Thursday, April 30, 2015

Five Riddles

Here are five riddles.  As usual, I am aping my betters.  They're meant to fill in for my One Page Dungeon.

1
It's owner could not eat their fill,
and so they abandoned it,
and flew weeping into the light.

I was born in in it,
I call these red walls home,
and devour it in the dark.

And when I have eaten my fill,
I will abandon it,
and fly laughing into the light.

(maggot on a corpse that died of starvation)



2
A bird with feathers, but no wings.
An engine with fuel, but no metal.
When they meet, one yields,
but this is the end of both of their arcs.

(arrow in a heart)


3
I am the enemy within.
All will join my cause,
and grow pure and clean and thin.

(skeleton)


4
I am the destroying tree.
I do not grow, but spring forth full grown.
I do not give, but take away.
From my fruit, nothing grows.

(gallows)


5
Born of earth,
I bring the sky closer.
Fly from my crown,
and return to the earth forever.

(suicide from the top of a tower)


Answers are in white text below the riddle.  Highlight to reveal.

The Isles of the Dead


This dungeon is a dungeon that you run only after all of the PCs have died in the last dungeon you ran.  It is also my submission to the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest.

It is a post-TPK dungeon, where you start in the afterlife with nothing except for your favorite set of clothes and a couple of pennies in your pocket.  You will, of course, have a small chance to return to life, but it is a small chance.

Writing it, I think the best thing is that high level parties might just be able to steamroll the dungeon.  Kill the angel, bully their way into heaven.  Or shake the demon by his collar and force him to resurrect them.  Of course high level adventurers can cheat death!  They do it all the time.  Of course they can sneak into heaven!  They are adventurers, after all.

Anyway, you can download the dungeon HERE.

And +Daniel Dean wrote an excellent one-page review of my one page dungeon over HERE.  He has a ton of good ideas about how to actually run it.  If you want to turn it into a two-page dungeon, just print this out and staple it to the back.

And if you want an unkeyed map for the players, here it is:


I am the best artist, yes.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Some Monsters, Part 29,287


Cannon Lizard

HD 2  Defense leather  Tail Slam* 1d6 or 1d8
Move slow  Int 5  Morale 8
Special cannonball

Cannonball: Cannon lizards have an organic cannon tube that runs from their mouth to the tip of their tail.  Each cannon lizard has an iron cannonball (size of two fists) that it keeps at the tip of its tail.  It is capable of propelling this cannonball out of its mouth (via peristaltic contractions) as fast as a cannon fires.  The fired cannonball does 3d6 damage to everything in a 200' line, Dex check for half.  The lizard must then re-swallow the cannonball if it wants to reuse this ability. (It only has 1 cannonball).  When it has no cannonball in its tail, its tail slams do merely 1d6 damage.

Dungeon Bug

HD 1  Defense leather  Pincers 1d6
Move as human  Int 7  Morale 6
Special hiss

Hiss: Once per day, 6 dungeon bugs can hiss in unison.  Those that hear the hiss must save or be instilled with some of the primordial insect impulses.  Treat this as a command spell that lasts for 1 minute, or until it has been successfully carried out (therefore removing the source of stress). Roll a d3:
  1. Extinguish all light sources!
  2. Hide underneath some furniture!  Or at least between some furniture and the wall!
  3. Bite your enemies to death with your own mouth!  Then (try to) lay eggs in their corpses!
About 3' long.  When not in combat, they walk on their back legs, so that they can carry stuff in their hands.  When in combat, they skitter around like hissing cockroaches, which they resemble.  Their preferred tactic is to leap on to someone's chest and eat their face or vitals.  They will often gather all the garbage in a dungeon (especially broken furniture) and stack it in their room.

Atavistic Psychoplasm

HD 9  Defense unarmored  Psuedopod 1d8 + grab
Move as dwarf  Int Morale 10
Special anti-intelligence field, devolution beam

Anti-Intelligence Field: 30' radius.  Spellcasting requires an intelligence check.  If the check fails, the spell is not lost, but instead remains in memory.  Characters AND PLAYERS may not speak or think in polysyllabic words.  For every polysyllabic word the PLAYER says, their character takes 1 damage for every syllable beyond the first.  This represents their brains overheating.

Devolution Beam: 1/day.  200' long.  All targets in the beam must save or devolve.  This grants them +1 to hit and -1d6 for intelligence.  They also become unable to speak except through primate screeches and hoots.


Tusk People
HD 1 AC leather Move as human
Weapon 1d8 Int 10 Morale 7

Tusk people with 7 HP are the shamans.  They are marked by red string twined around their tusks and the cow skull masks that they wear.  They can cast acid arrow once per day.  Whenever they lock eyes with someone (single target each round as free action, gaze attack) and take damage, the damage is mirrored onto the other person.

Tusk people with 8 HP are the leaders.  They are marked by the breastplates that they wear and the elaborate scrimshaw on their tusks.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Biomancers


My wizards belong to specific schools. They can still learn any spell, but their school gives them some unique twists. They begin with 2 random spells from their chosen school, and they can combine any two scrolls to make a scroll containing a random spell from their school, or a random unlearned spell from their school.

Each school of wizardry has a perk and a drawback.

Each school of wizardry has a few cantrips. These are minor, non-combat spells that the wizard can use at will.

Each school of wizardry has a legendary spell (or spells) that they all quest for. Their personal holy grail, so to speak. These spells will not be learned automatically, but only at the end of a quest or particular dungeon.

Biomancer

Perk

When you drink a potion, you gain the effects as normal. Then, you have a 50% chance to be able to recycle the potion, and will excrete the potion through whatever orifice you prefer, good as new. You have 10 minutes to excrete the potion.

Drawback

Whenever you receive magical healing, you have a 1-in-6 chance to gain a mutation. The regeneration spell doesn't trigger this.

Cantrips
  • Put slight muscles in a plant for a few minutes. This doesn't let them uproot themselves or make attacks. Most plants will use this opportunity to wiggle happily or reach toward the sun.
  • Temporary, cosmetic changes to animals, such as changing the color or shape of a body part. This has no mechanical effect, and lasts a couple of hours.  Each creature can only have one such cosmetic change.
  • If you wish, your appearance will no longer age. Once you activate this, you will always look the same age.

Spell List
  1. Acid Arrow
  2. Alter Self
  3. Animate Potion
  4. Extract Venom
  5. Hide From Ooze
  6. Infantilize
  7. Monsterize
  8. Mutate
  9. Regeneration
  10. Spider Climb
Legendary Spell: Control Ooze


Acid Arrow
R: 50' T: creature D: 0 rnd
Target takes 1d6 damage. Unless they spend a turn washing it off, they take another 1d4 damage over the next 2 turns. Boost: +2d6 initial damage, +2d4 damage on subsequent rounds.

Animate Potion
R: touch T: potion or liquid D: 2 hr
You turn a potion into an obedient homunculus (HD 0). It is tiny (1' tall) and feeble (Str 1), but it can go where you direct and even bring you small items, such as keys. The potion can be delivered by touch or by “drinking” the homunculus. Despite the name, this spell works on any liquid except water.

