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Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


I'm not much a fan of Flame Princess, but that is a pretty intriguing premise for an adventure.

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Rangpur
Dec 31, 2008



It is, but I've read this adventure and I am at a loss as to how you accomplish anything meaningful. Not even heroic, mind; meaningful, either to the players or their characters. The way it's written seems designed to frustrate any attempt to make a profit or any control over the course of events. Raggi reminds me of the kind of GM who claims he's against hand-holding or railroading his players then throws up tedious and arbitrary roadblocks whenever they try to accomplish something outside his narrow definition of what's 'realistic for the setting.'

Credit where it's due, I do like the Seven's monsters/pets. They're weird, dangerous and otherworldly without turning them into big stompy city wreckers the way D&D threat levels seem to trend. But man that smarmy little parting shot about inventing your own reason for their existence is just a perfect goddamn snapshot of his attitude.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

The parts where he's editorializing read like the whingings of a teenager trying to cut himself on his own edginess. That juvenile sequence with Joy (paraphrased, "don't make the paramour totally opposite to the PC's preference-- though that would be fun!") really exemplifies it. Which is a pity, because there's some interesting weirdness in there when he isn't bitching and snarking at the reader worse than Siembieda throwing one of his laser tantrums.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


Kellsterik posted:

I'm not much a fan of Flame Princess, but that is a pretty intriguing premise for an adventure.

It reminds me of the Munster Rebellion: http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/hharchive/Show-48---Prophets-of-Doom/Luther-Reformation-history

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%FCnster_Rebellion

A radical religious group took over Munster and imposed all sorts of odd laws before it was ended by a siege.

I guess the best ending would be for one of the PCs to cast that big spell and sacrifice themselves to preserve the city as a sort of magical Temporary Autonomous Zone or a symbol of rebellion.

Count Chocula fucked around with this message at 03:59 on Mar 20, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Forums Barber posted:

I have a buddy who keeps getting super psyched about getting in a Scion group and then for some odd reason things fall apart one or two sessions later, rinse, repeat. i'm curious where the fail point is, personally.

Storyteller system isn't great at high-powered games, so Scion runs into a lot of the same problems as Aberrant and Exalted, namely that the line between "I can't do poo poo in this situation" and "I am utterly unstoppable" is just about non-existent. Abilities also tended to be either totally useless or vastly overpowered.

Scion is one of those concepts that I always want to save from its own system. Exalted is another. White Wolf is good at those.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Rangpur posted:

It is, but I've read this adventure and I am at a loss as to how you accomplish anything meaningful. Not even heroic, mind; meaningful, either to the players or their characters. The way it's written seems designed to frustrate any attempt to make a profit or any control over the course of events. Raggi reminds me of the kind of GM who claims he's against hand-holding or railroading his players then throws up tedious and arbitrary roadblocks whenever they try to accomplish something outside his narrow definition of what's 'realistic for the setting.'

Credit where it's due, I do like the Seven's monsters/pets. They're weird, dangerous and otherworldly without turning them into big stompy city wreckers the way D&D threat levels seem to trend. But man that smarmy little parting shot about inventing your own reason for their existence is just a perfect goddamn snapshot of his attitude.

There are several things I take issue with in this adventure which I address later, including the extreme randomness of encounter size and lethality and the preponderance of NPCs and monsters way too strong for 1st-4th level PCs.


Better Than Any Man: Countryside Encounters

There are 30 possible random encounters the PCs can come upon during their travels in Franconia. It is a 1 in 6 chance, rolled twice a day. Raggi recommends generating an automatic encounter the first time the party arrives at a new settlement. In keeping with the RPG, almost all of the encounters involve humans and mundane animals, with the few supernatural entities unique monsters. Most of the encounters are thematic and lend themselves to growing sense of desperation. Starving orphan children wandering the countryside; looters combing through abandoned homes and villages; a family of Jews traveling to Karlstadt for its liberating laws (in this era, Jews have almost no rights); an innocent woman on the run from witch-hunters; stuff like that. Instead of being truly random, the encounters add to the adventure in some way and frame an overall picture of desperation and societal decay.

Just like many old school adventures, the number of combatants (and the Hit Die of some monsters) is randomly rolled. A high roll can really screw over the party by putting them against overwhelming odds or super-powerful monsters; this is intentional, as LotFP puts emphasis on a dangerous world where the PCs should err on the side of caution before entering into battles.

I'll list a few of the more interesting ones:

A Dark Cult: A small group of people heard about the Seven, and seek to learn magic on their own to get some power. They're performing a ritual, which might be either harmless, or a prayer to a dark entity which will be answered and may or may not involved animal or human sacrifice.

Bürgerfriedensmiliz:



A patrol of 1d6+6 men, women, and children patrol the area, armed with lassos and mancatchers. They go around saving innocents to take back to Karlstadt (innocents are unarmed and unarmored people) and convincing armed people to give up their warlike ways, including throwing down their arms and armor. Those who refuse are asked again, and if they persist the milizionäre try to bind and subdue them. Captured characters are taken to the "re-education facility" in Goblin Hill.

Most milizionäre are genuinely well-intentioned people, and know nothing of the cult of the Insect God.

Hostile milizionäres are a separate encounter; they're part of the inner cult of the Insect God and looking for people to kidnap to take to their base. They're armed, but won't attack in the presence of other witnesses. There are as many as 3d6.

Glass Tiger: This monster is the creation of the necromancer Schwartz. An animal construct, it hunts the region for people to kill and take back to its master. It has 5 hit dice, double the normal movement speed of a human, surprises parties on a 4 in 6 chance, and has an Armor (basically Armor Class) of 15 against blunt weapons, but 20 against edged and missile weapons. Its high Armor, Hit Die, and surprise attack and speed can easily result in a TPK against low-level adventurers.

Improvisational Inquisition: Caught up in the hysteria of witch-hunting nationalist fervor, a patrol of Catholic villagers (3d6 of them) are lead by a violent priest intent on cleansing the area of Lutherans, foreigners, witches, and (if they're aware) monsters. PCs who can't or won't prove their allegiance to the Empire and the Pope will be attacked.

The Insane Farmer: Magnus Persson, a Swedish deserter, is hiding out in a farmstead. He killed the family and scattered pieces of their corpses into the fields (he believes the plants will grow with blood). The murders took place in the house, so it smells of death. He won't try attacking the PCs unless they're 2 or less, or they find out his secret.

Invisible Insects: The Insect God's children are coming out into the surface world. Quite a few of them are entirely invisible, and they've afflicted a poor man who's clawing at himself. The man runs up to the PCs to grab their bladed weapons, and if not stopped he'll claw at and cut himself until he dies. Any PC touched is infested with the invisible insects, who crawl and bite all over for days on end (or after several hours of bathing and getting rid of infected equipment), impeding sleep, concentration, movement, and to-hit rolls.

The accompanying image is a naked man, his pants in tatters, scratching himself as he bleeds all over, including from his penis. Classic LotFP artwork.

The Mastermind: Archibald Kohler is the Empire's most successful crime lord. His contacts in the region informed him of something valuable (such as one of the unique treasures and magic items in the dungeons), and he has a well-armed group of henchman in tow. He's a 7th-level Specialist (Rogue equivalent) with a cursed arm of gold (worth 10,000 silver pieces). Accompanying him are a woman posing as the Countess Bathory (0 level human), the Brute (a 4th-level Fighter and cannibal), 3 "head men" (henchmen dressed as highway robbers) all of 3rd level in Fighter or Specialist, 3 handlers (mercenaries hired by the fake Bathory), 10 dogs, 2d6 relatively harmless servants. Obviously they're more than a match for the PCs; their primary goal is to gather information, and won't attack unless provoked or the PCs have the object they're looking for.

Possession: one of the Insect God's children, the size of a fly, will fly up to one of the PCs and attempt to burrow into his/her flesh to lay eggs. If undetected and successful, the eggs will eventually hatch over a period of hours, and an insect will grow out of the body and violently attack its host as it emerges.

Rogue Mercenaries: a main camp of 10d20 soldiers plus a sergeant (Fighter level 1d4) an Officer (Fighter level 1d6) is in Franconia, hired by one of the European powers. They got cut off from their patron, and are keeping their traditional military structure. Half chance they're just normal people trying to get home amid a war zone, the other half they're sadistic soldiers-turned-bandits victimizing everyone they come across. Encounters with them usually involve a scout party of 3d6 soldiers, with a 10% chance of encountering the main camp. This encounter has a good chance of being overwhelming for the PCs.

Termite Mounds: These mounds are inhabited by millions of six-legged abominations bearing a strange resemblance to termites. They scour the land of all living matter, and a radius of barren ground stretches out for 2d10x10 feet around a mound. Disturbing the mound causes the monsters to swarm out in an effective area attack of 20 feet, forcing a Save vs. Paralysis or suffer 1d6 damage per round spent in the area.

The Skinned Man: A normal human who killed a few bandits and was skinned alive by their leader, he was saved from death by a wandering Cleric's healing magic (the class kind). Unfortunately it did not regenerate his skin, and he went insane and killed the Cleric for 'turning him into a monster.' He attacks the PCs on sight.

Vengeful Ghost: The PCs stumble across an area with a significant otherworldly scar. The place bestows an effect upon the PCs depending upon how their last encounter went. No violence, the PCs have good luck and can alter one future die roll of theirs to a desired outcome. Violence without any deaths on either side doubles the hit points of the next enemy they face. Violence with deaths doubles the attack bonus and damage of the next enemies. A 'neutral" or avoided fight makes the next encounter the PCs have with anyone a fight to the death.

Thoughts so far: A very cool and useful section. I wish more random encounters in adventures could be like this; too many just throw monsters of a terrain into them instead of reinforcing the mood and theme of the adventure. I do take issue with some of the encounters, as the randomness of monster hit dice and NPC numbers can turn an easy match into an unstoppable force if played straight.

That said, the idea of a villainous mastermind with a cursed metal arm competing against the PCs to find a Magical MacGuffin is rad as hell.

Next time, settlements and places!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 04:56 on Mar 20, 2014

Forums Barber
Jan 5, 2011


Thanks, guys, I was thinking that if Scion did things like Exalted then it would totally asplode unless at minimum you were really devoted to dense mechanics, which these guys aren't... makes sense. I try to convince folks that, hey, if you want a particular flavor I can do that for you in FATE or *World or something, but they love those big old rpg books.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


oriongates posted:

Storyteller system isn't great at high-powered games, so Scion runs into a lot of the same problems as Aberrant and Exalted, namely that the line between "I can't do poo poo in this situation" and "I am utterly unstoppable" is just about non-existent. Abilities also tended to be either totally useless or vastly overpowered.

Scion is one of those concepts that I always want to save from its own system. Exalted is another. White Wolf is good at those.

Basically Scion could greatly benefit from shuffling around it's powers, and giving some abilities of the purview for free ala Double Xross powers.

Cause while Animal 9-10 are really really fun to mess around with like a mad scientist in his lair, it provides almost no direct benefit in combat beyond being able to create catbearpigs (you still have to breed them and wait for them to mature). Whereas war can create a truly ludcrious number of minions in a matter of seconds (Do you have Epic Manipulation? You start at 506 soldiers and only move up from there with your actual dice successes).

Meanwhile Chaos is basically the game telling the storyteller to stop even trying from levels 1-11.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Part 3: Mechanical bits

So, we've covered a bit about the different elements that make up a character, lets get into the rest.

