Friday, May 22, 2015

I May Actually Run This

It's 2078.
Water is scarce, the bomb has long since dropped.

The remains of Ciudad Juarez are ravaged by interclan warfare
egged on by oligarchs churning out colossal machines.





You don't mind. They're your agency's biggest clients.









In the grim darkness of el plan estratégico para el año fiscal 2078-2079 there better be only war.

Or your fired.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Maximum Road. A 5e/Atomic Highway PostApoc Mashup RPG


Mallory:...it was a BOLD MOVE, I think
at what could have easily been the end of the movie
for Tom Hardy to stop and say
“hey, hey. wait a second”
“what if we just…go do the whole movie again, but BACKWARDS”
“how would that strike you”
Shrill:  yes
“I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that direction…but in THIS direction there are more crashing cars”
Mallory:  that was a good choice

-Mallory and Shrill analyzing Mad Max: Fury Road in The Toast


So Mad Max: Fury Road is so good it has everybody talking like the first three movies were prequels. Rock. Something, somewhere has been done properly somewhere on the planet, finally. Now you're thinking: How will this translate to something I can do on tuesdays with matchbox cars and jerky and Biff from accounting?

Well sisters and brothers, basically all the work's been done. Check it:


Step 0:

Download Atomic Highway if you haven't already, it's free. A lot of this game is based on Atomic Highway and--while it might've been more convenient to just reprint the relevant sections here--I don't want to stop people from taking a look at the good work Colin Chapman and company have done on it.

Why this particular game? The car rules are simple, but detailed enough to be meaningful and make autoduels interesting.

Step 1:

One of the best things about Atomic Highway is the abilities spell "MUTANTS".

Roll 3d6 in order (or roll and rearrange to taste, if you've got a concept already) for:

Muscles (Strength)

Understanding (Intelligence)

Tenacity (The willpower part of Wisdom)

Appeal (Charisma)

Nimbleness (Dexterity)

Toughness (Constitution)

Senses (The noticing-stuff part of Wisdom)

Put modifiers next to them as if you were playing 5th edition D&D, like 12-13= +1, 14-15=+2 etc.


Step 2:

Look at your Muscle, Tenacity, and Toughness. Your starting hit points are equal to whichever whole score is the highest.

Step 3:

We're going to pick backgrounds in a minute, but first...

Note these slight hacks to the kosher Atomic Highway skill list. Some of them have been made just to be clearer about what they do. Basically: I want any player to be able to tell what a skill does without looking it up.

First: "Notice" is gone. Since "Senses" is an attribute, and we're converting to a D&Dish system, we don't need a general attribute and a specialized skill that do almost the same thing, it's confusing. The skills are technical capacities that may or may not always be attached to the same basic attribute.

Removing these from the skill list means most people are going to fail to notice things a little bit more often than they'll fail in things they've got skills in. So GMs take note, if you're doing these as naked tests.

I split Atomic Highway's "Tech" into "Electronics" (radio and computers and whatnot) and "Mechanics" (cars and plumbing pipes, etc) since Mechanics is probably a widespread survival thing in the post-apocalypse whereas Electronics is more of an arcane specialty (how many electronic items can you actually count in Mad Max films?).

I added "Craft" and "Disguise" because AH has no equivalents and they're both clearly technical skills that could come up. Somebody has to glue all those shreddy strips together to make clothes and anybody could get the idea to hide under them.

You get +0 in all skills until you add something during character creation. Unlike D&D, you don't always have a skill hooked to the same attribute on a given roll. Beneath each one is the attribute or attributes whose modifiers you most often will be combining the skill modifier with. So if you have Aircraft at +3 and Nimbleness at 15 (+2) and Understanding at 12 (+1) then if you're trying to pull out of a dive you'd roll at +5 (Aircraft +3 + Nimbleness mod +2) and if you're trying to figure out where the fuel gauge is on a stolen plane you'd roll at +4 (Aircraft +3 + Understanding mod +1).

The new skill list is:

Aircraft (Pilot in Atomic Highway)
Nim
Und

Animal Handling (Zoofinity in AH)
App
Und

Athletics
Nim
Mus

Boat
Nim

Car (Drive in AH)
Nim

Criminal
Nim
Und
App

Craft
Nim

Disguise
App
Und

Electronics (Part of "Tech" in AH)
Und

Heal
Und

Intimidate
App
Mus

Lore
Und

Mechanics (Part of "Tech" in AH)
Und

Melee weapon (Melee in AH)
Mus
Nim

Outdoor survival (tracking, etc) (Survive in AH)
Sen

Persuade
App
Und

Ride Animal
Nim

Scavenge
Sen

Shoot 
Nim

Sleight of Hand (Sleight in AH)
Nim

Stealth
Nim

Unarmed (Brawl in AH)
Mus
Nim

This is my terrible quickie character sheet--it has starting equipment tables on it

Step 4: 

Pick a background.

