STRANGE BREW: 100 potions for old-school use

Not surprising that Goblin Punch can whip up awesome potions for use in-game. One of Castle Xyntillan's charming features is that standard dungeon potions are remixed as various vintages of wine, ale, and spirits found in the castle.

I've been wanting some off-standard potions to help enhance the castle's strangeness; Goblin Punch:

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH: Are NPCs an underutilized "overlay" for choice in RPGs?

My previous Into The Breach post here, where I harp on the beauty of objectives:

Here is Chris McDowall on the same game:

In the video, Chris points out the supremacy of choice in Into The Breach. There are multiple, often easy to understand, choices that are provided at all layers of the game starting from the first screen. As you move from mech selection to environment selection, to objective selection, to combat screen, a player is given choice with obvious information or provided additional information just a mouse click away.

Choice is important because it gives players agency. If something goes wrong, they generally will blame themselves not the DM, system, or (lesser still) the die. This is why Call of Cthulhu's "push" mechanic, where you can re-roll a skill check but failure is now even worse consequences, is quite nice. Players get a simple, open, and easy to understand choice: do you want to try again with the stakes for failure raised?

But Chris asks a very important question, what's the best interface to present layers of choice to players in a similar manner to Into The Breach? As he states, if you had three small dungeons: 

How do you communicate that choice?

This is not trivial given Barrowmaze & Forbidden Caverns of Archia, both are megadungeons with a lot of choices in the form of several mini dungeons, but little of it obvious until PCs undertake the travel to the respective sites and break open the respective entrances, which have differences, but they don't appear to be linked to any definite contents.

So what is the solution to the paucity of information in Barrowmaze & Archia and can act as information overlay a la Breach? I think tavern NPCs.

Roll 1d6 for what an NPC at the tavern knows (& wants):

1 | Dungeon location (can be hired a guide)
2 | Dungeon treasure (will tell the legend for libations)
3 | Dungeon monsters/traps (has related injury)
4 | Location & Treasure (looking for a  cut to give out both; more if expected to provide aid)
5 | Location & Monster (looking to get rid of the monster(s))
6 | Monster & Treasure (haunted by a defeat from the former & still in need of the latter)

While a rumor table could perform the same function, more life is given to the world and the time spent to build the NPC is not for naught. Additionally, it gives NPCs a reason to also go missing, die, or not always be at the PC beck and call because they go off looking for these things themselves.

I think rumor tables are better for seeding knowlege when PCs start a campaign. Give them additional goals to pursue and topics of conversation to bring up to NPCs.

Combining the dungeons above and the NPC knowlege table:

Red: Rolls 1: Knows the location of the dungeon known as "Wood's Hearth"; a dungeon entrance that is perpetually warm year-round (location of Bronze Golem); will lead PCs there for 20 GP.

Fish: Rolls 3: With enough red wine (every glass provide a +1 to a RxN check), will tell the PCs about how their leg was injured in a spiked pit trap; high quality wine will yeild knowlege about how to avoid the entrance trap of the "Red Door in the Hills" (location of the dungeon of traps).

Fetch: Rolls 5: A local thief who is looking for PCs to remove, bless, purify, or remove curse to eliminate the skeletons infesting the "Gray Arch" an old tomb on the outskirts of town off the main road; exact reasons are kept secret, but will pay 10 GP per skull +100 GP if nothing else is touched in the dungeon

CARCOSA: Moons & Seasons

This is a good post about the seasons and moons of Carcosa. I like the post because I don't think enough is done with seasons and astronomy in RPGs. They are some of the strongest representations of the passage of time. Their inclusion can really make a world feel alive and really doesn't require much work.

Angry Films Working with Frazetta on "John Carter of Mars" | WIRED

AMBER SORCERERS & ARCANE ANDROIDS: Put More Crystal Living Statues in Your Game


And like that amber-encased mosquito in Jurassic Park, my little idea's DNA spawns a monster by Patrick's Jon Hammond-like hand. Behold Amber Golems

I think there are a lot of hidden gems in the BX (via OSE) monster line-up or at least their concept. For instance, in the realm of golem/construct/statue, I think most D&D adventures cycle through wood, stone, & metal. "Bone construct" is really just a giant skeleton and really already covered by Giant Skeleton.

But I think there are other good ideas:

1 | Amber Golem- 10 HD monster that tracks unerringly? I'd split it into 2x 5HD monsters and have them be the only thing in a level. Or as the previous link, insect sorcerers driving mech bodies.

2 | Crystal Living Statue- 3 HD; Treasure that fights back. Low HD, but I think these things would spice up a lot of low-level campaigns. Cool to encounter, tough enough, but made of tempting treasure

3 | Bronze Golem- 20 HD; spurts fire when damaged by an edged weapon. Big enough to take on an entire armor. Could make a cool mid-level problem. Enemy unleashes this thing on a kingdom like a smart bomb. Players need to stop it or take advantage of the distraction

4 | Iron Living Statues- 4 HD; metal weapons get absorbed. Again, not too tough by smart players but I think creates an interesting situation when all your weapons are slag while in the middle of a dungeon.

Here is another interesting bit:

Golems are immune to charm, hold, & sleep. While living statues are only immune to sleep. 

So what if "living statues" are more akin to arcane androids who don't know they are such. A whole Ghost In The Shell situation. Immune to sleep but vulnerable to the other spells because they think they are people or are the trapped memories of people.

Might be cool to have a dungeon room that is a dinner party of crystal living statues all carrying out a mimicry of humanity. Or maybe the royal family is nothing but crystal living statues, but they don't know that. Not divine beings as the state religion demands, but the result of an accident people have forgotten.

THE OTHER "CORE FOUR": Essays on Alignment, Asymmetrical Encounters, Reaction Rolls, & Factions

Gus L. of Dungeon of Signs fame wrote four short essays on aspects of older editions of D&D (Alignment, Reaction Rolls/Morale, Asymmetrical Encounters, & Faction Intrigue) that can be used to remove moral absolutes and combat as a primary means of resolution which tend to manifest as a linear adventure supporting a narrative of "the good heroes kill the bad, evil orc because they are orcs even if it is never clear why there is conflict in the first place".

As Gus puts it:

Beyond any desire not to include disturbing, uncritical echos of colonial history and subjugation in ones game, or even for hobbyists who reject this argument (please still consider it and remember that you might not see what isn't a threat to you)these mechanics are fun and support a specific play experience. They encourage more complex roleplay, player planning, and non-combat solutions to obstacles.  With these chnages classic social mechanics and design principles make for a better open world games, and generally promote player engagement with the setting because role play and negotiation themselves become paths to mechanical success, combat becomes more risky and 'fluff' or 'lore' become useful for understanding NPC/Monster motivations and goals.

I collected these essays because they are a good discussion of each of these aspects or mechanics, how to implement them, and the potential impact on play. Here are choice quotes that I pulled out: