Thursday, December 26, 2019

UGH - Rumor Table / Play Report

It occurred to me during my last playtest of Under Gallax Hall that I needed a rumor table for the players. Who would've thought! (Except, well... Everybody, duh.)

True / False
DM Details
“Classes are still held in the Basement of Gallax Hall. It really sucks if you have one there, though.” 
Yeah, it can be rough, having class in a megadungeon.
“Make sure to constantly update your watch. Time can get a little weird down there.”
There are several traps which can severely and magically waste your time.
“The Professors in the Basement usually have really good stuff in their offices.”
In fact, almost all the good stuff in The Basement is in offices.
“They’re actually pretty nice and supportive in the Torture Department!”
They treat their own students nice, but everyone else is torture-fodder to them.
“The Basement of Gallax Hall is where The Department of Torture has their laboratories and offices.”
Yep. That’s where the screaming comes from.
“If you say a ghost’s name five times, they can’t touch or curse you.”
Dangerously false. Only way to deal with a ghost is to manipulate its delusions or destroy its physical body.
“Beware statues! There’s always something dangerous or hidden with them.” 
This is almost always true. Many statues will animate.
“Watch your back in The Basement. Serial killers often come down there to prey on vulnerable students.” 
Even serial killers know better than to venture beneath Gallax Hall.
“Stay away from the Custodians! Don’t inhibit them. Don’t talk to them. Don’t even look at them. Just let them do their jobs and try to stay out of their way.”
Custodians are dangerous, and there is little to gain by accosting them.
“There's a place in the basement where you can sell stolen textbooks.”
Yes, The Textbook Black Market.
“I heard there is a powerful dragon living below the Steam Tunnels that steals mens’ names.”
A wyrm, close enough, but not anywhere near as powerful as implied.
“If you dress or disguise yourself like a Custodian, they’ll leave you alone.”
They can easily spot those undevoted to The Clean God. Such disguises can fool students and faculty, though.
“I heard that The Custodians have a shrine to their god down in the steam tunnels.”
Yes, and it’s worse than they know. The Clean God itself resides within The Furnace. It's where new Custodians come from.
“There’s a swan that lives down in the Steam Tunnels. A Dungeon Swan! It’s huge!”
Dungeon Swan! It feeds on hatred and it’ll kill you dead.
“If you see a cat, make sure you swat at it. Supposed to grant good luck.”
It will most certainly grant the opposite, and piss off the Witches of the Old Way.
“The Black Magic Fraternity and the Sisterhood of the Cell are stockpiling weapons and artifacts down in the Steam Tunnels to spark a student revolution!”
They can barely work together, let alone coordinate a revolution. Not that they wouldn’t want it, though...
“Once you start seeing Ghosts and the Black Magic Fraternity, that’s where the good stuff is.”
Level 3 has considerably better loot than the previous Levels. Quite dangerous, though.
“Gallax Hall was built on top of an old cathedral school from way back when. Supposedly the monks never did their burials right, and now their ghosts are cursed to wander the depths forever.” - 
There are indeed monk ghosts and a buried monastery. The reason for them existing is wrong and incomplete, though.
“Professor Sitch guards the entrance to the Basement at all times of the day. Watch yourselves, and try not to get on his bad side!”
Dr. Sitch does, in fact, wander from his office occasionally.
“Supposedly, there are two additional levels below The Basement.”
There are four below the basement. Nobody’s lived and told tales of Levels 4 and 5.

Anyway. Play report! I was playtesting Under Gallax Hall at a holiday party using Skerples' Many Rats on Sticks edition of the GLOG. Everyone got their choice of a WIZARD, and only a wizard. 

The following we had (character names omitted because I can't remember them):

A Necromancer, who exploded himself while interrupting a dangerous lecture.
A Drowned Wizard, who died in the Necromancer's explosion.
An Animist Wizard, who fell down a pit trap and rolled max damage and wound die to bleed to death from 1 Mortal Wound despite 8 consecutive attempts to repair it.
A Curse-Eater Wizard, who looked into The Furnace and lost all hope.
An Elementalist, who mercy-killed the Curse-Eater Wizard to avoid assimilation by The Custodians after gazing into The Furnace.
A Spider Wizard, who failed to save anyone.

  • Survived a verbal and physical assault by Professor Sitch by lying, and only getting hit with his pain stick 7 times!
  • Traversed the Department of Torture without death and only one minor incident (triggering the Quartering Pylons).
  • Mistaking Professor Sitch's name for Professor Snitch, and then dubbing him "Professor Snitch the Bitch", in front of another professor no less.
  • Stealing a good deal of books from The Library of Anthropology.
  • Pickpocketing several sleeping students and acquiring an Unregistered Key.
  • Discovering the Safe Deposit Locker.
  • Reaching Level 2 - Steam Tunnels
  • Encountering The Furnace.
  • 4/6 Characters died.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Secret Santicore - Flowery Orcs

This one's for Gorinch. Happy Santicore!

Why do Orcs have orchids on their banners and shields?

Testimonies from the folk who killed them.

"Well, because orcs are plants, of course. Of course! Who didn't know that? I mean, they pop out of the earth like crocuses after a Spring rain, right in time for war season. Everyone knows that, like they know foxes are birthed of fall leaves and wind comes from giants' farts. It's the equivalent of putting a human head or a hand as the symbol on your banner. You want to get your point across about how brutal your war party is."
Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur of 1899

"It's a symbol of their elite warrior caste. It lets their enemies know that they seek a Flower Death - one born of highest skill and glory in ritual battle. Those who die this way are rewarded greatly by their gods in the afterlife. Orcs displaying this banner expect to fight duels with particular members of the opposition - soldiers they've heard about or have known personally, either before a battle or during it. Other popular formats of the combat include fighting as pairs, or small groups of 4-16. The key, though, is that both sides it must be balanced in numbers. All participants in this fighting are to be awarded the Flower Death, regardless of victory."

"The pollen of the orchid induces a mighty bloodlust in the orcs. You will often see them shaking their banners and crashing their shields. This releases the stored pollen, causing a rallying surge of rage to those nearby."

"It is a reminder. A symbol of the divine betrayal between elves and orc kind, for an orchid was a gift of unrequited love of the first orc to the first elf. Since the first of elves spurned their friendship, their descendants have known only conflict and war. The orchid serves as a reminder of the original sin of elves."

"The orchids are obtained when an elf warrior completes his training by scaling the Matterhorn, where the snow white flowers exclusively grow. The orcs staple them to their shields and banners to testify that they slew these great warriors."

"I heard it started as a practical joke, or a lost bet. Orchids on shields? Hilarious! Ridiculous! But then they found out that gnolls are deathly afraid of them, and flee in terror at the sight. Now it's practiced without irony."

"Part of the Orc mating ritual. The women hoist the orchid banner to proudly claim that only those who best them in combat shall earn their hand in marriage. The men who fail are slain. Ahh, courtship!"

"Divine mandate declares that if you're going to bring ugliness into the world, you must balance it with beauty. This provides a conundrum for war: one of the ugliest acts a culture can enact. To maintain the protection of the gods, the Orcs plant orchids and other flowering things after battles, turning blood and gut-stained scorched earth into mausoleum-gardens. It's not uncommon for these flowering plants to bear sweet fruit, called Clarets. The use of The Orchid motif on their shields and banners communicates just how ugly the Orcs plan on getting. If there are few orchids, expect an orderly battle with possibility of surrender. If there are many, anticipate a painful bloodbath."

From Steven Universe

"There is a magic secret known by the Orcs. Those things which bear the Seal of the Orchid of Thios are indestructible in the Spring time. They shall not be torn or splintered, be it shield, banner, or man. however, in one season's time they shall inevitably wither and die, in body and soul. This loss is acceptable for shields and banners as they have no use after war season. For men, however, it is only acceptable for those seeking a martyr's oblivion."