Extract Venom
R: touch T: creature D: 0
You pierce a creature with a sharp object and draw all of the venom out, which then pools in your hand or a vial. If you use this to remove the poison from a poisoned creature, that creature gets a new save with a +4 bonus (but this spell doesn't automatically cure them). You can also use this to draw all of the poison out of a venomous creature. Unwilling venomous creatures get a save. Note that this spell doesn't work on all poisons, just venoms (organic, mechanically delivered poisons, usually from things with fangs or stingers).  Most biomancers keep on of their fingernails razor sharp for this purpose.

Infantilize
R: touch T: creature D: 10 min
Target saves or becomes an adorable child version of itself. Creatures lose 1 HD (-4 max HP, -1 to hit, -1 to save). Player characters have their Strength dropped to 5 (unless it was already lower). The target is now so adorable that all who see it must make a save the first time they try to harm it. If they fail this save, they hesitate, wasting their action.

Monsterize
R: touch T: creature D: 10 min
Target saves or becomes a horrible monster version of itself. Monsters get +1 HD (+4 max HP, +1 to hit, +1 to save). Player characters have their Strength raised to 15 (unless it was already higher). The target also flies into a rage, and becomes incapable of tactics, kindness, or retreat, even if urged by friends.

Mutate
R: touch T: creature D: permanent
Target saves or gains a random mutation. If the creature chooses to fail its save, roll two random mutations, and the caster chooses which one is gained.

Regeneration
R: touch T: creature D: 2 hr
Target regenerates 1 HP every 10 minutes. If a unicorn horn or green troll heart is consumed during the casting, the recipient also regrows all missing limbs and body parts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Just-In-Time Compilation

Short Version:

If players would roll on something that yields a result of unknown resolution (knowledge, hide in shadows, demonic possession), don't roll when the event actually happens.  Roll when it actually matters.

Basically, you delay settling the fiction until it actually matters.  Up until that point, it exists in a quantum state, where both results are true until something forces that result to be observed, upon which it settles into one state or another.  

This is faster, prevents repetition, and neatly circumvents a bunch of metagaming.


Long Version:

I think I'll explain through examples.

Example 1: Cursed Sword

Traditional
Player: I want to pick up that mysterious sword.
DM: Okay.  Come with me into the next room.
(Player and DM leave the table, enter the bathroom, and lock the door.)
Player: Why are we in a bathroom?  Is this a sex thing?
DM: So that sword was cursed.  It's trying to take over your mind.  Make a save.
Player: (rolls) I failed it.
DM: Okay.  So the sword is controlling you.  When we go back to the table, pretend to be yourself.  But you're evil now, so you're going to betray the party the first time you get a chance.
(Player and DM return to the table.)
Everyone Else: Why were you guys in the bathroom?  Was it a sex thing?
DM: No.  Just a chat.  Player noticed some interesting runes on the side of the sword.
Everyone Else: Ah.  Cursed sword, then.
(Later on, the party fights some antipaladins.)
Player: I stab the wizard in the back!  I'm evil now!

Goblin Doctrine
Player: I want to pick up that mysterious sword.
DM: Okay.  It has some interesting runes on the side.  You can't read them.
(Later on, the party fights some antipaladins.)
DM: Player, make a save.
Player: What for?  (rolls dice)  I failed it.
DM: Okay, so that sword was cursed.  It's controlling you.  You need to betray the party now.
Player: I stab the wizard in the back!  I'm evil now!

Example 2: Hiding

Traditional (Secret)
Player: I want to hide in the shadows before the goblin enters the room.
DM: Alright.  What's your Stealth?
Player: 65%
DM: (rolls dice in secret, notes that player succeeded at the check) Okay.  You think you are hidden.
Player: Cool.
DM: The goblin walks into the room and doesn't seem to see you.  He begins taking a piss on the far wall, facing away from you.

Traditional (Open)
Player: I want to hide in the shadows before the goblin enters the room.
DM: Alright.  Make a Stealth check.
Player: (rolls dice) I succeeded!
DM: The goblin walks into the room and begins taking a piss on the far wall, facing away from you.

Goblin Doctrine
Player: I want to hide in the shadows before the goblin enters the room.
DM: Okay.  You hide.  The goblin enters the room.  Make a Stealth check.
Player: (rolls dice) I succeeded!
DM: The goblin doesn't seem to notice you.  He begins taking a piss on the far wall, facing away from you.

Example 3: Knowledge

Traditional (Secret)
Player: Can I make a check to see if the jelly bear has any weaknesses?
DM: Sure.  What's your Int?
Player: 13.
DM: (rolls dice in secret, notes that player fails the roll, rolls again to determine if the player remembers nothing or makes a dangerous mistake, notes that the player makes a dangerous mistake) You remember that jelly bears are weak to fire.
Player: I throw my torch on the jelly bear.
DM: The jelly bear happily swallows your torch.  It ignites its internal jelly glands.  It is now a napalm-breathing jelly bear.

Traditional (Open)
Player: Can I make a knowledge check to see if the jelly-bear has any weaknesses?
DM: Sure.  Make an Int check.
Player: (rolls dice) I failed it!
DM: Alright.  You don't remember anything about jelly bears.

Goblin Doctrine
Player: Can I make a knowledge check to see if the jelly-bear has any weaknesses?
DM: Alright.  You remember that jelly bears are weak to fire.
Player: I throw my torch at it!
DM: But is it really weak to fire?  Make an Int check.
Player: (rolls dice) I failed it!
DM: You were incorrect.  The jelly bear happily swallows your torch.  It ignites its internal jelly glands.  It is now a napalm-breathing jelly bear.


Discussion of Advantages

1. Prevents Player Metagaming

This old chestnut.  If the roll is open (i.e. the player knows whether they succeeded before the DM announces the results) it can taint their action.  If a player knows they fail their perception check to find traps and the DM tells them "you don't find any traps", they are still going to suspect a trap.

Even if the player doesn't want to metagame, it's hard not to.  If the other players suspect that one of the PCs is mind controlled by a cursed sword, it's very difficult for them to behave 100% naturally.

2. Players Roll More Dice

As a DM, I hate rolling dice.  I'm busy enough as it is.  If I have to roll in secret, then make a note of the results for later, it's a pain in the ass.  I'd much rather have the players roll the dice, as long as it make them metagame.

Additionally, players like rolling dice.  Let them roll their dice for their stats.  It makes it feel like they have more agency, and the dice are all out in the open where everyone can see them.  Speed, agency, and trust.

3. Prevents DM Metagaming

There's a reason that researchers like double-blind studies.  If the DM is aware of something that the players are not (e.g. that the hidden rogue isn't as hidden as they think they are), it affects the way that they DM.  When the PCs have fucked up but don't know that they've fucked up yet, there is a tendency to go gentler on them.  The inverse is also true.

4. Faster Explanation

In the Cursed Sword example, the DM only had to explain things once, to the entire table at once.  If he had taken a character aside for a private discussion, it requires everyone to wait while the DM and the Player talk.

