Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dungeon Swan

The Dungeon Swan lives in dungeons, and it feeds on HATRED. It is notoriously territorial, horrendously violent, and quite beautiful from afar. Get up in its grill and someone's going to lose a liver.

The "Dungeon" in Dungeon Swan is a colloquial contemporary tag-on, originating from locals' observations of the Swans' lairs. "Swan", of course, being the harshest of Elven curses - one reserved for mortal calamity, infidelity, and royal gaffs. It is the verbal equivalent of wiping excrement off the floor with silk. Elven scholars widely believe that the creature obtained this name by the reaction the first Elves had to it - cursing in the foulest way they could while presumably running away at speed.

Dungeon Swans are shapeshifters, so any description hence forth should be understood as an impermanent and temporary description of the creature. There do appear to be several favored forms, however:

HORRID PRETTY BIRD: A feathered fowl, reaching at maximum 5 meters in length, weighing around 50 kilograms, composed of either black or white feathers, and hiding a set of wickedly jagged teeth within their bills, of which they use to pierce and rend through the soft places of their prey.

PRIMORDIAL LIZARD: Either a snake with tiny arms or a stumpy lizard without legs. Up to 8 meters in length, with scant-toothed jaws so strong they can bite a cow in half. Scales of purest colors, decorated in hypnotic dancing patterns of black, red, and white.

((Joke: What is black, white, and red all over? Answer: SWAN! FUCK!"))

From Black Swan - 2010
DEADLY JAR: An ornate ceramic jar approximately six feet high with a single S-shaped spout, a handle, and a potted lid. The most dangerous of vase-shaped teapots. Painted in a bright porcelain red, with white and black decor circumventing the body depicting Dungeon Swan eviscerating their victims, or other grisly scenes. The contents of the jar are surmised to consist of pure, distilled hatred, which continuously bubbles and boils, hence the spout to relieve pressure.

AX MURDERER: A war-painted, kabuki-dressed human or elf wielding a bone-shafted obsidian ax. If the Dungeon Swan has recently claimed a victim, then it will also be completely covered in dripping, pulsating entrails. Thought to be capable of speech, but has yet to be witnessed.

The Dungeon Swan, prefers, of course, the Dungeon - an ecosystem so riddled with continued violence, suffering, and hatred that it can feed, while simultaneously being private enough for it to raise its young. Other popular nesting options include, but are not limited to: torture chambers, gulags, forced labor camps, drow citadels, royal palaces, and office buildings.

It finds aquatic habitats preferable. If the dungeon has some sort of pool or underground lake, the Dungeon Swan, or a pair of mated Dungeon Swans has made nesting within.

Dungeon Swans consume Hatred. Hatred grows like grass. In hate-filled places, Hatred is grass: it grows from the dungeon floor, out of the walls, in sandy banks and on hard masoned stone. It creeps up through cracks in the cement until it forms a thick hateful brush - a jungle-mesh of acidic strangling weed. Touching Hatred Grass unprotected will send a person into a full-flown rage, or choke them with asthmatic reeds until they die as purple as Hatred Grass itself. Hatred Grass cannot be burnt, and cutting it releases rage-inducing particles into the air. The only safe way to be rid of it is to eat it. Hence, the delicate and beautiful hate-tango of the Dungeon Swan.

This is what they eat: Pure Hate.*
Solitary: A lone Dungeon Swan will eat up to 15 kilograms of Hatred Grass in a single day. Alone, it will tend to be migratory and adventurous, being so bold as to settle in lesser places of hatred, like the basements of bitter old people or in windmills.

Mated Pair: More dangerous than alone, particularly if they are raising young. A mated pair of Dungeon Swan will typically have settled down in a stably-hated location, and will so for several years. At this point they have staked out their territory, and will ruthlessly attack any and all creatures, big or small, within their lair. Typical Mated Pair behavior involves displays of aggressiveness towards intruders, lurking and plotting, and very angry highly-coordinated dances.

