Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Awakened

"We're nothing new.  We've always been here.  
YOU're the newcomers.  You're the animal that forgot that it was a man.  Stop crying, you animal, you sleepwalker!  If you opened your eyes for only an instant you would see that.  You're a race of amnesiacs, of dreaming children.  I said STOP CRYING!  You disgust me.  That's why I'm not going to explain anything else.  That's why you will die--screaming--without ever having truly woken up.  I will paint every inch of this floor with your blood."
-An Awakened, formerly Ms. Albright, speaking to Albert Frond, immediately before his murder

There are terrible truths in this world.  The unknown things that--perhaps--we are simply better off knowing.  This is especially true if the things that call themselves Awakened are speaking the truth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Mighty Plot Machine

They say that imitation is the easiest form of creativity.  I’m okay with that.  I'm copying this idea that I got from a bunch of blogs that I like.  It's a random plot generator.

I think I totally succeeded in making the stupidest one.  My plot is the thickest!  You'll never have to think of a plot again.  This generator also works if you are trying to name an NPC as long as they have a Native American-y name that's just a bunch of nouns and adjectives strung together.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Non-Euclidean Architecture


Non-Euclidean Architecture is how you build places using non-Euclidean geometry (Wikipedia's got a great article about it.)  Basically, the fun begins when you begin looking at a system where Euclid’s fifth postulate isn’t true.  When that happens, you are talking about a system where parallel lines don’t remain the same distance from each other.
Two basic ways of describing Non-Euclidean spaces: are elliptic and hyperbolic.
Examples of the three different geometries.
In elliptic geometry, two parallel lines will eventually curve towards each other (think of the outline of a football).  Space iscurved, and the degree of that curvature affects how long it takes the parallel lines to intersect, and what angle they make when they do.
In hyperbolic geometry, the opposite is true.  Space is curved the other way.  Parallel lines move further away and will never intersect, only grow farther apart.
Non-Euclidean geometry is weird because it looks like normal space as we know it on the local level, but on the global level it is much different.
Here's an example of "locally normal, globally weird": The globe can be a non-Euclidean space if we assume that the surface of it is actually flat.  A man standing at the equator travels to the north pole.  He turns 90 degrees to the right and travels back to the equator.  He turns 90 degrees to the right again and travels back to where he began.  If you map it out, he has made a three-sided figure with three 90 degree angles.  He has made a three-sided square!  If the surface of the Earth were actually flat, the man would be in a non-Euclidean geometry, probably running from eldritch abominations that he discovered at the north pole.
Actually, most physicists believe that we already live in a non-Euclidean space.  Like how the surface of the Earth is 2-D locally (and squares are squares) but exists in a 3-D space (and three right angles make a triangle), the universe is probably 3-D locally (where cubes are cubes) but 4-D globally (and cubes are not cubes).