Like 5th edition D&D, Atomic Highway has backgrounds ("rearings" in the original game)--things they did before becoming an adventurer that give you bonuses (one or two) to your skills and other stuff.

The backgrounds are totally Mad Max standard -- Bartertowner, Feral, Nomad, 'Steader (homesteader), Tribal, Trog -- a mutant, and Remnant -- someone who survived in one of the pockets of pre-apocalyptic civilization (like Max himself). 

Backgrounds (rearings) start on page 23 of AH. If your background includes Athletics, Notice or Persuade (which are gone) add one floating skill point. If it includes Tech add it to Electronics or Mechanics whichever makes more sense for the character you want to make.

Otherwise, just remember some skills have changed names and you're good to go.

Here are two more rearings, from Fury Road:

Bride
Skills: Persuade 3, Stealth 2 
Gear: Pre-apocalypse clothes, trophy from former captor

Warboy
Skills: Car 1, Melee Weapon 1, Mechanics 1, Athletics 2
Weapon: Melee weapon of choice
Gear: Spray chrome


Step 5: 

Decide, as a group, how you're doing cars--because basically everyone in the group has to be on board (no pun intended). If you mix mounts (like, horses or whatever) and cars, there isn't much point to having mounts as they'll be outpaced in seconds, so you don't want to get peoples' hopes up about getting an appaloosa they'll never ride.

-Thunderdome style:
No vehicles to start. Players who buy at least one point of animal handling automatically get mounts.

-Western style:
No vehicles to start, everybody is on a mount or bicycle. Every PC must ride a bicycle, get Ride Animal, or be very friendly with another PC. One mount per PC with animal handling, bicycles are free to whoever wants them.

-Mad Max style:
Everybody rides in one vehicle--big rig or car. One person must have Car skill and remember to make sure there's enough passenger room for everyone. You get 26 vehicle points to spend if it's a truck, 20 if it's a car, van, buggy or pickup.

-Road Hog style:
You can have as many vehicles as people with Car skill in the party, though only one may be a big rig. You must have at least one PC of Road Warrior class in the party to have cars/vans/buggies, at least one Pilot to have any aircraft and at least one Hauler to have a truck. You get 26 points to build a truck, 20 to build each car, 10 points to build each aircraft and 12 to build each motorcycle. And no, you can't trade points around between vehicles.

You don't need to build the vehicle yet…


Step 6:

Pick a class from this list. The classes have Specialty Skills and Specialty Attributes--specialty means you can re-roll a failed roll on that skill or attribute once per session. Put an asterisk next to any Specialty Skill--If your rearing hasn't already given you a given skill, having a specialty does not automatically give you a point of that skill--you still gotta buy it in Step 5.


Airman/Pilot 
Tools.
Specialty Skills: Aircraft

Pick one:
Specialty Skill: Mechanics
Specialty Skill: Shoot


Beastmaster/mistress
Pet beast of choice.
Specialty Skill-Animal Handling.


Bounty Hunter
Handcuffs or 3 rolls of duct tape
Specialty Skills: Shoot, Criminal


Brave (as in tribal fighter)
Crossbow, spear or bow.
Specialty Skills: Outdoor Survival
Specialty attribute: Athletics

Greaser (techie or mechanic): 
Tools

Pick two of these four:
+5 pts to spend on vehicles
Working 20th century household appliance
Specialty Skill: Mechanics
Specialty Skill: Electronics


Hauler (trucker)
Tools
Crowbar
Specialty Skills: Car, Mechanics


Healer
Specialty Skill: Heal
Pretty random but functional med kit, including bandages and alcohol


Lore Keeper
Specialty Skill: Lore
(1-6)+4 rolls on the Library Scavenging table (page 57-58)


Outrider (motorcycle scout)
Specialty Skill: Car
Specialty Attribute: Senses


Pit Fighter
Specialty Skills: Melee weapon, Unarmed


Raider
Specialty Skill: Intimidate

Pick one of these four:
Specialty Skill: Criminal
Melee weapon
Firearm with 3 bullets
Armor pieces--AC 12


Road Warrior
Specialty Skill: Car

Pick one of these two:
Specialty Skill: Shoot
Padded Jacket--AC12


Scavenger
Specialty Skill: Scavenge
(1-6)+4 rolls on any Scavenging tables (but you can’t roll on any single table more than once)


Sentinel (milita/guard/cop)
Specialty Skill: Intimidate
Binoculars/telescope

Pick one of these two:
Piecemeal armor (AC 12)
Specialty attribute: Senses


Shaman
Specialty Skills: Lore, Persuade

Skulk
Knife
Specialty Skills: Criminal, Stealth


Wastelander
Specialty Skill: Outdoor survival
Specialty Attribute: Senses


Notes on how I changed the classes:

These are the same classes as in the original AH (and detailed descriptions of them start on page 24) but I have changed what they give you at character creation because, as written, there's precious little difference between a lot of these classes. They seem mostly to have been invented for flavor and to allow you to make several decisions at once rather than to genuinely differentiate characters. The Sentinel and the Bounty Hunter, for example, read as pretty much Road Warriors without cars or armor (so, in balance terms, just kinda crap versions of another class).

