Tuesday, January 28, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Acolytes (d100)

While leafing through Old School Essentials the other day, I was struck by another project idea: wouldn't it be wonderful to have at hand a few "Encounter Activity" tables for each of the Monsters in the Classic Fantasy Monsters tome in the same vein as my These Wood Elfs Are... and These Dwarfs Are... tables?

So I started with the first one:

Hopefully this will add a little additional flavoring to those randomly encountered or placed foes. I could also see some of the entries applying to the mysterious Drune of Dolemnwood fairly well. If there's enough interest, I might muddle my way through more as I get the chance. I welcome any suggestions for which Monster I should try to tackle next in the comments!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

d100 Table - This Secret Door Opens

It’s a relatively common conundrum: You’ve placed your concealed or secret doors in a lovingly designed dungeon but may have not bothered to give much thought to how they’re opened/operated other than “oh there must be a lever/pressure plate/button somewhere.”

I’ve created this table to help provide some inspiration. It might also be useful for methods of disabling tricky traps or burnishing an evening with minor puzzle elements as well:

As a caveat: Clues are completely crucial when sprinkling in secrets, mysteries, and puzzles. I’ve underlined items that could be expanded through virtuosic descriptions to help draw in players attention to certain features, but feel free to incorporate another nudge or so. If they must open the door by kissing the carving of a crone (#47), it stands to reason that perhaps the lady’s lips are worn or stained, etc. This underlining typically indicates that these should be incorporated somehow into dressing/room descriptions as the players interrogate the fiction and should only adjust the character of a room in a minor way. If it flatly doesn’t fit with character of the room contents, then it might be simpler to choose another or adjust it slightly.

Some puzzles require pieces. For these, I’ve applied bolding. If the players don’t have these, or a means of acquiring them, then this could serve as a “hard stop” in play which isn’t ideal. They can always come back at a future point in time with the proper component, or as above, you can always adjust or incorporate additional necessary ingredients in nearby dungeon dressings if it’s frustrating any fun. Not all secret doors have to opened, and fully exploring a deviously drawn dungeon often triggers other in-game resource/real-life dependent limitations or exasperation (this isn’t Myst after all and pixel-bitching is about as un-fun as you can get for most).

Feel free to flex your imagination on how things are “actually working” with lovably “off-screen” byzantine mechanisms or gonzo Rube-Goldberg contraptions. Inexplicable magics from mad mages are another common scapegoat. Most of the time this is largely less important to the players than simply bypassing a mercifully brief obstacle. I also like to muse on how these doors might see use by other dungeon denizens, but I don’t get too caught up on it. Like many, I prefer the more Mythic Underworld approach which is blessedly less logical: The monsters play by their own rules down here. But naturally, a canny party, silently tracking or carefully observing the inhabitants should be rewarded with revelations on how some of these triggers work.

Let me know if you find this useful or how an entry works out if it makes its way into one of your dungeons!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

d100 Table - Dungeon Noises & Sounds

Here’s another d100 table to provide a little environmental dungeon dressing and furbelow. One often finds themselves fixating on the visual elements in descriptions, but occasionally engaging some of the other senses (see: d100 Table - Three Hundred Smells & Scents by Type) can make for an exciting change of pace. I wanted to whip up a handy table to make this process more inspiring and less repetitive, inspired by the old AD&D DMG.

How do you use sounds/noises in your games?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Safari Card Monster Manual

I was reminded today about the existence of Safari Cards. Here’s the commercial from the early 80s that some of you may remember:

As a child, I positively adored these things. I obsessively read, filed, and re-filed them. I think some of the first mail I received addressed to “me” alone were little packets containing these cards (though I have no idea how my parents were suckered into subscribing to them, probably under the laudable auspices of the cards being “educational.”)

I remember convincing a teacher to let me do my “book reports” on animals that she would draw randomly from a pile (I think I still have one of these somewhere on the terrific Jackson’s Horned Chameleon). I’d get to write down the name, and she’d keep the card while I scampered off to the school library and immersed myself in the reference sections. It was always fun “checking my work” versus the card.

So, the information presentation on these was actually pretty interesting and could have some application for rendering Monster/Encounter information in a compact format. Let’s take a look at the front and back of a card (these were 4¾ by 5 inches):

While the front is dominated by the photograph of the animal in question (prime real estate and size for a monster illustration you could show to the players), the top bar is usefully dense. You have the creature name above a series of icons. I believe these were used for filing/organizing the cards within their storage containers (there were dividers), I think they map to Class/Order/Family, but we could just as easily have a set of icons for Monster Type: Undead/Aberration/Dragonkind, or other types of Monster classification icons (maybe solitary/group, treasure type?, etc). Next is a nifty line illustration of the type of terrain it’s typically found in (especially relevant for Overland Encounters, but a “Dungeon” terrain could exist) which was also used for organizing the cards, and a map with the geographic region. This format seems pretty pilferable (insert your fantasy world hex-map over the Mercator projection, with hexes highlighted). I believe the color of the top bar also was different depending on the climate the animal preferred.

On the back, we have two columns of information (monster fluff goes here, ecology, etc), and a lovely little table at the bottom with some additional interesting information (this might have varied a bit from critter to critter). I think a stat-block could easily fit in here, or maybe keep some of this box (the measurements are neat, and gestation information is woefully under-represented, other “fun facts” could also be presented here, I am a sucker for having any collective nouns/terms of venery at the ready for instance) and reduce the amount of text in the information/ecology section to add another few rows for simple, broadly compatible stats.

The card format could be useful for quickly building a “deck” for random encounters within a region/terrain/climate to have the monster statistics and relevant information handy, not necessarily as a generator (frequency isn’t really represented here), but as reference with all the necessary information in one place and a quick way to locate/re-file the monsters as necessary.

Just another idle idea. Perhaps I might eventually find the time to create some templates or example cards for this.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Mountain Range Generator Idea

I’ve been thinking about Mountain Ranges a bit lately in preparation for some supplemental tools/tables for generating some names and flavor for the Mountain Hexes. In my musings, I hit upon the idea to procedurally generate a primitive visual profile using area charts.

Here’s a rough idea for a Mountain Range generator (using Google Sheets for web-based compatibility, sample output and link below).

Mountain Range Generator (this is a link that creates a copy to play with)

It could definitely benefit from a little more variety for the naming (I’ve only included some short tables as a proof of concept here) and some tinkering with the data series, but there might be some potential with this approach. It could be interesting to include some options for “young and tall” ranges (à la the Himalayas) as well as “old and worn” types (like the Appalachian Mountains). It is also tempting to nest a few more data series as well or have the number of series plotted to be randomly determined for more or less visual depth.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Updated Layout For Gorgon Trail TROIKA! Backgrounds

Found myself fiddling around a little bit with the Layout for the Gorgon Trail TROIKA! Backgrounds.

The document itself has been updated with a few more Backgrounds. Hoping to finish this up soon. To view the living document, use either the above link, or this link to the previous post.

Here's a quick preview of the latest layout styling:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

TROIKA! Backgrounds for Gorgon Trail

Psst...I’ve started whipping up 36 Gorgon Trail Backgrounds for TROIKA!

This is a living document, that I’ll be adding to as I get some free time, so check back for updates!


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