Saturday, 20 May 2017

Ruined Cities Are Really Hard

Or, dealing with hyper-dense 'dungeons'.

A lot of my stuff revolves around dead cities, ruined cities, cities where something went wrong. This is me putting some thoughts about such environments being really hard to play whilst satisfying some of the stuff I like to do.

See the city. It is dead, filled with buildings bereft of their original purpose, re-imagined as lairs, traps and storehouses for treasure. Compare this to the traditional dungeon - each room has specified exits and entrances, whereas the city offers a practical infinity of entrances, exits, and approaches. This, in addition to the sheer sizes, is a problem to be solved. Two main approaches spring to mind.

Movement through and the contents of the majority of structures are abstracted, often through the use of procedural generation (this house has *dice dice* nothing) - those structures which do contain items of interest are 'zoomed' into, breaking away from the strategic (travel-based) and moving into the tactical, individual level movement, most obviously combat. This is intuitive, and means the game isn't a slog of this house is empty, after the players describe surrounding yet another ruined manor. However, such zooming immediately informs players that something interesting is about to happen, whether this been combat, traps or a secret to be discovered, meaning they will deploy in a manner to take maximal advantage of the environment. (More on environment usage later.)

The characters, assumably, will be moving and acting in a far less cautious manner during standard travel. (This could, of course, be considered in the abstraction, moving far slower in the strategic view.)  This effect ruins the opportunity for players to be surprised - although, a solution for this would be utilizing more active opponents, who attempt to engage from surprise, forcing the players into positions less advantageous as they are the defenders, adapting to the situation as dictated by the ambushers. Such an addition rewards players defining themselves scouting and planning for such situations, dictating a marching order taking advantage of the nuances of the specific buildings and streets in the encounter area.

This, however, runs into another issue within abstracting the dense urban environment. Using generic floor-plans and streets leads to strings of encounters effectively occurring within the same environment, a street lacking in interesting nuance, with the same layout of buildings offering the same opportunities. Generating an interesting and unique street and/or floorplan(s) however, is going to take time - the opposite of what a surprise engagement offers. Building a large library of interesting nuances yet somewhat universal layouts would negate this somewhat - but then the difference between the abstraction and a complete mapping shrink, reaching the point where complete mapping might make more sense. The balance between a nuanced and interesting engagement locale with the speed of the generation is very hard to strike.

Complete Mapping
Completely mapping a dense, decaying urban environment is a gargantuan amount of work, which immediately makes this option less appealing. Even ignoring this significant limitation, we run into the fact such a huge amount of information is really hard to use at the table. Each structure would require some form of representation, informing (or inspiring) the GM as to the external and internal structure of the building. This could be achieved through some form of short-hand tags or keywords, the combination of these phrases rapidly building a mental image to be imparted to the players. Such a system would require a degree of training in the GM, even just to simply learn this skill. The advantage of such complete mapping is the ability to instantly determine the form and nuance of the locale an engagement is occurring within - the GM will know through a system of tags there is a barricade which offers either side an advantage, without the need for a potentially cumbersome or slow generation system. The key to achieving a working Complete Mapping is a really effective manner of splitting information into table-usable chunks, with both player-facing and GM-facing maps and information available.

Both are hard and leave me wanting somewhat. Whadda you guys do?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Acid Death Fantasy - Weird Desert Backgrounds for Troika!


For use with Troika! - Luke Gearing

"The slate was not wiped clean - it was shattered into countless jagged pieces, splintering a new world with the debris of the old."