5. Faster Resolution

In the Knowledge example, if the player had failed the Knowledge roll, the DM could have (a) said "You don't remember anything", which is boring, or (b) make the check in secret, then roll again to determine what result they would have gotten if they had failed.  This requires multiple die rolls and sometimes the consultation of a chart.

Additionally, sometimes players make a check that ends up not mattering.  If a player had wanted to set up a trap in a room and then hide in the shadows, that's potentially two rolls wasted if the goblin decides to walk past the room without even entering.  Instead, make the hide check when the goblin has a chance to see the player (not when the player hides) and make the trap check when the goblin steps on the trap (not when the player builds the trap).


Discussion of Disadvantages

1. Strains the Fiction 

I.e. "How can it be a narrative if things are happening out of order?  Isn't this just ret-conning?"  

It's not ret-conning because we aren't changing any established facts.  We are just finding out what those facts were at the moment when it becomes knowable/relevant.  In a way, it's more realistic to discover if a Knowledge check was true or not at the point where it is experimentally tested (hypothesis: jelly bears burn well) rather than at the point where one attempts to remember it.

If pushed too far, it can stretch the fiction.  In the cursed sword example, if the player had succeeded on their roll, the DM might have said "The sword tried to control your brain but you shook it off."  If that was said, the player would know that they were now in possession of a magic sword, and might have acted differently.

2. Knowledge Checks Change Facts Instead of Just Revealing Them

For example, once you establish that jelly bears are weak to fire, you'll have to keep that consistent from then on.  

I actually think this is a feature, not a bug.  I like playing to find out stuff about the world, I happily ignore published content (because it's not canon until its been established in-game), and I don't mind playing in a world where trolls are immune to fire but weak to brandy.  Also note that this criticism only applies to checks that establish some fact about the world (such as Knowledge checks, and maybe some Perception checks if you roll that way.)

3. Failed Knowledge Checks Require DM Invention

Sure.  It does require more quick-thinking on the part of the DM, but no one ever said it was an easy job.  And the reward is more interesting trolls.  Also note that this criticism only applies to non-binary resolutions (like Knowledge checks).  Stealth checks and cursed swords don't have this problem, because if it's not one, it's the other.


Broader Interpretations

You can even use this for wider ranges of things.  One of the players went to investigate the noise by themselves?  Make a check later to see if they were killed and impersonated by a changeling.  You can pause the game to run a 1v1 combat to see how the changeling's ambush panned out.

A dungeon where you don't find out if you died in the dungeon until you leave.  Man or ghost?

Villain jumping out of a window, and one of the PCs sends an arrow after them.  When they look out the window, will they see a corpse on the ground, or the villain fleeing for the woods?

A wizard learns a spell.  The first time they try to cast it, find out if they learned the spell correctly.  Did they learn a flawed version by accident?

Trolls


Trolls are old.  They prefer caves and natural places, often shunning civilization and architecture.  They squat in squalor and loom in gloom, but they are intelligent and much more intelligent than most people would believe.

They all know each other.  Trolls live a long time (and may even be immortal) and have a good memory for names, especially each others.  Although they don't travel very often, they often meet each other to swap news.  If a troll survives its encounter with the party, there is a small chance (25%) that other trolls will hear about them.  Trolls are famous gossips, and many of them claim to have met dryads, demons, and even gods.

Despite being, basically, horrible warty monsters who live in caves, all trolls share a kinship, and are very friendly with each other.  No troll would ever attack another troll; as family is very important to them (except for babies; they only seen as food).

All trolls have tails and have hairy arms (except for elder rock trolls, who instead are covered in lichens).  They blend in with their natural environment (trees for green trolls, rocks for cave trolls, and hair for longtail trolls).  When treated politely, they can sometimes be extremely hospitable (though this depends on the reaction roll).  They are all afraid of church bells (or any booming noise).

Wizards say that trolls correspond to the three natures: animal, vegetable, and mineral.  Naturalists disagree.  Few people are more insistently ignorant than wizards.

Green Troll
HD 6  Armor chain  Move 14
Claws 1d8/1d8  Int Morale 9
Regenerate 3 HP/round, fire/acid halts regen for 1 min, it can even recover from death (though this takes a minute).
Darkvision.

Green trolls are thin and rubbery.  They have long noses and hair that looks like broccoli, and their mossy arm hair is long enough to dragon on the ground.  They eat flesh and are widely regarded as the biggest assholes in the troll family.  Even other trolls can barely stand them.

It is known for its powerful regeneration ability.  If it is losing a fight, it is clever enough to escape, regenerate, and return a couple minutes later.  It may even escape by jumping down a pit deep enough to kill it, then returning from death a minute later to resume the attack.

Dying destroys a lot of brain cells, and so green trolls who return from death are always confused, and have a 50% chance to forget what they were doing prior to dying.

Although it is a whole creature, each part of a green troll is alive.  If a green troll is dismembered, each piece will attempt to convert itself into a mini-troll, which will then grow into a full-sized troll.  Unless you submerge each piece in a broth (as some wizards have been known to do) troll pieces do not usually have the energy reserves to turn into a mini-troll (10% success rate, takes a day), although there are plenty of stories about troll hands crawling off after being severed (which can always be reattached, of course.)

Even cutting off a troll's head is not an obstacle.  It merely creates a toothsome head and a clumsy body (-4 to hit).

In theory, you could put a troll through a cheese grater, put the resultant shavings in a nutrient broth, and gain an army of micro-trolls (which would later grow to full size).

Any slashing attack that rolls a natural 19 against a green troll lops off a rubbery limb (random).  Hands continue to fight (as crawling claws) while legs just hop about.  Trolls don't bleed (the arteries seal instantly) but their blood is a potent alchemical fluid.  Drinking it grants regeneration (1 hp / minute) for 3 minutes, but if the drinker is dropped to 0 HP while under it's effects, there is a 2-in-6 chance that micro-trolls colonize the drinker's blood stream, killing them in 1d20 hours unless the micro-trolls are removed (such as by a remove disease spell).

