Thursday, March 2, 2017

Here's my collected thoughts on the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA

I wrote a few posts on G+ about MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA last Spring and Patrick Stuart the co-author is looking for public posts about it to link to. Here's the transcripts of those posts for easy reference. 

A. A "review?"

A few more (spoiler free) thoughts on THE MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA now that I've read it all the way through, run it once, and spent some time mentally tracing my way through the labyrinth;

- this is the most dungeony dungeon. It has everything you'd expect in a big dungeon: different factions, shifting alliances, magic fountains, cursed treasures, teleportation, strange poisons, history, traps, trick doors, secret passages, rooms with no entrances, riddles, pits, everything.

- there is a lot of really deadly stuff in here, but I think even level one characters could survive and make it out with a good haul if they were smart and very careful.

- it was very easy to run for me. I had read the book through before playing (which the authors recommend) and sure enough it was simple to look at the picture on the painting and just remember what was inside, looking at the text for reference. The layout is ingenious: each section of the maze has a chapter with a labelled close-up that also shows nearby room numbers. Even on a PDF, flipping quickly back and forth between rooms was no problem, because on the zoomed out view the shapes of the rooms and the pictures in them are so vivid that i could identify them. Plus there's nothing egregious or lame that I would want to modify before playing. It's all high quality gameable stuff and has a similar aesthetic to the kinds of weird dark fantasy games i like to run. In the future I might want to tweak stuff here and there just for aesthetics and difficulty, but running it as-is seems like it would pose no problem.

- the hardest part of running this was the characters. I had a lot of trouble remembering exactly how each character got to be in the dungeon and why they were staying there, as well as remembering what they knew, what they would conceal, and what they would be willing to tell, as well as their relationships to the other characters. Information is as important to this dungeon as physical treasure, and I found myself defaulting to my old DM habit of drastically limiting information so as not to give too much away. Many of the character descriptions have specific instructions for which information they do and do not know, and still I had some trouble tracking it. Not to mention I kept getting the uncomfortable feeling that many of these characters were a lot smarter than me. I think the authors have done everything they possibly could to supply the necessary tools to run a huge cast of complex characters (there's literally an alphabetical character index in the back, complete with motivations and a short description)--it was still difficult on this first run.

- the dungeon itself is incredibly evocative and dense and interconnected. Almost every room has a unique feature or character, and a lot of them relate to another sometimes very distant room. In play, the denseness makes for slow going: we played for five hours and got about ten rooms deep with no treasure found, and I don't think I was rolling random encounters even as often as recommended. This isn't bad, just different from how I usually run dungeons, and I'm curious to see what this will feel like as time goes on.

- After my initial read-through I went back and traced my way through different parts of the labyrinth I was curious about, and found myself getting totally lost going between the different people and sections and trying to find the easiest way through the dungeon and the likeliest ways the players might take. You can flip to any one page and the references there (and geographical connections) can send the reader all over the book. It gives a kind of weird vertiginous effect.

- I've spent so much time with this book this weekend that I dreamed about it last night (specifically the exteriors, which don't exist in the book). The art and language and my own obsession for dungeons in particular adds up to an intensity of experience that I haven't found in many of the previous releases from Patrick and Zak, whose dungeons have been groundbreaking but nothing at this scale before. I think part of what makes it work the way it does is its smallness--RAPPAN ATHUK for instance is way too big for me to comprehend all at once, and ditto for most other dungeons that have more than two or three floors.

- I like it

B. Some advice:

Here's how I would work the Medusa Maze into a long-term campaign:

1. Introduce it with a simple and more or less easily attainable and concrete goal, probably something within the first ten rooms, or even the first five. Something that could be gotten within a session of play along with the necessary heist that unlocks the dungeon.

2. Give them a map to their destination, and tell them up front the dungeon's deal--I'd make the NPCs at the dungeon's entrance honest and helpful, or have the NPC giving the players their quest tell them exactly what the dungeon's deal is.

3. Give the players easy access to the entrance, so they can go back over and over more or less whenever they want.

4. Tie stuff outside the dungeon into the inside, so there's really good reason to take a trip inside to get exactly what you need and then escape.

And then I'd relax and let them do whatever. The dungeon is an excellent set up for a heist and is naturally resilient, but it's incredibly dense, dangerous, confusing, big, and scary to explore. And as the players level up and explore the dungeon, there are mechanisms written in which make the dungeon more difficult.

Giving them bite-sized chunks and clear outlines to start, and an easy in and out, would probably do a lot to make the dungeon appealing instead of overwhelming. I could even imagine the PCs clearing out a district, taking out one of the bosses, and installing themselves an HQ or as a faction in the dungeon.

Also I just really like the idea of my players carrying on their adventures a magical painting which leads to a lethal megadungeon whenever they feel brave enough.

C. And a couple play reports (caution, spoilers):

1.

Ran a five hour session of the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA with a couple friends tonight. Here's some highlights, spoilers galore: present were Jon as Northrop Grumman the Tiny Man With A Riding Dog Rogue and Nick as Melt Banana the Human Paladin of Trump, two thugs in the island city of Tcorsk, hired by Edgar Voad, an aesthete, to steal a painting from the estate of a recently deceased eccentric. Giant land shrimp hung in the palm trees, moonlight washed over the tropical waves. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman bought forties. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman pretended to be tax inspectors and bullied the estate manager into letting them in. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman pretended to have to report the smutty painting False Chanterelle to the morality committee and lugged it back to Edgar Voad's house. Northrop Grumman bullied Edgar Voad into giving them more cash for the painting, while Melt Banana hid in the alley with Northrop Grumman's Rottweiler, Boeing. Edgar Voad, desperate to view his painting in the proper context, forked over the cash, payed them a fiver to hang the painting, and committed suicide in ecstasy when the bound woman came alive and asked them for help. Northrop Grumman cased the kitchen for salami and beer while Melt Banana licked his lips and watched the bound woman. They asked her some questions. She gave some confusing answers ("No don't leave! If you leave the magic will end ... No you mustn't go in the rooms beyond, they're filled with lizard men"). They freed her. They made her promise to sit and watch the other side of the painting while they explored. They re-chained her to the far wall and went inside ("Just an hour lady, if you leave, the magic will end"). They met the blue skinned woman who asked them for art. They went into the room where the shadows make you fall into pits. Northrop Grumman fell into a pit and Melt Banana helped him out. They met the bad king stabbed with swords and tried to bring him back to the blue-skinned woman as a work of art, but were attacked by chameleon women and the king ran away. They went to the room where the mosaic poses a rhyme and if you don't listen, she won't repeat it ("Is this art?" they dead panned). They didn't listen and Northrop Grumman was bitten in half and dragged into the mosaic by the mosaic, and Boeing the Dog as well. Melt Banana ran across the rope bridges and met ("Okay Jon, you can rejoin the game as soon as you have your character sheet") King Hu Harpagos, an idiot and mute reptile man monk who meditated his way into the Medusa Maze in search of his ancestors. King Hu and Melt Banana met the screaming snakechild being mind controlled by chess pieces. King Hu threw napalm on the chess pieces and Melt Banana body slammed them. They found the white room with a single black line down the middle ("Let's stay away from the crazy line room"). They found the black room with the jade tiles that paralyze you. They each got paralyzed and then they made it through. King Hu examined the giant snail for sexual organs ("You find no genitalia"). They drank the bad wine. The end. What a dense dungeon.

Deaths so far: 1.

2.

Session two in the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA (spoilers ahead): King Hu the Reptile Man and Melt Banana aka "The Knave of Swords" a Paladin of Trump meet Chronia Torn, a naked woman and everything around her is rotting and ancient and weathered and her babbling insect pet with six radial legs trundles across her room and bites King Hu and King Hu likes it and they play together and it bites King Hu and King Hu likes it more and playfully bites back and it bites King Hu and Melt Banana asks Chronia Torn to stop her pet from killing King Hu and she says "Come" and it does. She asks them to bring her silks. She asks them if they've seen, you know, anybody, around. They haven't. She puts on a silk robe and it disintegrates off her body. They want to find treasure. They go into the art galleries. 13 drunk orchidmen stumble out. King Hu tries to burn them with napalm and sets the creepy staring arch of goat skulls on fire. The orchidmen run away. The orchidmen go into the room where the naked critics are. The orchidmen eat some of the bloody critics and the critics stand around and criticize them. King Hu and Melt Banana kill some critics in order to get XP. King Hu vomits slime on the orchidmen. The orchidmen surround King Hu. "They get two attacks each." King Hu is torn apart by orchidmen and his body is digested by plants. Melt Banana runs away. He looks at the room where the tank of bubbling frothing milk and meat chunks is. Melt Banana steals some light-stealing roses from a tangled garden. "I cut a whole bush and carry it around." Melt Banana befriends a scattered group of men in bird masks who call themselves bird gods. They can't agree on whether to help Melt Banana Make The Maze Great Again by building a wall to keep the orchidmen out, and some of them start getting drunk on the bad wine. Vetchling the bird god man agrees to help though. Enter Edogawa Ranpo the Drow Bard. Edogawa Rabpo insults the birdmengods. Edogawa Ranpo insults Melt Banana. Edogawa Ranpo insults a lecturing and argumentative man hung by a noose who starts screaming and attracts the attention of Torgos Zooth, who has a moon for a head and makes them tell the truth. Torgos Zooth asks them questions and appears to not have been paid by his boss in five or ten thousand years, but nonetheless is desperately loyal to her, but wants to rescue his sons from where he thinks they're imprisoned by an invisible mathematician in the Reptile Archives, but doesn't want to go there because the archives and the reptiles and the mummies are her property, and he's breaking the rules by wandering off shift in the first place, and he cries fat moon tears at how stuck he is in life. He offers them food and drink, but they want a crossbow. Edogawa Ranpo insults him and he teleports them to room (roll roll; they say "That's a lot of dice") 247 where a pale guy with vampire fangs is chained between two dim Suns. "Free me... I'm not... a vampire... I'll help you in, your quest... I'll be, helpful to you..." They stake him and decide to rest up there and then they see the hummingbird made of jewels which looks at them and flies away. Melt Banana says "I should definitely not go after the thing that looks like it wants me to go after it." They decide to take a break.
Deaths: 2
Treasure found: Still Zero

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Oops

Here's a couple critical miss tables for when you roll a one!

CRITICAL MISS TABLE

2 Uh-oh, snake-eyes! Either critical hit yourself or roll on the disaster table. 
3 Drop what you’re holding 
4 Trip and fall
5 Trip and fall on your face, you have a bloody nose and take 1d4 damage
6 Throw what you’re holding 1d4x10’ away (roll d4) 1-2 straight ahead  or  3-4 straight behind you 
7 Stop punching yourself! Make an attack roll against you
8 Make an attack roll against another person next to your target, if there aren’t any make one against yourself
9 Weapon breaks in some minor way (string snaps, handle falls off), broken until you get a chance to fix it
10 Jam your hand, ow! Disadvantage with that hand for next round
11 Twist your ankle! Speed is 10 until you’re healed
12 Total fuck-up, lose your next turn. You narrate why.

DISASTER TABLE

Your insane fuck-up is so shameful that you’re now blighted from the sight of the gods. You can no longer cast divine magic, and divine magic no longer affects you. Animals attack you on sight. This lasts until you perform an over-the-top ritual obeisance worth 1d6x100 gold.
3 Your armor gets nicked in a crucial point. Next time your armor would stop an attack, it breaks and you take a critical hit
4 Your weapon gets nicked in a crucial point. Next time you hit with an attack, your weapon shatters into pieces. You and everyone around you needs to make a Dexterity save DC 18 or take 1d4 damage.
5 You fall and break your dominant arm. You just can’t use it until you’re healed or its splinted, and then you’re at disadvantage with that arm until you rest for a week and make a Constitution save DC 15
6 Your weapon nicks an artery. You take 1d8 damage and 1d8 damage at the start of each turn unless the bleeding is somehow stopped. 
7 Your weapon clangs or scrapes super loud. A random encounter immediately joins the fray
8 Your pack breaks and your entire inventory falls onto the floor, anything fragile has a 25% chance of breaking
9 A level 10 thief backstabs you. Where’d he come from???
10 You fall and get a concussion. Unconscious for 1d10 rounds, and take 1d6 damage to all stats.
11 Sorry, you still critical hit yourself, except now you fall down too

12 Earthquake! It goes for 1d6 rounds. Everyone has to make a Dexterity save DC 20 immediately or fall down and can't get up until it's over, even if they don’t they can only move at half speed.  Within 50 miles buildings collapse, avalanches occur, roads are wiped out, bridges crumble. If you’re underground, then every round you take 2d6 damage from the ceiling falling, Dex save 15. Walls and hallways collapse. 5% chance of tsunami.

Friday, December 23, 2016

I review FIRE ON THE VELVET HORIZON by Scrap Princess and Patrick Stuart

This is my favorite book to come out of the OSR next to Zak Sabbath’s VORNHEIM and I want to tell you about it. 

1. It’s an original and useful bestiary

There’s like a hundred original monsters here. They’re super individual. They’re cheeky and weird. Some of them are sad and some of them are funny. There’s a lot of birds, a handful of variants on classic D&D monsters, a bunch of organizations, some bugs, and just a whole lot of monsters. Each one has a picture by Scrap with a description by Patrick. He’ll describe very carefully and clearly what it looks like, what it does, what makes it special, and what other people and monsters think of it.

Here’s some examples, they’re ridiculous:

BOA CONSTRUCTOR. FLAMMEOUS LADS. MONSTER MAIDEN. ATROCIOUS CROWS. BOA BOY. SHRINE-OH. PRIEST OF HOOKS.

There is such a range of monsters, it’s impossible to tell what’s next. Most of them would not be out of place in any D&D game and have an obvious use. They range from monster-y NPCs like the ABHORRER and MONSTER MAIDEN to grunts like the STAR GROOLS and FLAMMEOUS LADS to powerful brutes like the IMPERATOR APE to bizarre uniques like the ICE AGE EYE and EOCHIAN WYRM. 

There’s like a hundred of them. There’s no stats, thank God. These days stats in a monster book just confuses me since whatever system I use will be so hacked that any stats a book has will be completely invalid. 

They have powers like “Laws and social norms cannot be broken nearby” and “Cannot be touched” and “can get inside your vision which means that you see it constantly but can’t touch it until it decides to get out of your vision” and “creates chains of ice out of its eye that it uses to bind natural features in chains of ice.” 

2. It’s beautiful

Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. Patrick’s descriptions are musical and detail oriented. Some of his sentences are blunt, some of them are fluid. He moves from sentence to sentence so lightly and beautifully. He describes the monsters with sentences like “She will eat a special reed and with this she can speak and sing beautifully in a low soft whispering voice” and “From afar the head of the Imperator seems like a featureless black axe, relentless and blind” and “They are hard to harm with fire and feel very little pain, but they can be chopped up, smashed, drowned, and salted.” Notice the specificity, this is a level of specificity on par with the best literature.

Scrap’s pictures ooze insane intentions. Her monsters crouch, leap, stand, squat, look at you, look at nothing, grin, and think evil thoughts. A lot of them are smiling and it’s scary. Some of them look like they could have just been a gesture but instead they’re a skinny crane or a loathsome wisp. Some of them are dense scribbles with menacing form. A lot of them are grinning or screaming or look like they’re thinking about something sad. There’s something that looks like a dog with a scorpion’s tail kind of, there’s one that looks like a chandelier or a mobile, the color monster looks ready to befriend and jump away. Most of them are black and white but sometimes there’s color. The PRIEST-OF-HOOKS is red and surrounded by pages of black drawings on black backgrounds (except for the red skull of the PREDATOR SAINT) and its red looks otherwordly and on-purpose. The PREDATOR SAINT’s skull just looks evil.

Patrick describes her drawings in each description of the monster, usually almost literally. The way the monster is, is like the way the monster looks. It as if the drawings and the words have grown together. Which I’m sure is what happened. The effect is a pleasant mirroring. My mind goes back and forth between the words and the pictures and the words and the pictures. The words make the picture more real, the picture makes the words worthwhile and energetic. I tried to imagine the book without the pictures.

The backgrounds are complex. Pattern, density, texture, sometimes it’s like looking into another world the monster’s resting on, sometimes there’s a sense of geography (a horizon maybe or city patterns) and sometimes it’s like you’re looking at something alive magnified, sometimes it’s black broken by scratches or folds or patterns, sometimes there’s a form or shape. The DUMBSMOKE has these prismatic distortions around it that look like possibly the world looks like when you’re looking through the DUMBSMOKE. The backgrounds are as complex and varied as any zine I’ve read.

I’m so proud to own this fucking book and have it on my bookshelf or coffee table, seriously it just looks so good.

3. I’m a sucker for zine culture

I’ve read a lot of zines and I make my own zines. My friends make zines. This is some top-notch zine work. I love it when people make their own book out of scraps and collages and marker and scan it on the work printer and give it to their friends. This is like that except it’s ten times longer than any zine and it’s about monsters. I was born to love this book for that reason alone.

