Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Galleries of the Nyctites - played, reviewed, and expanded

I was writing the contents of the secret underground chapel of Izorides the Goddess of Witchess and statting up Velrathi the 8735 God of Wind when Michael Tom popped up on gchat.   'I heard an internet rumor that you were in New York last night.' 'Yeah, I was at the Westgay until 4 a.m., we spent seventy-six bucks on Stella Artois," and then I reached for my coffee and knocked water onto my laptop, which froze and died.

I went to South Philly to hang with my pals, despondent, exhausted, and without any notes to play from.  We moped together, drank Budweiser Lime-a-Ritas (gross, don't do it), talked about the merits of gay bars over straight ones, and finally I said, 'Fuck it, let's play a one shot.  Here's a dungeon a bunch of guys on the internet wrote.  There was an earthquake and the lizardmen are paying you to map the new rooms which have just opened up beneath their camp.'

Nick: 'Oh yeah? What can they give us to sweeten the deal?'

'Fuck off, this is what we're playing tonight.'

So we scratched the surface of the Galleries of the Nyctites, a crowdsourced dungeon that can be found here.

Some thoughts:

There is an impressive organization of theme: otherworldly painters compelled to create their own existence through strange art-works, which seem to act as portals to another dimension.  There's a lot of dimension hopping and unexplained creatures.  However, because the dungeon WAS crowdsourced, there is a lack of over-arching direction.  The dungeon /feels/ like it was created piece-meal, even though the different rooms and characters reference each other in multiple places.  The Nyctites are meant to be a group that work together, but because of the nature of crowdsourcing, there was no way to describe how they do that.

These days when I write a dungeon for myself, I usually include a heading that describes the complete forces available in a given wing, their leader, their powers, and how they react to intruders of friendly and unfriendly varieties.  In the Galleries of the Nyctites, there was no reference point to give me that information at a glance, which I needed when running it at a moment's notice off my iPhone.  I ended up sort of floundering.

The other thing that made this dungeon difficult to run was the lack of essential information on creature abilities, powers, and character.  What is the name of the Nyctite master? How long have they been down here? What exactly is an arachnorooster? What are the capabilities of a shoggoth, Catalytic Plasm, psychic Aether Slime, and giant wailing toddler? Do the Nyctites have powers that distinguish them from each other?  Basic statistics (hd, ac, hp, damage, etc) are not a problem to make up on the spot, but creating powers and motivations for each monster room by room is difficult, and more importantly makes the game feel less like a GAME and more like a STORY that we're making up as we go along.

These are probably not problems for crowd-sourced hex-crawls, since a degree of preparation is necessarily implied for wilderness exploration games.  And this would not be a problem for the gallery if I decided to run this a week in advance, since this is an excellent draft with a lot of atmosphere and great ideas.  But since I have a regular game, and would always rather play that, a crowd-sourced dungeon is necessarily a dungeon I would want to pick up and play.  With that in mind, I hope that writers of dungeon rooms in the future do their best to provide a greater degree of specificity.

The goods news is that specificity is good advice for any kind of writing at all.

But hey! It was free and I got the describe the way the arachnorooster cried as Nick poked it to death through its food slot with a sharpened stick.  It was horrible.

So here are some details:

Nyctites are sallow-skinned five-foot tall cyclops with three arms - their third arm is on the left side and made of ivory, and every round they grab you, you hemorrhage from the eyes and nose for 1d12 damage, plus they can stab with their free hands.

(When I described them Maddy said, 'Okay they're off balance and have bad depth perception. I shoot an arrow in its eye.' Roll roll. Success. 'Great, I loop my rope around its feet to trip it.' Roll roll. Success. 'Nick, kill it please?')

Powerful Nyctites are able to speak words of power.  The Nyctites in room 13 can speak each a word of Insanity, Blindness, Paralyzation, and Fear.  The Master of the Nyctites, Jareth Orbis (thanks Henry) is able to speak a word of Pain.  The Master's Paramour is able to speak a word of Transformation, which turns the target of the word into a hybrid of its previous race and a random animal (you should have a random animal list), either the top half or the bottom half at random.  The Nyctite prophetess can speak a word which forces the targets to immediately witness all possible futures of their next ten rounds, overwhelming them with Confusion.  

In addition to the powerful Nyctites, there is a rotating guard of 15 nyctites armed with hooked nets, 2 poisoned daggers each (one causes excruciating pain and paralyzation for ten minutes, the other causes hallucinations to emerge from the shadows and hover about all moving forms, granting them +4 to armor for ten minutes), hooked cross-bow bolts attached to strong cords which they use to manipulate attackers from a distance, and a belt of three muted bells which they ring to sound the alarm.  The first bell indicates hostile forces, the second bell indicates an overwhelming force, and the third bell indicates an all clear.  5 of the Nyctite guards know a second level spell, and have a 30% chance of knowing a third level spell. They travel in groups of 3-6 (d4+2), sometimes accompanied by d4 ghouls.