Green Troll Encounters
  1. A forest troll has been impaled through the heart by a lance, pinning it to a tree.  The lance is masterfully crafted (half normal chance of breakage).  It is dead now, but removing the lance will revive it.  Nearby is a dead paladin slumped against a tree, with his mournful horse nuzzling him.  A nearby lord would be grateful to have the body recovered.
  2. A loathsome troll sits here, eating his own head.  Despite the gruesome appearance, this actually has no effect on it's combat efficacy, although it will be slightly easier to surprise.  If it is allowed to finish poking the last of its head down its neck esophagus, it will sit quietly, reveling in the quiet fire of regeneration.  This troll is super gross, guys.
  3. The party is attacked by a severed troll hand.  One round later, a one-handed troll bursts on to the scene.  She was looking for her hand (lost stealing jelly from a beartrap) and will be pissed to discover it being hacked to bits.
  4. After being dismembered, a troll's body parts were separated long enough that they grew into mini-trolls (and are no longer rejoinable).  There are 1d3+1 trolls here (HD 3, claws 1d4/1d4) busy ransacking an abandoned campsite.  The first troll they see will be running around inside a burlap sack.  The second troll is carrying a lit lantern, which it will throw, then flee from.
Green Troll Mutations
Forest trolls with 33 or more HP are mutant trolls.  
  1. Two heads.  Against magic, make two saves.  If only one of the rolls fails while the other roll saves, the spell has only half the normal effect.
  2. Four arms.  Two more claw attacks.  Holy shit.  Tiny legs, though, so it gets -3 movement.
  3. Veins writhing under the skin like snakes, forming and dissolving.  Regeneration is doubled, to 6 HP / round.  Constantly regenerating brain means no long-term memory, though.
  4. Scarificating regeneration.  When hit with a stabbing or slashing melee weapon, the wielder must make a Str check, or the wound will close around the weapon, trapping it.
Horrible Things in a Green Troll Lair
  1. Booger art.
  2. 2d6 of the troll's own faces, removed and hung on the wall.
  3. A severed troll head, halfway regenerated back to a full-size troll.  Crawls around like an alligator.
  4. Wind chimes made from human ribs.


Rock Troll
HD 6  Armor plate  Move 9
Fist 1d8+3  Int Morale 10
Petrified by sunlight.  Save vs petrification each round exposed.
Darkvision.

Rock trolls are made are slabs of muscle beneath a heavily calcified skin.  Their inner tectonics gradually make them thicker and more asymmetrical.  Their skin is pebbled with rocky outgrowths, and older rock trolls grow huge crags on their backs reminiscent of mountains.  They eat gems and have prodigious noses that they can use to sniff out gemstones (a good bribe, if you don't mind watching them being eaten).

Rock trolls live in caves and fear the sun.  They believe that they are the original children of the earth, calved off by earthquakes.  They are hungry because for the first hundred years of the world's existence, there was nothing to eat.

Rock Troll Encounters
  1. A rock troll living under a bridge demands a toll from passers-by.  A horse would be sufficient for 4 people's tolls.  It doesn't stand on the bridge when making these demands, but hides beneath the planks.  It is strong enough to punch through the wood and drag people down.  Those who want to fight the troll on the struts beneath the bridge risk plunging into the icy water.  The troll is very careful to stay out of full sunlight.
  2. In a shady part of the forest, a rock troll is visiting his two petrified brothers, and honoring them by putting flowers on their heads and placing a gold coin in each one's mouth.  He is currently sitting on a log, with his head bowed in through.  Unless the troll is surprised, he will freeze stock-still, looking exactly like another petrified troll to a casual observer.  He is here to visit his brothers, not hunt, and will not pursue the party if they leave him alone.
  3. A rock troll seeks the party's assistance in waking up "big brother", a huge stone the size of a six-story building.  He believes that the trick is synchronized dancing.  He will become irate when the dance doesn't work.
  4. While walking through a rocky section, the party overhears two rock trolls shouting back and forth to each other.  One of them is demanding the return of a stew pot, while the other one is alternating between insisting that he needs to cook a small human and claiming that he never borrowed the stew pot in the first place.  (One of the trolls has captured a halfling, now trussed up over the stew pot.  If approached respectably, the troll will offer dinner and safe place to rest in exchange for fresh vegetables, which his stew sorely needs.)
Things Growing on the Rock Trolls Back
  1. Bandywert.  A cross between clover and ivy.  Treasured by fey and trolls, who use it for weddings.
  2. Shovel Mushrooms.  When shaken over a patch of ground, the spores cause buried things to rise to the surface.  Is also an industrial strength emetic.
  3. Singing Lichens.  Horribly annoying.  They sound a lot more intelligent than they are.  Will stop humming if the troll is killed and will accuse you of being a horrible scumdog murderer and could you please put the dead troll somewhere sunny please thank you goodbye.
  4. Dark-veined succulents.  Sucking on them does 1d6 Int damage, but then you gain one of the trolls memories if you succeed on an Int check.

Elder Rock Troll (Galeb Duhr)
HD 8  Armor plate  Move 6
Slam 1d8+4  Int Morale 10
Half Damage from slashing, piercing, and fire.
Charging Downhill will double movement, and can trample multiple targets.
Awakens Stones within 100', which can see, talk, and are loyal to the rock troll.
Animates Stones which act as miniature versions of itself (same stats except HD 3, slam 1d6).  Is accompanied by 1d6 such stones.
Darkvision.

Unlike their younger selves, elder rock trolls actually do become stone.  Rock trolls that grow so old and huge eventually turn into galeb duhr.  At this stage in their life, they also get very sleepy, and will slumber for weeks, months, or years.  They are largely indistinguishable from natural rocks at this point.

They claim that all of the notable stones in the world are actually hibernating trolls.  Even mountains are said to be primordial rock trolls, hibernating until the next ice age.

Elder Rock Troll Encounters
  1. Rolling through a village, leisurely demolishing buildings.  Villagers too scared to fight the huge thing.  Plus, they don't like how condescending the bricks are being.  Troll is accompanied by 1d6 stones and an angry bard named Vestra, who has convinced the troll that this town is full of disrespectful teetotalers and would be better off destroyed.  She didn't plan on the troll's laziness, though (it only destroys 1-2 buildings per day, then naps).  She's currently sitting atop the troll, composing a revenge ballad.
  2. Troll threatens to knock party off mountain path unless they pay the toll: 1d6 gemstones.  It has a height advantage on the path above the party, but if the troll isn't careful, it may careen off the mountain and fall.
  3. Roll another encounter as normal and begin it.  1-2 rounds into this second encounter, one of the nearby boulders stands up (it is a troll) and tells everyone present that it is trying to sleep, and will smash the next creature that makes any noise.  It will do exactly that.  Shhhh!
  4. The PCs encounter a huge boulder with 1d6 stones stacked beside it.  The stones have angry faces drawn on them with chalk.  Sticking out of the top of the boulder is a sword (wielder is immune to spider poison, nets, and webs of all sorts).  The boulder is a troll, of course, who has no intention of parting with the sword (it relieves his sciatica).
Rock Troll Treasures
  1. Ring of petrification.  Petrifies whoever places it on their finger.  Can be removed as normal, thereby returning the petrified person to flesh once again.
  2. Mountain Seed.  Looks like a thumb-sized black rock.  Weighs 200 lbs.  When planted, will grow into a small mountain (2d8 x 1000') over the course of a year.
  3. Gloves of Squeezing.  Officially, these gloves let you squeeze water from rocks.  In a rocky area, you can squeeze about a gallon of water per 10 minutes.  Unofficially, these gloves give you a terrifying grip (Strength 19)--which lets you win all handshakes forever--but the strength doesn't extend to other parts of your body.
  4. Pet rock named Gus.  Rock is sentient and loyal, but has no way of moving or communicating.  Gus is a prince among his people.