Character Creation


Here are the bits that make up your swashbuckler:

First you've got Core Elements, which are 4 things that are essential for a proper protagonist. First you've got a Foible to serve as a disadvantage. Next you've got three Fortes which are each at Good [+2] Rank. You have a Past which must have something to do with your background, a Motivation which is some kind of driving force, and your Swashbuckling Forte which is the area where you have the greatest talent.

After that we've got 3 additional Forte Ranks which can get you a new Forte at Good [+2] or improve one of your existing Forte's by one Rank.

Next we have Technique Points which can be used to buy Techniques. Normal Techniques cost 2 points, Techniques chained to your swashbuckling forte cost half as much (1 point), and buying one that's unchained costs 3 points.

Everyone also starts with 1 Style Die and 0 Training Points.


The GM may give the team a Team Sanctum or Team Vehicle. These have a single Good [+2] (place) or (vehicle) Forte (like Good [+2] Hidden Cave or Good [+2] Sky-Schooner) and each PC gets one Rank to add Forte's to the sanctum. These can be combined to give higher Ranked Fortes (so if you want a really, really fast ship 3 PCs might pool their Forte's to give it Master [+6] Speed). The GM then gets to choose a Foible (Style Dice earned from the Foible are earned by the ship or place, but any PC on board can use them).

Of course, if the GM isn't offering a Team vehicle or sanctum, you can still purchase your own with your own Fortes.


Magic

I figured I'd go ahead and cover how Gifts actually work in play. There isn't a dedicated section for this and some of the info is a little scattered, so here's how it works.

Gifts work basically two ways. If you're using one of your Gifts to do something that could have been done with a normal Forte, or using it to attack or defend against a human-scale opponent in a Conflict then you just use it like a normal Forte, adding the MOD to your roll. "color" uses of Gifts are also free. If a Dragon wants to light his pipe without a match that's not a problem.

However, if you want to use your Gift to do something that isn't humanly possible, or something that creates significant changes to the environment you have to spend at least one Style Die (major changes take two). This includes making attacks on a "vehicle-scale" such as attacking a building or skyship directly with your Gift.

The GM can activate your Gift, but if the activation significantly inconveniences you then it counts as a Vexing Misfortune and you get 3 Style Dice.

It's worth mentioning that you can purchase more than one Gift without being a Koldun, however there's absolutely no good reason to do this: being a Koldun is much, much more cost effective.

Kolduns

Honestly, I think Koldun's are a tad overpowered. Kolduns can create alchemical items, kolduncraft items, potentially use all 7 gifts and access 3 additional gifts only they can use, all within a single Forte.

If nothing else, this means that anything a Good [+2] Alchemist can do, a Good [+2] Koldun can do and much, much more.

To access a gift a Koldun must purchase it as a Technique for their Koldun Forte. They do get the benefit of the Technique as well as access to the Gift (which means a Good [+2] Koldun with the Dragon Technique will be better at any use of the Dragon Gift than a Good [+2] Dragon character).

If you wanted to make a straight shot for Arch-Koldun-hood you can easily start as a Master [+6] Koldun, pick up 6 Gift Techniques (assuming Koldun is your swashbuckling forte) and then it just takes 4 more Techniques (8 Training Points) to purchase all the remaining Gifts and a 5th Technique to attain Arch-koldunhood.

So, cool idea but definitely overpowered, this is a lot of abilities to stick on a single Forte, even considering the Style Dice cost for special actions.

Alchemy and Kolduncrafting

If you want to create an alchemicraft item the process is fairly simple, but it's not something you want to indulge in too often as it will use up Training Points.

First you need a formula for the object you're creating. If you don't have one you can try linking together the alchemical associations for Materia Mystica to try and come up with something that makes sense.

Next you spend 1 Style Die and 1 Training Point (if you're making a one-shot item you need only a Style die or a Training Point) then you've got an Average [0] product. You can then spend additional Style Dice to boost the Rank, at the cost of 1 Rank per Die. So if you wanted to create a Master [+6] Bomb (a one-shot device) then you would need to spend 4 Style Die. If you wanted a Good [+2] Armored Vest it would take 1 training point and 2 Style Dice.

repeated use alchemycraft items can only be used once per session, after that they'll need to be recharged, renewed, or rested.

Kolduncraft items on the other hand can be used multiple times a session, however the cost for kolduncraft items is always in Training Points. So to get an Average [0] device costs 2 Training Points, plus...apparently 8 points per rank. Which must be a typo as it'd cost much less to simply purchase a new Forte for your character.



Challenges and Duels

Here's the actual gameplay rules:

Challenges are S7S's equivalent to Complicated Situations from ordinary PDQ. They're basically identical: the GM sets a TN, the player rolls 2d6 and adds their MOD and if they meet or beat the TN then they succeed.

There is a new type of Challenge, called a Flashy Challenge which is halfway between an attack and a Challenge. Basically two characters roll 2d6 (plus modifiers) and whoever gets the higher result wins. The winner gets a Style Die and the loser takes a Failure Rank.

This is a good way to handle actions in combat that might screw with someone, but probably wouldn't really defeat them outright. Things like tossing insults, intimidation, cutting your initials on their hat, etc.

Duels
This is PDQ#'s version of Conflicts, and it's fairly different. First and foremost, a Duel is almost always between two characters. You can have groups fighting, but everyone is expected to match up into pairs to engage in Duels.

Both Duelists have 3 d6's which must be divided between attack and defense on a given turn. So if you wanted to be a bit more aggressive you could use two dice for attack, and 1 for defense. If you wanted to make sure you weren't going to get touched you could take no attack and use all 3 for defense.

The attacker (the guy in the duel with the most Style Dice) rolls his offense dice and the defender rolls their defense, both adding any relevant Fortes/Techniques. If the attacker beats the defender they inflict damage equal to the difference.

Then the defender becomes the attacker and gets to roll their offense dice and the other guy rolls his defense dice.

notably, damage is not actually assigned until after both characters have a chance to attack or defend, so even if you do enough damage to the defender to take them out, they get a chance to cut you too.

There are also a few "dueling tricks" which you can try in place of an ordinary attack. Some work fairly well, but many are either too effective, like disarming (you declare a disarm attempt and if you do Damage equal to your opponent's combat Forte then you've disarmed them...which means there's no reason not to attempt a disarm every time you attack) or not very effective at all, like feinting (you don't inflict damage, but if you succeed you get to add the degree of success as a bonus to your next roll, because of the way PDQ's damage and combat work there's no advantage gained, and if you fail then you take your margin of success as a penalty.)


Damage from duels works basically the same as in PDQ standard, the biggest difference is that you aren't completely taken out until you have Zeroed Out every Forte. In effect, this lets every Forte take one additional point of damage, and ensures that everyone is a bit tougher than in normal PDQ. Once you do zero out all your Qualities you are Mostly Dead, a state where you can't effectively do anything and recover much more slowly (taking 1 Spirit Die per Forte to bring each one back to Poor [-2]).

Another notable addition is Minion rules. Minions are minor characters with only a single Forte. A single minion is basically just a Challenge, they don't get to roll to resist a PC, instead they just have a Target Number based on their Forte Rank. So if you want to knock out a Good [+2] Guardsman, you just have to roll 9 or better.

A group of Minions is treated as a single character that is capable of rolling, using their MOD and getting a number of dice equal to the number of Minions in the gang. They still get to keep only as many dice as they've assigned to attack and defense however. So a group of 6 minions has 6 dice, but they still get to keep only 3 total, divided between attack and defense. If a minion group is damaged, each point of damage takes out one Minion. So a group of half a dozen minions can easily be wiped out with a single good hit.


Vehicular Combat

This is one of the cooler sections of S7S. This is basically rules for mass combat, which work for both ships (sky or otherwise), fortresses, or potentially even two armies in open battle.

The focus of these rules is how PCs work together as a team to achieve victory. The assumption is that each PC will take the role of an Officer (even if this is not an official rank) and one will be the Captain. The ship itself (or fortress) has Forte's much like a character that add to the rolls of any character taking advantage of the aspects the Fortes represent.

The Captain should have some kind of Forte related to leadership or command, because they get a number of Orders equal to the bonus from that Forte, plus the ship's primary Forte (so an Expert [+4] Leader of Men on a Good [+2] Skyship gets 6 orders). Each turn the captain can give that many Orders to his officers, giving each of them a Challenge to overcome so that the captain can get Vehicle Dice that turn.

The captain starts with 1 Vehicle Dice automatically. You get to divide Vehicle Dice between attack and defense (much like Minions, you can't have more than 3 results "kept" between attack and defense) in a Vehicle Duel.

Vehicular combat goes as follows:

1 The captain issues his orders. "Load the cannons with extra powder!" "Bring us hard to port!" "Prepare the men for boarding!" They can also issue orders to themselves to represent mental (or possibly mystical) actions. These orders do not have to be strictly related to the combat (you could yell out to the taskmaster to get more grog ready for after the battle, or order the cabin boy to fetch your lucky hat).

2 The officer makes a roll, adding their Fortes and any relevant vehicle Fortes. If they succeed then they generate a Vehicle Die for the captain. If they fail they get a Training Point and take damage equal to the difference (failure ranks or wound ranks depending on what they're doing). They can choose to have the vehicle take the damage instead, but given how important the vehicle is and the relatively small number of Fortes it has, this is a bad idea.

3 The captain divides up any Vehicle Dice he's earned between attack and defense, and determines how many dice (out of 3) are "kept" for each.

Alternatively the captain can "burn" vehicle dice for special actions:
*a flat +1 bonus
*let one of the officers make a Challenge roll to heal a rank of damage to the ship.
*Launch or repel a boarding action: When a ship is boarded the fight temporarily "zooms in" person-to-person combat.
*Give a die to a crewmember to have them target enemy crew or (at the cost of a Style Die) the ship itself with an attack.
*Give it to a crewmember to be turned into a style die for their own supply.

NPC ships always have 4 Vehicle Dice every turn, but they can board for free.

4 both ship captains roll their dice and determine damage just like a Duel.

5 Damage is divided up among the officer's "sections" of the ship. Each officer has to make the call as to whether they'll take the damage personally or assign it to the ship itself.

If the PCs damage the NPC's ship their Forte's aren't reduced directly, instead the type of cannon shot the ship is using inflicts targeted damage, with each rank inflicting a -2 penalty to particular categories of actions:

*Ball shot: puts holes in the hull (reducing integrity, seaworthiness), damaging their cannon (penalizing attacks)
*chain shot: cutting masts/cords (reducing speed and/or maneuverability)
*gas shells: clearing the deck (aiding in boarding)
*grape shot: clearing the deck (as above), injuring crew, destroying sails (reducing speed)
*harpoon shot: grappling (reducing speed, aiding in boarding)
*incendiary shot: on fire (lots of possibilities).

An NPC ship is taken out once the total penalty from targeted wound ranks equals the ship's TN (so a good [+2] skyship is taken out when they suffer a penalty of -10 or more (since that would be higher than Good's TN of 9).


It's worth noting, a ship that's badly damaged will begin to fall towards the Blue, but this can take weeks since the bluewood ensures the descent is very slow.

GMing

Like always, this chapter is fairly familiar reccomendations on how best to run the game, possible ways to weak things to emphasize different aspects (such as the deadliness of firearms), and of course we've got Chad's traditional analysis of the genre.


