Hexcrawling | Wilderness Adventures

When I started playing D&D, I didn’t pay much attention to hexcrawls as I still didn’t recognize the value of this style of campaigning. When I finally did, about six years ago, and tried to run a hexcrawl, I found the methods described in the usual manuals vague or superficial. Boring. Why was this? Because the wilderness travel presented in those books is only about wilderness travel, not about having adventures in the wild.

So, yes, this is not a wilderness travel method, this is a wilderness adventures procedure.

Looking for alternatives, I came across The Alexandrian method, but it seemed excessively detailed and overwhelming, when what I needed was a system that was simple and easy to use. For a while I resorted to the pointcrawl method, which I still find excellent, but insufficient for certain types of sandbox campaigns, where the hex map is more useful.

For a while I used David Wilkie’s Path Cartograms, which is a good system for both travel and exploration, but not very useful if you want to use a published module with its own maps.

Then I found Keith Hann’s blog, which describes a method I found reliable. Of course, I needed to adjust it to my personal needs. It worked really well, so naturally I kept tweaking, adding procedures that, in my opinion, wilderness adventures should contain, specially if you want to make it analogous to the dungeon crawl method we all know and love.

It isn’t perfect, and that was never the point, but it’s functional and flexible. It has many minute details, but most will only be used rarely, so the actual system is pretty simple, I think. I post it here in case someone finds it useful.

Wilderness Adventures

One hex is approximately 6 miles or 10 kilometers from side to side. In one day, up to 4 hexes of easy terrain can be covered, i.e. up to 24 mi. or 40 km. However, some hexes are equivalent to double or triple that of normal terrain (same distance, more time to traverse). Tracking time and distance isn’t an easy task, and it can be overwhelming, but here’s an alternative.

Most of the activities here presented are optional and should only be used when they make the adventure more exciting, not less. The focus is the adventure, not the procedures, but these serve to give the adventure a sense of reality.

Mechanically, and to make it easy, in one day (16 hours of abstract time), a party can travel a number of hexes whose total score is 4.

Forced march: A party can cover 6 hex points in one day. After a day of forced march, the party must rest for a full day. Each day of normal march after forced march, each party member suffers 1 damage and only can heal at half rate until they rest for a full day. Each day of forced march after the first, each party member suffers 1d6 damage and can’t heal until they rest for a full day (animals suffer 1d6 damage since the first day, and maybe die; see Modifiers below).

Example: On a regular day’s walk, a group can cover either a. 4 type-A hexes; b. 2 type-B hexes; c. 1 type-B hex and 2 type-A; d. 1 type-C hex and 1/2 type-B hex (the other half can be covered the following day), or any other combination, as long as it’s 4 points worth.

Current score: Occasionally, the score of a hex will be modified, for example if the party gets lost or decides to explore the hex further. This new score is the current score.

Points reserve: Each day, a party has 4 points to spend in exploration or other activities. Some activities cost a number of points, deducting points from the party’s reserve.

Paved roads: Paved roads subtract 1 point from the hex value, but this benefit can only be taken advantage of once a day (basically, that day you can travel 5 points worth of hexes; or 7 points of forced march).

Dungeon, Town, Ruins: If the players find a dungeon, town, some ruins, or a similar settlement, and they decide to interact with it (to explore or visit), the referee decides how much time has passed. Of course, in a town, the party can simply state they will spend the night or stay there for three days.

Modifiers: The score of a hex can be modified according to factors such as weather, mounts, encumbrance, etc.

Mount (& Teamster): Most mounts might not be able to race through some type-C hexes, so no modifier applies. These modifiers can be applied only once per day, or twice of forced march. After a day of forced march, animals suffer 1d6 damage, and in a result of 5 or 6, they make a Saving Throw or die.

Common Activities

These activities are common while outdoors. They take place during Step 3. Exploration, but the referee can allow them at any time

Animal care: Taking care of mounts and pack animals is automatic if the party is accompanied by a teamster. Otherwise, one player must make a roll to represent this care (feeding, calming the animals, cleaning the horseshoes…) This can be a Bushcraft/Foraging roll (modified by charisma) or a reaction roll (modified by charisma, negatives are added and positives are substracted.)

