2021. október 3., vasárnap

Reading the Mazes & Minotaurs Creature Compendium: "C"

Form a shield wall and approach the third letter of the Compendium: "C"!

Cacodemon

«««¶¶

We open with a couple of chaotic "C" monsters. The Cacodemon (basically a catch-all term for malevolent spirits) is a poltergeist, immaterial and with a bunch of psychic powers. It's an interesting enemy, because it awards relatively few Glory Points (experience points for Warrior types) but a BIG BUNCH of Wisdom Points, so Sorcerous types can benefit greatly from defeating this arcane menace.


Capricorn Horror

««¶¶¶

Flesh-devouring chaotic horror... Good for the depths of the underworld, but not very Greek- or mythical flavored.




Carapax

«««¶¶

Ancient psychic turtlefolk. Wise and benevolent. What makes them interesting is their role in the default setting: their once prosperous civilization was destroyed by the Serpent Folk, so they are sworn enemies. Mazes & Minotaurs, as I've mentioned before, places a strong emphasis on such factions.



Carnivorous Cloud

««¶¶¶

I'm not too keen on this one, but I like the added detail that it is a fungoid creature! Only usable for aerial adventures. For those, I guess, it's a good choice. Gives me an interesting idea though: maybe a region suffers from dangerous spore rains, so the adventurers have to get airborne and defeat the clouds?..

2021. október 1., péntek

The Amazing Inspirational Animal List (a cheap trick, detailed)

One of my refereeing "tricks" is to use a list of animals as an all-purpose inspirational source. I have a couple of such lists (e.g. the hybrid beast generator from The Gardens of Ynn, or the DMG) and alternate between them. But here's a consolidated d30 list. I think it has a good range, covers different types of creatures with a range of possible connotations, symbolism, powers, features, appearances, habitats...

  1. Ant
  2. Ape
  3. Bat
  4. Bear
  5. Buffalo
  6. Chameleon
  7. Crocodile
  8. Deer
  9. Eagle
  10. Eel
  11. Elephant
  12. Frog
  13. Gecko
  14. Goat
  15. Horse
  16. Jellyfish
  17. Lion
  18. Octopus
  19. Owl
  20. Peacock
  21. Porcupine
  22. Rat
  23. Salmon
  24. Scarab Beetle
  25. Shark
  26. Snake
  27. Spider
  28. Toad
  29. Vulture
  30. Wolf
And some examples, some more obvious/on-the-surface, some based on primary or secondary free associations:
  • NPC quirk: relies heavily on body language (Ape), always in motion (Shark), sniffs and snorts (Porcupine)
  • NPC behavior: controls a lot of pawns (Octopus), lounges while others do the hard lifting (Lion), creates very symmetrical art (Spider)
  • Monster power add-on: scaly armor (Crocodile), see in the dark (Owl), camouflage (Chameleon), hive mind (Ant), long jump (Frog)
  • Hybrid beast: a flying monster that creates cloud-like webs (Eagle + Spider), giant ape with paralyzing tentacles (Ape + Jellyfish), nocturnal toad with big creepy eyes (Owl + Frog)
  • Object: ivory comb (Elephant), bat-shaped belt buckle (Bat), soft transparent acid sack that explodes on impact (Jellyfish), shaggy hat (Buffalo), net coated with poison (Spider), chitinous helmet (Ant), coat-of-arms: three stylized golden horns on a green field (Goat)
  • Spell ingredient: giant spider eggs (Spider), last breath of a wolf (Wolf), peacock feathers, one of each pattern (Peacock), blood of a person gorged by deer antlers (Deer)
  • Location: Quill Canyon (Porcupine), The Webbed Forest (Spider), Bat Hill (Bat), Rainbow Bridge (Peacock), Twisting River (Snake), Eagle Creek (Eagle), Brass Tower (Scarab Beetle), Phantrin (Elephant), Shimmering Sewers (Rat + Peacock)

Die drop table!