So that's it for Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. The next PDQ game will be the mysterious Vox

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Settlements



There are 17 settlements in lower Franconia, including Karlstadt (which is significant enough to get its own separate section). Since the focus of the adventure is on the Big 2, most of the others don't have much in the way of detail beyond a few sentences each. The GM is encouraged to develop unique flavor for the areas the PCs find interesting instead of trying to railroad them to the major areas.

Given that typical adventuring gear is needed for the war effort, the prices of most goods is multiplied by anywhere from 2-7 times normal.

Frammersbach is a major supplier for the Empire's army in the region, and as such nothing is for sail as the military already ordered everything of use to be shipped in wagons (which are currently being loaded up by the time the PCs arrive).

Gemünden am Main is a largely abandoned town, 100 people left, as it will be one of the first in the Swedes' war path.

Gössenheim is a ghost town with only 24 people left who are all siblings married to each other. They're going around the farms and slaughtering the livestock left behind to prevent the Swedes from using them.

Hammelburg is a wealthy valley town known for its quality wine. Figuring that the Swedes will go out of their way to seize their alcohol, most of them fled to Würzburg.

Lohr is as large as Karlstadt. It's suffered the worst of the region's witch-hunts, and almost everyone in town is a devout Catholic. A garrison of several hundred soldiers is camped to defend the town, but everyone fears that this will not be enough (it won't).

Neuendorf's only citizens are those old folks too stubborn to flee. They're incensed about the situation in Karlstadt, enough to ally themselves with the Swedes if they promise to eradicate the Seven.

Neustadt am Main is home to a large monastery of Benedictine monks, who will give refuge to PCs in need of aid (but will try to steal and dispose of obviously magical and "ungodly" items). They're disapproving of the Prince-Bishop's recent policies, but they view Karlstadt's new rulers as blasphemy. They know information about 2 dungeons in the region (the Infinite Tower and the Mound), but will warn PCs away because they're "places of fell pagan power."

Partenstein is home to a gothic church, and the citizens are not under the territorial domain of the Prince-Bishop. They figure the Swedes will ignore them.

Rothenfels has an inn and a heavy influx of refugees in town. Late in the day, a long shadow shaped like a tower casts itself over the village. No such tower exists.

Steinfeld is now mostly swampland, only a few buildings above water level. The inhabitants have long departed, and giant malformed insects attack anyone who stays around for too long.

Theidenfeld is unremarkable, except that a traveling circus is in town! Nobody's attending, and the sideshow attractions have an empty feel to them. They're so desperate for visitors that the entrance fee is waived for the PCs.

Thüngen is under the thrall of bandits. They extort any valuables from travelers passing through, and the townsfolk cooperate because all the children are locked in a barn (which will be set ablaze if anyone tries to stop them). The bandit's leader is a gambling addict and makes all major decisions with the roll of a pair of dice. Very Two-Face like.

Urspringen appears abandoned except for a single clinic. Those too sick to leave are cared for by a doctor, who cannot help them anymore. He is secretly slitting the throats of the townsfolk, justifying it that a quick and clean death is far better than torture at the hands of the Swedish Army. He believes he'll go to Hell for this, but accepts this.

Werneck is well out of the way of the Swedes, but the locals are frightened of another pressing problem. Someone, or something, is silently going around at night, ripping the throats of villagers. The locals believe there's a vampire in town, and are dragging people out into the sun and conducting house-by-house searches nightly, but to no avail.

Zellingen is largely abandoned, and the few remaining people sell supplies at exorbitant rates (3d6 times normal price).

Würzburg is the regional capital, a city of over 10,000 people. Thanks to a high walls and the majority of its trade routes going south to Nuremberg, life continues on as usual for the time being. Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeld, has some diplomatic contact with the Swedish King Adolphus. The King's messenger told the Prince-Bishop of Karlstadt's situation, but the Prince-Bishop views this as a trick. Trying to take back Karlstadt would weaken Würzburg's forces enough that they'd be completely unable to resist the Swedish army.

However, the Prince-Bishop has placed a bounty on the Seven's heads, which must be delivered to him. If successful, he'll present the heads as pikes at the entrance as a show of good faith and to use it as a way to unite Catholics and Protestants against Satan. This is the only way in the adventure that will save Würzburg from being burned to the ground by the Swedish army.

The city is in the throes of a witch-hunting hysteria. People are afraid that what happened to Karlstadt will happen here, and accusations against women and girls are being tossed left and right. At least 15-20 women a day are arrested, to the point where there's entire pens and cages being used as impromptu prisons. The authorities figure that even if a lot of them are innocent, being hung or drowned as a witch will be far more merciful compared to what the Swedish soldiers will do to them. Just like real-world witch trials, innocence involves getting killed via drowning or crushed by a rock ("if she floats or survives, she's a witch!"). Guilty ones are hung from trees, stripped of all clothes and valuables, and after the trial the children beat the corpses with sticks as part of a game. We even get a full-page picture of this on one of the pages, with a crowd gathered around the hanging and bleeding naked corpse.

Oookay.

The image isn't as graphic as you'd think, as the perspective is far away and the crowd itself dominates the picture instead of the dead woman. But still...


A few males have been accused of witchcraft, but their trials are much more fair and won't result in inevitable death on an innocent verdict.



PCs can try to free the women, but they'll be branded as witches and attacked by guards in the process. They can free them, but it will be rather hard to do so.

Continues below, with details on Karlstadt proper.





Karlstadt



Karlstadt is sort of the 'center' of the module. It is where the major players are located and provides additional adventure fodder in the case of rumors, information from the Joy, and a few interesting locations.

Karlstadt originally had a population of 1,500 people. Over the period of several days this number has doubled within the walls, with several thousand more outside. This refugee colony is full of people still hoping to get inside, and the Seven do not extend their authority out to the camp proper. Most live in makeshift homes, ranging from upturned carts for shelter and some tents. Ruthless and violent figures are the unofficial leaders of the place, committing crimes out of view of the milizionäre and taking what they want.

The town is walled and surrounded by a moat, with a single bridge acting as an entryway. The milizionäre patrol around the walls, and a dozen guard the bridge. Those passing through must submit to a thorough search, and people who try fighting through will sound the alarm and have to fight one of the Seven's monsters. All further entry into the town will be closed if this happens, and due to this refugees will aid the milizionäre in stopping the intruders. People found to be carrying weapons will be arrested, otherwise those who qualify for entry must hand over all of their valuables except the clothes on their backs "for the greater good." The milizionäre genuinely use these valuables to the people living inside as determined by what groups need it most.

Considering that sneaking into town with equipment intact means getting past the guards and blending in with the crowd, I can't see PCs using Karlstadt proper as a base of operations. Even leaving equipment behind almost certainly results in its theft due to the refugee colony's rampant crime. The most useful means of travel to and fro is an old smuggling tunnel, which is located in an otherwise nondescript house. The Joy knows about it, and can give it up as an answer to a question.

The situation within the walls is desperate. Karlstadt is stretched to its absolute breaking point in terms of living standards. The population is so high that housing is full and many people are sleeping in the streets; regular supplies of food via merchant caravan is not enough to keep anyone full; and common social services are nonexistent.

There are 21 briefly-described locations within town, including the Seven's individual residences (although the Mother and the Joy abandoned theirs).

1.) A black market of forbidden goods operates out of a large multi-story residence; the Seven know about this, but since no weapons are traded they send in their servitor creatures to scare people away and keep up appearances.

2.) The smuggler's tunnel is half a mile long. It connects to a farmhouse and the cellar of a house in Karlstadt.

3.) A group of Catholic supporters of the Prince-Bishop hid a stash of several dozen weapons (including swords, axes, and firearms) in their meeting house. They plan on violently overthrowing the Seven once they feel confident enough and learn the weaknesses and abilities of the witches and their servitor creatures.

4.) The town inn is used to hold the town's injured, crippled, and sick. Nobody in town has medical experience, so the best the milizionäre can do is bring them food.

5.) A small town square serves as a social outlet and escape from the hardships of life. Townsfolk hold regular musical sessions for entertainment, although none of them are professional musicians.

6.) A growing number of Catholics are holding religious services in a private church, but they're using smuggled bread and wine to perform communions. They're increasingly outspoken about their beliefs, and 1d6+1 days form the adventure's beginning someone will burn down the house with everyone inside.

Other locations are less notable, but contribute to the sense of despair, or reveal more of the individual Seven's personality in terms of living residence. The Defender has a posh manor nobody's allowed inside; the Defiler's residence is an apartment full of broken furniture used to board up the place; the Reminder has converted her house into a printing press and classroom (for creation of spellbooks and teaching others magic); the Watcher's home is filled with religious paraphernalia; and the Maker's house has been torn down and destroyed (although nobody knows why).

Thoughts so far: The small settlements are nothing special, and don't really have much in the way of adventure fodder. Karlstadt is a much more interesting location, and I like the multiple sources of conflict and power struggles going on (the Catholics, the conspirators, the black market).

Next time, the dungeons!

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012

in my pope game,


Libertad! posted:

Possession: one of the Insect God's children, the size of a fly, will fly up to one of the PCs and attempt to burrow into his/her flesh to lay eggs. If undetected and successful, the eggs will eventually hatch over a period of hours, and an insect will grow out of the body and violently attack its host as it emerges.

Haha, what.

"You roll successfully and detect... a fly!"

"The fly has bitten you. What do you do?"

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Look, it wouldn't be a LotFP release without something penetrating your body with its body against your will.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


There is that little OSR subset that really, really likes to fixate on body horror and parasitism (I'm reminded of Yellowdingo's blog back when it was up, which had basically 101 versions of Ophiocordyceps). A creature that fires parasitic eyes into you would be an interesting idea for one strange encounter amongst a variety, but Raggi just likes going back to the well of being infested again and again.

Lichtenstein
May 31, 2012

It'll make sense, eventually.


I sort of like the mood of this adventure so far and anxiously await the moment when it turns all grognards.txt.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Lichtenstein posted:

I sort of like the mood of this adventure so far and anxiously await the moment when it turns all grognards.txt.

There isn't really a big downhill spiral into creepville in BTAM. If anything the stuff is lightly sprinkled throughout the adventure rather than focused into one place.


On with the review!

Better Than Any Man Dungeon 1: Abandoned Farmhouse



So there's a total of 4 dungeons in the region which the PCs can hear about through rumors and NPC interaction. They are the Abandoned Farmhouse, once owned by a family of cultists and now inhabited by bandits; the Mound, an ancient place built by a long-forgotten race and now inhabited by a necromancer; the Infinite Tower, a magical building which has an endless layer of floors and inhabitants; and Goblin Hill, a sort of megadungeon comprised of caverns, the Insect Shrine, the Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters, and the Lair of the Insect God. We'll cover them one per post (with Goblin Hill itself made up of 4 posts).

The Abandoned Farmhouse is in the northwest area of the map. Decades ago the Braasch family was successful and prosperous. In secret they worshiped the Insect God in an underground cellar, and taught and practiced magic. Eventually the community suspected the latter, and killed all the men as the women and children fled.

A group of bandits led by Gunther Mohl has fallen on hard times. Their horses are dead and they nearly escaped death at the hands of the authorities, so they're using the old Braasch farmhouse as a temporary base. The place has a reputation for ghosts and black magic, so the Mohl and his men figure that nobody would bother them as long as they stayed.

