Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Traps

In order to avoid missing the deadline this time, I got my entries done a bit early... only to find out the deadline had been pushed back. Better early than late, right? I am starting to get the hang of using different layers to backup my work from dumb mistakes, using selection tools, and some of the editing tools in GIMP. Going forward, I think I'll try to find a new technique to try for next week to keep pushing my boundaries.

Go check out the other entries here!
"Give It a Whirl"
This is part one of a two-part geomorph that rotates and changes walls. The trap in it is when a character attempts to get themselves inside the treasure room. They may then find they have no way out, pounding on the walls and shouting to be let out. It looks like an unfortunate adventurer found this one out the hard way.

The bottom left bears a statue of a man whose head bears four faces orthogonal to each other. The head rotates along with the room: smiling, sneering, crying, and surprised.
"Twist and Shout"
"Jump Around"
Wall sconces light up a few areas of these rooms, with one remaining unlit as a red herring. The portals here teleport whatever is on top of them every minute, swapping what sits on the paired portals. The only exception to this is the green portal which is unidirectional, leaving the creature stuck. An arcana check could temporarily reverse the teleporting circle, or at least some mining equipment could break a creature free. The stone tablet in front of the green and orange portals reads "Those who pursue life will only find death. It is those who stoop to enjoy the small things will find life.". Below, a connecting corridor is made dangerous by a trio of three angel statues that shoot forth continuous blasts of elemental energies. These can be disabled with using the hidden switch inside the secret room off of the orange teleportation circle. The desk and bookcases contain various arcane texts and a few scrolls of appropriate level. A thorough search will reveal a book on teleportation circles that will give the players advantage on arcana rolls relating to knowledge about where the teleportation circles lead, how to modify them, and identifying them.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Review from the Grave: Book of Challenges

With the store credit I earned from an astonishing third place win in the one page dungeon contest this year, I purchased the Book of Challenges. The store credit was to Wayne's Books, and Wayne has a pretty astonishing collection of tabletop books for sale.

My initial impression of the book was fairly good. I flipped through some interesting traps that each have interesting twists on the usual trap formula. Each trap comes with a small, black and white map to help flesh it out further. The first few maps I flipped to had a fun premise and would be fun to run.

Flipping more in depth through the book now to write this post and my impression of the book has dropped significantly. While the initial charm of new traps and puzzles got me at first, it really starts to wear thin. They never run out of original ideas. If anything they are too original.

Many of these look like a major headache to run and would definitely break my immersion in the game if I encountered them from the players' side. The convoluted setups, architectures, or shear wastefulness of the traps and puzzles means that most of these are entirely out of place in anything but a crazy wizard's tower.

Take, for example, a convoluted spiral filled with untriggered traps that all reset once the party reaches the middle. Who would ever build this? Even if your death room kills the thief after the first trap, eventually, enough minions could ostensibly retrieve whatever treasure you spent absurd amounts of money to protect. If the goal is to have it retrievable only by the right person, guards and locks do a much better job than expensive, repeatable magic traps. If the goal is to lock it away forever, encase it in stone in the middle of nowhere.

Even a dozen pictures like this would have made the book so much better.
A second effect of having elaborate, tricky traps and puzzles is that even after reading some of them over a half-dozen times, I still couldn't understand what was going on. Maybe I'm an obtuse idiot, but if I can't understand them, I would never try to put it in front of players who will nit-pick and tear apart any cobbled together understanding I might make. Questions like, "How does this mechanism function" or "What happens if I do this random action?", will leave me turning pages while my players die of boredom. Maybe if the traps, puzzles, and encounters included more specific art instead of vague and generic room layouts. A book with half as many encounters but with meticulous trap mechanisms drawn out in black and white sketches would be amazing even if all its traps sucked. It would still be a cool coffee-table book. I suppose there's a different sort of book for that. Alas, the only art that isn't a basic, grey room is art borrowed from other wizards of the coast books.

The book isn't all bad, it does have some neat ideas like a trio of giants so heavily diseased and cursed that characters can handle them much before they are able. The idea of scaling down monsters in this way is neat. Likewise, there are some novel aspects of traps included here like animated walls in a maze or a honeycomb of rooms to fight teleporting enemies. An interesting purchase, but I am glad I did not spend any of my own money.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anarchist Towns: Anarcho-Capitalist

You often see lists of random towns with everything from hamlets to cities run in all ways: monster theocracies to run of the mill monarchs, and everything in between, except for anything without a government. Well, I suppose they are included, unless you mean the crazy, violence filled 'anarchy' a la Mad Max. As an anarchist myself, I do have to say that this is more than a little inaccurate. Let me blur the line between anarchy and gaming a little bit.

