Dungeon Design | Elements that a dungeon must have

There are three main motivations for an old-school player, and all three must be fulfilled in a dungeon:

  • Explore and find things
  • Gold and treasure
  • Fighting with something

There is a fourth motivation, but I consider it secondary to the previous ones:

  • Talking to someone.

Exploring and finding things

Some players are more interested in exploration and discovery. Give them something interesting to discover and they will be satisfied. Ancient or alien technologies; murals and clay tablets depicting the origin, evolution and decay of an extinct race; a microscope with lenses of an unknown crystal that allows you to observe an entire universe in a drop of water; a glimpse into an entirely new reality.

Gold and treasures

Perhaps the easiest motivation to satisfy, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Yes, gold and silver coins are fine, but a library of incunabula is better; other options are: works of alien or perverted art, weird biological samples for a scientist or a magician, the only existing portrait of the last king of Atlantis, a set of silver and jewelled weapons and ornaments that seems to have been used in a ritual eons ago.

Fighting with something

What makes a violent encounter different from any other violent encounter? A) What’s at stake. The adventurers have already found the treasure and discovered the secret origin of the human race, but these bandits stand between them and the luxurious revelry and glorious fame that awaits them upon their return to the surface. B) A new monster. Something that could only inhabit these dark corridors lost in time, something that the adventurers do not know how to defeat and that forces them to use their wits and any available resources. C) The terrain. A dungeon is not a city, it is not a forest, nor is it a castle; the terrain can be used to your advantage, but it can also be a risk: if a room contains fungi that produce gases, can it be used to make the enemy go boom?

Talking to someone

Not, of course, with people identical to those found on the surface, in the cities and towns of the human world. What will the snake-man talk about when he is awakened from his 100,000-year slumber? What will the strange formation of mold and fungus that has acquired consciousness after eons be thinking about? What does the King of the Tyrant Lizards have to ask you? And what about that incorporeal voice that seems amazed or amused but not hostile?

So, motivation

This guide is not definitive or absolute, it is just a reflection of where I am as a referee at the moment, a guide for the adventures I have designed and will continue to use for my next adventures.

Art: Brian Allen

Mood Can’t Be Concrete (horror RPGs)

(This article was published originally in Hidden Shrines of Setebos).

Atmosphere, mood, it is essential in any horror story, and horror adventures are no exception. I added a small ​mood​ section in each room.

Mood descriptions are made of abstractions, ideas and symbols. Mood can’t be concrete. Is the mood sad? ​Sad mood​ sounds concrete enough. But what does sad​ mean?

Each of your players will have a specific idea of what ​sad​ is. Of course I could’ve made all the mood entries similar to ​sad​ or ​lonely​ or ​bleak​. These look concrete concepts; they aren’t. They’re just familiar and can only convey ordinary feelings, not the real sense of the weird (weird sadness, weird bleakness), which is what I’m trying to do here.

But the way I made these descriptions is just as abstract and subjective as the ordinary, but much more evocative (I think) and odder, and the Referee can do one of three things here:

  1. ignore my mood entries,
  2. read aloud my mood entries,
  3. describe it with her own words; express her feelings after reading mine.

Either way, their players will have their own interpretations of what a ‘misery curdled, but also ancient and intriguing’ mood means. Personal interpretations are more horrific than whatever I can think of. At least, that’s what all the horror writers I read say, and I like their stuff, so I follow.

Mention to the players what is included in the ​stuff​ section (below mood in every room) as well, and the room should start getting a better shape in your player’s mind. The name of each room is also a tool for evocation, especially the deeper they explore.

Once they imagine the meaning of it, they will have to update its meaning when confronted with ​a Charlotte Perkins Gilman nightmare​. When they realise things are not as they thought they were, that’s where horror lies.

room of angel
A room description from this module

Why I prefer d6 (1-in-6) checks over 3d6 or d20

I prefer 1-in-6 chance checks, sometimes modified by your attributes: a +1 STR would translate to a 2-in-6 chance, while a negative means it’s impossible for you, or else you must roll 2d6 and only succeed if both dice come up 1. If you’re benevolent, let them roll without a penalty.