In other words, while they were decent descriptions of wasteland niches, they don't have much mechanical support and, alone, kinda just slow down character creation without giving you any new toys for your trouble.




Step 7:

Personalize skills

You have 14 points to add to skills, wherever you like. The maximum you can have in any skill at first level is 4.


Step 8:

Pick and roll some equipment--the character sheet above has tables to roll up equipment on it.


Step 9:

Build any vehicles needed for the party using the rules starting on page 43 of Atomic Highway.

Here's another kind of car you can buy--

Hot Hatch
Peugeot 205 GTI,   Escort RS Cosworth, Subaru Cosworth Impreza STI CS400
Muscle 2
Nimbleness 3
Toughness 2
Speed 3
Passengers: Driver +3
Health: 60
Cost: 10


New modifications for vehicles in addition to the ones starting on page 50--

Burglar Alarm System
Cost: 1

Back Up Engine
In case the other one fails.
Requirement: Muscle 3
Cost: 1

Boarding mast
Those pole things that you can swing from one car to another on, grants advantage on a nimbleness test to get onto another vehicle.
Requirement: Muscle 2
Cost: 1

Body spikes or blades
Whether static or powered, these discourage boarding (doing 8hp damage to flesh if fallen into) and add damage to sideswipes (x3 rather than the usual x2).
Cost: 1

Echidna spikes
These are just omnipresent body spikes, they do 12 hp damage to flesh, do x4 damage on a sideswipe and automatically hit anyone boarding without some kind of clever way around them.
Requirement: Muscle 2
Cost: 1

Horrorshow bodywork
Like echidna spikes but it's all chainsaws and whatnot. 20hp damage to flesh. X5 damage on a sideswipe
Requirements: Muscle 3
Cost: 2

Winch & Cable
Requirement: Muscle 2
Cost: 1



Step 10:

Give your character a name and decide what they look like and all that.

If you want a mutant, mutations and flaws appear on page 37 of Atomic Highway. And if you want more mutations, the greater DIY D&D scene has pretty much an infinite number of mutation tables.

If you want a bionic limb instead of a normal one, just say that. You're at disadvantage for fine motor tasks with it but does Muscle modifier+2 lethal damage. Any weapon or tool you get can be attached to it at zero cost. If you have a gun or tool instead of a working limb, you are at disadvantage to all tasks that involve the limb but at advantage to using the gun or tool.


Rules hacks/clarifications:

DIY RPG Ur-rule is in effect--When in doubt: do it like D&D.

To do a thing, like 5e D&D, you generally roll d20+/-modifiers based on attribute and skill to hit a target number set by the GM (or, to hit in combat, the number's set by the target's armor class). This is the same, except skills don't always combine with the same stat modifier--it depends on what you're doing. When trying to fence stolen goods, that's Und+Criminal+d20, when trying to hotwire a car, that's Nim+Criminal+d20.  I've indicated the stat that usually gets combined with each skill under said skill.

Armor can be given AC numbers, as D&D: Light=12, Medium=14, Heavy=18, Shields add 2.

Vehicle armor works as in AH--it reduces all damage by the amount of armor.

The rest of the vehicle rules in Atomic Highway also work pretty well, I think, first exception I found: you can roll to evade a number of attacks per round equal to your Car or other drive skill, not your Notice skill. Evading requires rolling over the attacker's total attack roll on your Nim+Handling of vehicle.

Also, there's a Failed Control Roll table down at the bottom of the page.
Weapons can work the same as listed in AH pgs 40-42--the damage numbers given are fine as are the descriptions of the abilities and skills used to employ them. If it says "M+2L" that means "Muscle modifier + 2 Lethal wounds"

Sprays and bursts: These give advantage to your attack, may be spread among up to three different adjacent targets and consumes ammo equal to the number on the higher of the two d20 rolls. The exception is shotguns using buckshot ammo, which is consumed at the usual rate but does half damage.

Smoke dispensers create Disadvantage rather than increasing Difficulty levels. Same with losing a tire, etc, anything else that increases Difficulty.

Assume you start with no food or water and no gas except what's in any vehicle you have.



Advancement

You get xp at a rate of 50xp per day survived in-session (i.e. if the GM goes "3 weeks later" you don't get xp for the elided time) and for defeating foes. 

Characters in this game go up in levels at a number of xp = to when a 5e D&D character would.

When you get to level two you gain 2 skill points (the skill point cap of +4 no longer applies after first level), hit points equal to your Toughness mod+d6, another Specialty Skill of your choice and a roll on the scavenging table.

Each time you level up thereafter, you gain 1 skill point, hit points equal to your Toughness mod+d6, a roll on the scavenging table, and a roll below...

*Asterisk indicates: After you roll these results, cross it off and the GM writes in a new result

Blue: After you reach the maximum (18 for attributes, +8 for skills), cross it off and the GM writes in a new result

1-50 Add a skill point to the skill of your choice.

