Friday, July 29, 2016

Treasure in the Dungeon

I've spent the last three days fighting LibreOffice and my printer trying to assemble all my treasure tables into something organized that I might share.  Haven't succeeded, but in the process I think I have a simple treasure system hammered out now.  Here is my attempt to organize the chaos of my many treasure item charts:

How Much Treasure?
The amount of magic treasure you give out will be too much or not enough based on how many players you have and how often you play.   But for me, with 4-6 people playing 1-4 times a month, I think this system will work okay.   My goal is to get magic into their hands so they can have interesting choices to make and cool plans to come up with using these items.  So, 1-4 consumable magic items scattered in every dungeon. I also want treasure to seem cool, more than just money, so at least 1 player valued treasure per dungeon. And a 1 in 6 chance for non-consumable magic items.

Class-Specific Treasures
I think a simple way to make sure all classes present in your campaign get stuff to use is to rotate which class a class-based treasure belongs to.  Yes, knowing this might break the sense of realism a bit for a player, but class-based treasures are only one of four things that can be rolled, so they might occur so infrequently players don't notice the rotating pattern.  And even if they do, I'm betting it is worth a little gameyness to not randomly end up with magical swords over and over again in treasures found by a party of clerics and magic users.

Birthday Treasures
One curve ball in my treasure allocation process, is that my group and I have a tradition of letting players pick a magic item on their birthday.  I think some of the most awesome items my players have, have come from this route.  It takes away from the excitement of finding things in the mysterious underworld a bit.  But, they only have birthdays once a year, and in our circumstances where our campaign play would sometimes be stopped for long stretches by life it was a way to get some magic items in play.  And they love it.   So, not sure I would recommend it as a general practice, but it is an option that seems to be working out okay for us.

Work to Do
So, I have most of the charts needed for my system.  I still need some class-based consumables for clerics and fighters.  I put my idea of what could work for those in my chart-- weapon/armor oils for fighters and candles/incense for clerics seem to fit well.  I also need to work on more permanent class-based magic items.  A place to start might be One-Page type charts that gather the most iconic magic swords into one place, same for shields.  Or just invent more.  And yes, still haven't finished the player valued treasure tables.  I will try to share these as I finish them.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Silhouettes LXVIII

More silhouettes for your maps, handouts, and rulebooks.  These are all in the public domain, use them as you wish.
Another undead-- could be ghast, ghoul, or zombie:

An aboriginal Archer:

a peasant with a pitchfork:

A humanoid head which should be good for some mashups:

A creepy looking star fish:

And a more symmetrical star fish:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Shopping Mini-Game

I've mentioned a few times in the past that I'd like to make some kind of mini-game for shopping.  My players engage in a lot of what we jokingly call Shopping & Dragons.  Because they're in a city and I've used a fad table that changes fashionable things to wear from week to week and because they like to buy things for their schemes, they are often shopping.  Oh, and the city they are in, Ulminster, is pretty mercantile and has a Mile-Long Market as a landmark.  So shopping is something that is going to happen.  But I wish it were more fun, more game-like.

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I had an idea of how to do this simply: have a roll-all-the-dice type table but let players choose which die to apply to which column.  That would mean there is luck involved but also player choice.  To have a cost of rolling again and again, each roll on the table is 1d4 hours of searching markets and shops.
This is a first draft and I haven't tried it in play.  The worst possible outcome is probably having to wait a week for something, or needing something so badly you would settle for 4x the price.

I wanted there to be the element of clothes not being the right fit and I thought Strength and Constitution might be a suitable stand-in for this.  If players have minuses on those stats it's more likely they might be slight, if they have bonuses they could be considered burly or tall.  I don't know how this applies to buying non-clothing gear.  Can ropes and 10' poles be of different, awkward sizes?  Maybe just ignore this column when buying gear, that would give players an extra die to choose from, meaning non-apparel is easier to acquire or at least more standard when found.

Another thing I was thinking, a player might apply a roll that exceeds a column's maximum to get their choice of the results in that column.  That way a player can "throw away" a high score for certainty of fit or quality.

Here is the table in an editable form.

Of course you will still need a set of simple, well-organized price lists.  My buddy and I started on that, organizing them by material the items are made of so we might hook in trading or world event effects later, with embargoes making prices on all cloth goods go up, say, or metal goods becoming cheaper when a new mine is opened.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Silhouettes LXVII

More silhouettes for your maps, handouts, and rulebooks.  These are all in the public domain, use them as you wish.  Have some more ships.
A brig:

Another dhow:

A felucca:

A frigate:

A galleon:

another junk:

A square-rigger:

Another square-rigger:

A sloop:

A hermaphrodite brig:
A schooner

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Silhouettes LXVI

More silhouettes for your maps, handouts, and rulebooks.  These are all in the public domain, use them as you wish.  A talisman I whipped together for my friend:
A tooth necklace:
A hide:
A rocket:
A bomb or old time grenado:
And some ships.  A dhow:
A junk:
And a pirate junk:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Player-Valued Treasure

In trying to follow up my last post and give more explicit rules for treasure placement, I ran into something I thought about a while ago: there aren't really a lot of treasure types.  Most treasure, especially with unintelligent monsters, will be incidental, whatever was dropped by their previous victims.  So it will be coins or "dungeon tools" like scrolls, potions, and wands.

But coins are boring to me as DM, I've always wanted something more-- art objects and trade goods like bales of silk and such.  But I was thinking again lately that anything of that type is just something that players need to convert to gold, kind of like annoying treasure, treasure with an extra step.  There's nothing wrong with making some treasure more of a challenge-- something big and difficult to move but really worth it if you get it out.  But I always wanted something more, something that when found, players would be hesitant to give up because they considered it cool and valuable in it's own right, you know, like treasure. What would that be?  Here are some ideas:

Clothing and jewelry they might like and want to adorn their character with.  Sashes, cloaks, belts.  These things will need to be detailed enough so they aren't just abstract treasure, but might be the players favorite color or style.  So specific gemstones and materials, not so we can calculate the value of the ring better if we know it is ruby versus moonstone, but because the player might really dig moonstone.

I like the idea of embroidery or leatherwork that tells stories or has scenes.  Maybe they depict a quality the player might want to convey, Bravery, Determination, Cruelty.

They might be in a particular style, that of their home land, or their home village, a kind of embroidery like their mother used to make, say.

Cloak clasps, hair pins, scarves it all depends on your players I suppose.

As a player, I always liked to personalize my gear, carve my staff for example. Maybe let your players find wood carving knives, leather tooling kits, a roll of leather belt "blanks" or various lengths and widths.  It's not like players can't carve their staves if they asked, or buy supplies to do these things, but they might not think of doing so (especially if they are new players) until the option is presented.  These items turn the abstract idea players hadn't thought of-- hey, I can make my character dress like a crazy pirate!- into the treasure.

Class-Based Gear
Players may be more interested in items they can use: decorative scroll cases or lock pick sets, well-made water proof sacks, light but strong caskets.  Interesting Holy symbols of their own deities.  Belts with pouches, gloves made of interesting materials like basilisk scales.  Armor of normal defense but with geometric patterns or a bright color, or all black.  Scabbards, quivers, tabbards.

Character Image Items
Some players (especially experienced roleplayers) might have a conception of their character they want to portray: the drunk, the fop, the scholar.  If you get the sense that they are going for that you can personalize treasure with stuff they can use fulfill that role, whatever it is.  Tobacco, casks of particular types of drink, musical instruments, books about certain subjects, hobby/craft tools like fishing or hunting gear.  Hats, fancy boots.

I suppose much of this could overlap with adornment, but not consumables that have no in-game effect like tobacco and alcohols.  And not the interest-based items.  Collection display cases, stationary, muzzles and falconry gear.

3 Types of Treasures
So now I'm realizing that what I'm ending up with is that there are probably ~3 types of treasure similar to the way I propose there are three types of monster in my last post:  1) There is raw treasure, coins (a subset would be awkward treasure that needs to be converted to coins and is a bit difficult to do so). 2) there are dungeon tools-- usually consumable magic items (magic items like scrolls or potions, poisons, fire works) that help players survive, and 3) discretionary treasure that you place to try and please your players based on what you know about them.

So, what next?  Raw treasure is easy, I just plop down coins equivalent to three times the experience point value of all the monsters in the dungeon.  Dungeon tools I feel like I have been working on for years, you can see some of these tables on my DM aids page.