Why? Because some of the actions are not inherently difficult or easy depending on your own physical or mental traits. The difficulty of finding a trap is about the same for everyone regardless of their stats; high intelligence doesn’t necessarily make you better at finding traps, so INT 10 and INT 18 and INT 6 have the same 1-in-6 chance of finding the trap.

Yes, sure, some have an easier time doing so, but it’s certainly due more to experience and knowledge than to intrinsic intelligence values, or simply due to good luck (i.e., chance). And this is where the flexibility of OSR comes in: Can you give me a good reason why, on this occasion, your character should have a better chance of finding a trap? Maybe you have already found another trap in the same area, you are using some useful tool, or you remember reading or hearing stories about this place. For this time, you have a chance of 2-in-6 or even 3-in-6.

A base chance of 1-in-6 gives a 16 or 17 percent chance, which neither is too high nor too low. It’s unlikely but possible, as it should be. See, a group of 3 characters will have a 50-50 chance of success if all 3 make the roll, which I allow if it makes sense, but sometimes only one person can roll. If it was easy, then what would be the point? Just tell the story and avoid rolls. Decide the result by only speaking and move on (which sometimes might be the right way to do it).

However, if an action becomes harder or easier due to a character’s innate traits, then their range of success is modified by their attributes (as explained on the first paragraph). Why not roll 3d6 in those cases, since those traits are based on a 3d6 roll? Because I firmly stand that we shouldn’t make a different rule when your traits alter the result than when they don’t. Let’s use the same system for both cases, when your stats are relevant and when they are not. (Later I talk against D20 system using the same rule but it’s not a contradiction; here we use the same rule for tests, D20 uses the same rule for everything).

1d20 is basically the same as 3d6, albeit more elegant; in both cases you roll under your traits, so it only makes sense when the difficulty depends on your stats and not on the action itself, which means we should not use these (pro tip: use whatever you like, I’m just saying.)

Games like Into the Odd rely on d20 rolls under your traits; it’s ugly but at least the game is quick and easy. ItO is based on quick and easy. In that sense, this is the right choice.

Other games, such as DCC, call for a d20 roll against a difficulty set by the referee, and a high score is needed. Depending on the game and circumstances, the result can be modified positively or negatively by the character’s attributes or the tools used. It is the same principle as the 1d6 system, but in the 1d6 system it is very easy to modify without having to think whether this action is of a standard difficulty, or higher, or lower. And if we take into account that the standard difficulty is 10, it is actually very easy to succeed in about half of the attempts, and if more than two characters can roll, success is almost guaranteed, although in the case of DCC, if you are not trained in an occupation or profession related to the task, you don’t roll 1d20 but 1d10 instead. It makes sense but it adds more complexity.

In the d20 system (where this last mechanic comes from) all the rules are the same, so finding traps, climbing, attacking an enemy or seducing an NPC, don’t feel like different actions to the player.

Making monsters for OSR games

Creating a monster for any OSR system is the easiest thing in the world, you don’t even need a detailed guide or deep rules, just fill out this form:

AC: ___
HD: ___
hp: ___
MV: ___
#ATT: ___
DMG: ___
ML: ___
SPECIAL: ___

When creating a monster, don’t stick to the rules of character creation, monsters can, and indeed should, break the rules.

Let’s have a closer look.

Armor Class (AC)

Assume that the AC is 12 when a character wears no armor, 14 when wearing leather armor, 16 when wearing chain mail, and 18 when wearing full armor. Some games use descending AC, where the better the armor, the lower the number. See this table of equivalences.

Monsters usually don’t wear armor, unless you consider orcs and goblins to be monsters, in which case the real monster is you. So what we must do is think about how easy or difficult it is to hit a monster, and we can use these values to guide us, but we must not follow them to the letter, that is to say that you can give an AC of less than 12 or more than 18 if you consider it should be so, just keep in mind that a 10 or less might be trivial, and a 20 or more, might be impossible.

Hit Dice (HD)

In addition to armor, HD helps us define how durable a monster is: the higher its HD value, the more hit points it will have, so you need more successful attacks to kill it.