51 +1 to Muscle

52 +1 to Understanding

53 +1 to Toughness

54 +1 to Appeal

55 +1 to Nimbleness

56 +1 to Tenacity

57 +1 to Senses

58 +1 to Aircraft

59 +1 to Animal Handling

60 +1 to Athletics

61 +1 to Boat

62 +1 to Car

63 +1 to Criminal

64 +1 to Craft

65 +1 to Disguise

66 +1 to Electronics

67 +1 to Heal

68 +1 to Intimidate

69 +1 to Lore

70 +1 to Mechanics

71 +1 to Melee weapon

72 +1 to Outdoor survival

73 +1 to Persuade

74 +1 to Ride Animal

75 +1 to Scavenge

76 +1 to Shoot 

77 +1 to Sleight of Hand

78 +1 to Stealth

79 +1 to Unarmed 

80 Roll on the scavenging table

81-82 +2 vehicle cost points

83-84 +4 vehicle cost points

85 A friendly animal starts following you around.*

86 Night vision improves. You have no significant disadvantage in night-time conditions, and are just at disadvantage in total darkness.*

87 Bullet dodger: If you spend the whole combat round dodging, you impose -4 AND disadvantage on the enemy.*

88 Weapon specialist: +1 more with any specific individual weapon. You can't buff the same weapon twice.

89 Escape death once.

90 Score! You have d6 doses of horrible drugs that are bad for you. They work by ingestion or insinuation. Unless the GM has some crazy drug table, I'm going to say victims must save or act as if under a Confusion spell for 4 rounds.

91 Surprise attack: add your level or d10 to damage (whichever is higher) when attacking unseen.

92 Any 20th century object smaller than a breadbox

93 Random mutation!

94 Random flaw!

95 Second attack per round.*

96-97 Basically you can use the Shields Shall Be Splintered rule on a limb of your choice: A single hit that normally would have killed you just maimed you instead. You lose an arm below the elbow or leg below the knee, your choice. You might then need to get someone with mechanics to make you a prosthetic replacement.

98 Enhanced Frazetta armor. You may add your App bonus and Mus bonus to your AC when not wearing armor. If you have no charisma bonus or strength bonus then treat this roll as if you just upped your App by one.

99 You're getting used to the wasteland--you get advantage vs sandstorms and other environmental depredations typical of the area.

00 You are good at setting traps. You can fashion a snare or trap in 10 minutes if you can describe it in at least 3/4-assed detail to the GM. Detecting your trap is a test of your d20+Mechanics + Und vs Opponents Senses + d20. Unless your description of the trap says otherwise, if it's the kind of trap that inflicts damage it'll inflict d8. If you have a steel bear trap or the like you can set it in a single melee round.

Failed Control Roll Table:

