Friday, March 30, 2018

Tornado Island Hexcrawl

Heck yah! We're finally going to Tornado Island!
(Pic Source)

Tornado Island

Update for the Tornado Island post.

I've just finished a hexcrawl for the location.

You can find it here: Tornado Island Hexcrawl


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Play Report Highlights: The Infinity Hotel

Every time I run The Infinity Hotel, it's like the best time I ran the Infinity Hotel, except in a different way. I'm going to give the top highlights from each of the last four times I ran the Hotel.

FEATURING

Herc Blooddeth, Psychonaut Barbarian, Breaker of All Things
Dalra Godkiller, Slayer of the Knowledge God, Thief Extraordinaire
The Plutonium Fist, The Prince of Pain
The Archwizard Galstad, Keeper of the Wand of Translocation
Nyarlathotep
Tom Groom, The Immortal Man
Eramus, Lord of All Hells


Session 1
The Plutonium Fist is Vegeta and Galstad Unorthodoxically Murders a Hydrada

A Hydrada is this. They are the most Hydra of Hydras, from the Plane of Hydras. Its key function is that its bites produce Hydra heads from the wounds.

Party's going to the Infinite Discotech, seeking the source of funky beats emanating out into the Halfway Lobby. Upon throwing open the doors I need to roll and consult the "Who's Dancing?" table. A random hydra comes up. I roll on the hydra table. Hydrada. This'll be fun.

Hydrada is grooving out, having a good time (as are all things on the dance floor, as they are magically compelled to dance like nobody's watching). It feels hungry. Starting eating fellow dancers. Bites Tom Groom, who grows a hydrada head out of a wound on his shoulder. He charms it. The cleric now has a new friend.

The wizard Galstad decides he's had enough of this nonsense. Pulls out the Wand of Capital Translocation. Switches his head with a Hydrada's head. While his body (with hydra head) awkwardly falls over, trying to bite nearby dancers, Galstad sets forth in taking advantage of his new co-opted biology.

Galstad's head on the Hydrada starts biting people, causing Galstad heads to sprout up out of the wounds. These Galstad heads bite more people, producing an exponentially increasing number of Galstad Hydrada head wounds.

He then turns his gaze on the Hydrada itself, and begins self-cannibalizing. New Galstad heads start sprouting up all over the Hydrada's body. Since Hydras conserve mass, this forces its volume per head to decrease as more heads sprout up.

Hydrada is caught in an infinite self-cannibalization loop and is immobilized. There are several new Galstads created from bite-decapitating a few dancers earlier.

We figured that Galstad was basically Rick from Rick and Morty after that fight.

~~~~~~

The monk, on the quest for ultimate power, decides to enter the Upgrade Machine. 

It produces a superior Plutonium Fist. He then has this superior version fight the original to the death. Winner enters the Upgrade Machine.

Repeat for about 6 hours.


The Plutonium Fist is now Supersaiyan Vegeta.

He made a duplicate earlier (who he had been playing while this was going on), The Anti-Plutonium Fists from the Negative Hotel.

Inferior Plutonium Fist activates his nuclear explosion. Obliterates the entire Halfway complex.

Supersaiyan Plutonium Fist has an anime battle with Timothy Amherst, the level 10 Logarithmancer, and the Infinite Hydra, the only survivors of the blast.


Session 2
The Party Just Keeps Going

Herc Blooddeth decides that he really wants that rotating disco ball skull causing everyone to dance in the Infinite Discotech.

Locally breaks the Law of Gravity to get it. He can break any mundane object, so getting the skull is trivial.

Proceeds to then lead a conga-line procession, with himself at the helm, of nihilistic Discomancers throughout the Infinity Hotel. They are now on a compulsive dancing warpath.

Like a groovy Genghis Khan, Herc leads the growing conga-line to unify the factions of Halfway under The Party Banner, like a gyrating, sweaty game of Snake.

And so the Groovy Scourge of the Multiverse cemented his legend. Who needs ultimate power when you control The Beat?

Session 3
ONE BILLION VAPING GUYS NAMED CHAD!!! and Hellish Bureaucratic Feedback Loop

The party encounters the Gigamancer. Gigamancer, the crazy loon that he is, decides to summon one billion vaping guys named Chad. Soon the entire facility is littered, for miles and miles, with vaping dudes named Chad.

Eramus, Lord of Hell, takes notes. Inspiration for some strange corner of hell. Vaping dudes everywhere.

Aspect of Nyarlathotep decides to mind control these creatures to further its incomprehensible agenda. Succeeds. We figured that Chads are a hive mind. He now controls them all. An army of vaping guys named Chad.

Chads are used like disposable gloves. A great culling of Chads begins. Tidal waves of Chads. Impenetrable hazes of vape.

This eventually puts the group at conflict with Alpha, the Technomancer's God. A bargain is struck. Alpha requires 363,648,342 Chads for its own purposes. Aspect of Nyarlathotep agrees.

Alpha then proceeds to march this army of mind slave Chads into the Opposite Machine. We, for whatever reason, decide that the Opposite of a Chad is James Dean. Because James Dean is cool, and Chad is not.

There are now mind controlled Chads AND an army of James Deans just about everywhere.

This culminates in the Great Chad-Dean War, which will go down forever in history.

~~~~~

The party encounters Oolox the Phlegmatic.

Oolox has the active power of Resolution Dithering. Anything against her never actually comes around to what the players intend to do. Every time they try I basically dither on and on. Forever.

After several prodding attempts, Eramus (played by my friend Joe, who was in the Army), decides that he's had enough of this nonsense.

"I summon forth the cruelest of my demonic minions! I want a host of Bureaucrats to provide this foe with paperwork... All from the V.A."

Gasps around the room. This is basically the new nuclear option.

And that's how Oolox was forever stuck in a forever paperwork feedback loop.


Session 4
"I break the Law of Dramatic Irony", and Tom Groom Awakens the Pain Machine

Chekhov's Gun is a bitch. It will kill anything it shoots at, no save. It also must be fired before the "scene" ends, or else is misfires and kills a random person.

Party knew this (or was directly told, anyway), fails to fire the gun. There's nobody but the party in the room. It's going to kill one of them.

"I break the Law of Dramatic Irony." says Herc Blooddeth.

I (me, the GM) have little idea what this means.

"Explain." I say.

See, there are so many possibilities in the Infinity Hotel that a GM cannot reasonably comprehend or prepare for them all. So when some sort of logic fuckery inevitably happens, we usually resolve it with friendly discussion and debate.

He went on to explain that Dramatic Irony is when there is an ironic disparity between knowledge that characters know and the audience knows.

There are three stages to this*. Installation, Exploitation, and Resolution.

By Law of Dramatic Irony, we had had the first two stages. The Chekhov's Gun was revealed. Its mechanism unveiled. Only the Resolution was left.