4. Unusual themes 

Some of the themes explored (and Patrick and Scrap really explore them really thoroughly) in this extraordinary and completely over-the-top book:

Deep Time
Birds
Isolation
Bugs
Monsters
Extraplanar Civilizations That May Be Our Own World From Another Perspective
What If This Monster Actually Existed, What Would That Be Like
Competing Perspectives Of The Same Reality
Language And Words 
Evil

5. Reading it is like reading a collection of beautiful fairy-tales, except not

If you want you can read it like you read a story-book. I do. When I get to a part I like I go, “Oh my God, here comes the part I like!” and then I read it and remember and get chills. You can flip through it and go to something that looks interesting and read about it and it won’t take too long because each part is only a page or two long. You can do that during breakfast, or if you’re trying to take a break from something else you’re doing. Each monster description is its own little journey that’s exactly as long as it needs to be to incarnate its idea. 

Except it’s not like a book of fairy-tales because it’s a book of monsters, except it’s not like the book of monsters you’d find in the YA section of your bookstore because the themes and ideas and images are so violent and unusual, and it’s obviously meant to be used in a game. Except even though it’s obviously meant to be used in a game, it’s shockingly beautiful and satisfying to simply read, but reading it makes me want to use it in a game, and that’s part of what’s so satisfying about it. Seriously it is completely unique from any other book I’ve ever read.

6. You can buy it at http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/scrap-princess-and-patrick-stuart/fire-on-the-velvet-horizon/paperback/product-22807768.html and I hope you do so that Patrick and Scrap can make more incredible books like this one and make me happier.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daphne von Kirin Santos

Found by my players in the snowy surf, curled in the jaws of a sea serpent, which was caught dead in the talons of an ocean hawk, which was dead in the jaws of a pure white fox: the letter was covered in contact poison.

"To my most Pearlescent and Flowering sister -

May these words quickly reach your Orchid Manse -

I have been ruined by pirates -

Send rescue -

I will wait with my attendants in the place where the eels sing their night songs -

Come in Haste, Daphne my Love -

'Ware the giant, he sniffs the bloodshed and prowls from his home among the waves -

Olivia

PS: I trust you received my shipment of jaguars, passage to Loth Armanea has been made slow by Velkiss.  Offer her a Purple Child when she blows against you."

Sylvia Plath describes the Lady Daphne von Kirin Santos 100% accurately:

All day she plays at chess with the bones of the world:
Favored (while suddenly the rains begin
Beyond the window) she lies on cushions curled
And nibbles an occasional bonbon of sin.

Prim, pink-breasted, feminine, she nurses
Chocolate fancies in rose-papered rooms
Where polished higboys whisper creaking curses
And hothouse roses shed immortal blooms.

The garnets on her fingers twinkle quick
And blood reflects across the manuscript;
She muses on the odor, sweet and sick,
Of festering gardenias in a crypt,

And lost in subtle metaphor, retreats
From gray child faces crying in the streets.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Redoing the numenera bestiary: okay . . . the E's

This was rough.

Earthshaker. A fine monster. HD 20 at d20+4 hps per (15 being average), 1 attack +12 (+16 when charging) deals 3d12 damage against up to four adjacent creatures. AC 18. Yes it can charge 200 feet in a round if it spends a previous round dashing, and then also make its charge attack, which allows it to move through a creatures space or, if the target would prefer, an opposed Strength check failure is full damage and knocked about. He’s large enough to step on a person as an additional attack for 2d6 damage, which if he maintains the pin deals automatic damage each round. An earthshaker with some baleful aura would be a perfect foe.


Edacious destroyer. So this picture is no good. Instead, this is probably a black giant with a really fat worm growing out of one of its eyes. You’d meet the giant and it would either have an eyepatch or a crusted hole or like just a wiggling tip poking out and then it would disgorge a fat white maggot. Maybe there is scabbed hole that the worm breaks through every time it comes out. The giants accept the worms willingly from their Worm Pool. I imagine the worms hunting with the giants and bringing the digestion back to the worm pits to feed their young. The largest worms are ridden upon. They are regarded as an alternate intelligence, like the machinations of weather or divinity, and the worms are consulted on decisions of state. 

Ellnoica. Fuck this monster. Invisible, again. The description (“it tries to suck the flesh off the bones of a fresh kill” . . . “a glowing terror the color of uncooked meat”) is totally different from the picture, which is: a bright pink walking hand with spikes on either end. This is another monster where I could probably use the picture as-is but scrap everything about the description. Instead of a “crushing blow” or acid that liquefies you, it just grabs you and squeezes, and the other end puts holes in you. The shimmering psychedelic speed-lines are to indicate the creepy speed with which it hobbles across the room, like the crocodile-head girl in Tokyo Gore Police. It makes a constant hissing humming static psychic noise, being as it’s a debased mutant mindflayer and all. Phew, I can’t believe I made it through this monster, I thought I’d have to give up on this project completely.

Ember scion. Oh, so it’s just a fire elemental. They live in volcanos and are on fire and they shoot fire and things around them catch fire. Fire elementals are already so boring that I don’t use them in my game. “Reasoning with them never seems to work.” This is the worst page so far. The best sentence is the one that makes the least sense: “It is said that the understanding of the past shaped flesh that could thrive anywhere, and therein lies the most likely genesis of these creatures.” So these things go into cities spreading the Understanding of the Past Shaped Flesh, which is a tenet of Imix, and is incredibly fascinating and complicated and heretical, but as soon as anyone understands it they spontaneously combust and turn into malicious lava with screaming faces, and the ember scions herd these lavas into their volcanoes and smugly bathe in them. The picture is no good and I can’t draw so I have no idea what these look like: so use your favorite demon generator and call it a day. They’re probably more Boschean than Warhammer.

Encephalon. Haha this monster is great. Everything about it is totally fucked: a lamprey-mouthed slimey big-headed guy shoots out flocks of flying slugs that drill into your brain, steal your brains, and fly back into the tree-man’s chomping mouth to feed it brains. It walks on a mass of tentacles. The slugs have butterfly wings. I love it. 

Engineered Viral Host.  “It has bioengineered its own, more efficient hosts.” This seems like a basically good idea. I don’t like any of these pictures: a green jelly guy perched on a rock; a faceless green wizard making a twisty-fingered wrathful non-expression; a predictable four-legged green spider. Why green? The opening paragraph makes me wonder about the psychology of an intelligent virus though. It must be incredibly futile - one humongous, disconnected, impotent body. No wonder they would try to create artificial bodies to live in. It’s decided to build its own cities instead of invading others forever and ever. Probably the hosts are aware of their virulence and try to protect themselves from harm as much as any person would, since infecting another lifeform is tedious and difficult, like a siege. I’d preserve the way they spray horrible diseases when damaged, but they probably go, “Oh noooo!” when it happens and helplessly cover their wounds with their fingers. They probably just look like sick men, skin green with jaundice. Another person at court, and an assassination target for the forces of Nurgle. 

Entrope. They are “never found in warm environments” and are “entities of exotic biomineral.”  I wish I could just say “Fine, next” but I would never use this in my game this way and I shall not cheat you. Here’s the thing: everything this monster does, an ice ooze does better. Biomineral? Never found in warm environments? Splits in two? Sucks the heat from the air? Well the ice ooze sucks in heat and then spits it out too.

Okay, how about this: that picture of the tentacle worm is the size of a finger. If you sever a finger and put an entrope there in its place you can use it to make an attack dealing 1d10 cold damage and on a failed Charisma save its entropy becomes activated and both you and the target lose your next turn while the entrope coils and uncoils its tentacles and makes a loud laughter through its cold lips.

Ergovore Hound. Perfect, another dog to put on the dog list for the players to buy. It eats force effects (magic missiles, force fields, force cubes, etc) by taking big chomps out of them, and in combat it can either maul a guy or whip out its six-tongued spiketongue and make six attacks. The picture is good. “The only dogs in the kennel are a sick bulldog and . . . THIS”

Eurlian. WTF? They show us a picture of a floating brain connected to a spine and don’t specifically say, “This is what happens when a brain gets sick of being in a body, because it’s too smart and powerful for the meat it’s embedded in?” Like, a wizard learns too many spells at once and its central nervous system gains a superior consciousness and rips out of its body. Makes sense to me. I’ll skip the first entry, for the Erulian, because it’s empty (The monster can be incorporeal but chooses not to . . . it can float through objects but chooses not to . . . “Erulians are normally passive” . . . “Erulians can exist in any environment”), and just say the Erulian can take six actions each turn because it’s so fucking smart. Possible options include: any number of wizard spells; cause disadvantage on one kind of ability save; slow a monster for a turn; make one deaf and blind; undo the turn; cause a spell to come into effect the next turn instead of this one; all kinds of bullshit like that.  

Etterick. “They control the machine through means that look much like scuttling around and doing typical insect activities.” Basically, this is an alien ant farm. Ho ho ho. I can’t get over its dopey smile. I can handle the idea of a metal golem with a dopey smile that just spams magnetic repulsion round after round, and then when it takes a certain amount of damage it cracks and a swarm of clicking magnetic flying metal bugs pours out and forms, like, a sword that attacks you, or a screaming skull. I suppose I would do that in my game.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Redoing the Numenera Bestiary: the Ds

Continuing forward.

Dabirri: This is a picture of a jellyfish. The book says they are "created by taking the heart of a creature the size of a human and placing it in a synth shell" which is the coolest bit. So I'm imagining a crawling jellyfish with a beating heart in it. Sloppy and gloppy and quivers and lashes out tentacle after tentacle to drag itself around. That would be good. Their poison ignores armor since it briefly phases the target into Hell and back. And we can say that these are the hearts of mutineers who give up their hearts to the sea in order to avoid hell.

Decanted: Okay, so this is a golem that turns invisible and steals people’s heads. Jesus. They have cold hands. Man oh man. But the idea of a golem with a head in its chest is basically good, and the picture works.

Okay so I’m going to use the original picture, but instead of ceramic or metal it’s a golem made of silk surrounding a cut block of frozen memories with a head in it. It moves like a puppet. I imagine that when someone important dies - like royalty, or a national hero - but they also know important national secrets - their head is frozen and protected in these special puppet golems.

You could have separate hit-points for the frozen head and the puppet head, and it ignores damage to the silk bits. It doesn't touch the ground and can flit around like a kung fu master. Its claws still do extra cold damage, and it can partially thaw the frozen memories surrounding the head so it sprays freezing memory around it, and everyone touched by it is stunned while they experience a flood of foreign memories. When the frozen head is damaged it sprays the frozen memories in a random direction.

Dedimaskis. This is actually a complicated magical mask and when you wear it, it can do the following: 1/week shoot four prismatic lasers dealing 2d6 damage each as 3 + Charisma bonus, OR shoot one laser up to 1 mile dealing 4d6 damage (as same). While worn the wearer cannot sleep but if they meditate for 8 hours they get the same benefits as a long rest plus 3 extra hit-points per level.

Dimensional husk. This is perfect. It's a person surrounded by all of its alternate realities partially phased into our reality. It can make 1d6 additional attack each round, it’s damage ranges randomly from 1d4 to 1d20 (simulating which weapons from its alternate realities it wields), ignores 25% of all damage, and its AC changes each round: 1d20 + 8. It can still teleport as an action. One per week it can rip a dimensional husk from a PC (as in the DM intrusion) which acts as the PC +/- 1d4 levels and accrues 1 dimension per minute until after an hour its a fully formed new dimensional husk (with a bizarro personality of course).

“A dimensional husk spends its existence confused.” No it doesn’t, it speaks every possible sentence simultaneously and knows more than any soul confined to just one reality at once. It can be consulted to see into alternate futures and pasts. It’s what happens when someone is afflicted with possibilities - maybe they mis-wielded a might sword, or was swallowed by Zuggtomy's rot, or were ravaged by wild magic.

Dream sallow. A tree that puts you to sleep and melds with your brain so your mind melds with the tree’s mind. This is a hard one: the tree avatar is already taken by the dryad so I don’t want to overlap, but I like the idea of a special dungeon inside an evil tree.  This is probably more like an tree that’s absorbed the minds of thousands of tortured dead souls, like the petrified one in the graveyard in Deathfrost Doom, and probably each of these trees contains a powerful spell, or you could need to consult one of the souls trapped inside. So here's what you do: you climb onto the tree and impale yourself on it and its bloody sap mixes with your blood and a door opens into the tree which leads to the labyrinthine reality where all its souls and secret spells live as well as the heart of its secret malice.


Drebil. It’s another bat but this time it’s also a mimic. We already did bats and I don't like mimics, so it’s probably a kind of goblin. A dreblin, if you will. It has extraneous and large wings that can’t fly but also that it can’t comfortably fold, so it folds its wings endlessly, alone, like a cat rearranging its fur. It can also refold one item into another item, ("Yes, I shall turn your shield into a crystal lantern . . . for a price!") but after 1d10 hours it starts to come undone and must be refolded. It’s just an abject 1 HD AC 10 goblin that can imitate voices, is vulnerable to cold iron, eats the eyes of children, and serves witches.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Redoing the Numenera Bestiary: the Cs

Continuing on with the Numenera Bestiary. A lot of these have one or two parts of the monster that are to my taste and the rest I want to whittle off, like a caramel nugget wrapped in wood.

Calyptor: I don’t like this picture. Where are all those folds going? What’s that under its chin? And as usual the nugget of monster doesn’t interact with the players or their surroundings in a way that’s new or strange. “Cause Fear . . . Sleep . . . “ zzzz.  “Intensely loud, focused bleat.” Okay, they’re singing goats. Their songs sound like Satanic choirs. They bleat and a rip appears in your flesh or your face falls off or your eardrums pop or your heart stops. Their song-specific powers require certain numbers of goats: 1 goat: Bleat as bastard sword at range 3 goats: Destroy eardrums, deaf until healed 9 goats: Enslave (new save each day) 27 goats: Stop Heart, no save (affects 5d12 hit points of creatures).  As third level thieves, can climb slick walls and open doors and jump as thieves. 

Cave qui: These are pacifist bats. “Cave qui culture puts the colony first, valuing the well-being of every member.” God damn. Some of them are zombies. The curse can “strike without apparent warning or cause.” Geez. There aren't natural caves anywhere in my games, ever.

 So all the living cave quis are dead and there are isolated island nations where flocks of zombie bats blacken the skies. They're just normal sized bats and they're not rotting necessarily, just cursed, and a single bite can turn a person into a zombie, and they flee bright light.  Assassins smuggle the cursed bats in hats or jars. Vampires throw them at enemies.  HP 2 AC 16 Bite +3 1 damage and DC 18 Charisma check to avoid the curse which kills you in 1d10 days and also immediately causes: 1. Halve hit-points 2. Disadvantage on all psychic ability checks 3. 1d6 damage to a psychic ability score every day 4. Unaffected by healing - that sort of thing. When you die from the curse you return as a zombie with the same curse.

Chance moth: I imagine a chaos knight covered in glowing moths of an unknown color. Call it a chaos moth if you want, even that would be better than a "chance moth." I don't like the stings on the wings anyway - who ever heard of a moth stinging somebody? So now it's a small jale colored radioactive moth that touches you and you get a random effect, just like it says. Either roll on the chart provided or roll on the 1d1000 mutation table. There's a chunk of the random table in the book that says "Nothing happens." That's boring. Here's what happens instead:

41-45 Become proficient in random weapon (doubling if already) for 1 hour 46-50 Same for a day 51-55 Learn a random spell levels 1-4 56-60 Learn a random spell levels 5-7 61-65 Repel undead 15’ for 1 day 66-70 Glow brightly random color for 1 day 71-75 Moth turns into random monster 76-80 Moth dies 81-86 Weapons or armor enchanted at +3 for 1 day 87-91 Fall upward 10xd20 feet 92-97 Moth explodes for 8d6 radiation damage in 10 foot radius 98-99 Moth explodes for 8d6 radiation damage and everyone in explosion makes DC 15 CON check or gain a 1d1000 mutation. 00 Con save DC 13 or melt into a random ooze

Chronal feeder: That’s a pretty good picture but I'd prefer if it were more of a giant maggot. Let’s say they have a slow aura 30’ and a time stop aura 5’. They can still burrow into their Nth dimensional home outside of time as an action and teleport - this leaves a tesseract for 1d20 rounds that connects the two places. I’d want it to be more of a giant maggot - HD 8 AC 11 Bite +6 2d8+4 and eats time based magic (Intelligence DC 14). I don't know how someone would kill a teleporting maggot that stops all time in its vicinity but I'll leave that to the players.


Coccitan: Cockroach people. There’s no problem with this. They’re probably well-regarded, immune to radiation, intelligent, and disgusting. “Are not as intelligent as humands” of course they are. “Where they gorge on garbage, sewage, and other scrap” No they’re a dilapidated upper class clad in rich fabrics and jewelry and they feast on roasted fowl and good wine and are served by blue women and boys.