Chases: Compare the movement rate of the pursuing group with that of the pursued, and the one with the higher value wins the chase (catches up with the opponent or manages to flee). If they’re equal or the circumstances don’t allow for a clear winner, one of the players makes a roll with a 1-in-6 chance of winning (reach or flee, depending); the referee may allow a higher success rate if the players give a good reason.

Climbing: When something is at stake, there’s a 1-in-6 chance of success, modified by dexterity. A failure doesn’t necessarily mean that the character has fallen, it could mean she didn’t find where to grab hold of, or that progress was interrupted.

Equilibrium: When you need to cross a suspension bridge, walk across a narrow cliff or use a tree trunk as a bridge, there’s a 1-in-6 chance to succeed, modified by the PC’s dexterity.

Excavation: With a shovel in good condition, a person can excavate 3 cubic feet (1 cubic meter) in one hour (capacity: 250 gallons/1,000 liters). Improvised or poorly maintained tools can excavate half as much. One hour costs 0.5 hex points, which can be neglected or tracked, depending what’s at stake.

Hiding: There’s a 1-in-6 chance of success of hiding in brush, ruins or terrain features. It’s indispensable that those from whom a character intends to hide are not aware of her presence. The success range may vary according to conditions, it may even be impossible (0-in-6).

Hunting and foraging: Adventurers may choose to hunt or gather food, but must devote the entire day to these activities, and spend 4 points from their reserve. A successful Bushcraft/Foraging roll (1-in-6 chance of success) at the end of the day means that this character has obtained rations for a number of days chosen by the referee (1, or a 1d2, 1d3 or 1d4 roll). Any number of characters can participate in this activity. If there aren’t enough points to spend, there’s only an unmodified 1-in-8 chance to obtain rations.

Open Doors: There aren’t many doors in the wild, but there’s a 1-in-6 chance to remove or bypass obstacles you find in your path, from tree trunks in the middle of the road to fences protected with barbed wire. The range of success might be modified by a relevant ability, if appropriate.

Scouting: It costs one point from the reserve. The scout explores the hex and finds any point of interest the referee wants (or randomly decided) or any situation relevant (a storm approaching, a caravan in the distance, whatever). Alternatively, she finds there’s nothing of interest here.

Searching: 1-in-6 chance, sometimes modified by a relevant ability. It allows finding traps or other hazards, as well as hidden paths, hidden landmarks, treasure, etc. If it takes only a few turns, time can be ignored. In rare cases, and if the search takes long, the party deducts 1 point from their hex point reserve, or adds +1 to the current hex’s score. Also see Tracking below.

Swimming: All characters are assumed to be able to swim, unless otherwise specified by the player. If something is at stake, the player declares her intent and has a 1-in-6 chance of succeeding (modified by dexterity). Failure can mean anything from being swept a few meters downstream to drowning.

Tracking: A specialized searching roll that allows one to find directions, the trail of game animals or people. Tracking deducts points from the party’s hex score reserve equal to the value of the current hex. See Getting lost, below.

Hazards and Dangers

While exploring or traveling, other than monsters the adventurers can face different kinds of dangers.

Damage: If the terrain is dangerous and treacherous, the characters at risk must make some roll to avoid taking damage (Saving Throws or Skill rolls, for example). This damage can be losing hit points, getting poisoned, catching a disease or even dying.

Darkness: You need a source of light. In most cases, carrying a light source prevents taking enemies by surprise. Infravision or dark vision might or might not bypass natural darkness, according to circumstances.

Disease: When exposed to a disease, the referee makes a Saving Throw vs. Poison on behalf of the character. Failure means contagion has occurred. The referee decides the effects of the disease, the duration and the treatment (both Mutant Future and Lamentations of the Flame Princess have good disease examples).

Exhaustion: A day without food or water, a night without proper sleep, disease, falling unconscious, failing a climbing roll, are common causes of exhaustion, the referee can have more. When characters are exhausted, they suffer 1 point of damage each morning and heal at half rate. After a few days of exhaustion (at the referee’s discretion), the damage suffered each morning doubles, and keeps increasing by 1 every several days. To cure exhaustion, characters have to rest for a full day.

Falling: Falling from a height of 10 ft/3 m causes 1d6 damage.

