July 31, 2012

Dwarven City of the Black Mountains - Level 1

This is a 5 Level dungeon and former dwarven city. It has over 155 rooms. I'm not sure how long ago it was written but it is for 1E. My dungeon design has come along way since those early days, but the overall design still makes for a good layout of a dwarven city...even if the actual encounters don't work. I think the original design was that a dragon had taken over the city and allowed various denizens to inhabit it as well. I'll be posting the entire dungeon over the course of the week.

Level 1
1) Gate Guard's Room. Each chest contains 1-10 pp.
2) Gate Keeper's Room. Against the east wall there is a turn cable which lowers the gate at #2A; the gears are rusted solid but if the rope which runs from the turning handle and disappears into the ceiling is cut the gate drops.
2A) If the gate is dropped, which can only occur by actions from the characters (See #2), add a -25% to all bend bars and -50% to all lift gate percentages.
3) Entrance Hall. there is a fountain in the middle of the room but it no longer works.
4) Secretaries Antechamber. Nothing of value can be found.
5) Toilet.
6) Bathhouse. Stone benches line the wall and in the middle of the room is the nonfunctioning bath.
7) Guest Rooms. Nothing of value to be found.
8) Secret Meeting Room.
9) Dining Room. There is a table on its side against the south wall. Contains 3 Dragonne- 43, 56, 64. 2000 ep, 1 jewelry, Potion (extra-healing), Potion (super-heroism(F)), Potion (polymorph self), Potion (poison), Scroll (protection from elements), Scroll (3rd-protection from normal missiles), Scroll (5th-passwall).
10) Throne & Reception Room. Contains 4 Ettin- 40, 39, 56, 70, 3000cp, 1 gem, 6000 gp.
11) King's Room. Contains 12 Ogres- 17x6, 20x6. 2 gems, 4000 sp.
12) Sentry's Post. Contains an orc- 2, which will alert the Ogres by way of bell.
13) Stairs to Level 3, #92.
14) Lounge. Contains nothing of value.
15) Kitchen. Contains 19 Bandits- 1, 4, 1, 6, 4x11, 2, 3, 5, 6. 3000cp, 200 pp.
16) Servant's Rooms. Nothing of value to be found.
17) Closet. Nothing of value to be found.
18) Storeroom. Contains barrels of red wine and crates of moldy food. The only edible things are the barrels of red wine. Contains 4 umber Hulks- 40, 32, 46, 43. 3000gp, 7 gems, Ring (protection +1), Shield +5, Cloak of Protection (+2), Scroll (3rd-flame arrow, dispel magic, fly, 7th-delayed fireball).
19) Barracks. Each chest contains 2-5 pp.
20) Olymph's Room. This officer has 2-24 pp in chest. Against the eat wall there is a Cloak of Protection (+3), 6 Arrows (+3).
21) Draccor's Room. This officer has 2-24 pp in chest. Figurine of Wondrous Power (onyx dog), 4 Javelins of Lighting, Sword +2 Nine Lives Stealer. On the desk there is a note which reads, "Draccor, There's a little trouble at the mines so be prepared to send a few men down." The paper is old and when it is picked up it will crumble.
22) Soldiers Lounge. Contains 12th level Vampire- 40, knows the following spells: 1st- magic missile, message, jump, light; 2nd- knock, strength, esp, rope trick; 3rd- hold person, infravision, phantasmal force, slow; 4th- fear, dimension door, fumble, ice storm; 5th passwall, magic jar, conjure element, hold monster; 6th- disintegrate. Also in the room: 9000 gp, 1 jewelry, 100 pp. 5 decaying female bodies little the place.
23) Armory. Contains suits of armor (dwarven size), shields (the size of targets for larger size humanoids) and assorted weapons. Against the south wall there is a rack which contains Warhammer (+2), Battle Axe (+3).
24) Stairs to Level 2, #30.
25) Crom the Advisor's Room. In the chest there are clothes, 50 pp, Potion (healing). On the smallest table there is a Wand (magic detection). In the smallest table (in a locked drawer) there is a Tome of Clear Thought. Upon the second largest table lies a Deck of Many Things and upon approaching it a voice will be heard, "Take a seat and pick zero to four cards and see how fate changes. How many cards would you like?". Now have a character identify the cards and tell what can to the other characters if they take a card. After 1 round of pause the voice (an unseen servant) asks again until answered then he asks another character. when asking another character a wooden stick floats up and points at that character.
26) Crom's Workroom. On the table there is a pair of Wings of Flying.
27) Contains all types of books including a Libram of Gainful conjuration, Libram of Silver Magic, Manual of Bodily Health, manual of gainful Exercise, Manual of Golems (each type), Manual of Puissant Skill at Arms, Manual of Quickness of Action, Manual of Stealthy Pilfering, Tome of Leadership and Influence, Tome of Understanding. For each turn searching one book will be found.
28) Recharging Center. Upon entering this room all rechargeable items will be recharged. A heavy beam of light will appear between the charger (which is against the west wall) and the chargee.
29) Museum. Contains animal heads, broken shields & weapons, and other such tings. In the middle of the north wall is an owlbear's head worth 2 gems instead of eyes. Contains 10 Wights- 21, 20, 23x8, 10000 gp, 5000 sp, 2000 ep, 3 gems.