HD also determines how powerful a monster is and how easy it is for it to make its attacks. Although each system calculates the attack bonuses of monsters according to their HD differently, all these systems are similar. Let’s say that each HD translates into a bonus equal to its value; thus, a monster with 5 HD gets a +5 to its attack roll.

Hit Points (hp)

The standard method is to roll a number of d8 equal to HD, so 5 HD translates into 5d8, and the result of that roll is the monster’s hp, but we’re not gonna be making that roll every time a monster appears, so we’d better use the average value.

This value is obtained by multiplying the number of HD 4 or 5 times. Thus, our 5 HD monster would have on average between 20 and 25 hp.

Depending on the role of the monster in the adventure where you want to use it, you can reduce or increase this number.

An ordinary monster might have 1 or 2 hp per HD, but if the monster is the main enemy, consider giving it 6, 7 or even 8 points per HD (in our example, between 30 and 40 hp).

Keep in mind that the stronger and tougher it is, the more likely it is to cause a TPK. Consider alternate ways to cause it damage if the players are smart, such as luring it into traps, shooting it from a safe area, or something similar.

Movement (MV)

As a base, use standard human movement, which is 120 feet per exploration turn (10 minutes), 40 feet per combat round, and 120 feet per combat round when running but taking no other action.

How fast or slow is your monster? Equal to a human, half the speed of a human, twice the speed of a human?

To keep it simple: Standard, half, double, or more than human; in feet this translates to:

  • 120′ (40′)
  • 60′ (20′)
  • 240′ (80′)
  • 180′ (60′)

Accuracy is irrelevant, the important thing is to know if the monster is going to catch us if we try to run away or how long it would take us to catch it if we want to recover the gold ring that our partner who has been eaten by the monster was wearing on his finger.

These values correspond to the speed of the monster on the ground, some creatures may have another mode of movement with a different speed, for example flight. We write it down like this:

  • MOV: 120′ (40′), flight 240′ (80′)

That is, on the ground it moves with the same speed as a person, but when flying it’s twice as fast.

Number of Attacks (#ATT)

You don’t need to complicate things, as a general rule all monsters can perform only one attack per round.

But some monsters must break the rules, right? A radioactive octopus can maybe hit with 8 of its tentacles each round, in which case you’ll write down this:

  • #ATT: 8

If it can squirt radioactive ink, but can only do one of the two types of attack per round, you write it down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 or 1

On the other hand, if it can attack with tentacles and ink in the same round, you write it down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1

If you want it to have other attacks, follow the same principle, but write down all the ones it can do during the same round one after the other, and then the ones it cannot. Following the example, if our octopus can launch a mental discharge, but to do so he must concentrate and not do any other action, it should be written down like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1, or 1

Damage (DMG)

To decide how much damage each attack does, compare the attacks with common weapons. Depending on the type of weapon, the damage may be 1d4, 1d6, 1d8 or 1d10 (although some systems may include other values).

  • d4: Knive, club, cane
  • d6: Short sword, hand axe
  • d8: Standard sword, battle axe, mace
  • d10: Two-handed sword, great axe, maul

Let’s say each tentacle hits like a whip, how much damage does a whip do? 1d3 damage.

The ink does no harm, but it can blind an enemy.

Mental discharge can cause 1d8 damage due to the strong emotional charge it represents.

Assuming that our octopus can strike with the tentacles and throw the ink in the same round, but the mental discharge can only be done separately, we would write it like this:

  • #ATT: 8 and 1, or 1
  • DMG: 8 tentacles 1d3 and Special, or 1 psycho blast 1d8

Note that we write down each type of attack followed by the damage; this can be used to eliminate the line for the number of attacks per round, but it is advisable to leave it for clarity.

In a moment we will explain “special”.

Morale (ML)

The morale value is a number between 2 and 12. When you need to know if an enemy surrenders or tries to flee, or if it continues to fight during an encounter (usually when it has suffered more or less considerable damage or its party has suffered many casualties), you make a morale check, rolling 2d6. If the result is equal to or less than the monster’s ML, it keeps fighting; if the result is higher, the creature tries to flee (or surrenders, if your monster is an orc or goblin).

It’s impossible to get more than 12, so a ML of 12 means that the creature may fail this roll, is unaware and will fight to the death, or has lost all interest in its own well-being.

To understand it clearly, morale means “will to fight”. Passing the morale test means that the will to fight is still intact, failing means that it has lost its will.

Special

All information that cannot be abstracted with a simple numerical value or that requires further explanation is placed here.

In the case of our octopus, the ink jet does not cause quantifiable damage (a numerical value) but has the possibility of blinding the target. Can this attack be dodged, does the octopus roll its attack die, or how does it work mechanically?

This is one possibility:

  • Special: The octopus squirts a blast of ink at a target; the player must make a saving throw vs. breath weapons to prevent the ink from touching her eyes. If she fails, she can’t act for 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

This is another:

  • Special: The octopus squirts a blast of ink making a normal attack roll against a target, if successful, the target can’t act 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

Both methods are equally valid, in some cases one may be easier or more difficult to avoid, but don’t worry about that, choose the one you consider more natural, you can even have two identical monsters with the only difference that one uses the first method and the other uses the second.

Now it’s time to show off our finished creation.

Psychopus

An octopus the size of a horse. Its color varies according to its mood (make a reaction roll; the more hostile, the more purple; the friendlier, the whiter).

AC: 11
HD: 5
hp: 20
MV: 60′ (20′), water 240′ (80′)
#ATT: 8 or 1 or 1
DMG: 8 tentacles 1d3 or Special or 1 psycho blast 1d8
ML: 9
SPECIAL: The octopus squirts a blast of ink at a target; the player must make a saving throw vs. breath weapons to prevent the ink from touching her eyes. If she fails, she can’t act for 1d3 rounds until the ink effect ends, or a single round if she can wash her face and eyes immediately.

Note how I wrote the damage. My monster can only make one type of attack per round, either tentacle lash, or ink, or blast.

Final words

Making monsters for your games should be quick and easy, not a chore. It can feel arbitrary, but once you get the hang of it, you can make a monster in less than a minute and it won’t be totally random. Spend a couple more minutes and you can make a reasonably interesting monsters that fits well in your game. Make a bunch and it will become second nature in no time. Need some inspiration?

OST

While I was writing this, I was listening to this playlist.

Ye Olde Shoppe | Shop management for old-school games

An old school game can benefit from deeper systems that explore the rules and activities that are not the focus of the game. The system I present here is not a replacement for the existing rules. The existing rules are sufficient for a game that does not focus on trading goods, so a simple system, for an element of the game that will be used very rarely, doesn’t require further exploration and depth. But, what if you want to try something new? A combination of dungeoncrawling and business administration?

The players create their adventurers normally, they take them to explore dungeons and old ruins, they loot forgotten tombs and they recover relics and treasures, but instead of only looking for a buyer, they want to open a store and put on sale all the accumulated treasure, or at least the most mundane ones (works of art, simple weapons, pottery).

This system can be adopted by a single player, or between at least two players to form a cooperative. The distribution of the money to found the store, as well as the profits it generates and the payments to the employees, are decided by the members of the cooperative, although to avoid conflicts, the referee can rule that everyone gives and takes the same percentage.

Making a Shop

A character or cooperative must invest a minimum of 5,000 cash to open a store, but its reputation value will be -10. Every 5,000 extra cash invested in it adds some reputation points or changes the amount of possible sales made weekly:

Sales. A sale can be any amount of items it makes sense. A single adventurer might only purchase a couple arrows and some rope, but a 4-person party might need equiptment for everyone. The referee can use this to control how money moves in the world, or he can make random tables of customer for every reputation level.

Base price. The price of the products must be equal to the price in the list of items in the manual of the game you use, or can be proposed by the players with the approval of the referee. The price of items that don’t exist in the manuals is set by the referee.

Base price modifier. Reputation modifies the value of products by a percentage equal to their score, so a -10 score store sells items 10% cheaper than the base price, and a 50 score store, 50% more expensive.