For discretionary treasure, though, we won't always know what characters want until they grab it.  So, I guess variety is important and making sure some of each type above is available.  The good thing is that most of the clothes and tools won't be worth too much in monetary value, so it won't hurt to make a little available in each hoard or dungeon.  Maybe I can make a treasure table for each category above: Adornment, Class Gear, and Image Items.  Then I could roll once on each, or roll once on one of the three each time I determine a treasure.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dungeon Master - Basic Tools

One of my long time players had recently gotten super excited about DMing a D&Desque pirate campaign.  He has ideas for his own character classes and everything.  It reminds me of the young pre-teen me :)  And I suppose I have done a good job of conveying my DIY vision of this gaming thing we do, because he didn't ask "What system would be good to play out this idea I have," but just started coming up with his own rules and subsystems.

It has been really interesting for me to try and help him because there are a lot of things I didn't know how to do when I started DMing so I had to craft my own methods and tools.  Now I can share those with him and hopefully he can hit the ground running and adapt them however he wants.  I have so many tables and charts. 

It's also interesting, since I suffered a few hard drive failures over the years, trying to find these tables in editable forms.  Some of my tables apparently only exist as a hard copy in my personal DM folder or in posts on this blog.  Anyway, it has been fun and useful to try and revisit some of these old tools and revise them and pull together some of the things I've learned into one place.

First I showed him two easy ways to make maps, a Toss & Trace way to make natural caverns (which came from this post) and a Tetromino Template Dungeon for purposefully built dungeons that can still be arranged for variety (originally from this post).  For the latter we didn't do the whole stencil thing, just cut and pasted the individual rooms.  Here is a revised sheet to make that easier:

Then I gave him the run down on how I put monsters in my dungeons.  Now, this is for basic lower level dungeons and just focuses on unintelligent creatures at first.  But I think it's a handy baseline to have that you can add intelligent faction on top of.

Here is the Wandering Monster table I mention in that document (a revision of this):
There is a lot packed on there.  The idea is, if you are in a rush or learning this craft, that you can just reskin the four creature behavior types and use the default stats given.  But they are printed in light grey so you can revise them by writing over them if you want.  If your pirate cave's vermin are little albino crabs you can make their AC higher and write 14 over the default 12.

The little pips are how much that monster has to outnumber the party by before they become out-right hostile (they may stalk and do other aggressive things at lower ratios).  So, vermin would have to out number the party 4-to-1 before you roll initiative and they straight up start trying to attack.

The graph paper is so you can pre-roll creature hitpoints circle the appropriate squares and scratch them off in the heat of combat.

I told my player my dirty little secret that I will often use the rolled hitpoints for double duty, as a set encounter on the map and also as a wandering encounter if it comes up.  I figure losing a little randomness by not rerolling 18 crab hitpoints is worth the convenience I get as a DM.

The other table mentioned, What are the Monsters Doing? was from a post here, but I realized I didn't have an editable version anywhere so here it is.

I haven't quite put together the handout on treasure yet.  I'm heading back up to the mountains, maybe I can add it here when I get back.  I need to explain how much monetary treasure I place.  How many potions, rings, wands, or other magical items and share the tables I have for all those.  And I should probably try to scour my blog for spells.  I probably have at least 30 interesting spell ideas.  I'm really bad at knowing how to assign levels though.  There was a Dragon magazine article I remember about designing spells that gave some guidelines for assigning levels.  I think I'll find that, print it out and take it to the mountains with me to study.

Anyway, I've linked all but the two inmages as doc files so you can mess with them if you want.  I consider them drafts I will need to revise and maybe put together as a little booklet.  I usually annotate my map with traps and treasures so during play I only have two letter-size sheets of paper to keep track of.  It is pretty easy and streamlined, no numbered room lists or anything.  I hope this is useful for some of you.  If nothing else, I've got the files up here for me to access later :)  Stay cool, folks.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Mountain Ideas 2

I had great plans to post every other day while in the mountains.  Unfortunately, Google decided it didn't like that I was posting from a new location ( though I've posted many times from there before) and would not allow me to log-in without phone confirmation of my account.  Traditional security check via email confirmation would have worked, but Google insisted on calling or texting my phone and there is no cell coverage where I was at, so posting to my blog from the mountians is no longer possible unless Google changes its policy.  Sucks, but I wrote down all my ideas I had while hiking around and I'll just give them to you all in one dump:

Wound Map
Cast this spell on a bare back and fresh wounds will raise up (1d6 hp) rendering a map of the surrounding paths or passages.

