Thursday, January 26, 2023

#Dungeon23 week 4

This one is about process!

So here it is the 26th and I have finished the month. I'm telling myself I can't crack February yet - gotta wait. Pace myself. But here is where I'm at and some things that helped me gather so much energy/productivity.

1. One Room a Day. I take the one room a day thing seriously. On three occasions I did "paired" rooms - two rooms that are kind of mirror images of each other. For instance, two storage rooms (same shape and size on opposite sides of a hall) one containing slippers and the other robes. But generally, it's one room per calendar day. 

2. One Day at a Time? Not so much. If I feel like doing two+ rooms, I do. But I work ahead in the calendar not sideways. (Rule 1 still applies, I just time travel so that I'm writing ahead a day, but still only doing one room for each calendar day.)  I try to stop short so that I leave something to do with the rooms on the following days, but it's hard. Sometimes working ahead means I just sketch the room in the map and quit, without recording any words. Other times I do the opposite; I write a title or a few key words down and leave the map for later. This week, however, I was working on the "zinification" of my journal and I got carried away in the rush to make a complete draft.

3. Generating Content. I have avoided lots and lots of tables. I feel like those are useful when you want to generate a ton of content at once, but for one-room-at-a-time development, I have lots of ideas and don't need many tables. I started out with a simple one like this.

I should probably go back to this at the start of February to make sure I don't fall into a rut. 

For room shapes I close my eyes and plunge a finger down on one of these grids, pasted into the back of my journal. They are from Lizard Man Diaries. The top one is for dungeons. The bottom two are streets (left) and domiciles (right), but I don't really think about that; I just use them for inspiration. And half of the time my fat finger lands between several options, giving me some choice. In other words, I use the generators, but not slavishly. I transform and interpret, or even just ignore it and pick one or close my eyes and point again. It's a useful creative crutch. Crutches are bad if both your legs are good, but they really help when you have a sprained creativity ankle!

4. Back and Forth. Making a zine out of it was driven by 1) the impulse to formalize, 2) the impulse to clarify/extend, and 3) the impulse to share in a useful way. Regardless, going back and forth between journal and typing has fed energy into the project. At times it has taken me too far away from the physical experience of the journal. When that happens I go back and re-draft entries I've already written in the zine doc. I've probably written-erased-written-erased-and-written most of my entries. They started out in print and now they are in cursive (because I wanted to practice cursive and can write it smaller/denser than print, oddly), but stat blocks are still oddly in print. I guess I can't imagine writing things like "AC 12" in cursive. I really want to be able to run the dungeon from my journal because it's like a book already, but the zine format is probably more practical. I try never to write a day first in the zine - I always try to put them in the journal first. But I have failed at that three or four times. It's a process. Maybe not the best one or the most coherent, but it's working.

5. Drawings. These also go back and forth. Usually I sketch something in my journal and then send a pic of it to my iPad and work over top of it in Procreate. Most of the drawings from my last post were done that way, and it makes me wonder if you can pick out the ones that started on the iPad rather than in the journal. If anyone is curious, I'll specific which began where.

This week, week five, was mostly spent on the Ithikites – evil lava worm people – and their organic-tech, the Kjhiki – some poor creature that they mostly use now as genetic putty for their conveyance/work engines. In fact, those creatures and their digs should finish out the month and the level. 


Monday, January 23, 2023

#Dungeon 23 week 3

I could subtitle this a tale of two maps. This week I got really into re-organizing and illustrating parts of my dungeon. The process of turning things into zines and literally working back and forth between digital and physical media creates an energy loop for me. I even erased all my journal entries and re-wrote them in cursive because a) I wanted to practice my cursive, having not really used it in years and b) I wanted to make the entries more abbreviated but also more dense. If that makes sense. (It doesn't really. It's Madness.) Anyway. Here's my map from my journal and the illustrated version. I renumbered the illustrated one somewhat to make the descriptions sequence a little better. The top-level summary below refers to the illustration. 

0101 The Sun Gate - faceted tower in the Sea of Dust. Gate unlocks in direct sun only. Trapped wind elemental. Solve magic mouth riddle to open door.

0102 The Joust - dust knights joust on lizard-chickens for/against you.

0103 Nugget Room - prism* turns sunlight into gold nugget.*
* denotes treasure.

0104 Alitrah Iron-Skull - weary, bejeweled* minotaur bellows death poem and looks for a good place to die.

0105 Pool - cool water is refreshing.

0106 Contemplation Cells - zen gardens that lock you in.

0107 Stone Sisters - animal-women statues conceal a door.

0108 Four Faces - four locked doors with emotional faces that shift.

0109 Auditorium - tiered amphitheater. Buttons play illusionary lectures that make you smarter* and/or insane.

0110 Glittering Hallway - non-parallel walls lead to a locked lead door.

0111 Star Entity - pulsing star entity answers questions but may bind you to a knowledge quest.

0112 Star Food Cache - dangerous star food and drink. Pool hides potion.*

0113 Demon Gaol - three demons locked in by lava/runes.

0114 Bridge Over Troubled Lava - fire imps hurl lava at you.

0115 Library - Books* and comfy chairs. Wandering mummy cats, gaunt priests, and bone servitors get in the way.

0116 Shrine of Xizcolaquamn - make an offering to an ugly demon statue and get a warm feeling. Secret treasure* room.

0117 Observation Lounge - watch the imprisoned demons cavort and eat purple porridge.

0118 Priest Quarters - search to find good stuff* and maybe a carrion crawler.

0119 Perambulatory - stairs lead up to hatch or down to iron grate. Watch out for falling sand from above.

0120 Hypostyle Hall - hall of painted columns marred by hole. Stairs down.

0121 Cloak Rooms - collect fire-retardant robes/slippers* here.

Gray rooms on map are unlit.

I'm leaving the longer descriptions as seen in previous posts for the zine, especially since I've reworked the old ones as well as adding new. 

Also, I did some new illustrations to round out the zine: 

Cover Draft

Star Entity

Statue of Xizcolaquamn

Friday, January 13, 2023

#Dungeon 23 week 2

[Direct from my zine-formatted rewrite/draft.]

0108 Auditorium

No light source. This empty, half-circle chamber descends toward a central dais by means of tiered benches. Sound carries exceptionally well in this room. Three stone buttons are on the wall behind the dais. Pushing them in any combination plays back an illusion, recreating a stored lecture. A three-armed blue humanoid pontificates in an alien language. If deciphered, a listener gets +1 INT after one minute. (A character only gets this benefit once, and the message/effect can’t be interpreted for others. It’s too complex.) The subject is a higher form of mathematics. The listener will see glowing shapes drawn in the air by the blue hands. After 15 minutes of watching, any character who understands the words being spoken must make a WIL check. On a fail, they are filled with a uncontrollable rage and will attack anyone in sight with whatever is in their hands for three turns or until they take half their hp in damage.

Level -1a Grotto of Higher Mysteries

0109 Glittering Hallway

No light source. An angular tunnel of dry, glittery, sandstone leads to a locked, lead-covered door. All the walls in this area (through 0111) are the same and none are parallel to any other within sight! 

0110 Star Entity

A pulsing, crystalline form hovers at one end of the room over a circular black void/hole. The hovering crystal is vaguely star-shaped. When characters enter, the star speaks loudly (!) in their brains: “Those who seek knowledge need only ask!” Conversing with the entity works like a Contact Higher Plane spell (plane 7). If a character goes “insane” it means they slavishly do the star’s bidding. The star will place a geas on them to seek out some esoteric bit of knowledge. Characters may Save vs. Spells once a month to try and shrug off the star’s influence, but until they do they must follow up on any clue that presents itself re: their star-given quest. Example quests: discover the three means of trapping the demon Ventrifurniculus. Tell me what lies at the bottom of the bottomless starry pit. What are the blue mummy’s last words? These questions shouldn’t mean much to players - but clues might be uncovered as the delve continues! If a player manages to find an answer, it is immediately transmitted to the star, which then vacates their brain.

0111 Star Food Cache

One of these rooms a) contains a number of silver globes 8-14” in diameter. They feel solid, but are too light to be actual silver. They are the star entity’s food. Hammer strikes (or similar) will cause them to break open and spew a glittery dust all over the room. Save vs. Poison or have CON reduced by 1 due to having these particles in one’s lungs. Room b) contains a small pool of swirling, opaque gold liquid. It smells like baked apples with hint of cinnamon. This is the star’s drink. It works like acid on flesh (d6 external, d10 if swallowed) but will not dissolve inorganic material. At the bottom of the pool is a glass vial containing a potion of three wishes.

