd give them a holy symbol. Elves get both what Fighters and Magic Users get, but they'll pay for it later.

Step two is choosing one of three Adventuring Packs. (If anyone can tell me how to put these in a table on blogger, I'd be immensely thankful.)

Pack 1
  • Backpack (holds 10 kg)
  • Trail Rations (2 days)
  • Hammer
  • 5 Iron Spikes
  • Rope (20 meters)
  • Grappling Hook
  • Empty Glass Phial

Pack 2
  • Backpack (holds 10 kg)
  • Flint and Steel
  • Lantern (burns .25 liter/hour)
  • Oil in 4 leather flasks (2 liters)
  • Crowbar
  • Small Steel Mirror
  • Manacles (with key)

Pack 3
  • Backpack (holds 10 kg)
  • Flint and Steel
  • 5 Torches (each last 1 hour)
  • Empty Sack (holds 30 kg)
  • Waterskin (holds 2 liters)
  • Ball of Twine (30 meters)
  • Healing Potion (heals 1d6)

Step three is for each player to choose three additional items, unless they are playing an Elf, in which case they only choose two, since the elf got an extra item in step one.

  • Healing Potion (heals 1d6)
  • Locksmith's Tools
  • Leather Armor (+2 to AC)
  • Helmet (+1 to AC)
  • 3 Meter Pole
  • Ranged One-Handed Weapon with 20 units of ammunition (1d6 damage)
  • Melee One-Handed Weapon (1d6 damage)
  • Shield (+1 to AC)

I recently switched to using (kind of) non-variable weapon damage. One of the nice things about that is that players can choose any weapon they want or can imagine, and I don't have to specify their options for them. They get unlimited freedom to flavor their characters however they like, while using a really simple system for dealing damage, which is pleasant whichever side of the screen you are on. Actually, that'd make a good next post…

As for Very Strongly Recommended items… my players have learned to bring along and use multiple 3 meter (10 foot) poles whenever they venture underground…

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dice Superstitions Question

I'm an immensely un-superstitious person… except when it comes to dice, because, hey, dice superstitions are fun. Personally, when I'm playing, I don't like to touch my dice when I'm rolling them, putting them in a roller instead. This started when I was playing in a 3.5 campaign and always seemed to roll really badly until I started trying this. Even my DM commented on how it seemed to improve my rolls.

I don't usually bother with my dice-roller when I'm refereeing, though. I haven't "noticed" anything really being skewed when I roll the dice by hand as a referee either. That's probably because I bought some GameScience dice, but it's fun to pretend that it's because I'm not rooting for one side or another, so the dice can't skew one way or the other to disappoint me.

How about you; do you treat your dice differently depending on whether you're a player or a referee?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Foray into Dungeon Building, Part 8

Short post this time. Maybe. I need something unique for Room 5. Hmm.

So, back in August, at the SoCal Min Con III, the last game I played in was Brunomac's. He was running his own dungeon that, I think, was the tomb of three deified adventurers or something else cool like that, and I remember that in one corner of the first level he had a statue that did something if you touched it. If I remember correctly, he had a table of six things that it could do and once those six things were exhausted, that was it. (We had more than six in our party.) That's an idea: a statue.

Hmm… peruse "S is for Statues" in the Dungeon Alphabet… nothing really striking me… especially not something that I want to place at the choke point every party will have to go through if they use the "front door…"

So, I turn to this other book that I bought a while back for inspiration after reading a blogger's review of it someplace I can't remember because it was over a year ago, at least: Out of the Forests, by Paul Bonner.

Bonner certainly isn't in the canon of Old School D&D artists; in fact, so far as I can tell, what little D&D artwork he's done was for Wizards of the Coast. I like the fact that I know absolutely nothing about the mythology or backstory of the games that he did do work for; it makes it all very mysterious to me and gives me a chance to come up with my own explanations for things. His work is also pretty awesome and most of his fantasy art is pretty free of giant swords and "unrealistic" armor, at least so far as I can tell. (Not that that's bad. It's just not my style, nor a style that I think you, as a reader of an Old School blog, probably cares too much for. Or you might, and that's cool.)

In the book, as well as on his site, there's this painting of this little dwarf guy standing on the huge head of a statue. Hmm. I really like that.

How about I just drop this head of a statue in this beginning room, and then put the rest of the statue somewhere on a much lower level? If the party finds this statue, and if they find a way to reconnect the head and body of the statue, something cool happens. What? Well, I don't have to figure that out until I place the body of the statue, now do I?

(Well, I'm actually leaning towards it transporting them someplace they couldn't access before, which actually comes from the Dungeon Alphabet. But we'll see.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thanks to the OSR!


So, I'm pretty floored right now by how welcoming the OSR is. (Yeah, I know we have some pretty serious drama too- I've been lurking the blogs for years.) First Sham totally answers my question with a blog post of his own…

And now Cyclopeatron makes a post about this blog… when I left home this morning I had three followers and when I came home this evening I discovered that I now have 25… leveling me up from Newbie to Commentator. If I remember correctly, you're not supposed to be able to level more than one level in a day…

So, thank you to my original three followers, and thank you to my new followers, and thank you to however many of you have subscribed to by blog with a reader instead of following (like I do), and thank you to the big-time bloggers that have been kind to me, and thank you to the gamers at the last SoCal Minicon who helped me learn and confirmed for me that I "got it" and thank you to those who have commented…

We may have our moments of drama, but sometimes this OSR is a pretty awesome community to be a part of. So thanks for making it that way.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Foray into Dungeon Building, Part 7

So, the map is finished and the monsters are placed. Time to figure out what all is in these rooms besides monsters.

Treasure first, since it's so simple. Treasure goes in rooms 9, 11, 13, 14 and 16. Using Sham's Treasure Tables, but converting gold to silver, as my campaign uses that as its base metal, this is what I roll up:

9: 50 silver
11: 100 silver
13: something worth 60 silver
14: 50 silver
16: something worth 60 silver

So, rooms 13 and 16 need something worth 60 silver. Enter Taichara's Little Treasures, a list of 100 items to stick in treasure. I roll percentile dice and get a carnelian flask with a poppy-based beverage in it and a bronze torc (after re-rolling when the second result seemed too valuable for 60 silver). Unfortunately, it seems that the Little Treasures aren't hosted for download anymore, but it also seems that Taichara is willing to email them to those who ask.

On to traps for rooms 6 and 15. I had originally planned to use OSRIC's trap charts, but just about the time I started this project, Courtney over at Hack & Slash put out a really, really cool resource called Tricks, Empty Rooms and Basic Trap Design that I'm going to use instead. In it, Courtney lays out a format for traps that almost amounts to giving them a stat block. Traps each have triggers, effects (maybe), saves (maybe), duration, resets and ways to be bypassed (maybe). As someone who wants to be a fair-but-deadly referee, I like this a lot because it forces me to make sure that each trap I set is avoidable by player choice; if the players can avoid it, it's fair, no matter how deadly.

So, rolling up two traps on Tricks, Empty Rooms and Basic Trap Design's Appendix I, this is what I get:

Room 6: Scything Blade Trap
Trigger: Magical Proximity
Effects: None
Save: AC
Duration: Instant
Resets: Manual
Bypass: Be Short

Description: Over the western door is a stylized, eye-shaped magical proximity sensor that triggers the trap whenever any being approaches the door. When triggered, a scythe blade swings out from the western side of the door at human neck level. The Kobolds who set this trap avoid it merely be being short and the regular patrols coming and going to the front door reset and maintain it. The trap does 8d8 damage and hits at +10.

Detection/Disarming: The first clue that something is amiss is the eye-shaped proximity sensor above the door. The second is the poorly camouflaged slot that the scythe comes out of. The easiest way to avoid the trap is just to crouch while approaching the door, but it is conceivable that PCs may jam the blade or disable the proximity trigger.

Room 15: Triggered Bear Trap
Trigger: Trigger Wire
Effects: None
Save: None
Duration: Until Reset
Resets: Manual
Bypass: Avoid or Block

Description: In the wall of this room is a hole that any human, humanoid or demihuman could fit their arm into. If light is shined into it, a glinting can be seen; there is a large, worthless, crudely and irregularly cut chunk of quartz at the back of the hole. A trigger wire goes through the middle of the quartz, suspending it between the walls of the hole. When the quartz is moved at all, the wire is triggered and a bear trap slams down on whatever was pulling on the quartz, holding him, her or it in place until a wandering monster or the Kobolds come. To the right of the hole, hidden by moss on the wall, is a small key-hole that will release the bear trap; the Kobolds will release PCs from the trap for a fee of 10 silver if the party is on good terms with them.