Failed Spells

Trying to think up new spells, I kept coming up with crappy ones.  Then I thought, what if a spell scroll might be some wizard's attempt at a spell they wanted, but they never quite worked it out.  So, a scroll found in a dungeon might have a sort of abstract with a title and what the spell does, but when the player casts it, it does something less.  Not horrible, more annoying and useless.  For example, a scroll lists itself as "Astral Arm: a third, ghostly arm appears that can reach through walls. Lasts a day"  But on casting it, it is more like "Arm Growth: A lumpy, flesh protuberance begins growing out of the casters back.  It takes until that caster reaches the next level for it to fully grow into a crude arm with a thumb and 1d4 fingers.  Not useful for much-- add 1/3 to encumbrance and an extra save when falling as it scrabbles to catch hold."

Chaos Blade

This one is pretty obvious, so you might have seen it before.  This weapon is +2, but shifts form each time you go into battle

1. 1d6 darts
2. Bow and 1d6 arrows
3. 2-handed sword
4. club
5. glaive
6. dancing long sword

The bonus and the possibility of it dancing are good, but the fact you might end up with darts when you are fighting skeletons hopefully makes it less powerful as well as unpredictable.

Telecanter's Cold Camp
This blue fire casts barely any light and no heat at all unless the caster says "heat this"-- all other objects are unaffected.  Allows for preparing food, lighting torches, or keeping warm even in a field of dry kindling.

Rune of Recognition I
Cast the spell, tell anyone you wish to know the shape of your secret rune, and then later, you can make the shape of the rune from stone or sticks, draw it in the sand etc., and anyone told of the shape before hand will see it but it will be completely invisible to others.

Fugitive Blood Ritual
This necromantic ritual of last resort allows the caster to cut their own throat and let their blood pour from their body and escape.  The blood flows across the ground, through cracks, and hides until a later time to come back and re-invest the apparently dead body.  If the casters body is destroyed in the mean time the blood can persist for years looking for a blood-drained body to inhabit.

Corpus Fungus Ritual
This necromantic ritual of last resort causes the caster to swell with fungal growths and explode into  a shower of spores.  Anyone breathing the spores (fail saves) will, over the next few weeks, slowly turn into the caster.  Multiple versions of the caster can thus result (treat as clones).

Keepsafe Lizard
A wizard casts this spell and whispers something to any normal lizard.  The wizard then completely forgets that information, it is excised from their mind and exists only in the lizard.  The lizard can be told to return in days, weeks, or years.  It will then disappear into the wild and find the caster again, wherever they are, at a random time within the time frame given.  Allows wizards to hide information that may be coerced or ensorcelled out of them.  They can't even tell an enemy when the lizard will return because they aren't sure themselves.

Bloodgift Swarm
A swarm of insects is summoned to draw blood from the caster.  The caster can decide how much or little (up to their HD -1 hp).  The resulting engorged swarm must be kept somewhere dark and protected, under a hat or in an empty scroll tube are common places.  A swarm can be kept thus indefinitely, but the donated life is slow to replenish (half hp regen).  Then, when needed, the caster can command the swarm to give their blood to any target-- restoring that same amount of life to them. 

Spell-Type Category Research
A wizard that knows 7 spells of a "type" can do research that, if successful, will improve all spells of that type.  Types could be spells involving a particular substance, like fire, be a particular effect, like a bolt, or affect certain creatures like, insects.  This is why the original wizards had so many spells in the same category-- Bigby's hand spells, for instance, because they specialized in them and became experts in that type of spell.
Rune of Recognition II
The caster draws this rune anywhere they wish, but usually in their spell book or in a forbidden area of their lair.  And any person that looks upon the rune will be recognized as such later by the caster.  Just by looking at their eyes, the caster will know they have looked upon the forbidden rune and been where they shouldn't have.

That's it for now.  Hope you are staying cool and having fun gaming with friends.