"I break the Law of Dramatic Irony" he says. "Obviously, with the Law broken, Resolution is no longer a guarantee. See, there's no reason for the Gun to go off anymore, is there?"

I can't argue with that logic. Crisis averted!

(They also could have just shot Tom Groom. Every time he dies he just instantly reincarnates as another creature. But then Herc couldn't have pulled off the most cunning maneuver yet seen in the Infinity Hotel.)

* = Stanton, R., Dramatic Irony in Hawthorne's Romances, Modern Language Notes, Vol. 71, No. 6 (Jun., 1956), pp. 420–426, The Johns Hopkins University Press.

~~~~~

Party's going through Technomancer territory. They charmed and sent forth a Sword Hydra ahead of them to clear the way.

In a bloodied giblet-strewn dormitory, they come across a box on the ground.

It is labeled "The Pain Machine".

This is an Alpha-Technomancer marvel. It is a small metal box with a big red button atop. Its sole purpose is to feel pain when the button is pushed. It has no other functions or inputs/outputs.

I roll on the table for the Pain Machine. This one has been duct-taped into the 'pushed' position.

The players get a chuckle out of this. It's just the sort of horrible nihilistic philosophical nonsense that makes The Infinity Hotel fun.

Guy playing Tom Groom gets an idea.

See, for this session I gave Tom Groom the ability to cast Awaken on any object, at will. 

It was an excellent decision.

"Y'know...", says Herc Blooddeth, "I'm a little afraid that if we Awaken it, it'll just start screaming in existential dread."

So he bestows sentience to The Pain Machine. I start screaming.

"Yep, called it."

After a bit of fumbling about with the poor thing, all the while I'm roleplaying this poor little box, horrified at its own existence, Tom Groom 'accidentally' drops it down a gutter.

Oh well, no reaching it now!





Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tornado Island

Heck yah! We're finally going to Tornado Island!
(Pic Source)

Tornado Island

There's a reason people don't go to Tornado Island... The food is awful.

Also the constant tornadoes, the mutating petrifying shrapnel-rock creatures, and the Invisible Man-Eating Cyclops

"How do people know that the giant invisible man only has one eye?" You might say. How, indeed. How do they know it's a giant man? Maybe it's an giant invisible ape? Perhaps it's merely some fabricated psychological manifestation of Man's innermost fears? Or just a crazy rumor made to scare people away from the island's hidden riches?

Well, a soldier and his crew went there once, on accident. The crew's dead, but the wily soldier survived. He said that they plucked out the cyclops' eye and blinded him. Apparently he wasn't invisible then. The soldier died of old age centuries ago.

~~~~~

Tornado Island is a graveyard of ships. They're flung from afar by twisters that suspiciously hone in on maximum casualty targets. Trade and exploration ships in particular. For whatever reason pirate ships get left alone (until they overconfidently get too close). The island is littered with their broken husks and cargo. It's a scavengers goldmine. This suits the inhabitants of the island just fine, as they'll happily prey on far-flung crushed bodies.

Aside from its horrible rocky denizens, there's a pasture ecology that's suitable for sheep. Only The Invisible Cyclops has the power to protect a herd. He guards them jealously. Some still-living castaways might manage to survive off of the stolen sheep here and there. Other than that it's grass and rocks, rocks and grass. For miles.

There are some locations of note:

The Golden Pit:


The source of mutations on the isle. A few centuries ago a Slaad made its hibernation place on the island, thinking it dangerous enough to ward away intruders. It stored a bunch of mutagenic chemical canisters around, several of which have broken and seeped into the soil by tornado-made earthquakes. The Slaad made a dungeon to protect its hibernation cave from all except other Slaad.

Slaad, however, are terrible at architecture. The underground ceiling of the final treasure chamber collapsed about a hundred years ago, revealing its bounty to the world. There's now a big pit full of riches in the middle of the island, untouched for a fifty years because obviously a pit full of treasure is a trap. The intended entrance is deeply buried. The intended final treasure room is the de facto entrance.

It's basically a Five-Room dungeon in reverse. Treasure at the beginning. Challenges at the end. There is nothing compelling a party to go deeper into the dungeon. The moment they rappel in it's all right there, for the taking.

If they decide to traverse to the end (the beginning), past all of the traps and tests, they will encounter a Magic Mouth that warns them of the dungeon ahead. If they open the final (intended first) door, it'll just collapse open depositing a bunch of sand and rocks on the poor unfortunate souls.


The Cyclops Lair


The Invisible Blind Man-Eating Cyclops makes his lair on the island, where he keeps his sheep when he's not letting them graze. The enormous boulder he used to block the cave entrance with has been split open by a ship and its ram that flew into it from a mile off. That's how all but he enter and exit now: through a broken ship that split the rock open. He just steps over it.

It smells like five barns. There's plenty of straw around to feed sheep/hide in. 

There's a giant wool sleeping blanket on the floor. The back is filled with treasures pilfered from tossed ships - bolts of silks, bricks of gold and silver, whale bones. The Cyclops keeps his giant-ass scythe against the walls of the cave, perhaps a little too precariously placed... There are bell alarm systems set up to inform him of escaped sheep, though they might also catch the incautious intruder.

Every day he counts up his sheep, one by one, by hand. Picking 'em up and placing them behind him. If he finds any missing he'll go out searching for them, moving the giant boulder out and back each time. If he finds too many missing he'll go berserk and start rampaging around the island, listening for things to murder-scythe.

The Fountain of Useless Epiphany


Hidden away in the rocky crags of the eastern part of the island is a magical spring gushing forth Freshwater of Useless Epiphany. Drinking from it causes someone to remember only unuseful things for 1d4 days. They will constantly spout realizations that are incredibly obvious to everyone and are absolutely no help. It will muddle their cognitive process substantially.

"Oh yes! The Sun resides in the sky!"
"When I jump up, I come down again like so!"
"If we get killed, we will surely die!"

And so on. The person is not entirely useless, but they won't come up with any cunning plans anytime soon.

Mechanically, as so: Whenever a PC under the Fountain's effects wishes to perform an action, they must declare an incredibly obvious and utterly useless epiphany related to it, which they spout as they do so. Give the player a few seconds. If they take too long they skip their action. If their epiphanies get too same-y then start to reject them.

Unfortunately, this is the only source of freshwater on the island. The only other potable liquid is sheep's milk, and that's quite dangerous to obtain.


Gravebeach of Ships


Spine-broken ships can be found anywhere on the island, from all sea-faring nations on the planet. Most of them land on its rocky southern beach. This is where the highest concentration of rock monsters lurk, waiting to petrifying and eat tornado-tossed and body-broken sailors.