0112 Like a Bridge Over Troubled Lava  

A stone bridge arches smoothly over a running river of lava. There is a 1-in-6 chance that fire imps are cavorting in the lava. If so, they will hurl flaming balls at any who cross and cackle with glee. The fairies can’t be killed but can be driven off with cold or by some other clever means. Hurl fire +3, d6 fire damage and a 1-in-6 chance of catching a resource on fire (e.g. arrows, backpack, cloak, etc.)

Level -1b Priest Dormitorium

Beyond the bridge all walls are of red-glazed brick. Any wandering monster encounter should use this table:

  1. 1d6 Expired Priests (9 total, keep track). These strange three-armed beings are silent, gaunt, three-armed figures with taught bluish-gray skin. They look undead but aren’t - they have just moved into some sort of walking hibernation from which they may or may not be able to recover. They will ignore interlopers until attacked or their things are disturbed. They will not engage in physical combat, but rather cast spells appropriate to the nuisance caused by any campaigners. Flavor their spells as psionic attacks: for instance, Cause Fear should feel like an overwhelming sense of dread and the priest’s milky-green eyes will suddenly seem large and locked onto the player.

    Expired Blue Priest: AC 13, HD 6*, Spell attacks only, Move 90’, Save as Cleric 6, Morale 7, XP 10. Spells: Darkness, Cause Fear, Silence 15’, Hold Person, Cause Disease, Cause Serious Wounds.
  2. 1d6 Bone Servitors (9 total). As skeletons. They are cleaning and moving things around, or just standing in wait. Will not attack unless messed with (e.g. preventing them from putting a thing back in its place) or if the campaigners become unruly and disturb the peace of the dormitorium.
  3. 1 Cleaner Blob (1 only). As gelatinous cube. Actually distorts itself so as not to contact the priests, servitors, or cats.
  4. 1d4 Mummy Cats (9 total). These two-tailed cats are wrapped in stained gauze. They are harmless unless attacked, but their meowing may draw other monsters — roll twice as often when they are in the vicinity of the party. If they are petted, as long as they are petted, they will purr quietly. After a couple turns of petting they will tire of being petted and scratch anyone holding them to get down.

    Mummy Cat: AC 10, HD 1, Scratch 1hp + 1d3 hp per day rotting damage (Save vs. Poison to avoid/end), Move 90', Morale 11, XP 10. They just want to be loved … until they don’t.
  5. 1 Carcass Crawler (1 total). As carcass crawler. See also 0116.
  6. Interloper. Use a monster from elsewhere on this level, improvise, or use another wandering monster table of your choice. 

0113 Library

This hallway ends in an oddly shaped, buy cozy library. Two ever-burning torches light the place with an even, clear light. They can be removed. In fact, one of them has been, leaving the farthest corner from the door dimly lit. There are four bookshelves and a number of cushy, high-backed chairs in small alcoves. Many of the books are written in strange languages, but a few are in languages the PCs will know. Each volume taken is worth d10 x 20 gp. Some exceptional titles include: 

Ratuga Twisken’s Guide to Flim-Flammery: +1 to CHA after a month or more of study, requires an annual refresh.

Sminky’s Spellbinding Solutions: recipes for brewing potions at reduced time/cost: control human, control plant, growth, healing, levitation, speed, treasure finding.

Crumm’s Excellent Exercises: physically-demanding meditations for clerics that, when performed during the daily preparations, grant one extra 1st level spell at the cost of d3 hp.

0114 The Shrine of Xizcolaquamn

In one nook of this room is a statue of a bulky, demonic figure - something like an ostrich with an elephant head and beaver tail, but also not like that at all. It is seated, cross-legged, with it’s eyes shut. In front of the statue is a bowl of flaming lava. If something of worth is thrown into the the lava, the stone eyelids of the statue roll back to reveal glowing green gems that regard the giver. Any item so sacrificed is magically transported to the chest that lies in the secret room opposite the statue. The petitioner is suffused with a warm glow feeling for d6 minutes, but there is no other benefit. (Don’t tell players that though, let them speculate as to how any following events were the result of, or were influenced by, this bit-of-fluff blessing.)

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Monster Football tokens

TLDR: Get some free tokens

I finished my "Monster Football" tokens project. You can download the images for free on my page if you want 'em: 

Previous post: Blood Bowl in a Bag

Friday, January 6, 2023

#Dungeon 23 week 1

[Text pasted from the zine-formatted revision of journal notes.]

