Monday, January 16, 2023

The Return of Dungeon 23

 My computer has been replaced, so I'll be able to type up my scribbled notes about the rooms in my Dungeon 23 sometime in the next few days. Until then, here's the current state of the ground floor of my map: 

EDIT: And then, as soon as my computer was replaced, I fractured a rib, and as dumb/lame/pathetic as that sounds, found it too painful to sit in a chair and type. For several weeks. So that was the end of Dungeon 23 for me. What a bummer.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Days without computers

 My computer died.while it's in the shop, I'm continuing to work on the Dungeon23 challenge, but won't be posting much as it's really a pain in the keyboard trying to post to blogger from my phone.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Dungeon23, Bridge 1.4

Room 1.4: This is a 70 foot long stone bridge connecting the north barbican gatehouse to the Northwest Gate of the Castle. The stone handrail is mostly intact, the surface is heavily scratched and mostly free of moss. 

Two sculptural elements adorn the bridge, one of which is considerably more broken than the handrails. Both stone sculptures appear to be creatures with humanoid torsos and serpentine lower bodies. The more complete of the two is along the railing, it's tail weaving between the railposts, and it reaches towards the castle. The other is inconveniently placed in the middle of the bridge, and its upper half is broken off the snake body, and rests in several pieces. The shattered one is in poor condition generally, but the one weaving through the railing is not only in great shape but also an incredibly detailed carving with lifelike (though inhuman) features and little signs of weathering. 

In reality, these are of course the petrified features of Yuan Ti who died upon the bridge earlier this year. Players will likely grok to this quickly, and the GM should make no effort to conceal it from them if they inquire along those lines. They'll probably draw the wrong conclusion anyway, assuming it to be foreshadowing of a Medusa much later in the module, rather than a basilisk showing up in the next couple of rooms. 

Speaking of which: While most of the time this bridge is empty (other than stone cold snakemen statues), there are two fairly regular exceptions when the creatures from Room 1.XX show up. On cold days, the basilisk comes to sun itself on the bridge for an hour or two in the middle of the day to warm up. At sunset, it's owner takes it out for a 15-minute walk and a frequent snack, often plucking a tasty bat out of the air when the swarms release from 1.1A. At either time, both creatures from 1.XX arrive together.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Dungeon 23, Room 1.3

Room 1.3: This is inside the base of the Northern Barbican Gatehouse. When the barbican was originally built, this base was a solid rock foundation, in-filled with stone debris and aggregate. It was still intact when the castle was defeated by sorcery and treachery, but in the years since, it has been consumed by the acidic roots of several semi-intelligent plant monsters. Their digestion has weakened the tower, causing the floors above to partially collapse, and leaving a hollow that has of late become a nest for a large colony of bats.

The locations marked A and B in this room are holes leading further below, opening onto the sublevel areas 2.XX. The holes appear to be ringed with snarls of thorny roots. These are two Stone Creepers (2x CR 1 medium plants from the Tome of Beasts 2).

In addition to the two Stone Creepers, a total of 7 Swarms of Bats nest here. (7x CR 1/4, Monster Manual)  During daylight hours, assume 1 swarm adjacent to each of Creepers A and B, and the remaining 5 Swarms in the larger cave marked 1.3C.  At sunset, the bats alight and fly out of the tower. They return 1 Swarm at a time over the hours before dawn. 

Lastly, the dark cave here is also appealing to snakes, of which there are many in the vicinity of the castle. At any given time there are 1d4-2 Poisonous Snakes (CR 1/8, Monster Manual) here, either hunting bats, or curled up in the roots of a Stone Creeper.


A Potential Disaster: Nothing that lives in this hole will seek to cause trouble for the PCs, but incautious PCs who plunge into the depths, make shocking loud noises, or unleash open flames will create a chaotic and perilous situation. 

Stone Creepers are not generally aggressive to other organic life, but they will get panicked if the PCs try to uproot them, or if Medium size or larger PCs try to push through or past them to get to the area on floor 2, below, and will use their acid-exuding thorns to defend themselves in such circumstances. If the PCs bring open flame down in to this area, the Stone Creeper's panicked reaction will be even worse. 