Getting lost: There’s a 1-in-6 chance the group will get lost (this chance can be increased by poor visibility or treacherous terrain). If the referee sees fit, a lost party can find a landmark without spending time or making a roll. If the party moves to another hex, the referee decides which hex they move into. It might take one or more wrong hexes for the party to realize they’re lost. When they notice they’re lost, if they want to find their way, add 1d4 points to the hex’s score. To find their way, there are two methods: a) the party spends the current hex score in hours (automatic success), or b) they make a Tracking roll (a failure means they’re still lost). In either case, the group remains in the same hex.

Starvation: If a character doesn’t consume enough water or food for more than one day, the referee may apply penalties to attack rolls and movement rate, as well as exhaustion.

Steps

1. Direction. Players decide the direction in one of three ways.

a) they can move to the next hex and decide again;
b) they can choose a destination and travel in a straight line to it;
c) they choose a specific route from one point to another (not a straight line.)

2. Random encounters. On each hex there’s a probability (equal to its score) that an encounter will occur. If the referee deems it appropriate, this roll can be made a number of times equal to the hex score, or a single roll can be made every two hexes.

When an encounter is rolled, it can happen at any moment during step 3. Exploration.

If a combat encounter occurs, it follows the usual rules for surprise, initiative, reaction and combat.

3. Exploration. During this step, common activities take place.

Exploration: Almost every hex should have at least one landmark or point of interest, or something to interact with, even if only a landscape view. Some should have more. And only a few, none at all. a) When traversing the hex without exploring it, the referee decides if the adventurers find one of these points of interest. b) If the adventurers decide to explore the hex, they’ll find landmarks (they might find them automatically, only spending time, or a Searching roll might be required.) Exploring and finding each landmark will add again the score of the hex. Thus, a type-A hex, instead of 1 point (2 hours) will count as 2 points (4 hours) for one landmark, 3 points (6 hours) for three landmarks, and so on. If they decide to investigate further, venture into a dungeon, or interact with the inhabitants of the place, the referee may simply say that a number of hours have passed and they have to spend the night in the area.

Abstract activities: These are included in the abstract 16-hour travel time; this time includes abstracted activities like taking short breaks, making and eating food, taking care of wounds and injuries, braiding your beard or hair, maintaining equipment, enjoying the view, taking a leak, and any daily activity that doesn’t consume many hours or require great concentration.

4. Camping. Depending on the circumstances, the adventurers may camp overnight, and the referee may make a final random encounters roll if desired, or simply move on to the next day. During camping time, there’s a 3-in-6 chance the party is surprised by wandering monsters. If a PC keeps watch through the night, the chance is 2-in-6. Roll 1d8 to see what time the encounter occurs.

5. Destination. Upon setting camp, or reaching either the destination or the last hex of the day, the character sheets are updated, recording the resources used or acquired (ammo, food, spells), and perhaps the time and distance traveled and any other information, if relevant.

______

Get these rules as a PDF.

Here‘s a nice song.

Hex map illustration: The Lavender Marshes by Ramanan Sivaranjan

Mutant Future | Creatures from the Sonora Desert

For my new Mutant Future campaign, I’ve created some creatures inspired by the folklore, flora and fauna of Arizona and Sonora, as well as the Mayan peninsula. Here are some of them.

Death Buzzard: A gigantic vulture with a human-like skull head. It will eat your organs and even your items. [AL N, MV Fly 120’ (40’) Walk 90’ (30’), AC 7, HD 4 (18hp), #AT bite, DG 1d10, SV L4, ML 11, Hoard Class: 6, Mutations: gigantism, killing sphere.]

Dtundtuncan (aka the bird of evil): A blind large black bird with a huge, blood-red beak. Its empty, milky eyes make it look as if it has no soul. He eats children and small animals, and will attack adults if food is scarce. The dtundtuncan is a solitary hunter. [AL C, MV Fly 120’ (40’) Walk 90’ (30’), AC 7, HD 6 (36hp), #AT claw/claw or bite, DG 1d4/1d4 or 1d10, SV L6, ML 12, Hoard Class: 4, Mutations: gigantism, night vision, unique sense (feels warm blood).]