2. Anarcho-Capitalist
This is a form of anarchy I should know the best and understand the most. I will be trying to present this from a fresh angle so I do not give too biased or rosey a picture. Let me attempt to cover this type of anarchic town from the same perspective as all the others.
The people that live here long ago realized that beaurocrats and nobles were the least responsive and most abusive. It was the local shopkeepers, hard working merchants, and regular folk that had the most to gain from helping and being kind. Whether it was a violent revolt or a peaceful disbanding, the government disappeared and has since been replaced by completely private and voluntary interactions.
The town's 'laws' are based on private arbitration between dispute resolution companies. These companies are set up to voluntarily bind people to the generally accepted rules of conduct like not murdering or stealing. Those that violate have their punishments, as well as the systems of judging, enshrined in a contract they agreed to. Breaking a contract is a dangerous thing to do here, as it makes it hugely unlikely that one can get any other party to offer a new one, except at a steep premium. Starving criminals and scoff-laws of house, food, and even water. Most citizens are not afraid to defend themselves. Citizens are wary of anyone without any sort of contract stating agreement to common law.
The economy will be a varied mix of small and large businesses. Companies here will often re-invent themselves and the whole town is innovating towards best serving their customers. This has resulted in a lot of diversification of every manner of service, however the vast majority of this is directed at those just poor enough to have money to spend but not much in the way of taste.
Organization on a larger scale takes place between neighborhood, block, and land owners coordinating through magical contracts to fund mutually beneficial projects. Some of these even offer to pay for crime protection services for those too poor to afford them in order to keep crime low in their property. The wealthy often seek to absolve their guilty consciences before death, granting portions of their estates to fund orphanages and homeless shelters in town.
While the word capitalist would lend the idea that the architecture and stylings would be gaudy and expensive, the town is usually quite the opposite. Without tax subsidies and free land usually granted to the wealthy in other societies, grand buildings are too expensive to be commonplace. Buildings will be well designed and easy on the eyes, due to the need to please the desires of tenants, but only gaudy or opulent for the most successful innovators with high profits and little fear of competition in the short term while their competitors catch up. Most places are trying to find a balance between the appearance of good design and expense and the actual cost of the building.
Everyone here is looking to get a quick buck, but most of them realize that the only way to do that is by providing value to someone. This leads to people falling over themselves to help others. Usually this means offering a free service that is then offered to be continued for a fee.
Anarcho-capitalist towns make no alliances, as they have no one who could claim the power to speak for everyone in town. While this could seem to make them easy targets, the lack of authority also means an expensive occupation for any conqueror. Any would be ruler must thereby setup their own tax collection, resource extraction, and policing over a very hostile and armed population. Trade and social events are the main relationships that an anarcho-capitalist town will maintain with its neighbors. Often, these towns and cities will be left alone both for the cost of invasion and the benefit their trade will bring. Anarcho-capitalists hope to use this trade leverage to slowly work their fellow common-folk away from their oppressive governance.
If you are looking for innovative, interesting, or cheap goods, look no further. These towns will have the most impressive marketplaces, the most niche shops, and very grand festivals. People here are free and take full advantage of their liberty.
There are good jobs to be had here. Lots of valuable goods come in and out, looking for protection, sellers, buyers, and raw materials hunters. Magistrates here will often contract out evidence discovery and for help in retrieving scoff-laws. Take care not to get involved in disputes, as it may make the party liable to the litigant.

d6 Encounters in an anarcho-capitalist town
1. Insurance Salesman! A press-gang of insurance salesmen wait near the gate, and seeing the new faces of the party peddle their wares. The players are offered over a dozen different policies at varying prices and durations, but the salesmen are all talking over each other. Soon they start to get rough and a fist fight breaks out. A peace officer eyes them while chuckling to himself.
2. An unscrupulous litigant runs into the party and fabricates a claim of offense on the party. He is willing to settle out of court for a small fee. If the players complain or begin to investigate, enough people will come forward to finally convince a magistrate to get rid of the jerk. The players can get charged a small fee or make a moderate fee in reparations from the magistrate.
3. An orphan who takes advantage of outsiders' opinions of capitalism crawls to the party in dirty rags. Begging for food, water, and coin, the attractive young woman is pulling one over on the party. If they come to the town often, they may see her in fancy clothes and drinking expensive wines at the taverns in town at night. She may attempt to bolster her story of the town's uncharitable nature by showing how little regard the townsfolk give for her, saying they claim she isn't really poor and just doesn't want to work.
4. A well heeled young man sees the wealth the players are carrying and demands proof of ownership. If they hesitate or blow him off, he will fetch a peace officer claiming they stole from him. He assumes out-of-towner’s will be unfamiliar with the system and will settle for reparations when brought in front of a magistrate. Contested with actual proof, he will break down. He is actually just a desperate business owner looking to stay afloat after his cobbling business started getting out-competed by another cobbler across the street that grows shoes on trees.
5. Peddling from a garishly purple cart, a snake oil salesman is offering a miracle tonic that will heal wounds, improve beauty, lengthen your life, or sharpen your wits. His claims are actually true and if the players do not act quickly he will be sold out soon. His prices are high, but reasonable for what is offered. The tonic can do any of those things but each use can only do one at a time; whichever the imbiber wants most when drank. If the players come around often, he will offer to hire adventurers to gather more raw materials for the next batch in return for some tonics.
6. Players come up on a going out of business sale, where a frumpy old woman sells the last of her goods out of her old adventuring goods store while a gleaming young woman inspects the store with new signage under one arm. The old woman rests comfortably behind the counter, counting up her retirement savings. The players found it right as the sale started, so the prices are good and most things are still in stock.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Single-Use Substances and Spelljunk (Part III)

I just got a Firefly expansion for my fiance for her birthday, and I'm rather excited about it. If all goes well, I may do a quick review of it as a supplement to my current Tuesday-Thursday posting pattern. 
If you play board games, what sort of games do you like? Which ones would you suggest I try?

Part II.