What happened is long forgotten. Remains of it, barely understood by the most learned scholars, are rife throughout the lands, but most are too busy surviving to ponder these relics, else maintaining their strangleholds on water and power, power and water.
The greatest living city of the desert is Shalar, that breeding ground of pleasure and nightmare. All people, all faiths, all goods have a stake in Shalar, ruled by the Many Crowned King/Queen and her terrible guard, a thousand strong. The wealth of Shalar is untouched, uncontested, and many covet the throne.
Spinning outwards of Shalar are the Thousand Sultanates, a great miscellany of egotism, pride and petty squabbles. There is much wealth, for the titles of these many pretenders are not entirely false. They compete endlessly in their petty games, although all are inevitably forgotten as the hubris of the ruler eventually causes a fall. The oldest, and most stable are the closest to Shalar, whilst the peripheral Emirs and Maliks barely stake a hold for more than a generation.
Beyond this anarchic sprawl are the Wastes, riddled with all manner of nomads and tribes, and beasts beneath the sands, all bowing in respect to the worms which roam freely between the dunes. The Alqai, four armed workers of metal, emerge from the Duneholds to sell exquisitely worked goods, or else to continue the age-old war on the Dune Riders, their slender boats neatly slicing the sand.
The Southern Wastes are the homes of the Slow Tribes, brutal reptilian peoples leaving artful piles of butchered limbs whenever they find a settlement of desperate people seeking some modicum of respite from the heat.
To the East, the Plastic Sea, a miraculous sea made entirely of liquid plastic. Upon contact with living skin, it sets solid, leading to the coast being filled with the Coated Men, duelling each other in elegant, fatal contest, having made the choice to die young and glorious, coated in flexible plastic armour.
The verdant jungles of the North would offer respite from the desert, if not for the patriarchal Azure Apes. Whilst the stable nests will happily accept visitors, the zones between are haunted by failed alpha-males, who gladly prey upon travellers to build their strength for a challenge against an aging nest-master. Not even these desperate beasts dare try themselves against the shining, metallic ruins scattered about the jungle.
To the West is the graveyard of the Old Gods, their steel skeletons looming over a great and terrible Rubble. Once a city of the chosen peoples of these gods, their undoing was terrible, their grey stone, unknown to us, marred with their burnt shadows still.

(Backgrounds after jump)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

10 Islands

*Go Away Sunday Players*

Part of a larger sea-based encounter table.

A pathetic spit of land, where the survivors of a shipwreck squat, miserable. They have enough rations to last another d12 days. 3d8 of them remain. They were :
1.       Nilfenbergian Navy
2.       Angmarrian Privateers
3.       Merchants
4.       Whalers
5.       Unaffiliated pirates.
6.       Colonists set for the new world.
A witch-prison colony, run by the Nilfenbergians before the war. They are running out of supplies. Some of the soldiers think they should wake the wizards up, see if they can summon supplies. The priest threatens to throw them to the sharks. 3d12 wizards, drugged brainless. 3d20 guards, with 1d10 cannons. 1 priest.
A larger island, dotted with huge stone heads. Each contains an aborted embryonic god, killed by their jealous parents. The culture who built them destroyed themselves in the process, and so their gods died with them.
Kidknap crab spawning ground (See Broken System #0)
The final degenerate remnants of an island forced to cannibalism. 5d20 remain, squatting in rotten huts or else hunting one another. Each has 2HD, and fights with bone weapons.
The Cage (See Broken System #0)
A pirate king and her fortress. All are welcome, if they pay her extortionate docking fees (100sp a night). It is still filled with pirates and slavers. Her captive sea-priests destroy any ship causing ruckus in the waters surrounding.
A thin lip surrounding a huge yawning bit, many ship-lengths across. The pit is lined with:
1.       Fresh/Aged stone brick.
2.       Perfect/cracked glass.
3.       Living/dead flesh.
4.       Bones.
5.       Shimmering metal.
6.       Light - blinding white.
The Funeral Isle, a grave for a civilization long dead. Six black granite pillars ring a central point, each encrusted with the achievements of this dead people. The central point contains grave goods. Disturbing the goods awakens the Guardian. The island is pockmarked with craters from the weapons of the Guardian.
Achievements :
1.       Creation of the Humans.
2.       Puncturing the womb of sky.
3.       Creation of concept-driven war machines.
4.       Taming the soul itself.
5.       Capturing the senses with their art.
6.       Their own destruction.
There are three items of value to loot :
1.       Painting of Blinding Beauty. Alien suns and stars above a landscape barren. Utterly beautiful and haunting. Studying it for over a minute causes a choice : either destroy your eyes, and never behold a pretender to the beauty of the painting, or else dedicate yourself to the destruction of all beauty bar the painting. Worth 50000sp.
2.       The control panel for their flying vessels, all long departed or destroyed. It could be used like a shield, intricate, complex yet sturdy. Worth 8000sp.
3.       A miniature version of the concept-bombs, containing the concept of the perception of time. It has two settings - compress, causing the target to experience a thousand years in a single second, or elongate, making a second seem like a thousand years. It is good for one use, and does not give immortality. Worth 50000sp.
The Guardian.
A colossal titan of brass, emerging some miles off the coast of the Funeral Isle, kicking up huge waves (potentially destroying any ship too close to the isle). Three large spheres make up the body, from which sprout seven legs, shimmering in the sun. The largest of the spheres is the brain, and is filled with conceptual killing. Given enough time, the killing would evolve into violent, chaotic art. The other two spheres are Spelltrap Arrays, which absorb up to 50 spell levels worth of spells each. If overloaded, they explode, killing the Guardian. It can use the arrays to fire beams, which deal 1d8 per spell level expended, and requiring a save vs paralysis to dodge. A kick or stomp from its legs could easily destroy any ship. If one were able to clamber up the leg, the conceptual killing could be tamed with a truthful oath of pacifism, leaving the entire machine inert. It has 50 Ship HP. Replacing the grave goods satisfies it, but it will watch until the intruders leave.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Angmairre, City of Sailors and Whores

**Mild Spoilers Sunday Game**

The kingdom has no knights, only sea captains. All nobles must serve as a captain on at least one sea-voyage to keep their hereditary titles.

Within the Palace of Splinters, a looming structure built of captured enemy ships, sits the weak King Telwar Liq, a puppet to his warmongering wife, Celine Liq. The agitates for war against the Nilfenbergians. The court, thus far, have kept her in check. All assassination attempts have failed, miserably. She takes each attempt as proof of Nilfenbergian aggression.

During the day, the city is thronged with porters and traders, hawking exotic wares of all types, the ale houses filled with sailors on shore leave. At night, the sailors have had their fill of drink, and partake in brawling or prostitutes. They are famed for their skills, and a sea-captain is wise to give extended shore-leave here. The slave markets of Angmairre are huge, and it is the only place on the continent where slavery is legal.

1d8 Encounters in Angmairre
1 - 1d4 Runaway Slaves, 50% chance perused hotly. Keeping them would be theft, but grant you loyal companions. (60% level 1 fighter, else level 1 specialist with randomly distributed skills)

2 - A huge brawl between sailors, d20 a side. They're all laughing and complimenting one another on good technique. Drawing weapons is a sure way to get killed.

3 - 1d6 Sailors acting as a press gang. They'll ignore people they don't think they could bludgeon into submission.

4 - A Nilfenbergian witch-refugee, unable to join the College without a reference, but unable to ply her trade without membership papers. She seeks a group to travel with. 1d4th Level MU.

5 - 1d6 Nobles dressed up gaudily as nautical beasts, en route to a party, surrounded with 2d4 guards.

6 - 1d4 Druids, infiltrating the city to destroy it from the inside. They are usually rooted out and destroyed by the College within a week. They keep trying anyway.

7 -  Nilfenbergian spies, posing as merchants. No war is planned, as they are engaged against the Demon Sultanate, but it pays to keep an eye on the last remaining free kingdom on the continent.

8 - Adventurers! Here for 1) a job 2) looking for work 3) R&R 4) you.

If an adventurer stays in one of the more lavish establishments whilst still bearing their arms and the general demeanor of a ruffian, they are inevitably approached with work. 

1d8 Jobs From Nobility & Pay
1 - Slander an opposing house. Use your imagination. 500sp+
2 - Sink a ship. This could be a rival house or someone else in the family. 1000sp+
3 - Ruin a political marriage by causing one of the betrothed to fall in love and marry someone else. 1000sp+
4 - Apply pressure to a house wizard of the College to turn traitor to the family they currently serve. 750sp+
5 - Collect monster eggs to build a menagerie to rival any other. Price is per-egg, going up for more dangerous/rare creatures.
6 - Murder the current heir. 1500sp+
7 - Burn down the holdings of a rival. 300sp+
8 - Find something to greatly embarrass a rival in court without destroying their reputation. 750sp+

Monday, 20 February 2017

Urythx, the World Whale, the Eater of Stars, Extinguisher of Suns

Urythx protects and provides, albeit unknowingly. The bone spires of the Good Folk, teased out from her flesh, erupt across her star-bleached back, whilst the degenerates cling to her belly, reveling in their parasitic relationship with Urythx, siphoning the light she feeds upon. As she moves to claim another sun as her own, they drift down on their corded tubes of gut and raid the sun-slaved worlds, bringing back slaves and such exotic goods.