1-skid 40 feet, stall.
2-skid, spin 180, stay in same lane.
3-flip over once. You're upside down. Nimbleness roll  or d4.
4-flip over twice. You're right side up but not moving. car needs work. Nimbleness roll  or d6.
5-spin off the road. still rolling,
6-spin off the road and hit mutant plant which releases spores. con roll or gain a random mutation.
7-spin off the road and hit something hard Nimbleness roll or d8.
8-hit other vehicle--just a tap. 10 damage to both. If there's no other vehicle, you scratch a sign, guard rail, etc.
9-hit other vehicle--hard. handling checks at disadvantage for both drivers. d8x10 damage to both vehicles.
10-hit other vehicle--medium. handling check for both drivers at disadvantage..
11-hit other vehicle--catastrophic. roll again on this table for both cars twice, each car takes d10x10 damage.
12-pop a side wheelie for a mile and come down smooth. successful charisma check means you manage to convince everyone in the vehicle it was on purpose.
13-minor engine explosion. those within 10 feet of engine take d6 damage. there goes your engine.
14-fwip fwip fwip! one random tire gone. handling check once per round if you go over 35 mph.
15-lost a hubcap. c'est la vie.
16-k-chunk! bad bump, something's hitting the wheel and making bad scary noise. no immediate obvious effect but the longer you ride this, the worse it'll be (GM's discretion).
17-pop a side wheelie and come down hard. roll again.
18-catch some air, come down. make another handling check.
19-due to some combination of geography and speed, you catch some serious air. handling check at disadvantage, but if you make it, you are +1 on all initiative rolls for the rest of the day because you're so buzzed
20-fly 60 feet through the air, come down hard. your car is dead. Nimbleness roll  or d10 damage to everybody inside.
21-flip over and spin. Nimbleness roll or d12 to everybody inside.
22-whoaaaaa. wiggly. Nimbleness roll  or d4 to everybody inside.
23-pothole or something. transmission wrenched. speed halved.
24-slide into other vehicle but, hey, look at that, they take 20 damage and have to make a handling check and you're fine.
25-lost your muffler.
26-chugk. rattlerattle. ting! something stuck somewhere in your vehicle fell out and now it runs better! +1 to all handling checks from now on.
27-gas tank leak. lose 5 gallons per mile.
28-thunkg, wrenchhhh, ching! lose random window.
29-same, but lose back window
30-same, but lose front windshield
31-swerve, slam into your horn. now it won't stop. -2 to everyone on everything until they get used to it (takes 5 minutes).
32-lost a headlight.
33-lost both headlights.
34-lost a side mirror. Disadvantage to handling checks when you'd want a side mirror.
35-trunk flies open. 50-50 chance anything in there falls out. roll once per item.
36-part of your vehicle is on fire now. you're not sure which part.
37-radio comes on spontaneously, it's your favorite song. if the vehicle has no radio, you suddenly discover that it does. rock! Now if it's the post-apocalypse, where the fuck did that radio station come from?
38-weird swerve. anybody in the back seat roll Nimbleness roll  or d6.
39-skid. whirr, k-chuggg-kk! everybody inside Nimbleness roll  or d6. car takes 50 damage. it's ok. it's ok.
40-big fucking crash into nearby large and unmoving object. car is totalled. everybody Nimbleness roll  or d20. Nimbleness roll  or d12 if you're wearing a seatbelt.
41-Engine on fire, lose 1 speed, d4+2 rounds until it spreads to the fuel tank.
42-oh, that didn't sound good. vehicle takes 100 damage.
43-whoa, whoa, whoa! crissssh! all handling checks are at disadvantage now.
44-as above, except -4 AND disadvantage.
45-roll twice
46-roll three times
47-vrooom, screech, skraaaaaape, wobblewobble. everybody roll con or PE to avoid vomiting.
48-mutant animal suddenly appears in the road. 1-2 small 3-4 medium but fast 5-6 large with chameleon-lke abilities (GM's choice of what exact animal)--Do you try to avoid hitting it? If so, roll again on this table. if not, well, ask your GM.)
49-brake immediately and everybody takes Nimbleness roll  or d4 or roll three times. You decide.
50-move one lane to the right or left to avoid losing control.
51. Frame damage: lose 1 Speed
52. Hole in radiator, smoke. Engine's overheating. It'll stop in d6+1 rounds unless you cool it.
53. Hole in brake line. Not a problem until you try to stop.
54. Electrical fire inside cabin. Smoke.
55. The coolest thing about the bodywork on the car is damaged. Gain advantage to everything next round to anyone seeking vengeance for this this slight.
56-58. Exterior gimmick damaged--Gunport, etc. Takes 2d6 damage.
59. Battery damaged. Not a problem until you try to start again.
60. Alternator or Generator wrecked--running on battery power only. Vehicle dies after 4d8 minutes.
62. Horrible noise, leaking transmission fluid. Vehicle keeps working for 4d6 rounds.
63. Stuff shatters in the cabin, 2d6 damage per occupant, make another control roll at disadvantage.
64. Undercarriage hits something--lose 2 speed levels
65. Steering disconnected, control roll every round until it's replaced or rigged.
66. Drive train or carbuerator damage. Rolls to a dead stop.
67. Lose a wheel. skid a number of feet = to your mph and stop.
68. Fender dragging.
69. Gas pedal stuck down.
70. A bump opens a hitherto-hidden compartment containing a random (or GM's choice) item.
71. Bump, spin 360. You're fine but lose a turn against any pursuers and have to start again from 0.
72. Lose a door.
73. Rattle. Tenacity roll or disoriented.
74. Random light stuck on.
75. Air conditioner stuck on.
76. AC stuck off.
77. Interior light broken.
78. Interior light stuck on.
79. Dash lighter malfunctions. small fire in front seat.
80. Skid, sideways triple pinwheel through the air. successful handling check at disadvantage and you're fine and everyone thinks you're awesome, otherwise everyone takes Nimbleness check or d20 and car crawls along at  1 speed.
81. Armor panel or other protective bodywork comes off, lose 1/4 of armor.
82. Random seatbelt snaps.
83. Sudden stop for one round. Dunno what that was--car's fine the next round.
84. Slew and slide, now you're going the same speed at a 90 degrees left of the way you were going last round.
85. Slew and slide, now you're going the same speed at a 90 degrees right of the way you were going last round.
86. Back right brake light out.
87. Back left brake light out.
88. Left turn signal out.
89. Right turn signal out.
90-00. Major accessory damage. Winch, gunport etc.--determine randomly. It is d100+20% fucked up.

Further reading:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness: Road Hogs

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness: Mutants Down Under

Dark Future from Games Workshop

It is CRAZY hard to find a picture of the badass old ladies (the Vuvalini) in Fury Road,
so here's another car


Monday, May 18, 2015

What To Do With Kings And Queens

So ever since Jeff posted this method of generating reigns for kings, I've been wondering how to make the depth this adds to the setting immediately gameable.

I eventually decided the best thing to do was start with things you need for your game anyway, then attach them to the eras, so the eras flesh out the setting elements and the setting elements flesh out the eras (and thus the eras have more character and are easier for you and your players to remember and then you can use this to feed back into the game, like "Oh, hypostyle oubliettes? That's so Lord Vortullak!").

