Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cave Poem

A horrible poem to give my players.

The cave is safety,
          Safe from storm and sun.
The cave is danger,
          Countless threats unknown.
The cave is myst'ry,
          Treasures lost and won.
The cave is ancient,
          A portal in stone.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Historical Dragon Notes

Just some quick copy-and-paste notes for myself (mostly from wiki probably) on European Dragons.

  • Wiki on European dragon 
  • Wales: Red Dragon dominates it when awake. 
  • Saxons: White Dragon? 
  • Saint_George_and_the_Dragon. Selinus/Silene (idolatrous emperor of Lasia (a city in what would be Libya) - daughter Sabra to be sacrificed to poisonous Dragon, rescued by St. George) 
  •  Golden Dragon of Wessex: Sigurd kills a dragon (Fafnir was changed into a dragon by a ring): Andvaranaut 
  • Landvættir: the benevolent dragon with whom King Harald Bluetooth's servant met in Vopnafjörður according to Heimskringla, and also depicted on the Icelandic Coat of Arms. 
  • Melusine (serpent- or fish-woman from the Low Countries?)
  • he most famous Polish dragon (Polish: Smok) is the Wawel Dragon or Smok Wawelski, the Dragon of Wawel Hill. It supposedly terrorized ancient Kraków and lived in caves on the Vistula river bank below the Wawel castle. 
  • Cuélebre, or Cuelebre, a giant winged serpent in the mythology of Asturias and Cantabria in the north of Spain 
  • Herensuge is the name given to the dragon in Basque mythology, meaning "last serpent". For instance, the first bishop of the city of Forlì, Saint Mercurialis, was said to have killed a dragon and saved Forlì.
  • Likewise, the first patron saint of Venice, Saint Theodore of Tyro, was a dragon-slayer, and a statue representing his slaying of the dragon still tops one of the two columns in St. Mark's square. 
  • St. Michael, the patron saint of paratroopers, is also frequently depicted slaying a dragon. 
  •  One of the most famous dragons of Italian folklore is Thyrus, a wyvern that besieged Terni in the Middle Ages.
  • St. Margaret of Antioch killed one from the inside 
  • St. Gildas (lot of various notes here including etymology) 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Gardens of Ynn play notes

This is for Cavegirl, who likes to see what happens at different tables in different Ynns.

This is a 'side' adventure with some hooks that touch into ongoing campaign hooks.


I rolled a series of Locations, Details, Events and Encounters ahead of time and put them on sticky notes (which turned out to be very smart, though I didn't realize it at the time). The party druid is Wood Elf druid whose background was feral and she was raised by unicorns. She essentially serves nature and Monokyeros, the unicorn god. Long story short: portable hole, bag of holding, astral plane. Druid gets a dream vision from Monokyeros of a hobbled, weak, dying unicorn with a well-trimmed hedgewall and some urgency to rescue. Party finds fragments of a city floating in the astral void, investigate a garden bit.

I had made a list of rumors from The Gardens of Ynn and a dozen more, some lies, sayings, and the like, handed some to specific players. Occasional through the play they might earn another one (though they never knew if or when that might happen). I made some mistakes here - first, forgetting the entry method, which I should have given someone as a rumor; second, creating a palindrome carved into stone where someone had previously entered (nnynedragon nogardenynn).

Rumors, Stories, Sayings, Myths, and Lies.

Delivered or earned:

  • All gardens are connected by secret paths and secret doors if you but have the keys. [Druid]
  • The city of Brillanta* was home to a great garden, but it was locked away from most people.
  • (* Giant imperial capital that was effectively 'nuked' 20 years ago.)
  • The World of Ynn exists outside all worlds,  along all worlds, through all worlds.[Elf Ranger]
  • Woe to the ugly in the garden of beauty.[Elf warrior]
  • One of the books you found in the Lost Mine mentions the Gardens of Ynn.[Noble]
  • You half remember a child’s story about a young person who drew a door on a wall, opened it, and went inside to meet faeries.
  • It was Black Aloysius, the thief lord of Kolo, who drew a door in chock on the walled garden of the Slumbering Markiza and escaped inside.  The door faded away after a day, but guards still keep a wary eye on that spot. [Noble]
  • Beware the Idea of Thorns that warps minds, or reality, or both. Let it find no fertile soil.
  • As elves are to humans, the Sidhe (“Shee”) are to elves. Beautiful, graceful, immortal – or nearly so. They have been all places but are now found in none.


