Friday, August 14, 2015

Muspel: basically a shitty rumor table

David asked me to brainstorm some ideas on the nature of Muspel, the underworld in his New Troy project. I have no idea which ones he's planning on keeping, aside from the ones he explicitly mentioned in that post, but I can show you the list of semi-coherent thoughts that I emailed him. Some of these are more not good than others.
-Muspel is a realm of permanent warfare between the fire giants and the frost giants.

-The nature of Muspel depends entirely on whether the Frost Jarl or the Fire Jarl currently sits on the Throne of Muspel.

-Whichever side is currently losing is at a severe disadvantage, due to the hazards surrounding them matching their natural weaknesses. This means each side needs to find a clever/opportunistic way to stack the odds in their favor every time they become the underdog.

-Fire is mania, loud and furious. Frost is depression, quiet and cruel.

-Dragons of Muspel are in tune with their surroundings. Fire wyrms become frost wyrms when the Ice King takes the throne. They technically owe allegiance to whichever King sits on the throne, but only serve him when they believe it to be in their best interest.

-Both giant kingdoms enslave dwarfs, forcing them to serve as builders, miners and sappers. 

-Slave revolts are especially common immediately after changes in season, since the jailers are suddenly at a huge disadvantage.

-Free dwarfs are those that have escaped and their descendants. The rooms and passages of their fortresses are too small for the giants to assault directly, but not for the younger dragons, who are rewarded with the largest shares of the dwarves’ hoards.

-After a successful raid on a dwarf fortress, the surviving dragons battle fiercely over the treasure they find. Only two or three at most usually survive this. These dragons often retire with their newly found hoards to isolated corners of the newly ruined fortress.

-Dwarfs build their fortresses near veins of precious minerals and gems whenever possible. Hoarding is in their nature, and mining is central to every dwarf culture that has ever formed. No one knows exactly why, including the dwarfs, who frankly couldn't care less.

-Gremlin spawning pits are natural features that produce fire gremlins or frost gremlins, depending on the season. Out-of-season gremlins establish a well-hidden spot to hibernate. The favorite activity of in-season gremlins is capturing and torturing dwarfs and their mortal cousins. Their elemental abilities affect metal objects, such as the weapons and armor of their victims.

-Wraiths are the spirits of those mortals who die in Muspel, and therefore cannot find their way to Elysium. Their powers and personalities reflect the state of Muspel at the time of their death. Their lairs are elaborate tombs that they build as shrines to themselves. They often have valuable information from their lives that they’re willing to trade for offerings.

-Wraiths can leave their tombs, but don’t often, because they are only at full power within their tomb. The tomb reflects the nature of the wraith; it’s always summer in a fire wraith’s tomb.

Like I said, I don't know which ones he's going with or how he's elaborating on (or completely subverting) them. Which ones do you weirdos like?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You snorted my brother. Prepare to die.

The Oppenheim Kellerlabyrinth is haunted by the ghosts of four Catholic saints, known collectively as the Four Holy Marshals. The Knights Templar had their remains moved to the tunnels centuries ago, to contain a then-recently discovered infestation of hyperdimensional fungoid aliens. The order currently has no information on just where these demons came from, they only know that this threat to their world must be contained at all costs.

Several intelligent fungoid species inhabit the lowest levels of the kellerlabyrinth. Although their adult body types and abilities vary greatly, all of these species go through a roughly similar life cycle, which has three stages: embryonic, larval, and mature. All three stages, if harvested and consumed properly, have potion-like effects on the user. The corpses of mature molds yield a great deal more doses than the embryonic and larval

They periodically produce reproductive spores, which are released into the air and immediately abandoned by the parent. Spores that randomly find themselves in ideal environments (damp, cool, presence of nutrition, etc) continue to reproduce, forming into molds that produce temporary effects in most animal species (including humans) when consumed. 

Embryonic Mold: Potion-Like Effects
orange mold: size doubled (+4 to damage rolls, +2d6 temporary HP,  -4 AC penalty)
grey mold: healing (must be applied directly to wound)
blue mold: visions (must be smoked; there’s a secret society that's sprung up around this substance but that’s a whole other post)
red mold: double movement and number of attacks (must be dried, powdered, and snorted)
purple mold: etherealness (must be consumed as a tea, can walk through walls, +4 AC bonus, clothes and equipment also become ethereal)

There’s a weird old lady that lives in the kellerlabyrinth and sells potions, powders, etc. distilled from these embryonic molds. She knows more about these creatures than anyone except the Four Holy Marshals, but is a little crazy and any hints she lets slip will be cryptic in nature. She’s also been experimenting with the combining of molds to produce new effects, to varying degrees of success.

The inquisitor hates her and wants her to burn, but she makes clever use of her potions and keeps making a fool of him every time he tries to fuck with her.

Whenever one of these embryonic molds grows to a sufficient size, it begins to develop specialized structures with similar functions to those of our brains and sensory organs. Molds at this stage are capable of producing weaponized spores, but not reproductive ones. These spores are the only natural defense of molds in this larval stage. Larval molds are completely immobile, but have achieved basic sentience and are constantly learning during this period.

Larval Molds: Weaponized Spores
(PCs get a chance to roll an appropriate saving throw for all these effects. Obviously.)
orange mold: size increases beyond the size of the room, bones start getting crushed
grey mold: out-of-control permanent constitution-draining tumors 
blue mold: confusion and/or suggestion
red mold: possibly fatal heart attack, survivors are still incapacitated for 1d6 rounds
purple mold: PC (but not clothes or equipment) becomes completely ethereal and floats up to the surface over the course of 3 rounds per dungeon level between the PC and the open air.

If PCs find an embryonic mold to be useful and keep returning to its location to harvest more, there is a 1/6 chance for each day it’s been since the room was last visited (maximum of 5/6) of the mold having advanced to the larval stage.

Once these fungoid neural structures have been completed, the molds begin to focus on producing limbs (1d6-2 trunk-like legs, 1d8-1 tentacles, minimum 0, roll again on a result of no limbs). Within a few days, these limbs are usually large and strong enough to be useful to the mold, and the creature is considered mature. Molds with legs can walk around and perform slam attacks, and ones that have tentacles can use them to manipulate objects as well as grabbing and constricting enemies.

All mature molds can produce the same weaponized spores as their larval forms at will, as well as empathic spores which allow a basic form of universal communication, and reproductive spores (produced involuntarily whenever the adult mold consumes enough extra nutrition). They also have intrinsic, always-on abilities that correspond to the effects of consuming each mold type in its embryonic form.

I'm writing this for low level characters, so it makes sense to me that these creatures should have about the same stats that whatever game you're playing uses for let’s say a cave bear (aside from the unusual limbs and spores and intrinsic qualities). If your party averages around level seven or higher, you should probably think about upping the hit dice (but you hopefully know that by now if you've been running a campaign that long).

Mature Molds: Intrinsic Qualities
orange mold: size doubled, +4 HD, -2 AC penalty
grey mold: regenerates 1d4 hp/round
blue mold: can see a second into the future like a jedi (+6 AC)
red mold: double movement speed and number of attacks
purple mold: ethereal (can’t be physically harmed by non-ethereal creatures or objects, but can attack others and walk through walls) 

They don’t have anything resembling an animal’s mouth, but it takes about twelve hours to completely grow around an adult human corpse, digest it, and eject perfectly clean bones. Mature molds need to consume more than four adult humans (or an equivalent amount of non-human animal meat) to produce reproductive spores.