Unbeknownst to them, one of the Braasch patriarchs still lives on as a ghoul, hidden in a cellar room accessible only via secret doors (room 10). A shrine to the Insect God in the room grants him supernatural resilience, and he cannot be Turned by Clerics unless they'e between the ghoul and the alter. Braasch's rather slow and frail (3/4ths normal human movement, 2 Hit Dice), but offensively he packs quite a punch (bite and claw for 1d8 damage each) and he's got good Armor (15).



Gunther's a 1st level Fighter with Armor 14 (leather), and a sword and dagger and pistol as weapons which deal 1d8 damage each. This is probably a typo, as daggers do 1d4 damage in LotFP.

He has a map he took off of a patrolling milizionäre, which is actually details a backdoor into the Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters. Gunther knows this from scouting the area. He has keys which unlock most of the doors and chests in the farmhouse.

Six bandits are part of Gunther's gang, and they're all 0 level humans with no worn armor, a sword, and two daggers each.

The group sticks to the cellars below the farmhouse, and they're particularly afraid of being spotted by passing patrols (and that glass tiger monster). Two of minions keep watch in the barn's hayloft (room 4) and are poorly disguised as zombies (covered in flour and dirt) to scare away intruders. There's a hidden trapdoor which leads down to the secret hideout (room 7).

A couple men keep watch on the farmhouse's (room 5) upper level for intruders. Between them and the pair in the hayloft, the bandits have an overhead view of the front gate (room 1) and trees (room 2). The second underground entryway is located in the cellar (room 6). The bandits can use these connecting passages to move to and from the two buildings without crossing out into the open.

The various cellar rooms (7-9) contain living accommodations and supplies for the bandits, as well as a trapped chest containing their ill-gotten loot. The treasure chest contains 1d6x100 silver pieces worth of copper and silver coins. A good haul overall.

Adventure Hook

The place comes off as a tutorial dungeon of sorts. It's not big and expansive, the bandits are not confined to set rooms and will retreat into tactically sound areas, and the lion's share of treasure is in one room. It's really a stand-alone encounter which doesn't deeply tie in to the greater plot, although the Insect God altar will be recognizable later on once the PCs get into the Insect Shrine. The bandits do occasionally come to Karlstadt for supplies in groups of one or two and spend time at the Joy's bar, so she can tell the PCs about their plans and lair.

Raggi offers an adventure hook to motivate the PCs. A few of the bandits will kidnap a child from Karlstadt's refugee colony for a 1,000 silver piece ransom. If the parents want the child back, they must deliver a pony/mule with saddlebags full of the money to the barn, and then the child will be hosted onto to it blindfolded and gagged to go back outside.

Problem is, the parents don't have that kind of money, and the bandits did not consult with Gunther of this plan (who's furious because it compromises their secrecy). They offer to pay the PCs 50 silver (of which they lost everything and had to do a lot of degrading things to scrape up) if they can return their child alive.

The child is being held in the cellar near one of room 10's secret doors, where the bandits will retreat. If Gunther dies or falls unconscious, the child will scream as the undead Braasch springs out to kill and eat him/her. They have 2d6 rounds to save the child's life (the ghoul takes his time to gloat over his catch). The bandit's first priority will be to save the child, even cooperating with the PCs to kill the ghoul.


It should be easy to save the child, provided there are enough PCs and bandits left alive to take action. 2 rounds is plenty of time for even 3 people to threaten Braasch, whose priority will shift towards his new enemies. And if 5 people with a +1 to-hit roll wail on him, each has a 65% chance of hitting him. Braasch himself has a +3 to hit, meaning that he'll connect with the bandits easily enough but won't get past the defenses of a heavily-armored Fighter most of the time.

Thoughts so far: the Abandoned Farmhouse is challenging, but manageable for a group of 1st-level PCs. The bandits are all weak and don't have any magic (only the leader has a one-use ranged weapon). If the fight is located close quarters in the cellars and the bandits still maintain superior numbers, they can overcome the party.

Next time, the Mound!

Saguaro PI
Mar 11, 2013

Totally legit tree

Congratulations, Raggi, you did what you thought would be impossible and what your previous work indicated was, created an adventure better than Keep on the Borderlands. This thing isn't without problems, but I'm kind of awed the guy who brought us Death Frost Doom and wrote an essay on how originality sucks could create something that's actually kinda interesting.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Saguaro PI posted:

Congratulations, Raggi, you did what you thought would be impossible and what your previous work indicated was, created an adventure better than Keep on the Borderlands. This thing isn't without problems, but I'm kind of awed the guy who brought us Death Frost Doom and wrote an essay on how originality sucks could create something that's actually kinda interesting.

To be fair, Death Frost Doom was written in 2007, and he's had a lot of time to improve in that department. With some exceptions, many writers and tabletop game designers' work tends to get more refined with time; practice makes perfect.

Anyway, the next section:



Better Than Any Man Dungeon 2: The Mound





The Mound is a millennia-old shrine to the Insect God once inhabited by a forgotten race of creatures. Today it's the home of Willibald Schwartz, a depraved necromancer who conducts arcane experiments in its halls. The Glass Tiger (from Countryside Encounters) is one of his creations, usually stalking the region for people to kill and bring back to its master.

The Joy can tell the PCs about Schwartz, mainly that he's insane and should not be crossed and that he's looking for some hired help. The Monks of Neustadt am Main also know its location, but not its current occupant.

The dungeon itself is rather straightforward, as evidenced by the map, but very, very, lethal. Room 3 is trapped, the floor covered in explosive flammable oil which deals 3d10 damage on a failed Save vs. Breath Weapon if anyone crosses with a torch. Rooms 9 and 10 are inhabited by 16 skeletons each in sarcophagi, who will animate if anybody removes even a single piece of treasure from the tombs.

Rooms 4-7 are pedestals with inscriptions in a long-dead language detailing the exploits of various goblin folk heroes (Alderman Toony Rabbitmangler, Battlemaster Talon Berrycrusher, etc.) and their campaigns against the “Tall Ones.” The original statues themselves are long gone, replaced by the petrified remains of Schwartz’s child victims in various macabre states (one pulling his own skin off like a shirt, another with faces of other children sown into him, etc).

I personally feel that this detracts from the “weird fantasy” vibe. Goblins are so cliché and iconic in tabletop games that it removes much of the horror when they’re identified as much. The silly names make me think of Pathfinder’s goblins, which are pretty much comic relief. However, Raggi had something going with the replacement statues: it gives the impression that the Mound’s original inhabitants were really hosed up and had nothing in common with the present culture. And even if they find out otherwise, the horror is not diminished but instead shifts towards Schwartz.



As for Schwartz himself, he’s a 17th-level Magic-User with 36 spells prepared (ranging from 1st to 9th level); in addition to his Glass Tiger minion, he has a rather powerful unique spell which could allow him to cast multiple spells per round, and a marionette which can summon 2d6 spectral ghosts a round (but only 12 maximum at any given time). He doesn’t have a typical spellbook per se; rather, room 11 is his entire spellbook. His research notes and scrolls are carved into the walls of the laboratory, which used to be the main altar room of the Insect God. And he also has a spell which allows him to see in dark as long as he has a human head touching his body, so he can see the PCs down the hallway if he’s in room 8 (the corridor’s end).

So how are the PCs supposed to go through this dungeon without dying horribly? Well, Schwartz is not interested in fighting, unless the PCs are locals, try to steal from the Mound, or otherwise indicate that they’ll compromise his location to outside parties. The necromancer knows of the Mound’s origins, and the inner circle of Bürgerfriedensmiliz who wish to revive the Insect God. If they successfully awaken the deity, it will be none too pleased to find out that Schwartz desecrated one of its holy shrines, so he has an incentive to prevent this from happening.

So Schwartz will tell the PCs that the cult needs the Gem of the Insect, an old statue, to complete the awakening ritual. He knows the time period when it was lost and its general location (the Insect Shrine in Goblin Hill), and has prepared a scroll which can travel back the caster and a small group back in time. Once the duration ends and they come back to the present, they must use that knowledge to find its current location. If the Gem is broken, the God will slumber forevermore.

Schwartz will not directly help the PCs, or offer them a reward. If pressed or asked why they should trust him, he’ll mention that the Insect God will kill millions at the very least, and potentially all human life. He only kills about a dozen people a year.

Around days 8-11 from the campaign start, the Swedish Army will send a legion of troops to the Mound in their sorcery eradication attempts. They will kill Schwartz and destroy all of the “pagan” creations in the process, meaning that the PCs will have no way to stop the Insect God unless they’re able to figure things out on their own.

I find this scenario hard to believe. Even though the Swedish Army at the time was one of the most advanced in the world, LotFP spellcasters still have a bunch of tricks up their sleeves at high levels. All but 7 of Schwartz’s spells (which are the unique ones) are for the DM to determine, and while he might not be all to kill thousands of troops in a short amount of time, he can out thwart them. He can hold up in the Mound and will easily notice a large group coming inside, enough to formulate tactics and plans.

An LotFP Magic-User can:

Cast Protection From Normal Missiles as a 3rd-level spell, which provides complete immunity to small non-magical projectiles (including bows, bolts, and bullets) for 1 round/level (round equals 6 seconds).

Protection From Normal Weapons as a 4th-level spell, which does the same as the above but for all non-magical weapons and people of 4th-level and higher can affect the caster normally.

Cast various Invisibility spells from 2nd-7th level which last 1 turn/level (1 turn equals 10 minutes), ranging from 10’ radius to being allowed to attack and so forth.

Gaseous Form and Dimension Door as 3rd and 4th level spells for escape.

Stone Shape, Wall of Force/Iron/Stone as 5th level spells, along with Stinking Cloud and Web as 2nd level spells for battlefield control.


Okay, you get my point.

Magic Item and Spells

Next section discusses Schwartz’s unique magic item, The Dead Marionette. It’s a bar with strings made from human hair, and it has 3 powers which can be used once per round as long as an intact human skeleton dangles from it.

One power allows the user to summon 2d6 1 hit die spectral duplicates of the caster, to a maximum of 12 at any time. They ignore worn armor and deal 1 hit point of damage, but can be affected by normal attacks.

The other power can take physical control of a target on a failed Save vs. Paralyzation, except they have full control of their mouth (and thus can’t cast spells against their will).

The third power can break a target’s bones on a failed Save vs. Magical Device. Deals no hit point damage, but imposes penalties based upon the area effected (ribs halve carrying capacity, legs reduce movement, etc). Takes 1d4+1 weeks to heal naturally, healed instantly with a cure spell provided said spell isn’t used to restore hit points.

Even though it’s unlikely the PCs will get access to this item in the adventure, it can be a really powerful item for them. Aside from looking creepy as gently caress and hard to conceal and carry if using a skeleton, it has no negative effects on the user. It can be used an unlimited number of times unless the target succeeds on a save (in which case the skeleton crumbles). Finding replacement skeletons is easy, given that the PCs are traveling adventurers.

Also detailed are 7 new spells. All but 2 of them are 1st level, with Animate Hands being 2nd level and Perfect Dark Vision being 3rd level.

quote:

Animate Hands
Magic-User Level 2
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: 10’/level

This spell animates any severed human or human-like hands (or hands attached to severed limbs) within range, allowing the caster to control them as natural extensions of his own body.