  • In a shadow play, the audience can become the players.
  • It was rumored that an ancient queen kept a unicorn in her garden menagerie. But the smart people know she was fooled by a charlatan and that’s why that part of the gardens were kept secret.
  • An old gardener once told you a friend of his got lost in a garden and never came out.
  • Any garden is a maze, and every maze a garden.
  • Dragons are allergic to garden flowers (DM's personal favorite)

Prior to leaving the githyanki ship they now temporarily serve, I'd had the players audit their inventory to be sure they have what they say they have and not the rest - their plan was to briefly check on this garden fragment, not take everything they own with them. Somehow, the druid player is psychic and specific mentioned taking chalk. She had no way to know I had The Gardens of Ynn or was prepping it or anything of that nature. She's never played D&D with anyone else. So, that was fortuitous even though I'd have hand-waved it anyway.

Layer 1: Vine Trellis, Graffiti, Rust Bees.

The bees went down pretty easily - I should have doubled the number. Nonetheless, they scarred the elf warrior's magic breastplate and her tower shield - and she is (real world) pissed! She's a bit paranoid about her armor class and does not want to be hit. The party harvested the antennae after testing them on the steel of the trellis to confirm they still corrode metal. I'm figure I'll let them continue with those and just have them lose their ability after X amount of uses or something. No interest in what I called "like Blue Plums"

Beware the vats! Correct order or you perish!

The Princess Died Here.

I'll admit to a hurried reading of the adventure so this may be incorrect but while I'd rolled an obvious path for Go Deeper decisions, I let the players explore around for alternatives. And there they found one. The linear choice would have been the Gazebo (which I had planned to make a giant mimic for reasons of D&D actual play lore) but instead ...

Layer 2: Ponds, Dead Explorers, Bonsai Turtle, (Hidden Treasure)

Two ponds, a moving small tree in the distance is spotted. Noble fighter sprints towards, discovers it's the bonsai turtle (the turtle portion has been blocked from view) - if it had been hostile I'd have given it a free shot. "Bulbasaur!" says the teenager at the table. Druid talks to the turtle who doesn't really provide much useful information but would love some carrots or celery - tried a bit of their jerky rations but wasn't too impressed. I played the turtle as basically laconic and disinterested in anything but food though had some useful info. It moved on when the players ran out of interesting questions.

Druid changes into an otter and tries the ponds. One sweet, one salty with parasites. No one wants to try drinking!

As they start to leave to the next area (Rose Garden), they discover a small chest partly visible near the roots of a bit of hedgewall and part of a boot, as if a person had been buried very shallowly face down (the first of the dead explorers). "Trap!" they say. Attempts to smash the lock fail (no rogue along). Curious druid tried to melt the lock with produce flame, crit fail - the chest goes in flames fast an hot, melting the gold inside into a lumb - but the lock is only slightly burned. Druid chills the gold with a frost cantrip so the lump can be pocketed. Second encounter roll:


Noble warrior find the grate to the canals, rushes in headlong, slips on slick egdge and gets soaked. In the interest of time, I wanted to use the locations I'd already rolled so I decided to roll for which one they get out whenever they got to a canal landing and proceeded enough to see anything significant. (I'd also decided the canals had slight bends in them and were someone disorienting if you thought about it - they didn't. I wanted to maintain the idea in Ynn that things move around so trying to navigate it as a dungeon map wouldn't work.) First landing, they rolled the damn "main" encounter...