If faced by intruders, they go ahead and release the arachno-rooster and aether plasm to roam the complex.   They probably also have the ghouls lie in wait, or even better roam the complex as well.

The non-monster painters and artists dwelling in the gallery all have HD equal to the level of the average party member +2.

The arachnooster has six wings and 27 eyes and a poisoned bite that deals d3 damage and 2d6 Con damage as it liquifies your insides.  It can fly 50' and make a bite attack.

The catalytic plasm deals 3d8 damage per round that you're immersed in it, or d8 damage if it just splashed you, and if you take 6 7 or 8 damage you have to make a Fort save or gain a random mutation.

The aether plasm has an extraordinarily complex crystalline structure.  Gazing into it causes it to take your form, though its features are blurred.  Touching it causes 1d6 Cha damage per turn as it devours your features.  It can also extend a threadlike tendril to attack.  When it absorbs 10 Cha damage, it gives birth to a doppelganger, which attempts to escape the dungeon complex.

The Corpulence is HD 8 + party level, ac 8 or 12, move 20', can grab at Strength 20 and automatically crush for d12+7 damage, or can eat a grabbed creature for d8+5 damage and try to crush another at the same time.  Normal weapons are useless against the Corpulence, as his layers of fat simply heal themselves as fast as they are wounded.  When he takes damage, his hot liquid fat splashes on a random adjacent target, dealing damage equal to the amount of damage he would have taken if he weren't so fat.


That should do it.  We didn't get very far.  They made friends with Jin Jubboflex the mouse-man, tortured some Nyctite guards, and threatened to push the canvas stretcher into the God room until they decided to push him into the room with the Corpulence. Then I looked at the room with the Corpulence and saw there wasn't enough information to run it on three hours of sleep and said, 'Zzzzzzzzzz.'

I wanted to get to the part where they explore the alternate dimensions but that would take a few sessions.  More than anything though, I want to see my players get skewered by the razor sharp bill of a giant heron god.


Oh and yeah I'm a gay role player and I play with a lot of gay guys, or maybe they're bi or queer or something, but I don't think any of them are straight, except for maybe Thomson and Nick.  I've never asked because it doesn't seem important.  Henry and his boyfriend Josh sometimes play together.  Shayne and I get messaged by the same guys on cruising apps during play.  Shayne works at a gay bookstore and while I was trying to figure out the name of the Nyctite master he said something like, 'Some guy came in and asked me if I knew a place where they give blowjobs.  What the fuck?'  We make a lot of dick jokes (who doesn't?) and when Nick says something like, 'The Nyctites eat ass,' I get to say, 'Is that a bad thing? You take 9 damage as you bleed from the eyes.'

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dirtface reaps what she sews (??), and Henry levels up hard

That girl from previous entry got all jazzed about the idea of a potion of double size dick (currently possessed by the now level four wizard Mop of the Hot Rock), and made this for us.

In the meantime -


Henry: "We got stoned with some lizard people, bluffed our way into some sweet new lizard crystal breastplates and had the archbishop Aagisss perform the RIte of Tiamat and foretell ~100 attack rolls against the angry wind god who roosts in the chambers of Izorides not far from the lizard domain."

Thomson: "oh my god i love you guys"

 Henry is becoming an extremely savvy player.

"So the giant lizardman lounging by the fire is accompanied by five carrion crawlers.  Their tentacles probe the air in your direction."

"Hail lizardman! What is your name? How much are you selling those carrion crawlers for?"

"My name is Ttiist and uhh well I raised them myself from grub and trained them with the meat of the living to do my bidding . . . so . . . maybe 800."

"Oh that's out of my price range."

After Shayne got the lizardman guards stoned with some elf weed he found in some dungeon maybe a year ago, they learn that one of the lizardman camp's primary defenses are their hooded basilisks.

"How many do you have? How much are you selling the basilisks for?"

"Only the three, and they belong to Aagiss, so I don't know, but probably priceless."

Then he met the heavily bejeweled and generally annoyed Bishop Zegis in the bottom chamber of the giant ram statue, who preferred to be pruning the magnificent jeweled armors rather than talking to thick-tongued surface interlopers.

"What beautiful armor you have! How are they made? What would you part with them for?"