Pairs of hands can be used by the caster to cast spells independent of other actions taken. Spells are of course counted against the caster’s prepared totals. By itself, a hand cannot carry items or attack for damage, but a hand can enter mêlée and distract its opponent by climbing on them; a saving throw versus Paralyzation is required or the harassed combatant suffers -1 to hit and a 1-point Armor penalty. These effects are cumulative, and a victim must save against each hand’s effects each Round.

Hands: Armor 12, 0 Hit Dice (1d4 Hit Points), Movement 60’ (30’ if attached to a limb), Morale 12.

This works as a nice debuffer against single opponents, but its ability to grant additional cast spells per round is the bomb. Granted, LotFP spellcasters don’t get bonus spells per day from ability scores or at-will cantrips like in 3.X games, but it’s a worthy trade-off assuming that the Magic-User’s would otherwise cast multiple spells over the combat encounter.

quote:

De-Age
Magic-User Level 1
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: Touch
This spell causes a willing subject to instantly become 1dX years younger, with X being the level of the caster.

If the maximum effect occurs, it adversely affects the subject, resulting in the loss of an experience level as well (with experience points being set at the minimum for the new level). A Level 0 character will instead become lobotomized, effectively no longer possessing an intellect at all. In either case, the character must then save versus Magic or de-age a further 1d30 years.

A character that falls to zero years of age becomes a fetus. A character that falls below zero years of age ceases to exist, as does all carried equipment and other peoples’ memories of that character, and all actions that character has ever performed are undone.

If the Referee’s game includes Elves, this spell does not affect them.

Except on a few levels, this spell requires either an online dice roller or one of those fractional things where multiple numbers on a die represent a single result. For a 1st-level spell, this can be quite powerful. Not only do you have the chance of permanently screwing over the target, you can even remove him out of existence entirely!

quote:

Deflect Damage
Magic-User Level 1
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: Self
This spell attempts to assign damage suffered by the caster to another nearby creature instead. When the caster suffers damage while under the effects of the spell, another creature within 30’ of the caster is randomly selected by the spell.

If this victim fails a saving throw versus Magic, it takes the damage instead of the caster. The damage transferred is never greater than the level of the caster each Round and if the transferred damage is enough to kill the victim, any excess is transferred to another random target. Damage self-inflicted by the caster will not be transferred and the damage is never transferred back to the person dealing the damage in the first place.

A good way for the party Wizard to up his survival rate, but the randomness of it decreases its usefulness unless allies give the caster a wide berth.

quote:

Journey to the Past
Magic-User Level 1
Duration: 1 turn/level
Range: Self
Upon casting this spell, the caster and all persons touching him (and their personal gear) are transported to a pre- determined point in time in the past. The transported characters are able to interact with and influence events at that time; they are there! When the duration expires, the subjects return immediately to their own time at the same point in time they left from. Onlookers will merely see them blink out of existence for a fraction of a second.

The point in time is fixed with the spell; each different point in time must be researched and learned as a completely new spell. The time associated with the spell will be constant. “Four o’clock in the afternoon on February 4th, 1602” is an allowable example (and will be tied to “four o’clock” where the spell was first transcribed, not the local four o’clock if different!), “Thirty minutes before casting” is not.

The spell does not transport its subjects across space*; travel occurs at the exact location of the casting only. Unwilling subjects can save versus Magic to remain unaffected. No people or objects from the past will be transported back to the present when the spell ends. The spell cannot be ended prematurely, but the caster can specify a shorter duration (in 10-minute Turn increments) at the time of casting.

* The Referee who declares that subjects of this spell are transported into space because they did not take into account the movement of the planet or the sun through outer space is an idiot and deserves to lose all of his players.

Schwartz’s spell sends the subject(s) back to July 14th, dawn, 10,000 BC. Since he’s 17th level, PCs would have nearly 3 hours to go through the Insect Shrine to find the Gem.

This spell is also potentially powerful as well, even considering its fixed point in time. Research a new spell variant tailored to a certain day of historical significance, travel back and alter things and change the course of history.

It doesn’t specify if objects from the present can be abandoned. I assume from the reading that things from the past can’t be taken forward in time.

quote:

Perfect Dark Vision
Magic-User Level 3
Duration: Special
Range: Touch
This spell imbues a severed head of the same species as the caster with the ability to grant its possessor the ability to see without light. The head must be in direct flesh-to-flesh contact with the subject to function.

The spell ends when flesh-to-flesh contact ends, or when the flesh completely rots off the severed head (3d4 days after death in normal conditions, half as long in warm conditions, twice as long in cold conditions, a matter of Turns in insect- infested areas of the Insect Shrine, etc.).

If the head is artificially preserved by any means, including the Plastination spell, it cannot be used to power the spell.

Long-term duration darkvision. Unless you cut a hole in your clothing and let a severed head touch you there, you’re going to look like a creepy gently caress walking around with it in the open.

quote:

Plastination
Magic-User Level 1
Duration: Permanent
Range: Touch
This spell coats dead organic matter in a clear shell which perfectly preserves the subject matter. The casing material is in no way indestructible; any blow intending to destroy or penetrate it will do so.

Due to the nature of the casing material, that which it preserves is no longer organic material. Therefore food cannot be preserved in this manner and neither can sacrifice victims, without either becoming unfit for purpose.

Pretty much Gentle Repose.

quote:

Read Brains
Magic-User Level 1
Duration: Special
Range: Self
This spell allows the caster to use the content of a character’s brains in lieu of a library for magical activities. The brains must be extracted from the head and preserved to be used. A Magic-User’s brain counts as 1000sp per level of the Magic-User; Elves’ brains count as 2000sp per level of the Elf; Clerics’ brains subtract 1000sp from the effective library level per level of the Cleric; all other leveled characters’ brains count as 500sp per level; and 0-level characters’ brains count as 100sp each. However, the maximum benefit that the caster can gain from this spell per project is 1000sp for every level of the caster.

Once the magical project is completed, whether successfully or not, the brain(s) used are smoothed out, dried up, and useless.

Now your Magic-User can learn new spells and scribe scrolls while on the road! Provided you have enough brains to do so.

Thoughts so far: This section of the adventure is rather railroady. The PCs need Schwartz’s help if they’re planning on putting a stop to the Insect God’s cult, and they can’t really fight him and take his stuff without a guaranteed Total Party Kill. It also leaves open the question of why Schwartz hasn’t tracked down the Gem himself.

Aesthetically speaking, the dungeon and the new material (marionette, spells) are highly appropriate and very thematic of a depraved necromancer.

Next time, the Infinite Tower!

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Alien Rope Burn posted:

There is that little OSR subset that really, really likes to fixate on body horror and parasitism (I'm reminded of Yellowdingo's blog back when it was up, which had basically 101 versions of Ophiocordyceps). A creature that fires parasitic eyes into you would be an interesting idea for one strange encounter amongst a variety, but Raggi just likes going back to the well of being infested again and again.

I blame ear-seekers, personally.

Saguaro PI
Mar 11, 2013

Totally legit tree

There's the Raggi we know and love! Play along with the crazy evil railroad wizard or have your de-aged, skullfucked corpse added to his statue collection.

This is what I get for having hope.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


It's interesting to have the whole historical setting to try and give the adventure some weight to the setting and then watch him fling it out the window to have a necromancer of the Insect God and his goblin minions.

The shiny bellbottomed magic outfit with pentagrams, crazy collar, and potbelly makes him look like he's a Vegas stage magician twenty years past his prime.

Siivola
Dec 23, 2012



He's just squatting in the Insect God's church, and the goblins are long dead.

Siivola fucked around with this message at 12:09 on Mar 21, 2014

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


TL;DR, I suppose, that was crummy of me.

Essential point remains the same, though, it feels like something out of R6: Burrow of the Insect God, which I guess is the point, but it clashes with the Weight of Real History Stuff.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Kai Tave posted:

I blame ear-seekers, personally.

Really? My guess would have been rot grubs. Nothing says old school like this picture



I always assume the love of body horror comes from things like this because they were always among the worst "murder-DM" critters, something where the only solution tended to be burning yourself, dunking your arm in acid or stabbing at your own flesh or suffer unavoidable death. Something that 3rd edition more or less did away with, since part of 3e's philosophy is generally "everything deserves a saving throw".

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Yeah, the uber-powerful necromancer and the goblins are kind of a low point which doesn't gel well with the rest of the module. But the next dungeon's pretty interesting and a lot less railroady.

Speaking of old-school "you're hosed, no saving throw" shenanigans, there's an insidious little bit in the next dungeon which can effectively make the PCs bypass the whole adventure accidentally, and in a bad way. Hint: it involves an impossibly long hallway.

Better Than Any Man Dungeon 3: The Infinite Tower





Located on the far western side of the map, the Infinite Tower is built into a cliffside at the edge of a pond. The tower's origin is unknown, having been there since before humanity evolved into homo sapiens. It has no connection to the Seven, Schwartz, the Insect God, or the German/Swedish power players. It's a side-trek; Raggi feels that more adventures should have people, locations, and events untied to the main plot because it gives a sense that the world is bigger than just the PC's concerns.

The tower's interior occupies an extra-dimensional space. Every level looks like the one on the map. If someone enters from the outside from up top, they'll enter through the door on Section E on Level 1; if someone enters through the steps on bottom, they'll enter through the door on Section A of Level 1; if the PCs manage to go through the underwater entrance through the cracks, they'll enter through the rightmost room on X4 of Level 1.

Travel between levels is done via ladders on A and E, and if someone exits through the A/E/X4 routes on any floor they'll find themselves outside the Tower. They enter back at Floor 1, and must climb/descend the Tower again (meaning that occupants on floors other than 1 never leave). Floors below 1 are marked in negatives (like Basement 1, Basement 2 in video game dungeons), as there is no Floor 0.

The tower's interior seems to go on forever, and nobody has found a dead end yet. There are millions of people and monsters living amid the Tower floors currently, and each level has 3d20 inhabitants of a specific type. The inhabitants' primary goals are to defend their levels from the others, while at the same time plotting to conquer the next higher level. They get their food and water supply from X4, which has fish, and have an assortment of treasure equal to 1d4 x Tower level (negatives count as positives) x 100 silver pieces, with the lion's share on the level's leader or his/her quarters.

Sections A and E act as guardrooms against the adjacent levels. Section B is the private quarters and strategy room of the elite occupants (no suggested changes to game stats). Section C is a common area with a storage room and secret door leading out to the cliffside and the sarcophagus room. Section D is a sleeping area, while Section X has 4 rooms.

Most of X's rooms are mundane (X2 is storage room, X3 are family living quarters, X4 is fishing area), but X1 has a really nasty trap:

quote:

The passage is a time trap. The corridor itself is endless. Anyone walking down this hall is lost for 1d6x10 years before the passage leads back here (it will not seem to turn). There is a 50% chance that the person lost in time will come back this many years before he left, and a 50% chance that he will come back this many years after he left. Whenever he makes his return, the person lost in time will always return to the same level of the Tower. Each level’s inhabitants are aware of the effect here and post guards to watch the corridor.