Longtail Troll
HD 4  Armor chain  Move 11
Claws 1d6/1d6  Int 10 Morale 7
Weakness if their tail is grabbed (AC as plate+2 to grab, free Str check to escape each turn), -2 to hit and damage.
Bouncy.  They take no fall damage.
Darkvision.

Fat and hairy, longtail trolls are the friendliest of the trolls (although they are still very likely to eat you).  They dwell among the pines, in groups of 1-4, where they eat travelers, guard treasure, and brew beer.  They are charismatic in their own way, and a few of them have human spouses.

They revel in the trappings of human civilization without really caring much about the effects.  They might have hundreds of forks piled on their dinner table, but still eat with their hands.  They might buy a nice bed with pleasant bedsheets, and yet sleep on a pile of pinecones behind the shed.  They are cultural tourists.

When a female troll gives birth, the first thing she does is climb the tallest tree she can find.  Then, she throws her babies (by the tail) as far as she can, knowing that she'll eat them as soon as she misses a meal.  (All trolls get pretty nasty when they're hungry.  Longtail trolls are no exception.)

Longtail trolls are knowledgeable about a great deal of mythology, and often know things that humanity has forgotten (or failed to learn).  They are sometimes sought for their wisdom.  They can be friendly and social when well-fed and/drunk, but become callous when hungry (even forgetting old friendships).  They are lazy, and will prefer to steal food and beer rather than fight for it.

Troll Encounters

  1. A newborn troll flies out of the trees ahead of the party and crashes into a bush.  It cries pathetically.  If the party brings the troll forward, they will alert a hungry momma troll (who wears a patchwork dress and is named Merle).
  2. Sitting on a stump, surrounded by stumps.  A couple of people are there, sitting in silence.  The troll is challenging people to a stump-sitting contest.  Anyone who can sit still on a stump longer than him wins a secret--the name of the Snow Queen's secret lover.  Anyone who wants to play will have to wager something.
  3. 1d3 longtail trolls jump down from the trees.  They've been charged by their king to keep the woods clear of bandits and robbers.  They expect a tip for this service, and won't take no for an answer.  Ungrateful humans!  (They'll settle for a hot meal and a back rub, but threats won't be tolerated.  Rudeness is adored.)
  4. 2d6 longtail trolls galumph through.  They will try to kidnap the youngest or ugliest party member.  They are going to the Great Rumpus, where a new king will be chosen by whichever non-troll was kidnapped the most recently (and is therefor the least biased).  The Great Rumpus takes 3 days, where the candidate trolls will spend most of their time threatening the kidnapped PC.  When the Great Rumpus is done, the trolls will admit that they were just kidding about the threats.  The kidnapped victims will be given a bag of gold shavings, a sack of magic sausages (each heals 1d4 HP), and a spouse; the new troll king will do the marriage ceremony him- or herself and then shackle the new bride and groom together before leaving.

Longtail Troll Magic
Trolls with 23 or more HP have a single magic ability that they can use at will.
  1. Shapeshift into an attractive human.  They still have their tail, however.
  2. Turn into a stump.  Spends a great deal of time as a stump.
  3. Can turn invisible.  Their stealth is often ruined by their prodigious farts.
  4. Dimension door.  These are the trickster ones.  They are also usually the fattest.
Longtail Troll Homes
Trolls don't like discussing anything of importance out in the open.  Friends and enemies alike are often invited back to the troll's house, to have some nettle tea and meet the spouse.  Trolls have +2 AC and saves when in their house.
  1. Cave full of hibernating bears that are used as furniture.  Gently.
  2. Abandoned brewery.
  3. Behind a waterfall, a longboat has been completely dismantled and re-purposed.
  4. A hilltop cottage.  Surprisingly mundane.  Loving, human spouse.












Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Awesome NPCs



Here's a bunch of NPC adventurers.  Each one represents a Patreon patron, with their name scrambled and anagrammed into something fantastic.  Their level of support is reflected in their level, because generosity = XP, obviously.

Patrons, thank you so much.  I'll add to this page if/when more people choose to fund me.

Jess Ruffle
Level 5 Farmer
Formerly a cultist of the Snake Hole Death Kiss cult and the only survivor of the same. (The cult was sacked and slaughtered by adventurers.) She still retains all of her cultic powers. She is trying to sell off black robes, various psychotropics, a bird cage full of flying eyeballs, several enormous snakes, and the remaining years of a demon's contract. The demon is an imp named Mr. Friendly, and he is currently flying around wearing his own “For Sale” sign. Jess Ruffle (not her real name) wants nothing else than to buy a small farm and retire there to raise some goats. This should be easy, as she has the power to control the minds of goats. She is accompanied by a herd of 3d6 goats. Unflappable, composed, and entirely too rational.

Bald Brodeo
Level 5 Entrepeneur
Recently came into possession of a genie's lamp. Has already made two wishes, and is saving the third wish for a rainy day or an appropriate opportunity. Is always looking for an appropriate investment. Is attended by a trio of sentient, chatty, flying carpets. Is guarded by a pair of blue-skinned ogre magi armed wit scimitars. Also travels with a caravan full of spices and wine, which he owns. Eager, exuberant,




Lanimel Smittens
Level 2 Thief
Professional cave explorer.  100' of rope, climbing gear, pickaxe.  Smokes a corn cob pipe.  Her (artificial) right arm is hot metal that continually emits a small amount of smoke, and is rumored to be demonic in origin.  Currently on a mission to rescue her dog, Ripper.

Zhouvin Hevik
Level 2 Wizard
Travels inside a walking pagoda-birdcage that walks on long spider-legs.  Is actually trapped inside pagoda-birdcage, which he built to keep himself safe from deadly birds (family curse, long story).  Knows the spells sleep, grease, and bees.  He seeks the golden bee, and will pay dearly for news of it.

Brodz
Level 2 Rock Troll
Huge, hulking, stony.  Has a dagger stuck permanently in his head.  The dagger is therapeutic, and treats migraines.  Flicking the dagger causes Brodz to sing crude tavern songs.  He is traveling with his significant other, Matha, who is an animate rock.  Specifically, a 700 lb piece of roughly-spherical feldspar.  They are looking for a priest who can marry them.

Son of Shrilawc
Level 2 Cleric
Carries the orange dragon banner, which causes all orange dragons to flee in fear.  He will pay a good price for courage.  People selling him their courage get a permanent -1 to saves against fear.  He has a bottle of liquid courage hidden in the folds of his robes (which gives a permanent +2 vs fear).  He is on his way to kill the Shiverwurm of the Black Abysm.  If left to his own devices, he will kill it with a ridiculous stroke of luck.

Jocardom Serosinguez
Level 2 Fighter
Has mastered the art of fighting with a weaponized ioun stone.  The ioun stone is a spiked metal ball the size of a morningstar head.  It orbits his head at a terrifying velocity.  He can change it's velocity and orbit by moving his head and screaming.  The huge, spiked ioun stone does 1d8 damage +1 for every turn that it has been accelerating (each turn that it hasn't hit something, basically), up to a maximum of 1d8+5.  He wears an armored trenchcoat and carries a healing potion in a copper flask marked with a symbol of a winged fist.  He seeks his evil twin, which he must destroy.