The wall marked 1.3D has been weakened over the years, and the creature will rip its way through to escape. This will cause the entire west tower of the north barbican gatehouse to collapse. Damage to any PCs in or within 10 feet of the tower (and any Sword Wraiths in 1.2, above) is as described for the Stone Creeper's Weaken Stone ability. If the Bat Swarms and/or Poisonous Snakes survive they will become agitated and violent. 

In the wake of the collapse, a large pit will be left open directly into area 2.XX. This collapse will obviously raise a great commotion, and the sudden unexplained transformation of the tower will put all the denizens of the ruins on edge. If this happens, raise all Alert Levels by 1.


Sunday, January 1, 2023

Dungeon23, Day 2

(I'm jumping the gun a little, getting ahead on this because I don't anticipate having time tomorrow night. Don't want to fail the challenge on day 2.)

 Room 1.2: The upper floor of the gatehouse. The eastern section has a Scorpion (treat as a Ballista, per the DMG) that can be pivoted to aim out any of three firing ports. Additional slightly smaller arrow slits allow for crossbow shots along other avenues of approach. 

The western section has a collapsed floor leading into area 1.1A, and the Scorpion that should be on this end is missing. 

Between the two sides is a middle section overlooking the bridge. It has two raised portcullises in this upper space, and the floor section between them has numerous murder slits for raining bolts downward. Note that the gears and winches for the portcullises also collapsed when the floor in the western section gave way. The grates are held in place by locks and wedges. If they were to be released, they would slam downward into place, and given the broken and missing winch system, there's no easy way to lift them back up.  (Lifting the now-jammed gates by hand in the middle of a battle is a Difficulty 25 Athletics check. Doing so with a group of people outside of combat is automatic, but takes several minutes of focused labor.)

This room is guarded by two Sword Wraith Warriors

(2x CR 3, per Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) 

In life, these warriors were tasked with guarding the bridge, but when the castle was defeated by treachery and sorcery instead of by force of arms, they were trapped within the barbican and starved to death. They now wait eternally for the attack they were sworn to repel. 

If any of the PCs (or their allies) come from a distinguished family line with a famous coat of arms or long history, it's possible that these warriors will recognize their heraldry and seek to block their passage on the bridge. The same holds true if a PC returns to the surface with the magic shield emblazoned with the three black crowns on a red field (see room X.XX, below). In such a case, the portcullises come crashing down forever and the Sword Wraiths will sally out for combat, or fire bows or scorpion as necessary. 

Note as well that the Sword Wraith's special Martial Fury ability has great synergy with fighting on the staircase from 1.1B: they get the extra attack, and the Advantage it would give the PCs is canceled by the Disadvantage of fighting up the stairs. That would be part of these Warrior's trained tactics from their mortal posting to this tower, so it's definitely a tactic they would attempt to utilize from beyond the grave. 

Treasure: Scorpion (if you can disassemble it), 20 large bolts for the same, 14 electrum pieces dating to the era the castle was built in, and the weapons and armor on the Sword Wraiths.

(The missing scorpion and winches from the western section can be found in room 1.3, below.)

Dungeon 23: Day 1.

I've decided to try the "Dungeon 23" Challenge. The goal is to make a 365-room, 12-level Mega-Dungeon, one room at a time, one room per day for a year.  I'm sketching out the map in my RocketBook, so that I can snap regular photos of it and post them here. Probably won't take pictures every day, as it's one thing to find a few minutes to draw a room and think about what might go in it, but it would be a whole additional hurdle to have to find time to post that here every day. 

Here's today's initial sliver of my map (...and part of my thumb, because of how I was holding the RocketBook).  It's actually sort of two rooms, and a bit of a bridge, but none of these have monsters or anything, so I'm just counting it as my one room for the day. The idea I'm working from is that my dungeon is a castle ruin. So this part is a gatehouse or barbican at the far end of a bridge or causeway leading in to the castle. There will probably be a few other above-ground features, so my first official Dungeon Level may actually be split between two floors. 

I plan to label the rooms in MM.DD format (Month/Day).
Room 1.1: Two towers sit on either side of bridge or causeway, their upper levels connected to house a gate. Both look intact (though very weathered) from the Northern approach towards the ruin, and the portculis is raised.