Black Powder Vial, Crude 400

A poorly refined powder of saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, Black Powder is highly flammable. Thanks to either cheap ingredients, an incorrect recipe, or improper storage, this powder is fairly weak although still explosive. This vial can be used to instantly start fires in windy conditions using negligibly tiny pinches of the powder. Compressed and ignited, it will explode for 2d6 damage in 10 feet and 1d6 in 20 feet. A Dexterity save (DC 13) halves this damage. With an engineering check, the explosion ignores the hardness of a structure and deals maximum damage.

Black Powder Vial 750

The strong rotten egg odor of this pitch black powder belies the dangerous nature of the rocky mixture. The powder can be used to start fires or when lit in a closed container, explode. The explosion deals 4d6 damage in 15 feet and 2d6 in 30 feet. A Dexterity save (DC 15) halves this damage. If the user places the explosive with an engineering check, the explosion will ignore the hardness of a structure or object and deal maximum damage.

Refined Black Powder Vial 2000

The fine black grains of the Refined Powder are the result of carefully guarded, secret recipes of mad or genius alchemists. The grains of this powder are so fine that they repel water, and can be lit in any place with enough air, regardless of the conditions. In a compressed container, the powder will explode violently after ignition. The explosion will cause 8d6 damage within 20 feet and 4d6 damage in 40 feet. A Dexterity save (DC 17) halves this damage. A saboteur-minded individual can set the explosive in such a manner, with an engineering check, to ignore the hardness of all objects and structures in the blast radius and deal them maximum damage. This check is harder the more objects the saboteur targets.

Bottled Mine 3000

Like its cousin, the Bottle Bar, this large jar contains a doll-sized version of its namesake. Inside is a tiny mine, complete with uniformed foreman, shadowy miners, and enough heavy equipment to keep them working. Uncorking it creates a mass of equipment needed to run a fully functional mine: tools, carts, foreman’s shack, a storage shed, a crane, track, and a dozen shadowy figures lead by a uniformed shadow-foreman. The foreman will obey the commands given by the last holder of the bottle. The foreman’s desk has a large drawer that will fit the jar perfectly in its velvet lining. The shadows act as ‘unseen servants’ and can mine as much, total, as a single professional miner could.

Camp in a Bottle 500

Opening this glass flask’s waxed cloth stopper and dumping its tiny contents on the ground creates a fully stocked camp with a dozen tents and bedrolls in available space in the thirty feet surrounding the opener. A small, waterproof chest with two dozen dried rations and waterskins grows to full size at the user’s feet. Two oil soaked logs drop from the flask next to the chest. These can be burned as a normal campfire, worth a day of fire each. Once it is emptied of its miniaturized campsite, the flask loses all magical properties.

Like a pike square in your pocket

Cavalry Spikes 250

Unlike normal caltrops, these four inch balls of iron have six evenly spaced depressions along its surface. If these are given the command, “Pike Formation!”, the six depressions rapidly extend forth four foot pikes. The tetrahedral points of the Cavalry Spikes ensure that three pikes always point out and up while the other three form a secured base. Any creature that makes a charge, second move, or similar hasty movement will be struck by the pikes. Such a creature takes 3d6 damage and must make a Dexterity save or have their movement stopped (DC 15). Mounts that are stopped suddenly may throw their riders. Cavalry spikes can be thrown quickly, even as a reaction. Cavalry Spikes can only be used once and remain extended, having expended their sizing magic.

Choking Powder 40

While Choking Powder can come in many containers: purple cloth bags, rolled in wide blue leaves, or thin white ceramic jars. A tossed container of Choking Powder creates a thick cloud of purple-black smoke. The cloud has a ten foot radius and moves freely with any air currents. Any breathing creature starting their turn in the cloud must make a Constitution save (DC 13) or lose their action coughing and sneezing. The cloud lasts for three rounds or until dissipated. Used underwater, the cloud of choking powder only lasts for one round before becoming inert.
Refined Choking Powder 100
Fine, iridescent purple powder is irritating enough to make one’s eyes water and respiratory organs become agitated just by holding an open container of Refined Choking Powder. When smashed open or tossed, the fine powder becomes a 20 foot cloud of nearly invisible powder. Any creature that starts its turn in the cloud must make a Constitution save (DC 15) or that creature may only take a single move action to move at half speed. This affects any living creature that breathes or has exposed, sensitive mucous membranes such as eyes, mouths, or other similar biology. The creature spends that turn writhing in severe irritation. The cloud lasts for five rounds or until dissipated. Warnings are often listed on the container, as many a user has found themselves inside the nigh-invisible, noxious cloud when the wind changed. Used underwater, the powder will dissolve into a similar cloud 30 feet in radius that only lasts two rounds before becoming inert. Pouring milk on the affected areas of a creature cures them of its effects and grants advantage on saves against the choking powder for one minute.
It will find a container to return to.

Cloud in a Bottle 1000

Uncorking the swirling, cloudy vortex in this clear wine bottle will expel a blast of strong wind in the direction of the opening that lasts for 1 minute. If outdoors, the weather will become one step cloudier within 12 hours and lasting for the next week. This has a corresponding effect on other types of weather related to the cloud cover. When released indoors or underground in an insufficiently large space for weather to take place, the strong gusts rush back into the bottle or another suitable container and re-cork themselves.
Give no alms to the black eyed children.