This means that if a mature mold causes a Total Party Kill, and the replacement characters find their way back to that room, it will probably still be full of bones, and partially covered in mold colonies in their potion-like embryonic stage.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Library is a Very Dangerous Place

Paper Tigers - A lost tribe of human ex-cataloguers gone feral. Originally brought to serve the in the Madgod's Library, they were replaced with the mechanical shelving units when they inevitably went completely bugfuck crazy. They attack visitors for food, treasure and equipment whenever they believe they have an advantage.
- They shave each other completely, usually go around wearing a loincloth made from pages torn out of the books, and use scarification to create tiger stripes all over their bodies.
- Physically, these lunatics have the statistics of ordinary human civilians, but they are not to be underestimated within the confines of the Library. This is because:
- They know the contents of every book in the Madgod’s Library before pulling it off the shelf, and can choose the effect of opening the book instead of having to roll for it randomly. Also:
- One in four Paper Tigers have eaten Library bat guano and undergone a random mutation. (see Library Bats below)
- Their equivalent of the Dewey decimal system is a series of nonsensical pictograms scratched into the bookshelves. Any character who tries to cast read magic on the symbols must save or go permanently insane, effectively becoming a Paper Tiger and running off into the depths of the Library.

Shelving Unit - A horse sized, steam powered automaton with eight long claw-tipped legs. The claws are articulate enough to grasp and manipulate books and sharp enough to shred your average suit of chain mail.
-These bastards are quick and have two attacks per round.
-They can produce puffs of steam that obscure vision (which they do not rely on) in a 15 foot radius, as well as causing 1d6 fire damage to anyone in a 5 foot radius. Shelving units are immune to this particular attack, but not to fire damage in general.
- They don’t usually bother anyone, but anytime a book is moved, a shelving unit will sense it and show up in 1d3 rounds to return it to its proper place. They aren’t programmed to be rude, so they won’t interrupt readers until they put the book down somewhere, but they will follow anyone who continues to walk around with one or more books. Shelving Units will not allow anyone to leave the Library with any of the Madgod’s books, unless of course the character can present a Library card (which entitles them to borrow one book at a time). Attempting to physically damage a Library book will also incur a shelving unit's wrath.
- They can’t talk, but they can understand all spoken languages, and their body language is cartoonishly expressive.
- Shelving units viciously attack bookworms on sight, but are afraid of the entropy moths that bookworms metamorphose into, and will not approach them willingly.

Bookworm - A two-foot long caterpillar with the face of a madly grinning human.
- They can spray a 15 foot cone of goo that causes paralysis to anyone it touches (save to avoid), and usually flee immediately after. This doesn’t immediately affect shelving units, but it does dry quickly (1d4 rounds) and gums up their joints at that point, immobilizing them.
- When fleeing, they can move faster than their appearance implies (half again the speed of an unencumbered human).
- Bookworms are usually found in groups of 3d4 worms. This usually allows a lucky few to get away, if a group of shelving units gets the drop on them. Larger groups can be found during serious infestations.
- Once they've eaten enough books, they create a cocoon for themselves, which is clearly visible but naturally camouflaged against the shelving units' (non-visual) sensors. At the end of its gestation period, an entropy moth emerges.

Entropy Moth - About the same size as a bookworm, entropy moths are mostly covered in pearlescent fur. They have the unblinking and expressionless face of a human mannequin, but with the nose and mouth replaced with a curled proboscis resembling that of any other moth.
- When these creatures flap their wings, they radiate waves of chaos in a 15 foot circle. All inanimate material in this radius begins to break down. Metal weapons and armor rust, organic material deteriorates, and mechanical devices immediately stop working, then fall apart 1 round later. This does not affect the Madgod’s books, but does affect normal books. Magic items (including spell books) can save to avoid this damage.
- The entropy field also alters spell effects that enter it. Roll on the table to determine how the spell is altered.
1 Spell is deflected towards a new, randomly chosen target.
2 Reverse the effect of the spell; if it would normally cause damage, it heals instead, etc.
3 All numeric qualities of the spell (intensity/damage, area of effect, etc.) are tripled.
4 Spell is replaced with a random spell of one level lower.
5 All numeric qualities of the spell (intensity/damage, area of effect, etc.) are halved.  
6 The spell is absorbed by the entropy moth, which becomes impregnated and uses its next turn to hook its proboscis onto someone's bare flesh and implant an egg sac in its victim. The eggs hatch 1 hour later (unless the character expels them by making a successful save or a relevant healing spell is cast), and the character experiences crippling pain while 1d4 larval bookworms make their way to the brain. Bookworms eat their victims’ brains, but only digest the actual information, expelling the rest as waste. Bookworm hosts die horribly, by puking out their brains and shit.
- There are two small glands near the base of an entropy moth's head which are highly prized by alchemists and artificers. They can be used to create effects such as spell resistance, reflection, and absorption (in order of increasing difficulty).
- These moths' antennae are specially adapted to constantly detect traces of magic on items and creatures. They are attracted to magic and other manifestations of chaos like their smaller cousins to a flame.