Death-driven fanatics dwell upon each of her eight ponderous paddles, each waging war upon their neighbors to advance to the front-most position, ignorant of their cousins on the other flank of Urythx.

Upon her wise crown cling the starmad Sunseekers, gazing on as Urythx drives onward to another distant fleck of light.

The tail is forbidden. The cold of the Outer Dark intrudes strongest there, and those who supposedly squat among it have madnesses of long darks and blistering void - the Outer Dark having wrapped itself about their minds and spines.

People of the Tail
Skill 9
Stam 13
Init 1 (4 in darkness)
Armour 1 (frost-hardened flesh)
Damage as Small Beast or Weapon
Mein - 1 - show 2 - observe 3 - sacrifice 4 - embrace 5- capture 6 - imitate
Has access to the spell Drown, but functions as them filling your lungs with vacuum instead.

Urythx glares forwards and about with her six eyes, each crusted with the debris of stars extinguished. It is not known if she is the only one of her kind, but nowhere across the spheres as her like been seen before.

Upon the tips of her slender whiskers are madmen-prophets, caught between the Outer Dark and the light Urythx seeks so hungrily. The pilgrimage to seek their wisdom is perilous, many drifting free of her blessed gravity and drifting into the Outer Dark, extinguished forever.

Goods are either pirated from the sun-slaved worlds, grown and harvested from Urythx or her parasites, or the rare native metals caught from her blow-hole, which expels the waste from a digestion system built for suns. Monsters are far more common than metals, but the desperate try still.

All vegetation upon Urythx is parasitic, stealing their sustenance from her flesh. The native animals do not fly, but favour armour or camouflage.

Skill 9
Stam 21
Init 3
Armour 3
Damage - 2 attacks, one with small gripping claws (small beast) and then, if successful, the large crushing claws, attacking as a large beast.
Mein 1- hungry 2- idle 3 - evasive 4- cautious 5 - protective 6 - terrified
Something like a crab, but with a shell curving into a sharp point, hanging over their mandibles. They have two sets of claws, a huge killing pair and a smaller grappling pair for holding prey in place. They have 4 jewelled eyes, placed evenly around them, and scuttle across Urythx's hide with their six hook-tipped legs.

Gaseous Giants
Skill 8
Stam 18
Init 2
Armour 3 (mostly incoporeal)
Damage as Fusil but melee range
Mein 1 - morose 2 - confused 3 - homicidal 4 - vengeful 5 - accepting 6 - hopeful
The few sundwelling gaseous giants who avoided digestion by Urythx, belched forth from her blowhole.Many of their siblings have been obliterated, yet they were spared, lost, aimless and guilty. Why us?

Ghostsun Embryos
Skill 11
Stam 15
Init 5
Armour 2
Dam - casts Ember
Mein 1 - curious 2 - hungry 3 - upset 4 - betrayed 5 - needy 6 - berserk
The spirits of potential suns never birthed due to Urythx, their potential cut short. They now haunt the essence of their parent-to-be, which has been absorbed by their killer. They roam both within and without, uncomprehending of their fate, unless told. This is what causes them to go berserk, tearing about the villages until their unformed minds forget once more.

Solar Wraiths
Skill 7
Stam 12
Init 2
Armour 1
Damage as Weapon
Mein 1 - seeking 2 - begging 3 - depressed 4 - bitter 5 - raging 6 - satisfied
The ghosts of sun-worshippers, now denied their afterlife, their god extinguished forever. They crave light, but it merely reminds them of what they have lost.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Legions of the Demon Sultan Greg

Humans are a resource. Soldiers alive or dead, and sacrifices to evoke forth yet more demons. Beyond these roles they are to farm and breed. The wheels of this empire are greased with blood.
Each group of human soldiers is accompanied by a Resurrector. Others are used in specific roles.

A milky white floating orb, marred by the seven tentacles bursting from the base and the dark patches seeming to swim beneath the tight, taught skin. Any killed by these tentacles is bound to the will of the Resurrector, who is likewise bound to the will of the Demon Sultan. They will always strike the weakest, especially their own brood of soldiers.

A quadruped with a pair of arms fit for an elephant, matching the dull grey tusks jutting from the mess of bone armour plates. These plates bristle with spikes, with d6 impaled bodies upon them. Each body impaled on these spikes give the Manbreaker an extra d4 HP. Tearing one loose deals 1d6 damage. They don't care.

Skeletal things festooned with pilfered feathers - especially those of the Nilfenbergian Crows. They swoop down, snatching individuals in their pair of tentacles which worm from between the ribs, dropping them into the massed pikemen marching beneath the banner of the Sultanate.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Treasures Locked Beneath Ash and Snow


x Precious Metal Molars - what wealth was left was hidden in the back of mouth. 2d20 sp each.

x Hands of the Matriarchs - a mothers blessing kept secret and safe for bleak times. By the time they were opened, it was far too late. Snapping off a finger casts a spell at 3rd level. Worth 5000sp, -1000 per used digit.
  Thumb - Cure Light Wounds
  Index Finger - Magic Missile
  Middle Finger - Bless
  Ring Finger - Dispel Magic
  Little Finger - Sleep

x Fingerbone Lockpicks - single use but incredibly easy to hide. +1 bonus to checks with these picks. 20sp each.

x Curried Meats - frozen fresh, still good to eat if defrosted. 1sp each, 1000sp to a trained chef due to lost techniques which could be learned.

x Dead Idols - The many gods of the enslaved peoples, all dead and forgotten. The ire of these dead gods lingers still, and each has a curse associated with it. Worth 400sp in precious materials, 1000sp to a historian.

Ire of a Dead, Forgotten God
Weakened spirits of vengeance, still bound to empty duty, will attack the holder each night until the statue is given away. HD 2 / AC AS CHAIN / ATTACK +1 1D8 CLAWING / MOV as DOG / M12 / 3D4 APPEARING
The idol draws away all sustenance from food, starving the bearer until the statue is given away.
The idol compels the bearer to sacrifice either 200sp or 1HD of life every three days until given away.
The idol assaults the bearer with hideous nightmares every night, denying them healing from sleep, and stopping magic users preparing spells, until given away. -2 penalty to all rolls after a week of this.
All animals will hate the bearer until the statue is given away, with a 2-in-6 chance of attacking, or else simply running away.
The bearer is inflicted with leprosy until the statue is given away. The leprosy will be healed overnight.
The user must respond to all violence with pacifism, and all offers of peace with violence until the statue is given away.
There is no curse. This god has faded more than the others.


x Overseers Eyes - Eyes of ancient overseers, given to slave-holding families. The eyes are a reminder of authority, and can be used to command slave-derived creatures if they fail a save vs magic. Worth nothing outside of the city.

x Desperation Furs - As the terrible fury of the Riven Wolf fell upon the city, the clothiers and tailors desperately tried to create winter clothes for the people as they burned all books and papers to stay warm. This desperation sunk into the furs themselves, and they reek of fear. Avoid any natural cold-based damage, halve damage from cold-based magical sources, but roll random encounters twice as often. Predators can smell the weakness. 200sp each.

x Forgotten Saints - The people of the city would not burn their Saints to keep warm, but they were forgotten, bedecked in gold and bone-dry in their sealed chambers. Each will defend itself, although it has long forgotten it's name and it's martyrdom. Worth 3000sp -200sp per point of damage over HP dealt, HD 6 / AC AS PLATE / ATTACK +3 AS WEAPON +3 / MOV AS MAN / M12 / 1 APPEARING

x Crown of the Senator - Each week, this crown passed from one senator to a chosen rival, bestowing authority and benevolence upon the wearer. (Save to take malicious action, others must save to not agree with you. Must be worn for a week.) Worth 4500sp.