No, there's no save against this. A single PC goes down, and they're pretty much out of the campaign. The entire party goes down the passage, and they whole adventure passes them by (the Thirty Years War is over by 1648, and the Seven, the Citizen Peace Patrol cult, and Schwartz are all long dead). Actually, on days 8-11 the Swedish Army uses a lot of gunpowder to collapse the Infinite Tower, killing everyone inside and spilling their blood and guts out into the water supply. The river will run red for weeks. Which begs the question of whether or not PCs in the passage trap count as being inside, and if not, what they return to at its end.

Generally, occupants level 1 and up are humans with class levels, while the first five basement levels are empty. Basement levels 6 and down are inhabited by monsters. The occupants become stronger the farther one goes up or down, with examples for the first ten levels either way. It's up to the Dungeon Master to make up inhabitants beyond these 20 levels, but they're supposed to get stronger and stronger.

The first six levels up are 0 and 1st level guys, the first 2 being 0 level peasants and militia members, with 3-6 containing 1st level Specialists/Fighters/Clerics/Magic-Users, representing thieves’ guilds and religious orders and the like. Levels 7-10 have Magic-User orders of increasing probable power, starting with The Mystic Gathering of Atlantis of 2nd-level at 7, the Hidden 1d4 level , the Knowers of levels 1d4+2, and finally ending with the Installed at levels 2d6! It guess it really limits the PCs’ ability to explore the Tower when the first few levels can turn into an unstoppable force (the 3d20 number is widely variable alone), but I can see how the routine can eventually get tedious the first few times.

The monsters increase in power and difficulty at a far greater rate than the humans. The snake men on basement level 6 have Armor 14 and 3 hit dice and a poison attack which deals additional hit point damage. Basement 7 has Sulpher Men, with Armor 16, 4 hit dice, and a 30’ cone breath weapon of 1d6 fire damage. Basement 8 has men of Living Crystal, with 18 (!) Armor and reflect all magical attacks back at the caster; these guys are nearly untouchable for non-Fighters! The Lizards of Basement 9 don’t have any special abilities aside from Armor 18 and 8 hit dice. Basement 10’s monsters are Soul Suckers, with Armor 20 and 6 hit dice and a soul sucking attack which drains 1,000 experience points per hit!

These Armor scores might sound rather high for low-level adventurers, but it’s even more egregious in this RPG. I'll explain in this quote below:

Armor and to-hit posted:

For an overview, LotFP uses the ascending defense system of later D&D Editions, where a higher Armor (Class) means better protection. The average unarmored human has an Armor of 12; Leather Armor grants a base 14, chain 16, and plate mail 18. Magical spells and high dexterity can adjust the base further. Characters’ attack bonuses are a base +1 and modified by Strength or Dexterity (depending on whether it’s a melee or missile weapon). The Fighter is the only class whose attack bonus increases with level: it starts at a +2 base at 1st level and increases by 1 every level thereafter. This is meant to make combat less certain for all but the specialized Fighters (a Fighter with plate mail is king of the battlefield). Monsters' attack bonuses advance as Fighters (with an equivalent level equal to their Hit Die).

In the main rulebook, Raggi advises to keep the Armor of monsters low, with an 18 or more representing very dangerous and exceptional beings. But this rule is discarded at times in Better Than Any Man, and more than a few creatures cut it close, from Tower occupants to random encounters in Goblin Hill.

There are very few weapons which grant a bonus on to-hit rolls, and even they have conditions. The polearm grants a +1 to hit opponents with a base Armor of 16 or better; the light crossbow can ignore 2 points of Armor (even if the target is unarmored), the heavy crossbow 4 points, but both have longer reloading times; firearms (both pistols and rifles) can ignore 5 points of Armor but can only be shot once per combat encounter (they take forever to reload). A few weapons, such as the rapier, apply a penalty of -2 against very high (15-16 or better) base Armor scores.

So a 4th-level Fighter with a polearm and 16 (+2) Strength will get a +8 bonus under the right conditions, but that requires a high die roll at character creation and even then will miss 45% of the time against these Tower monsters.

This system might be workable in a base LotFP game, where combat is to be avoided unless the PCs are sure of themselves and most monsters have 12-15 Armor scores. But when you’ve got small groups of Armor 17 monsters showing up in dungeon encounters, your non-Fighter PCs are soon going to start carrying around heavy crossbows as their main weapons.

Finally, every floor has a secret sarcophagus level, unknown to the inhabitants. A Crypt Occupant guards the treasure, with some rather weak base stats (Armor 12, 1d4 hit die, 1d6 rend), but has a special ability determined by an accompanying random table (stuff like breath weapon, Constitution drain, skill points in Climbing/Sneak Attack/Stealth, etc). The room’s treasure is 1d6 x Tower level (negatives are treated as positive) x 500 silver pieces. And a 1% chance of a single spell scroll of level 1d6+3!

Thoughts so far: The Infinite Tower is a cool idea, but when it comes to execution I have mixed feelings. At first it appears to have a steady difficulty curve, but the 3d20 number throws any form of gradual progression out of whack. The monsters get too powerful too quickly. Saving the Tower for several sessions later is not possible, given that the Swedes will destroy it around week’s end, limiting its appeal.

Next time, Goblin Hill Part 1: Caverns!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 17:31 on Mar 21, 2014

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012

in my pope game,


Libertad! posted:

Most of X's rooms are mundane (X2 is storage room, X3 are family living quarters, X4 is fishing area), but X1 has a really nasty trap:

quote:

The passage is a time trap. The corridor itself is endless. Anyone walking down this hall is lost for 1d6x10 years before the passage leads back here (it will not seem to turn). There is a 50% chance that the person lost in time will come back this many years before he left, and a 50% chance that he will come back this many years after he left. Whenever he makes his return, the person lost in time will always return to the same level of the Tower. Each level’s inhabitants are aware of the effect here and post guards to watch the corridor.

No, there's no save against this. A single PC goes down, and they're pretty much out of the campaign. The entire party goes down the passage, and they whole adventure passes them by (the Thirty Years War is over by 1648, and the Seven, the Citizen Peace Patrol cult, and Schwartz are all long dead). Actually, on days 8-11 the Swedish Army uses a lot of gunpowder to collapse the Infinite Tower, killing everyone inside and spilling their blood and guts out into the water supply. The river will run red for weeks. Which begs the question of whether or not PCs in the passage trap count as being inside, and if not, what they return to at its end.

It's worse than that, if I'm reading it correctly: it looks like each person going down the hallway ends up arriving back at the start +-60 years from when they started... so if more than one person goes in, you end up with the entire party scattered between 1571 and 1691.

Essentially, a guaranteed no-save TPK... even neglecting the fact that they're going to return, alone, to either a guarded entrance (specifically called out!), or a tower which no longer exists.

Gygax's sphere of annihilation was at least considerate enough to let players know when they'd died.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


In addition to that, Jesus the Swedish Army just won't leave anything alone.

hectorgrey
Oct 14, 2011


To be fair, the de-aging only works on a willing target. It's not like you can use it as an attack...

As to the rest, well, I've seen far worse.

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012

in my pope game,


wdarkk posted:

In addition to that, Jesus the Swedish Army just won't leave anything alone.

Historically accurate. :)

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Better Than Any Man Dungeon 4: Goblin Hill-Caverns





Goblin Hill itself is an unremarkable hill roughly ten miles northeast of Hammelburg. Nobody remembers the origins of the name, and it's not known for any weird stuff by Franconia's inhabitants.

Within the hill is a complex underground system of natural caverns and artificially constructed tunnels and complexes. The Mother and the Bürgerfriedensmiliz use the place as a base of operations. Goblin Hill is so big that it's split up into 4 dungeons:

The Caverns, a cave system full of insects and lightly patrolled by milizionäre.

The Insect Shrine, a prehistoric temple to the Insect God.

The Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters, known to every member of the Seven and the milizionäre, but none except the Mother and the hidden order of cultists have ever been inside.

The Realm of the Insect God, a forsaken and unholy place where the God itself lairs, along with millions of its monstrous servitors.

We'll be detailing the Caverns first.

The Cavern entrance is hidden from view by foliage and camouflage; not even the Mother knows about it. Gunther (bandit leader from the Abandoned Farmhouse) has a map to the place and scouted it out, and the Joy can tell PCs the entrance's general location and what passage to take to get into the Headquarters. A sign saying "Welcome!" in German, set up by the Mother, 40 feet away on the trail outside. This seems rather blatant to me; there are many alternatives for wilderness markings people historically used to indicate location (paint on trees, affixed markers, cairn trail markers).

The Cavern complex and the environs outside are infested with bugs, even in winter. Every hour the PCs linger without moving they'll take 1 hit point of damage as the insects get everywhere and under clothes and bite and sting. They quickly spoil rations and make resting inside impossible. Animals tethered in any way will try to break free and get out of the area.

Random Encounters

Generated by a d6 roll, all but 1 one of them involve giant monstrous insects. The other's a patrol of 2d6 milizionäre. It adds some flavor by mentioning that the patrols fashion shields out of giant ant heads; the minions of the Insect God are just as hostile to the cult as it is to everyone else, and as such the headquarters' inhabitants tread cautiously in the caverns. The DM rolls for an encounter once a Turn (10 minutes) the PCs spend in the cavern.

Overall the encounters are quite tough, but in different ways. The giant wasp monster is unimpressive, but is has a Save vs. Poison or die bee sting attack. The giant beetle is half as fast as a human and an average natural attack, but its Armor is 19. The encounter with 1d6 Giant Cockroaches are 2 Hit Dice creatures (but roll hit points as though they had 8 hit dice!). The Giant Horsefly is a fast flyer and has a blood-sucking attack, but it's cowardly and has a low Armor (14). The last encounter, 1d6 Giant Ants, are tough but manageable for higher-level parties (2 hit dice, Armor 17, 1d6 attack, high morale).

The cavern has 13 rooms. Most of them are interesting places with unique encounters.

Room 1's the cave entrance. Room 2 is the intersection area with a giant beetle and dead adventurer with loot.

Room 3 was used as an execution chamber for disobedient and criminal milizionäre, and their shadows remain within the cavern. They will attack anybody who remains for 1d6 minutes; they form out of shadows naturally generated by light, and deal damage with touch attacks. They cannot be harmed except through an Exorcism spell or removing all shadows entirely (by getting rid of all light sources). The skeletons of 6 dead adventurers have loot here, along with a locked chest (which should provide enough time for the shadows to show up if the PCs dilly-dally with it).

Room 4 is home to a basilisk and its petrified victims (the monster's petrified, too, through the use of a mirror).

Room 5 is home to 2 rogue and milizionäre exiled for heinous crimes (why weren't they executed as normal?). They've fashioned a Rube Goldberg network of bones all over the place, so any combat within the room (as well as collateral missile weapons, missed attacks by PCs, and area of effect spells) not performed by the pair will trigger a trap and cause sharpened bones to fall from the ceiling. They're 0 level humans with a pet attack dog, and their familiarity with the area gives them all an insane Armor (19 for the three). I can forgive this, though, for the totally awesome idea for a cinematic combat!



Room 6 is very wet with acid which looks like cave water. Getting sufficiently wet deals 1d8 damage, and anybody who falls asleep here will die as the acid will dissolve bodies over time.

Room 7 is a colony of ooze blobs with precious stones (eggs) in their bodies. Trying to retrieve the stones will trigger an acidic spray. Otherwise they're harmless.

Room 8 contains a black liquid orb suspended in the air. The environment within is breathable and home to an entity known only as the Master of the Sphere.



This creature and the sphere have no relation to the rest of the adventure, and is completely optional.

The Master gains its power by remaining within the sphere, and challenges anyone who enters to single combat and tell the others to leave the sphere. It's a rather tough customer: 4 Hit Dice, Armor Class 18 (24 against non-thrusting weapons), an electrical discharge area attack, and a psychic head whip attack which ignores armor. On the upside, it can't heal from any damage.

If a PC does manage to slay it, he or she can choose one of three choices, all of which have insane consequences:

quote:

Stay as master of the sphere and be immortal.

The character is restored to full Hit Points, and will live forever as long as he stays within the sphere. Any others within the sphere will instantly die, their maximum Hit Points being added to the newcomer’s total. If the new master leaves the sphere, he dies. The master may of course be replaced by an interloper defeating him in combat.

Absorb the power of the sphere and be powerful in the world.

The sphere disappears within the character, who falls harmlessly to the floor. The character gains 1000 extra Hit Points, which cannot be healed if the character suffers damage, but are used to absorb damage instead of the character’s regular Hit Points. Whenever the character fails a saving throw, 50 Hit Points are subtracted from this pool and the save is considered successful. This effect is automatic and cannot be switched off. Any other character within the sphere is instantly absorbed into the character as well, dying instantly, but also transferring their experience points to the absorbing character. This newly powerful character becomes instantly Chaotic (losing any Cleric abilities) and constantly exudes a black, oily form of sweat until the extra Hit Points are expended.

Disperse the Sphere

The sphere loses its form and collapses into the cavern, filling it far beyond the original sphere’s volume. The cave will fill to a 15’ depth, and any character whose encumbrance is greater than Unencumbered must shed equipment or drown. The character who defeated the Master of the Sphere will be able to remain buoyant with his own equipment, but not any equipment picked up after the sphere’s collapse. Any other characters within the sphere when it collapses must save versus Paralyzation or be stunned for 2d4 Rounds, and sink straight to the bottom of the newly formed lake if they are at all encumbered.

Options 1 and 3 screw over the characters, so does Option 2 if the PC's a Cleric or any of his buddies remain within the sphere. An effective 1,000 extra hit points is rather nice, though. Especially for this adventure.

Rooms 9 through 11 are where the spiders live, and it's insane. In addition to hordes of tiny poisonous spiders (which are treated as part of the environment rather than individual monsters), there are 60 giant spiders. 47 normal and 13 elite Spider Champions (who have 8 limb attacks each). They won't be hostile, though, unless the PCs try to steal the treasure in room 11.

See, 11 is a sacrificial offering place of sorts. Amid the webs are scattered coins and valuable objects; spiders will allow PCs to take the treasure provided that two objects are left in their place. As insects, they can't discern value. One object which they'll never part with is the diamond spider statue in the middle worth 30,000 silver pieces. If the PCs break any of these rules, EVERY SINGLE SPIDER IN THE CAVERNS WILL ATTACK THEM!

8 x 13 = 104 attacks for the Champions, +47 normal ones=151 potential attacks a round. As of this review, there are no rules for "mobs" in LotFP.

Room 12 is thick with flies and maggots, as a vertical cavern in the area is part of the latrine of the Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters. The PCs can climb up and use it as a secret entrance if they can succeed on the Climb rolls. A giant horsefly and some giant maggots in the area will attack the PCs. They're one of the few relatively fair fights in the dungeon.

Room 13 is the entrance to the Insect Shrine. Many statues of man-insect hybrids decorate the entryway, with the light of fireflies in their eyeholes.

quote:

The combination of the light from the statue eyeholes, the swarms of insects that flit around in the light, and the water that trickles down from the ceiling and over the insectoid statues creates the optical illusion that the statues are writhing and struggling in place. A wandering monsters check—using the Insect Shrine chart (page 121)—should be made immediately after the player characters view the entryway.

Any hirelings or henchmen accompanying the party must make a loyalty check or they will refuse to enter the shrine.

This is the entrance to the next dungeon, and I love the atmosphere the text generates in its description. It tells the PCs that they're going into an even more forlorn and dangerous place.

Thoughts so far: A sparsely populated dungeon with some very tough opponents, it's ill-suited to 1st and 2nd level PCs. Even 4th level PCs can get screwed over by the Sphere and the Spider horde, but there are ways to avoid this.

Next time, the Insect Shrine!

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012

in my pope game,


Libertad! posted:

See, 11 is a sacrificial offering place of sorts. Amid the webs are scattered coins and valuable objects; spiders will allow PCs to take the treasure provided that two objects are left in their place. As insects, they can't discern value. One object which they'll never part with is the diamond spider statue in the middle worth 30,000 silver pieces. If the PCs break any of these rules, EVERY SINGLE SPIDER IN THE CAVERNS WILL ATTACK THEM!

Is there any way for the players to actually find out about these rules, other than by breaking them?

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



PleasingFungus posted:

Is there any way for the players to actually find out about these rules, other than by breaking them?

No - though I suspect players will think "Either this is going to help us control spiders or it's going to be a horrible trap"

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


PleasingFungus posted:

No, there's no save against this. A single PC goes down, and they're pretty much out of the campaign. The entire party goes down the passage, and they whole adventure passes them by (the Thirty Years War is over by 1648, and the Seven, the Citizen Peace Patrol cult, and Schwartz are all long dead). Actually, on days 8-11 the Swedish Army uses a lot of gunpowder to collapse the Infinite Tower, killing everyone inside and spilling their blood and guts out into the water supply. The river will run red for weeks. Which begs the question of whether or not PCs in the passage trap count as being inside, and if not, what they return to at its end.

It's worse than that, if I'm reading it correctly: it looks like each person going down the hallway ends up arriving back at the start +-60 years from when they started... so if more than one person goes in, you end up with the entire party scattered between 1571 and 1691.

Essentially, a guaranteed no-save TPK... even neglecting the fact that they're going to return, alone, to either a guarded entrance (specifically called out!), or a tower which no longer exists.

Gygax's sphere of annihilation was at least considerate enough to let players know when they'd died.
[/quote]

I swear this comes directly from Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode, which was inspired by House of Leaves. There's a cool bit where Amy ages decades in a minute.
This dungeon sounds fun in a brutal Dark Souls way.
The Insect God reminds me of The Invisbles.
It's better than the usual Tolkien stew.

Saguaro PI
Mar 11, 2013

Totally legit tree

PleasingFungus posted:

Is there any way for the players to actually find out about these rules, other than by breaking them?

Player skill :smaug:

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Saguaro PI posted:

Player skill :smaug:

Oh I'm sure that first group through the Tomb of Horrors, who allegedly got all the treasure without anyone in the party dying, could knock this one off like it ain't no thang.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Better Than Any Man Dungeon 5: Goblin Hill-Insect Shrine





Eons ago this place was the central seat of power for the Insect God's worshipers. Now it's in ruins, inhabited only by monsters. It's lightly patrolled by Milizionäre, but none of them make residence in the area.

The random encounters here are less frequent (1 in 6 chance every 3 turns), and mostly consist of the insects from the caverns only in larger numbers. The Giant Wasps, thankfully, do not have a Save or Die poison (it just deals additional damage), and a few of the opponents are quite weak (Giant Moths and Giant Bees).

Aside from this, the Insect Shrine is even more perilous than the caverns. Right off the bat in Room 1 we have a Giant Stoneskin Cockroach, which only awakens if touched or searched. It can be avoided otherwise, but it's a 15 hit dice monstrosity with a 25 Armor. Effectively indestructible, although fortunately it has half the speed of a human (so the PCs can run away).

Where the Caverns had oodles of insects, a sphere-demon, and crazy bone-warriors, the Insect Shrine is more quiet, foreboding, subtle, and trap-heavy. The dungeons' insect inhabitants are usually dormant and attack only if disturbed, or are part of the dungeons' traps for greedy adventurers. I do like this shift, as it makes the dungeon feel less bustling with activity, yet dangerous enough to tell the PCs that the place is still watched over by foul forces.

The rooms, for the most part, are relatively mundane. Rooms 2 & 3 are storage spaces, a worship hall with giant wasp nests (4) at the tops of some gem-studded columns, two ritual cleansing rooms (5 & 6) inhabited by butterflies which fly into the characters' mouths to lay eggs (which will hatch into caterpillars weeks later and burst forth from their flesh), a sacrifice pen (room 7) with still-living giant earwigs and maggots in cages who will attack anybody who falls in (Raggi developed a rather complex system of determining balance for PCs in a sidebar), and three priest quarters (8, 9, & 10). The latter two have a jade caterpillar carving and golden scarab amulet, both of which are trapped. The caterpillar will eat the other items and money in a stored container before eventually climbing out to return to the room; the golden scarab will telepathically communicate with insects in Goblin Hill, tripling random encounter chances and will burrow into the flesh of a sleeping PC to eat its brain and give birth to mini-scarabs.

Sort of seeing a theme here; I get the whole Body Horror feel of insects inside your body, but this is like the third time at least I've seen it used in this adventure. The jade caterpillar, by contrast, is a very neat idea and still makes thematic sense will being original.

See that southern part of the map? That's one giant ant farm. Of giant ants. Now that the humanoid inhabitants are long-dead, the colony grew out of control and burrowed into the surrounding rock for room. There are 168 giant ants in total, but none will be hostile unless their Queen is attacked. The colony still has use for humans, and those who fall prey to them in the dungeon or surrounding countryside are taken here to be used as livestock:

quote:

This cavern is where the ants harvest the food that feeds both themselves and most of the insects, great and small, in the greater cave complex. Scattered across the floor of the main cavern are hundreds of human corpses, all covered in the fungus the insects use for food. Each corpse is more fertile when fresh—even more so when still alive! —but this fungus can grow on bones for centuries. When giant ants kill prey, or when soldiers paralyze their enemies, they are brought here, their arms and legs are amputated, and then the torso is intentionally infected with the fungus. Living cows will be fed to keep them alive as long as possible, as excrement is useful for food as well and when the body dies there will be a great feast as the fungus spreads throughout the organs and the fungal bloom which results really is something to behold.

There will be 1d6-4 such living cows among the herd here.

Dozens of giant ants and half a dozen soldiers (see #11) will be here working or guarding at any one time, but they consider this a neutral zone and will let intruders pass undisturbed to avoid threatening the herd. If intruders move, damage, or otherwise molest the herd, the ants will swarm to eliminate the intruders.

I honestly never would've thought to use insects this way. It's unconventional and creepy enough to throw the players for a loop, but plausible-sounding enough that suspension of disbelief is maintained.

The Queen lairs in room 13. Killing her will permanently Confuse (as the spell) the ant colony, but she's guarded by a legion of ants. The queen herself is immobile and can't attack, but has 13 hit dice and so will take a long time to kill.

Room 14's a puzzle door which must be unlocked to gain access to 15 and 16. It's a series of 4 handlesembedded inside insect statue mouths and a foot pad at the base. The handles all must be turned clockwise and the footpad pressed for the door to open. Skill checks are pretty much useless:

quote:

An Architecture roll will reveal that there are many levers and gears working within the door. A Tinkering roll will disable them… making the door impossible to open.

Given that Tinkering's the major Open Lock/Disable Device skill in LotFP, it's highly likely that many PCs will end up screwing themselves over. The Gem of the Insect is in Room 16 beyond, and the door's the only way through.

Room 15 is a mausoleum, inhabited by a Giant Zombie Praying Mantis who will attack anyone who opens the central tomb (they all have nothing of value). Like the Giant Stone Cockroach, the Mantis can make quick work of low-level PCs. Armor 19, 11 hit dice, 1 bite attack dealing 3d4 damage (the most of any monster so far) and 2 arms dealing 2d6 damage. It's slow as hell, though (1/4th human movement).

I get the feeling that PCs in this adventure are going to do a lot of running away from some very powerful monsters a lot of the time. Sort of in tune with LotFP, but the number's kind of pushing it.

Room 16 contains the only hope for our PCs to put a stop to the Insect God. The Gem of the Insect, a 4' tall magnificent ruby red statue of an ant, is at the bottom of the sand pit. An ant lion lives here. In ancient times cultists fed it living sacrifices, but it hibernated for much of the intervening thousands of years. If the PCs want the statue, they must kill the Ant Lion.

The Ant Lion is definitely a tough customer. It has 20 Armor, 8 hit die, and any attack it makes in the sand pit automatically pulls the target under, dealing 1d6 additional damage every round. To add insult to injury, the target must also Save vs. Paralysis or be paralyzed.

The statue is 75,000 silver pieces total, but it's easily broken into 3 segments worth 15,000 silver each.

That's it. If the PCs break the statue, the cult's plans have failed, the Insect God will sleep for eternity, and if the PCs played their cards right, they can entirely bypass much of the Caverns, the Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters, and the Realm of the Insect God. The Mother hasn't found the statue yet, but it would be only a matter of time before her cult reclaimed the shrine.

Of course, if the PCs have Schwartz's time-traveling scroll, they can use it to transport themselves to the Shrine in its heyday. Raggi did not extensively detail the prehistoric world or the dungeon's past, but he does offer a few choice notes:

quote:

•The complex currently inhabited by the Bürgerfriedensmiliz would not yet have been built.
• The Mound would be an active facility.
• None of the towns and cities would be present on the map. The area would be much colder.
• The caves would be heavily trafficked by insects and cultists, but none of the odd encounters would be there.
• The cultists would all be three to three-and-a-half feet tall humanoids enjoying a higher level of technology and civilization than the Stone Age humans around them. They are evil halflings (what else did you expect, midgets?)
• The Insect Shrine would be fully inhabited and operational, but in the timeframe the spell would be in effect, most of the cultists are in location #16 performing a lengthy ritual.
• Location #7 would be full of victims; one hand and one foot removed, but the Referee should keep some guards around so the player characters can have duels atop the cages.
• A mass of cultists will be in location #16, with the great ruby ant statue on the altar. When the futuristic invaders are detected, priests will tip the ant into the sand pit where the ant lion will drag it below. There should be enough cultists in the way to prevent the player characters from stopping this.
• The cultists should be pushovers. 0 level, carry-only-daggers style pushovers. After all the rest of the crap to deal with in this adventure, it will do the players good to have ineffective, truly evil enemies to mow down. Keep the giant insects to a minimum.

To the bolded: the adventure earlier mentioned the prehistoric worshipers as Goblins. Now they're Haflings? And I honestly would've preferred them to be short humans; stock fantasy races don't feel right at all in Weird Renaissance Europe.

Thoughts so far: One of the better parts of the adventure. The atmosphere is perfect, and the giant monstrosities are slow enough for unencumbered PCs to flee from. This dungeon is overall more forgiving if the PCs are cautious.

Next time, the Bürgerfriedensmiliz Headquarters!

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




It's been out for a while, so it's time for my review of...

World of Synnibarr Third Edition!









































Where Second Edition made you ask "Why are you doing it this way", Third makes you ask "what the hell are you doing". I can't puzzle this out and I have too many other things I could be doing these days. I give up.

The End.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

On that note, now would be a good time to tell Syrg Sapphire that I can't continue my Ptolus and Key of Destiny reviews. Better Than Any Man is pre-written, and stuff has occurred which will prevent me from continuing any reviews in process.

Anyone else is free to continue where I left off.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Zereth posted:

It's been out for a while, so it's time for my review of...

World of Synnibarr Third Edition!




The End.

Best review we've ever had.

GimpInBlack
Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.


All right, let's put Hollowpoint to bed. It's had a few too many shots of straight tequila and smoked too many Red Apple Cigarettes and needs to sleep it off.



Chapter 5: Mission
Hollowpoint's final chapter (like I said, it's a pretty short game) covers building missions and pacing out a game session. It's basically the GMing advice chapter. So let's look at how we keep this pack of murderous bastards occupied, shall we?

Missions always start with two objectives. A two-stage mission gives the team more flexibility in its approach and makes it easier to set up unexpected twists and reversals and the like. Objectives always need to be stated in such a way that it's crystal clear when they're accomplished. "Stop the Tattaglia Family from killing the Don during the peace talks" is a good objective: if the peace conference ends abd the Don's still sucking oxygen, good job. "Bodyguard the Don" is too open-ended--when can you call that "accomplished?"

Objectives are always conveyed to the Agents before the session starts. As we've seen, though, the arrival of a replacement Agent during a mission can change the objectives of the mission. This might be because one has straight up failed ("the Don's dead, so now you have to take revenge") or maybe it's just no longer applicable ("the peace conference was a setup, now fight your way out!"). Players use the mission objectives to come up with their complications for the mission--unfortunately, we get no advice on what to do if players choose mutually-contradictory or identical complications beyond a vague "the ref might want to adjust her plans once she sees the complications, but maybe not."

The part of the mission you don't tell the players to start with is the principals. Every mission has at least one, and it's usually a good idea to have two. You save these guys for nasty surprises during the mission.

Again we're reminded not to bother rolling dice for every little thing, but as soon as 1) the Agents are doing something active and badass that seems to fit the skills and 2) there's some kind of meaningful opposition present, it's time to explode into action and start a conflict. It's also totally okay for the ref to be the one that initiates conflicts--if the Agents seem to be getting complacent or falling into a pattern of "go here, get intel start fight," you should shake things up. Have all the windows of their safehouse explode as a SWAT team crashes in, put their faces on the front page of the New York Times, whatever. Principals are good for this--in fact, every scene that involves a principal should be followed up with a retaliation scene like this.

Actually building a mission is pretty simple and starts with the Agency we created way back in Chapter 2: Once you know the Agency's Charge and Enemy, you should start to see plenty of potential missions. The stock "criminal cartel peacekeepers" Agency probably isn't going to be putting out a hit on Kuth'tul'tuk the Ever-Dying, and the Ancient and Venerable Masonic Lodge of the Stars probably doesn't give two shits about whether or not Vinnie the Cripple is skimming a few keys off the shipment to sell on the side. (But hey, you never know, smetimes going cross-genre is fun.) Another trick that can help you fill in the details is to think of a single, indelible image you want to present the players with, something that will really stick with them: The alien bursting out of John Hurt's chest in Alien or those shots of a completely empty London in 28 Days Later maybe. Between all those, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with two objectives and a few principals--and from there you can sit back and let the players tackle things however they like.

Next up we get three sample adventures to illustrate the thought process behind creating missions. The first, called Arena, has the Agency as super-black US or UN operatives tasked to find the missing Vice President of the United States--who, it turns out, has been snatched by a criminal cartel that snatches celebrities and forces them to fight to the death in a gladiatorial arena. The "indelible image" for this one is the Vice President being stabbed to death by teen pop sensation Alana Alabama while a bunch of jaded multibillionaires cheer her on from the stands.

The second, Magnificent, is pretty much just a straight-up Magnificent Seven ripoff. Nothing too special here.

The third and final, Callisto, has the Agentrs as the genetically-enhanced clone security force on a science station on Jupiter's moon. The latest supply ship from Earth is two months overdue, tensions are running high... and scientists are starting to die. Violently. This one's actually got some pretty cool ideas and a few examples of rules tweaks: Agents add HURT to their skill list, because the clones are programmed to be unable to use KILL on humans. We also get an alternate list of questions to determine Agent traits:

Hollowpoint posted:

  • How do people looking at you know you are a clone?
  • What human object do you keep secretly?
  • What childhood event do you remember even though it never happened?
  • What special equipment do you have to help you do your job?
  • With what enhanced skills have you been programmed?

After the sample adventures there's a short section on pacing advice, which is mostly pretty bog-standard: keep the group together if you can and regularly shift focus between them if you can't, motivate your players to want to advance the story, and-okay, actually, I have to stop here and share this "motivate your players" advice:

Hollowpoint posted:

What motivates players is not always obvious, but part of the ref’s responsibility in terms of maintaining the pace of the session is to push the players into interesting areas. Sometimes player choices appear irrational in terms of game mechanics: they should move on, but want to persist doggedly with their character, even though it means repeated failures.

Offer incentives within the story. Gushing praise from an attractive NPC can have a surprisingly positive effect. Inventing someone just to say how badass the agent is and buy them a drink can offer psychological reinforcement for the player. Conversely, presenting the need for the character to wear adult diapers as an undesired alternative can push some players towards actions they otherwise might not consider, simply because the phrase “adult diapers” has been established as the worst that can happen to a poo poo-hot ultra-cool killing action hero.

:wtc:

The one kind of novel idea (well, besides suggesting "yes, but you'll have to wear Depends to do it" as a tool for player motivation) here is the coda--basically, if the game ends a little early and everyone still wants to play, but you don't have time to whip up a new mission, you can stick one last scene onto the current mission that ties up a loose end or introduces an unexpected twist for next time. The example the book gives is the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service: The mission is accomplished, James Bond is about to move on by getting married and it seems like everything's over, but then Blofeld makes one last attack and kills Bond's fiancée. Suddenly everything's different, and of course James Bond Will Return.

And that's effectively it. We get an Appendix with actual play write-ups of two different playtest games of Hollowpoint, which are useful examples of how a game might play out but kind of redundant given how many examples are scattered throughout the book. One is a bog-standard 100 Bullets-esque tale of Agents as the peacekeepers of an international criminal consortium, the other is a story about angels sent to earth to hunt down and destroy the Fallen. It's a nice example of how easily Hollowpoint adapts to other genres and styles, but I wish it, like Callisto in the sample adventures, had a little discussion of rules tweaks for such a setting. Finally there's a pseudo in-character "Field Guide" which is just a brief primer on various weapons and tactics to help you spout off suitably gun-porny dialogue and loving descriptions of the carnage you inflict.

So yeah, that's Hollowpoint. Great game, really slick system, but especially coming right off of TechNoir the layout and organization feels pretty scattershot. It's one of those games that's pretty easy to reference in play, but hard to read cover-to-cover and get an easy sense of how things work.

Next Time: My weird fixation with reviewing d6-based dice pool systems continues with a review that pretty much defines the "obscure" side of "obscure and mockable." We're talking about a game that's been described as one of the only real collector's items in the tabletop RPG hobby outside of the earliest printings of D&D. A game that was only sold for four days in the summer of 2000. That's right, folks, strap on your shield belts, brush up on the articles of kanly, and always remember that killing with the point lacks artistry, because we're going to be taking a look at Last Unicorn Games' Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium.

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MadScientistWorking
Jun 23, 2010

"I was going through a time period where I was looking up weird stories involving necrophilia..."


Is this the adventure that has him spouting off with a string of expletives towards the creators of RPG Day?
EDIT:
Yup.

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