Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deep Carbon Observatory - The Observatory Maps in PDF Form

Summary: I cobbled together a thing. I put Gus L's top-down maps of Patrick Stuart's and Scrap Princess' DCO's final dungeon into a single 3-page .pdf. Here it ishttps://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7Ih4XxlNjj8VXZkVDVlb2xlMjg/view?usp=sharing.

It seems hardly necessary to give particular introduction to the Deep Carbon Observatory at this point in the DIY/OSR/D&D history. Suffice to say, I wrote a brief review after purchasing and reading it way back in July of 2014. For the longest time I had no chance to run it, but eventually I managed to sneak it into my current Rainbowlands campaign (session 34 is this Wednesday!). After four sessions in the DCO valley, the heroes now stand outside the pit and the Observatory itself.

Have running the game and time changed my original review? Not essentially. All the good parts of the DCO remain good, but running the game has made me appreciate more what works for me and what doesn't. I run my game sessions with minimal preparation for two simple reasons: laziness and some other reason.

Thus I haven't taken advantage of all the moving pieces built into the valley. For example, the NPC party, the Crows. I've not found a way to bring them into conflict with the PCs and a single page with their stats plus activities per day / location would have been handy.

The same applies to my misgivings. Some turned out to be spot on, others irrelevant for my play style. For example, laying out the valley as a point-crawl a-la Slumbering Ursine Dunes would have been useful, sure, but I managed to wing it well enough. On the other hand, a one-page overview / glossary / or index of key factions, NPCs, monsters and items (Ambatoharanana! The Witch! The Third Party! The Oculist Priests!) would have been so useful for a lazy DM like yours truly.

One thing I wrote back then, though, has changed:
I don't know what would be the perfect solution, but this is a really complex and interesting adventure: it would require more than just a simple linear layout - I don't have a solution on this.
I think I have a partial solution for a low-prep approach to an adventure like this now. What I'd need are diagrams, annotated maps, timelines and glossaries of the key plots, NPCs and locatons in the adventure on 3 to 5 pages tops, so that I can track where, what, when and why.

However, that is not something I will solve here and tonight (perhaps I'll solve it with Apotheosis: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Became the Bomb). What I can solve is simplify my running of the Observatory on Wednesday by taking all of Gus L's top-down maps and combining them into a single document. And so, the post ends like it begins. Here you go.

17-Nov-2015: Updated linked .pdf to include side view.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Supporting Cast: What's Happening Around the Plot?

A d6 is all you need to generate your NPC encounters, random monsters, plots, treasures, spoor, campsites, and more. I know how tempting it is to go for the d100 or d20 and have lots and lots of options, but unless you're writing up a full setting supplement, you don't need that much.

In fact, I've found that for my games, what I need is usually just a couple of d6 tables to generate the whole "world" around the main campaign. There just isn't time for me to do more, or for my players to encounter more. Sometimes I'll roll for a full row, sometimes mix and match columns. The result is a table more or less like this pre-fabricated for each session. An additional table for treasure and rumors usually rounds things out nicely.

d6NameOne-linerAttitude to PlotTheir TipTheir MotiveAnother Person
1Jessie Harefemme fataleloves ita secret keymoneyLisbeth
2Metropolis Honésarchaeologistlikes ita dirty secretloveAdrian Ask
3Melvin Riggsdirty copit's oka stolen childvengeanceDoc Maxine
4Pal 600sentient golemmehthe brick activatorshameZita
5Citizen Janecarries canedislikes ita hidden masterrestitutionThomas Numbers
6Dude Wizardflying rughates ita coincidencesafetyMira Muffins

Monday, August 31, 2015

Six Words 6d6: The Wall

II. The Wall or The Crossing of Boundaries and the Reception of Gifts

1d6 the wall
1. soft smooth milky cream whispers nothings
2. sunrise brings purple, sunset brings flowers
3. vertigo, mounting heights, pikes break eggs
4. crumbs for handholds, feet, susurrating cracks
5. broad, chariotway clatters, ruts deep dank
6. animals crawl, petrify, aggregate, ferns grow