July 24, 2012

Make an NPC Memorable, Even When They Aren’t There

There has been a lot of really good advice on how to make an NPC more memorable. But one significant way not usually covered are the various methods to do so even when the NPC is not present to interact with. Sure, throwing a unique accent on an NPC will help make him memorable, but what happens when the NPC is not there to talk with his unique accent? Nothing…at least nothing that will make the NPC remain memorable.

However, there are ways to keep reminding the players of specific NPCs. Following are a few ideas that can be used to accomplish this. By way of example, I’ll use the NPC, Ragnar Silverbane, to illustrate how these techniques can be used.

-Have other NPCs talk about the NPC.
“I heard Ragnar Silverbane just sold a large amount of used weapons he and his company recovered from the orcs to the militia. I wish I could come into a tidy sum like that.”

-Make the NPC a legacy of history. Maybe an ancestor of the NPC was famous in history. Maybe tangentially one of his ancestors was named in something the player characters are researching for some other adventure.
While researching the Ruins of Wrath before exploring them, the PCs discover that the engineer who designed the ancient watchtower was Rochard Silverbane, great grandfather to Ragnar Silverbane.

-Coincidence. In the real world there are multiple John Smiths. In fact, where I work among the 40 employees there are 4 Davids, 2 Gerrys, 2 Judys and 2 Bills. Having another NPC appear with the same first or last name will create a connection with the first NPC, even if the two have absolutely nothing in common.
 While in another city, the PCs meet a blacksmith named Ragnar Cooper.

-Exploit and share his unique feature. If the NPC has a unique feature, such as a distinctive hat, have another NPC wearing something similar. If the NPC has a unique voice, make the voice not so unique and let another NPC have a voice that is similar.
“The Captain of the Guard is wearing an unusual hat. It looks similar to the hat you’ve seen Ragnar Silverbane wear before. Only the Captain is wearing a red feather in it instead of a black one.”

This advice is best used for an NPC that will eventually have more impact in your campaign than a passing NPC. Sure, you could keep reminding the players about the existence of the local fishmonger, but if he is not going to be used in any future adventure it is best to save these techniques for another NPC, one that will be showing up again and moving the campaign along.

July 20, 2012

5E Friday

-The analysis of 5E is shifting again. Before the playtest material was released people were all doing analysis about what-might-happen. They were nitpicking WotC comments (Legends & Lore, Rule-of-Three, WotC blog posts) trying to understand what 5E was going to be. And because such comments are disconnected from any actual system they get misconstrued and over-analyzed. People fear that WotC will "destroy" that which they love, D&D, and thus if they see anything that even hints at such a "destructive blow" they panic and lash back, trying to stop this "destruction".

When the playtest materials were released, analysis changed to the actual system. How did the system feel? How did Advantage work? How fast was combat? All sorts of questions were asked and answered...all based on system material. However, because the material was incomplete it still led to some analysis of what-might-happen.

And now we are back to full-time analysis of what-might-happen. There has thus far been no new system material. The analysis of the initial playtest material has run its course. People have said all they have wanted to up to this point. In fact, because the palytest material was incomplete some people are reluctant to say anything. We are back to "I can not comment on 5E because it is not complete."
And WotC is saying "Wait and see. We have made changes. It will all make more sense when you see more of the system." But until then people have nothing to discuss except what-might-happen. We are back to WotC comments and the uncertainty that brings with it. And with that we have more fear of what-might-happen.

July 17, 2012

Goose Gander

During character generation for my current Savage Worlds Necessary Evil Super-Hero campaign I let the players make anything they wanted without thought for campaign balance. When it comes to character generation some GMs disallow certain classes, races, and abilities as they would be too disruptive to the planned campaign. Such things as playing an elf when the elves of the world are all going to be the enemy or a mental ability that can probe the mind in a campaign full of secrets. In a game with super-powers disruptive abilities are especially prevalent. But I let them choose whatever they wanted.

With one caveat. Whatever powers they chose I would allow my NPCs antagonists to also have. If they took the ability that drains the life from an opponent killing the target with a single attack (Infection-Strong), I would have an NPC that could do that as well. So, while I did not "disallow" certain powers and power combos, they decided to avoid the more broken powers/combos. In effect, they chose powers that they were willing to face.

This became even more apparent during last night's game when one of the players was talking about how he would like to make another character that could be Invisible, have Extra Attacks, Teleport 3 times, using Paralyze on 3 opponents per round of action. Something like this is possible within the rules. But then the player next to him remarked that this is not something they would want to face in an opponent so it is best never done as a player character.

I love it when the players regulate themselves.

July 10, 2012

The Insult Game

Just finished reading the Second Darkness Adventure Path from Paizo. In the first book, Shadow in the Sky, there was a magic item that acted as a roulette wheel and every time one of the twelve spots were rolled the item gave the roller an insult. Of course, the module did not provide any of the insults which requires the DM to come up with them on the fly. So, I decided to make up 8 insults per category.

However, the concept of using insults can be used in other circumstances, not just in this Adventure Path. Here are a few ideas where anyone can make use of a set of insults...

A) The party meets a being that is blatantly stronger than themselves. This being then wants to have a contest of wits, which from his viewpoint is a battle of insults. In one of my own games this was an ancient giant, but it could be a demon, sphinx or other creature. The contest is judged subjectively and usually the insults that get the best responses from the other players will help to decide who "wins" the competition.

B) The party is hired to escort someone from one city to another. Unfortunately, this person is arrogant and haughty, hurling insults at the party at random times.

C) The party finds a valuable and intelligent magic weapon or item. However, the item enjoys hurling insults at everyone around it. It's amazing how much player characters will put up with for the use of a powerful magic item.

Here is the random table as originally found in Shadow in the Sky. You can use this as a basis for randomly selecting an insult. Following the table are the categories with a set of 8 random insults per category.
12-"Something Nice."

1)  I hear troglodytes like to hang out with you; you make them look attractive.
2)  I heard you were once polymorphed into a giant tick and no one noticed.
3)  You have a face only a mother could love…and the harpy doesn’t.
4)  I’d say your face was ugly, but that would be ignoring the rest of you.
5)  Wow! I’ve never met the offspring of an owlbear and a medusa.
6)  I hear you can turn a basilisk to stone just by having it look at your face.
7)  Congratulations on being named next month’s pin-up for Bugbear of the Month.
8)  I heard the spell, Tasha’s Hideous Face, was banned in 17 kingdoms after you were hit with it.

July 6, 2012

5E Friday

-"Do they spend the money on the books when it comes out?"
That is perhaps the single most important question 5E and WotC faces, even more important that how the game mechanics work. Game mechanics will be solid, of that I am sure. They may not appeal to everyone, but they will work. But the question that keeps coming back is, why should a person buy it? Actually, that is not the true question WotC faces, instead it is...will they buy it?

Realistically no one should buy 5E. There are sooooo many good fantasy rpgs out there already, from various editions of D&D, retro-clones, generic systems that can do everything and non-D&D fantasy rpgs that break the D&D mold. But D&D is D&D. It garners attention simply because it is D&D. And WotC needs to play on that (and they are to an extent).

There will be a large number of potential customers out there who are willing to buy 5E, if only to read another game system. If only to understand the latest version of D&D. If only to try it without committing. I believe 5E has the potential to make WotC a phat wad of money. But only if they price it correctly. A lot of people will not be buying 5E to be used as their chosen game system for the next 5 years, at least not initially. A lot of people will not buy 5E if they are required to buy 3 high priced books. That requires a level of commitment to the system that a lot of people are not willing to make.

WotC needs to price 5E to the casual and curious gamer. They need to price 5E to the people who are not committed to the system.

They can do this with a bare bones book that allows a person to play, but without any frills. Perhaps a "basic" set that only covers the first 10 levels. Then they can release, at the same time, the traditional 3 book set for those people who have made a commitment to the system. They need a price-point for the curious and another for the committed.

This way they can sell a lot of 5E to those who won't be playing 5E.