Purchase. When a customer makes a purchase, the referee pulls 2d6:

Charisma. The salesman’s charisma value affects the previous die roll:

Salesman. There are four options: 1) Players can take turns, 2) One of the characters can retire from the adventure life and dedicate exclusively to the management of the store, 3) Players can create a new level 1 character to manage the store, 4) They can hire a salesman.

All options, except the first one (PCs taking turns), receive a commission for each sale made. The salesman’s charisma determines the commission as shown below, but the referee can adjust these values as needed:

20 items that can be bought at Ye Olde Shoppe

Christmas theme entry | Consumerism in your OSR games

The christmas spirit is in the air, releasing its stinky pheromones that washes our brains into thoughtless consumerism. Let the spirit invade your game world with this brand-new option for your players’ characters to spend their hard-earned silver pieces on.

Elfpunk. The suspicious man in the black cloak with the weird eye is actually a barber surgeon who can medieval/cyber-improve you with “The red eye of sleep”, a magically imbued red orb the size of an eye that, when encrusted in your forehead, allows you to cast the spell Sleep once a day even if you are not a caster. 10,000 gold.

Pay for protection. The crazy old woman, “Mad Hattie”, needs 5,000 gold. If you refuse to give it to her, she will curse you. Her curses are level 5 necromantic spells.

A much needed cure. That mad old woman, “Crazy Hattie”, can remove any curse from you. It will cost you 6,000 gold only.

Combat options. Dr. Brain, actually a mi-go in disguise, but a civil one, can remove those extra bones from your hip and chest, allowing you to have an extra attack every two rounds (round 1 two attacks, one on your turn, another last; round 2 one attack on your turn; round 3 two attacks again…) It will cost you, 12,000 gold and one point of permanent Constitution.

A time for introspection. When you kill, you accumulate bad blood points equal to the monster’s or npc’s XP. When you reach 1,000 bad blood points, all your rolls are done at -1. When you reach 2,000 bad blodd points, they are done at -2. And so on. Remember that weird man in the black robes by the temple, with the scary laugh? He will relieve you of your sins… for a price. One bad blood point per 1 gold coin is erased from your name in the book of names that keep record of all your sins (and therefore these penalties).

Festive merriment. The PCs arrive in town in the middle of some festivity or another, and forced to break through with money and gossip. Each piece of useful information, rumor or clue will cost them 200 gold, modified by their charisma (a +2 grants a 20% discount; a -2 costs them 20% more).

Books. You see that lady in the long black overcoat? She sells dangerous things. Poison, thief tools, dark charms. Books. Her books, while owned, grant you a bonus to a specific action or area of knowledge. Maybe an extra +1 to saving throws versus poison or a free re-roll when a climbing roll is failed. Is she doesn’t have a book on the matter you want, she can get it, for an extra 100-500 gold, of course. 1,000 gold per book is quite reasonable, right? But there are some forbidden tomes that would cost much more than that.

Personal training. Pay a teacher and in one week, gain one skill point (LotFP skills) or 15% in a skill (B/X thief skill). Only 5,000 gold.

Liquid courage. 500 gold will get you a bottle of dwarven ale. In combat, you gain +1 to attack rolls but -1 to AC (but your AC can’t be lower than the unarmored value).

Fulfill your heart’s desire. Lovelie’s is open for business. Some work might be needed, but Lovelie’s night therapy will improve you. Whether this means you gain a permanent point in one stat, XP enough to reach your next level, the ability to never be surprised, or being irresistable to the same or the other sex, she can do it. But her services are not cheap.

If you need more option, check The Goatman’s Goblet. He has a good list!

Christmas merriment

 

The Four Humorous Goblins

[Artwork source]

The Four Humorous Goblins is either a troupe of four goblins or the whole of the four strains, whatever fits your game.

The Four Humorous Goblins – The Four Strains

Sanguine Goblin aka Hemogoblin

AC 12, HD 4, 18 hp, STR Mod +1, MOV 90′ (30′), ML 9, SAVE as fighter 4, #ATT 1 tentacle or 1 projectile or fusion

A bloody mass of tissue, vaguely humanoid in shape, as though someone had inverted a small person inside out.

Tentacle (mêlée, 1d6). One per round, the hemogoblin can produce a metre-long tentacle that executes a swift whip attack for 1d6 damage.

Projectile (ranged, 1d6). One per round, it can squirt acidic blood up to a distance of 10m, 20m with a -2 penalty, or 30m with a -4 penalty, for 1d6 damage.

Shape shifter. Once per day, it can take the form of a short human for one hour.

Fusion (grapple). Each round, the goblin and the victim roll 1d6 and add their strength modifier; the highest wins. The first to win two rounds wins. If the defender wins, the grapple ends. If the goblin wins, it enters the victim’s body through the nose, mouth and any opening it can.

Once the hemogoblin is inside the host, it will remain dormant for some time, and at the most inopportune moment, its presence will prevent the host from having full control of its body.

Mechanically, this translates into penalties to their action or salvation rolls.

And when the referee sees fit, perhaps a few weeks later, the hemoboglin will hatch: the host body will throw hundreds of tiny goblin larvae in the form of blood clots. mucus and bile, through the mouth, eyes, nose, etc., suffering a massive 6d6 damage. There’s a 5% chance one larvae survives and grows into one of the four types.

Choleric Goblin aka Sallow Man

AC 13, HD 4, 20 hp, STR Mod +3, MOV 120′ (40′), ML 11, SAVE as fighter 4, #ATT 1 or 2 punch or 1 infection

A bubbling mass of sallow muscular tissue, vaguely humanoid, as though someone had melted a person in 50 kilos of mucus.

Infection (mêlée, 1d6). With an attack roll, the goblin can touch a victim to cause severe vomiting and 1d6 damage.

In addition, the victim must save vs. Poison or will get an infection that will cause 1d6 of cumulative damage day by day (next day 1d6, next day 2d6, etc.); if the victim makes a new Saving Throw, no vomiting will occur that day and the next day it will restart with 1d6 of damage.

Punch (mêlée, 1d6). The goblin can produce one or two humanoid arms to punch.

Accelerated nervous system. It can make two punch attacks every third round (round 1: two attacks, round 2: one attack, etc.)

Shape shifter. Once per day, it can take the form of a short human for one hour.

Low sensibility. Physical attacks cause -1 damage to the goblin.

Cholera. Its extreme violence grants him a +3 bonus to all STR based rolls, including attacks (but no damage).

Melancholy Goblin

AC 12, HD 4, 16 hp, STR Mod -1, DEX mod +1, MOV 90′ (30′), ML 7, SAVE as specialist 4, #ATT 1 needle or 1 whale song

A fuliginous shape, a thing difficult to focus on, as though it was a humanoid made of shadow-tissue.

Whale song (auto, 1d4 INT). As an automatic action, and up to 3 times per day, it emits a sound that resembles the song of a hunchback whale. It spikes your dreams with (m/s)adness, causing you a loss of 1d4 INT. After a long night rest, all INT is recovered, but save vs. Magic or your Alignment changes to Chaotic.

If your intelligence reaches zero, save vs. Death or you will become a babbling and drooling vegetable. Make a new character.

Needle (ranged, 1d4). Each round, this goblin can create a sharp needle that shoots like a light crossbow (ranges of 50′, 150′ and 400′).

Self awareness. Its high insight makes all its DEX based rolls get a +1 bonus. And it cannot be surprised.

Shape shifter. Once per day, it can take the form of a short human for one hour.

Slow nervous system. Its attacks and all STR based rolls are done at -1.

High sensibility. Weapons used against it, deal damage as though they were one bigger die size (d4 weapons cause d6 damage and so on).

Phlegmatic Goblin

AC 12, HD 4, 18 hp, INT +3, MOV 90′ (30′), ML 9, SAVE as magic-user 4, #ATT 1 weapon or 1 spell

Looks like a regular goblinoid, pale green skin, eyes of a sickly yellow, smart.

Weapon (mêlée or ranged). It can wield minor, small and medium mêlée weapons, short bow or light crossbow or pistol, without bonus or penalties other than its +4 granted by its HD.

Caster. It can cast 2 1st leverl and 2 2nd level spells. Randomly determine which spells it has prepared for that day, as a magic-user.

Spells known. 1st level: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Sleep; 2nd level: Phantasmal Force, Stinking Cloud, Wall of Fog

Phantasmal force. Vicious dog. AC 12, HD 2, 9 hp, STR +1, MOV 180′ (60′), ML 12, SAVE as fighter 2, #ATT 1 bite

Equanimous. In reaction roll, results between 3 and 11 are “indifferent”, while 2 and 12 are “unfriendly” and “talkative”. No extremes here.

Story Hook

PCs have been hired to lead a humorous goblin-infected person to where a healer can have a cure. You have to get there before the hemogoblin hatches. The healer is actually a barber surgeon, and the surgery can be just as bad: save vs. Death, if you fail:

  • you survive but are left with only 1 hp
  • lose one hit die worth of maximum hp (roll a die your class size)
  • lose one point of either STR, CON or INT (your choice)

The Four Humorous Goblins – The Troupe

Main NPCs

Mr. Blood. Sanguine Goblin and main comedian; Mr. Night’s assitant.
Mr. Xanthous. Choleric Goblin and MC’s bodyguard.
Mr. Night. Comedian and kidnapper.
MC (Master of Ceremonies). Phlegmatic Goblin. Leader and maker of fog (wall of fog).

What’s happening

A new circus/comedy company is in town, its members are four short men, therefore they are known as The Four Humorous Goblins.

Children started disappearing the same night the company arrived, one child every night.

The Four Humorous Goblins are secretly real humorous goblins in disguise (the phlegmatic goblin wears an actual disguise, the other three, their shape-shifting power).

Freaks, outcasts and criminal work for them, as members of the circus.

The troupe kidnaps children (adults are hard to drag to their place). The children are used to produce more goblins by infecting them with sanguine goblin cells. One they have between 6 and 10 children, they leave town and return home, where the children are infected.

They already have five children, no-one suspects of the troupe. Five more nights, and they leave, or before if they realize the PCs are investigating them.

What the PCs know

  • Children have been disappearing for some nights
  • Find them and you will be well rewarded
  • Find them and the major will drop the charges against you
  • The son of a former lover has disappeared
  • Might or might not be your child

Clues | Roll or choose one everytime PCs interact with NPCs

  1. A circus is in town, it arrived some days ago
  2. One per night, for five nights now, children have disappeared
  3. Strange people have been seen roaming the streets after midnight
  4. The Four Humorous Goblins are a comedy company that travels around the land and now it’s here
  5. The major’s son was the first to disappear, he was only 6
  6. There’s been unusual fob these alst nights
  7. All the children were abducted while they were been accompanied by their parents; all say there was fog and couln’t see who kidnapped them
  8. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, and, yeah, maybe I am, but I know what I saw: it was a monster, but it wast not a monster first, it was a man, and then it was a monsters
  9. I found the remains of a camp, not far away, between the town and the forest
  10. Madam Letti’s heard giggles and wet steps in the fog when her child was taken

It is expected that the players can figure it out by themselves, but if they don’t, once they collect three clues, send some clowns, tricksters, acrobats, bearded women, strong men and other freaks against them. This means the troupe has realised the PCs are after them, and send their henchfreaks to stop them. This should be the most obvious clue: “Oh my dog it’s the circus!”

Random circus henchfreak generator

1d8 for freak type, ability modifier

1: clown (cha +2)
2: trickster (int +2)
3: acrobat (dex +3)
4: bearded woman (any +1)
5: strong man (str +2)
6: juggler (dex +2)
7: sword eater (con +2)
8: beast master with trained baboon (wis +2)

1d6 for armor class

1-4: 12
5-6: 14

1d6 for hit dice

1: 1
2-4: 2
5: 3
6: 4

1d6 for damage (customize weapon accordingly)

1: 1d4
2-5: 1d6
5: 1d8

Trained baboon

AC 12, HD 2, 9 hp, DEX +1, MOV 120′ (40′), ML 10, SAVE as fighter 2, #ATT 1 bite or 2 claws

Lazy and relentless. The beast master will command the babon to attack a specific PC, the baboon will obey in a 3-in-6 chance, otherwise it won’t act that round. Once it acts, he will continue attacking until death.

Bite. When a bite attack is successful, it can attack the same target at a -2 difficulty (or +2 to attack) the next round; if successful, the same bonus applies again.

Armor class is based on Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Here’s how you convert AC between systems.

Opposed rolls in old school games

If two characters want to compete to know who wins a bras de fer competition, or if they are engaged in a game of cards or chess, or any other situation where there cannot really, or should, be a draw, both roll 1d6 and add their most appropriate ability modifier (strength for a arm wrestling, wisdom for domino, charisma for a duel of looks, agility for throwing darts, constitution to endure without breathing, intelligence to solve an equation, etc.)

If there is a tie, another roll is made until there is a winner.

Sometimes it is a good idea to put some tension into these competitions. In those cases, the winner will be the first to achieve 3, 5, 10 or even more victories, for example in a long desert marathon or to determine who finds more decorated stegosaurus eggs at the Volcano Festival.

duel of looks

What is a dungeon? | Another take

The nature of dungeons is a theme that fascinates me!

I have written about this subject before. Perhaps it all comes down to a search for meaning. I mean, whenever I make a dungeon, I try to give it a reason, an original purpose, but at the same time I like randomness (also I am not an artist or designer), and I use a random dungeon map generator (although I make changes to the final map to fix some inconsistencies; with Paint is actually easy).

This results in things as strange as a Victorian mansion with a layout that doesn’t correspond to a mansion, but more like a maze.

However, a realistic layout of a Victorian mansion, although attractive to the eye, is boring as a dungeon.

So I make again a weird maze and impose a sense, mainly, to choose the taste, color, aroma and general or specific characteristics of each room.

But I have been thinking a lot these days and I came up with another possibility. This is a dungeon, more or less typical:

Who built it and for what purpose? The answers may be many: a magician, an ancient civilization, aliens!

But what if it was built by a race of antimatter beings? What if solid spaces are the voids for them, and vice versa? From this antipoint of view, the antidungeon would look like this:

I don’t know about you, but it gives me the impression that it makes at least a little more sense as an architectural layout, as if it were a small village with roads and buildings.

If this was not the plan of an underground dungeon but of an open-air village, it seems a somewhat more reasonable map. The white areas are pathways and gardens, the black squares are buildings, and the black lines, only the antigod knows. Perhaps the foundations of crumbled buildings?

Take into account that the subterranean of these antibeings is their “open air”, while our open air for them is a “compact solid”. Perhaps our villages and cities are dungeons they crawl. That would partially explain the presence of ghosts and apparently immaterial beings in our streets, especially during the night, because following our unscientific logic, our night is their day, our darkness is their light.

These meditations were accompanied by the beauteous music of the gods.

Over the Edge | Situation Rolls

How difficult is it to deactivate a magical lock? Many games will ask for a roll versus some difficulty assigned by the gamemaster, but how do you assign a difficulty for some task that doesn’t exist in real life?

In real life, we cannot know how difficult or easy it is to pick a witch-lock, or for a Tiger-Man to do a triple somersault, or for a Space Ninja to blend in with the atmosphere of an urban environment. Maybe it’s hard, maybe it’s easy. But we really cannot tell.

Over the Edge provides a pre-designed list of difficulties (called Levels) for the GM to use, and is fully functional, but sometimes a GM may want to deviate and improvise a little, or players decide to go and investigate that other building that the GM has nothing prepared for.

What is the difficulty of the task? To find out, just roll a d6 and compare the result to the table below:

[1] Two levels below the party’s highest level
[2] One leve below the party’s highest level
[3, 4] Same level as the party’s highest level
[5] One level above the party’s highest level
[6] Two levels above the party’s highest level

Most characters begin the game at level 3, which is the standard. But if for some strange reason the highest level in the party is 1, remember that the lowest difficulty-level is 0.

If you want a more exact result for level-1 characters, simply roll 1d4-1, and the result is the difficulty. This roll gives a range of results from 0 to 3.

If you’re the kind of GM who breaks the rules and allows players higher levels (like 6 or 7), remember that 7 is the highest possible difficulty. To interpret the result of the roll, extrapolate what I said about the lowest level.