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

UGH Old Gallax Hall 41-56

Level 1 - Basement
Level 2 - Steam Tunnels
Level 3 - Old Gallax Hall

Under Gallax Hall - Level 3 - Old Gallax Hall
Made on Gridmapper by Alex Schroeder

41. Administrator Poe
1-3: Empty  | 3-4: Administrator Poe  | 4-5: Empty | 5-6: Poe |  
6-7: Empty  | 7-8: Poe |  8-9: Empty | 9-1:  Poe

A perfectly clean, preserved office, fresh as the day it was opened... Except everything is just slightly askew: the room is slanted to the east by two degrees, portraits are tilted by a hair, the corners of objects are tarnished, stains in the carpet that once noticed are impossible to ignore.

Any efforts to correct these misalignments are futile. When nobody is looking they’ll crook back into place. This is Administrator Poe’s torment. He is constantly attempting to get everything perfect again.

CONTINGENCY: If anything is fiddled with or taken from Poe’s Office, add Administrator Poe to the Variable entry in the Wandering Encounter Table. He will be haunting papers with vandalistic critical red-inked writing.

SEARCH: Top desk drawer contains exactly 64 colored inks with screw-top lids in a tightly packed 8x8 grid. 60 of them are normal, albeit expensive colors worth 5gp each. 4 of them are special inks: Invisible (10gp), Radioactive (30gp), Poisonous (50gp), and Igniting (100gp). 10% chance any particular lid is  loose, and will spill if overturned.

TREASURE: A large peacock quill labelled “The Secretary” in red ink lies on the desk. The blue-purple eye of the peacock feather ‘opens’ whenever someone is writing something within its sight. When used, this quill can then mimic the handwriting of someone whose handwriting it's seen, including perfectly faithful signatures. Worth 3000gp.

TREASURE: Five slightly-askew portraits of very boring wizards line the walls. Worth 50gp each.

42. Poe’s Assistants
1-4: Empty  | 4-5:Administrator Poe  | 5-6: Empty |  
6-7: Poe  | 7-8: Empty  | 8-9: Poe | 9-1:  Empty

When Administrator Poe is here, he will be passive-aggressively chewing out his Assistants, about… 

Bringing Time Productivity up to the ideal 99.8%
Vacation? You can have vacation when you’re dead!
The burden of childbearing on productivity.
How his office is slightly askew, and they should fix it in their ‘spare time’ (i.e. during lunch).
Taking bathroom breaks. Poop on your own time!
Funding is difficult this quarter. Everyone (except me) will need to take a pay cut.

The zombies respond with agonized groans. Poe always takes this as uncommitted acceptance, and will nail his point further.

A. Open Door. Zombie, Chained to Desk. Groans and chain-rattles at passers by. Papers scattered about. 
TREASURE: Tiny bejeweled apple-shaped crystal on desk (300gp).

B. Headless Skeleton, Inanimate. Pieces of skull bone scattered around room, embedded in desk and furniture. Pile of used-scroll dust on desk. 
SECRET: Bottom of desk drawer contains the inscription: “Poe’s Birthday is 12/06” With the date underlined several times.

C. Zombie, Pounding on Locked Door. Wears floral dress. Desk contains ledger detailing Administrator Poe’s daily schedule for a year. Same for every day.  Hours 1-3 encompasses meetings. Otherwise it mirrors his schedule for Areas 41 and 42.

D. One-Armed Zombie, Silent. Other arm chained to desk. Ancient blood stains on desk, floor, and chair. Several calendars of the same long-passed year coat the wall. 
SECRET: Poe’s birthday (12/06) is circled multiple times in bold.

E. Zombie, Chained to Desk. 
SEARCH: Metal file cabinets contain records on the habits of the Ghosts of Gallax and Zot: departmental statements signed by Poe indicating it would be more expensive to exorcise the ghosts than to simply let them be, and rebuttals to faculty from Poe about the inconvenience of Gallax and Zot’s possessive ghost powers. 

