Friday, November 26, 2010

Troll and Flame is ranked 63rd Old Schoolish Blog

By followers, or was.  Thanks follower peoples ;)  See the Cyclopeatron's Post

63Troll and Flame71


Some Blogs that should have more followers than Troll and Flame:
I'm sure there are others. Those are ones I remember knocking my socks off and/or giving ideas for my games.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Necromould [Guest Post]

[This post was written by Flip, author of The Paradigm Traveller RPG blog.  Payback for the guest post Role Playing Game aides and accouterments I wrote on his blog.]
You round the bend in the underground tunnel and a cavern opens ahead of you. The faint rays from your flickering torch disappear into the yawning gloom ahead. You make your way down to the floor, miniature rock-slides marking your progress. When you reach the bottom, you brush the heavy dust from your clothes and turn to resume your trek. You freeze as the torchlight flickers over something... strange. After a moment's hesitation you move cautiously forward to gain a better view, halting several yards from the oddity.
A large irregular sphere, pale yellow-green and roughly six feet in diameter, hangs suspended before you, perched atop numerous slender filaments that stretch down to pierce the ground beneath. The surface glistens with slime and large pores with swollen rims, each a hands-breadth across, dot the lumpy skin like a multitude of festering wounds. At first it seems odd that such ponderous bulk rests on such seemingly fragile supports, but the longer you gaze at it, the more you feel the central mass actually supports and anchors the filaments as they stretch down into the earth. You become convinced when your scrutiny reveals that while the center mass is motionless, the filaments are continuously undulating in a nigh-imperceptible writhe.
As your eyes pass over the area where the thing's tendrils enter the stone, a small glint catches your attention. Several small objects gleam in the torchlight, and they seem to be spilling out of a half-buried pouch. Coin! -- a matching gleam sparkles in your eye as greed compels you forward. Not wanting to move any closer than necessary, you halt several feet away and stretch out your sword, hoping to catch the pouch with the tip of your blade. Suddenly a long drops and ricochets off your weapon. With a start you leap back, eyes darting up. From every pore the fungus oozes a mix of yellow ichor and bone, all falling into a slimy pile on the ground. Ribs, shoulder blades, a spine, and finally a skull. An inhuman, fang-toothed skull. A moment after the skull hits the pile, the bones begin to rise and join together. Seconds later a full skeleton stands before you, yellow ichor flowing over and around each bone in narrow rivulets. Jaws open in a silent roar and the nightmare steps towards you...


[Before we go any further, allow me to note that the Necromould is not a monster per se, but can be thought of as a flavorful explanation for the presence of undead, both in the world and in a particular location. The Necromould can also serve as the existential threat against which the PCs are striving]

It is said that long ago, an elder god from a distant dimension was cast down and murdered, betrayed by his most trusted servants. With his last strength, the old god uttered a curse of vengeance that consumed his own essence and gave rise to the Necromould. The Necromould may best be classified as an unliving disease, an unholy cancer that spreads decay and death wherever it propagates. The Necromould quickly consumed all life in its home dimension, and now strives to spread to other planes to feed anew.

While the vast majority of the Necromould's physical bulk resides in its native realm, it is constantly sending out astral feeding tubes that probe other realities. When one of these feelers happens to alight on a living creature at the time of its death, the life-force acts as a conduit through which the Necromould can deposit a spore in creature's body. Part of the creature's soul is drawn back through the astral feeder to the main body of the Necromould, to languish in uncomprehending torment. A sliver, however, remains behind to nourish the pod. Each necropod exists to consume life, and catches its prey by reanimating the dead. These undead minions may be the remains of the creature that first served as the gateway of the necropod, or may merely be the bones of some other dead creature. Indeed, the necropod extrudes tendrils which slowly phase into the ground, always searching for a stronger corpse to reanimate. On finding such a prize, the necropod magically draws it up through the earth and into itself, ready to act when needed. When a living creature approaches within a certain distance to a necropod, roughly equivalent to the diameter of the pod itself, the horrible mass begins expel the physical components of the corpse it has animated. In a matter of seconds, the skeleton, zombie etc is made whole, held together by faintly glowing necroslime. The undead minion remains tethered to the necropod via an astral feeder, but is otherwise able to move freely in pursuit of living targets. The minion will attack all living targets, and if successful in making the kills, will bring the corpses back to the necropod. The newly fed necropod may grow, and may "elect" to animate the fresh kill.

Necropods vary greatly in their own size and in the size and number of creatures they control, based on how many lifeforms have fallen prey to them. Mechanically speaking, each necropod has a diameter proportionate to the number of hit-dice worth of undead it commands. The ratio is three feet of diameter for every 1 hit-die. Thus a 15-foot diameter necropod might contain five human skeleton warriors at one hit-die apiece, or a single 5 hit-dice owlbear skeleton. Or it might contain a 2 hit-dice ghoul, and a 3 hit-dice shark skeleton. Of course, the shark skeleton won't be terribly effective in combat, but the necropod is effectively non-intelligent. It cannot choose it's servants selectively, it merely seeks out the echos of the most powerful form. Necropods of sufficient size may even contain intelligent undead, which are capable of independent thought, but are nevertheless compelled to serve their master's hunger. There is no upper limit to the number of monster hit-dice a necropod may contain.

Even if a living creature survives an encounter with a necropod's minions, the danger is not yet passed. If the necropod managed to injure the living creature during the fight, then the living creature itself now contains traces of the Necromould. The creature is now sensed by the Necromould, and when the creature dies, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the Necromould injects a spore at the moment of death. It may or may not be within the power of certain clerics to help a victim to avoid this fate. Necropods are mostly immune to physical damage, but their minions have all of the normal undead vulnerabilities. The only known way to destroy a necropod is to sever the astral feeder tube that connects back with the Necromould, and then to burn the now-vulnerable pod with fire.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cheap Mini's

Roleplaying Tips Blog had a recent post "Where can I find cheap minis online?" which is worth checking out.

I love my cheap plastic toy frog and spider minis more than any "official" mini's I've seen.  I've had success finding various animals and "giants" looking through bags of kids toys at thrift shops.  I want to save money for special mini's like this one:

Slug Eat Your Face

Were do y'all find minis?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest Post at The Paradigm Traveller

I wrote a guest post on Role Playing Game aides and accouterments over at the The Paradigm Traveller.  The author, Flip, is great guy and frequent player and occasional DM in various RPGs of all editions/brands/stripes.   He arrived "late" to gaming and has many interesting ideas & viewpoints.  His blog is well worth checking out.

some accouterments

Monday, November 1, 2010

Magic Items Should be Magical [repost]

[Magic Items Should be Magical originally posted Dec 25th, 2008!  A good post, edited and shortened a bit.]

Magic Items Are Special
Create a 3x5 note card for each item to give to the lucky new owner (keep a separate card or notebook for secrets about the item the player has not learned yet). Providing something tangible that the player receives, can hold, point to, wave in the air, throw across the room when it fails, and is missed when taken away is a bit of psychological trickery. But trickery that, from personal experience, creates heaps of fun. Unfortunately, it takes no small effort esp if like me you draw pictures too. 

The card provides space for descriptions, pictures, history and the like. Occasional additions to or outright replacement of the card should be made as the player discovers the item's secrets. Reserve the back of the card for player notes; where they keep it, thoughts on how it works, great deeds accomplished with it, whatever.  In manager speak you want to facilitate player "ownership."

Never flat out tell the player what an item does. Do not include mechanics in your descriptions. Never out loud for the whole group to hear, provide them privately. Allow the owner an opportunity to roleplay item's explanation and usage.  The same way scary movies slowly hint at what's so scary the mysteries of magical items should be slowly revealed.  Provide one detail in an epic floor-to-ceiling mural, another in a bard's song several sessions later. 

Even if you want the players to know everything upfront don't just blurt out "It's a Horn of Blasting, can demolish doors, walls, small structures and does 6d6 to constructs." At the very least say in your best fabulous voice "Aha! You have found the legendary Trumpet of Droog. A single note of which shattered the stone guardians of Thool. A sustained blast from this legendary horn will crack and crumble city walls and utterly demolish lesser structures." Pass the game mechanics to the owner in a note, or hey on that 3x5 card you made for this item.

Some rules expect there to be plenty of accessible "plus items". Which really makes it hard to maintain the mystic of magic. Solution; items that only provide a plus bonus aren't magical!  They are legendary masterworks.  "You, lucky sir, hold a Montoya Blade forged more than 300 years ago when the Golden Caliphs still ruled."  You could keep them magical and do the same thing.  But, +1 hit/damage seems like the effect of a master craftsman.  Something magical should be so much more...

Magic Items Are Unique
When describing an item describe that particular individual item. Describe in specifics, don't neglect sounds, tastes and smells the item possesses or generates. Depending on how magic & morality work in your world there might be other detectable emanations. "Before you is a 5' long smooth metal staff capped on one end by a large translucent bluish-white crystal.  It crackles with arcane power." Not "Found a Staff of lighting, they are from 5-6 feet long and often have crystals incorporated in their construction."

Focus on one or two signature details. Not just "a crystal" but "a large translucent bluish-white crystal." Consider making items other than scrolls and potions literally unique. It's pretty awesome to know there is exactly one Rod of Lordly Might and your character gots it.  If a player asks a leading question "What's in the crystal?" Roll with it! "The multi-faceted crystal captures your attention. Within its depths the torchlight's feeble orange light is reflected and amplified into the purest white. You drift off into pleasant memories of moonlight sparkling off the frost white snows of your long missed homeland." Maybe that's too fluffy... but, hopefully you get the idea.

Getting your players accustomed to specific traits being associated with particular magics creates opportunities for atmosphere and immersion. From frequent past usage everyone knows that invisibility potions smell strongly of lemon. While in the Dungeon of Dark Despair the scout makes a detect hidden check. Instead of blurting out "There's an invisible bugbear behind you."  Lean forward, sniff the air and whisper "Something familiar, a smell you can't quite place.  It gets stronger, you know this smell. It's lemon! From behind you and quite close."

Magic Items Are Important
Once a player has the item, don't let them forget about it. Reinforce how rare, magical and amazing it is. Peasants, followers, and hanger-ons will beg to see it. Collectors will offer to buy or try to steal it. The characters will hear songs that mention it.  Perhaps the heir of the original owner believes it rightly belongs to them and takes their claim to the authorities.  Does it need maintenance?  Perhaps a magical fungus starts growing on it. "Brave sir Hadley what is that fuzzy brown stuff on your Holy Avenger?".

If they carry it on their person it should be in danger; of being broken, getting rained on, pick pocketed, drained of magic, dropped into a volcano. Players keeps it safely stored "at home"? The place should be broken into and ransacked but the item was fortunately not stolen, this time!  Let them overhear how a great conflagration burnt down the characters home town. Make them fret over whether or not their hoard is so much melted junk.  If it fits the character, encourage them to roleplay misplacing it for a few days "Oh, here it is, in my other robes."

Don't make every event negative. It shouldn't be a constant burden just to own a magic item. Positive encounters persist even longer in players' memories. An artist or sculptor might desire to see it, even pay for the privilege. Perhaps a great wizard asks to study it. Having a wizard owe you a favor should be worth something. Events involving the characters' magic items shouldn't come up every five minutes either. Occasionally when you need a plot pick up or if the players complain about there not being enough phat lootz.

Final Thoughts
sirlarkens mentioned the "It's Sort of Like a Wand" article from Dragon Magazine. Looking it up I'm damn sure that some 19 yrs ago this is the article that got me started.  Garry Coppa, where ever you are, I owe big.  More recently I've gleamed sage advice from the most excellent Roleplaying Tips newsletter. Oh hey, look what they have done there.

I challenge every DM to make it a personal goal that every magic item your players pry out of you will be notable and prized by the character who obtains it.  Invest as much time detailing items as you do on NPCs.  Give them names, colorful descriptions, histories, previous owners, secrets.  Make them mysticalwondrous, and exciting.  It is likely that characters will have more interaction and a longer relationship with their items than they will have with most NPCs.

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