Jasna
Level 2 Butterfly Master
Rides a giant Mothra, which was raised from birth.  Can speak with insects, and use diplomacy despite their normal bug-level intelligence.  Has 3 vials of pastel powder: the first will numb you, the second will put you to sleep, and the third will put you in a deep slumber from which you will never wake.  Can shoot clouds of doom butterflies from sleeves when threatened.  Seeks ecological balance and interesting books (which he will buy).

Michotta Lepres
Level 2 Rogue
Rapier and mustachio.  Swagger and grace.  Concealed: a poison dagger and a terrible secret.  There is pain in his eyes.  He travels to recapture the King of Cats, a beast that is neither a cat nor a king, but it is very powerful and seeks to inflict great misfortune.  He accidentally released it, and seeks to recapture it in the Bag of Stars, which he carries.  (It's like a bag of holding, except it holds a miniature galaxy complete with tiny planets and suns.)  It is a fool's errand, and he knows it.

Cpl. Belcor Tamuney
Level 2 Paladin
Also known as the Lobster-Claw Paladin, Corporal Belcor has had one of his hands transformed into an enormous lobster claw.  Rather than be repelled, he has worn it with pride, and even emblazoned a lobster claw onto his battle standard.  According to him, the forces of chaos turned him into an lobster entirely, and only the power of his faith transformed (most of) his body back.  Is on a crusade to rid the world of mutants, hypocrisy, and violence.

Phion Shlud
Level 2 Psychic
Infested with psychic slugs, which are responsible for her psychic powers. Knows the names of distant countries and ancient kings, but forgets common things, such as how to walk, or how to drink water. Seeks an apprentice, into to which she can unload more slugs. (This is the will of the slugs.) Infectious psychic powers. Disjointed speech, strange attentions.

Yeroc
Level 2 Braidmaster
Capable of braiding hair with supernatural aplomb (a give from a god, who loved one of their parents).  Braids can protect head as helmet, grant +1 AC, or cause echolocation to fail.  Can also braid horse manes to make them run faster.  Will sell these braids, but not cheaply.  Also knows the deadly braid of Broosh, but will not admit it.  Keeps own hair shorn to the scalp; Yeroc has seen what the deadly braid of Broosh can do to people.



Piccolo Creet
Level 1 Bard
Adventuring to find a wife, preferably by rescuing her from terrible thing.  (Honestly, there are much worse ways to meet girls.)  Keeps a small hen under his enormous hat--she lays eggs that contain messages, much like fortune cookies.  Also useful for omelets, come breakfast time.  His piccolo hurts people--sharp notes cut, flat notes bludgeon.  Travels with an enormous, shaggy dog named Shaggy Creet.

Delian Ells
Level 1 Sorcercer
Knows how to talk to wind but is rapidly forgetting the Common language.  Spends most of his time talking to wind.  Knows useful gossip from 400 miles away, but doesn't know what day of the week it is.  He wants to get rid of his cursed staff (requires you to eat 4x as much or save vs cannibalistic urges), but he cannot get rid of it unless someone asks for it--he cannot offer to give it away.  He will spend time talking about how great the staff is, and hope that someone buys it.  He will not sell the staff to a child or innocent--only murderhobos.

Swevanoran
Level 1 Yak
Transformed by a witch into a Yak.  Can only be released by true love's kiss, but has largely given up on finding true love as a yak, mostly because being a yak is awesome.  Grass is delicious, and he enjoys the power of being able to knock over small buildings and kick horses' asses.  Despite that, he has grown listless and misses the days of being an adventurer.  Wants to join the party.  If his curse is dispelled, he will transform into an unhappy halfling who will probably seek an immediate re-curse.

Harmion
Level 1 Monk
White robes, blue umbrella.  Travels with six apprentice monks, all level 0 street urchins.  Wants to sell the party pamphlets on meditation and anti-monarchist philosophy.  Also wants to find a good home for his six apprentices.  He is traveling to show them how horrible the world is, and will point out any injuries, diseases, or perceived curses to his 6 wards.

Cassik of Dyel
Level 1 Fighter
Extremely genre-aware murder hobo; his entire party was killed less than 3 days ago.  Wyvern breastplate, copper glaive.  Knows how dangerous adventuring is.  Reckons that life is just a dice game that the gods play, suspects that he has no real free will.  Can barely remember his childhood (farm, dogs, family killed by stirges) and cites this for a reason as to why he is merely a poorly imagined character.  Suffers from chronic back pains and wants to know why the gods would go through the trouble of imagining him with horrible back pains.  Like, if he's only worth a mere paragraph of attention, why spend time specifically giving him back pains?

Cerseor Gigas
Level 1 Fighter
She doesn't believe in magic.  Is actually immune to magic.  This is because she knows too much philosophy. Enjoys challenging people to log-throwing contests, and will wager a treasure map (leads to a buried chest 60 miles away that contains 6 animate skeletons draped in gold).  Her brother is an evil wizard that the party has heard of, and she will ask the party if they've met him.  She knows a lot of embarrassing childhood stories about him, but little else.

Manna Ra
Level 1 Cleric
Cleric of the moon god.  Seeks to convert werewolves to the cause, or kill them if they refuse.  Well-stocked with silver weaponry.  Will sell pastel-colored eggs to the party.  If thrown into a fire, the egg will hatch, releasing a small, strange animal (like a 8" tall giraffe) that prances around for a few seconds, singing a song, before expiring.  The source of the eggs is actually himself--he was cursed to lay one every night--but he will never reveal this fact willingly.

Wodash McCrill
Level 1 Old Coot
Naked old man who sails down the river in an oversized bathtub.  Mad as a march hare.  Wears a sock puppet on his left hand, which he addresses as "Ol' Scratch".  Will buy and trade treasure maps (mostly of a dubious quality) and stolen letters.  If asked, he will explain that his left hand is possessed by Satan.  This is partially true.  The left hand will sometimes perpetuate horrible acts of betrayal or cruelty (don't trust Old Man McCrill to pull you up off a cliffside), and if he is ever killed, his left arm with break free, and transform back into a demonic vrock, triumphant to finally be free of that prison.

Norg of Berresand
Level 1 Demolitions Wizard and Worm Expert
Capable of turning small rocks into small globs of lava.  Walks asynchronously, out of fear of purple worms.  If you accuse him of purple-worm related paranoia, he will patiently explain that all decent people should be afraid of purple worms, because they are horrible.  Has authored several books on the subject, actually.  Travels with a set of ten pins, and will happily play all takers.  Bowling is one of the few sports that doesn't disturb the worms.




Haubergeon
Level 0 Charcutier
Sells rations of smoked pork and beef.  Slightly more expensive than regular rations, but much more tasty.  Suspects everyone of being a cannibal.  Travels with a herd of loyal swine (23 pigs total) capable of fighting like 1 HD war dogs if their master is threatened.