1.1A: The western section of the gate house is in rough shape. The door is missing, just a few old shards of wood dangling from a mangled hinge. Within, a large section of the floor is broken away, leaving a gaping hole nearly 15 feet wide. A central support column holds what's left of the floor in place. Darkness below. 

1.1B: The eastern section of the gate house is completely intact. The closed door to this tower is greyed and swollen wood.  PCs who try to force this open via foot or shoulder should roll a DC15 Athletics check. If they fail, they still get it open, but take 1d3 damage in the process. Characters with axes or mauls can smash it down automatically, but doing so will alert the undead sentries in area 1.2, above.
An inner wall and a central support column divide room 1.1B in half, and on the other side, a narrow staircase winds up the wall. The stairs are tight to the wall so that anyone (such as the PCs) fighting their way up them in melee will have a hard time swinging with their right arm, putting them at Disadvantage for any attacks made using their right arm (or both arms, if using a two-handed weapon).

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Music for the Hellride

Amber Campaign continues to truck along, for 55 sessions thus far. The playlist I frequently listen to while doing my Amber prep is mostly Classic Rock, Prog and Metal. For the most part they are songs about fantasy themes. Proper music for a hellride. Blue Öyster Cult, Cream, Deep Purple, Dream Theatre, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Hawkwind, Heart, Horslips, Iron Maiden, Kansas, Led Zeppelin, Manilla Road, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Queen, Queensrÿche, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, etc. 

Sprinkled amidst this are also a bunch of one-offs on the play list that don't really fit those genres, but have something in their lyrics that makes me think of Amber, its characters, or its themes. So there'll be these unexpected pivots where the rocking suddenly gives way to Al Stewart, Brian Ritchie, the Gear Daddies, Thought Gang, Timber Timbre, or Tom Waits. I set the playlist up like this because even when Amber's narrative was rushing headlong towards a particular plotline's violent conclusion, Zelazny was always prepared to just suddenly slow down, meander a bit, and drop in a reference to some deep cut from a source you weren't expecting. I try to remember to do the same.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Target Swap

 Had a session of Feng Shui tonight with a fight that went twice as long as I thought it was going to.  It was one of those situations where each villain had a specific weakness that corresponded to a different hero, and the PCs noticed, but chose to fight different foes anyway, at least until the fight was nearly over.

 One NPC had a Defense of 12 vs Ranged Attacks, but a really strong Defense 15 vs Melee. So the team's biggest Melee hitter went after him, and kept missing by 1 or 2 every attack, while the team's shooters chose other targets entirely. And since he kept just barely missing, no one came to his rescue, as the shooty characters all assumed he'd wrap it up with one lucky roll.

 Meanwhile, one of the other PCs has a special power that lets them change their damage to be +1 higher than the damage rating of the foe they are attacking. He ended up dueling with the lowest damage rated foe all fight long, so they just nibbled each other towards death very slowly. 

 It was interesting, in that everyone was having fun and things were lively, but like I said the fight was at least 50% more challenging than intended, and ran nearly double the length I expected it to. If 2 or 3 of the PCs had traded targets, it would have been a much shorter fight.

  The timely application of the "Flying Guillotines" Schtick by the main villain meant everyone was excited and involved at all times, even if a lot of attacks failed to hit big. There's something pretty engaging about an enemy that can zap you with a weapon that's an all-but-guaranteed kill unless a nearby hero helps you escape from it. A lot of "somebody help!" and "I'll save you!" moments, so it kept things tense. At one point a PC with a Flying Guillotine wrapped around their neck had to jump out a window to reach to the only person that could possibly save them before the scissoring blades would have decapitated them. If that dynamic hadn't been in play, it might have been a boring match up (and I might have had to have the other NPCs try swapping targets to pick up the pace).

