Posts Tagged ‘Glantri

09
May
13

Weird Tables: Corpse Bits 4 Ca$h

Arch-wizards, alchemists and taxidermists crave various chunks of monster anatomy for their own peculiar purposes, and sometimes they’re willing to pay good money for such things! Players who recognize this may get into the habit of chopping up everything they encounter and hauling the bits back like deranged slaughterhouse workers. To keep the PCs from overdoing it, you may wish to limit such sales to specific requests (or “quests” for short) proffered by enchanters for whatever fresh ingredient they happen to need at the moment, as determined by the

REAGENT BOUNTY TABLE

Roll twice on a d20 to determine what weird thing the local magician desires. If this offers a nonsensical result, like a ghoul horn or hellhound wing, ignore it and roll on the “special reagent” table instead.

Roll Creature Reagent
1 Basilisk Blood
2 Cockatrice Bone/Skull
3 Doppelganger Brain
4 Dragon Ear
5 Ghoul Eye
6 Giant Flesh
7 Gryphon Genitals
8 Harpy Hair/Feathers/Scales
9 Hellhound Hand/Foot/Paw
10 Hydra Heart
11 Manticore Horn/Antler
12 Medusa Liver
13 Minotaur Nose
14 Mummy Saliva
15 Ogre Skin/Hide
16 Owlbear Stomach/Intestine
17 Troglodyte Tail
18 Troll Teeth/Beak
19 Wereolf Tongue
20 Wyvern Wing

SPECIAL REAGENT TABLE

Roll 1d12.

Roll Reagent
1 Carrion crawler tendril
2 Displacer beast hide
3 Fire beetle gland
4 Gelatinous cube gelatin
5 Giant scorpion stinger
6 Giant spider venom
7 Giant toad tongue
8 Killer bee honey
9 Ochre jelly protoplasm
10 Rust monster antennae
11 Shrieker spores
12 Stirge proboscis

Appropriate payment will vary based on how much gold you want to put into the PCs’ hands. In the past, I’ve generally offered 1d6 x 100 gold pieces for reagents. Now I’m considering monster HD x monster HD x 100 gold pieces. This may inspire PCs to go after monsters that outclass them in order to earn some sweet loot!

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25
May
12

Not-so-Weird Tables: Starting Magic User Spells

Would you trust this guy to give your apprentice magic-user a proper education? (PS: I hear the movie is terrible)

This post on Planet Algol reminded me that my own game’s house rules for starting magic-user spells might be of interest to folks. (They’re derived from the Aquerra starting wizard spell tables, here.)

Note that one way of de-emphasizing the elf’s superiority to the magic-user at first level is to give the elf a single spell randomly rolled on a d12. (This also applies to homebrew hybrid casters like the thief-dabbler.) Watching the elf try to find a use for a spell such as floating disk or shield is an amusing exercise!

If these tables seem insufficiently dependent on the magic-user’s Intelligence score, feel free to allow additional rolls equal to the number of bonus languages the character receives for high Intelligence, or allow that many spells to be chosen by the player without resorting to a roll.

A starting magic-user begins play knowing three spells: an offensive spell, a defensive spell and a utility spell. Roll 1d6 on each of the following tables to determine which spells your magic-user has researched. (“Wizard’s Choice” indicates that you pick any one spell from the list you are currently rolling on.)

Offensive Spells
1: Charm Person
2: Light
3: Magic Missile
4: Sleep
5: Sleep
6: Wizard’s Choice

Defensive Spells
1: Hold Portal
2: Protection from Evil
3: Protection from Evil
4: Shield
5: Shield
6: Wizard’s Choice

Utility Spells
1: Detect Magic
2: Floating Disc
3: Read Languages
4: Read Magic
5: Ventriloquism
6: Wizard’s Choice

20
Apr
12

I’m a Third Level Gen Con Industry Insider Guest of Honor

I am proud to make two announcements concerning yesterday’s events:

  • My Glantri character, Gael Ur-Boss, reached third level – the greatest such achievement of any PC I’ve played in Quendalon’s campaign!
  • I was announced as one of the Industry Insider Guests of Honor for Gen Con ’12.