2021. szeptember 27., hétfő

Ten more cheap tricks for Referees

It's not a bandwagon, it a stagecoach of fun and sharing! Phlox started it, with these cheap tricks, and there are already many more, so here's my list:
  1. A list of twenty animals is a great all-purpose random generator. I use it to quickly generate random NPC quirks or appearance (fidgety like a mouse / proud like an eagle / lion-maned / walks like an elephant), generate random mutations or powers (acquire tiger stripes / wolf fangs / octopus tentacles), roll twice or thrice for chimeric monsters (antlered snake / winged bear thing / lizard-scaled chicken that hides in a snail shell), create a place name (Fox River / Gerbil Mountain), random visual details (lion-shaped knocker / snake-shaped dagger), spell ingredients (eyes of bat / scales of catfish) and so much more.
  2. An oldie but goodie: have a list of names. I’m bad at coming up with names on the spot. Do not just cross off the ones you use: make a not next to them about who is called this way (“Wank Hilliams – blacksmith the players are super obsessed with for some reason; snake-like in appearance”).
  3. Ask the spellcaster what their Magic Missile spell looks like. Is it a purple flash of lightning? Is it a tornado of teeth? Does it leave behind the smell of sulfur, ozone, or rosewater?
  4. Little dream sequences for characters can be fun (“I can say it again: ‘Some ideas arrive in the form of a dream’”). Especially lucid dreams. Recurring lucid dreams, where the character explores something step by step is also cool, but maybe it’s too much spotlight on just one person.
  5. Create quick maps by taking an existing place, rotate it by 90°, stretch in one direction by 150%, done (very good for natural looking coastlines).
  6. “I owe you one” is one of the best rewards an NPC can give to players.
  7. Describe food a bit, even if it’s just a simple tavern meal or some campfire cookery. Tubers, roots, mushrooms and wild herbs make for great detail. A meal with an unusual ingredient can be like a rumor or hook (“yeah, we use this herb to flavor our food, but some say it can also cure blindness”).
  8. Keep a commonplace book, record miscellaneous ideas and shower thoughts, plots from stories, interesting images, anything. If you number the entries, it is also a random table…
  9. The 2d6 reaction roll/morale check is one of the greatest tools given to humankind. I use it for all “psychological” things: does the guard fall for the player character’s lies ? Is the captive intimidated by the threats?
  10. https://relatedwords.org/ and https://describingwords.io/ are pretty useful resources!

* I was asked about how I adjudicate the reaction roll for deception. These are my guidelines:
2 - NPC absolutely does not believe the lie, either sees through the lie or just gets upset and hostile
3-5 - NPC does not believe the lie, and probably knows that the character tried to lie
6-8 - NPC is indifferent, might try to seek out confirmation or denial of the fact lied about
9-11 - NPC believes the lie, accepts it as fact
12 - NPC believes the lie completely, and might even change their initial opinion on the matter (esp. if the roll goes over 12)
Bonuses/penalties might apply (for outstanding Charisma score, or the way the players are describing their lie).



2021. szeptember 12., vasárnap

Reading the Mazes & Minotaurs Creature Compendium: "B"

The divine quest continues!!

Bapharon

«««
A swamp creature, vaguely reminiscent of the Creature from the Blue Black Lagoon. The description is short but pretty evocative, I like that: "often hide
under the surface to leap at their surprised victims before tearing them to pieces" - gives a good idea for an encounter.


Basilisk

««««
A classic! I can't say anything bad about the basilisk, and not just because I'm petrified of being petrified. And I like the fact that it's kept as a middle-sized monster ("wolf-sized", to be precise). There are many bigger serpents, but this cunning fucker is awesome in its own right.



Bears: Brown, Cave, Great Hyperborean

««¶¶
Bears are good to have around. I wonder if the OSR's beloved "Just Use Bears" strategy is applicable to M&M --- to a certain extent, maybe, you can take one of the Bears as the baseline "burly monster" statblock, and add in one of the "modular" monster powers the Mazes & Minotaurs Maze Masters Guide has on offer.
But on the topic of proper bears in the context of Mazes: perhaps they take a second (or even third) place to such beasts as lions, wild bulls, boars.
The Compendium offers two "standard" types and a polar bear.

2021. szeptember 10., péntek

Reading the Mazes & Minotaurs Creature Compendium: "A"

People are reading the D&D monster books like the Monster Manual and the Fiend Folio, rating and commenting on each creature, a format I quite enjoy. So let's read the Mazes & Minotaurs Creature Compendium! Like all M&M books, it's available for free. Like all M&M books, it's equal parts silly and fun and playable.

Mazes & Minotaurs, by the way, has a pretty good way of creating new monsters, a modular system that lets the Maze Master pick special features from a list, sum it all up, and then calculate experience rewards. It's not a quick system, but overall quite interesting. It is detailed in the Maze Masters Guide. So generally if you can't find the monster of your dreams in the Compendium, you can try and create it using the guidelines.

The Maze Masters Guide is also important, because that is where all the monster special powers are explained in detail. This is maybe a bit of an oversight :( Because unless you remember how exactly a power, say, "Crushing Missiles" works, you have to find it in a different book. I made a print-out for myself for quick reference, maybe I'll post it at some point.

But let's get down to business... All the creatures beginning with alpha letter "A"!

2021. augusztus 29., vasárnap

[Spell] Bloody Communion

A quick homebrew spell, before the summer ends...

Bloody Communion

Level 1

Duration: 1 + 1 turn/caster level

A group of 2-7 targets (which might or might not include the caster) enter into a blood pact. Each participant pours 1 hit point worth of blood into a chalice, then each participant drinks from it. Afterwards, for the duration of the spell, they can communicate telepathically, regardless of distance. To send a message to one or a select few participants, the sender must concentrate (which counts as an action); message heard by the whole group do not require concentration.

Each participant must also save against Poison, or possibly suffer a malady (d10). The spell works as intended, regardless of the save’s result.

 

Effect

1-5

No effect.

6

Bad Blood. The character loses the ability of natural healing for 1 week/caster level. Magical healing still works.

7

Weakness. The character’s total hit points are reduced by d6 for 1 week/caster level.

8

Involuntary Thought-Projection. The character is unable to shield their thoughts from the others. The communication network suffers from a constant “noise” emanating from this participant. Every time somebody sends a message, there is a 1-in-6 chance the message gets drown out by noise. The chance is cumulative if more participants get this malady.

9

Unmasking. One of the character’s secrets is disclosed to all other participants.

10

Bloodlust. The character is cursed with vampirism and must drink fresh blood every day to function properly. For each day without sating this urge, the character loses a hit die.

Some say the spell will even work if the blood of a recently deceased person is added to the mix…




2021. augusztus 6., péntek

[Monster] Tarot-based weird encounter generation

Captain Ahab's Leg posted a wonderful evocative system for generating unusual encounters based on Tarot cards. I love random content generation, I have a Tarot deck, so... here we go!

The Form: Eight of Pentacles

A craftsman chisels pentacles on golden discs – perhaps these creatures (because there are several of them) are constructs.

The Human: The Fool

Perhaps these monsters can be underestimated at first…

The Inhuman: Death

…but then they present a significant threat. The image shows Death as a mounted knight. A high priest in a tiara stands on the ground before the knight. Maybe praising him, but maybe trying to barter with him. In any case, the knight towers above him, subdues him just as he’d subdued an enemy previously. So perhaps the creatures have some sort of awe-inducing mind control power.

The Cycle:

The Larva: Six of Wands

The wands are carried, not mobile on their own. In their initial state, the creatures need an outer force to propel them forward. Maybe tumbleweed? They roll in, surround the enemy, and then build up into something unified and bigger.

The Pupa: Queen of Swords

Majestic and bellicose… But the Queen sits upon a throne, doesn’t fight. She towers over the enemy, and prepares to unleash the final attack.

The Imago: Nine of Pentacles

Pentacles again, but at a higher value than the Form, so I interpret this as a growth in power. The image shows a falconer, so maybe the great monstrous attack (the “awe-inducing mind control”, see above) is a swift, targeted thing.

The Encounters:

First Encounter (Eight of Pentacles, The Fool, Death)

An abandoned workshop, eerily silent, dead bodies lying around it – no evident cause of death. Inside lie eight golden discs with pentacles engraved on them. A priest kneels in the middle of the room, mumbling “please don’t hurt me, oh most magnificent one… please don’t hurt me!”

Second Encounter (Six of Wands, Queen of Wands, The High Priest)

The priest suddenly snaps out of the condition and starts arranging the discs in a specific shape.

Third Encounter (Nine of Pentacles, Ten of Wands, The Judgement)

A force of magnetism starts pulling together the discs, they gather, lift up from the ground, and form a sphere mid-air. They shine gold and bright, majestic… And now one person of the party is struck with awe – they must serve the sphere.

2021. július 5., hétfő

[Dungeon] Bloodsoaked Gem Cavern, OSR adventure

Wrote a small adventure today! It's set in an old mine, which is sort of a classic trope, but there are also a couple of interesting rooms and twists and whatnot. And the group might end up with a potentially lucrative mining operation (rules for running the business included). For low-level characters (2-3-ish). Stats are generic "OSR-isms", so you can basically use it with any system that has hit dice. 8 pages, 16 rooms...

I used Michael Raston's wonderful "Generic Room Stocker" tables for the title, one of the monsters and to get started with some of the rooms, then the rest really just wrote itself. It was fun.

In hindsight, I should have made the dungeon map less dense, space out the chambers a bit more, give them some breathing room... but then, at least it fits on the page nicely :) 




2021. június 28., hétfő

Demons & Diabolists: alternative Magic-User class and infernal entities for weird historical settings

I expanded the demonic True Name generator. Now you can roll domains of power, spells, and unique physical manifestations for the entities! And I wrote up a Diabolist class (for LotFP) that calls up and binds such demons (they basically act as the spellbook of the summoner).

The project is loosely based on The Lesser Key of Solomon, but instead of the high-level Dukes and Marquises of the demon kingdom it concentrates on the "footsoldiers" and "officers", the ones that a diabolist has a chance to summon AND control. I tried to strike a balance between evocative historical flavor and playability.

Download the PDF

(Prints as a nice little 8-page booklet)



2021. június 22., kedd

True Name Generator


Here's a random generator of infernal True Names™, for weird/occult historical games!

Also available as an Inspiration Pad Pro file.

Update: now also available as a Perchance online generator, thanks, Redwood!

Structure of the name (d20):

1-6

Two syllables

7-12

Three syllables

13

Four syllables

14

Five syllables

15

One syllable, followed by a syllable repeated twice

16

The same syllable repeated twice, followed by another

17

Two syllables, then the first syllable repeated

18-19

The same syllable repeated twice

20

The same syllable repeated three times

* insert apostrophes, hyphens, sanity-shattering glyphs as needed

Roll for each syllable (d5 for column, d100 for row)

 

1

2

3

4

5

1-4

Abd

Akl

Ab

Ar

Aaa

5-8

Bux

Blu

Bak

Bo

Ba

9-12

Cax

Cri

Cul

Ci

Cx

13-16

Dup

Dro

Dit

De

Dor

17-20

En

Exl

Eg

Ex

Es

21-24

Fer

Fri

For

Fuv

Fxu

25-28

Gik

Gho

Gul

Gi

Gee

29-32

Hab

Hni

Hax

Hed

Hnaa

33-36

Id

Ixl

Ip

Ix

Ibb

37-40

Ju

Jed

Jur

Ja

Jah

41-44

Kep

Kfu

Kax

Ko

Kna

45-48

Luc

Lhg

Lun

La

Ll

49-52

Mef

Mla

Mor

Mid

Maa

53-56

Na

Ndo

Ne

Nux

Nbu

57-60

Ox

Okk

Ob

Oph

Oo

61-64

Pul

Psi

Paq

Pox

Pla

65-68

Rip

Rer

Rum

Ro

Rxo

69-72

Sat

Sla

Seb

Su

Sin

73-76

Ten

Tfo

Tax

Ti

Tu

77-80

Unk

Ukl

Ur

Uq

Uu

81-84

Vox

Vru

Vif

Ved

Vop

85-88

Wih

Wun

Wer

Wa

Wur

89-92

Xal

Xro

Xin

Xa

Xx

93-96

Yoq

Yed

Yuk

Yi

Yad

97-100

Zex

Zox

Zap

Za

Zz


And here's twenty of them:

Abab

Aklpox

Arzox

Babaved

Frinuxmef

Hedhed

Hnihnihni

Kaxnejed

Kepwerhax

Lungul

Oxarzex

Psipsimor

Tisla

Uklox

Uqabab

Uqartidromid

Wurbaakl

Xalculnaculna

Xando

Zoxdepox


Abracadabra, suckers! Let's get goetic!