Triumvirate: On rare occasion, the Dungeon Swan will form a triplet. This is the most dangerous of all, as it involves the methodical escalation of mating rituals, resulting in aggressive displays up to 5 miles from the lair. Dungeon Swan in a triumvirate will mercilessly attack anything within sight, causing the surrounding countryside to wither into a blight. Killing one Dungeon Swan in the triumvirate will remedy this situation, although that is not so easy a prospect...

Aside from the Dungeon Swan being a horrible bastion of spitefulness and violent hate, the very worst thing may be its chief innate defense:

Those that deliver a killing blow to a Dungeon Swan will permanently be consumed by hatred, resulting in immediate indiscriminate berserking behavior and total violent madness.

Symptoms of killing a Dungeon Swan include: spontaneous bruising, internal hemorrhaging, bleeding from any and all orifices, loosening or outright falling-out of teeth, seizures, foaming/bleeding of the mouth, weakness, involuntary screaming, hallucinations about Dungeon Swan, and attacking every other living thing within sight and sound for the rest of ones days.

Symptoms for killing an adolescent Dungeon Swan are less severe, usually resulting in only mutilation and terminal weakness, laced with fits of rage.

Symptoms for killing newborn or young Dungeon Swan are entirely temporary. If it has yet to grow its exterior feathers or scales, then it can safely** killed. Fits of rage typically last for only a minute at most, then symptoms cease.

Hence, it is recommended that one should only attempt the extermination of Dungeon Swan while it is very young, while leaving adult Dungeon Swan the hell alone. Though, it may be worth it for a community to sacrifice someone to deliver the killing blow, then immediate murder them if it means being rid of the Swan for good.

*Fun fact: Hatred Grass can be processed and chewed upon like tobacco to produce Rage in the chewer. This typically lasts for a minute. If it's somehow swallowed, it lasts for days.
**Of course there's no safe way to kill a Dungeon Swan. In a life or death encounter this beast, someone's getting injured and someone's getting killed.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Who Waits Outside The Dungeon?

I swear, I've seen a table like this, but for the life of me I can't remember where. If you feel like doing me a solid, shoot a link down in the comments to similar lists.


