Saturday, March 27, 2021

Random thoughts: Incremental "Draining" Damage

Just because I occasionally I think about game stuff besides populating little towns with people with interesting names:

"Get your prybar under there, Zophia, I'll prop the lid with this brick," said Barrick. "One more good shove, and we'll have it off."

"Good," she grunted, "Hope the temple will be happy to have their saint's reliquary back."

The sarcophagus lid slid off, revealing a filigree chest between a pair of skeletal feet. Zophia reached in, "There you are."

As she touched the chest, the skeleton's eyes flared ice-blue and the body rose, striking the intruder. Zophia raised an arm to ward off the strike, as blue-tinged claws raked her sleeve. Her prybar dropped from suddenly numb fingers. 

"Back away!" yelled Barrick, drawing sword against the glowing undead. It scrabbled at his shield, unable to breach his guard, before leaping from the sarcophagus at his stunned companion.

She clumsily swung a cudgel at the horror, before receiving another gash across the face.

"Run, now!" urged Barrick, grabbing her arm.

It was like ice, as Zophia slowly turned to him, slurring, "I tir'ed..."

The skeleton leered, stepping in for another attack.



There have been discussions on alternatives to level draining undead.

Not sure if I dreamed this, or it just came unbidden to my mind as I was considering something completely unrelated, probably work... 

So I toyed with the idea of incremental damage effects from repeated strikes/touches from an undead or similar "draining" foe. Not simply physical damage, but each touch "stacking" on the last to create a greater effect and debilitation to a victim of the attack.

For an analogue I took the stages of hypothermia for inspiration for our "chilling" undead friend (For stats, I'd probably use a Wight/Wraith analogue)...

  1. Victim shivers and is cold to the touch, all actions are taken at -2
  2. Victim becomes sluggish, treat as if slowed
  3. Victim disoriented, as per confusion spell
  4. Unconscious (1d6 turns)
  5. Death

Recovery required warming a victim one hour per "stage" of effect, with victim passing through each stage during recovery, requiring monitoring and control. A cure spell (as "the god's warming hand") will bypass 1d2 stages.

This type of incremental damage/debilitation could be potentially devastating as a character stricken multiple times becomes increasingly ineffective or potentially a liability, depending on how the damage effect is designed. Unlike level drain, the effect may be counteracted or recovered in hours or days, depending on how it is structured. After the first encounter with a foe of this sort, PCs will likely attempt to find ways to minimize melee contact, or spread damage around, mitigating the stack effects. 

Just conceptualizing, of course. This has probably been modeled and playtested elsewhere by those more clever than me. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Hidden Garden of Ilddar

Happy Spring. Time to do some planting...

Once again, back to the maps. Today's inspiration - What are those trees doing underground? A bit of a mystery, that. So like some prior exercises, here is a space where the "treasure" isn't loot to carry off, but a resource, and potentially some intelligence as to its use. Of course, because this nursery is underground, that implies that the trees themselves have value, and perhaps are something that groups or individuals may wish to keep undisclosed. 

And, of course, the caretaker of the place has had a mishap. Fortunately, they were prescient enough to leave some "help" behind to keep an eye on the place, and keep the trees watered. An incautious party that slays as it goes may lose a secondary resource in the residents. And because places under the earth often have a history of multiple tenants, there are a few artifacts from different groups may be found.


Alternatively, a bunch of halflings would probably just move in and set up a grow-op.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Dungeon Poem Dungeon

Late to the game, as always - Saw a couple of folks post up keyed dungeons off a suggestion offered by Patrick over at False Machine.  Take the proffered Dyson map, make it artpunk, functional and incorporate the idea of poetry somehow ("condensation of utility, beauty, meaning and originality into a functional and interesting micro-adventure...")

I guess I can do one of those three things. Although I did put in a clue poem (don't worry, it rhymes in the original Klingon). Design-wise, it's written mostly stat-less, with qualitative descriptors for the various challenges and treasure.

I stared at the map for quite a while. Picked it up and put it down. Something about the three pits(?) on the north side of the eastern large room didn't quite jibe for me (Yozzat might have something to say about that). This morning, I finally just sat down and pounded this out in about a 2-hour exercise (delayed slightly by my laptop keyboard mysteriously freezing). Trust me, the quality shows...

Welcome to the Temple to Thoas

Link to submitted creations

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Back to Adventures - The Sinking Temple

We once again return to the scattered small adventures culled from some Jackson maps. This map was included in "A Collection of Presentations Cartographical in Nature," a selection of five maps Matt had produced for his Patreon, back in the day.

Again, this one had a good space to work with, and had to have an interesting story behind it. After all, how does a temple with a three-story tower "sink" into the ground? I chose to sink it, instead, by inundating it with a lahar.  


Never mind that a building hit by a fast-flowing concrete-like slurry would have likely been collapsed. We're in fantasy-land. We need a buried building that's been knocked off-kilter. I can let geology slide now and then... 

In this case, a lahar happens when you neglect to ask the god of the temple if they mind that you are changing patrons (Spoiler, they do mind). You get thwacked by a mudflow, and the god leaves in a huff

And, as happens, other things move into the abandoned space, and they bring their pets with them.