Layer 7: Hedge Maze, Animate Statue (Big Jolly Fat Man), Hidden Treasure (and then some)

The hidden treasure here is the near-dead unicorn in the center, but I also used several from the treasure table at some dead ends in the maze. Two entrances, one unexamined (would have showed a statue pedestal with a statue clearly absent, the other a big jolly fat man. They assumed it would animate at some point, but I was fine with that - I expected it would still be tough, especially with the party having no arcane caster, no cleric, no rouge, only two magic weapons (longsword and mace).

I forgot the clean mechanic in the book and made up some crap of nodes and decision points (two or three way) and then a d6 where

  • 1: Treasure on a pedestal,
  • 2-4: Two-way intersection,
  • 5: three-way intersection,
  • 6: Dead end.

On third dead end, the statue activates and starts tracking, on 5 it would be two nodes away, at 8 it would be one node behind. Fifth treasure was the 0 HP Unicorn (not needing death saves)

(Note: I do not recommend this maze system, but having said that, I hadn't noticed for a long time but the engineer at the table was all over this and made a schematic that would have saved a lot of table time if the other players weren't firmly rooted in cardinal map orientations.)

The skipped a lot of great treasure assuming it was all trapped. I find their lack of greed disturbing. The found the unicorn. Interaction with it is pretty simple as the druid is fluent in unicorn (horse). They thought the unicorn would be able to teleport them all out as soon as they removed the chains - ahahahaha- No. After casting some healing, the unicorn can get to its feet, the light comes back into its eyes but it's powers are going to take more time.

Pass Without Trace + Nat 20 Stealth Check is a damn pain! Finally got a 19 for the statue's perception and it was able to corner them on their way out (by pushing through a hedgewall). It's on! Elf warrior closes to melee, ding! One itty bitty chip. Statue (who I told them to picture as Henry VIII but happier) slam attack fails. Druid casts Erupting Earth, which I am unfamiliar with. I decide it's fair that is in the stone-related spell exception, save made but a palpable hit. Ranger plinks a small nick and then starts considering other options. Noble warrior closes, attempting to flank, but the rough terrain from the spell prevents that. Magic longsword Talon nonetheless cuts a nice chunk of stone off. I'm starting to plan my move - they left a path for the statue to get through their line in the 10' wide maze 'hall' and get to the druid or the ranger! But no! Elf warrior rolls a critial hit with her longsword, and a critical hit with her shield bash. Double crit. I decided I just can't let the longsword damage be reduced to 1 after that. She rolls the damage and it's a total of 20 something, more than a dozen HP over what it had left.

"Your longsword cuts a deep gouge across it's next, and your shield bash knocks it's head clean off! The head lands with a thud, it's smiling face and wide open mouth looking up. Your treasured tower shield now has a very large, head-shaped dent in it."

And that's where we called it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

RPG History Tracks

Sparked by a discussion with James Mal and Sean McCoy

How to create a history/macro-trends for you RPG setting that is variable between different game masters but share enough elements between all instances that players have a shared experience?

For example, many of the artifacts and legendary items in the 1st edition AD&D DMG have been experienced by many players over the years in myriad campaigns despite the lack of no specific module or adventure featuring it (there are some exceptions such as the Hand and Eye of Vecna). Of course, the published adventures are also shared experiences even when fit into different campaigns. In a sci-fi setting, some of these shared events could be things such as the Vogons show up, Skynet awakens, Humanity becomes effectively immortal, the Clones revolt, the Empire fossilizes and fractures, and so on.

How to set this up?

  • Create a list of topics that you care about in your setting. These are the "Event Tracks" that will things will progress along. 
  • Define the starting condition for that topic. 
  • Come up with at least two possible outcomes or paths for the topic an choose how likely each one is.
  • Repeat for several steps, how many can vary by the topic and how much you'd want it to play out.
That defines the range of possible outcomes for all your topics. Now, decide what unit of time you want to use (year, decade, century, etc.) and then roll on the Event Tracks to see which track will advance. Then refer to your specific tracks and roll to see which path gets followed - keeping track of this results as you go.