Dark Shroom Oil 4500

Harvested from thin stalked mushrooms hidden in the base roots of jungle trees, Dark Shroom Oil is a fermented and torturous poison. As an oil, the poison can be applied in food, on a weapon, rubbed on as a contact poison, or heated into a noxious gas. Whatever the method of the deliver, one trait is shared, the poisoned creature that fails a save against it will be struck permanently blind and even those that successfully save will still have their sight reduced to 1/10th its normal distance for 1 minute as their eyes fill with the dark oil. When ingested, the victim must make a save each day. Each failed save results in a random limb turning black and becoming unresponsive. Three successful saves means the victim has metabolized enough poison to no longer suffer further ill effects. When inflicted with a weapon, the poison causes the wound to fester and rot, requiring a save. Failure results in an ongoing 3d6 poison damage with a new save each round allowing the victim to reduce the damage by 1d6. Success on that save still means that the creature cannot heal the damage the weapon dealt for 1 week. As a contact poison, the victim only has to worry about a one time save against the base blindness effect of the inky oil. When inhaled as a gas, the Dark Shroom Oil grants the victim a euphoric high for 1 hour and requires a save or the victim will fall into a euphoric coma for 1d4 days. Success on this save means the victim merely gains a minor manic compulsion. Any creature that has been blinded by the Dark Shroom Oil, even if they regain sight, never loses the ink-black eyes and is forever immune to its blinding effect. It is rumored that some afflicted by the Dark Shroom Oil cry a liquid that can be fermented into more poison, leading some depraved souls to purposefully inflict children and keep them captive.

Part IV.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Water

Well, I was a big dumb and cannot perform basic calendar math so I did not get my three entries in on time. Even though I am ineligible this week, I still accomplished my goal of practicing my mapping skills, trying new techniques, and messing around with GIMP. Check out my three entries and tell me what you think.

I'm looking to get more involved in the OSR and RPG blogging world. Comment below or message me with any good forums, blogs, or other spaces you would suggest.

"Contents Under Pressure"
Sandbags emplacements climb halfway up the eight foot ceilings of these rooms, while water leaks through crumbling wax stuffed between the wooden beams of the center room. A deadbolt at the top and bottom of each of the doors or bent and curved while the mounting strains under the pressure. A secret room, accessible from above, controls the drain in the center of the room and shut off the magical pumps filling the room. The watertight chests hide a secret treasure in the pressurized, watery room.

 Now I'm not saying there is or isn't a vicious mutant in that pool, but I do see that golden chest across the way. Let's draw straws to see who goes in first.

"Storied Crossing"
The room is cool and moisture hangs in the air while swift waters crash below. A faint whiff of sulfur can be picked up by sensitive noses.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Art of Being a Monster: Giant

Your greatest advantages are the integral nature of your size and strength, which will grant a stiff combat advantage against all but the largest foes. A less obvious gift to your prowess in battle is your long lives that will grant you wisdom that more temporally disadvantaged creatures could only wish for. Use that time wisely to keep appraised of tactics, technology, and conventions of modern combat and other creatures. Maintaining this tactical edge makes your brute strength into much more than a simple club to bludgeon your foes with.
F: The fighter’s combat abilities to dodge, block, parry, or absorb your attacks will be the most dangerous for a typical, physically focused giant. Fighters will have access to disarming, disabling, or just plain powerful attacks that can break through your toughness. Use your long reach and let them come fight you in the open. Keep feigning a re-positioning retreat to both instill false confidence and force the smaller fighter to come through your long reach many more times. Doing this will give you a defensively powerful position and many free opportunities to strike at the fighter before they can strike you. This tactic is only made more effective if their team mates attempt to flank and lend credence to this false tactic of feigning retreats. If their allies do not attempt to flank, keep re-positioning towards their allies to keep them threatened and unable to act freely while holding off the fighter.
T: With the thief’s poor reach and the difficulty they will have effectively flanking you, thanks to your reach, they are the lowest level of threat. They can quickly become a threat if they start climbing on you or get into a position you cannot easily attack. If they climb on you, drop to the ground and roll, jump in water, or perform any other actions you would normally perform to extinguish a fire or kill swarm of bugs. Do not try to waste time or risk accidental damage by attacking them or grappling them. Use their flanking maneuvers to feint defensiveness and move into position to threaten their more dangerous allies. For ranged thieves, toss a few ranged attacks their way as they have low health and will not survive trading blows with you.
R: A ranged foes tiny attacks are nearly harmless. Only the most dangerous of archer would start to become a threat by targeting your most vulnerable points like your eyes, joints, or vitals. Your large size usually means that your chosen battlefields offer many open terrain and places to snipe from. If possible, utilize cover, but it is not a priority. For those rangers that become a  problem, it is easy enough to shut them down by getting within reach and threatening them with melee strikes or to trap them in their hiding spaces with large objects.
W: With you being a lone target with a strong fortitude against magic, the wizard will be hard pressed to become a dangerous opponent. Their spells are most effective against many clustered enemies or those with poor defenses against magic. Your long reach means that you can easily maneuver around their defenders to keep them threatened and unable to easily cast spells. Although your typical terrain offers them good lines of sight for their magic, it also means you can easily end a troublesome mage with a few ranged attacks or thrown boulders. Keep them from position well by continually feinting around their allies to keep them within reach. They cannot survive a direct assault so they will likely retreat every time.
A Giant’s Constant Vigil
The life of a giant requires constant watch against the quickly changing world. Just a few centuries ago, the rivers were shallower and the mountains were taller. While the world changes quickly, the regiment below will never become obsolete and is powerful wisdom that any venerable giant should take heed of.
-I will not underestimate opponents by size. No matter how many smaller foes have been utterly squashed, there are enough tales of the underestimated and smaller opponent winning that they will keep trying. If they are willing to fight, they have a reason, whether it is desperation or they actually believe they can win. Always assume that they have a reason to think they could win and treat them as such.
-Keep regular contact with your surrounding realm and avoid becoming a recluse. I will do this to make sure I have allies, stay appraised of any changes occurring, and I will have someone that will notice if I die, making it less likely that I will be targeted and killed. My dangerous opponents will most likely be meticulous planners and will have to accommodate any allies I accumulate, decreasing the risk to reward ratio for attacking me.
-I will not keep treasure and my valuable ancient tools in convenient places for looters. This will attract thieves and reward adventurers that steal from me. I will invest my treasure into non-easily removed architecture, buildings, artwork, etc and I will keep the treasure I do not want taken separated and disguised to look less valuable. My tools and conveniences that could be seen as valuable will be made to appear less expensive where possible or will be cursed to inconvenience any who take them from me without permission. Even minor curses make most items lose their value. These curses will be obvious and will bear similar markings or magical effects as those items I do not curse or give different strengths of curses.
-When I sleep, I will be sure to set methods that will wake me if interesting events are occurring or anyone enters my protected areas. Too many giants have had their long slumber under hills or in the mountains disturbed by glory seekers ready to take advantage of them. This will have fail-safes that make sure I am not disturbed unnecessarily by things like wildlife. I will safely investigate any repeated intrusions that attempt to repeatedly disturb my sleep to weaken me.
-Despite the speed and inanity of the cultural changes of smaller species, I will keep up to date with the basics of what the current standards of warfare, technology, commerce, and general political or cultural trends so that I can understand my enemies, allies, and neighbors. I will not allow myself to ignorantly cling to an incorrect assumption of how others will act.

-I will cross cultural lines and befriend other giant-kind. This will improve my diplomatic standing, earn me new allies, and most importantly open access to abilities that I would not otherwise have. Even giants who are inferior in every way can still offer me benefits in that they can spend their time working where the have the smallest comparative disadvantage, and we will both end up better off than not working together. This might mean offering protection to weaker giants in return for food harvests or even just mutual calls to aid. With stronger giants the reverse applies, meaning I have something to offer even the greatest giant.
-Dwarves and other smaller races are well trained at fighting my kind, having many generations of instilled fear and practice. I will not engage them in a manner that fits their training. I will learn the tricks and ways tactics they use to fight my kind so that I can subvert their training when it is advantageous for me.
-My lair will not have access points or servant tunnels that I cannot access or utilize. If I must have these, I will ensure that such positions are an impediment rather than a refuge to any who would use them to attack me. This can include the architecture of the space, the design of its entrances, the presence of traps, or being an inconvenient shape to fight from.
-In the area surrounding my lair, I will leave misleading clues as to my size and strength. These will include things like footprints, hand prints, or tool marks that would leave my opponents guessing as to my size. Having many sizes can also fool the unwary into thinking there are more giants with me than are truly there. They may even be convinced to spare me, should I lose against all odds, by tricking them into thinking that I am the enslaved underling of a larger, crueler giant. I will never willingly give up information related to what type and size of giant I am to any person unless I want my foes to find out that information.
-I will not follow my opponents into a small space or enclosed area that I have not investigated. Too many of my kind have fallen prey to traps and such in small enclosed spaces. Low ceilings, closely grown trees, hidden pits, and other such traps can remove my ability to maneuver or use my long reach in combat. If I must go into such a situation, I will enter with a backup plan for when I lose the fight.
-I will keep on hand size changing magic to surprise foes and attack from angles and places that are unexpected. Opponents who think they are safe in small areas and opponents expecting a normal sized giant will be hard pressed to deal with further size changes, either from a smaller giant attacking from unexpected places or from a larger giant with more strength than prepared for. The size changing magic also works well to conceal my true size and avoid traps set to deal with a giant in mind.
-I will not employ slaves of any smaller creature or humanoid. They will be too knowledgeable about my lair and slavery will build a lingering hatred of me that will make them easy to bribe or coerce into working for my enemies, no matter how much fear I think I have instilled. If I must have slaves, I will never trust them to be loyal and always assume that they can and will betray me at the worst possible moments, leaving appropriate contingencies for such a thing. I will not leave any crucially important task in a position they can interrupt.
-If I keep prisoners or smaller humanoids for food or other uses, I will make sure that they see a mixture of actual plans and traps in my lair as well as false traps and plans. This will ensure that they cannot discern which is which if my enemies get access to my prisoners. I will hide both my true and false plans from them, making it less obvious that I am creating false plans.
-I will seed and propagate stories about giants that feature giants as both terrifying, ancient behemoths and as a gentle, kind folk of unusual size. This ensures that adventurers can never typecast me into any role while allowing me the flexibility to adopt either, neither, or both as it suits my purposes. I can take on the intimidation inherent in years of terrible stories or the compassion of a simple, long-lived giant to match my needs. The risk of a dangerous giant keeps away peasants and cowards while the boredom of a simple, gentle giant diverts the foolhardy and greedy to more interesting and rich prey.
-I will not use tests of strength or riddles to confront adventurers. They often display properties outside of their appearances and if I use the same test on many people, they will come prepared to pass my test. Should I want or need to use such a test for a disguise or peaceful diffusing of conflict, I will have a battery of different tests and riddles ready that I can deploy with a high likelihood of winning or losing. It will never be obvious which I intend to do based on the challenge I present.
-I will keep my head protected at all times. Too many giants have taken their size advantage to think that opponents cannot damage their head, when in reality it is one of our most vulnerable points. If an opponent tricks me into smashing my head on something or gets up on my shoulders I would have a long way to fall.
-I will not be goaded to anger. Being enraged means I can and will make stupid mistakes. It does not matter how much my enemies have harmed me, enslaved my family, or done wrong, goading me will not be allowed to be effective. I may sometimes fake breaking this rule if my opponent can be tricked into underestimating a supposedly ‘angered’ giant. This is a benefit of having many allies as they can often keep me in check from rage-fueled actions, encouraging level-headedness. I will do the same for my allies, minions, and supporters as well.

-I will keep and employ allies, minions, and pets of very small sizes. These will compliment my strength and size with precise, tiny, flanking combatants’ attacks. Utilizing a counterbalance of attack types in my plans will keep my foes from being able to plan their tactics to fight me. They will be forced to protect against disparate types of attacks, as most attacks effective against large creatures fail against the very small and vice-a-versa.
-Flight, teleportation, and mobility effects will be very useful to surprise my enemies who will be expecting a slow, landlocked, and inflexible giant. I will keep magic and minions with access to such abilities as I would do well to cover a weakness that most opponents don’t even recognize giants have, being limited to large, open, ground. This also serves well to counter any ground based tactics, especially those of the fighter or thief types.

-The mysteries and ancient origins of my people are a source of power. I will seed stories that obscure my physical origins in favor of elusive origin stories, ancient tales of giants forming the natural world, and attributing grand phenomena to giants’ interventions. This will keep the small folk guessing as to the true extent of my powers while also making me seem peaceful and related to the natural world. There is little glory and wealth perceived to be had in fighting against a generally benign force of nature, meaning I will have fewer enemies. Superstitious folk are good allies in this, as they will not want to disturb the natural order and if I establish myself as part of that order, my enemies will find little purchase among superstitious types, and maybe even outright hostility. I will treat such folk with a mixture of kindness and intimidation to apply both the carrot and the stick to this relationship.

Any giant who keeps these thoughts in their mind every day will live to have a long vigil in this world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mythoard: Loot Behind Every Door

This month is a pretty good haul, if I do say so myself (as if I had any say or input in the actual things going inside it, ha). I got a lot of things I will use that I didn't even know I wanted. This is what you sign up for a subscription box to get!

Keeping up with the last few boxes, this one has a 'zine filled with all sorts of tables, adventures, house-rules, etc. I did like the Leprechaun's Rosary magic item, which has a sort of Rod of Wonder table with it. I'm not the biggest fan of the magazines, but there is some good stuff in there *grumble* *grumble*.  

Here's a 1 inch magnetic monster token on top of a printed tavern. I'm thinking of cutting this up and making it 2.5D to drop down as a pre-finished house when I need overland structures. Chop off a few walls, glue the whole thing to some foam core or cardboard, add some trim around the sides, and bam. Maybe I'll make a quick post doing just that...

Here's the white box Omnibus Player and Referee Options for use with the Swords and Wizardry rules download. I have no opinion on this as I have not ever played S&W, but this will give me a free opportunity to read up on it and maybe try it? It has a few modules to run as well as the basic rules, so there's nothing standing in my way to give it a go.

Last but not least, my three favorite items from this month. The red dice are a nice complete set that are visually distinct from my usual dice colors. That makes them easy to lend out or add to my usuals when I need an extra d8 or d4. The little notebook is a perfect pad for jotting down quick notes or, as the skull and crossbones indicates, monster hit points. I have always just used a corner of a page here, a notebook margin there, so having a nicely sized page pad like this is something I didn't even know I wanted. I hate having my DM space be cluttered (hence why I coded up my printed pages of random tables, but don't look at it, my programming is not great). The last of the three musketeers is the random door deck, with types of doors and modifications on each card back. Now, I won't have to fumble and make up a door type when asked, I can draw from this handy card pile! 

All in all, I was quite impressed with the selection of goods this month. Congratulations on your six month, Mythoard! Their website seems to be filling out nicely too, it got a face lift since the last time I looked over there.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Anarchist Towns: Anarcho-Monarchy

You often see lists of random towns with everything from hamlets to cities run in all ways: monster theocracies to run of the mill monarchs, and everything in between, except for anything without a government. Well, I suppose they are included, unless you mean the crazy, violence filled 'anarchy' a la Mad Max. As an anarchist myself, I do have to say that this is more than a little inaccurate. I'll be starting a series hoping to impart my impressions of various anarchist flavors into town structures you can use in your games. Let me blur the line between anarchy and gaming a little bit.

1. Anarcho-Monarchist: Let me apologize first, as this is one of the forms of anarchy I understand the least, so I hope I put together a fairly decent representation of it. Here are some sources. I can certainly see the appeal to the basic tribal instinct inherent in having a regency to represent you, your community, and your very way of life.