F. Desk, Empty. 

AC Unarmored  HDHPMorale 12
1d6 Bite   Undead Immunities

43. Minor Flooding
Floor is covered in an inch of water, flowing in from Area 46 to Area 45.

If it’s 6-4, snoring like a gentle chainsaw emanates from the south.

44. Hall of Portraits
Dusty room, completely bare save for dozens of portraits lining the walls. They depict important staff and Administrators of the past, including Administrators Gallax, Poe, Zot, and Hargrave. Their Hats are included. Gallax - Brown Skullcap. Poe - Black Conal. Zot - Clockwork Box. Hargrave - Demon-Faced Conal.

Portraits seem stuck to the wall. A good tug, though, will spring them from free, releasing them with a hissing sound.

TRAP: Each portrait is sealed with glue to the wall around their rims, preventing a pocket of clear odorless poison gas from escaping. Save vs. Poison or become Paralyzed for 1d4 Hours. Fail by 5 or more and suffer immediate cardiac arrest (death).

TREASURE: 34 Small Portraits of Minor Admins worth 5gp each. 12 Medium Portraits of Less Minor Admins worth 10gp each. 4 Person-Sized Portraits of the Chief Administrators worth 100gp each.

45. Nameplate Hoard
1-4: Nameplate Wyrm  | 4-6: Empty | 6-1: Nameplate Wyrm

If here, the Wyrm snores like a gentle chainsaw, buried in its hoard up to its eyeballs.

A mountain of brass and steel nameplates sitting in the water - six feet high with pointy edges spiking every corner. Shiny trinkets scattered throughout. While it isn’t roaming around, the Nameplate Wyrm naps in the majesty and obsessiveness of his particular wealth, opting to bury himself completely in the pile, save for two eye holes to view intruders.

The Wyrm itself is illiterate and uneducated, having remained in isolation many years. It can recognize names, however.

The Wyrm is greedy for written names. If it sees you carry anything bearing anyone’s name (a spell book, a nameplate, an initialed jacket, etc.) the Wyrm will become obsessively fascinated with it, like a cat to a laser dot. In 3d6 Rounds it will try and steal this thing, returning it to the hoard. It offers nothing in return. It’s just dumb enough to not recognize the cause-effect relationship of writing.

The Nameplate Wyrm can sense when something from his hoard has been taken. If this happens, add it to the Variable Wandering Encounter entry. It will try and smell it out.

Water from Area 43 flows into here and exits through tiny cracks in the floor.

TREASURE: Two hundred copper nameplates (1gp each), Fifty silver nameplates (5gp each), Twenty platinum nameplates, including the names of Administrators Gallax, Poe, Zot, and Hargrave (20gp each). One Turn per person collects 40 from the pile. Ten nameplates = 1 Item slot. 

TREASURE: Buried 120 nameplates deep is a diamond worth 500gp.

TREASURE: Buried 240 nameplates deep is Administrator Poe’s Black Conal Hat (the inside rim contains his name: “Property of Jeffrey Poe”). The hat, when worn, allows one to instantly account any number of chosen visible (or invisible) objects in sight. For example, one could look at a pile of 1573gp and instantly know how many gold pieces are in it, or look at a room and know how many invisible creatures are in it (but not their exact locations).

Nameplate Wyrm
AC Chain  HDHP 26  Morale 9 INT 6
1d8/1d4 Bite/Claw
Languages: Rudimentary Common, Decent Draconic. Doesn’t want to talk.
Sticky Claws: May climb on walls. Claw attacks initiate automatic grapple check. Bite attacks against grappled targets automatically hit.
Lightning Immunity
Lightning Breath (1/Day): Telegraphed 1 Round before by big breath. Unleashes lightning bolt for 4d6 damage, Save vs. Breath for Half. Conducts on the hoard of nameplates.

46. Wet Utility Closet
Water drips down from a soggy downward-warping ceiling onto a floor littered with waterlogged mops, buckets, and brooms.