The Pillar Room

How to apply this to a tabletop game?  I like to introduce it with the Pillar Room.
Imagine you go into a normal room with a square pillar in the middle.  You walk 360 degrees around the pillar, noting that it has four sides with 90 degree angles for the corners, and you are back at where you started.  Sound good?  That's a normal room.
But what if it took more than 360 degrees to get back to where you started?  What if you had to go around it twice, and it took 720 degrees to get back to the door?  Picture this: the party enters the pillar room from the only door (on the S wall).  The rogue decides to walk around the pillar and look around, but when the rogue gets back to the S side of the room, the party is gone.  The rogue can still hear the party asking him why he's hiding behind the pillar (the sound is bouncing off of both of the N walls) but he can’t see them.  In fact, the door is gone too, even though he is on the S side of the room.  Of course, he has only to walk 360 degrees in either way around the pillar in order to get back to them.
With non-Euclidean architecture, a 10’x10’ room can hold 200 sq. ft.
You might notice that this looks a lot like hyperspace, having many things occupy the same space.  In fact, the room I just described could be duplicated by putting a discrete, two-way portal from the pillar to the middle of the north wall.  This portal would lead to an identical room (that doesn’t have a door or any party members in it).  By walking around the pillar, the rogue walked through the portal into the identical room and didn’t even notice it.  But another 360 degrees around the pillar and he’ll be home.
But that’s still simple stuff.
What if it was 270 degrees to go around the pillar to get back to the starting point?  The rogue would go ¾ of the way around the pillar before getting back to the party, even though the pillar has square corners.  In fact, the rogue could stand in the NW corner of the room (after leaving the party on the S wall) and see the party in two places.  And the party could see the rogue in two places.  Note that they aren’t seeing copies, they’re actually seeing the rogue from two directions because space is curved and parallel lines meet here.  This is an elliptic geometry, and the apparently square room has three corners.  This 10’x10’ room has an area of 75 sq. ft.
If it was 180 degrees around the pillar, the pillar would be a two-sided square, and the rogue could do weird things like shoot himself in the back as he peers around a corner.  Highly elliptical spaces get weird fast, and I'll cover them in the next sub.
What if space was highly hyperbolic?  What if you had to walk around the pillar 10 times before you got back to where you started?  A 10’x10’ room on your dungeon map suddenly has 1000 sq. ft. in it (and the square pillar has 40 sides).
What if you put two of these pillars in the same room and called it a maze?  Depending on how the party twisted and turned around the two pillars, they could get very lost, and end up very far away from the door that they entered.  A 10’x20’ with two pillars could be . . . hell, as big as you want it, with as many branches as you feel like mapping.  If you put a monster in a smallish 2-pillar maze, the party will probably be less than 20’ away from the monster at any given time.  It'll be roaring like a giant garbage disposal and the party will be screaming like cheerleaders, but neither the party nor the monster will know how to reach each other (since the noise is coming from all the different paths to the other party).  Spooky, huh?
Fun Tip: When trying to map simple hyperdimensional mazes, just think of each center of the room as a single location.  Then just figure out where each of the four directions takes you (each direction around each of the pillars) and which location it leads you to.  Just because it confuses the hell out of your players doesn’t mean it has to confuse you.
Time to think big.
Don’t be afraid to extrapolate the pillar room to the whole dungeon.  Maybe a spin around the pillar takes them to a very similar dungeon—the party might not realize that they’re in a different one for a while, nor will they realize that the pillar can take them back.
Or picture a main room between two pillars, as in the two-pillar maze.  Depending on where you are in the maze, the central room can have different themes or purposes.  With the price of real estate the way it is, you can fit a 20-room dungeon in a 50'x50' area.
The pillar doesn’t have to be a pillar, either.  It can be a square hallway, where the party must travel around it three times to get back to where they started.  (This hallway has 3 north halls, 3 east halls, 3 south halls, and 3 west halls.)  It can be a hole that party jumps down into a pool of water.  It can be an arch or a mousehole.  It can be a building where the windows lead somewhere the front door doesn't.  It can be a gazebo.
Lastly, you finally have some justification for making some truly nonsensical maps.  If five (90 degree) left turns equal a right turn, you are allowed to put two rooms in the same space and confound logical attempts at map-making.

Interfacing Non-Euclidean Spaces with Euclidean Ones

You can’t.  As soon as you start trying to put three-sided squares onto your battlemap, you’re going to run into problems.  Technically, you should be mapping those sorts of spaces with weird tessellations and not graph paper.
But Non-Euclidean spaces can work well in confined starships and dungeons, where there are a limited number of ways into and out of a room.  You can have a lot of fun mapping out a room with Non-Euclidean geometry.  The trick is to remember is that they are Euclidean locally (squares still look like squares), but not on a bigger scale (a big enough squares doesn't have 4 sides anymore).
Start simple.  Maybe one lap around the pillar room leads to a hallway that curves a different way than the hallway you you came from, and leads to a different area.  Maybe clockwise turns lead you into older and older iterations of the ship, until after four turns, it dead-ends, and you are left in a decrepit corpse of a starship (and maybe the turns took you back in time, if you want to get stupid).
And if your party starts hacking at the walls between non-Euclidean space and Euclidean space. . . well, breaking the things that keep an impossible object in our universe can’t be a good thing.  Options for the discriminating DM include (but are not limited to):  Explosions (hyperbolic spaces), Implosions (elliptical spaces), Sucking Vortexes, Sentient Itches, Cthulhu, etc.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Random Weather Table

Mundane Weather (95% of the time)

Light Rain
Heavy Rain

If the weather was sunny yesterday, it has an 80% chance to be sunny today.
If the weather was rainy yesterday, it has a 50% chance to be sunny today.
If it's cold outside, the rain is snow.
If it's dry outside, there is no rain and treat Heavy Rain and Thunderstorm as Duststorm.

Weird Weather (5% of the time)

Acid Rain
Stone Rain
Painted Rain
Reverse Stone Rain
Noxious Rain
Rain of Horror
Reverse Rain
Rain of Worms
Hallucinatory Sky
Rain of Slimes
Rain of Meat
Insanity Sun
Rain of Knives
Sun Invasion
Rain of Vermin
Distant Space
Rain of Gasoline
Thick Air
Rain of Soot
Rain of Noise
Low Gravity
Rain of Rage
Empty Wind
Blasphemous Clouds
Hungry Fog
Burning Clouds
Drunken Fog
Roll 2x

All weird weather is preceded by something indicative.  Strange looking clouds, “squirming” in the sky (or behind it), chaotic droning from the sky, etc.  Weird weather doesn’t come as a surprise, and you usually get 1d4 hours warning.  It lasts for 1d6 hours, unless indicated otherwise.

Acid Rain corrodes metal, wears down stone, ruins cloth, kills fish, and does 1d6 damage per minute if you are caught in it.  More damage afterwards, too, if you don’t get that stuff off your clothing and skin. 

Antigravity pillars roam over the land like searchlights from mars (which they might be).  Things caught in the beams fall upwards for 3d20 seconds before falling back down.  Cars are dropped on buildings.  Schoolchildren pepper their playground like a dozen dropped eggs.  Smart folks hang out in their basement and tie themselves to the floor.

Blackness.  No sun.  No moon.  No stars.  It’s as dark as being in a cave.  Up above, you can hear slow sliding noises, like someone is sandpapering a square mile of elephant skin.  And there are things reaching down, extinguishing the bonfires and the lights, clustered so tightly in the sky that no light gets through.

Blasphemous Clouds!  Deformed, inhuman faces appear in the clouds and rain down booming indictments, blasphemies, and profanities.  20% chance they tell embarassing/horrific secrets from one of the PCs past.  20% chance they tell horrible lies about one of the PCs.  Wasps fly down and sting people who talk back to the clouds.  The clouds say whatever will disturb people the most: dead baby jokes, mockeries of god, homoerotic poetry. . . whatever will make the most children cry.

Burning Clouds!  The clouds turn red, roiling masses of angry cinders.  20% chance it rains fire.  20% chance it rolls along the ground like asshole fog.

Distant Space.  Oh wow.  For 1d6 hours, it looks like the Earth has been teleported to some distant part of the universe.  5% chance bathed in the warmth of another sun, 95% chance the temperature drops 10 degrees F per hour.  Independent 10% chance of deadly meteor shower.

Drunken Fog!  This fog is way more fun than the hungry fog!  Everyone it touches gets wicked drunk!  Chance for alcohol poisoning is low, but don’t drive a car.  The police try to pull people over but they drive into ditches.  Sometimes bad stuff attacks, ‘cuz it knows that everyone sucks at fighting back.

Empty Wind!  If this wind blows on a living creature, it will be transported into the future!  D6: 1-2 is 1d6 rounds / 3-4 is 1d6 hours / 5 is 1d20 days / 6 is 1d6 months.  There is a 10% chance that this wind will be ethereal, and will blow through walls, affecting everyone.  Transported creatures arrive naked, covered in sunburns, and smelling like campfire.

Hallucinatory Skies are completely harmless, but they are freaky.  D6: 1 - fleshy eyes and faces peering down / 2 – warped vision so that you can see over the horizon and appear to be in the bottom of a bowl / 3 – planet appears to be spinning at 1000x the normal rate (nauseating if you watch it) / 4 – flickering sheets like grey membranes shot through with pulsing yellow veins / 5 – bright light and an orchestral roar, temperature raises 10 degrees F / 6 – clouds appears to be animals fighting/fucking/running, etc.

Hungry Fog!  The fog comes in on little cat feet, a hungry stomach, and sucking tendrils like giant hungry elephant trunks.  Hide and seek as the fog breaks down doors and windows, trying to suck you into its central stomach, where you will be held above the ground, paralyzed, slowly whirled around, and digested in layers.  Lasts 1d6 hours, and usually leaves piles of bones, shoeleather, and keychains in the town square.

Insanity Sun.  The sun shrinks down into a tiny pinpoint of bluish-white light, although its still brighter than a full moon.  Everyone who looks at anything illuminated by this watery light, even for a second, goes stark, staring mad and will mumble about “the people behind the sun”.  Unless they make their save.  Town is full of people with blindfolds on, and other people trying to rob them.

Low Gravity!  Like, 1/10 of normal!  It’s like being on the moon!  You can jump really far!  Waves look really cool!  You suck at throwing things because they don’t arc the way they should!  Running is difficult without traction!  Lasts for 1d20 * 10 minutes, and then whops back to normal.

Noxious Rain causes vomiting and mutation if you get more than a few drops on you.  Save negates.  It looks like thin, golden brown fluid that smells like a pile of goats that died of dysentery last week.  Use your favorite mutation table.  Afterwards, brown mushrooms grow out of everything that isn't metal.

Painted Rain comes down in different colors.  D6: red / orange / yellow / green / blue / purple.  Mostly harmless, but the green one causes mercury poisoning and the blue one causes hallucinations.  Surfaces (and people) will stain that color until it is washed off.

Rain of Gasoline! A very bad time to have a cigarette craving.  This is why we don’t have wooden buildings anymore.  Inevitably, a fire starts by the end of it.  Air quality = shit.  Sewers, waterways, rivers, lakes, ocean runoffs will all become infernos.  Afterwards, oil stains and ashy smudges.

Rain of Horror! Roll a d6: skulls / skeletons / heads / headless corpses / garbage / ectoplasmic ghost guys that crawl around moaning piteously before dying.  20% chance that this stuff comes to life and attacks everyone.

Rain of Knives! Actually just pieces of really sharp ice.  D4: 1 – icicles / 2 – ninja star snowflakes / 3 – no physical knives but things just start getting cut / 4 – totally metal knives, I lied about the ice.

Rain of Meat!  Most of these are bitesize, but roll d20 * 100 to see how heavy the biggest chunk of meat is (in pounds).  20% of the meat is recognizable, 20% of the meat is poisonous, 20% of the meat looks pre-chewed.  A lot of carnivores slouch in from the hills.  Slorgs go into gluttony mode.  Afterwards, everyone makes bonfires.  Alternatively, fly swarms next week like Moses hates you.

Rain of Noise! Metal rods fall from the sky and vanish upon hitting the ground.  Each one sounds like a gong, or an off-balance washing machine, or a destruction derby, or a rhino in a china shop, or two skeletons fucking on a tin roof.  Conversation is impossible.  Cover your ears or save vs deafness.

Rain of Rage!  Blood rains from the sky!  Anyone who gets it in their eyes or mouth flips out in a murderous rage!  They kill their loved ones first!  All recorded music is temporarily replaced with Cannibal Corpse!  Even U2!  After the rain stops, affected people make a save to avoid being rageful forever!

Rain of Slime! Globs of carnivorous slime.  Tough to kill, but sunlight, fire, cold, and salt destroy it.  Normally immobile, but if it eats enough (falls on an unlucky herd of cattle), then giant blobs rampage through town eating people.

Rain of Soot!  Hot ashes and soot rain from the sky!  1d6 feet of it!  1 damage per round if you are caught out there.  Afterwards, snowplows and choking hazards.

Rain of Vermin! D6 frogs / locusts / lice / snakes / minnows / rats.  50% chance that the vermin are a new species.  50% chance that they all share a specific deformity (no eyes, no mouth, no head, two heads, no limbs, spider limbs, etc).

Rain of Worms! Most of these are just 3” long carnivorous worms, but roll a d4 * d4 to see how big the largest ones are (in feet).  These are stormworms, with mouths like rotary electric razors and skin in big leathery flaps.  They take minimal damage from falling.  They mostly devote their energy to eating each other, and afterwards people make hunting parties.  Like a lot of these weird weather effects, looting and burglary are rampant.

Reverse Rain pulls water from the surface up into the clouds.  If a creature isn’t indoors or underwater or something, they take 1 damage per minute as they desiccate painfully.  Pink clouds form over crowds of people who are losing a lot of blood.  Green clouds form over forests.  Most clouds formed this way are yellowish brown.