Pash the Torchier
Level 0 Linkboy
Over 20 years old, which is old for a linkboy.  Wears a top hat that sometimes contains a little candle and a window.  Professional linkboy.  So professional that he has survived the last 4 adventuring parties that he signed on with.  Not because he betrays them or runs away or anything, but simply because he refuses to do anything risky and consistently stays at the back.  He also knows a few tricks (stirges will preferentially attack other if you slather yourself with vegetable jelly; several techniques for negotiating with orcs).  He is fluent in orcish.

Obb
Level 0 Goblin
Nimble as the dickens.  Cartwheels everywhere.  Everywhere.  Enjoys scaring babies, stealing candy, and falling asleep in people's bags.  When you think he's wandered off, he's probably just asleep in your satchel.  Immune to fear, and will do anything asked of him.

Lockward Heart
Level 0 Squire
Huge and muscular for a squire (Str 18).  Poetic and noble.  Grandson of the God of Peacocks, who still watches over the boy in some small capacity.  Birds will land on his shoulders and fall asleep.  This happens all the time.  Wants to adventure to save up money for his sick mother.  Country girls will swoon after him constantly.  You better get rid of him, fast.

Bon Zinkir
Level 0 Magician's Apprentice
Can't cast spells, but can do all of the other wizardly stuff (like identify scrolls).  If another wizard helps him, he can cast read magic once per day.  Wears blue robes covered with moon symbols that fell out of fashion a generation ago.  Carries a dove that only rarely shits in his pocket.  Allergic to sneak attacks, and will begin sneezing a moment before the party get ambushed.  He doesn't know why he sneezes.

Ten Jennet Baital
Level 0 Halfling
Flips a lucky coin, and accordingly has a 50% chance to do anything asked of him.  Carries a net and a poisoned fork.  Is actually a spy for the fish people, and periodically reports back to them by putting his head underwater and yelling out his report.  (50% chance to be crazy, and not actually a spy for the fish people.)  Wears garish purple shoes; fishes for compliments.

Kimbe
Level 0 Dog
A chubby puppy with a squashy face and a muddy collar.  Pees on things.  You will never find a more loyal and kind-hearted animal.  Surprisingly intelligent.  Understands over 10 words.  If this 1 hp puppy is somehow raised to adulthood (takes half a decade) the resultant foo dog will be the size of a pony (HD 5).

Karl Vecichi
Level 0 Merchant
Karl is an airship salesman.  While showing the airship to a potential buyer, his guards were ambushed an killed.  He barely escaped by jumping off the side of the ship.  Now he is trying to sell his parachute, and with that money, buy a new identity somewhere.  He owns a boat in the nearest major city, which he might use to escape.  50% chance that the yacht is full of his employer's minions, waiting to ambush him.  Wears long yellow silk robes (completely soaking wet) and a fashionable cone hat.

Mirun Bethelau
Level 0 Cursebearer
Cursed to seek adventure. Exhausted from constant adventuring. Head is filled with the urgings of the Hat of Adventure, which he wears on his head. Constantly learns the location of interesting, dangerous locations. Hasn't slept in weeks.

Derick Pharks
Level 0 Epic Turnip Farmer
Scion of a long line of immensely powerful sorcerers.  Currently travelling to the nearest capitol city in order to sell his prize turnip, a 600 lb turnip that groans whenever it is prodded.  It's not a person trapped inside a turnip or anything--it's just a giant, groaning turnip.

Shirn the Shalectian
Level 0 Snake Herder
Travels the roads with a herd of snakes.  Is hired to remove snakes from villages and destroy them.  He removes the snakes, but keeps them on hand for meat and companionship.  Accompanied by 1d6 very confused sheep dogs.



The people on this page can be NPCs that you meet on the road, in a dungeon, or as hirelings.  As +Daniel Dean pointed out today, they can also be interesting people buried in a graveyard.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Blessed Curses


Here are the six cursed blessings of Zaotan, bestowed only upon hated allies.

1. Blessing of Invincibility

Your current HP is 100.  You can no longer gain HP by any means.

2. Blessing of Flame Body

Your hair is a bonfire that sheds light as bright as a torch.  You deal 1d6 fire damage with a touch and ignite flammables.  You cannot hold, use, or carry anything that isn't metal: books burn up, and potions evaporate when they touch your lips.  So does all water, actually, and you will probably die from dehydration in a matter of days.

3. Blessing of Invisibility

Your flesh is truly invisible.  You are also blind, because no light touches your retinas.

4. Blessing of Peace

No one can ever willingly hurt you.  You can no longer willingly hurt another living thing.  Have fun being vegan.

5. Blessing of Freedom

No shackle can hold you.  No tentacle can grab you.  Nothing entangles your feet, and no web restrains you.  You fall straight through water as if it were air, and take full fall damage for hitting the bottom.  You still cannot breath water.

6. Blessing of Immortality

Whenever you would die, you best friend dies instead, and you survive with your HP at half the maximum.  If you have no friends, you die and are taken to a very special corner of hell.  In most cases, all of the other PCs count as friends.


Here are the six blessed cursed of Zaotan, bestowed only upon beloved enemies.

1. Curse of Half-Death

Your HP can never be higher than 1.  You are also immune to death via HP damage.  Whenever you would die, you instead fall to the ground and writhe in agony for 1d6 minutes as your body painfully knits itself back together.  Other things (magic, poison, suffocation) can still kill you normally.

2. Curse of the Forgotten

If they fail their save, everyone forgets you as soon as they stop looking at you.  People who have a reason to dislike or hate you get a +4 to this save.  People who have a reason to like or love you get a -4 penalty to this save.

3. Curse of Obedience

You must save or obey any command given to you.  If you have conflicting commands, you suffer insanity until they are resolved.  You are immune to charm and domination spells.

4. Curse of Insomnia

You cannot fall asleep.  You always lose initiative, and you are always surprised.  You only recover half of your normal spell slots with each night of rest.  You are immune to sleep spells, and you can see invisible undead.

5. Curse of the Wretched

Your back hunches and your visage twists.  Your become a pitiful caricature of yourself.  In social situations, you have an effective Charisma of 1, and you always fail when attempting to intimidate or impress someone.  Intelligent enemies will not attack you out of pity; they will only kill you if you get in their way or if you are the only one available to attack.

6. Curse of the Sky Hunted

You are despised by lightning and clouds.  Rainclouds will follow you wherever you go, and there is a 50% chance that it will rain each day where you are, even if you are in the desert.  Whenever a lightning bolt strikes from any source (either from cloud or from a wizard), it will redirect itself to strike you.  Assume that 25% of rain storms and 100% of thunderstorms are capable of producing lightning bolts, and that the storms will save the lightning bolts for you.  Rain clouds are boundless in their hatred but limited in their resources, and you can elude them for 1d20 days by traveling a long distance underground or with a swift horse travelling against the wind.  If word gets out, you will be assailed by peasants begging you to bring water to their drought-ridden state of California.