TRAP: The ceiling can collapse if attacked, unleashing a surge of water that will sweep anyone within 3 adjacent areas, provided the doors are open, off their feet. The water level will equalize to inch-high in Areas 40-46 within 1 Turn.

47. “Administrators Only”
The hallway is flanked by two velvet red doors bearing arcane symbols. A successful Intelligence check, or experience in magical history donotes the rune symbol for Clothing.

Sign at the end of the hall: “ADMINISTRATORS ONLY.”

Unless one is dressed as an Administrator (outfit hasn’t changed much since then, contemporary outfits acceptable), when one walks into the north door, they walk out of the south door back into the hallway, and vice versa. Those with administrator robes on may progress normally.

48. Old Battlefield (North)
Remnants of a wizard battle amidst a fancy lounge. There are corpses of centuries-old students and faculty everywhere: piles of bone ash, halves of skeletons cleanly bisected, scattered bones, petrified and shattered students, pools of dissolved muck, full-sized skeletons inside other skeletons, bodies full of knives. A total massacre. The floor is caked in a layer of dried blood.

With all the carnage, you’d think it’d be haunted, but it isn’t.

TREASURE: Inside the skeleton full of knives, is a Knifebreeding Knife. Attacks made with this weapon cause knives to grow from the wound like bamboo in fast motion, causing the weapon’s damage persistently for 3 Rounds after wound.

49. Administrative Washroom
A pristine washroom, complete with sinks, toilets, and even a shower. An audible glamor produces calm quiet peaceful noises (birds chirping, a breeze, etc.). Nothing with water works.

ARCHITECTURE: This room is self-cleaning. Any sort of mess left in here will slowly disappear within the Hour.

TREASURE: Stack of fancy gold-trim towels, worth 40gp.

50. Broken Portal
Two exquisitely-smooth statues of calm-faced muses defaced by chisel and dried paint, cradling the shattered remains of a mirror that had stretched between them. The rest of said mirror is scattered on the floor.

Graffiti on the wall behind the muses, scrawled in blood: “NO ESCAPE, HARGRAVE!”

51. Old Battlefield (South)
Remnants of a wizard battle amidst a small library. Corpses of centuries-old students and faculty everywhere: bodies half-embedded in the walls, perfect spheres of solid mummified flesh, huge pointy felt hats with teeth atop crunched craniums, a pile of bronze coins, disintegrated masses, shed giant snake skins, and a perfectly still whole student…

Dox, student from the rebellious Class of 702, is temporally frozen. Nothing can interact with or physically move him until the lock is released. Wears a pointed hat and stoic stone mask, holding a curved dagger aloft as if about to stab down upon an unfortunate faculty. A magical dispel, or touching him to the Unchanging Hourglass at the 11th Hour will release him. If done, he’ll unfreeze, thinking the battle to overthrow the Administrators is still taking place. Expect stabbing and confusion.

After that, this junior out of time is up to you to decide what to do with.

TRAP: There are four Giant Hungry Hats littered about the room. Moving through the room has a 1 in 4 chance to trigger all of them to spring attack at once.

TREASURE: Pile of 57 ancient bronze coins. Worth 5gp each to coin collectors, or 1gp each otherwise.

Giant Hungry Hat
AC Unarmored  HDHPMorale 12
1d6 Chomp
Construct Immunities

52. Luxurious Lounge
1-2: Flem Distaff  | 2-1: Empty | 11-1: Flem Distaff

Embroidered couches and chairs, bearing the symbol of the university: an illuminating eye, a book, and an hourglass. 

A small multi-layered fountain dripples water. Drinking this once replenishes 1 HP and rejuvenates endurance and morale. Drinking a second time takes this effect away.

From 1-2 o’clock, Flem Distaff is lying against the wall, clutching a nasty bleeding stomach room. During the 11th Hour, Flem Distaff is waiting silently for his fate. During this time alone can it be changed.