Flesh Butterfly: Large flying fox (human-size megabat) with human-like intelligence that feeds only on the nectar of the blue agave flowers, from which they obtain water and nutrients. It talks in a high pitch and sings with beautiful, deep voices.

  • Brood: [AL N, MV Fly 120’ (40’) Walk 60’ (20’), AC 9, HD 2 (8hp), #AT 2 claw/claw or 1 bite, DG 1d4/1d4 or 1d6, SV L2, ML 9, Hoard Class: none, Mutations: echolocation]
  • Mother: [AL N, MV Fly 120’ (40’) Walk 60’ (20’), AC 9, HD 2 (10hp), #AT 2 claw/claw or 1 bite, DG 1d4/1d4 or 1d6, SV L2, ML 9, Hoard Class: none, Mutations: echolocation, force screen]

Toad of Blight: A 2 ft/60 cm tall toad, poopy brown in color and full of peroxide oozing warts. When threatened, it shoots a stream of peroxide aimed at the target’s eyes or hands (if they are holding something metal, like most weapons). The target must make a Saving Throw vs. Stun Attacks, on a failure he will be blinded for 1d4 days or the weapon he holds in his hands will suffer almost instantaneous rust, rendering it permanently useless. Eating its fresh heart produces altered visions of the origin and destruction of the world (for 1d4 entire hours), and doubles the XP obtained for defeating it. [AL N, MV 60’ (20’), AC 9, HD 2 (9hp), #AT peroxide stream, DG special, SV L2, ML 9, Hoard Class: none, Mutations: gigantism, aberrant form (natural weapon).]

Xolotl, the Underworld Dog: An enormous black hairless dog. The front half, from head to torso, has been replaced with a cluster of blisters and pustules filled with infectious pus. These wretched creatures seek human contact, aren’t aggressive, but are carriers of various diseases. An almost invisible but odorous miasma surrounds the dog; anyone within 30 ft/10 m must make a Saving Throw vs. Poison, modified according to disease: (1d6) 1: Flesh Eating Bacteria, 2-4: Rabies, 5-6: Superflu. [AL N, MV 90’ (30’), AC 9, HD 0 (2hp), #AT miasma, DG special, SV L0, ML 6, Hoard Class: none, Mutations: none.]

Mutations and diseases are explained in the manual. There’s a free version here. Once the hex map is complete, I will share it here as well, including, I hope, complete write-ups for every creature (it will take time, I’m slow and have a long PS4 backlog, a tall book pile and only 24 hours each day).

Dtundtuncan artwork by: LADAIbarran2001

Colonialist D&D is post-apocalyptic

I’ve been reading Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment and I found this fragment:

One type of D&D campaign revolves around exploring lost cities, taming the wilderness and bringing civilization to poor savages and barbarians who don’t know better. For many people, this racist trope is problematic. I have written before about my position, as a Mexican, on racism. But that’s not what I wanted to share here.

I mean, you see? D&D is a post-apocalyptic setting!

I don’t find vanilla D&D very appealing. I dislike halflings and elves and dwarfs as playable classes. But sometimes I find something that makes me think again about it. Like this here. The wilderness is only wilderness because your parents and grandparents perpetrated a genocide 50 years ago, destroying a civilization, causing their culture to be abandoned, which lead to nature to return and take the land back.

Sometimes, I find something that makes me want to play the game (as a referee, of course) as written, only because as written it’s stranger, darker and less safe than we usually think. This vanilla has some chocolate within. So the party think they’re heroes and saving civilization, only to find out there used to be a civilization here, in the past, that was murdered by their daddies and grampas. Will they ignore that legacy? Will they search forgiveness or offer repair? Will they side with the few and scattered survivors?

Because, let me tell you, these survivors, they are elves, they are halflings, they are dwarfs. And now players can use them as playable classes. Ok, ok. Maybe only one class.

Concrete Magic: Light & Darkness

In response to Paolo Greco’s article that appeared in Knock! #3, “Abstract Magic, Concrete Magic”, and also on his blog, I present to you the spells of light and darkness.