You can stop progression at any time to use that as the current state of events.

Psionic Event Track
(I should have put in a full integration result that carried across).
Example: Psionics (I've only done this one track as a quick feasibility test). Using decades as the time unit.
  • Starting Condition: Some Psionic talents discovered
  • Advance #1: Rolled 1: Psions create disasters.
  • Advance #2: Rolled 5: Normals seek to control Psions
  • Advance #3: Rolled 2: Psion Oppression/Expulsion
  • Advance #4: Rolled 4: Psions survive in separate cities/regions
Things we know now: Psions exist, as a result of some disasters normal society had fear of them, sought to control them and that eventually led to them being pushed or fleeing into separate communities. Had die rolls been different, it might have resulted in the Zhodani Consulate or the complete, or very nearly complete extinction of Psions.

Friday, November 23, 2018

D10 Tech/Software Company Disasters

No corporations were harmed in the assembly of these disasters - ahaha - No. But, names were removed to protect the guilty and one is exaggerated.

1) Patch deletes and overwrites all customers' documents and personal files.
2) Content hosting company has account creation safeguards removed, bots add illegal content, remedial measures delete vast majority of original content.
3) IT department manually runs an automated job causing D100 million dollars to be pulled out of customers bank accounts twice.
4) Bank creates millions of fake accounts in actual users names to fraudulently inflate their numbers.
5) Developers forget to comment out development constant which overrides real time sensor data from safety systems.
6) Investing software bug prevents stock orders from going through until they all go through at once, crashing the stock market
7) Patch installs cryptocurrency mining software on all computers, with pre-configured wallet going to corporate rivals
8) Enterprise level corporate spytech malfunctions and instead reveals corporation's own secrets to rivals/public
9) Obscure but critical software failure renders all a company's tech products useless for several days.
10) Social media service hacked, installs firmware backdoors on all clients. Roll 1D6 to see who is infected:

  • 1-2: 1D10 million individual customers, 
  • 3-4: 2D10 Major companies effecting D100 Million individuals; 
  • 5: critical national infrastructure, 
  • 6: government's most secure networks.
(Sourced by various Broken Friends)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Deck of Character Secrets

Characters have secrets that can chose to reveal later in a campaign. Players choose to give the player to the DM during play. The card has no direct effect until they do that, thought it might affect their decisions. For many, it is best to play the card discreetly with the DM outside of normal play so that the DM can prepare.

Options for Determining a Secret

You can use the 22 major arcana cards of most tarot decks (just add 1 to the tarot card value if it is a deck that begins with 0).

  • Party Option: when the players are first present together, randomly choose a player to draw two cards from the deck, keeping one and passing the other to the left. That next player will draw an additional card from the deck, choose one to keep and pass the other. When the last player has chosen, they reveal their discard to the first player. In this way, every player knows the discard option of the player to their right.
  • Single Option: At character generation, the player draws two cards and discards one. The DM should make sure that to remove previously selected secret cards from the deck to avoid duplication.
  • Blind Choice: Player has the option to take the secret “blind”, revealing the secret to the DM.
  • Dice Rolling Option: Roll 3d8-2 for each choice. 1d6 for high or low numbers, then 1d12 (on a 12, choose the secret).
  • Just Choose One: let the player choose their secret.
  • DM's Secret: player draws a card but does not look at it, showing it only to the DM who makes a note and chooses to reveal the secret to the player when appropriate. (This version could have continuity problems explaining the character's behavior after the reveal).

The Secrets

1) The Heir (The Princeling, The Scion)
2) The Bastard
3) The Changeling/Hybrid
4) The Weapon / The Nemesis / The Avenger / The Adversary
5) The Finder / Discoverer / Pioneer / Trailblazer
6) The Turncoat / The Traitor OR The Possessed / Doppelganger
7) The Spy / The Infiltrator
8) The Unexpectedly Qualified / The Secret Ingredient / The Catalyst
9) The Lovechild
10) The Inventor / The Creator
11) The Outlaw / The Rebel / The Fugitive
12) The Club Member
13) The Cursed / Afflicted
14) The Tycoon
15) The Seer.
16) The Twin / The Clone.
17) The Lycanthrope
18) The Greatly Exaggerated
19) Secret Spouse.
20) Secret Parent.
21) “I Am Not Left-Handed.”
22) The Debtor/The Obligated

1) The Heir (The Princeling, The Scion)

You are the heir to an important title with right to lands and fealty. Might be recognized by some. May have a false name/identity.


2) The Bastard

Illegitimate offspring of an important member of your culture’s leadership. Might be recognized by a few some. May have a limited type of claim to title or inheritance, for instance, if all other heirs have died, or if parent formally legitimizes bastard, which will have a social cost..


3) The Changeling / Hybrid

Swapped at birth. You are different from the others. You are descended from a different race (Elves, Giants, Trolls, etc. Example “the Trollborn”) and may gain the racial benefits and drawbacks of that race. Or you are from a different culture, normally hostile to the culture of your main origin - enough that you know a language if relevant, and recall some rights and rituals or stories or prominent people.


4) The Weapon / The Nemesis / The Avenger / The Adversary

Your life is fated, indeed guided, to make you into a living weapon against some prominent threat. Your purpose is to defeat that threat and you will receive benefits against it. (The threat could be another player!)


5) The Finder / Discoverer / Pioneer / Trailblazer

You almost never get lost and are destined to find new places and pathways. You know the way to a unique place of great interest. You may have inherited a map, or have returned from that place as a child, or been given directions. If you have already discovered this place and formed an alliance with the residents there, you might even be able to call on them for aid.


6) The Turncoat / The Traitor OR The Possessed / Doppelganger

Your goals are antithetical to the group or an individual within it. You seek to betray them. The playing of this card should be discussed with the DM prior to revealing it to the group. (This has great potential for conflict between the players.)

Possessed / Doppelganger
Character has been possessed by someone who uses the character’s body and role as a tool to accomplish their own goals, which may conflict with the party. Character may have no awareness of possessor’s actions. Others might gain clues that character is not acting normally. The character might have been replaced by a doppelganger type of creature and their actual self secured somewhere. Player reveals this to finally inform allies the truth of the situation through a slip of the possessor, momentary control of the body, or whatever method is appropriate. Character is dependent on others to have the possessor exorcised, be discovered, etc. to regain control.

(Should this one be separate? If so, what should be cut to stay at 22 options?)


7) The Spy / The Infiltrator

You are a secret member of an organization of some authority. It may be the secret police, a thieves’ guild, a rebellion, etc. You may learn the secret of another player without revealing that discovery.


8) The Unexpectedly Qualified / The Secret Ingredient / The Catalyst

Some event may require a special sort of person, such as a virgin, a person of royal blood, the seventh son of a seventh son, perfect pitch, or a clear soprano singing voice. Something that is normally not relevant for game play. You have or are that thing.


9) The Lovechild

You are the child of a major NPC, whether unwitting male or given up for adoption (or some magical/scientific process and both parents/gene-donors are unaware). When revealed, the NPC will know it to be true, though they might initially deny it in public.


10) The Inventor / The Creator

The important powerful thing that people want to own, to use, to destroy? You made that. You know how to use it better than anyone. Maybe it only works for you. Maybe you abandoned it. Maybe everything you’ve been doing has been to regain it.


11) The Outlaw / The Rebel / The Fugitive

You are wanted by the main governing body or are hunted by a bounty hunter. Whether character is actually innocent or guilty is for discussion with DM.


12) The Club Member

You belong to a secret society. The revelation of your membership would result in different treatment by society. You might be able to call on the assistance of other members or the club’s resources from time to time, and likewise be required to help other members.