Detection/Disarming: A random-looking hole with a glinting a few feet in is pretty clearly a trap and PCs should know that this is best left alone. If the PCs investigate, they can discover that it is a trap by sticking something besides their own arms into the hole, which will be held in place or snapped by the bear trap. If a PC does get trapped, the rest of the party can search for the key-hole and attempt to pick it, or they can attempt to pry the bear trap open. To open the trap enough for the character to escape, they will need a combined strength score of 35 and something thick and metal, like a crow-bar. Wood or even weapons will not work.

And I think I'll end there for now. These posts have been getting really long, and I want to curb that for ease of reading. Next time I'll keep fleshing out the rooms in Level 1 Area 4.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Foray into Dungeon Building, Part 6

So, now I've got the map for Level 1, Area 4. Time to work on filling it, I think.  If I switch back and forth between mapping new areas and filling them, that will probably help with the dreaded Gamer ADD.

Before I even mess with choosing what monsters to include, I can create a room contents table. Labyrinth Lord has a good, simple table to start with, I think (page 124).

I want a dungeon that is a bit emptier, though, and one that has "tricks" as well as traps, and one where I don't have to come up with (or steal) "unique" encounters for a quarter of the rooms.  I've come up with this:

01-50 Empty    15%
51-80 Monster 50%
81-90 Trap       30%
91-97 Trick      30%
98-00 Unique   Varies

The range of numbers on the left is, obviously, the percentile dice rolls and the percentage on the right is the chance that there will be treasure. Now I roll on this table for each room of Area 4.

Rooms 1 and 12 have monsters. Room 5 has a unique encounter. Room 6 and 15 have traps. Rooms 9, 11, 14 and 16 have monsters and treasure. Room 13 is empty but has treasure in it. The other eight rooms are empty. Not bad.

I kind of hit a wall here. The problem was probably that there were so many resources out there that supply monsters! I had been planning on creating a separate monster table for each area of each level, and choosing which monsters to include was daunting! I also wasn't sure how many monsters of different difficulties should be on each level.

Recently, though, I commented on one of Sham's posts about stocking dungeons, and he then posted this in reply. Instead of creating a separate monster table for different levels or areas, Sham sorts his monsters according to hit dice and then rolls to see how many hit dice a monster will have and then rolls on that hit dice table to see which monster shows up! Cool! (Also, really cool to have a big-time blogger take the time to answer my question with a blog post! Thanks, Sham!)

So, with that in mind, all I need to do to be able to randomly place monsters is have a handful of 1 HD and 2 HD monsters that I can roll between. I can counter choice overload by starting with just a few monsters and slowly building my monster lists as I find monsters I like; I just need to add monsters in intervals that correspond to number ranges I can get from my dice.

I do plan on using two types of random monster tables for my dungeon: stationary monsters (for stocking my dungeon) and wandering monsters. I only need to work on the stationary monsters for now.

So, I need a few 1 HD (and less) and 2 HD monsters.

1 HD (or less) monsters:

2 HD monsters:

That should do the trick for now, though I definitely expect these tables to grow as I continue to look for awesome monsters, the majority of which my players won't be familiar with.

I've created a permanent stationary monster table page for my own convenience and so anyone who is interested can keep up with my monster tables. I'll create another one for wandering monsters. I'm also going to have to create stationary and wondering monster tables for water as well.

OK, so now I quickly roll up the monsters for rooms 1, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 16:

Room 1: Saucer Fungi
Room 9: Giant Centipedes
Room 11: Giant Centipedes
Room 12: Pemblings
Room 14: Jekti
Room 16: Winged Viper Snake

Next time I'll work on treasure, contents of the other rooms and dungeon dressing. We're getting closer to a one-page PDF of Level 1 Area 4! I think that after I've done this process once I'll get the hang of it more and more, so I should be able to make progress on my megadungeon much more quickly.