Design Notes

  • This dungeon is keyed for Old School Essentials, using ascending AC. 
  • It is a 12 level mega-dungeon, per the Dungeon23 exercise as proposed by Sean McCoy). 
  • There is no real theme other than a mythic underworld (see Philotomy's Musings) and a good dose of "weird." Content and form were developed in an emergent fashion and heavily influenced by random tables as well as any media I was consuming at the time of writing a section. Influences are noted in context. 
  • No level or balance requirements were considered. My gut says a party should start at level 3-5. But even a level 1 party could survive a few forays with extreme caution.

Level 0 The Sun Spire

0101 The Sun Gate

Beyond the Sea of Dust, stands a faceted, asymmetrical tower. In it's northern face is the Sun Gate, which has no door, but is nevertheless "locked" when not in direct sun (avg. 6 hours a day, but varies by season and weather). 

Inside, the howling wind and ever-present dust of the sea without abruptly ceases. The roughly trapezoidal but irregular vestibule behind the gate is empty, aside from two things. Directly inward from the gate is an alcove, in front of which a Magic Mouth opens on the floor. The mouth identifies itself as Cacalion the Forgotten and without waiting for a response utters a logic problem. If solved, a Secret door opens inside the alcove. 

Additionally, a wind elemental has somehow found it's way inside and is trapped in the vestibule. At first it is unseen/at rest. Roll a d6 to determine its state on a scale of 1: exhausted from trying to get out, to 6: infuriated at being trapped.

Tiny Wind Elemental: AC 15, HD 3**, Buffet +3: d6, Fly 120', Morale 10, XP 65, Special: additional d6 damage against flying creatures or if throwing someone into a wall at least 10' away (STR save to stand firm). Once the elemental attacks the first time, everyone in the area not wearing eye protection must Save vs. Poison or be temporarily blinded.  The elemental is undetectable if at rest.

0102 The Joust

A highly irregular chamber, c. 80' in diameter and 90' tall. All surfaces are mildly reflective, like mica, and echo light from a massive crystal set in the tip of the tower. Ledges jut out at 20, 40, and 60’ heights. A Trapdoor lies in the center of the floor, and a potion rests on the lowest ledge by door. When characters enter the room, two Dust Knights (3' tall humanoids completely covered in outlandish armor) appear on the highest ledges. They are holding lances, and riding Lizard Chickens

Potion of Shrinking: causes anyone taking a swig to shrink to half size for 15 minutes. If they do, a third lizard-chicken and lance appears on a high ledge. There are three doses in the bottle. Oddly, only a character’s height and weight are reduced, not other stats.

If characters watch for a while, the ridiculous knights will joust, flying from ledge to ledge and trying to knock each other off of their mounts. If a character drinks the potion, the knights will pause/wait for the character to climb (easy) up to the ledge where the third lizard-chicken is and join in the joust. Don’t forget falling damage! The lizard-chicken will refuse to serve as a mount to anyone much over 3’ tall. If characters try to open trap door without watching a complete match, they are attacked. 

A very thorough search will reveal a 3" clear pyramidal shape in the floor behind the central pillar of mica. This is the top of the magical deck prism found in area 0103.

Dust Knights: AC 18, HD 1, Lance +0 d6 Charge, Move 60' or as mount, Morale 9, XP 15. If defeated or gravely injured, dust spills forth from the armor. There is nothing else inside.

Lizard-chicken: AC 13, HD 4*, Beak +3 d6 or Breath 2d6 (30' cone, 4 turn recharge), Hop 20', Fly 90', Morale 7 (without rider), XP 125. Mulish disposition. Will only breath fire if spurred/kicked hard.

Flying combat: climbing (increasing elevation) costs double movement: e.g. 20' of movement to rise 10’. Decreasing height is free, but the character must move forward at least 10’. Lances do double damage if the attacker charges at least 30' from an equal height or "falls" on an opponent from any higher elevation.

[Influenced by the arcade game, Joust, and the Dragonlance board game (1988).]

Level -1 Conservatory of the Blue Priests

0103 Nugget Room

A ladder descends 15’ from the trap door to a 50 x 50' octagonal chamber with exits to the E, W, and SE. In the center of the room is a pedestal on which rests a gold Nugget d4+1" in diameter. It is lit by a focused beam of light from a magical deck prism in the ceiling. The prism focuses sunlight and slowly transforms it into gold. It will fashion a 1" gold nugget in about 3 months. Every inch of nugget after that takes twice as long, with a max size of 5" (6 months = 2", 1 year = 3", 2 years = 4", 4 years = 5"). If someone tries to chisel the prism out of the ceiling it discharges a blast of sun energy for 3d6 damage to the chiseler, and 1d6 to everyone else in the chamber, leaving behind temporary blindness (from the flash-pulse) and an ozone smell. It takes many days of sun to recharge this defense, however.