Light/Darkness

Range: 120′, Duration: 12 turns, Classes: Cleric, Magic-User and Elf

Light: The caster must take a living firefly or other bioluminescent bug between her fingers and crush it. Upon death, the creature’s élan vital doesn’t just evaporate, instead produces light, in hues similar to the light the insect emitted in life. It illuminates a circle 30′ in diameter, its brightness sufficient to read or see details and textures up close, but from a few feet away, visibility is hazy. The spell can be used on a target’s eyes, blinding him. If the caster’s alignment is Lawful or Neutral, the spell automatically succeeds; if her alignment is Chaotic, there’s a 1-in-8 chance that the spell will fail.

Darkness: The caster must take a dead firefly or other bioluminescent bug and conduct the light present into the insect, which will regain the appearance of life though without emitting any light, producing a circle of darkness around it, 30′ in diameter. At the end, the bug dies again. It can also be used to blind a target for the same duration. The spell is automatically successful for Chaotic and Neutral alignments, but if Lawful, it has a 1-in-8 chance of failure.

This was fun. I will make more soon.

Artwork: Some shitty, worthless AI art generator (Craiyon)

Some NPCs | Unique Weirdos

Art: ‘Costumes of All Nations (1882)’ by Albert Kretschmer.

Inspired by Colin Sproule’s Gig Economy, as well as the monster/NPC structure found in the original Into the Odd, here are some NPCs that can be (random) encounters, hirelings and even replacement characters for your game. There are no stats for these NPCs, other than HP and equivalent class-level.

Unique Weirdos (1 hp, 0-level)

Calamity

Young witch without actual magical powers. Knows herbs and all kinds of useful but mundane recipes. Distrusts men.

  • Silver athame
  • Healing cake, one use
  • Elegant but ragged witch clothing

Filbert

Angsty teen, wearing all black.He’s a charismatic beggar, but underneath all the grime, he’s a beautiful youth.

  • Rusted kitchen knife
  • Weaponized boots
  • Black leather jacket with steel chains

Grimm

Wandering torturer, offering his services in towns he visits. His duty is not about truth, but about torture and execution.

  • Special sword
  • Cloak darker than black
  • Strange jewel

Gene

Distracted man, claims to be a lycanthrope and also the son of an important nobleman.

  • Expensive clothes
  • Rapier with silver hilt
  • Small bag containing raw meat

Hades

Fungi gardener, for food, waste disposal and astral travel. Always in a bad mood, does not eat his own produce.

  • Box of spores and seeds
  • Sickle
  • Small shovel

Hob/Blin

Wandering knight that’s actually two kobolds wearing a yellow gardecorps and green bycocket.

  • Nice sword
  • Kite shield with a coat of arms that was famous 20 years ago
  • Ring

Lucas

Link-boy who really needs to join your party because he has business somewhere around your next destination.

  • Oil lamp
  • Oil bottles
  • Matches

Mako

1.5 meters high, wearing a ceramic-like black mask and simple wanderer clothes. Young, old, woman, man, who can say? Silent Mako certainly won’t.

  • Crossbow
  • Smoke bombs
  • Concealed dagger

Rosamond

An odd one, she won’t answer your questions unless under threat of torture. It’s like talking to a corpse, as though all life in this woman was plant life.

  • Burlap sack dress, no shoes
  • Wreath of dried flowers
  • Hatchet

Thecla

She’s a janitor and knows things… for a price.

  • Mop and broom
  • A skeleton key
  • The teeth of the priest who accused her of witchcraft

To be continued…

Dungeon Habituation

The old-school adventure is in the dungeon. Sure, you can have adventures in cities and the wild, but the main locale is the dungeon. After all, it’s where the game offers a deep and clear procedure of play. My favorite description of this procedure is Labyrinth’s Lord:

The structure of the game is a good one, it sets the limits and creates expectations. While in a dungeon, you explore, you find treasure, you fight monsters, you avoid traps. Maybe you interact with an NPC or your party. But even the people most invested with the old-school style can be victim of habituation, as discussed by Adam Millard (seriously, go watch his video).

So, what side-activities can we add to a dungeon crawl, that help break the sense of habituation?

Night camping and party party

Some versions of the game state that your party can’t fully rest while in a dungeon. You have to take a break for one turn after five turns of exploration (including encounters), but not sleep, which means you can’t recover HP naturally while in the dungeon. But, hey, you can do whatever you want, the people who wrote these books are not your dad.