Library Bats - Since the paper tigers were impossible to control and the shelving units were incapable of dealing with entropy moths, the Mad God brought a colony of giant bats into the Library to serve as a natural predator for the moths. Because the bats’ diet consists mainly of animals that fuel increased randomness, the rate of mutation in the bats was increased. Within a dozen or so generations, they developed evolutionary adaptations to the unique dangers of the Library.
- The ears and related neural structures of Library bats have become attuned to the energies radiated by magic, madness, and chaos, and the creatures can intrinsically understand and vocally reproduce any spell or magical effect that they have recently (past half hour or so) observed. This even applies to non-vocal sources of magic, such as Library books. If the effect's intensity is determined by caster level, treat the bat as having the same level as whoever it observed creating the effect. 
- Eating the guano of a Library bat will make any character that can digest it extremely ill (disadvantage to everything) for 24 hours. At the end of this period, the character gains a random mutation, which has roughly even odds of being beneficial in nature. One in four members of the Paper Tiger tribe have undergone this transformation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

DIY and/or Die

Zak S. just swept the Ennies with Red & Pleasant Land, an indie RPG setting that has raised the bar for the whole industry. He also wrote a post that every tabletop gamer who is thinking about how to get some cash for all this work they do on their hobby should read. Go read it if you haven't and then come back here. Don't worry, it's short.

If you didn't do that, the main point of the post is that this is the ideal time to put out whatever weird thing you've been pouring yourself into, instead of trying to worry about what people will pay you for. Just keep the team small and you'll get a big enough chunk of the profits that you'll end up doing better than you would working directly for Hasbro or Paizo, and they wouldn't let you get away with doing what you want to do anyway.

I have a few of those projects going on (though none of them have good names yet). I've posted about a couple; the Kellerlabyrinth and the last stand of the Maya are playable at this point, but not publishable. Kellerlabyrinth is closer, mostly because it's smaller.

There's also a desert city that I've been dicking around with for YEARS now because I knew I wasn't that good a DM when it occurred to me, and it felt like too good an idea to not get right. Petra is a ruined city carved into a desert canyon in Jordan by an ancient people called the Nabateans. The one I'm designing is the city of which Petra was a pale reflection, built by enslaved elementals for a society of sorcerers. They disappeared when they were imprisoned in a time loop centuries ago, and are only just now beginning to escape back into the players' timeline. I've been working on random tables to come up with individual sorcerers and their vaults, which function as microdungeons that are a bit like a community of less detailed seclusiums (that I'm pretty sure actually CAN be built in a half hour or so).

My youngest solo project is the hyperdimensional library of an insane god that I get to fill with all the mindfuckery as I can come up with.

I'm also working on a new project with David McGrogan and Matthew Adams (I think? David says "He is definitely interested") that I don't know if I'm supposed to say anything specific about yet. In Yoon-Suin, I only did the map (easily the least impressive part of a great project) and told David what font to use for the headline text, but this time he's got me doing all of the graphic design (which was probably the second least impressive aspect of that book) and I'm stoked about it.

Time to get to work.