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Blank White Cards

 I've decided to run a little bit of Blank White Cards at an upcoming convention, and needed a picture to put on the page for the sign-up sheet... and discovered that basically every picture I have of cards we've made includes either NSFW content, or some card with rules text that's probably going to be intimidating for new players, or cards with inside jokes you had to be there to understand. It's often a spread of 9 or 12 cards in a picture that are mostly usable except just one obscene drawing of goblin boobs in the middle of the spread, and one card with painfully difficult to parse rules text that's been scratched out and rewritten twice for clarity that it still lacks. Sadly, many of the best cards fall into one of these categories of "probably not the best picture for trying to entice a new player into the game". 

Anyway, here's a shot that's decidedly NOT my best foot forward (I have so many better cards than these in my giant bags of old cards), but also not going to get me in trouble for posting goblin boobs in the convention program book. It is what it is.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Is Ape Pagoda Dead?

Amusing silliness from the Feng Shui campaign tonight, as we went way off-script and into the weeds.

For context, The PCs were traveling in 690 AD and had managed to not screw up their chance to meet with Her Majesty Emperor Wu Zetian, Queen of Kings, Mistress and Commander of the Dragon Throne, Holder of the Mandate of Heaven, the Living Incarnation of the Devi of Pure Radiance, yadda yadda yadda.

When you introduce an NPC with that many titles, you never know if that's just going to trigger the PCs to mouth off and get into a battle in the middle of court. Instead, they impressed the Emperor by showing themselves to be knowledgeable worldly traders and explorers, and also via dramatic displays of horsemanship. 

She's the only reigning Emperess in Chinese History, but the word is gender-neutral in Chinese, so I'll be calling her Emperor below. The Emperor's a polo-playing athelete, so the horsemanship scores highly in her book.

There were three PCs present in the scene, two female westerners and one a supernatural fishman currently concealing his non-human nature behind a mourning veil. So the Emperor orders them taken to the bathhouse to be cleaned up and dressed more appropriately to have dinner with her. This was actually me putting a hurdle in their way, like how do you not piss off the Emperor but continue the charade that your fishman is a human woman? Instead, the fishman just strips down at the bath-house and dives right in, because he loves the water. I'm about to narrate servants and attendees screaming in terror, when a player points out ... and that amuses us all to no end.

A couple of interactions later, and the fishman is all the rage in Wu Zetian's court. Everything I'd planned for the second half of the session is thrown out the window in favor of wacky hijinks. Emperor Wu Zetian is in a power struggle with one of her children, whom various sexist ministers want to put on the throne in her place, and she's considering having her own child exiled or even executed, but to do so would mean no heir to the throne. "So Mr Fishman, can you please place your blessing of fertility upon her?"  *Long Pause* "To be clear, I am NOT asking you to have sex with the Emperor..." *Long Pause* "...unless that's how your magical blessing works." Etc.

There's a language barrier, as most of the PCs are from the modern day, and the Emperor is from 690 AD. Feng Shui encourages you to only worry briefly about language issues, and only if it's amusing or meaningful. So without thinking about it, I narrate the Emperor as understanding and even speaking fluent English. 

Then a player mentions that English as we know it doesn't even exist yet in the 7th Century. So I suddenly need an explanation for where she learned it. Off the top of my head I decide she was taught it by a previous time-traveler who had visited her court, but they needed to be dead or out of the picture, because more or less the point of this Juncture in Feng Shui is that whichever faction manages to win over Wu Zetian to their cause could gain control of the timeline. She's recently purged the Court Eunuchs (tools of the Lotus-Eaters faction) from the Palace, so her source is probably some other faction, and I want them to stand out as an obvious Chi Warrior... so maybe a Jammer or someone from the New Simian Army. Either of which, in the great tradition of Feng Shui uplifted cyberapes, would need a terrible monkey-themed pun for a name. (Canonical cyberapes include Furious George, Thrill Kill Mandrill, and Battlechimp Potemkin. Yep, Feng Shui is that kind of game.)

And thus was born (and retroactively killed off camera) the Emperor's dear friend Ape Pagoda. Which was amazing to riff off of, given that Abe Vigoda played the character Fish (on Barney Miller) and the existence of the "Is Abe Vigoda dead?" meme/site. The rest of the scene was laden with in-jokes and multi-leveled puns. It was amazing, and I'm so glad I just rolled with this nonsense instead of trying to stick to my plans for the big combat at the palace I'd initially envisioned. Good times.