How about you and your party set a camp in a safe room, and party all night? Well, maybe not all night, you need to rest. And not too loud, either, you don’t need to attract attention.

Camping is a good chance for your character to do a lot of things:

  • casting an identifying spell on that weird item you found
  • making a bunch of arrows
  • tending to wounds and injuries
  • testing a potion to try to figure out its effect
  • reading the letter or book you found
  • dividing the money you’ve found
  • eating food and drinking water
  • cooking what you killed or harvested to make more rations
  • preparing spells for the next in game day
  • roleplaying social time if you are into it

Not to mention the usual activities that players and referees do:

  • updating resources (encumbrance, ammo, money, rations, torches and so on)
  • making a brief summary of the current situation
  • taking a rest and telling a joke or drinking a beer or eating something

The Kafkaesque Labyrinth (bureaucracy nightmare for Over the Edge, Into the Odd and others)

Art: Luis Scafati

I wanted to use this in my Into the Odd campaign, but I ended up using it in my Over the Edge mini-campaign, with only minor modifications.

The idea was inspired by a Changeling the Lost campaign that we abandoned after only three sessions, due to the lack of clarity in the book (second edition) and the overcomplicated rules, which was about a literal bureaucracy nightmare.

Welcome to the Machine

If Kafka has taught us something, it is that bureaucracy is a labyrinth. We have the technology and the means to party every day and abolish work and drink wine and have orgies, and yet we are here, still working, always tired, we never have time for the things we wanna do, in a world of advertising and bureaucracy hell and papers please. The Edge is no different, only worse (or better, depending who you ask).

The Bureaucratic Process

When you start a Bureaucratic Process, roll d20.

On future Bureaucratic Rolls, you add your Progress to the result. When you get what you want (a result of 20 or more), or give up, you lose all Progress points.

In Over the Edge you roll 2d6. When you have initiative, you need a result of 7+ to succeed. When you lose initiative, you need a result of 8+ instead. You make few rolls per session, normally. If you lose initiative, this penalty applies until the end of the day.

  1. The official you need is at St. Charon Hospital. Roll d6 each day you check in. On a 6 they’re back, Gain 1 Progress and Roll again. On any other result you lose initiative and check back tomorrow.
  2. You’re assigned a new official. Gain 1 Progress, Lose initiative and Roll again.
  3. Find an important official to sign your papers, having an impossibly exclusive party somewhere in Broken Wings (it’s two levels above yours; your GM can make you re-roll twice during the scene). If you can find him and get invited, Gain 1 Progress and Roll again. Otherwise, Lose initiative.
  4. You need to get to an office on the far side of The Edge. If you make it there before sundown, Gain 1 Progress and Roll again, otherwise Lose initiative.
  5. There’s a fee for processing the next bit. Pay 1d20 x 10 dollars. Gain 1 Progress but Lose initiative. Roll again.
  6. You need a copy of an old document you left back home (you’re not from the Island, remember). Wait a week for it to show up, then Gain 1 Progress and Roll again.
  7. Your papers have a mistake and you have to pay a fine. Roll d6 and subtract d8. If the result is negative, multiply that 100 times, you owe that many dollars. If it’s positive, you only owe that amount, no multiplying. Gain 1 Progress and Roll again.
  8. Your case may take longer to process than normal. Roll d6 to see the delay (1: A year, 2: 6 months, 3: 1 Month, 4: 2 Weeks, 5: 1 Week, 6: 1 day.) You’re upset, you lose initiative until the process resumes. After the delay, Gain 1 Progress, and roll again.
  9. A baboon ate your records, a copy has been solicited, come back in 1d4 days. Lose 1 Progress and initiative. Roll again.
  10. There’s only one ethical official working here, and he is interested in your case. Double your next roll on this table (after modifiers), but lose all Progress afterwards. You operate as a level higher than your actual level for the rest of the day.
  11. Your case has been slow because this is not the right office and they just noticed the mistake. The next day, get to the other side of The Edge to solve the problem. Once you get there there’s a 50% chance that the case has been passed back to the old department, because actually the mistake was not a mistake, and you need to get back there the next day. When this is resolved Gain 1 Progress, Lose initiative and Roll again.
  12. You get a very long form that takes an hour to fill out. Gain 1 Progress, Lose initiative and Roll again.
  13. Now it’s true, it was a mistake, the process is not the one you need and you have to start over, the right process this time (hopefully). Lose all progress, lose initiative, you operate as a level lower than your actual level for the rest of the day. Start again.
  14. You need to get a routine medical inspection from the D’Aubbainne Modern Asylum (aka Zeke’s Madhouse). Pay $200, cast your bones and if you succeed, you get the papel you need and 1 Progress. If you fail, lose initiative, roll again with a -1 penalty.
  15. The person you need has just gone home. If you can catch them, gain 1d6 progress, otherwise, come back tomorrow and lose initiative. Roll again.
  16. Your bio-metrics are fake. Or at least, that’s what the system says. You need to convince the official you are you, and if you succeed, Roll again, otherwise lose all Progress, initiative until the weekend, and start again.
  17. You’re assigned a personal agent for this case. He’s addicted to Blue Shock (p. 64). If you can get him a dose before the end of the day, you gain 1d4 progress and can roll again. If you don’t, no progress is made and you lose initiative, then roll again. If you offend him, he will accidentally lose all your papers and all your progress is lost. Start again.
  18. You need a paper from Arms District, another from Broken Wings District, another from Flowers District, and another from Great Men District (it’s 6 hours of going here and there). Gain 1d4 Progress, Lose initiative until weekend and Roll again.
  19. You have to wait until they call you. people come and go and they don’t call you. If you ask, they tell you you are in queue, be patient, we will call you when it’s your turn. Every 90 minutes you get stricken. If you get stricken three times, you pass out and when they call you, you can’t hear, so they think you have left. When you wake up, the office is about to close, you need to come back tomorrow. Lose initiative and roll again.
  20. It’s done, at last. Maybe. Three days later, roll 1d4, and in a result of 1, your record was misplaced and you have to start the process all over again and lose initiative until weekend. Otherwise, congratulations, you made it.