It's a scavengers dream, though it is dangerous. There are literal tonnes of trade goods, unspoiled food, and weapons. Anything a ship has can be found here. More than a few warships have been broken on the rocky shore - there are probably a few ballistae (or cannons, if the setting suits) lying around that are big enough to fell a giant.

The sand is full of the petrified broken limbs and bodies of unfortunate sailors. The rock monsters only eat the good parts, like petrified brains or livers. Everything else they leave behind.


Castaway Camp


Survivors of various shipwrecks have formed a motley crew of survival. At least three-quarters of them are in a Useless Epiphany stupor. The remaining organize raids on the Cyclops Lair and the Gravebeach of Ships, utilizing their dumb companions. Somebody inevitably dies every single raid. Usually it's someone who drank the Water. Replacements come in via new shipwrecks.

If there's a leader of the Castaway Camp, it's Bosun Nobs. A wily, weathered-looking man whose fat has long melted away on the island's rugged conditions. He's lean, he's mean, he's a sheep-stealing machine. Cold as ice and all about the Survival of the Fittest. Unless you steal some sheep or scavenge some supplies you're useless to him and he won't care about you in the slightest. Not unless you're a thief. "ARR YA A TEEF?!"

Making fun of the fact that he can't make the "th" sound, and that his teeth whistle when he tries, and that he's missing most of his teeth, and that this makes his 'thief' sound like 'teeth', is the surest way to get on his bad side.


~~~~~

Denizens of Tornado Island

Wandering Encounter
(Roll 2d4)
2. Tornado
3. Boulderlisk
4. Noman the Invisible Cyclops
5. 2d4 Rockatrices
6. 1d6 Castaways: (d4) 
    1. On a supply raid. 
    2. Just got here. 
    3. Petrified, no survivors. 
    4. All lost in stupor.
7. Escaped Sheep
8. Tornado

Mutation List
(Roll 1d8)
One per Rockatrice and Castaway group. Every other Boulderlisk has one.
1-2. Invisible
2-3. Humongous: Double size, HD, HP.
4. Exploding: Upon death, explodes. Save vs. Breath for Half of 2d10 dam, 20ft rad.
5. Toxic: Attacks are Poisonous
6. Chaotic: All rolls associated with it are 1s and 20s. Flip a coin.
7. More Limbs/Heads: Gets an extra attack.
8. Extra Legs: +10' movement.



Tornado

A tornado will come ripping through the area, picking up sharp rocks and debris and shredding anything nearby that's not in total cover. Rules for tornadoes may vary depending on system.

1-10: Tornado is Far: No worries. These are common.

11-16: Tornado is Too Close for Comfort: 2d10 minutes to find cover. Total 180-degree cover prevents damage. 25% chance of flying debris. Save. vs. Breath or take 2d10 damage from a ship's mast, a boulder, or some other big object.

17-20: Tornado is Right Up On Us: 2d10 minutes to find cover. Complete bunker cover prevents damage. Otherwise Save vs. Breath or get sucked up into the funnel. On success take 1d10 damage. On failure take 1d10 damage each round for 1d10 rounds. Then fall 10x(1d8-2) feet.


Rockatrice

AC Leather (Good Dex) HD 1 HP 4
1d4 Peck + Petrification
Head Explode: 10ft rad, Attack at +2, Save vs. Petrification or random body part turns to stone.
1-2. Left Leg (Half movement)
3-4. Right Leg (Half movement)
5-6. Primary Arm (Cannot use main hand)
7-8. Offhand Arm (Cannot use off hand)
9. Torso (Dead in 1d10 days)
10. Head (Dead in 1d10 minutes)

They look like wild turkeys, except they got spiky obsidian-shard rocks for heads. They hunt in packs that run towards you and explode. Then the flimsy neckless bodies scatter away, or feast.

They explode into little rock shards that pierce armor and petrify body parts when they hit. It's a nasty and painful way to go.


Boulderlisk

AC Plate+Shield  HD 4  HP 24 Sp 15'
1d8/1d8  Boulder Throw/Boulder Throw
Petrifying Gaze: 40ft cone, Save vs. Petrification or become petrified.
5 in 6 chance of ambush in rocky/beach terrain

They hide easily in the rocky terrain. Looks like a big boulder with a bunch of smaller rocks orbiting around it like a halo. The glowing green 'eyes' of if have a petrifying gaze attack. These things aren't to be messed with.


Fasrizle, The Last Slaad

Stats and Abilities as a Grey/High Level Slaad, however that functions in your campaign. 

It remains dormant in its Hibernation Pod until awakened by True Love's Kiss. It says so on the side of the pod.

This is a trick. Anyone kissing The Slaad on its slimy frog lips will get a Red Slaad egg injection, via Looney-Tunes style frenching. Save vs. Paralyze if you're feeling generous. Anyone's kiss can awaken it, though. You could even have a sheep lick his mouth. It'd wake him as much as a Prince or Princess's.

When awoken, and not finding a slaad, Fasrizle will subtly try and inject someone with Slaad eggs and then escape from the island by any means necessary. Fasrizle will happily cooperate. It means more potential hosts for later. Fasrizle is tasked with repopulating this planet with Slaadi.

(A sheep or person with incubating Slaad Eggs would be worth a small fortune if brought back to civilization in some sort of stasis. Wizards would kill over it.)


Noman, The Blind Invisible Man-Eating Cyclops

AC Leather  HD 12 HP 56 Sp 40'
2d10 Exploding, 10x30ft horizontal sweep. Giant's Scythe*
OR
2d8 + Grab. Giant Invisible Hand
* 10% chance the Scythe will get stuck and require an action to loose.
Grab: If he's got you, he gets +6 to hold on. Next Hand attacks always hit.
Permanent Invisibility: Gets your system's benefits of Invisibility
Blind: Gets your system's penalties of being Blind.
Good Hearing: Gets advantage on checks related to hearing.

He's a one-eyed, no-horned, not-flying invisible people-eater!

The ground will shake before his arrival. One will see the sand fly where he steps. He's got fine sense of hearing and a giant-ass scythe (which is not invisible) with which to harvest little man-high foes on the island. He's got the strength to pop off mens' heads with his invisible thumb like children with dandelions. He's also blind.

He forgot his name a long time ago. Drinking too much of the Useless Epiphany Water eventually overrode the part of his brain that remembered it. He's adopted the only name he can remember: Noman.


Castaway

AC Unarmored  HD 2  HP 10
1d6 Sailor's Weapon
Stupor: 75% chance that they are in a useless stupor 50% of the time.

They smell like crap, and most of them are in a stupor. Bosun Hobs has a 1d8 Captain's Cutlass and twice as much HD and HP.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Why I Chose the OSR

Or:
My RPG Life Story


It's weird. I don't think my 3-years-ago self would have imagined wanting to be a part of the Old School Renaissance community. 

I was quite the crunchy lad back then. Whatever the reason, I had developed a special kind of disdain for Old School gaming. It was a sentiment shared and no doubt passed through my friend groups: the idea that Old School style D&D was this kind of less-evolved relic, a progenitor that had outlived its usefulness and was to be replaced with something shinier, newer, better. New School crunch, New School design ideals, and Heroic Narrative were here, and it was superior. I suspect a lot of my friends still feel the same way.

But I don't, at least not anymore. There's been a self-initiated unlearning/learning process on my part. It took some kind of theory/creative immersion for me to question the things I had taken for granted since High School. I doubt many of my friends have the time to go pouring through the blogs that I read on the side-scroll, like I have. Back in the day, there wasn't anyone to teach me or my friends ways of wisdom - my Dad played D&D in college with his buds, and had a few D&D 2E books lying around the house (my second exposure to D&D), but he never played after that (until very recently, at my behest).

The Infinity Hotel is a great way to break the ice. (Picture source)

So everything I initially learned about tabletop was through 3.5e rules books and friends who learned from friends, books, or older siblings.Video Games likely had a tremendous impact in how we (my peer group) thought about RPGs. Early D&D influenced Video Game RPGs that influenced Later D&D. Tabletop RPGs have Rules and Rulings. Video Games have Laws. There is absolutely no wiggle room outside of the parameters created for a Video Game. The impact of those assumptions no doubt leaked back into our tabletop. I surmise that this, more than anything else, influenced my early thoughts on RPG play.

It was swirling around in this cocktail that I was introduced to D&D 3.5 - my first experience with Tabletop RPGs (this was in the 00's, for context. I'm currently 26). I played maybe 3 instances of play from 6th-12th grade, which is to say that play was virtually nonexistent for me. But I loooooooved the books. I loved reading them, I loved creating characters, imagining the possibilities. I printed off character sheets and made stacks of builds for characters I would never play. I achieved System Mastery completely divorced from the Table. Despite being very antisocial during High School, I suspect that I wasn't the only one who did this. I've discovered plenty of my current friends who, like me, have collections of D&D 3.5 books that they read but barely never used.

Every single experience of D&D play I had during those early years was basically the beginning of an aborted campaign. One session in and the DM has run out of creative juice, the Rogue is backstabbing other players, and that poor helpless farmer pulls out a minigun and rakes the party from a thatched hut roof. Y'know, dumb kid stuff. The sort of behavior that probably inspired Lord of the Flies.

This, over the course of 2 hours, with more hurt feelings.

When it wasn't this, it was some type of Rules exploitation or Rules Lawyering that brought the game down. Man, we really needed some guidance. D&D is hard for kids to figure out all on their own. Puberty-voyaging-boys in particular. Elgh.

After High School there was a pretty long hiatus. I didn't pick up tabletop outside of the errant one-shot again until post-college-graduation. In the meantime my creative outlet was online roleplay (RP), on World of Warcraft first, then play-by-post fan forums. Aside from Video Games and 3.5e rulebooks, online RP has been the biggest influence on how I approach tabletop.

The protocols of proper RP largely informed about how I thought about myself as a Player and a DM. See, for those of your unfamiliar with RP in MMOs, there's largely three forms of it: Guild/Cliche/Friend play, Event RP, and RPing with Randoms around hubs. I had a lot of experience with the first and the last, moreso than the second. In the later parts of this period, the Play-by-Post stuff went to exclusively Cliche/Friend play.

RP with randoms in MMOs is basically anarchy. There are rules that most people will subscribe to, and the only method of enforcing them is ignoring/blacklisting (collectively ignoring) violators. Functionally, this resembles a power structure closer to what the OSR calls "Storygames" than D&D proper. Sometimes it was great. Sometimes it was notoriously awful. Either way, the sort of restrictions that good roleplayers put on themselves (such as never declaring what other peoples' character do, never declaring an action upon a PC is successful unless it is agreed to be so, and never being publicly sexually explicit, and only privately with consent) seeped into my consciousness, and no doubt had an impact on what sort of limitations I would have, later, as a DM.

Pretty much rode right over the whole 4e period and the beginnings of the OSR. I imagine that if I went straight from that to tabletop it'd be towards a more "Storygame" approach. Not sure if those were around yet. Either way, didn't know about it.