Particular reasons I care about these announcements:

  • Playing Glantri is fun. Having a character who is more capable will make it more fun (although it is to be noted that third level is nowhere near making Gael a force to be reckoned with in any Glantrian party these days).
  • Doing panels and workshops is fun. Having a larger audience resulting from the extra publicity from these being on the Industry Insider track will make it more fun (although it is likely that the bulk of this audience will be attracted by those GoHs more illustrious than myself: Wolgang Baur, Stan!, Dennis Detwiller, James Ernest, Matt Forbeck, Jess Hartley, Kenneth Hite, Steve Kenson, T.S. Luikart, Michelle Lyons, Ryan Macklin, Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Jason Morningstar, Susan Morris , Mark Rein-Hagen, Elizabeth Shoemaker-Sampat, Gareth-Michael Skarka, Christina Stiles, George Strayton, Richard Thomas, Rodney Thompson, and James Wyatt).
It’s a truism that no one wants to hear about your character. I’m deliberately drawing a parallel by talking about my beloved Gael (did I tell you that s/he got a +1 to Constitution just from becoming a six-year-old orc instead of a five-year-old one, even before s/he leveled up?) in the same breath as my Gen Con appearances. These are games you can play within the world of roleplaying. If you invest enough time and effort, you’ll get a recognition which is meaningful to the other players in your group.  But even should you make it to name level, it’s still a game that’s pretty uninteresting to anyone not intimately involved.
That said, here are some reasons you might care about these announcements nonetheless:
  • You will be adventuring in Glantri and need a comrade with not zero, not one, but two whole first-level cleric spells!
  • You will be at Gen Con this summer and might be interested in stuff I’ll talk about at the panels and workshops I’ll be on.

Panels etc. are yet to be determined, but here are the ones I said I “would feel comfortable hosting” in the application to be an Insider GoH:

Fund Your Game Project with Kickstarter (panel)             

From publishing your RPG or boardgame to opening a gaming café, learn how crowdfunding can help you achieve your dream from those who have succeeded (and failed) with Kickstarter.

Raising Money for Charity with Gaming Events (workshop)

Learn how you can use your gaming skills to help a good cause by studying previous examples, getting practical advice, and participating in a celebrity roleplaying event to raise money for a gaming-related charity.

Record and Share Your Roleplaying Sessions (workshop)

Podcasts and actual play videos are increasingly popular as ways to share the excitement of your games and help bring new players into the hobby. Learn how to get started!

Teaching Games (panel)

Educators, parents, and kids share their experiences with programs that introduce kids to gaming, from school curricula to homeschooling to summer camps, and pass on advice and inspiration.

Getting Paid to GM (panel)

A survey of professional opportunities for roleplaying gamemasters and advice on how to get started.

Lunch hour being over, I should get back to the business of Getting Paid to Have a Day Job, but will perhaps come back to this topic (or ones raised in comments) in future.

23
Jan
12

Standard Pack Comes Filled With Fresh Monster Gore

Be prepared! Preparedness begins with knowledge, to whit:

Edible items will have a small likelihood (10%) of distracting intelligent monsters from pursuit. Semi-intelligent monsters will be distracted 50% of the time. Non-intelligent monsters will be distracted 90% of the time by food. Treasure will have the opposite reaction as food, being more likely to stop intelligent monsters. (Gygax & Arneson, 1974)

This is all well and good, but how do you make sure to have both edible items and treasure always ready to provide a distraction? The New York Red Box has a solution!

Infographic by Scott LeMien, credited to an idea of Thaddeus's.

In the forum thread from whence I have ripped off this bit of practical advice, Ridiculossus further notes:

The jars are filled with fresh monster gore when you start, or other animal kill.