0104 Alitrah Iron-Skull

Alitrah Iron-Skull is a weary, wandering minotaur looking for a good place to die. She is thinking of walking out into the Sea of Dust and so is headed to the surface. She will be heard before seen as she is loudly composing her death poem (in Minotaur) as she walks. She has put on her best jewelry for her death (an opal ring 800 gp, sapphire necklace 1,200 gp, and heavy arm-band of chased gold 1,200 gp). She will not consent to be killed or part with her valuables without a fight, though she is not consciously seeking death in battle at the moment, as she doesn’t think this room is ideal for her repose.

Note, some of the drawing shown is from week 2.
I forgot to scan a pic of the dungeon as it existed in week 1.

0105 Pool

Mica walls give way to blue-glazed brick. This octagonal room has only one feature, a low-walled, half-circle pool fed from below by a spring with cool, fresh water. In the Sea of Dust, this is practically a miracle.

0106a/b Contemplation Cells

No light source. These two angular rooms feature abstract mosaic patterns of brilliant color. The floors are covered in white “grooved” sand (more coarse than the Sea of Dust stuff). Smooth-sided dark rocks of various sizes break up the eddies of the flowing raked patterns. A wooden rake leans against the wall in each room. The stone doors open easily, but one minute after entering they shut and magically lock. They will not open again of their own accord for 23 minutes, or until everyone inside the room has a blank mind - whichever comes first.

0107 Demon Gaol

This room is almost unbearably hot and bright. A river of lava runs through the floor, which seems to be made of obsidian - as are the walls and the ceiling. Three 10’ x 20’ cells on the other side of the lava contain hideous demons of terrifying and confusing visage: their forms are roughly a vulture-catfish, a fly-frog, and a three-headed cow-lizard. Glowing runes are visible all over room’s surfaces. The demons will promise anything to be released (cover/destroy runes). 

Demons are as Lesser Efreeti, but with no powers, including flight, as long as the runes are visible.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Blood Bowl in a bag

TLDR: I made a set of tokens for playing GW's Blood Bowl on the road.

[EDIT: you can now get them on my page.] 

My son and I have been really into Blood Bowl lately. It's the first time for him and maybe the third revival of interest for me. It's a miniatures game where each team needs roughly a dozen figures - so it's not very travel friendly. For the holidays I made a travel set of tokens for my son and I to play with. We got in about nine games over the holidays and it worked so well that I have since been improving on the concept and expanding the teams available. My intent is to put the little sketch images up on for others to use too.

First the images, then I'll explain a bit.

The prototype tokens - colored stickers on wooden discs. The pitch is a foldable "sevens" board from Games Workshop.

Player images, so far. Click to embiggen.

Example of a team sheet, complete with tokens.
"Prone" tokens go on the back of the players.

There are several dozen teams in this season of Blood Bowl. I have the core ones all covered with the images above, with the exception of Amazons and Norse (newer teams) as well as an unofficial team (the Slann - frog folk). Some of the images are reused from team to team. For instance the "Tomb Guardian" for the Tomb Kings team doubles as the Mummy for the Shambling Undead team. I created a one-team-per-sheet print version so that I could print each team out on a colored piece of paper before punching them out with a 1" circle punch and glueing them to wooden craft discs.

Blood Bowl is played like American Football, at least the "elevens" version of the game is. There is a shorter version I like as much if not more called "sevens" that is a bit more like rugby, the primary difference between the two is that teams don't begin a drive in contact in sevens, and the game is played with fewer models (seven, obviously). Elevens takes about two hours to play whereas sevens takes something like 45 minutes.

The counters above are not only great for travel, they are a great way to try out a team before you buy a whole bunch of miniatures to assemble and paint. 

The prone markers were added after the prototype because we realized that all flipped over tokens looked the same and we were picking them up a lot to see whose player and what position prone characters were. In the game, when a player gets knocked down, the opposing coach makes an armor roll. If they "break" your armor you can be stunned, knocked out, or even removed from the game by an injury. But if none of those things happened you are simply lying prone and have to spend 3 movement points to get up. To mark a prone player, we flip the token over. When stunned, we put another marker on top of them. This works super well because of the game procedures that go into "un-stunning" a player and standing them up.