Probably not a spoiler

So, enjoy your explorations of The Sinking Temple. As always, watch your step.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Dwarven Architectural Criticism, or Yozzat Makes Fun of Mega Bloks

(Wherein a friend shared pics of his 5-year-old's progress building a castle with Mega Bloks, and my dwarf PC gets all judgey- a quick freewriting exercise) 


Magnus Keep and the Surrounding Lands

Notes by Yozzat Leadjaw, Engineer

Uncle Thurnael,

I have traveled to the site of Magnus Keep, a fortification along the Oshawa Wildlands, to collect a bounty for an old blood feud. As I had a few days waiting for my contact, I made a survey of the fort to bide my time. I have attached sketches and illustrations of the fort’s architecture and probable construction sequence for future reference.

The Keep is a keep-and-bailey fortification, typical of small to medium sized hardpoints on the boundaries of territories in these parts. Situated on a defensible defile, the Keep overlooks a wide valley into the inhospitable cold lands to the north, and a large lake to the south.

The stonework is passable, if not a bit primitive (no dwarven craftsmanship, to be sure). The fort shows evidence of typical progressive construction, with stone transported from multiple quarries. As such, the quality and fitment of the stonework is variable.

The keep itself is narrow and rectangular. Based on the position and craftmanship, it is obvious that this was the original structure. A tower abutting the keep shows some signs of settlement and poor foundation engineering, another clear indication of non-dwarven construction techniques and haphazard building. The attached gatehouse and barbican are overbuilt, as if to compensate for this shoddy work (sketch below).

A curtain wall of the bailey was likely the next phase of construction (conceptual sketch below). The wall juts awkwardly to the west and southeast, roughly following the contour of the precipice where the fortress is situated. Here, evidence of multiple quarries is most clear, and the battlements reflect at least two styles of fortification design, more indication of multiple phases of construction by different supervisors and engineers. Obviously, no edict of style or consistency was laid down by whatever noble bankrolled this place. Again, a sign of the temperament and short lifespan of its human builders. Three (3!) gates pierce this wall, allowing ample opportunity for breaches. Whatever tactical advantage of the place affords is negated by this very questionable design decision.

The final bailey and curtain wall construction show continued use of multiple quarries, as evidenced by the varied type and size of blocks. Obviously, no dwarven specifications-writer was employed in any of this work. A thin defensive tower overlooks the ‘wall of gates.’ Again, overcompensation. The southwest corner of the baily is already showing signs of questionable construction and possible settlement (see sketch). Give me twelve honest sappers, and we’d have that wall down in a jiffy. Likewise, the southern and eastern walls are somewhat lower than their western and northern kin, possibly budgetary or materials shortfalls. I also noted that the eastern wall doesn't appear to be properly pinned to the barbican. Another quality oversight by these rustics. More recent reconstruction and reinforcement of the keep has attempted to correct some of its original faults.

The surrounding land is of questionable value, although I did find a passable ale or two during my time there. The fort also secures a trade road from a provincial capital to the west to other centers farther east. The locals have attempted to engage me in their odd traditional ice sports, but I fail to find the attraction. I’ll stick with some good honest axe-throwing and beard tug-of-war, thankyouverymuch.

I hope this note finds you well, and I shall soon return with the bounty and a small cask of this sweet tree-sap delicacy the locals keep raving about.

In the names of the ancestors, 

Your nephew, Yozzat.

Friday, March 5, 2021

A Brief Detour...

 A break from the regularly-scheduled program of recent small adventure postings to throw out a new village, this time by a new-to-me mapper and creator, Daniel's Maps.

The Village of Komico came across my Reddit feed, and I had to take a closer look. Daniel's architecture in this map is evocative of a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern setting of flat roofs, stucco and plaster exteriors and compact, multi-story builds. And it's built into the sides of a gorge or similar. 

Daniel added eight named locations on the map, and a bit of background in his own post. I took it as inspiration, but reinterpreted the town with respect to what I saw, as well as who the various NPCs became as I wrote. 


I'm apparently sticking with a somewhat consistent town format, and I guess that includes the Deity of the Week. This one comes with the idea of an old god seeing a revival in popularity. The art inspiration comes from Hannes Bok, a mid 20th century illustrator of pulp and science fiction covers.

I'm having a good time with these, so we'll see how long this creativity lasts. One can never have too many towns for the PCs to hang out in, listen for rumors, or become nuisances. Also, low to mid-level characters need a base to work from, perhaps somewhere that they can rent or buy a residence to recover in and stash gear between forays into the world. No reason they can't have a cozy place to hole up in while they are leveling up for those future aspirations of stronghold construction and domain building.

The Village of Komico Welcomes You

Monday, March 1, 2021

Redcaps, and fun with spaces...

Might as well release the next small adventure out into the wild. This was a fun map to fill out and consider. I don't necessarily pick maps for a particular 'story,' but more as inspiring spaces, where I can look at a layout and say, "Yeah, I can work with this." Sometimes the story comes with the first glance-  a space that implies a goal or use, a big-bad's lurkum... This map's interconnected chambers and "missing" bridge spoke of a harassing foe, and chances to double back.

Monsters can fight smart. More clever creators and authors than I can line out all the how's and whys. So here's a space occupied by a bunch of sneaky buggers who can use the loops and passages, as well as a couple of their own skills, to harass and wear down a party. Even in a relatively small arena, depletion of an incautious party can come quickly with a clever foe. And especially one who knows the ins and outs of the space.


So send your players to root out some Damn Redcaps. Really, it should be a quick in and out job...