I've thought of some kinds of things that might be in your campaign at the present time that could have survived from an earlier era-

building
dungeon room/area
zealots (people who are enamored of customs/ideas of that era)
trap
undead
breed (i.e. of horse, dog, etc)
construct (old golem)
magic item
creature (something long-lived or immortal, like a demon)
invention
bloodline (people who trace their lineage to someone from the era)
spell
custom

…then devised a process for fleshing them out using a royal chronology. Here it is:


STEP 1:
Put the elements (building, dungeon room, etc.) in any order you like.


STEP 2:
Generate a thing of each type, randomly or choose something, like so:

1. building (I rolled it up using Vornheim)
Cheese factory

2. dungeon room/area (I generated it using Abulafia here)
Viaduct of the Subtle Dread

3. zealots (from Abulafia here)
"The Serpentine Sisters of Love worship a powerful lich"

4. trap (from Abulafia here)
A rigged container/door/opening at the entrance activates a biological mechanism in order to sound an alarm.

5. undead (I kept making monsters from The Forge here until I got an undead one)
Ghoul

6. breed (from here)
Hook rhino

7. construct (from here)
Quartz Scatter Titan

8. magic item (from here)
Choking fist

9. creature (from here)
Tooth beast

10. invention (from here)
Barbed lace

11. bloodline (from Vornheim)
House Raxxe

12. spell (from here)
Abyssal Tome

13. custom (from here)
Seventh Haste



STEP 3-
Generate a monarch (and quirk if indicated) for each thing...

1. Cheese factory
2 yrs

2. Viaduct of the Subtle Dread (dungeon region)
22 yrs
married into dynasty-left second branch

3. "The Serpentine Sisters of Love worship a powerful lich"
37 yrs

4. A rigged container/door/opening at the entrance activates a biological mechanism in order to sound an alarm.
18 weeks
a new religion was founded during this era

5. Ghoul
31 weeks

6. Hook rhino (breed)
8 yrs

7. Quartz Scatter Titan (construct)
16 yrs

8. Choking fist (magic item)
20 yrs

9. Tooth beast (creature)
2  yrs

10. Barbed lace (invention)
31 years

11. House Raxxe
9 yrs

12. Abyssal Tome (spell)
4 yrs
Magical curse or affliction and "Reign ends with vaguely-reported scandal or ridiculous accident."

13. Seventh Haste (custom)
4 yrs


STEP 4--

Figure out what you can based on the things and the reigns, starting with the oldest and moving forward...

1. A 2 year reign suggests a period of instability, and a cheese factory that old suggests a truly hallowed variety of cheese. There was probably an incursion from less-prosperous neighbors against these luxury-obsessed cheese-eaters with their feeble new king.

2. The war ended with a marriage, the new monarch lasted a long time and built a great empire, including the viaduct, part of a road which fed a fortress (a keep, literally on the borderlands) built to keep out the enemies of the two newly-joined houses, which has been buried and is now part of a dungeon.

3. Clearly the Powerful Lich was once this monarch of 37 years.

4. The new religion was the one spawned upon the death of Ruler #3, who returned as a lich.
The trap likely guards secrets of the lich's cult. Likely, the cult's activities were responsible for the shortness of this reign.

5. Another short reign: This ruler, a member of the lich cult, was slain in an eventual return to order, but lives on as a ghoul, as a gift from the Lick King.

6. The restoration of non-creepy-lichcult rule was partially due to the cooperation of mercenaries from over the sea--who rode the hook rhino into war.

7. Things go well during this 16 year reign. The massive Quartz Scatter Titan is built to protect the treasures of a group of prosperous sorcerers.

8. The treacherous and legendary Choking Fist gauntlet cut short the long reign of this monarch. Created by some of those self-same sorcerers and hidden in a suit of fine plate gifted to the king.

9. …plunging the kingdom into war (2 year reign). The Tooth Beast was summoned by one side, and remains bound to kill whoever it believes belongs to the other.

10. During this long but unstable reign, women devised barbed lace to protect themselves from roving brigands.

11. House Raxxe shows up here. Otherwise unremarkable, however…

12. …after 4 years, this monarch--of a house opposed to the Raxxe--died in mysterious circumstances after reading The Book of Several Cloves out loud. In what is likely no coincidence, the spell Abyssal Tome--which transforms the activating words of a given spell from what all wizards know them to be into any words of the caster's choice--dates from this era.

13. Seventh haste is the custom by which the seventh child of a high-born family is sent out on a life of adventure ("hasted on their way" in the parlance of the low districts). It is a kind of gamble. Most die--some return to their families with great wealth, and, once in a while, one manages to learn something out in the world which allows them to protect their homes and families from the terrible supernatural depredations that seem to so frequently afflict this nation.

So, yeah, add a few names and I've got a history.

I also went and automated a version of the process of on Abulafia here, it generates 13 human reigns and some other details using Jeff's tables and some other stuff that was already on Abulafia.
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In theory, next entry will be a Mad Max kit.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Abandoned City, Goblin Fort, Alchemist's Home, Encounters

The numbers on this one indicate places you can put important details or encounters--the blue ones indicate exterior encounters, everything else is inside the buildings.

You can treat the interiors as cutaway views or as interiors of intact buildings. The positions of interior doors and stairs are usually implied, so only a little imagination and notation should be required.
These are made you can print out and write on them...

In this one, identical colors near each other indicate connecting interiors. The goblins can be goblins or whatever else...
 You can print out two of these, give one to your players and write details on the other...
This one is a d100 table for any kind of big dungeon or encounter area for a party around level 8-12. You write in the boss on the top and the cannon fodder on the bottom, the pink is just suggestions for the kind of creature to put in there.

You can just key the dungeon 1-100 or roll randomly for each room. The hit dice of the creatures is written down the left side.
 and a bonus, from the cover to the original Unearthed Arcana...

Monday, May 11, 2015

What's In The Middle Of The Castle?

Roll d20 2-8 (2d4) times and consult the picture to find out what's in the courtyard.
click to enlarge

Friday, May 8, 2015

You see the following items...


click to enlarge
Print it out and show your players.

Thanks to Kelvin Green, and Forgive Us.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Zak's Dungeon Roller



There are a lot of systems for randomly generating the map and rooms in a dungeon, but not many that really generate ideas to tie them together into a real dungeon.

I think this is mostly because it's hard, there's no such thing as a generator for original ideas. However, I like this widget I whipped up for a few reasons:

-I've found that, when running a sandbox, it's helpful to be able to take a basic hex-description-level idea of a dungeon, like "This ruin has been transformed into a testing ground which an anti-paladin uses to recruit lieutenants for his army. However, those who cleverly circumvent the tests are secretly recruited by a halfling spy working for another faction entirely" and graft that onto a sketchy or random dungeon, like, say, the dungeon Tony Dowler drew here and the rest writes itself-- this must be the arena and this must be a horsemanship test and this...

-Character generation systems which are just slow enough and just random enough that you get the feeling of coming to know the character as you roll, going "Ok, he's a barbarian and an aristocrat, how's that work…ok, he's also an orc…ok maybe he belongs to a sort of pseudo-Mongolian steppe-nobility…" are fun, so I figure doing a dungeon that way is fun, too.

-…and most systems I've seen to do it before haven't worked for me--they get caught up in details that make it harder rather than easier to integrate the material together into an organic whole. Central Casting: Dungeons is terrible, f'rinstance. You find out what kind of stone the chapel is made of after a few minutes rolling when what you need to know is why this fucking dungeon won't play just like the last one.

-I also think it just helps to have a typology of the things that matter in play, so a GM has all the options laid out as s/he begins to throw together ideas.

-Plus, in a sandbox, you need lots of dungeons. So you can roll up 5 or 10, grab 5 or 10 maps, and have some blanks to fill in at your leisure over the coming weeks.

So yeah, this generator does that. A surprising amount of the heavy-lifting is actually done by the villain generator link at the end.

Roll or pick for each category...




SIZE d4

1. One-shot
2. Small
3. A few sessions
4. Big


RATIONALE d12

Essentially this is the main answer to the question "Why is it dangerous?"

1. Sadistic Architect

Some dick made this place just to watch people die in bizarre ways.

(Jokes about how every dungeon is this because DMs are sadistic are dumb don't make them.)

For example: Tomb of Horrors, Grinding Gear, that movie Cube


2. Meritocratic Architect

Someone made it to test people. Whoever survives or does best is rewarded.

It's really hard to make a good one of these, by the way, so be careful.

For example: Danger room in X Men, that wizard cave complex under Vane in Lunar: Silver Star Story


3. Fuck You That's Why

This dungeon is a funhouse in not only form but in concept: things are just there and there's either no reason (mythic underworld) or a reason so thin it could explain anything (like all the "reality damage" in Red & Pleasant Land or the dream logic in the books that inspired it).

For example: Stonehell, any randomly generated dungeon that isn't "smoothed out" afterward


4. Active Institution

This place is a business, guild, temple, etc working pretty much how it's supposed to and it's dangerous because they don't want adventurers in here mucking shit up or stealing their stuff. You can roll up an institution here if you like:

Institutions, roll d20

1 Alchemist's lab
2 Armorer/Blacksmith
3 Museum
4 Asylum
5 Cathedral/Temple
6 Assassin's den
7 Monastery
8 Guild hall
9 Spymaster's headquarter's
10 Zoo
11 Livestock dealer/breeder
12 Market hall
13 Nest of criminals
14 Orphanage
15 Scholar
16 University
17 Library
18 Theater
19 Prison
20 Arena

For example: Library of Zorlac, Dark Tower, Zoo of Ping Feng, the thieves guild building in that Lankhmar story with the spider in it


5. Lair/Home

The simplest kind of dungeon--it's here because someone lives here. Almost identical to an active institution above except not as complicated--it doesn't have to have any particular product or service it manufactures for internal use or for the outside world.