The people here revolted from their republican or oligarchic past to return to a chosen monarch who will protect their way of life. It is both their tradition and expectation that any monarch who fails to uphold their beliefs will be ousted to maintain their way of life.

Their choice in monarch is voluntary, and every person is given the free choice in supporting any of the noble families on each decennial Regency Festival or leaving the town. Those who leave are free to take one year's earnings plus the value of their land.

The town's laws will be heavily based on their culture, and defending their traditions. Outsiders who approach will be confronted to make sure they understand what sort of city this is and a vague idea of what rules lie within. This action is the way that the townsfolk absolve themselves of harming any outsiders who do not consent to their way of life. This core part of their belief makes them incredibly proud of their heritage and 'better' than the uncultured lands surrounding them.

The town's economy will revolve around the traditional and specialized economies of the people and region. They are not backwards and will readily adopt new techniques and tools, but will run such things through a series of noble families, regents, or the monarch. Prices are set yearly by the monarch and the monarch occasionally sets labor practices in accordance with the good of the realm.

The monarch is expected to and limited by the will of their subjects to uphold the kingdom, rather than any singular monarch's power or wealth. As long as the monarch maintains their side of the bargain, the people follow the edicts, rules, and laws to the letter. Those who break the laws are given one appeal to the monarch before they are expelled. Expelled individuals who return are killed.

The architecture of the town will be very conservative and traditional. Such builders put great emphasis on strong defensive designs, able to outlast and defeat aggressive warlords and countries that surround an anarcho-monarchist society.

Anarcho-monarchists have no problem allying with others if it benefits them, but most kingdoms do not respect the anarcho-monarchists' domain out of principle (believing that the peasants are beneath them, rather than part of a mutual relationship), other anarchist hate them for their ruler, and other forms of governance generally do not trust them. Often, anarcho-monarchist towns will cluster near each other as a result of people leaving one city to form their own monarchy. Most surviving monarchies of this type result from multiple anarcho-monarchist towns allying together against outside forces, with singular towns often getting swallowed up. These towns often see new towns branching off to form new monarchies. The people greatly enjoy the rivalries, betrayals, and diplomacy between anarcho-monarchic societies. Wars between anarcho-monarchic towns only result in diplomatic concessions such as humiliation, extravagant gifts, or nominal land exchanges. These concessions are out of respect to the belief in the people's right to choose their ruler.

If you are looking for good historians, anarcho-monarchies will have the grandest libraries and the most enthusiastic scholars: Maesters, historians, scholars, librarians, history buffs, students, teachers, mentors...

Or is the whole thing REALLY voluntary?


d6 Encounters in an anarcho-monarchy

1. King/Queen Day! Everyone is celebrating with the traditional gold and purple pastry made with oats and honey. If the players join the celebration, they may end up drinking the free ale. Joining the festivities might mean meeting some cute or handsome villagers who will be disappointing that the party won't stay and join their town. The King/Queen would surely find a great place for such powerful adventurers. There would be plenty of quests and treasure too...
2. The players have unknowingly broken an archaic rule! Something having to do with garter belts on Tuesdays or maybe with stepping on chipped cobblestones without visiting a cobbler... The players better read up on the laws of this town because they are about to have an audience with the monarch. Better hope they can talk their way out of this, or maybe they wanted to meet the monarch already.
3. Small children run up and ask the players about their own rulers back home. They ask who they voted for last, and are confused if the players don't understand voting. If the players try to explain their governing body, the children chide in worried tone "why can't the people choose for themselves?" or another similar line.
4. A kindly old couple stop the adventurer(s) in the street and ask how them how they are doing. They are honestly curious about the adventurers, the outside world, and try to tie the topic back to their hometown (which is nearby one of the players' villages). If asked, they moved to this kingdom, found happiness, and were unsuccessful at bringing their relatives along. They suggest the players retire here when they are done.

5. A man in patchwork robes drunkenly stops the party to argue the finer points of anarcho-monarchy. If the players agree with him, he thinks they are mocking. If they disagree, he thinks they are stumbling buffoons. Either way, any response will send him into a drunken rage where he will attack the party with song and sword, revealing he is a moderately powerful bard whose drunkenness imposes a 50% failure on all of his abilities.
6. A young adult runs past the party holding a bag, dropping jewelry all over the road, as armored guards slowly walk towards him. He has rejected the current monarch but refuses to leave, and the guards unhappily must remove him from the town. Does the party step in to let him keep his home and jewelry business or will they side with the rules of the town that he agreed to for most of his life?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Single-Use Substances and Spelljunk (Part II)

This week has been a rather good week for me. I just started a cool new job with a great company (I've never gotten along so well with people at an interview, and this is coming from someone who usually aces interviews). I somehow managed to get a third place finish in the one page dungeon contest with this entry winning me a $25 gift coupon to Wayne's Books, which I used to buy the Book of Challenges as it caught my eye and is something I could easily port over to 5e (expect a review when it comes in). Holy crap I've never won anything like this before so it is amazing to see my skill has improved so much since my embarrassing first entry. Maybe I can pull a hat trick and win this weeks geomorph contest?
Enough bragging, I sincerely appreciate your page views and hope you find what I do here valuable. If you do, please consider +1's, shares, and following me on your chosen RSS feed.