13) The Cursed / Afflicted

You suffer a long-term hardship that is socially despised or abhorred or puts the character in compromising situations. It may be curable or treatable.  For example, an alcoholic might be put into situations where there is pressure to drink, haunting nightmares may prevent restful sleep and draw evil creatures into the world unless certain rituals are performed or sleeping draughts taken. Public knowledge of your situation will result in disdain and mistreatment and by society at large.


14) The Tycoon

You have vast resources in your own right, and can afford pretty much anything. Although you are not part of any official power structures you might have influence.


15) The Seer. 

You can discover the secret of another player. If you reveal that, you reveal your own secret and the player knows you have discovered their secret. You may be held responsible for maintaining the secret.


16) The Twin / The Clone.

You are the identical twin to an important NPC that you have not yet met. The NPC may be a wanted criminal, a person of great power, or anything else, etc. The player and the NPC may be actual identical twins, just bear an uncanny resemblance to each other, one might even be artificial. Example, Prisoner of Zenda. Discuss with DM how to implement. Ideal for entering new areas of play. DM should choose when to implement. Character might also be a clone.


17) The Lycanthrope

Character is actually a monster/shapechanger (e.g., werewolf) posing as normal.


18) The Greatly Exaggerated

Character is a well-known person who everyone believes to be dead. Secretly proficient in disguise. Revelation can have multiple good and bad consequences.


19) Secret Spouse.

Character is secretly the spouse of an important NPC. That NPC will recognize her immediately. A few others will have a good chance to.


20) Secret Parent.

Character is secretly the parent of an important NPC or another PC.


21) “I Am Not Left-Handed.”

Character is actually more powerful than known by other players. This can be revealed in a “Save the day” type moment.


22) The Debtor/The Obligated

You are responsible for a debt or other obligation to a major NPC. The debt may be yours or inherited.  The benefit the debt was incurred for has already been received. For example, the benefit may have been to avoid death in a crisis, or foreclosure of a business, etc. As a positive, the secret might be used to call on the Creditor to protect their investment. “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.” - John Maynard Keynes

Development Notes

The idea was to have a mechanism for potentially dramatic character reveals in the course of play. My preferred option is the party option where players are choosing secrets at the same time and each player may have some insight into the secret of another. For example, Player 1 draws The Heir and The Turncoat and keeps The Heir. Player 2 receives the Turncoat and draws a new card, The Spy. Player 1 knows that the Turncoat was an option for Player 2, and vice versa. That may affect their interactions. Games like Diplomacy and Illuminati are part of the inspiration for this mechanic.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ess-pea-ay-CE emm-ay-pea-pea: SPACE MAPP!


I found a way to do a 3D Map on the web - where the hard work was done by someone else!

You can see the site and play around with it here: 

The ability to color code systems, let players easily look at the map, and for that map to be in 3D, instead of faking it with a 2D map is much more appealing to me. (The data there is actually from something completely unrelated to stellar locations).


I've been making some steady progress on this, mostly by taking a big red pen to a lot of Traveller old saws. I'll post some examples soon. One example: Vacc Suit is not a skill in taking suits on and off. Vacc Suit 1 means you are trained in putting the suit on and off, maintaining it, making simple repairs, etc. Vacc Suit 2 is skill with EVA units - squirting around space like Clooney in Gravity. Vacc Suit 3 would be something like Ripley's powerloader exoskeleton (but pressurized) in Aliens. Battledress will be treated similarly. Barring subsequent better thoughts.

Black Friday Approaches

I have often attempted to avoid have some face-to-face gaming going on during Black Friday (November 27 this year). Managed to pull it off once or twice. It approaches again and I think I'm going to shoot for it as a goal. Especially now that I've got my own office with a giant conference table, tons of comfy seating, and space for all my game junk.

So things might accelerate here a bit. Of course, I'm still hoping to combine face-to-face and online and/or asynchronous play. Even if it is only some guidelines from LHCV, DoW on likely scenarios.

(What is "LHCV, DoW"? If you don't know, you are not cleared for that information?)


If you didn't get the reference in the post title: