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.)

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 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 because it gives a 16 or 17 percent chance, which is not too high but not too low either. It’s unlikely but possible, as it should. 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.

However, if an action becomes harder or easier due to the character’s innate traits, then their range of success is modified by their attributes, so 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.

1d20 is basically the same as 3d6, 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 (disclaimer: 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.

Other games, such as DCC, call for a d20 roll against a difficulty set by the referee, and a high score is sought. Depending on the 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 award without having to think if this action is of a standard difficulty or higher or lower. And if we take into account that the standard difficulty is, say, 12, 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.

Not to mention, too, that the d20 system (where this mechanic comes from) is that all the rules are the same, so climbing, hitting or seducing don’t feel like different actions to the player.

And this, the 1-in-6 checks, is the main reason I like LotFP’s system more than others. It’s not the only reason but it’s the main reason.

Shelter 15 – Dungeon Poem Challenge

Better late than never. Here’s my entry for the Dungeon Poem Challenge. Map by Dyson Logos, of course.

Shelter 15

An adventure for Death is the New Pink (now on sale) or Into the Odd. BADassery = Strength; Dodge Some Shit (DSS) = Dexterity; MOXY = Willpower.

Why are you here?

  1. The air-purifying device in your shelter has broken and no one knows how to repair it, but it is possible to find a replacement, and the logical thing to do is to look for one in another shelter.
  2. Communications with Shelter 15 were lost a little over a year ago; it’s time to send someone to investigate.
  3. Due to bad behavior, Shelter 13 held a vote. It was democratically decided that you could no longer stay at the shelter, so they gave you some weapons and equipment and “let you go”. The Overseer, in an act of good faith, revealed to you that perhaps in Shelter 15, a few days’ walk away, you might find asylum.

1. Living Quarters

The access door is made of one meter thick steel, and displays the ‘Shel-Tech’ logo. It’s slightly open, allowing passage.

4 abandoned tents.

  1. Rotting blankets.
  2. One shoe. 3 gold bits inside.
  3. Two skeletons hugging each other. On closer inspection, it’s a single skeleton with extra limbs.
  4. The booklet “The March of the Pigs”. It takes 1 day to read. Once per adventure, you can create 1d4+1 Molotov bombs using improvised materials (1d6 damage per round to all inside the area; one extra point of damage to cops, sheriffs, soldiers, politicians and other enemies of freedom).

a) High above the doorframe to the west corridor, a plasma shotgun is pointed towards the floor. A motion sensor detects anyone passing under the rifle, emitting an energy discharge (1d8 damage). If the victim suffers critical damage, they are turned into a green sludge.

2. Cleaning Room

The lock has been melted as if by intense heat.

A shovel (1d8 damage).

A clutter of metal sheets with the ‘Shel-Tech’ logo engraved.

The observer notes that they are made of lead and can protect from some forms of harmful radiance (yes, like laser and plasma weapons).

3. Flowerpot

A pot filled with soil and a healthy-looking flowering plant. Above it, on the wall, a small painting depicting something you have never seen in real life: an autumn landscape. Looking at it for a moment fills you with vitality (either your hp or MOXY are replenished, only once).

Hidden in the pot’s soil, a sophisticated green bronze key.

The key opens the safe box in area 6.

Eat a mouthful of soil and in your next fight your attacks will be Enhanced. Only works once.

Eating the plant has no effect.

4. Latrines

Six holes in the floor reveal the original use of this room; a foul odor escapes from the holes.

Graffiti on the wall reads, “The Overseer is a son of a bitch.”

Roll 1d6

1. 1d4 lurking mole rats, mutated mammals with no fur and a bad temper due to their constant pain. There is a 2 in 6 chance of being hostile and trying to eat one of the PCs (they all attack at once). BAD 10, DSS 14, MOXY 6, 4hp, Bite (1d6).

2-5. Nothing.

6. The huge tail of a scorpion pokes out of one of the holes. A DSS roll allows cutting it without suffering damage (1d6 BAD poison damage). The poison gland allows creating 1d2 doses of antivenom in one day, not while adventuring.

5. Workshop

The room is full of old sawdust and rusty carpentry machinery.

A saw in good condition can be a nice weapon if someone manages to adapt it (1d8 damage).

A ditch was partially plugged with sand and sawdust. Someone buried a body there, only the bones remain but the blue uniform of an Overseer with a white 15 on the back remains intact.

6. The Safe Box

A safe with the ‘Shel-Tech’ logo; to open it, a key is required (area 3). Explosives destroy the box with all its contents and due to its construction, there is no way to pick the lock or use a crowbar.

Inside the box are 2 scrap pistols (they fire nails, nuts and bolts, and all sorts of similar-sized junk, 1d6 damage), a hammer and a sickle with red hilts (when used in each hand, they deal 2d4 damage; separately, 1d6), and 500 gold bits.

1 in 8 chance of encountering 1 aquatic marauder just chilling out here; mutated human with pisciform characteristics and radioactive psyche. BAD 12 DSS 10, MOXY 14, 6hp, 2 claws (2d4), Horrific gaze (1d6 MOXY damage). In water, it always wins initiative.

7. The Underground Stream

Its limpid waters flow towards the south-east.

Drinking the water heals replenishes but causes 2d4 BAD radiation damage; dipping into it, causes 1d6 dame, and other 1d6 each hour you spend there.

2 in 6 chance of encountering 1d4 aquatic marauders, mutated humans with pisciform characteristics and radioactive psyche. BAD 12 DSS 10, MOXY 14, 6hp, 2 claws (2d4), Horrific gaze (1d6 MOXY damage). In water, they always win initiative.

8. The Boat

The remains of a stranded boat.

Among the debris is a human skull apparently made of gold but it’s bone. Its possessor can automatically succeed on a MOXY check, once per day, but also suffer 1d4 BAD damage (it’s radiation!)

1 in 8 chance of encountering 1 aquatic marauder just chilling out here; mutated human with pisciform characteristics and radioactive psyche. BAD 12 DSS 10, MOXY 14, 6hp, 2 claws (2d4), Horrific gaze (1d6 MOXY damage). In water, it always wins initiative.

9. Common Area

A wall is full of notes and messages corroded by time, only three are legible:

  1. Sergei, I left your box key in the geraniums. -Cass (includes a flower doodle)
  2. Sergei, the water filter needs maintenance. -Foner
  3. Everyone, emergency meeting today at 23:00 to discuss the Overseer’s disappearance. -Gyllenhaal

10. The Mushroom Garden

Inedible mushrooms and mildew flourish in this area.

When entering it, make a BAD check to avoid inhaling the spores floating in the environment (1d4 BAD radiation damage each round of exposure).

There are 3 pedestals holding urns.

  1. The ashes of the first Overseer of Shelter 15.
  2. The ashes of the second Overseer. Actually, a formless black sludge. Attacks on “sight”, so DSS check for initiative. BAD 14, DSS 7, MOXY 1, 4hp, Lashing tendril (1d6), Black spit (1d6 BAD damage). Fire deals 1d12 BAD damage to it.
  3. The ashes of the third Supervisor. Among the ashes, two gold teeth and a glass eye.

11. The Overseer’s Office

The door can be opened with either a BAD check, with a crowbar, or with explosives.

  • A successful BAD check reduces BAD by 1, a failed check reduces it by 1d4.
  • If explosives are used, there’s a 1 in 6 chance that the stagnant air in the shelter will react, causing rooms 5, 9 and 10 to explode (1d20 damage, and 1d6 each subsequent round for 1d4 rounds).

In an open locker there’s an anti-radiation suit, an air purifying filter and a rusty key (for room 13).

3 booths with working computers. The only relevant thing is a document reporting that the entrance door of Shelter 15 was designed to not close properly, as part of an experiment that allowed Shelter Technologies to investigate the effects of radiation over time on the population.

In another corner there’s a coffee table turned upside down. The table hides a trap door leading down to room 12.

12. The basement

A human (human?) skeleton holding a revolver, a hole in the skull. It appears to have died defending itself from something.

The revolver is functional but has no bullets.

Dark goo stains cover most of the floor.

13. Cemetery

From the padlocked door, a smell of decay escapes.

The remains of dozens of people lie here, unburied.

9 ghouls wearing common Shelter 15 uniforms, orange and a white 15 on the back, roam here, and will attack immediately. BAD 12, DSS 8, MOXY 6, 5hp, Sharp fingernails (1d6 BAD damage). When killed, they melt into a black goo.

Staggering vs. Critical Hits

I don’t like critical hits. Never liked. If your weapon causes its maximum natural damage, that’s a critical hit! This is specially true in games where damage is automatic, like Into the Odd, but it works the same in any game based on B/X and similar.

I hate critical hits, but most players expect a high result in their to-hit roll comes with an added benefit. I don’t see why it should be this way, it’s not as though it was obvious, as though natural twenties were a thing in the real world, but ever since Empire of the Petal Throne introduced the concept (natural twenty attack equals double damage), it’s been the expected among players.

So I won’t introduce critical hits in my games, but I don’t want my friends’ enmity, either. Having been playing Dark Souls for the first time, for most of this year, I thing a natural twenty can have a good effect: breaking your enemy’s poise and stagger him.

When you stagger your foe, he loses his next action, and your next attack against him is automatic, so you don’t roll. If you cause maximum damage, that’s your critic. If you cause minimum damage… well, sometimes you miss when you attack a staggered enemy in Dark Souls, because when you make him lose balance, sometimes he missteps or goes out of reach, and he’s still wearing his armor, right?

Note: Keep in mind that I play LotFP, a system where you don’t add neither your STR nor your DEX to your damage rolls, only to your attack rolls, which means all attacks can potentially deal as few as only one point of damage every single time.

Staggering

  • A natural 20 staggers your foe. Staggering lasts one round.
  • A staggered foe loses his next action.
  • All attacks against a staggered opponent are automatic. Damage is normal.

The Hidden Shrine of Setebos | An expedition for Into the Odd

The Hidden Shrine of Setebos, in the making for seven months (that’s me, slow as a snail, how can you continually make adventures for your weekly games, people?) is finally here, for your amusement. It was born as a little experiment, after having read this article, but it grew bigger than a few rooms, into the weird thing it is now.

It’s a 2-level dungeon with a third, extra level that works as a denouement. It’s crazy, weird, bizarre, terrifying, decadent, lowbrow and highbrow, but never middlebrow! Huysmans would approve!

Who, or what, is Setebos? And imaginary god? Who knows, who cares!? It’s there and there are solver and gold to be looted, secrets to be acquired, and strange artifacts to be trafficked.

–> Download for Free <–

If you really think I should get some gold pieces, you can pay what you want through itch.io. But, really, I made this because I like to make things for the community.

Nanty narking!

This is not a review of Gawain & the Green Knight. This is a review of how it is to receive Gawain and the Green Knight after a delay of many months

Back in October 2019, I backed this project, which was the second version of the campaign, the first having failed for reasons.

And today, after a long delay, it arrived home (also consider that I live in Mexico and this book comes from the other side of the ocean. I took a picture immediatly after I removed the package.

So, I haven’t read this adaptation made by Patrick Stuart, and this is not a review of the book, but just some impressions on it.

First thing, the book is hardcover and has dust-jacket. It’s of a nice size, as you can see here compared to the DMG and Troika.

 

When you remove the dust-jacket, you see a solid book in a beautiful green. I love this color and wish more books were made like that, while most are black or red, blue and white even.

Yes, Gawain and the Green Knight is not a gaming book, it’s a poetry book. Some people didn’t understand that even when it was made very clear. Pead carefully when you back a Kickstarter project, guys. So, a poetry book, and an illustrated poetry book, very well done. The artwork is fantastic! By Daniel Puerta. Just take a look.

Does it have relation to Silent Titans? Yes it does. In the campaign, Patrick mentioned there was a missing page in the final version of Silent Titans, he added that page in the campaign page, and I mentioned it would be nothing to add it to the book. I would not add a cost to the final product or anything, just a few lines of plain text. And guess what?

click for full size

That page, the very last in the book, will be a little awkward to anyone who gets this book without knowing anything about Silent Titans or Patrick Stuart. That’s ok. Awakward is ok.

So, Gawain & the Green Knight is a fantastic work, as a product or book-as-an-object.

 

Death is the New Life: Embrace character death

Some games favor, and even encourage, that characters die easily. This approach is supported by simple character creation rules, high lethality, and a focus on emerging stories (or no story at all), as opposed to systems that include the character’s story during its creation. In the original Traveller, a character could die during the character creation process.

Character death is not a flaw, it’s a good thing. Actually, it has several benefits.

Death as engagement and learning

Experiencing death firsthand will teach players that the world is dangerous and will force them to seek alternative solutions and experience character’s abilities in unusual ways.

Is a Fighter strong? Usuallt that’s the case, yet he doesn’t necessarily have to fight the ten dog-faced kobolds that stand guard on the bridge, and instead he can use his strength to bring the bridge down and kill the pulgosos (or leave them very hurt) in an instant. Has the Thief made a career of backstabbing people? Fine, but she can’t stab in the back that eldritch thing with eyes around its head, if she tried, she might end up dead in a few rounds; instead she can use gab and charisma to convince it that it shouldn’t allow to be exploited by anyone, and maybe get an ally to overthrow the king (and steal the jewels of the crown).

Death teaches us that out there someone or something wants us dead, and that if we want to survive we must be smarter.

Death as advance

When our adventurer dies a victim of a poisoned needle, two things happen: a) the items and equipment of the fallen are shared among the survivors, and b) the player creates a new character, who carries new items, and soon joins the band of ne’er-do-wells.

In this case, death functions as a form of progress, an improvement for the group without entailing any additional expense of money or acquiring experience. If a group of three looters carries three swords and three rations, once they all die and are replaced, they will still be three looters but now they will have six swords and six rations.

Death as promotion

One way to replace a dead character is promoting a hireling. This is an easy, fast and logical way to keep the player in the game without wasting time.

If players have become fond of their linkboy, letting him grow professionally can be a cause for celebration, or at least they will know that this beloved character will be with them for a longer time, with the added benefit of immediacy.

Death to try new options

Some systems not only favor, but celebrate high mortality, and also expect the characters to have a story. But a story that emerges from the game itself, with only some vague lines and ideas given by the system itself.

If the system says that the character is a Lone Monarch (Troika!), or that it has an ugly mutation (Into the Odd), you don’t need to write ten pages of story to justify those characteristics, only mentioning them when something within the game occurs that makes it relevant.

In my Troika! campaign, the group met a Slug King, which reminded the Lone Monarch of his own lost reign, and full of anger, he attacked the poor loser. This gave the character an extra background element: when he remembers his lost kingdom, he has one of two reactions: to cry, or to get violent. In Into the Odd, the character with the ugly mutation was a human-kangaroo hybrid, which allowed him to jump higher and kick hard.

This simplicity also allows great flexibility to create whatever characters you can imagine, no matter how outrageous. Do you want a robot? Nothing prevents you. An intergalactic traveler? Nothing easier A reptilian who spits poison? There is no reason why you can’t have it. A phlebotomist? But of course!

A character’s demise allows you to try something new. What could be better?

How to read (and understand) Silent Titans

Originally published on Reddit.

Yes, Patrick Stuart writes great books that require an extra effort from the referee, but it’s always worth it in the end, and perhaps making the books more accessible would go against the real value of the work. Silent Titans is no exception.

If you haven’t tried Silent Titans, allow me to help you a little. First, you must know that the book structure makes sense, the dungeon maps make sense and the writing makes sense.

The maps are abstractions

You don’t need more detailed maps to run the dungeons; all the dungeons are short, they all have 7 rooms and each room has one or two doors. The game is not about complicated labyrinths, it’s about weird things happening in these smalls buildings.

Maps here are more like diagrams roughly portraying the layout of the building and the rooms composing it, with arrows that show you how many doors there are and where they lead to.

“The map is really just a quick reference to remind you of the areas described in the prose, but the prose is the «sole source of truth» rather than the map.” [Source]

Information is where it needs to be

The book mentions a lot of stuff you don’t know nothing about, for instance, in the dungeon called R8-B8, T.A.C.s are mentioned but you don’t know what T.A.C.s are. At the end of the dungeon description, that is, after the last room (easy, there are only 7 rooms), there is a list of monsters, one of these is the T.A.C.

Also, if you have the PDF, have you noticed that some words and phrases are underlined? Those are links! It sends you to the relevant page. Click on T.A.C. and you will be directed to the description of this monster.

There’s structure in the chaos

This book is chaotic, it portraits the chaotic nature of the setting; but there’s a structure you can’t notice until you have read the first 14 chapters. Wait, wait, wait! Don’t be scared! Some chapters are a page long or so. In my mind, the first 13 chapters work as three chapters: introductory information, first dungeon and the sandbox & city description. Each of these three parts are different and don’t follow a structure, because they are about different stuff. But then you get to the 14th chapter, which in my mind is the first section of the fourth chapter, that is, the Titan R8-B8‘s description:

  1. Two pages that explain how to explore this area (a Titan is both a land and a dungeon, it’s a big part of a bigger map). It describes its towns (three towns explained in a single page; you don’t need more details). It includes a description of the roads and paths you find there and where they take you; some of them take you out of R8-B8 into another Titan-Land. These are also underlined, so in a game session, you can go to the relevant page in a click.
  2. One and a half pages overview of the dungeon: there’s the abstract map and a brief summary of each room. Additionally, there’s a comment on encounters and general description of the atmosphere, texture, doors and other features.
  3. Several pages that describe each room in depth. The complete description of the room is in the same page.
  4. The Avatars. That is, the monsters you find in this dungeon.
  5. This structure (points 1 to 4) is repeated for all the Titans-Lands-Dungeons. So, when you familiarize with one, you can find what you need in another.
  6. After this, you find a description of Titan Diamonds and Ego-Machines, which are mentioned before several times. Remember, information is where it needs to be.
  7. After that, there’s a brief discussion about how to continue the adventure, an interview, some tables you might need during the sandbox & city part. There’s also the rules of the game (one page, taken from Into the Odd) and an «I search the body» table. And that’s it.

The first dungeon map doesn’t appear in the main map

You can think the purple tower with a head in the spread overland map is the first dungeon (Dementia Bomb), but it’s not. I wasted a lot of time trying to conflate the first dungeon map with that illustration.

The book is color coded

When you navigate a Titan, the roads table include destinations highlighted in different colors; each color refers to a specific Titan. For example, R8-B8 is pink and Birk is purple. This is a sample navigation table.

And I think that’s all you need to know. It took me a while to understand the book, for two reasons: you have to read several chapters before you get the hang of it, and I don’t have a lot of time to read. Patrick says that you need to read the book before you run the game, and he’s right. You need to understand what is going on so you can do you work properly.

Mouse Box

One mini-game that will make you break your head is “Mouse Box”, in the dungeon/Titan Brom. If you haven’t figured it out, don’t fret! I have you covered here.

The Prismatic Demon and the Pentangle Shield

According to Patrick Stuart crowsourcing campaign for Gawain and the Green Knight, this bit was omitted from Silent Titans:

If the PCs defeat the Prismatic Demon and recover the Pentangle Shield, the following takes place;

The Memory of the Shield

Seeing the Image of Mary on its inside will suddenly trigger a complex memory.

  • This is the Shield of Gawain.
  • Together you defeated Doctor Hog and sent the Titans to sleep.
  • You tricked a False and Cruel Knight into attacking the core of the Titan Birk.
  • This is the body floating in Birk’s final chamber.
  • This allowed Doctor Hog to think Gawain was dead.
  • And that caused him to reveal his final plan, to raise Chronos from the Afon-Mor.
  • The last thing you remember of Gawain was that he sought ‘The Green Chapel’.

For your convenience and use on the table, you can download the lost memory on PDF.

The Maze of Uriel

We have the map and we know each of the rooms/eggs correspond to each of the rookeries; there are 12 rooms but only 7 rookeries, but only 7 rooms have a hole in them. Which room corresponds to each rookery? You can decide that, it won’t change the game at all if you assign this room or that other room.

Extraneous Rules

Sometimes, you are asked to roll will saves with disadvantage; but that mechanic is not from Into the Odd. Is it the same as in 5e (roll two dice, use the worst)? Or you add a penalty (-1, -2)? It doesn’t matter, actually. You can use the Impaired rules from ItO.

“I eat the monster!” Now see what happens

Eating monsters? Why, yes! Monster meat (and flesh) have special properties that vary a lot depending on the creature’s diet and habits when before you killed it. When you eat a monster (or a portion), roll d20 on the next table.

Note that stats are written for Into the Odd. WIL (Willpower) roughly equals WIS (Wisdom). Armour 1 means an armour denies one point of damage. A Full Rest is a week, or the time you need to recover all your hp. Impaired means all your attacks cause d4 Damage, in other games it can be Disadvantage or ignore all to-hit bonuses. Saves are what most games call roll under your ability as well as Saving Throws.

1 STR and hp are restored
2 WIL is increased in 1 permanently
3 If you find a monster like the one you just ate, you can control it
4 On full moon, you transform in a monster like it
5 Lose all hp. After a Full Rest, your awake with an Armour 1 layer of nutshell hard skin
6 A week later, your claws grow and cause d4 damage; a year later, they cause d6 damage
7 You can’t recover after a Full Rest if you don’t eat or drink human or ape flesh or blood
8 Overnight, you grow a monkey-like tail
9 You’re blind! No, wait. Not blind. After a night’s sleep you can see ghosts and dead people
10 Your head changes into a dog’s head, d6 Bite. To talk, make a WIL save or start barking
11 Poisonous! Suffer d20 Damage
12 Same effect as being drunk. You are Impaired for the next 24 hours starting now
13 What’s that itching? Allergy? You scratch (choose where), now you have skeletal a part
14 Your legs become a bird’s legs. Your DEX saves related to movement and speed are +2
15 You wake up the next day covered in thick hirsute black hair
16 Your skin becomes blue, people think you’re cute
17 From now on, you must eat the flesh of monsters once a week or suffer d20 Damage
18 You can’t drink water again, it deals d10 Damage (and Impaired.) Blood, on the other hand
19 You can’t stand cooked meat, it must be raw. Eat and STR save or be Impaired for d4 days
20 Each morning WIL save or a parasite (and maybe the Referee) controls you for the day

What else? Well, if you want, I mean if you really need to know what happens when an idiot adventurer smokes a magic scroll (and of course you need to!), Tamás Kisbali has put together this very useful table.

 

Building a dungeon | James Maliszewski’s guidelines and something else

I followed James Maliszewski’s guidelines when I made Slime Bugs for my Mutants & Mazes campaign. I have failed to follow some of his insightful suggestions ever since, but on creating that adventure I learned a good deal of stuff that I have used ever since.

These are James’s guidelines, I steal them from Grognardia and put them here for quick reference. [I’ll add a few comments between square brackets.]

  1. Environmental hazards — slippery floors, rooms that flood, narrow ledges over steep drops, rooms that are excessively hot or cold, rooms or corridors filled with poison (or otherwise magical) gasses, etc.
  2. Combat encounters should generally be with baseline (or near-baseline) monsters with difficulty enhanced by the circumstances of the encounter (i.e. monsters have set up ambushes, monsters forcing the PCs to fight in unfavorable surroundings, teams of similar (or dissimilar) monster-types working together, etc.) rather than through templates or class-leveling.
  3. At least one encounter that if played as a straight combat will totally overmatch the party, but which can be avoided or circumvented by some clever means.
  4. At least one puzzle, trick, or obstacle that requires the players to figure it out, rather than being solvable by a die-roll. [If they can’t solve the puzzle the adventure should not stop, there whatever is beyond the puzzle should not be essential to complete the dungeon; alternatively, allow a roll but only after they have tried and failed. Also, add clues scattered through the dungeon, including one in the same room the puzzle is.]
  5. At least one item, location, or creature that causes some kind of significant permanent effect (permanently raise/lower stats or hp, permanently change race, gender, or alignment, permanently grant or take away magic items, etc.) determined by a random roll on a table — with possibilities for both good and bad effects, depending on the roll. [Maybe something like this?]
  6. At least one item of treasure that is cursed or has other detrimental side-effects on the owner/possessor.
  7. Some sort of “false climax” where inattentive players will think they’ve won the adventure and either let their guard down or go home, while clever players will realize this couldn’t have really been the climax. [Also, there can be a well hidden chance to end the dungeon earlier, even from the beginning. I used it here and my group discovered how to do it but refused to. It has to do with a sacrifice and an eye.]
  8. At least one disorienting effect, teleporter, mirror trap, [swiveling] floor, or maze like monster, up is down too.
  9. An area where resources are an issue. Wet torches or wind blowing them out. Oxygen low or having to hold your breath to swim [through] a tunnel.
  10. An area that has items of value, but they are too large to transport, or cause someone to have his hands full at an ambush.
  11. A creature that appears to be something it is not. Some examples: Lurker above, mimic, [cloaker], wolf in sheep’s clothing, doppelganger, gas spore (perhaps my favorite), etc.
  12. One encounter (no more, no less) that makes absolutely no logical sense, that the DM completely leaves up to the players’ imagination to explain. [Always a favourite of mine, specially ultra-futuristic science or weird, outer technology.]

One doesn’t have to include all 12 in every dungeon, but consider that each element adds to the final result, and in big dungeons, the more the better (otherwise it can end up repetitive or boring soon.)

Some of these elements can be combined, like a creature that appears to be something it is not and a trick/obstacle for the players to think through it. In the case of Slime Bugs, these two elements inspired me to create the infamous “petrified cube”, or the gasslime trick/trap I included on The Goddess of the Crypt.

Some additions I want to include in (all?) my future dungeons and adventures:

  1. Lots of things to interact with. You know, levers, buttons, ray guns that cause random effects.
  2. Replacement adventurers. Prisoners or lost adventurers than can join in in case a PC dies. I made this supplement for Into the Odd.
  3. Things (traps, tricks, monsters, spells, npcs) that break the rules. You know, monsters that hits automatically, peasants than cast spells without following magic-user or cleric rules, anything.
  4. Things than don’t do a thing but look intriguing and make PCs waste time, triggering random encounters.
  5. Rooms outside time and space or, at least, outside the main dungeon.