Pack cost (backpack) = 5g
Mini-loot drop = <20g
5 vials of oil: 10 gold
Clay jars (and padding) = 1g

It is to my great shame that I didn’t think to include this in my section on mundane gear and adventuring kits for Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium. I blame Scott, who should leave these ideas lying around ready to be swiped when I need them, not months later.

30
Aug
11

Weird Tables: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”
—Robert Byrne

Your humble reporter lives in New York City. This past weekend, while making real-world preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, I was also making preparations for imaginary bad weather—the coming of winter in my Glantri game.

While the PCs were exploring Quasqueton at the end of January, the winter snows began in earnest. This typically shuts down all travel in the region until the spring thaw. Not wanting to spend the winter in a tiny border keep, some of the PCs decided that they’d set off through the deepening snows in hopes of reaching the capital before travel became impossible.

In order to resolve this dangerous choice, I created the

WINTER TRAVEL TABLE

Roll 1d6 and apply your Constitution modifier, along with any other modifiers the DM deems appropriate.

Roll Result
0 or less DEATH: You die of exposure.
1 FALL: Your character slips on the ice and suffers a broken bone(s) or some other structural injury. Roll again with a cumulative -1 on all further rolls on this table. If you survive, you spend the rest of the winter recuperating from your injury.
2 WOLVES!: You are pursued by a pack of wolves. Roll (level + hit die size + prime requisite modifier) or less on a d20. If successful, you survive their onslaught; roll again. If you fail, you are devoured.
3 TAUNTAUN: Lost and without shelter, you are forced to take shelter for the winter inside the corpse of a large animal, such as a bear or elk. Save vs. spells or permanently lose one point of Wisdom due to body horror. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll at -2.
4 CAVE: You are forced to hole up in a cave for the rest of the winter. Save vs. poison or permanently lose one point of Constitution due to starvation. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll at -2.
5 HUT: You take shelter in an isolated farmstead. Pay the owner 50-100gp (or provide an equivalent amount of equipment) in exchange for sharing their limited winter stores of food. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll.
6 or more CITY: You successfully reach your destination.

Whereas many tables are solely for the use of the DM, this is one of those tables which players should view before rolling. Perhaps they’ll make the sensible decision and stay indoors!

23
Aug
11

Weird Tables: Your Weird Wish is Granted

Your wish is my commAHAHA I DEVOUR YOUR SOUL

After eleven dedicated sessions and five months of game time, a group of PCs in my game successfully petitioned a goddess of Chaos for her favor. Everyone had something they wanted from the goddess, either for themselves or for others — though more the former than the latter. But how does one resolve such an open-ended opportunity to wish for anything you like?

If you encounter such a situation in play — such as when dealing with a demon, efreet or imp — feel free to use the

CHAOTIC WISH TABLE

Roll 1d6.

1: Something bad happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
2: Something bad happens that’s related to the wish.
3: Something weird happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
4: Something weird happens that’s related to the wish.
5: Something good happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
6: Something good happens that’s related to the wish.

To demonstrate the table’s use in play, here are some examples from last session.

A) The Ridiculossus, a living statue, declares that he wishes to be STRONGER! He rolls a 6: something good that’s related to his wish. Presto, his wish is granted! The DM rules that he may roll a d4 and permanently add the bonus to his Strength score. (This presumes that such wishes are rare; if they are commonplace in the campaign, the bonus would only have been a single point.)
B) Richard Loubeau, a tricksy thief-dabbler, craves the boon of being able to see in the dark. He rolls a 5: something good happens that’s unrelated to the wish. Instead of seeing in the dark of a room, he can see into the dark of people’s minds by gaining the ability to cast ESP once per day.
C) Ja’Tubis, a straying priest of a god of medicine, asks for insight into the effects of Chaos on the human frame. He rolls a 2: something bad and related to the wish. Insight comes as a flood of horrible images that will not stop, bombarding his fragile mind at every moment, day and night. After recovering from momentary catatonia, he loses 1d4 points of Wisdom from the perpetual distraction generated by his visions of shifting, writhing flesh and bone.
D) The swashbuckler Martin, who has been reduced to the size of a halfling by a potion miscibility incident, wishes to be restored to his former stature. “Bless my sword, that I may regain my former size and strength!” he proclaims. The roll is a 1: something bad and unrelated. As Martin’s player recklessly brought his sword into it, the goddess blesses his blade with a powerful ego and will. In his next combat, the jealous blade forces Martin to throw his magic shield away, for it will not allow him to carry anything else into battle!

… and come to think of it, of the seven PCs who petitioned the goddess, not one of them rolled a 3 or 4. I’ll leave the possibilities that might stem from such a roll as an exercise for the reader.

17
May
11

The Power of Saying No

The New York Red Box group has two ongoing old-school campaigns: Eric‘s Glantri and my White Sandbox. Just as the presence of two professional baseball teams in NYC gives rise to the enjoyable rivalry of the Subway Series, the different approaches of these two campaigns create one of the productive tensions within our group.

I’d estimate that about a third of us play regularly or semi-regularly in both campaigns, with the remaining two-thirds being players in only one or the other. This largely boils down to whether people are available on weeknights for Glantri, on weekends for White Sandbox, or enjoy the luxury of having time for both.

But even if the division within our player base is basically due to factors extrinsic to the game, all of us enjoy having two mirror-image campaigns so that we can better understand the way things go in this one by comparing it to the way they do it over there.  As Naked Samurai memorably expressed:

Most of the Glantri campaign believes the White Box campaign goes like this. The session starts in a magic item bazaar, where they pick up stray magic items with the metric assloads of gold they are carrying in bulldozers. After lapping up a few Staffs of Striking and a Long Sword of Sharpness +4 or two, they wander around a valley until they seduce a few werebears, who sire their children. Then they enslave, like, a few tribes of gnomes to take care of their griffon mounts and tiny giraffes. After threatening several giant kings, who aren’t worth their time, they bump into a couple demons from the depths of hell, who they vanquish within half a round. Then they discuss, philosophically, why death has no meaning, as they stroll back home.

Not bad for fourth level characters.

Is this just the grumblings of players who should be content that they survived an adventure in Glantri, and even came away with a single silver spoon as treasure? No, there are indeed measurable differences that underlie the distinction N.S. is making here.

As in chaos theory, many of the biggest separations  in how the campaigns have evolved come from their original conditions. The Glantri campaign has always started new PCs at first level, while characters enter the White Sandbox at third level (following my decision to use Gygax’s house rules). At that link Cyclopeatron notes that “Gygax’s house rules are interesting because most of them make characters stronger”, but even the pre-house-ruled systems Eric and I each use differ in this regard; spells like hold person are much more potent in OD&D than their counterparts in Moldvay/Cook B/X.

But other differences suggest a divergence in play styles. James’ analysis of XPs earned in each campaign suggests that the rate of advancement per session of adventure is eight times faster in the White Sandbox than in Glantri. The fact that the bulk of these experience points come from gold means that we do indeed have adventures structured around the logistical difficulties in moving metric ass-tons of coin – one of the few kinds of difficulty that Glantrian players are not regularly exposed to. Back when we were grinding through the upper levels of the Caverns of Thracia, I made a conscious decision to increase the treasure levels (to a rough guideline of 4 gp for every 1 combat XP, suggested by Alexander Macris in a comment here at the Mule way back when) and have been playing out the implications ever since.

I’ve been saying recently that the White Sandbox is an exploration of the improv principle “always say yes”, while Glantri is a demonstration of the power of saying no. You could perhaps map this onto the distinction between paidia, “the power of improvisation and joy,” and ludus, “the taste for gratuitous difficulty.”

Let me be clear that I’m not painting Eric as a joyless denier, or saying that the only reason to play in Glantri is a masochistic enjoyment of difficulty for its own sake. Experiences are fun because they balance both of these extremes; awesomeness is produced by the tension between them, and I can personally attest that the Glantri campaign is a reliable source of awesome fun. I’m interested in seeing Glantri as an example of the power of saying no because I need to harness that power for my own play, which has a tendency to go too far in the other direction.