Mop: "Can we PLEASE kill something?" (Pokes at her phone)

A couple good bluff rolls later, and after trading two potions of insanity and the shining eye of a long-dead priest to Tsathoggua, who was transformed into a malicious slime, but whose jeweled eye still remained amid the slop, Dirtface and Johann the Jotund have two crystal breastplates, and continue to gaze longingly at the forces and monsters of the lizardmen of great Sereth.  I don't think they've engaged in combat for two sessions now.  I hope Velrathi, the Eight Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty Fifth God of the Winds skewers them with his cruelly hooked beak.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dirtface speaks!

Excerpt from a gchat with some girl Nick was talking to.  He says that her response was along the lines of, 'Wow I didn't know you could do that in Dungeons and Dragons.'

"what follows is an attempt to summarize the completely batshit fight we had:

okay so we were in the tower of violets, trying to find a magical stone inhabited by a centipede demon 
so we could dip a dagger in the black ichor that drips from it, for a whole complicated human sacrifice thing 
but so our bard sad ed had tried to shoot one of the masters of the tower with a magic wand, and it had backfired and caused them to switch bodies 
so he was pretending to be the damnation prophet and leading us around with impunity, and we were walking around looking for the basement where the demon dwelt
we got distracted fiddling with a weird magical ice sculpture, and the tower cops showed up and started questioning everybody 
because they'd noticed that SOMEONE had ransacked the second floor (us) 
we tried to play it cool, but we knew the jig was about to be up 
and we were in the domain of the sin tutor, a wizard in professorial robes with a crow skull instead of a head 
and his seven sin students, all little kids with kid voices and crow skull heads, weren't letting us into the basement 
so finally we lost it and set a crazy trap and lit the place on fire 
and the seven crow skull kids started shooting us with crossbows
and the fire spread 
and i tried to put it out using the heart of the frozen ice sculpture and it froze EVERYTHING 
and the four sin students who survived retreated into the CLASSROOM OF SIN 
where there was a magic-stealing red steel cube, and a chalkboard covered in nauseating runes 
and whenever we slew one of the sin students, his head would detach and become a flying head trailing guts that would try to choke us 
and the sin tutor turned up and touched the cube and it started to bubble and bleed 
and deb the lady wolf tore his spine out to try to stop whatever horrible magic he was invoking
but it was too late! the cube ripped open and a giant bloody demon came out and started fucking us up! 
and then a seam appeared in the demon's head, trailed down his body, and split him down the middle! he was a demon of division! 
and one half grabbed sad ed, and one half grabbed dirtface
and seams appeared down our middles, and we each split in half too! 
and each of the halves could move around and fight independently 
and so all our halves and our direwolf were fighting these demon halves, crow skull kids, and flying skulls trailing guts
and then the guard patrol showed up! 
a thief, a wizard, and a paladin of centipedes! 
the thief turned invisible, and the wizard turned the paladin invincible, and the paladin cast a horrible spell that didn't really hurt anybody but made us upset
but then!
ignacio struck the three of them with divine fire and a cone of deathly cold, slaying the wizard and wounding the lot of them

and sad ed held out his pet toad, the Blindheim, who is so ugly it can cause blindness 
the thief couldn't take it, and so he was both blind and invisible. he flailed around uselessly 
one the demon halves started grabbing one of ed's halves, and pulled him into it
the demon's right side attached to sad ed's left side 
and he became the sad demon, and started singing sad ed's magic songs against us 
but sad ed's right side sung a song of magical suggestion at his left side, and told it to run from battle and cower in a corner, which it did 
dirtface's right side, still carrying its giant axe, started chopping at the half of the demon that was attached to ed's left side, trying to chop it off, but it was a demon of division and so only took half damage
dirtface's left side hopped around and pitched javelins at the centipede paladin, but he was invincible
the centipede paladin summoned two giant house centipedes who immediately tried to eat ignacio the druid
sad ed's right side ran over to dirtface's left side, and merged with HIM! 
forming dirt ed 
ignacio the druid heated the centipede paladin's magic centipede sword to burning heat, so he dropped it and ran over to try to wrest a javelin away from dirt ed 
while we wrestled, deb the lady wolf started trying to tug the paladin away 
and ed's new body had some snakes growing out of it, so one of the snakes was biting at this grabby paladin 
and the sad demon sung a song of mirror image that surrounded him with flickering duplicates, making him hard to hit 
and deb the lady wolf got split in half but recombined herself and kept on brawlin' 
and then it was midnight and we all needed to stop 
oh, and all along the demon halves had a preoccupation with division, so that if there were an uneven number of creatures in the room they'd freak out and panic 
so throughout the battle we kept trying to kill things or summon monsters so there would be an uneven number of things in the room

so yeah"