~~~~~

Then cometh 5e. I'd graduated college and had a stable job. I decide to start up a D&D campaign with my friends. 5e was the game being played, and man is it all the rage. We decide to try that. (We were about to start the campaign on Pathfinder, until I suggested otherwise.)

The campaign started out rough. There was an excellent creative idea at its core, enough to inspire campaign ideas for years. The execution of it, however...

There isn't a single one of us who don't reminiscence about the start of Tidelock without a little bit of cringe. It was like eating a pizza without sauce. Pizza, no sauce, left beef. Nothing really stuck. Just a bunch of meat haphazardly cast onto some baked dough.

I, admittedly, giggled like a child discovering a naughty word when uploading this picture.

We were adults now, though. Gone were the social problems of High/Middle Schoolers. The design and creative problems remained. The entire first few months of play was basically an occasionally-fight-things railroad disguised as a wilderness exploration hexcrawl. Plot prepped, as it was expected to be, by everyone at the table. We ended up reinforcing a lot of our own bad design practices.

Despite the system mastery I inherited from obsessing over 3.5e books, and despite the creative expertise and power-dynamic consciousness granted from years of RP, I didn't have the design vocabulary to describe the frustrations we were all feeling at the table.

Whereto than the Internet for assistance!

The first time I was introduced to an OSR blog was when I put in a Google search for "Best RPG blogs". I think I hit a result on EN World, a Top Ten list curating a dirty dozen. (the number 1 entry was EN World, btw.) One that caught my eye was Courtney Campbell's Hack and Slash. And down the rabbit hole I went.

One thing led to another. I'd found a new obsessive passion. Between it and Justin Alexander's The Alexandrian, I encountered the vocabulary, the diagnosis tools, and the theory behind what was wrong at my table. Hell, the Alexandrian wrote The Railroading Manifesto. That pretty much clarified my main problem right there. Later, Gus L. would go an clarify some other problems I had post-campaign-start excised from my games, in this article about Challenge Rating (something I'd taken for granted, infused by 3.5e), and this one about Goblins and lame-ass encounters.

Boom.

Then Fire on the Velvet Horizon by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess came out. I read the OSR reviews. That was the first RPG book I'd ever purchased that wasn't from Wizards or Paizo. It blew my frickin' mind. It made me think about RPGs in a way I'd never thought about them before. It was the creative gateway that defined the design possibilities for my homebrew campaign from then on. It, along with Goblin Punch by Arnold K. and Patrick's False Machine blog, instilled a sense of wonder about the possibility space of games that hadn't existed there since Video Game Expectations steamrolled it over in Middle School.