Appendix K

This nightmare was created because, for a while, I was obsessed with Franz Kafka. You should read his stories, specially:

  • The Trial
  • The Castle
  • In The Penal Colony

More monsters for Into the Odd

I was writing an Into the Odd campaign for my group, but it moved from adventure-oriented games to Vampire, and I couldn’t run the planed campaign.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to complain only. Here are some monsters I never got to use on that campaign.

About the artwork: The main piece is a collage by super talented Mexican artist Yalaki (and dead people.) The toad and the swine are AI generated (that’s why they’re so bad!) Seriously, see her art, hire her.

Angler Toad: STR: 16, DEX, 10, WIL, 6, 15hp
d6 Bite, Swallow

  • Huge, black, warty and hungry. Hidden in the undergrowth or mud.
  • If its bite causes maximum damage, DEX save vs Swallow. If you are devoured, STR save or you will be digested in an hour (but if they kill the toad, they can take you out alive).
  • The tip of its tongue is hard and solid, and looks like a gold coin.

Bitter Water – Gigantic snake of pure water: STR 18, DEX 18, WIL 12, 13hp
d8 Pressure Jet (can be toned down for gentle cleaning)

  • Furiously blast away any dirt, which it is most likely surrounded by.
  • Communicate in single words you can just make out amongst the splashing.
  • Ignore any damage unless it would freeze/boil water.

Feral Hog: STR 14, DEX 10, WIL 8, 12hp
d8 Bite

  • Its hunger is insatiable.
  • Its anger is even greater.
  • And it has already seen you.

Gill-Man: STR 12, DEX 12, WIL 14, 10hp
2d4 Claws or 1d6 Bite

  • He’s ugly (looks like a fish) but only wants to be loved.
  • The problem is that he always falls in love with human women.
  • Frustration drives him to hate everyone.

Mist-Tick: STR 8, DEX 12, WIL 6, 5hp
d4 Bite

  • It has a hunger that can’t be satisfied with anything, it needs your blood.
  • Every two points of hp/STR it steals from you make it recover 1hp/STR.
  • If it has its hp and STR at maximum and steals 2 or more hp/STR from you, it’ll explode. DEX save or be blinded for one round (impaired).