Here are the things I think saying no contributes to a RPG experience, especially in a long-form campaign:

  • The satisfaction of overcoming opposition. Players in the White Sandbox really are worried about death losing its sting; even as raise dead becomes a more common event in the campaign, they want the possibility of the ultimate, character-sheet-shredding NO. (Spiritual mishaps are one way we’re hoping to balance these). The more often a character’s desires are denied, the more thrilling it becomes when they finally succeed. Heroes with a surplus of Staffs of Striking can be hard to challenge, whereas in Glantri, as Naked Samurai said earlier in the thread quoted above, “we need to actually be, you know, resourceful, to make it down the river.”
  • Maintenance of a consistent reality. Gene Wolfe turned me on to Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, many of which have a structure in which the priest-hero does things that seem really shocking and the mystery is why this is actually moral and necessary. There’s a great one where Father Brown sees this young man watching raindrops on a tavern window, and subsequently abducts him and ties him to a tree out in the rain. “I could see that you were on the verge of a grave theological error,” our hero explains. “I knew that you were thinking that the course the raindrops took was a product of your own mind, and took it upon myself to demonstrate that there is a reality upon which your desire not to be tied to a tree has no bearing.” Saying no to things that violate the fictional reality is necessary not only for believability and immersion, but also player agency. The world needs to work in predictable ways for people to be able to plan the likely consequences of their actions; we base our game-world expectations on our common experiences of the real one, in which stubbed toes reliably refute solipsism. The higher power level in the White Sandbox makes this harder because each magical effect the characters can produce gets us further away from the world in which we know what is and isn’t possible.
  • Lines and veils. I realized how much I’ve internalized the New York Red Box’s coolness policy about what kind of things shouldn’t be brought into a game at all, and which other things should be alluded to instead of shown, when I recently participated in a game that wasn’t played in a public space. All of a sudden I was dropping f-bombs left and right, liberated from self-censorship and able to speak all the things I normally say no to.
  • Maintaining the campaign’s tone. This is one Eric struggles with; having given up on a kind of saying no that looks like hard work means that my campaign automatically assumes the gonzo tone you get when nothing is forbidden. Wanting to do a different kind of game would mean having to say no to dissonances and mis-steps.

One thing I think is important is that saying no isn’t just something the DM does. That’s been the way it’s traditionally conceptualized, and in the above I’ve been focusing on Eric because as Glantri’s DM he’s the easiest way to personify that campaign. But in fact I’m the one who censors my own language when I play in Glantri, and I can’t think of any times I’ve needed to police the lines and veils policy in White Sandbox because respecting that is a communal effort.

This is crucial for me because I tend to get the power of saying no mixed up with having all the power and needing to be in control. When I’m DMing for kids and they come up with some totally unexpected idea, I often observe that my first impulse is to say no. On further reflection I realize that there’s no good reason to do so; in this context there’s no real game balance to be maintained, no consistent tone to be respected. I’m just reflexively saying no because I’m afraid that opening up to player input will cause things to spiral out of control and fall apart, with the implied fallacy that I’m the only important one who is capable of holding it together.

Saying no is one of the DM’s jobs, and in the afterschool class it’s a job I get paid for despite not doing it very well. Being disciplined about defining where the power of no holds sway is important, because it makes improvisation joyful by providing something to strive against. But doing this can be a collective part of playing, and sometimes relinquishing control to the players lets them enjoy the power of saying no.

In the White Sandbox, James gets a lot of enjoyment out of his character Arnold Littleworth, d/b/a Zolobachai of the Nine Visions, because he’s decided never to memorize any useful spells whatsoever. Even in a campaign where endless tiny giraffes could be his for the taking, he’s created his own gratuitous difficulty in order to make the one time that a useless spell saves the day a triumph over adversity. Sure, that adversity is imaginary and self-imposed, but what in D&D isn’t?




Past Adventures of the Mule

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