Reverse Stone Rain!  Pieces of rock break off of everything and fly into space.  Buildings look like bites are being taken out of them by invisible rats.  Your exposed skin with also break off in fingernail-sized servings and fly away.  1d6 damage per round after your clothing is gone (shouldn't take more than a couple of rounds).

Stone Rain!  Stay indoors.  Mostly pebbles, but sometimes fist-sized stones and 1d4 boulders!

Sun Invasion.  There isn’t just one sun.  There are hundreds.  Of all colors and sizes.  Swelling, swarming, and eating each other.  Sometimes things outside spontaneously combust for no reason.  Temperature raises 20 degrees F.

Thick Air.  The air has the consistency of water.  Breathing is exhausting.  Old people die.  Guns and engines don't work.  Fish swim out of the ocean and through the air.  When the weather ends, all the fish swimming over dry land drop and die, gasping faces mouthing the word “Why??????”.  The fish all die looking betrayed.

What's That Noise?

What is this blog about?  I'm not too sure about that myself.  I play a lot of DnD, and I think about a lot of DnD.  So, one reason to have this blog is to have a place to put my thoughts in order.  Another reason is to share with the internet-people.

I have three settings.

Centerra is the stereotypical fantasy setting.  All the unicorns are rotting abominations, the richest person on the planet is a dragon merchant, and psychic dragons control the dreamscape from a vast subterranean ocean.  Some of the highest level things around are orcs.  You can climb to the moon by climbing its dangling tail.  Most of the world is monotheistic, and worships Iasu, the blue-winged angel.  The calendar starts in the Time of Fire and Madness, when everything was on fire and everyone was insane.  Pretty standard fare.

Magic is rare, there are no apparent gods, no teleports, resurrection, or even undead in the normal sense.  I'd call it gritty fantasy if there wasn't so much weird shit in it.  Themes are cliche-punting, transformation, subtle post-apocalypse, evil humanity, sex, and decay.  I also try to keep it "hard fantasy", where everything is internally consistent and makes strict sense given the laws of the world.  Which makes it hard to fit all of the gonzo shit in, but that's why I have other settings.

Duscuro is infested with gods and flirting with aliens.  Formerly a "nature reserve" established by vast and ancient (but still mostly human) powers, the planet was guaranteed to remain in a natural, uncivilized state because 1) the humans were engineered to be idiots, 2) dragons were engineered to wreck everyone's shit as soon as people started stacking bricks, and 3) there's a set of immortal fleshbrain death satellites ringing the world that will drop lasery sky-death as soon as there is any deviation from the accepted norm.  All of these failsafes failed spectacularly very quickly, and part of the campaign consists of figuring out why.

Gods are tangible, accessible rulers, who speak through wooden manikins.  They rule city-states like kings, not some distant ethos.  One of them, the god of warfare and agriculture, exists on the material plane like any other schmuck in order to better enjoy the things he loves.  The gods wage wars against each other in order to stamp out the loser's religion and absorb their portfolios.  All of this takes place under a pair of binary suns that cause four-year winters when the colder sun revolves in front of the warm sun.  This is bad, because there are tribes of things in the mountains--half of them are undead, half of them are alive, but you'd need a doctor to tell the difference--who get all Genghis Khan when it gets cold, and start trampling cities under their ultra-mammoths made from normal mammoth corpses.

Noxious America is 1930's America forty years after the fall of humanity due to sudden, cataclysmic immigration of "gods" from tentacled dimensions  It's a mix of Lovecraft and maybe even pokemon and noir. And definitely a lot of Americana.  But it's not post-apocalyptic.  Humanity has fallen, but other things have risen in their place.  It's a time of optimism, dance halls, gangsters, speakeasies, gnashing death, droning abysms of madness, and writhing degeneration in dark corners.  From Satan's gigantic, poisonous corpse in Arizona to Skethriman Scolex's combustible corpulence hovering over Fatland.  It's last call for the human race, before the doors lock behind us and we face the night.

We're pretty sure it's Satan's corpse, anyway.  That's just what everyone calls it.

It's the least developed of all my settings, and also the one I'm most into right now.

Other Things might also appear on this blog, including but not limited to: engineering, architecture, art, fiction, and stupid things that North Korea does.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Hagulas, more commonly called “haggers”, are humanoid fish (a proprietary blend of lamprey, catfish, and hagfish).  They are more formally called myere, which means “honorable egg”.  If you want to insult one, call him a churlfish.  They stand between 5’ to 7’ tall and have sinuous, slimy bodies.  Their movements are lightning quick and their skin is like wet rubber coated with fine grit.  They smell like dirt, metal, and water.  Their broad faces are mostly just a mouth ringed by four barbels (like a catfish).  Their beady black eyes are tucked in behind this, along the sides of their head.  They cannot see straight ahead, and so turn their heads sideways when they want to look at you.  They are fully amphibious and take great pride in their paddle-like tails.

                Once a male hagger reaches maturity, he becomes able to breathe air, and they can only get nourishment by drinking blood through their teeth, which cluster in rows like stubby hypodermic needles.  These physiological occur in order to their bodies for fusion with a female.   Males attach themselves to the females by fusing their jaws into the female’s body, and eventually sharing a bloodstream as the males atrophy into little more than gonads with faces, that provide the much huger female with the sperm she needs to lay more eggs.  Females are huge things with the size and habits of orca whales.  They are also beautifully intelligent, eloquent, and usually ravenous. While the females hunt along the shores, they are capable of lurching around on land if they are very hungry.  They are most comfortable at the bottom of ocean trenches, where they have their secret places.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of males decide being their mate’s gonad isn’t the life they want.  These ‘bachelor’ males are numerous, and you can find them around the shores and ruins of America’s newly submerged cities.  They run clinics by the shoreline, where body alterations are provided.  They salvage and sell scrap from our sunken cities.  They manage huge manatee farms, where they harvest most of the blood that sustains them.  Some of them go to sea, and live for years attached to a whale like a remora, sucking blood all day long in a lifestyle reminiscent of their homeworld.  Some poor ones become beggars, and sit outside of stores begging for blood from humans.  Just a drop, mister. . .

They are quick witted, secretive, and rarely take charge.  They are sluggish unless they are very motivated, usually by someone yelling at them.  They are fond of irony, sarcasm, and reversals.  Most of them don’t handle disappointment very well, and are prone to throw tantrums or disown their friends, depending on the type of disappointment. Oftentimes, they will say something only to say the exact opposite a few seconds later. . . not!  Alcohol and chocolate are deadly poisons to them, and they are known for their persistent expressions of gratitude, which are often in poor taste.  Smiling is not reflexive for them, but they do it frequently just to freak people out with their rows of teeth.  the “lips” they talk with are behind these teeth, so their voices always seem to be coming out out from their throats.

                Haggers are masters of biology.  Flesh is putty in their hands, and they have even found a way to reverse aging (though it only works on haggers). They run clinics around the world that are capable of healing any injury, redesigning creatures to be more awesome, and even bringing people back from the dead.  All they need is your brain to resurrect you, and if the brain is fresh enough, you even get to keep 50%, 60%, or maybe even 70% of your memories!  Of course, all of their procedures carry a certain risk of mutation.  That’s tough to shake.  But think what a great conversation starter you will have with a line of fingers growing out of your spine!  Aside from resurrection, you can also pay the haggers to reroll your HP dice. 

Be all that you can be!

  • +1 Dex, -1 Str
  • Dietary Restriction: Blood
  • Haggers provide their services to you at 25% of the cost.  This is partially due to the fact that the processes are simpler when performed on haggers.  Additionally, haggers can have themselves youthened in their clinics, something no other race can enjoy.
  • 1/day, you can produce a thick yellow paste from your gills.  If this paste is mixed with water, it can turn into about 30 gallons of slime.  Thick, slippery, choking slime that is a mild hallucinogen to humans that eat it.  You can also use this to get +4 on an attempt to escape from a grapple or a bite or whatever.
  • You can breathe water, and you have a swim speed of 30’.  You are more comfortable in the water.  
  • If you take no precautions, you dry out in 30 minutes on land.  You'll be dead an hour after that if nothing prevents your drying.  Most haggers solve this problem by wearing wet layers of clothing or coating themselves in grease (which must be constantly reapplied).  Or they just keep a bathtub handy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Initiative Rolls

This is for my own record as much as it is for anyone else's.  Instead of listing different types of initiative, I'll just ramble about different types of "toggles".

Persistant Initiative vs Turn-by-Turn Initiative

Persistant Initiative results in faster play, but it takes randomness out of combat since everyone only rolls once for initiative.  It also gives more of an advantage to the rules-minded players who may choose to delay their actions.  Enough delayed actions usually result with the PCs acting in a "clump"

Turn-by-Turn Initiative is slower, but prevents metagame lawyering.  It ensures a constant injection of randomness every turn, and adds a lot of swinginess, since the dragon might get two turns in a row and pulp someone.

Initiative Modifiers

Using initiative modifiers adds a layer of complexity without necessarily removing the randomness.  Whether it is based on dex or actions or whatever, it would appeal to players who want to see their character sheets having more of an effect on the in-game world.

Initiative modifiers based on action (or weapon, ugh) might serve as a way of balancing really slow weapons with faster ones, or as a way to make it more likely that spellcasters go last.  (But see the last paragraph below.)

Group Initiative vs Individual Initiative vs No Initiative

Group initiative is more streamlined.  It is more swingy, since it isn't based on anyone's stats and if one side may get two turns in a row (if you are doing turn-by-turn initiative).

Individual initiative is takes longer at the table.  It might appeal to those who desire more simulation--who want quicker characters to act first.  I suppose it is fairer, since one side rarely gets a huge advantage over the other because of an initiative roll.  It makes the players a little less active, since they aren't discussing what order they want to act in; the DM is telling them when it is their turn.

No initiative is when turns go in a Ranged-Movement-Melee-Spell turn order (or some other alternative).  These have the advantage of being fair and balanced, but take a lot of the randomness out of a combat.  I think a large degree of randomness is a good thing to have in combat.  It keeps it chaotic.  And chaos ensures that the more powerful side (usually the PCs) still run a lot of risk.  This also may serve as a nerf to spellcasting, since spellcasting (usually) always goes last and therefor has a greater chance to be disrupted.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psuedo-Imaginary Dinosaur

Pseudo-Imaginary Dinosaur (all types)

Number Appearing: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90'
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 1 chomp or whomp or spike (as appropriate)
Damage: 3d6
Save: 12+
Morale: 10
Treasure: Imaginary dragonhide, imaginary gems
Special: Halfway Real
XP: 600

Psuedo-Imaginary Dinosaurs are the servants of Tyroganon Ferox, the Paradox Lord of the Infinite Boneyard.  No other creature would (or could) serve the lord of temporal paradoxes.

These creatures are halfway real.  When a psuedo-imaginary dinosaur appears, everyone who sees it must make a save vs magic.  Characters who make their save realize that the dinosaur has no mass or energy and cannot harm them, and the dinosaur becomes nonexistent (as far as they are concerned).  Characters who fail their save realize that the dinosaur is thinking, hateful creature, and the dinosaur is real (as far as they are concerned).

Combat only gets interesting if some people make their save while others fail it.  Players who have ignored the dinosaur cannot affect it or interact with it in any way, and vice versa.  On the other hand, players who failed their save may be crushed, knocked about, or even picked up and swallowed by.  To their more willful companions, they appear to be flying through the air and leaking blood for no reason.

Technically, the dinosaur is reflecting itself off the mind of its victim.  The people who failed their saves have a small part of their minds hijacked, and it is this part of their mind that is actually performing telekinesis in imitation of a dinosaur that isn't real (in the strictest sense of the word).

Bottom-line: if you kill or knock unconscious the people who are imagining the dinosaur eating them, the dinosaur will dissipate.  The dinosaur will try to prevent this, of course.

The halflings of the psychogenic jungles know this.  A fortress with no one in it will never be molested by imaginary dinosaurs, but if one halfling passes through, catches sight of one of Tyroganon's servants and believes in it, the entire fortress can be destroyed.

Consequently, many of the halflings are experienced in the use of the lead button, which is a heavy button sewn on the inside wrist of their jackets.  Halflings who see and believe in dinosaurs know to quickly knock themselves unconscious with it before the dinosaur can tear them apart.

The dinosaurs come in all shapes and colors that you can imagine, literally.  And sure--they sometimes incorporate elements of what you are thinking about, your greatest fears, whatever.  Don't think about titties when you see one.  They are intelligent enough to follow a 'believer' back to a larger group where they can get more people to believe in them.

If someone is still riding a dinosaur when it dies (disappears) they also disappear, because their being in that position was dependent on the dinosaur.  Their circumstance (being 8' off the ground) depending on something that was semi-imaginary, and so they inherited that semi-imaginariness.  People who disappear in this way must succeed on a save to reappear in 1d6 rounds.  If they fail, they are gone forever.

Usage: Don't overuse these guys.  Sometimes combat will occur where four PCs will be fighting a dinosaur while the fifth PC just watches them, completely unable to help.  PCs can choose to fail their saving throw, but this must be done at the same time as everyone else.

Tumble Melon Tree

Tumble Tree:

Number Appearing: 1 or 1d8
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 0"
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1 whomp or 2 melons
Damage: 1d8 (whomp) or 1d2 (melon)
Save: F2
Morale: 9
Treasure: Just 2d8 melons
XP: 25

Tumble Trees are large, wineglass-shaped trees with thick limbs and greenish bark.  They reproduce in an unusual way: they produce delicious roaming melons with mild curative properties.  After the melon seeds pass through the body, they compel the creature to plant them somewhere fertile.

1d6 of these vagrant fruit depart simultaneously every few weeks (in different directions).  The tree rolls the melons down grooves in its trunk, and thus sets the traveling melons on their trajectories.  If a tree is approached, there is a 50% chance that it will flat-out give you a melon.  If the tree is climbed, it will wiggle in an attempt to shake the climber off.  If the tree is attacked or any melons stolen, the tree will freak out and start whomping people with thick branches.  

If the tree is tormented with ranged weapons and there is no one nearby to whomp on, it may attack by throwing melons with its scoop-like 'hands'.  It is difficult (but not impossible) to catch these melons undamaged.  The traditional method of melon harvesting involves an archer and two assistants holding a 'catching blanket'.  But even this is risky--tumble trees can throw a heavy melon very fast with their strong, whipping arms.  A tree will usually have 2d8 melons.

If a tumble tree is severely injured, it may feign death by making a sad wailing noise, going limp, and rolling any remaining melons in all directions.  The melons will attempt, poorly, to avoid capture (they are in escape mode).

Tumble Melon:

Number Appearing: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30') and cannot go up hills, stairs, ladders, etc 
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 1 hp
Attacks: Only if eaten (laxative, charm)
Damage: None
Save: F1
Morale: 1
Treasure: None
XP: 0

Tumble melons are about the size of cantalopes.  The hard, leathery skin is colored in green and black zigzags.  The fruit of the melon is pink, fleshy, and composed of pulpy seeds (think of a pomegranate).  They roam by rolling in a random direction, although they avoid steep slopes and cannot manage anything more than the mildest uphill.  They are common near rivers.

Tumble melons are roaming fruit.  They have very poor senses, but they will approach creatures that they find and roll around their feet, like a cat asking to be petted.  They are delicious, nutritious, and heal 1d4 hp when eaten.

3d12 hours after being eaten, another magical ability of the melon manifests itself: it is a powerful laxative.  Tumble trees reproduce by encouraging other creatures to spread their seeds throughout the land.  The bowel movement will be watery and include a great number of tumble tree seeds.  

When the creature is pooping, the seeds also cast a charm effect on the creature, compelling them to bury the seeds in a safe place where a tumble tree might grow strong and healthy.  If the seeds are ejected into loamy forest soil, all this charm effect does is require you to scrape some dirt on the seeds.  If you are not in a sunny forest or a fertile field, the seeds will ask if they could please be buried in some nice dirt?  You may be obligated to comply.

It is not recommended to exploit tumble melons for their healing properties.  The laxative and charm effects stack dangerously with multiple ingestions.  (You might blow your O-ring and spend the rest of your life pulling weeds and drooling in a grove of tumble trees.)  Despite these prohibitions, it is not hard to find buyers for tumble melons (especially among opium addicts and others who suffer from constipation).  A melon may be worth up to 20 gold if it is still fresh.