Skulking Horror: STR 10, DEX 18, WIL 5, 8hp
Four d6 Tendrils

  • Assumes the worst of anyone they meet.
  • Covets the belongings of others.
  • Give in to Envy.

Sewer Swine: STR 8, DEX 12, WIL 7, 7hp
d4 Bite

  • Quiet and obedient animals.
  • If you befriend them, they will obey you.
  • But they will also obey your enemies.

I will post some NPCs and stuff in a future entries.

Fermentvm Nigrvm Dei Sepvlti | The black barm of the buried god

Author: Gord Sellar
Art: Gonzalo Æneas
Maps: Alex Mayo
Layout: Jacob Hurst
Pages: 96

Fermentvm Nigrvm Dei Sepvlti is a good adventure for LotFP that consists of exploring a dungeon (or rather several small, interconnected dungeons), but it has one or two notable flaws:

The first: The maps have several errors, such as doors that lead nowhere and are not mentioned in the text, and doors that do not indicate where they lead to (not the same thing.)

The map layout is confusing. A side view is included, but only by spending a few hours studying both the top view maps (which are in “normal” position, with north pointing to the top of the page), the full area map (where north points to the left) and the side map, is it possible to form a functional mental map. No, I’m not against the referee putting extra work and making an effort to learn a game. I even understand Silent Titans, including the Mouse Box mini-game. I just think in the case of Fermentvm, it could have been made easier to use.

The second (and that for some may not be a flaw): The text contains all the information you need to run the adventure (except clarity with maps), but it also includes quite a bit of unnecessary information, such as the ancient history of some elements and other details that are never part of the session unless the referee wants to include them in a forced way. Even in room descriptions, there are some fluff.

In particular, there’s a long story about a book of magic that appears in the adventure; of the several pages devoted to telling the story of this tome, only one paragraph is of use in solving the riddle that the book poses to anyone who wants to decipher its secrets. The author himself acknowledges that the book is unlikely to be used by the players (p. 78), so these pages could have been used for something more profitable. I don’t know, 96 pages for an adventure of one or two sessions seems a bit excessive to me.

I suggest reading it with pen and paper in hand to take note of the most important points. That’s what I did after the first twenty pages. The complexity of the adventure makes it more difficult to prepare than a standard adventure.

The adventure itself

Except for those two things, this is an adventure full of buttons for the characters to press, and can easily be used in any type of scenario. The author even offers suggestions for different settings and eras.

Yes, this is a LotFP adventure, which means that the danger is greater than the reward (in silver). But that’s what LotFP is all about, the real reward is not to have an adventurer get rich and level up (of which, David McGrogan will write sometime in the future), but to put your characters in the most terrible situations you can imagine, make them suffer, and have a good time laughing at the misfortunes and sufferings of those poor imaginary losers.

The adventure is about an abbey that is also a brew house, its beer has properties that could be classified as magical (cure diseases, sharpened senses, etc.) However, there’s a strange secret in the origin of this miraculous beer: a barm out of space. Yes, an alien yeast.

The yeast uses its spores and cultures to control the monks and beer consumers, its plan is basically to survive, but a faction of monks considers this to be the work of the devil and their duty is to destroy it. The yeast fears for its life, so it accelerates its fermentation processes (i.e., the creation of frothy “zombies”).

The adventure itself begins when both factions of monks fight and kill each other, leaving the abbey in flames, that is, a good opportunity for a group of adventurers to go to loot the vaults of the abbey, which with its sale of the best beer in the region, should be full (the adventure gives us other pretexts, such as the Pope sending a group to investigate rumors of a demon or ghosts controlling the monks, among several more).

There’s a timer, every hour that the characters spend in contact even indirectly with the yeast, they must make saving throws to avoid being infected (possessed by Satan, the monks will say); there are several stages of infection, the first of them only manifest some symptoms, but the longer they stay in the facilities, the more the risk of being completely controlled increases… with the possibility of remaining player characters, a small mercy in an adventure that seems very simple at first, but becomes very difficult to escape from after a while).

In conclusion, it is a highly recommended adventure if the referee is not afraid of a bit of hard work (studying the maps and their relationship with the territory).