1d6 the tree
1. weakened swaying giant calls the rain
2. storms break, clouds part, shadows spread
3. gnarled roots shatter bone, eat stone
4. needles sharp, witching heart watches berries
5. fruit bring sleep, flowers bury lovers
6. leaves fly, butterflies, spreading spiced seeds

1d6 the remains
1. fire died, charcoal melted, charred teeth
2. trail, burned footprint, sulphur smells sweet
3. hole half-buried, treasure ruined, leather
4. dead man tells tails, rising sun
5. bloodstained iron man, heavy lead boots
6. helmet hollow rolls, cackles, distant lightning

1d6 the animals
1. bristled fur, gnashing teeth, smashing trees
2. crawls with axe head, smiles feral
3. bleeds ice, moans hatred, shunning cities
4. leather, boan, plated eyes bring fire
5. venom summons laughter, claws write glyphs
6. lumber through lumber, hulk, great trombone

1d6 the gift
1. all that glitter is gold, lies
2. potted plant, speak to me, lover
3. four shoes, new wisdom never used
4. souvenir, future past, trees eat memories
5. binding brothers, severing sisters, snaggling teeth
6. peace comes knocking, offenders down, bleeting

1d6 the weapon
1. flick of the wrist, too late
2. heavy numbness, spreading lies, sowing diffusion
3. broken, lord forgotten, beneath great hill
4. moonlight shatters gates of perception, transcendence
5. thick blood, soiled, infection can spread
6. snicker-snack, off with her head, crier


More words of inspiration for the referee behind the wall.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Red Land District - Canto I.

A radical anarcho-magist free enclave squatting the prime coastal real estate of the traditionalist, agrarian Red Lands.

Slogan: "We built this city on rocks and rolls."

Three groups hold power:

  • the merchants — rogues, green clerics, agents and their ilk abroad.
  • the wizards of Chernobyl Campus Ruins — balancing things out with their two major schools: the jet-set lawyers and the harbormaster navigators, and their three minor schools, the brickmancer masons, the necromancer accountants and recorders, and the school of economic and social propaganda.
  • the hexads — self-help associations of like-minded socio-economic activists, secret societies and political groupings. They are sorted by color, from purple to red, as per the schema of the Rainbowlands.
Hexad Generator (roll d6s multiple times).

Color / Power / The Hexads Hustle:
  1. purple / ++ / pharmaceuticals
  2. blue / + / medical equipment and procedures
  3. green / 0 (stable) / agribusiness
  4. yellow / 0 (liable) / show business
  5. orange / - / magitechnology
  6. red / -- / security services
They hate / love / and their guffin is:
  1. magic / magic / ... the mistress is a medusa
  2. combat / combat / ... use troll-cows for regen-juice
  3. chaos / chaos / ... enlarge and reduce spellchemical commodities
  4. law / law / ... use necromancers to blackmail the dead and run a collective government
  5. aristos / proles / ... use treant juice to talk through trees and turn to plants when die
  6. outsiders / insiders / ... use charm spells to turn aristos to the side of the proles

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Six Words 6d6: The Road North

I. The road north or a poetics of the D&D hexcrawl.

1d6 the road north
1. savage nomad weeps, vulture carries heart
2. children play in glowing warrior ruins
3. great elephant tree, cheese inside it
4. tower for sale, never occupied, cheap
5. warm cavern, never dries, sultry spaces
6. titan skull, marketplace for shadows, sighs

1d6 the bridge
1. blue marble, seeping round stones, moon
2. shadowed arches, snow walkway, footsteps fly
3. magenta trees whistle, flail, warm sandstone
4. golden embrace, gap spanned, sharp smoothness
5. willow fronds entangled, silken hair rope
6. copper chains creak bone gap pylons

1d6 the house
1. black pot, odd bones in pantry
2. hanging tree, swing is never empty
3. shingles of steel, doors crumble dust
4. bricks, sticks, rolling dice, green bread
5. overgrown path, warm hearth, rose windows
6. tangled stilts, sails capture wind, sway

1d6 the chest
1. iron cold, skin stretched taut, drum
2. gleaming inside, lacquered bark, stuffed mimic
3. little tentacles frolic blindly, opening mouth
4. bone, ivory, ebony, life grows within
5. children's playchest, repurposed, suitable for sailor
6. tarnished silver, cleaning not recommended, spiky