I Have a Patreon Now


Patreon is weird.  It feels like asking for money for something that I already enjoy doing for for free.  And money is awkward to talk about.  Filthy lucre, and all that.

But as a few people have suggested that I get a Patreon account, I've starting thinking about it more seriously.

Right now, blogging is just something I do when I have nothing better to do.  It's an idle activity, and when I'm bored it's sort of a toss-up between blogging about D&D and playing Candy Crush.  Fun, but not a high priority.

So this is sort of a test run.  I want to see how much interest there is in my brain, and what its worth to people.  If you love my blog and want to see me make more of it, this is the opportunity to support more of my ideas, better written.  PDFs instead of notes.  Heck, I might even write a book.

I've put a lot of good content on this blog over the years.  If you've gotten any use out of it, I hope you'll consider pledging some cents per post.  It's an incentive for both of us.

Also, I just learned this, but you can also set monthly maximum contribution, so don't worry about me suddenly churning out 50 posts a month.  Besides, I would get carpal tunnel and my hands would explode.  I'd have to roll dice with my mouth, and that'd be gross.  No one wants that.

But if you want to support this blog, click this next image.


Mostly this is to support Goblin Punch writing better posts and putting out free PDFs, but other rewards include getting an NPC named after you in my list of awesome NPCs, discounts on any book I may publish, and getting to boss me around regarding what sort of posts you want me to write.

I have been humbled by the reception that my blog has gotten so far.  Thank you for all of your support.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Rabbit Tattoos Argue About Immovable Rods


Left Rabbit Tattoo: "Let's talk about immovable rods."

Right Rabbit Tattoo: "Only if you promise not to make dick jokes."

LRT: "I swear, on our mother's teats."

RRT: "I don't like giving my players an immovable rod.  It breaks the game.  There's too many ways for players to abuse it, and it makes certain encounters trivial."

LRT: "I like the immovable rod!  There's a bunch of powerful ways to use it, but none of them are obvious.  They all require the players to think."

RRT: "It doesn't matter.  It's too powerful, and not in a predictable, numerical way.  And by that, I mean that it makes their characters irrelevant.  It doesn't matter if they are a wizard or a rogue or what level they are.  The power of an immovable rod is mostly uncoupled from the numbers on their character sheet, so that makes their character irrelevant."

LRT: "You'd rather the PCs have magical weapons that are tried to their character sheet?"

RRT: "Yeah, because that makes it more personalized and more predictable.  Like a sword that does +1 damage for every spell the wielder has memorized."

LRT: "That sounds way less interesting than an immovable rod."

RRT: "Not if all of the caster's memorized spells flicker through the sword when it is swung.  The side of the blade looks like a Korean music video."

LRT: "Okay, I guess that sounds a little cool."

RRT: "And when you stab someone with it, their wounds bleed motherfuckin' snakes."

LRT: "Point taken.  Mechanically predictable items can as interesting as the immovable rod.  But they don't have the same strategic possibilities."

RRT: "I agree that the strategy of the Korean music video sword is pretty simple, but I can come up with some very interesting items that synergize with other party member's abilities to make complex tactics."

LRT: "If I can't make dick jokes, then you can't talk about synergy.  And anyway, that's the opposite of what I'm talking about.  The stuff you can do with an immovable rod are all big picture ideas, and they're all highly situational.  You can only use it to destroy a train if the train is stationary, for example.  And those strategies rely on creativity, outside of the character sheet."

RRT: "Those strategies turn it into a game of How to Solve Problems with Physics, instead of the characters that we are actually supposed to be playing.  And I disagree that predictable magic items preclude outside-the-box creativity.  A magic hammer that does double damage against prone people inspires lots of creative thinking about how to get enemies prone."

LRT: "That's not creativity.  You just look through the rulebook for all of the ways and weapons that can knock people prone, and situations where you can set up a tripwire."

RRT: "Obviously we have different definitions of creativity, then."

LRT: "Totes McGoats obvi, natch."

RRT: "Look, when I design a game, I design it to be awesome.  Seeing the emperor enter the city in his hummingbird palanquin is awesome, even though the PCs have the agency to go fishing instead.  But as a DM, I spend a lot of time thinking about how situations are presented and approached.  Fights atop a moving train are awesome.  It's less fun when the PCs pull an immovable rod out of their ass and crash the train with it."

LRT: "It gives more player agency, though."

RRT: "Player agency isn't the highest priority, though.  Fun is.  And anyway, I don't think you should define player agency as 'giving players enough tools to fuck up your game' anyway."

LRT: "I have fun as a player when my actions impact the game more.  And yes, I love it when players have the power to fuck up my game."

RRT: "But in this hypothetical situation, derailing the train frees the demonic elephant-slug chained up in the caboose, thereby creating an unwinnable encounter.  I'm not going to remove their agency if they find clever ways to derail the train, but the fact is that the players would have more fun if they had just fought the lich-dervish on top of the train like I intended.  And if would have an easier time making encounters that everyone would enjoy if you would stop giving them items like immovable rods."

LRT: "I'm going to give them all immovable rods next session.  They're going to fight an immovable dragon that breathes immovable rods."

RRT: "The train thing was almost a TPK.  No one had fun."

LRT: "C'est la vie.  The PCs should really have checked all the cars to make sure that there wasn't a demonic elephant slug in one of them."

RRT: "That's not their job, though."

LRT: "Then you shouldn't have put it back there, as the DM."

RRT: "When the players have so many tools at their disposal, the number of dramatic, awesome ways I can present things drops.  When there are so many entrances into a garden, how do you prune the central tree so that it looks most dramatic when it is first viewed?"

LRT: "That's true.  Conflicting design goals, man.  Fact of life, just like how the strongest bridge isn't the cheapest bridge or the prettiest bridge.  I mean, fuck, have you seen that bridge?  That's a seriously ugly bridge.  It looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

RRT: "I feel like we're getting off topic."

LRT: "Don't you hate it when you think you fart, but instead you accidentally shit on a nun?"

RRT: "And anyway, this talk isn't about the power of magic items, its about their predictability.  Items don't have to be chaotic to be awesome, flavorful, and character-defining."

LRT: "I'd rather give players that freedom, though, even if it means giving them the freedom to make their games slightly less fun.  Because agency is hella fun on its own.  It's not just the DM making dinner--you've gotta give players a chance to add their own ingredients to the stew."

RRT: "I've had your stew.  It was like getting my tongue stuck inside a dead turtle."

LRT: "Gross, dude.  Stop doing that to turtles."


Joesky Tax: Korean Music Video Sword

Magic sword that does 1d6 damage, unmodified by Str, +1 for every spell you have memorized.  All of your memorized spells are displayed on the side of the blade when it is swung (clearly visible to enemy spellcasters).  The wounds created by this weapon bleed toothless snakes.

WHICH MAGIC ITEM WOULD YOU WANT NOW IN YOUR GAME??????!?
VOTE NOW IN THE TOP-RIGHT CORNER OR BE DEVOURED ETERNALLY BY CAMAZOTZ IN THE PIT OF DEAD TURTLES!!!???