Cue the splurge. Vornheim by Zak S., Anomalous Subsurface Environment by Patrick Wetmore. (Two books I still actively use in every session of my two homebrew campaigns) And so, so many more. Too many to list here.

I can barely even look at WotC products anymore (with exception to the Player's Handbook). I can probably thank Bryce over at tenfootpole.org for that - a blog that made me rethink how I presented my material, to myself and others. Pound home the idea of terse evocative descriptions long enough and it eventually sticks like glue. I use WotC products as paperweights now. Long reign the DIY attitude.

~~~~~

Up until around two months ago, when I started this blog, I've been a largely passive member of the OSR community. I bought stuff, quietly read blogs, worked on my two homebrew campaigns, and admired from afar. I've thought about if and how to consider publishing some of the adventures conceived and run privately over the past two years. (Basically all of the stuff is written, it's just that the actual hurdle of making it digital, finding artists, formatting, map-making, publishing, is keeping it in my campaign notebooks. The first giant step into the unknown is the hardest for an amateur.)

Goodberry Monthly is first real active measure I've taken to get myself involved. And, although, it's a bit of a late-comer to the scene, in a place already pretty saturated with blogs, it's been a modestly rewarding process. Being part of a community bigger than around twenty people is a new experience. It's easy to get lost in the sea of ideas.

But Man, what an interesting and wonderful sea the OSR is. I can hardly imagine wanting to set roots in any other community. The excited mysterious energy in it is contagious. It's inspiring. It makes me care about RPGs. It makes me want to do. Of all of my influences, I can't thank the OSR enough for how its improved my design and my play.

And I'm sure my players can thank you guys, too. They get to experience the OSR at the table, at least indirectly. I see the sense of wonder in their eyes and hear it in the excitement of their voices. I see it in the art they make and when they brag about the campaign to their friends. They're playing a game that engages them and makes them think, as am I.

Really, it's all I could've hoped for, though my 13 year old self wouldn't know how to describe it. 

Thanks, OSR. I'm glad to finally give something back.

- Martin

The Hydramancers

The Five Schools of Mancy

The Hydramancers
The Hypermath Cult

Everyone thinks that the Hydramancers are idiots, and they're 100% correct. Screwing around with hydra magic is just asking for complication.

But at least they're powerful idiots, and they're easy to understand. They just want to duplicate. Over and over and over and over. Forever. They hope to unlock the secrets of the Infinity Hotel by exponential duplication. For this they need calories and they need violence. They need FLESH, and someone to do the head-slicing deed.

Not just creature flesh either. Gourd-Hydras need sun-flesh and fertilizer-flesh. Pants-Hydras need cloth-flesh and needle-flesh. Parasite-Hydras need host-flesh. Psycho-Mimetic-Hydras need ideas-transmission-flesh. And so on and so on.

They need flesh because there's a catch. Hydras conserve matter. Without additional input, each time they grow an additional pair of heads mass is taken away from other parts of the body. Mass and volume is maintained, heads increase, hence everything else gets a little smaller.

When hydras keep replicating heads without eating, they are designated Fraction Hydras. The heads and body keep getting smaller and smaller. Eventually the body disappears entirely. By that point you've typically entered a auto-cannibalistic feedback loop, forming a Broken Hydra. Broken Hydras will typically keep replicating smaller and smaller until they form an Annihilating Sphere.

The Great Hydra God is in fact the oldest of these Broken Hydras. It is an Annihilating Sphere so potent, with heads so small that they've begun eating the very fabric of the universe. They nibble with infinitesimally small mouths on cosmic strings, screwing up space-time all around them. (Functionally, I can't think of a better way to represent this than with a Black Hole. It's a Black Hole Hydra.)

The Hydramancers have been feeding the Great Hydra God meat, though is dissolves long before it reaches the main mass. Every time they do this it gets a little bigger. Despite the annihilating tendencies it still seems to accept Flesh. Flesh increases volume. The Black Hole Hydra gets bigger, never smaller.

No doubt eventually it'll become a problem that the other denizens of the Infinity Hotel can't ignore.

As an unrelated side note, it's fun to think about hydras as less like this: 


And more like this:


~~~~~~

There are three prominent Hydramancers in the Infinity Hotel: Needlefingers (technically NOT a hydramancer), Bob Brainheim, and Gregor McGregor.


Needlefingers looks like a piece of modern art: an experiment in Line. To a tasteless lay person she looks like a bunch of furious shifting black meaningless scribbles about 5'6''. She can duplicate anything. She does this by enacting a Banach-Tarski Paradox. The short (and probably incorrect) explanation of this is that she breaks the object down into a bunch of vectors and reforms two of them. There is no limit to the size or scope of the thing she can do this to.

She likes having tea with Dan Who Fails 5% Of The Time At Everything. She wants to duplicate him, for Science, and finds him fascinating. She doesn't like duplicating cruel jokes, however, and avoids actually carrying it out.

She wants to duplicate a Philosophical Razor, just to see if she can. Nobody knows what'll happen if this occurs.


Bob Brainheim, more commonly known as OH GOD RUN WHAT IS THAT THING AAAHHH!, is a giant multiplying brain monster. He's got tentacles and weird beaks and tumorous brain suborgans, and will definitely try and politely remove your skull and eat your brain. On accident. He sounds like the guy at the office water cooler.

He also holds one of the Five Philosophical Razors, Hanlon's Razor, specifically, ensuring that any act of malice (ripping skull tops off and eating brains, for instance) is actually one of ignorance or incompetence. So to all the universe, he is basically just the most unintentionally rude/clumsy brain eating monster that ever existed.


Gregor McGregor has 100 of every body part, and he's especially keen for you to understand: Yes. Every body part. It took a lot of work for him to get 100 of everything. Dude's a rock star in the Hydramancer world.

Functionally, think a Hecatoncheires, but just... more. And like waaaaaay too much beef. He can't really get in the deep folds and wash, so he smells like a friggin' used jock strap convention. He's also quite the Bro, and will get up in your face with his 100 faces and be an ass about 80% of the time. From what people hear, the other 20% he's a pretty chill guy.

Can definitely kick your butt back and forth across the Infinity Hotel.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tidelock Orcs

When considering orcs for Tidelock, my homebrew setting for a Tidally-Locked world, there were three principle questions:

Why orcs?

Why are they savage?

Half-orcs?


The answer to the first question is that I wanted to leverage the associations that people have about Orcs thanks to their immersion in fantasy tropes. It's already there. Everybody's got a decent idea about what an Orc is. I don't need to explain to a new player about the core concept of an Orc.

The second one we answer by getting into worldbuilding. More on this below.