Part I.

Beast Bomb, Lesser 500

When this cluster of beige fuzz balls are tossed to the ground, they transform into a swarm of tiny animals. A beast bomb can be tossed up to 10 feet and turn into a 5 foot swarm of diminutive fuzzy creatures appropriate to the terrain that cause all creatures that begin their turn in the swarm to take a -1 penalty to all rolls. The swarm obeys the simple verbal commands of the thrower, can move up to 10 feet each round, can climb, and will last until the swarm takes 10 damage. After five minutes, the swarm will disperse.

Beast Bomb 1000

The beast bomb is a bundle of a half dozen balls of brown hair. Tossed up to 20 feet away, the beast bomb transforms into a swarm of tiny animals fitting the current environment. These animals take up ten square feet and deal 1d6 damage each round to any creature that begins their turn in its space. Those creatures also take a -2 penalty to all rolls. The swarm obeys the simple verbal commands of the thrower, can move up to 20 feet each round, can climb, and will last until the swarm takes 20 damage. After five minutes, the swarm will disperse.

Beast Bomb, Greater 2000

A Greater Beast Bomb is made up of over a dozen wiggling ovals of coarse black hair, and is typically held in a net. This beast bomb creates a swarm of small animals fitting the local environment when it is thrown up to thirty feet. The swarm occupies twenty square feet and deal 3d6 damage each round to any creature that begins their turn in the space it occupies. Those creatures also make their rolls with disadvantage. The swarm  Larger beast bomb with large and more dangerous animals. The swarm obeys the simple verbal commands of the thrower, can move up to 30 feet each round, can climb, and will last until the swarm takes 50 damage. After one hour, the swarm will disperse.

Beauty Balm 100

Opening this small ceramic jar greets the opener with the light scent of lemon and sea salt. The face cream inside temporarily makes the wearer more beautiful  and confident according to their own beliefs about beauty: Orcs might get cool scars, Dwarves might get a thicker beard, etc. This grants a +2 bonus on all social interaction checks for 1 hour or until the user’s face gets wet. If the user wears it for the entire hour, it begins to run and stain, imposing a -2 penalty to social interactions checks for the rest of the day.

Bird Bomb 300

Thin jewelry wire formed into this bronze cage is filled to its brim with grey and white feathers. Smashed open or tossed up to 30 feet away, the Bird Bomb explodes into a flock of tiny birds fitting to the local environment. Hundreds of nervous birds scatter in every direction in a cacophony of bird calls. This grants total concealment to everything within 20 feet of the explosion for one round and concealment for 1d4 rounds following. The birds quickly scatter but not before knocking down any unattended objects and any creature within 60 feet that fail an easy strength save (DC 10).

Bird Feather Token 300

Made of finely carved pine, this huge wooden feather transforms into a five foot bird when broken. The bird will take on the coloration the user has in mind when it is summoned. It can carry up to 100 pounds and obey simple verbal commands. The bird will become aloof and fly away after one hour.

Blood Mites 200

The inside of this glass jar is smeared with small lines of red as a thick layer of dark brown writhes at the bottom. The Blood Mites inside the jar will attack the first creature they touch when released, poured out, or spread on a weapon. Each jar has enough mites for three uses. A living, material plane creature inflicted with blood mites will take 1 damage each round to a maximum of 1 damage per hit die they have. Once the ticks deal their full damage, they become engorged and fall off to hide and lay eggs. The Blood Mites can be stuck to a weapon using the thick animal blood in the jar, but if the attack misses the mites will attack the first creature to tough the weapon they were put on. If thrown, the mites will attack up to three creatures in a five foot burst. A creature may spend their action to kill one group of mites attacking them.

Bone of a Heretic 8000

As an attack, touching a divine spellcaster with this blackened thigh bone will force them to make a save using their spellcasting stat (DC 12) or lose a random spell. Each use of the bone in this manner weakens the bone, and its durability die must be rolled each time. The bone starts with a d20 die and decreases in die size each time it is rolled. On a result of a ‘1’, the bone’s fractures become too much and the bone splinters. If the bone is broken, on purpose or accidentally, it negates all divine spells of 4th level or lower in a 100 foot radius and all divine casters must save (DC 18) or lose their 2 highest level spells.

Bone of a Saint 8000

Using this pearlescent femur as a focus when casting a non-hostile divine spell on another creature has a 1 in 10 chance of keeping that spell in memory even after it is cast. Each use of the bone in this manner weakens the bone, and its durability die must be rolled each time. The bone starts with a d20 die and decreases in die size each time it is rolled. On a result of a ‘1’, the bone’s fractures become too much and the bone splinters. Breaking a Saint’s Bone will cancel all curses and hostile spells within 100 feet that are level 4 or below. Each creature freed from such an effect regains hit points equal to the total spell levels negated.

Bottled Bar 2000

The Bottled Bar is a large glass jar containing a miniaturized tavern complete with flickering lights in the windows and moving patrons. Uncorking the jar will rapidly grow the internal tavern, manifesting it in the space around the opener. This creates a permanent tavern in this location, filling what space it can in the surrounding 30 foot cube with a fully stocked tavern. This includes fuel, firewood, food, drink, fireplace, tables, beds, interior walls, etc. A single ‘unseen servant’ tends this tavern under the command of the last holder of the bottle, which has a convenient mount above the fireplace.

Part III.