Dirty Beggar
Best chance for generous coin
Approaching for awkward conversation
Mumbles everything.
Naive Student
To complete their thesis.
Waiting patiently in full view of the exit.
They were planning on going in alone, vastly unprepared. Not nearly as scared as they should be. Knows a few cantrips.
Food Merchant
Because everyone deserves iced cream [sic] after a dungeon!
Food cart parked outside. The wonderful smell wafts into the dungeon.
Festival prices. Chance that food smell will lure any predators out of dungeon.
Buying / Selling maps
Scribbling, surveying, humming to himself while sitting on a rock/log.
If there are any other entrances/exits to the dungeon, even if they’re hidden, they know about them. Honest prices for information.
Meat Merchant
“Buying fresh meats…”
“Fresh” meat cart, piled with a body or two. Flies buzzing about it. Did one of those bodies just move?
“Exotic sums for exotic meats.” Has types of currency that should be well beyond his means (occultum, spellgold, wish-coins), hidden who knows where.
The rawest gems have the most potential.
One big empty sack for rocks and one big sack a quarter-full of identifying equipment.
Can Identify on the side, fees are way too cheap, because:
1. They’re bad at it.
2. It’s cheap, but you must buy a gem, too.
3. They sell the knowledge of who has what magic item to local thugs.
4. They’re just a generous dope.
Dung Farmer
Because even dungeon poop has value.
Smelling like a freshly fertilized field, covered in gods-know-what. Leaning on a shovel.
You wouldn’t believe how much money this guy is willing to shell out for exotic shit. You wouldn’t believe how much he sells it for, either.
Gotta go to the source for the best deals!
Pair of folksy-looking fellahs uncomfortably chipper and friendly.
Prepare for haggling. They’ll try bundling (junk with valuable stuff), and leaving their contact information if nothing’s sold.
Chances are that something illegal happened in dungeon.
On a horse, armed, accompanied by only a single deputy, the idealistic fool.
Will interrogate people emerging from the dungeon. Asking about illegal activity within. Will try to confiscate any illegal goods.
Dungeon Dog!
Just comes running happily right on up.
Free dog companion - will sacrifice itself to take the next hit that someone in the party would take.
Dungeon Duckling
Just got born. Abandoned by mother.
Imprints on first person emerging from dungeon
Will eventually grow into the loyal and dangerous Dungeon Swan - a mighty and fearsome companion.
Mushroom Man
Wants to decompose all the bodies
Embedded inconspicuously on entrance wall. Will run in after party leaves.
If you ignore this chap, expect a bunch of mushroom men the next time you enter the dungeon.
Dungeon business is noble’s business.
Concealment from a distance. They’re only observing.
If somehow caught, will lie about intentions. Any pressure and they’ll spill it all (who they work for, what they’re doing, and why.)
Greedy Doctor
One can provide notoriously high markup for the desperate.
Dressed in setting-appropriate scrubs, tools in bag aren’t the cleanest.
10% chance of bad medicine or infection. Every single item, from tools to bandages, comes a la carte.
Somebody needs to take care of the bodies.
He’ll work for cheap.
He won’t say any prayers for the dead, though. You’ll need a cleric for that.
Friendly Adventuring Party
Heading into dungeon after you.
With fresh bodies and spirits. They may even be helpful.
If you’re at all friendly back, they may provide assistance in the future, either in or before entering the dungeon, providing combat help or supplies (water, anti-toxin, etc.)
Rival Adventuring Party
“Again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.”
Ambush at the dungeon exit: show of force, possibly followed by violence.
If the Party approached the dungeon by brute force, R.A.P. approached by diplomacy. Vice versa. They try to make it seem like the better option - it may well be worse.
Adventurers, dangerous though they are, can carry up to a year’s loot.
Ambush at the entrance, hidden from view. Split the party down the middle by trap or force. Pick off the weaker half.
Whatever’s in the dungeon, they’re scared of it. They’re superstitious, and will scatter at any non-human threat.
Good money to be made carrying stuff back from the dungeon.
Packs, straps, and little else.
The heavier the load, the more he’ll charge.
Some horrible wizard shit, to be sure.
You know a wizard when you see one...
He is doing right now:
1. Mustering horrid minions to assault the dungeon.
2. Fiddling with Superscience.
3. Arguing with some mercenaries.
4. Resting, readying spells. Vulnerable!
You’d be surprised how many people emerging from dungeons want to buy hats.
They wear the entire stock balanced and stacked atop their head.
Maybe they’re just a little crazy? Hatter and all that. At least one of those hats is magical.
Now that the dungeon is safe, this one can safely enforce their claim.
Proudly atop a horse, house banner whipping in the wind, present with knights or other hired ilk.
As long as you don’t lay claim to this dungeon, its surrounding landscape, or the tax-levied portion of goods obtained within, you’re free to go.
Suitor / Maiden
Mystic told them that they’d find true love/the one they’d marry at the entrance to this dungeon.
Dressed for a wedding. Naturally drawn to the highest CHA member of the party.
They will propose marriage on the spot, provided things aren’t immediately dangerous.
Orphan + Troll
“Pay da toll or get da troll.” Extortion or trollfeed, plain and simple.
A vicious orphan-child in rags, and their stoic troll companion.
The orphan doesn’t know the value of things. Things a child would like get an instant pass. You get three attempts before the orphan runs out of patience and sics the troll on you.
To save souls, of course!
Dressed in priestly attire, approaching without fear.
Will consecrate the dead, and provide blessings to those found to be in service of Law.
To trade service for coin. Will provide escort, or muscle for return journeys.
Dressed to kill, alone, leaning against a tree or rock.
Decent price for one-time gig. Retainer fee kind of pricey. Knows what they’re doing. Level 1-2 Fighter. Decent Morale.
Taking the goods right to the customer, before any competitors get a shot.
They’ve got a pimp wagon and everything. Holy shit.
The logistics of this feat are mind-boggling. How did this guy drag a pimp-wagon full of complaining hookers all the way to this dungeon? How did he protect them? How did he convince them? How?!
Dungeoning is hard work. Somebody’s gotta provide relief.
Got every comfort a returning party needs stacked on his shoulders: water, towels, lanterns, praise.
A standard fee gets you the whole package. He’ll even carry your bloodstained clothes! This is a deal. Why isn’t this service provided at every dungeon?!
When the Waterboy isn’t enough.
Dressed as a butler would be, poised to ease your every problem.
Basically, the Waterboy but more comprehensive and much more expensive. Can take care of virtually any problem one might have while exiting a dungeon. Very capable.
Like an ordinary goat, doing goat things.
Why is it here? What is its purpose? Is it tasty? Random mystery goat!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The White Tower