For the third question:

No.

~~~~~

In Tidelock, Orcs are savage because every single one of them grows up killing and eating about a thousand of their siblings before maturity. They grow up in pod-like colonies in the soil, colonies created by the spilled blood of an Orc dying a Flowery Death. 

About a thousand zygotes start out, growing in the soil like frog eggs. Over the course of weeks and months they grow larger, eating their siblings and gaining strength. Eventually toddler-sized premature orclings will be biting each others' limbs off and cursing fate in tongueless, language-less speech. Only one, maybe more than one, will survive this cannibalistic culling. And that's assuming predators haven't gotten to the colony. (Orc caviar is in the highest demand)

If more than one orc survives this process, they are known as siblings. In Shadowmountain language, sibling is translated to Common as: "The one I didn't manage to kill... yet." It's somewhat expected that siblings of a stock will compete and vie for power and murder each other at some point.


Depending on the fertility of the soil, out can erupt out a fully grown mature Orc in anywhere from a week to a few months. More fertile = sooner. Most Fertile Soil, drenched in an Orc battle, can probably produce a couple hundred orcs in a few hours.

Violence is built into the Orc's (asexual?) reproductive cycle. In order to reproduce, an Orc must die a Flowery Death. Bleeding is a requirement. Their veins become filled with zygotes and adrenaline at moment of death, as life-blood bursts out of their wounds. They enjoy this. It's like sex to them. They probably regard the person who disembowels them kind of like a partner. It's really weird to us. To Orcs its normal.

Orc culture is a strange phenomenon. Given this necessity for violence, one would think the Orcs incapable of having a stable society, but they'd be wrong. Elsewhere Orcs grow up feral, but in Shadowmountain there is tradition. Great lineages of blood-begotten warriors are curated by ancient Orcish scions - immortals grown so powerful that they are peerless, and hence incapable of enjoying a Flowery Death. (A common misconception, that Orcs live short lives. They are effectively immortal, it's just that immortality sucks.)


Orcs take on an appearance similar to the soil they were bled into. Orc blood spilled into clay makes Clay Orcs. Orc blood into sand makes Sand Orcs. There are as many Orcs as there are types of soil, and a few more. It's rumored that in Shadowmountain there exists a melancholic aristocracy of Orcs born from ten-thousand years of incubation in metal. Iron Orcs, Rock Orcs, Quartz Orcs. They are sad because there are none who may grant them the death they desire.

The aristocracy spends their days teaching younger, more hopeful Orcs, writing sad poetry about how beauty is fleeting, and drinking tributes and the loot of raids. Alcohol isn't quite as good as a Flowery Death, but it's something.

They say there's a great Orc of diamond body that sits upon the Bleeding Throne, older and more powerful than even the oldest Elves, though none claim to have seen him. None likely will. There are laws against outsiders coming to Shadowmountain, for which the penalty is death. Laws set not for Order, but as a challenge. Intruders are set upon by legions of Would-Be-Slayed, wanting Flowery Deaths. One would need to literally kill their way up the aristocracy, all the way to the Throne.

Once every ten-thousand years, it is prophesied that a Hero will be born under a Hunter's Moon and a Lunar Eclipse, with a bloody birth that kills the mother. This Hero in time will purge Shadowmoutain of all Orcs, granting them all Flowery Deaths, down to the very last one. The Orcs dream of this day. They will relish it. This Slayer of Orcs is their cultural hero - an apocalyptic saint of death and future rebirth. 

A Hundred Years of Peace will reign, until the death of the Hero.

Then the Orcs will return, and the cycle will begin anew.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dealing with Low Lethality

I am, admittedly, quite a wuss when it comes to character death in my games.

In about three years of continuous campaign, with about 12-24 hours of playtime per month, there's only been one character death (and that person (my sibling) was soon leaving the campaign to go to college anyways). We've been using 5e D&D hacked to hell and back, using Hack & Slash's A Table for Avoiding Death, weird-ass monsters and weird-ass monster stats, altered saving throws. I've fudged dice to prevent character death at least 3 times.

Admittedly, part of this was gentle on-the-spot rebalancing to address the fact that I had made custom monsters with custom stat blocks. In an attempt to speed up combat, everything I made did shit-tons of damage. (I think dragons could potentially do around 16d8 damage per round?) Not infrequently I made something do too much damage. Taking account for average damage only, instead of averages and ranges, has been an ongoing issue in my design practices.

I feel somehow dirtied by the whole saga. Character death is an integral part of the D&D experience. It's a shame that my players are missing out on it. Avoiding it may be preventing angst and antagonistic feelings at the table, but it artificially creates a ceiling for growth. It limits the range of emotion and possibility. The campaign is not the best that it can be without a more real possibility of unfortunate character death.

I don't want to make it sound like my players are incompetent. They're not. They can sense a death trap when I put one in front of them. And there have been the fair number of insta-death traps. But there are at least two in each group that have good senses of risk management. The problem isn't that the party does stupid things, it's that the baseline danger of adventuring that I've created is fairly mild, which is on me, not them. Death by bad dice is practically non-existent. Death by recklessness has been wisely avoided.

All of that said, I think I've compensated for it as good as one can hope. There are other, potentially more interesting, modes of fail-state than eternal character death. Such modes must be woven into the fabric of the campaign world, as it is entirely dependent upon the capabilities of the setting.

For my Tidelock homebrew campaign, the mode of character failure is this:

Failure -> Injury -> Expert Assistance -> Further Entanglement in Politics

1. Failure. Some failure must be produced during the course of adventure. A bad dice roll, an act of recklessness, a social-political miscarriage.

2. Injury. The Failure initiates the Injury, which is a state in which the player does not wish to or cannot carry on adventuring within. It is not impossible to adventure, merely undesirable. Examples include a lost arm/leg, semi-permanent blinding, a horrible curse, a character or the party was arrested and thrown into jail, and/or a Madness. Death is included here, if Resurrection is possible.

3. Expert Assistance. To get rid of this injury and resume adventuring, the party must seek out an Expert. This can be a plot hook all by itself. These Experts must be scarce. A cleric who can cast Heal, a surgeon who can remove that arrowhead in your ribs, the sage who can lead you on the path to sanity, a political connection that can bail you out of jail.

Each society in the campaign has their own Experts, who dole out their services under different circumstances. In Chronulus, Experts typically require extorting fees. In the Lunar Republic Experts require House connections. In Kobara services are rendered by fame or by waitlist. The Solar Empire only allows citizens to have access to its Experts.

4. Further Entanglement in Politics. All Experts are under the employ of, entrenched in, or wanted by, various States and institutions of power, and hence they are deeply connected with politics. They're hoarded like gold bricks or prize cattle. Nobody wants to let someone go who can Teleport, or Resurrect, or Soulsmith. If an Expert isn't under the control of a State they're hard to get to. Nobody likes rogue Experts giving out their services to just anyone. If they're not under control they are often hunted.

What this means is that access to an Expert's services is held back behind various types of gatekeepers. Spies, lawyers, bankers, chancellors, etc. And they never provide access for free. To pass through the gate you gotta pay a toll. An Adventuring Party being the capable people that they are, this toll usually takes the form of a favor. These favors have, in my experience, been a fantastic way to dangle plot hooks and entice the players to go out into the world and do things.


~~~~~

Let's take a recent example from one of my ongoing campaigns.

1. Failure - The Paladin, a princely scion of a dying house, convinces the party to accompany him to his homeland to confront his mad uncle-in-law, who has recently demonstrated aggressive tyranny and insanity to the point of warranting confrontation. Along the way they encounter some of his thugs, and a battle ensues.

2. Injury - One of the Fighters receives a mortal wound from this battle - a spear in the gut. They will die a slow, painful death without Expert assistance. The party knows this. They know that there will be no loyal Experts ahead of them. They decide to change course and head to the nearest metropolis: Chronulus, City of True Time, where there are many medical Experts.

3. Expert Assistance - When they get to Chronulus and locate a surgeon, he informs them that the waitlist for surgery is currently 6 months. Their friend will die long before then. Because Chronulus is an anarcho-capitalist haven/hell, the doctor informs them that they may skip the waitlist by paying 5000gp up front (after the 200gp diagnosis). The party has nowhere near this kind of money. Things have gotten more desperate as the gut wound becomes infected.

4. Further Entanglement in Politics - Left with no other choice, the party (the Paladin in particular) decides to take out a loan from the nearby bank. He knows that loans in Chronulus are always predatory, but nevertheless feels responsible for the situation, and so ensues. At the bank, a clerk informs the paladin that he has no credit history and hence his application is denied. The Manager of the bank, an astute agent and political comrade of the ruling Archmages, knows the history of the paladin. He knows that the paladin has had recent dealing in The Lunar Republic, and that he is a diplomat, and that he is now desperate.

The Manager intervenes, but not for free. He opens a line of credit with the Paladin. He gives him all of the money he needs to save the Fighter, but for this he gives him a job. The Paladin has agreed to act as a double agent on behalf of the Manager, and hence the Manager's political connections, in The Lunar Republic.

Hence, the party has become more entangled in geopolitics. They now owe something to powerful people. This is good for the campaign.


~~~~~

Frankly, I like this system. Until I can wean my players onto more danger this will suffice. It pushes the campaign into unexpected and interesting directions. It forces players to interact with the campaign world. It's about as decent of a substitute for eternal death that I can hope for.

But I'm not convinced it's the absolute best way to go about things. I'm interested in what people have to say about failstates and negative feedback systems in RPGs, and I'm sure plenty of people have talked about it somewhere. If you've got a useful link or ideas on the subject, please post it in the comments below - you'll have a Noob's thanks.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

After The Dragon Hole

It should be no mystery that I'm a fan of Arnold K. and his blog Goblin Punch. That blog is largely what inspired me to start this blog, among others along the blog scroll. About a year and a half ago he outlined a dungeon called The Dragon Hole (links here and here)

Hidden around the middle of the post is the idea that "Dragons are more real than other things around them. They are the Most Real Things." They shape reality around them. Their preconceptions warp the environment. Reality yields to comfort them.

"A terrifying concept." A friend told me. I agree, and for that I love it.

I ended up making a (bad) map for The Dragon Hole and ran it a few times for three different groups. It was quite a hit. Volectra was a crowd favorite. It occurred to me while running it for my Tidelock campaign, though, that I would need to think about what would happen after The Dragon Hole. After the precarious stalemate of power was disrupted in the dungeon and its factions inevitably battle it out over control of Mother's hoard, what then? The following questions needed answering:

If particular dragons were alive after the incursion, if any, what course of action would they take? What could they become?

How do these dragons interface with the world (and reality) at large?

What happens when we crank their environment-warping abilities to 11, to the societal scale?

For each dragon, and each combination of dragons this will likely be different. How the party has affected the Dragon Hole should change this as well. To keep it simple I will consider individual dragons, although pairs (like Volectra and Vulpernia, or Scabbermouth and anybody) can certainly exist.


Garnos the Bestial -> Garnos the Dungeon Underlord


Without his siblings as a foil, I always imagined that a lone Garnos would cut it loose. Being the only dragon around, he no longer needs to hide his drinking habits and has all of the hoard he could ever want. He's going to settle right down on his massive pile of newly acquired gold and let the food come to him. He can afford to hunt for sport now, not having to feed all of his siblings.

The Dragon Hole then develops a new pipelined ecology, a sort of food chain hierarchy all flowing down to Garnos and his treasure pit. Hirelings, adventurers, local wildlife all feed into the ecosystem. Things come and are eaten by things which are eaten by bigger things which are eaten by Garnos.

He'll get fat and lazy, a big ol' beer belly. He'll sleep for months on end, waking up only to relish the opportunity to eat the occasional hoard-thief.

In short, Smaug.

Quest Potential: Garnos doesn't interact with the outside world, and he hoards his treasure jealously, so that massive motherload is still there. Treasure lures the entrepreneurial type. Lazy fat dragons with massive hoards lure other less-lazy, less-fat dragons. It's only a matter of time until the Dragon War starts and Garnos finds himself besieged from all sides.


Volectra the Painted -> The Sapphire Queen


Metallic and Gem Dragons are created, not born. Volectra has her minions go through mother's hoard meticulously and pick out every bit of sapphire they can find. They make jewelry out of it, but there's too much. With the leftover pile they create a mountain of sapphires for their Lady. A jagged, dangerous bed fit for thick-scaled monarchs.

Over time she'll rest on it. The sapphire will crush and seep into her scales. She will become The Sapphire Dragon, the Queen of the Painted Palace ("Dragon Hole was such a vulgar name!"), The Sapphire Queen.

To her delight, the Elves will learn of her adoration of them and flock like bees to pollen. The Elf King will marry Volectra, and she will rule over them as a fair and firm queen. They will teach her their magic, and soon enough she will take on a beautiful elven form, graceful and sparkling like the ocean at sunset. She will heed the whispers of her ancient advisers and love the stoic scions that guard her palace. She will be a good queen.

At Volectra's command the elves will toss out all of the gold and silver ("too gaudy, those metals!") from Mother's hoard. They'll practically give it away by the truckload to neighboring provinces. She will keep the gems and purge the place of tacky metals until every ounce of it is gone.

Peasants will stuff their mouths full of gold false teeth, merchants will use silver for paperweights, the value of gold and silver will plummet so drastically that it'll crash all adjacent economies. For adventurers, the value (and XP given) for gold and silver objects brought back to civilization will decline.

At first, silver and gold brings back only 90% of the value/XP. After the next venture only 80%. Then 70%, and so on. On and on until gold and silver is worth practically nothing, and peasants use ancient golden coins, that used to feed a family for a year, to skip along river tops like stones, for fun.

Quest Potential: Baron Garfield, who owns the biggest (and only) gold mine in the region, wants you to put a stop to all of this gold and silver coming from "The Painted Palace" (he'll say, with disgust). Put a stop to it by any means necessary. He's willing to pay you in sea shells/bottle caps/whatever post-apocalyptic currency now exists.



Vulpernia the Shepherdess -> Vulpernia the Terrible


She's going to move out of her cute animals/ponies phase and right into her Hot Boyz phase. Let the abductions begin!

Vulpernia will abandon or eat her adorable critters, opting instead for re-purposing her drakencult to specialize in kidnappings and extortion, attempting to abduct every attractive young adult man within a couple hundred miles. She will hoard hot young men like they're hotcakes. (Which is what she'll call them. Hotcakes.)

Slowly she'll develop a considerable collection of hot guys. She doesn't actually know what to do with them, so they just kinda lounge around all day, looking pretty. Maybe she makes bands out of them. A massive harem of male models, singers, artists, bad boys. She'll outlive them all. Eventually she'll need to get rid of some to make room for others.

Vulpernia will eat the rejects (abductees who don't pass the Hotness Test), scorn those she's gotten bored with, and exile those that have aged or been mutilated out of their hotness to Scabbermouth's (old or current) lair.

Quest Potential: An important Hot Boy has been abducted! A prince engaged to wed in a powerful union, perhaps, or maybe one of the PCs. A king's ransom has been promised for his return.

Ashrendar the Architect -> Ashrendar the Orientalist


Knowledge has terrible power in the hands of dragons.

Ashrendar will pursue scholarly studies, secure in his position as Lord of the Dragon Cistern. He'll study history, anthropology, economics, cultural studies, architecture. He will become obsessed with one particular culture. A land and people far away, distant yet peripherally accessible.

He begins forming an exoticised intellectual construct of this culture, along with his scholars. To anyone who's actually lived in this culture, or done any good-faith research, it will be preposterous.

Slowly, this intellectual construct, which is divorced from truth, starts to become reality. Ashrendar's confidence in it makes it reality. It is the confidence of dragon-hoard-tenured academics, a confidence built upon decades of inbred scholarly work reinforcing itself. A confidence with evidence but not truth. It is a Juggernaut of Reason built upon a foundation of false assumptions, piloted by an super-real Gatekeeper of Knowledge drowning in a Sunken Cost Fallacy.

As it gains traction, the culture starts to mirror Ashrendar and his minions' artificial construct of it. People in the culture begin acting more savage, more degenerate, more cruel. They become as Straw Men, simple and infinitely understandable (but only through Ashrendar and his academics). Only through His filters can They be understood. The culture will be ultimately Other-ed out of their Humanity. Perhaps this is where gnolls or orcs or some other unfortunate race comes from.

It's a horrible way for a culture to go - to be poisoned by a creature halfway around the world, who won and erased the war before it ever began, before anybody even knew about it.

Some powerful individuals will be immune to this effect. Sovereigns, demi-gods, those protected by the cancelling anti-preconceptions of other societal-entrenched dragons. Perhaps adventurers, too. To all else these poor souls will seem to slip into madness and dementia as the history and culture of their nation are retroactively rewritten before their very eyes. Events will be remembered differently. Books will rewrite themselves in the night. They slowly become estranged to their own culture. They will be remembered as Mad Monarchs and raving lunatics.

Quest Potential: A Mad King/Queen from a barbarous kingdom pleads with the PCs to assist him/her in disproving the scholarly works of Ashrendar and his librarians, equipped with witnessed half-truths and fabrications. If Ashrendar and his subordinates cannot be convinced then revenge is the only recourse. They are prepared to die for this cause.

Scabbermouth the Phlegmatic -> Scar the All-Breaker


He grows strong and cruel. He knows he is broken. He knows that it can't be fixed. But he knows that he is still a Dragon, and that makes him stronger than everybody else. Scabbermouth knows how to break things. And if he can't fix himself then the only thing left to do is to break the whole world so that everything is as broken as he.

His ability to break will become fine-tuned. Eventually, with a gaze, he will shatter the limbs and psyches of even the powerful. He will drag himself out of the pool and prosper in his suffering.

He will gather followers: amputees, lunatics, social outcasts. An Army of the Broken to march on the Unbroken world. The world is wide and powerful, but the Army has a zealous dragon at its helm, and that counts for far more than able bodies.

He will take on a new name: Scar the All-Breaker, and he won't stop until every single creature on the face of the earth is broken, just like him. He won't stop until healthy babies are mutilated out of the womb and holy men spend their days punching holes in the wings of flies. Until the Laws of the Broken are followed by All.

Quest Potential: Revenge. The Army of the Broken mutilates the party, or someone they care about. Or someone important. Perhaps an entire city. The Army and its laws forbid healers, making adventuring a dangerous profession. Being Broken it becomes easy to infiltrate the lair and trace everything back to Scabbermouth.

Or, perhaps, join the Army of the Broken. There's a certain equality to it, after all. And adventuring types tend to be good at breaking things. Scar rewards those loyal to him very well.



The Emerald Egg -> The Dracolich's Daughter


She will finish her necromantic work. The other drakencults will die and be raised as perfumed ghouls. She will have an army of undead protectors, preserved by time distortions as she begins to actually guzzle up Time. It moves faster as it rushes around and into her, giving speed to her work.

Eventually, she will finish the Dracolich. She believes this to be Mother. It is not. It is something Else. Something not of this world. It will whisper to her ear, in Mother's voice:

"Daughter, my dearest love. My Favorite, you have done so well. I am almost ready to return, and we shall be together forever, again. All we need is more meat and more time."

She'll send out ghouls, polymorphed and illusioned to look like normal people, on infiltration missions to bring back hostages and bodies. Only human bodies will do. Paranoia and chaos will spread. Societies will crumble. People will become hunted like foxes as Terminator-like undead roam the countryside at night, ni-invincible horrors collecting man-flesh, howling eldritch cries.

When Emerald gets enough meat, a small country's worth of flesh, then the Dracolich will be truly ready. It is a cruel god with all the reality-tearing powers of a dragon and without any of the humanity. The world may not survive its coming.

Quest Potential: Evil roams the countryside. Refugees pour across the land, speaking of friends and family taken by inhumanely strong doppelgangers of loved ones. It isn't safe to travel at night anymore. It's only a matter of time until they arrive. The players are confronted by a ghoul polymorphed to look like one of their own. It will attack with terrible strength and savagery.

When it reverts to its true form, they will know what it is. They'll have seen them before, in The Dragon Hole long ago...