TREASURE: Ten finely-sewn pillows could fetch 5gp each. Four antique couches worth 200 gp each, though they’re cumbersome.

53. Wardrobe
1-2: Empty  | 2-10: Flem Distaff  | 10-1: Empty

A dozen dusty administrator robes on coat hangers, at least four dozen empty hangers.

SEARCH: From 2 o’clock onward there is a fresh dragging blood trail leading from Area 52 to a dark corner of the room. Flem Distaff hides in a pile of robes and coats.

Flem Distaff, student from the rebellious Class of 702, is caught in a perpetual temporary time loop encapsulating his death. At 1 o’clock every day he drags his bleeding carcass from the adjacent Area 52 into the wardrobe, slowly bleeds out, and dies. He remains alive from 2-3 o’clock, though only in a semi-conscious state. Nothing can stop his death, short of breaking the time loop by preventing his fatal blow in Area 52 at the 11th Hour. Do so, and he’ll answer any questions you’d like.

54. Confiscation
Empty rack upon empty rack, labelled with categories: “Knives”, “Swords”, “Staves”, “Crossbows”, “Wands”

Three curved knives remain, scattered on the floor.

SECRET: The Crossbow rack contains an Invisible +1 Hand Crossbow, and three attached Invisible, Poisonous Darts.

55. Sacrificial Altar
Bloodstained stone altar. A pile of thirty skeletons in a shallow pit against the eastern wall behind it. They all wear student robes.

SEARCH: The skeletons all bear nicks on their ribs, and no other wounds.

A skeleton lies clutching a very jagged sword in its chest, stabbed through the back. Wears the luxurious dyed robes of an Administrator and a demon-faced pointed hat. Appears to be reaching towards the northern wall. Long-dried blood and gut pools beneath it. Skeleton is fragile - impact will turn it to dust.

It’s the corpse of Administrator Hargrave. If it is blessed, consecrated, or otherwise exorcised, the cruel Ghost of Hargrave will be no more.

SEARCH: Hargrave’s Corpse contains a hastily-scrawled paper note. It reads: 

R: Hours/Day 
L: Year of Lost Generation  
R: Poe’s BDay (M x D = ?)

TREASURE: Administrator’s Sword: +1 Medium Weapon. Configurable runes in the blade may act as two spell scrolls. Glows in the presence of people with money to spend. 

Hargrave’s Demon-Faced Hat: A felty wrinkled demon face along the cone rudely and loudly cusses at liars. It also does this at people telling the truth 5% of the time.

SECRET: If a person is slain upon the altar, the wall to Area 56 will open up. 
TRAP: If this wall area is tampered with preemptively, then every skeleton on the entire dungeon level will animate and indiscriminately attack those nearby, if not already doing so. This effect lasts for 1 Day, after which the skeletons disanimate. There are 31 skeletons in this room.

AC Unarmored  HD 1/2  HPMorale 12
1d6 Bone Bludgeon or 1d4 Claw
Undead Immunities

56.  The Vault
Seven walnut-colored chests. Five are open and empty.

TREASURE: One chest contains two gold bars worth 1200gp. They’re quite heavy.

The other closed chest has a hyperdimensional combination lock, tuned to a turnable knob and a number readout (like a student locker).

Turning it right cycles through numbers 00-99. Turning it left opens a range from zero to infinity - the number will simply increase forever the more you turn it left. Turning it right after this point resets the left-turning back to 00. The chest is extremely heavy (at least a ton).

The following combination is needed:

Right: 11 
(Hours in the day… for Administrators)
Left: 677 
(The graduation year of the entire zombified and interned class.)
Right: 72 
(Administrator Poe’s birthday, given as Month (12) x Day (6) = 72

This will open the hyperdimensional chest, revealing The Unchanging Hourglass.

TREASURE: The Unchanging Hourglass allows those who touch it at 10:99 to have access to the 11th Hour. The Hourglass remains frozen until that time, when it then runs down over the course of the hour, resetting itself at 1 o’clock.