I wanted to revisit the Forest of Fences (and the follow-up post), largely because I want to toy around with Depth mechanics (a la Ynn, Made In Abyss, etc.). And, because a certain popular HBO miniseries has given me the rare fit of inspiration. First, the concept post. Then the nitty gritty TBD.

Ask The Elf: "Why do men seek The White Tower?"
He will reply, rhetorically: "Why do men seek towers? Or why do men seek this one?"
Ask again: "Why that one?"
Reply: "The answer to both is the same."
"And that is?"
"I am not a man. I cannot know."


Within the Forest of Fences lies a white tower. One sees it miles away, catching the sun like a beacon. It refracts like a lighthouse at sunset - calling the adventurous, beckoning with promise of power and riches. 'What marvels might the Tower hold?' say they, unknowing of the danger. 'What treasures might be found among the ruins of the sarcophagus at the Tower's feet?'

The treasures are all cursed. The lands around the Tower are a wild and cursed as well.

Cursed with the disease-not-seen. It's contagious. It kills everything it touches, and everything that touches the touched. It does not do this immediately. It can take days, weeks, or even many years to manifest, but all those who venture to the Tower and return alive eventually succumb to the curse. Their insides are eaten away bit by bit and they will never know why. Sometimes it effects even those near the Cursed - children in particular. The Elves know why, but they won't tell. They would rather have the subject be taboo than a known risk.

There are no predators in the lands around the Tower, at least not for men. There is risk of injury, to be sure, but there are no monsters. Unless, that is, you bring them with you.

Then why? Why go to the Tower, knowing the risk? Well...

Perhaps you don't know the risk. Perhaps cursed objects still sell well. Perhaps the demons of curiosity usher you hence. Perhaps there's something, or someone, there that you want.
Perhaps you cannot un-hear the call of the White Tower. Not until you see the madness at its depths.

Though strange sights surround the White Tower.

No hostile monsters whatsoever. Maybe hostile people - scavengers like you. Perhaps the errant natural trap here and there. The main threat is the Curse. The closer you get to the White Tower, the worse the Curse gets. The DM should never explain the Curse's mechanics, only telegraph through encounters and the environment that things are getting worse.

The area is divided up into zones, based on proximity to the tower (roughly, following topography and such). Several locations are keyed to each Zone, each one working as a kind of subsetting Depth. All navigation is done in terms of the White Tower. Do you approach the tower? Do you retreat from it? Any other movement, tangential or otherwise, keeps you in the same zone.

Zone Level
The Environment
Salvage/Loot Found Within
Maximum Lifespan*
1 - Red
Old riverbeds and scavenger paths. The Curse around the former far worse than the latter.
Curse Merchants, Scavengers, Normal Wilderness Encounters**
What Washes Downstream, Little Else
10,000 Years
2 - Orange
Ancient towns long picked clean. Fields and woods. Old Elf-roads and hidden villages.
Scavengers, The Elf, Forsaken Living Trees
Elven Trinkets, Weapons,
Trade Goods
1d4 x 1000 Years
3 - Yellow
Ruins taller than trees, living spaces, great punctured cubes sagging with age.
Scavengers, The Elf, Wolf-dogs
Yes/No Curse Detectors, Children’s Toys, Jewelry,
Rare Metals, Cursed Advanced Medicine
1d4 x 100 Years
4 - Green
Young Forests, lush with green in spite of the Curse. Strange creatures thrive here. Nothing grows old.
Scavengers, The Elf, Majestic Watchers, Intelligent Insects, Marsupials, Pygmy Boars
Rare Beasts, Cursed Seeds, Dead Salvagers, Buried Salvager Caches
1d4 x 10 Years
5 - Blue
Industrial Ruin, a concrete jungle littered with ancient machinery. Fences lattice the ruin like siege trenches.
Scavengers, The Elf, Cleaning Engines, Fences
Heavy Machinery,
Low-Capacity Curse Detectors, Ancient Fuel
1d4 Years
6 - Indigo
The Outer Sarcophagus - a tomb for ancient armies. Meticulously clean, except where intruders have tread.
Rare / Dangerous / Curse-laden Scavengers
Automatic Firearms, Grenades,
Body Armor, (Cursed) Curse-Protected Suits, Ultra-batteries
2d4 Months
7 - Violet
The Middle Sarcophagi - tomb built upon tomb, each less grand than the last. Monuments to greater and lesser Ages.
The Meteorite (rare encounter), Nothing
Robotics, Capacitors,
Scuba Gear, High-Capacity Curse Detectors
1d4 Weeks
8 - Black
The Final Sarcophagus - It is hot. Demon light pours from the Portal. Madness. Oblivion.
Discordant Pipes, “Demon” Bodies, Curse-stone.
1d4 Days
*Assuming you don’t immediately turn back once you enter the zone. This reflects spending at least one travel turn in the area. It also assumes you have no protection from the Curse. **Whatever the White Tower zone is embedded within.


The Curse

It should be pretty obvious at this point what the Curse is and what it's trying to replicate. The only thing I suggest for this is to not go the cartoon-y mutation route. I mean... I guess you could, but then you'd need to find another point to this whole nega-zone. Just keep in mind that the initial pull is Huge Risk = Huge, Dangerous Reward. The players and characters should know this. You can find hyper batteries from a thousand years ago, cursed rocks to slowly assassinate your enemies, and assault rifles in an age of spears; however, you'll die of 'natural causes' a lot sooner than normal. Power and Riches for Life. Having, instead, Power and Riches for Growing a Third Functional Arm is less of a conscious old-school risk-reward tradeoff and more of a win-win.

Effects of The Curse:
  • For Zones 1-5, death manifests in the form of lethal, unpreventable Cancer.
  • For Zones 6-8, the symptoms are worse.
  • Protection is gauged in terms of how many categories up the Maximum Lifespan scale it boots you. Category 1 Protection (e.g. respirator) effectively shifts you up by one zone. Category 2 Protection (e.g. a lead suit) shifts you up two zones. Perhaps Magic Armor can boot you up three.
  • Natural traps and hot spots, as well as certain Cursed items, will produce an effect similar to a particular zone when interacted with for extended time. (For instance, falling into a Cursed pool of water unprotected in the Yellow Zone might be the equivalent of entering the Blue Zone. Drink the water, and it'll be like being in the Indigo Zone.)
  • Effects of The Curse are unlikely to manifest during the lifetime of a campaign. It's really not until you get to around zone 5-6 that symptoms start to develop within an actionable amount of in-game time. And by that point, hopefully you've provided enough hints and such that the players (and characters) understand what's at stake.