For example: Caves of Chaos and The Keep from Keep on the Borderlands, Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, House of the Medusa in Vornheim


Note:
While a small castle might be basically a lair/home, a true palace with extensive facilities or trade goods or administrative functions can be treated as both an active institution and a lair/home.


6. Caged Threat

This place's main function now is to keep the threat in rather than keep you out. In practice, keeping you out generally helps keep the threat in because you might inadvertently release the threat by looking for loot. A lot of tombs in games are basically this.

For example: Death Frost Doom, any prison.


7. Safe

The main purpose of this place is to protect the valuables inside. Nobody really lives here. (Thanks to Gus below for reminding me.) If a tomb has no undead in trapped inside, it might be this.

For example: That place at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark (note the spiders and bugs in there aren't actually the threat--just gross. If they were, it might count as…)


8. Abandoned Then Infested Place

The most common kind of large dungeon, this place started life as something, fell into ruin, then beasties (often more than one kind) crept in and took up residence.

For example: Caverns of Thracia, Dwimmermount, Mines of Moria, most megadungeons and ruined cities


9. Active Then Infested Place

This place wasn't dangerous until a second ago--but now it's a dungeon because things in it are trying to kill you. Unlike the active institution, it's possible nobody would mind you being here on a normal day.

For example: The Nostromo in Alien once the alien shows up, the area Forgive Us takes place in, most buildings in zombie movies


10. Not A Dungeon To Them

Nobody wants this place to be dangerous to you or even particularly wants to eat you, but this place is simply dangerous by dint of its natural function. The inhabitants may be too mindless or alien to realize they pose a threat to you.

For example: House of a giant so big he doesn't even know you're there, the inside of the patient's body in Fantastic Voyage


11. Roll d10 on this table twice, re-roll one if you get a duplicated result

Example of two rolls: Undermountain (Fuck you that's why, Sadistic architect),  Castle Amber (Fuck you that's why, Lair/Home)

12. Roll d10 three times,  if you get a duplicated result, roll twice more.

Example of three rolls: the two larger dungeons in Red & Pleasant Land (Fuck you that's why, Active institution, Lair/Home)

Example of four rolls: Ruins of Greyhawk (Sadistic architect, Pedagogical architect, Abandoned then infested, Caged threat)




SPECIAL CHARACTERISTIC

Roll d8 if you're like life complicated, roll d20 if you don't

1. Something just happened

The status quo has just been interrupted. This is kind of like a layer of "active then infested" above except this change may make the dungeon more accessible rather than less. For example: an earthquake opens an entrance into a buried pyramid-- but it might also render walkaways and ceilings unstable, or goblins may have recently invaded from the hills, battling the lizardman inhabitants in the halls.


2. Meta-weirdness

There's an over-arching "thing" or trick to the dungeon, some magic complexity that enforces a weird logic on events, structures or creatures inside. Like: all the rooms are spheres nested one in the next, or moving objects in one room alters physical laws in all the other rooms, or the monsters must be killed in a specific order or they auto-resurrect. The whole dungeon is, in a sense, a big trick room.

D100 ideas here.


3. No creatures

There's no monsters, only traps, puzzles and the like.


4. Universal rule

This is a simpler version of meta-weirdness--there's just one simple unusual thing. Divine magic doesn't work or it's too hot to wear metal armor or you can't hear anything or you can hear everything and every noise in the entire complex is audible in every room.


5. Mobile

The dungeon is itself mobile, or some of the rooms are. Why is on you.


6. Time constraint

If the PCs don't do something in time, some terrible change in the situation occurs. Players can be informed of this by an NPC, a visible timing mechanism, or in some other way.


7. Staged access

There are some rooms or areas that aren't accessible without finding some secret door, key, or like item that's elsewhere in the dungeon. The main thing for the GM to remember when designing the place is is: the players are probably going to have to go back through rooms they've already been through in order to search for the thingy.

8. Doubly unusual

Roll two results on a d8.


9+ None

Hey dungeons are tough enough as it is, right? Why complicate things?



FORM

Roll d8, or d6 for low-magic/low-weirdness areas

1. Tower

2. Compound (multiple buildings)

3. Typical large building for the area and function

4. Ruin or caves

5. Partially aboveground (roll d4), partially below

6. Traditional dungeon (below ground)

7. Magically disguised as an ordinary structure

8. Weird (floating, alive, magic hedgemaze etc.)



VILLAINS

This is the number of mastermind-type creatures in the dungeon. (If there are no creatures in the dungeon, this is about the architect or architects). Roll according to the size of the dungeon.

One-shot

D4-1

Small

D4

A few sessions

D4 exploding

Big

2d4

Roll villains here.



You can get a map here and stock it using these rooms or you can use a Madlibs dungeon like this or this or this.

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