1d6 the door
1. creak and crack, careful, may snap
2. sobriety is the key, slide aside
3. heavy door, carved statue, never moves
4. flowing water carries golden needles, painful
5. bone door, carvings of flowers, sunrise
6. cold black door, chilling cold, keypad

1d6 the room
1. hall of mirrors, many pillars, shivering
2. wyrmwood weft, tapestry eats shiny shoes
3. cheese, smell remains, red walls gleam
4. sinew string orchestra, cat piano, smoky
5. smell the pain, corrupted mushroom, zebra
6. calchedony encrusted ivy crumbles, moss grows

Poorly inspired by Hemingway Apocryphal Six-word Story.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fuck Yeah Brutalism

I'd like to draw your attention to this spiffy blog:


an architectural blog dedicated to brutalist architecture. Raw concrete, dissonant cubist shapes, the celebration of form over function. I would never want to live or work in one of these, but boy, are they inspiring in a retro-future alternate, black-and-white reality.

This one's going in my blog roll.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Campsites Table: Where Do Your PCs Rest Tonight?

Your PCs spend the whole day wandering ... where do they end up? Determine a party leader and roll a secret survival skill roll for them, then use the following table to determine where they are and what the conditions are like.

The first column assumes relatively forgiving terrain, where finding a safe campsite is a DC 11 skill check. I recommend just sliding up the unsafe / dangerous scales.

Survival (d20)Safetyd6Featured6 + Safety (once for each)WaterFoodShelter
1 or lessvery dangerous (-4)1ancient standing stones (2d4*) of (2d4: 2 jade, 3 marble, 4 sandstone, 5 granite, 6 basalt, 7 obsidian, 8 quartz)0 or lesspoisonous or disease-bearing waterpoisonous or diseased foods (1d6: 1 berries, 2 grubs, 3 rats, 4 locusts, 5 roots, 6 nuts)treacherous, in bad weather saves are at a disadvantage
2–5dangerous (-2)2a copse of trees (2d4*), they are (2d4: 2 dragon trees, 3 baobabs, 4 acacias, 5 palms, 6 saguaros, 7 flame trees, 8 ebony)1–2no waterno foodno shelter
6–10unsafe (-1)3an abandoned dwelling of (2d4: 2 fine marble, 3 granite blocks, 4 rough sandstone, 5 bleached planks, 6 adobe, 7 woven thorn and branches, 8 porcelain)3–4bad waterpoor food (1d6: 1 lost dried rations, 2 tubers, 3 bugs, 4 semi-edible nuts, 5 cacti, 6 lichen)poor shelter, but passable
11–17safe (-)4a water source (2d4: 2 an old pumping station, 3 a secluded gorge and pool, 4 a muddy creek, 5 a herdsman cistern, 6 an animal watering hole, 7 a fine well, 8 a deep cenote with a spiralling staircase)5–6good watergood food (1d6: 1 veldt rats or rabbits, 2 nuts, 3 berries, 4 succulent tubers, 5 sweetmeat grubs, 6 frogs)good shelter, in bad weather, saves are at an advantage
18–20very safe (+1)5a cave or hole (2d4: 2 a cracked egg-like structure half buried, 3 an abandoned mine shaft, 4 a natural wind canyon, 5 a cleft in a hill, 6 a dry spring, 7 a crater, 8 a rusted metal vault)7+mineral water, +1 hp regained per HDa feast (1d6: 1 veldt gazelle, 2 yellow cabbage, 3 fish, 4 eggs, 5 fruit, 6 lost tins of spam), enough to replenish rations right here!fantastic shelter, saves at advantage and soothing, +1 hp regained per HD
21–23serene (+2)6a lookout point, the (2d4: 2 top of an abandoned and cracked monolith, 3 crown of a tangled growth of dessicated plants, 4 windswept hilltop, 5 panoramic concealed outcrop, 6 the top of a small mesa, 7 a flat shelf on a cliff face, 8 brow of a giant bone)
24+blissful (+4)
The author of this table is not responsible if your PCs decide to start investigating their campsite instead of following the Magical Railroad!