Thursday, February 6, 2020

OSR: Unnamed Inn Project

There's this project that's been bloody stuck in my mind.

Imagine a brewery turned inn that's been putting out the best damn ale in the region. Not only that, but almost any liquor you can imagine. They produce it in the best quality, and no time. If the local ruler asks for a hefty tax mark, no problem. They are swimming in gold and revenue.

Where does all this fine liquor come from? Why is nobody looking into this?

Krzysztof Maziarz



What the @$!*ck is this, Hammer?

Scope is always a problem with these things, but I think I have an exact idea of what I want. In a pinch:

Inn for Downtime + Toolkit + Underground Cellar/Brewery Pointcrawl Adventure

This serves several purposes and goals.
First off, the idea that a lot of adventures start in a tavern. Or have a recess in one. That's true, be it for gathering rumors, meeting NPCs that can turn into hirelings, carousing, or generalized shenanigans. Even in the OSR space, I think it does serve a purpose for in-between adventures for the "what to do in town".
Second, it provides context and a list of interesting NPCs.
Be it recurring ones, or simply random tables of "who's here at the moment". These are great to gather rumors of what's been going on whilst the PCs were out of town. They also provide services and quests the PCs might need.
Third, it's seeds to build your own adventures. This is not described here, and ties to the second point. By having a handful of clear stated NPCs and their agendas, or clear adventure elements, this is an opportunity for the referee to build their own adventures directly from the inn.
Fourth, the inn connects to its own dungeon. This means we can control when the PCs find about this by making some rumors clear. Or they can start asking themselves questions. Where does all the alcohol come from? Why is it of best quality? A pointcrawl requires low prep, and the aim is to provide an unprepared referee with a dungeon locale they can run as-is with minimal preparation.

Nothing too innovate here, just my take. The Yawning Portal has been around for ages, and is basically the same concept of inn+dungeon entrance. Here the second part is a secret fact though.

There's also the Night Wolf Inn adventure module. Full of great ideas, rich with gonzo material oozing from every single page. A gold mine to plunder. But this is DENSE. It's also too rules heavy for my tastes. A more system agnostic version of this module, trimmed and edited, would be a killer. Mandatory Bryce review.

Gestalting The Thing

The thing is, I've never done something like this by my own. First step was to fire an excel document and start writing down ideas and sections for this thing. What tables would I need? What sections? Are there related articles, books, or media I need? Many are obvious and expected just by the premise of inn + cellar dungeon.

Raw, ideas without filtering. No mechanics or discarding yet.

Semi-sorted Section List

  • [Inn] Inn Description and Fluff
    Everything going on and obvious before the PCs enter the inn. And if they don't act, how/why it remains in this state.
  • [Inn] Inn Map
    Hire a cartographer. Making it abstract or isometric is completely valid (even preferred).
  • [Inn] List of Named NPCs
    Relevant NPCs that are always here. The innkeeper family (dwarfs), the resident bard, some of the NPCs that inhabit "Rooms at the Inn". Some provide hooks to underground adventure. There should be someone who can buy and sell magic items. And someone who can provide healing services: a surgeon, or a priest/cleric of a God of pleasure and drink.
  • [Inn] d66 Random Inn NPCs
    Random table for generation on the fly. Name, ancestry, quirk, what they want. Brief.
  • [Inn] d66 Hirelings (Optional)
    Price per day. Good variety. Ready to go.
  • [Inn] 6-10 Rooms at the Inn
    Have 3-4 rooms occupied by adventure sprawling NPCs. The inn is famous, so there's a reason why they'd stay here.
  • [Inn] The Menu! (Optional)
    A tactile handout for the players to check what they can eat or drink at the inn. Cookie points if it has some hidden clues?
  • [Tools] Carousing Table
    There are a lot of these. Good ones! I did a downtime one a while back. Base on B/X gold quantities.
  • [Tools] List of Inn Games
    Self explanatory non-sense, unrelated to anything else.
  • [Tools] dX Table of Alcohols and Drugs
    Can provide interactivity, traps, etc. Requires an ad-hoc system for consumption. Certain areas (in the dungeon adventure) experienced differently depending on the amount of drink consumed?
  • [Adventure] Locations and Details
    This is a 2 page spread with the table to roll for, with a 1-line description (key words) to give the referee an image whilst they flip to the relevant page of Location and Detail.
  • [Adventure] Locations Expanded
    Actual meat of what the PCs are meant to explore. Unique and expandable with the Details + Encounter. Aim for 20 of them.
  • [Adventure] Details Explained
    Brief, punchy, distinctive.
  • [Adventure] Set Pieces Explained
    Each more of a "boss" encounter. It is the lair of some of the major factions/agents in the adventure. They help to break the entropy and change the dungeon generation procedure. 6 Set Pieces.
  • [Adventure] d100 Encounter Table
    Bigger threats the deeper into the dungeon. Maybe combine with Overloaded Encounter Die? Encounter and Omen. Also hazards: tunnels collapsing; lights going on; underground gas bags exploding; etc.
  • [Adventure] I Search the Body
    Should be more interesting crap and clues rather than gold. If gold, make it dependent on HD of the slain creature.
  • [Adventure] Bestiary/Denizens
    Like the stocking notes below, but expanded. Easy stats, but provide context as to why they are here. Lengthy section.
  • [Commentary] FAQ
    Commentary to ease the referee's life based on playtest feedback. Advised rulings, etc.

Underground Cellar/Brewery Pointcrawl Adventure

A procedural generated dungeon adventure of the underground cellar and cavern system below and around the inn. Similar to the very popular (and by me beloved) Gardens of Ynn and Stygian Library, but with Set Pieces. These read as more static locations that advance the whole adventure, and where basically PCs can really fuck things up and change the status quo.

The rearranging bit of the pointcrawl is harder to get than in an infinite garden or a library in cavernous tunnels. But there's a bit about it: the Worm. It creates and collapses new paths at will.

Pointcrawl Generation Mechanics

It takes a turn (10 minutes) to move from one Location to another.
Whenever PCs want to move to a new unexplored Location (therefore expanding the map), roll:
  • d6 for Overloaded Encounter Die (encode to d100 to avoid extra rolling for Encounter?)
    • 1-2: roll for Encounter -> when they enter new Location that's what's there.
    • 3: roll for Encounter (Omen) -> when they enter new Location that's what's there.
    • 4: Dungeon Effect (tunnels collapse, gravity reverses, traps reset, etc.)
    • 5: torches
    • 6: torches/lamps
  • d12+Depth for Location (if you roll a 12, consult a Set Piece instead based on the result of the Overloaded Encounter Die)
  • d20 for Details

Dungeon Stocking Notes completely raw form 

Devil Management
-Probably the most powerful thing down here.
-Someone got their True Name, and now they're a servant. They resent that and want to see it changed.
-Will toy with the PCs; finds them amusing and a tool.
-Makes constructs at his service, the Golems. They are soul-infused.

Golems
-Tankard/Bottle/Keg Golems, soul-infused by Devil Management.

Molekin Workers
-Have a contract by Devil Management to keep expanding the place, greasing and restoring the traps, etc.
-Led by a dwarf NPC.
-Take drugs to keep the insane work pace. Imagine "kobolds on cocaine".
-Think the Giant Worm/Centipede is a God "Mama"

Giant Worm
-Creates and generates most of the tunnels here (at least 10ft wide). Very important: if it's killed, dungeon becomes static?
-Very powerful, tons of HD.
-The Molekin worship it calling and call it "Mama".

Caelan Stokkermans
Yeast Elementals
-Think of themselves as gods.
-Myconids as minions?
-The excellent brew producing creature is a dwarf wizard hooked in symbiosis to a humongous Yiest Elemental. (with tubes coming out from the body, etc.)
-Sentient, clever, not too powerful (doable), and has the True Name of Devil Management.

Vinegar Elementals
-Want to take over the status quo and privileged position of the Yeast Elementals.
-Could team up with the PCs. To then stab them in the back.

Antlings/Giant Ants?

Schnapshund
-Scary and powerful. Or pet-able and interesting
-Independent
-Probably the first "big" monster the PCs will meet.
-From unlawfulgames

Corrupt Underground Dryads
-Look like socialite from ancient Greece.
-Want to drink and fornicate, so they're quite happy with Yeast Elementals.

Priest of the Brew God
-Loner; came down here to get the secret ale recipe from the Inn.
-Seeing the truth of the decadence down here, is loosing faith by the second. Understands The Game, hence the desperation.
-Worships Zisdarger, the 'Drinker of Hours' (a drunk God that can reverse/advance time).
-Could still get a miracle going, time related.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Gods, Clerics, and The Game

What qualifies as a God?

Imagine playing N-dimensional chess on a board as big as the solar system. Gazillions of cells. Your adversaries as numerous as sand grains on a beach, each with their own unique winning condition. The Game advances at snail pace, but is constantly moving.

A mortal soul is a mere piece on the board. A speck of dust in the Universe. Insignificant to you and the other players. Yet, you need to beckon the attention of souls, since as an instrumental part of The Game, their cooperation (or consumption) is needed to come further ahead in it. And advance it to your advantage. Without pieces, there's no game.

Winning is a gargantuan task in such a complex play; out of the question. Just advancing The Game in the next favorable move in the foreseeable horizon is enough for any player like you. And remember, time is just another dimension of the board, so The game is NOT linear in that sense. Nobody even remembers what the winning price was. But you bet it must be HUGE. Or the best joke ever perpetrated: a game to keep everyone busy without any cause, effect, or end. Nihilism at its best.

That's it. A God is simply an alien creature playing a game of power against other such entities. The Game. Mortal souls are just oil for the engine, wood for the fire. An Avatar is just a manifestation of a God made simple enough so that a mortal soul can comprehend and interact with it, without having their brains immediately exploding.

Some players (Gods) prefer to keep more active and engaged. Others are more distant. Some are direct on how they interact with the souls. Others act in whispers and shadows. The chances of a playing Avatar/God to pay any mind to a mortal soul is directly proportional to how much they think acting will bring them further in The Game.

Weirdo Gods, Tim Molloy


A mortal soul may ask: how do I become a God? How do I get to take decisions in The Game, and stop being a coin to trade, a resource to burn and consume by the decision-makers? See, unfortunately despite its quasi-infinite vastness, the number of player agents is decisively finite. Quasi, remember?

Not only that, but the number of players has to remain constant. Any perished Avatar/God has to be immediately replaced by an eager side-liner. Failing to do so hastily breaks an essential equilibrium, and such a blasphemy echoes through existence, past present and future. That's why, despite insane competition in The Game, everyone is happy to see a new face replace the old one. A God has to be completely forgotten to die. Its pieces on the board completely removed, passages on tomes and writings fully erased. It takes eons for such a happenstance. But as just an additional dimension, time is an afterthought in this whole business. So a God dying does comes up.

The Cleric

There are priests, proselytizers, lecturers, moralists, atheists, and a full plethora or other individuals devoting a considerable amount of effort studying The Game, its implications, and how mortal souls interact with it (hint: as victims). Then, you have Clerics. They GROK exactly the irony of their position. Collecting thought, praise, and worship to a God that sees its devout and pious zealots as ants it ultimately has to consume (fuel-providing ants, then).

But an Avatar/God does need the work of a Cleric. Or at the very least it facilitates their position on The Game considerably. A conduit of mortal souls, a Cleric's work is greatly appreciated. Their worth unquestionable. Hence the concession of occasional Prayers to lure those juicy souls like mosquitoes in a swamp going after the lamp.

Inter-cosmic symbiosis with abysmal unbalanced power dynamics. But at least both agreed to play.


Good luck, pal! A. Shipwright

The Magic User?

Magic-Users (wizards, mages, sorcerers). Joke is on them. Their magic and powers come from the exact same source as for Clerics. The Game. And its players. A MU just ignores being part of play. Denies the possibility by principle and philosophy. Approaching everything like a black box. Taking short-cuts, trying to bend the rules of The Game. Poke it, and see what works, without fully rationalizing or understanding.

Whenever a summoning circle is laid out, pentagrams and candles on the floor, a MU is doing the exact same work as a Cleric would do. They just don't understand the consequences and price of what they're asking for. Gods will chuckle at their board, seeing that speck of dust sparkle for a second. Bless the ignorant fouls.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

OSR: Running Maienstein / Stonehell

Why Stonehell?

It's tough to assemble a game. My aim is to prepare one where the goal is clear, the rules are light and streamlined, and there's a big enough player base interested in playing games. This will be my first megadungeon run, and I choose Stonehell. Here's why:
  • It's dirt cheap. ~6$ for a 138 page megadungeon PDF. ~13$ for the softcover version (the first half of Stonehell, that is). I got both. Good and to-the-point writing. And if we get through that? There's a second tome detailing lower levels with the second part of the dungeon.
  • Layout is praised. And I can see why. It follows the one-page dungeon format. Seems like it would be fairly easy to run out of the book, with minimal page-flipping or rewriting.
  • Familiarity and gradual descent to strangeness. It covers the "trope" monsters and challenges one expects from a D&D game. This is good to introduce new players to the hobby. But it also gets weirder the deeper we get into the megadungeon. I like this design choice to not go full gonzo from the beginning.
  • It's got decent coverage on reddit/blogs/discords to the point that I can seek advice and guidance from the great minds on the internet.
I started running two tables of low frequency play-by-post through Discord.
This thing contains spoilers (duh..) to the Stonehell module. If you're sensitive to them, stop reading and go do something else.

 

Backdrop Setting

The premise for the game will be that player's are in an outpost town (let's call it Priebe), a good 2 days travel away from the biggest city, Maienstein. Region is full of dwarves, Maienstein being originally ruled by them. The city has contracted the Gold Griffon Curio Corporation to recover treasure from Stonehell, to finance their upcoming war against the rival port city of Seciras.

This gives me the chance to introduce an alternative for players bored of the megadungeon, and reaching a high level to go off rails. Joining a mercenary company in the upcoming war, abandoning Stonehell altogether, going into the politics of Seciras. And more importantly, a strong motivation of why the dwarves of Maienstein don't take care of plundering the riches of Stonehell themselves.

I will keep the distance from Priebe to Stonehell at 1/2 a day, and have a random encounter check to get there and back (x-in-y chance). This should be a mutating random table reflecting interesting humanoids, bandits, beasts or simple travelers, that spice up the game. Objective is not to keep the game out of Stonehell (that would be an error), but paint a picture of the setting (without front loading!) and that traveling is dangerous.

Minor Change

Level 1 of Stonehell features Kobolds and other staples of low-level adventuring. I'm fine with that focus on tropes, and will embrace it. But I will replace Kobolds with Molekin, and make them a deal more organized and unique. I dislike the 5e kobolds as little dragonkin. And it's a way to imprint the Ancestries I decided for Maienstein. Why kobolds? Choose the cute disgusting little buggers instead.

Molekin evolution, by Manuel Castañón

Rules

For ease of entry, rules will be my Knave hack, Knave++.

Keeping a reference document  available online at all times for the players is extremely important. With the rules, table etiquette, tone, and expectations too. This can be referenced during game (price lists, rules), used for character creation, etc.

There's no better advice than to eat your own dog food. At least 2-3 mechanics I want to tweak already. Inconsistencies can be ironed out. Players and friends can give excellent advice. I'm glad and blessed we can work on the game as we go.

I'm also putting together a Referee's Guide for Knave++. Which is nothing else than a compilation of my favorite mechanics and practical advice on how to run a game. Overloaded encounter die, mechanics, etc.

In this discussion we get some advice on tracking turns for depleting resources and random encounter checks when exploring a dungeon complex. Food rations, water, torches, lamp oil, etc. This is very important for this type of game. Luckily, Stonehell already has encounter tables for each section of the dungeon, and I will be using the overloaded encounter die mechanic.

Learning to Megadungeon

 
... one level at a time

Cohesiveness is important, and frankly seems to be the selling point for such a campaign. Especially when comparing to a fun-house dungeon or a smaller dungeon. Levels should have themes, in its inhabitants, architecture, and current state.

Restocking tables, to keep things fresh. If the PCs explore and clean of monsters an area, it should remain alive. Don't want to keep the PCs "cleaning" the same level over and over again, but the environment changes and mutates.
Pg 9 of Stonehell has some basic guidelines on how to restock the dungeon, and remain it an ever-changing environ.

Each level can have its own theme, but there should be a cross-section. Short cuts. Loops. Vertical connectors.

This article is a good write-up with advice on how to run these kind of games. Key takeaways are:
  1. Decide on grid vs loose mapping (and more importantly, who is doing that, the players, the referee?).
    This point is the one that's biting my ass at the moment. The game will be fully online, using Discord as the platform of choice.
    It would be fairly easy for me to clean the dungeon maps from the PDF, remove room keys, and use fog of war or similar.
    But that might be too forgiving for the players.
    So if we want to draw a map (and account for a PC or hireling doing so!), what best? I doodle the map? Should the players draw my painstaking descriptions? I have no answer.
  2. Make sure there are enough loops, and branches present informed choices for the players.
    Stonehell design leans to this structure already.
    During the game, I have to remind myself to present choices to the players.
    An interesting trick is to provide maps/rumors, and the mole market of level 1 could be excellent for that.
  3. Random encounters should be more interesting than "2d6 kobolds molekin".
    Maybe tying them to factions in the megadungeon?
    Additional roll for flavor/situation and lookup on separate table?
    How much content can I generate on the fly without over-saturating?
  4. Traps should be interesting enough to encourage interaction, but safe enough to avoid skipping them be the default behavior.
    This link provides additional traps for the megadungeon.
    • ... on a similar note, secret doors should be explained in the environment, and another opportunity for interaction with the environment.
    • ... there should be an obvious benefit for trying to interact/overcome the trap.
      Be it treasure, a door, a key. Show 'em the carrot!

Certainly there's a lot more to learn about the fine art of running a megadungeon like a boss.
But baby steps, these 4 pointers (+ tracking of player resources via turns) seem like an ambitious but logical first goal.

Given the price of the softcover, I will use it as a workbook, and just go all crazy on it. Color-mark entries (monsters=yellow, traps=green, treasure=blue) on each dungeon section page. And add post-its for each major section. This will help me reference the material when running, and spotting rooms quickly.

Take them markers out, pal!

Logistics

Justin Alexander has a series of great articles about running an open table.
They provide a great framework for me to phrase and write down the logistics to this campaign.
  • Quick Character Creation & Easy Access Systems: Knave is perfect for this! Sprinkling a couple extra random tables (Ancestry for instance) to bring forward even more OSR
  • Open Group Formation: not really the case here. But megadungeons are great it a player decides to drop off the game. Knave characters are mostly defined by their equipment (and in our case, an Ancestry and couple Knacks). So no big issue if the thief is sitting out this delve, just purchase the right equipment and cover for them.
  • Default Goal & Default Action: get treasure. Get it from Stonehell. Spend it for XP. Simple. Clean.
  • Regenerative / Extensible Content: Stonehell comprises two books, at about 280ish pages of megadungeon to explore. Pg. 10 mentions there are several opportunities to add extra custom levels/rooms (which I could do if I wanted). Restocking too. Frankly, there's plenty of game in here. Running out of content is not within my worries.
We are doing most of the game on Discord, with rolls done with a bot, and we have a game wiki to store the character sheets and most important information.

The biggest pain I have at the moment is with regards to mapping. Roll20 is nice as it lets me share a full blown grid map, but is very overblown for the task, and not mobile friendly (and a lot of times players post on their phones). For now I'm using google drawings, and looking for better alternatives. 

Campaign Time Management and upkeep costs during downtime will be winged, assuming PCs have a place to stay and basic food at Priebe. A 300 day calendar (10 30-day months) seems sensible, and is easy to remember. In-game time during a megadungeon should stay fairly low, so I'm not too worried about continuity. Characters returning to Priebe will be enforced to cash in loot for XP, although I could allow an outpost if the players are really clever and resourceful about it.

Unsorted To Do List

Games are pretty much started, but in early stages. Very early ones. The we-are-exploring-the-canyon stage. But I'm having a blast so far. And the PbP is very suited for this sort of megadungeon play. Content will be added and fleshed out pretty much as we go. So here is a short list of things that should get done (I will link in case any develop to their own post):
  • Finalize the Referee's Guide to Knave++.
  • Find a bloody mapping solution! For Discord and mobile play.
  • Regional hexmap of the Stonehell area in the Maienstein area. Good excuse to finally use HexKit.

Monday, December 30, 2019

EE: Reading Review of Esoteric Enterprises

So Emmy "CaveGirl" Allen published Esoteric Enterprises. Apparently in the workings for at least two full years, this thing is a beast at 247 pages.

This is not at all a thematic genre I generally look into. Having a look at the Appendix N, I've watched most of the TV entries, and about half the comics. So thematically I'm not the target audience of EE.

This read-through review might appear overly negative (if counting the amount of Not-So-Good bullets). It's easier to point out criticisms than to stop and appreciate the quality this game packs.

Also bear in mind that I haven't played a single session of the game. I need to test it at the table.

TL;DR: this thing is very good. For 12$, the PDF version is a steal. Even if you never intend to run this, worth it only for the referee facing tables and tools. Pages 104-110 on the section on how to run a (OSR-like) RPG are a concise write-up that I enjoyed immensely. EE could have benefited from an editor's pass.

As a result, I really want to play this. It bumped to the top of my Games I want to Run list. Ping me to get something started.

Contents

You can find the full table of contents in the Drivethrurpg preview.

Esoteric Enterprises can be roughly divided into several sections:
  1. how to create a character.
  2. the basic rules of the game.
  3. spellcasting and magic.
  4. about 40 pages of how to run RPGs (including traps and hazards and treasure tables).
  5. how to generate the Undercity map and its complexes (dungeons) for the full sandbox experience.
  6. about 60 pages on how to roll up factions and the bestiary.
There are 8 classes in the game.
Bodyguards are akin to barbarians or dwarves from other OSR games, Criminals are your Thief/Specialist, Mercenaries are Fighters, Occultists are your Magic User, and Explorers are reminiscent of halflings, with good saves from the beginning of their careers and excellent in Athletics/Stealth.
Then we have Doctors, which have good healing as well as a very loose (ruling based) capability to do medical experiments. Players into body horror or creative minds will benefit.
The Mystic is a mix or cleric and warlock. They ask a patron for spell favors.
And the Spook seems just like a blast, where you can play a mutated humanoid with powers. Wanted to play a werewolf, or a vampire? Now you can. But of course, you have to start from the bottom.

The Good

  • This thing is full on packed. 247 pages of content. Random tables left and right.
  • The black & white no-art variant is really appreciated. Easy to print out the tables you need at your table. Ditto for the generous preview available at drivethrurpg.
  • Highly compatible with B/X. The classes are all in the familiar format. Many similarities with LotFP (1-in-6 skills). There's even guidance on how to make it work at Appendix O.
  • Pages 30+31 are golden, and sometime similar should be in every game. Easy to print out and hand to the players (especially newbies will appreciate it), so that they understand what sort of characters they can create and how.
  • Lots of tools for running a game. Tons. Random tables galore. Magic items, loot, rumors, grimoires. You name it.
  • Random Undercity generator.
    • Given Gardens of Ynn and Stygian library, this was kind of expected.
    • It follows the dice dropping technique (aka reading the tea leaves), similar to what I saw in Dark Deeds in Last Hope for Shadow of the Demon Lord.
    • The dice drop is used to map out the Undercity (a big map where your sandbox campaign will be taking place), the Undercity complexes (dungeons and maps for exploration) and fleshing out the factions.

The Not-So-Good

  • There is no character sheet! I get that I can make my own in Word in half an hour. But this is somewhat expected for a full blown game like this one. Here's one I found online.
  • The pdf is not bookmarked, slowing down navigation and digital flipping.
  • It seems the whole thing could have used a tighter editing phase. There are formatting issues. Capitalization is inconsistent at places (see pg. 8 for instance: "Intelligence" and "intelligence", "mercenary" vs. "Occultist"). Also some typos. Table 13 for example should read "Armour" at the top left-most column.
  • There is either a flow problem, or an assumption as to what the reader knows. Example: there are numerous references to a "turn" (in the 10 minute exploration rate), but the term is introduced way into the book. People familiar with OSR games will know what this is. But someone new to these games could have benefited from some extra assistance (this is a minor pet-peeve; I assume almost nobody will run this as their first RPG).
  • It could have used some further bolding and highlighting. Take pg 34. The attributes could have been bolded and/or indented.
  • At pg 36, where skills get explained, I assume that a 6-in-6 is not an automatic success, but rather the LotFP standard of roll 2d6 and fail only if you roll 6 on both dice. But I didn't see that explained here? Ditto with 0-in-6.
  • When Rolling up the Undercity, I would have liked a visual diagram example of the procedure. Luckily, there's a blog post with one.
  • The PDF seems poorly optimized. There are no hyperlinks.
  • The art and images do pass the desired mood across to the reader, but I get the feeling that contracting some artists, and assigning a bigger budget to this could've had excellent results.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Knave++, my Knave Hack

Knave++ is my Knave hack. I intend to test this system from now on. This is v1.0.

At this point it barely resembles the original game that Ben Milton designed (with a very generous Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license). I added enough bits and bobs to please my taste. And as an exercise, building a hack from the ground up, with the very strong core that Knave provides, has been very educational.

Casque Knight!

Knave++ Features

What follows is a scattered list of changes and additions compared to the "vanilla" Knave.
The solid Knave core remains: ascending d20 rolls tied to the 6 standard ability scores, item slots based on constitution (and a general focus towards equipment), quick character generation, high compatibility with B/X and other OSR games.

  • Character Creation
    • Classic class features called Knacks. Abilities and powers that PCs can pick up.
    • Ancestries as a random table. A light way to imprint the game setting. These are specific to my Maienstein/Stonehell game. List can be replaced with whatever Ancestries tingle your fancy. Or drop them altogether. It's meant for flavor and a minor ability boost and drawback. Differentiation, nothing more.
  • Playing the Game
    • Healing is slightly modified, and adds the concept of Snacks as quick healing bursts. Additional rules for starvation.
  • Combat 
    • Alternative initiative system to have individual rolls for each PC and antagonist NPC group. Henchmen always go last. Still rolled every round for extra randomness.
    • Easy to use death & dismemberment table when a PC drops to 0 HP.
  • Spellcasting
    • Keep arcane level-less spellcasting, but replace the original list by the Magic Dice system from GLOG. I really like the MD mechanic as a whole, and it's easy to stick to Knave.
    • Add cleric spells, called Prayers, which contrary to Magic User spells have no Miscasts/Dooms. Reduced spell list, but more reliable. Flavor as herbs, bells, tablets, or some similar equipment that eat up Item Slots, called Clerical Implements.
  • Advancement
    • Advancement and experience taken from LotFP, and with different numbers to use on a currency=XP game.

Changelog

There is no way to get everything right on the first go. This is to keep track of future changes.
  • 23.12.19: version 1.0. A baby is born.

Things To Add

  • Referee facing rules
    • Overloaded Encounter Die
    • Wilderness travel
  • Summary of rule terminologies: Advantage, Save, MD, turn, round, Knack, Ancestry, etc.
  • Fatigue
  • Ranged weapons range?
  • Cover from ranged attacks

Friday, December 20, 2019

OSR: Castle Nowhere Sessions 1, 2, 3 & 4

Because I'm a busy individual pretending to be an adult, there's been no way for me to get detailed play reports for each of the sessions of this campaign, Castle Nowhere. Insights of the reports. Instead, I will do my best to recollect the first major adventure of the campaign, which we spent exploring Ynn.

The rules are a hack of Into the Dungeon (an Into the Odd hack), and GLOG templates smashed together. As this was a request from the players, idea was to tune the system as we go. So far it's been a breeze to run. Let's revise the characters first.

Barry - a Barbarian with a zealot religious background. Interested in kicking ass and getting loot.
Gwynnie - an Orthodox Wizard, whose sister was deceived by a juvenile man of the rivaling party and helped them destroy her faith's sacred temple. Really keen on learning new spells.
Giovgia - an Orthodox Wizard with a stinky horn, that was exiled from her home in the Itean Empire and now exists on the edge of the law. Reason why she fled to Five Towns.
Evalderer Crouser - a second zealot Barbarian, that likes to play bagpipes before going into a rage, and has a poisoned wasp (that can be thrown as a dart). Only joined the group for the last session, as a reinforcement.

Grimewood Beginnings


Our adventure starts in the city of Grimewood, in the North-Eastern region of Five Towns. Currently seeking rumors and adventure, and with several obvious locales to explore, the group decides to pay Caeldrim of the Silver Sages a visit. Local wizard and scholar, he surely will have something worthy for them? Gwynnie and Giovgia want to present themselves to the powerful wizard.

Caeldrim, more jovial than this portrait suggests, by Bearded Devil
Sure enough, the wizard has an impressive library, which attracts G&G. And a quest. For which he pays meager coin (10sp), but grants access to his library and tomes. Putting the carrot in front of Gwynnie and Giovgia for future spell research. The job?  A door appeared in the Grove of Euphoria in Grimewood. The place being a sanctum of sorts, to reflect and pray to the local deities, the Crescent Sisters. Caeldrim's apprentice, Merrick Oakblood, went through the door seeing its appearance as a sacred omen of the Sisters. Go find Merrick, and bring him back alive. If you learn why the door appeared, even better.

With a suspicious amount of discretion (waiting for nighttime), the characters get escorted to the currently open portal, where two city guards stand post. Purple viscous membrane, Caeldrim wishes them good luck, but warns that in 24-48 hours the door will close according to his estimations!

Barry investigates the area, looking for clues as to what caused this door opening.  A faint yellow chalk marking around the portal. Gwynnie decides to cast Hail to Dave. Pompous noble materializes, winks, and serves as scout through the portals, the PCs too suspicious to follow ahead. They wait. Dave comes back, cocky. "There's more forest ahead. Vegetation all around. And the faint noise of a clockwork? No wine though...". Barry stays true to a barbarian's credo, and opens the way, venturing through the portal.

Through the Overgrown Gardens

The magical gardens are ripe for exploration. The group of 3 looking for clues of the missing apprentice, they leave the door behind and start venturing into these alien gardens. First off, they come across an archery shooting range, pristine, with 3 targets and a cleaned-up skeleton, with several arrows pierced on the target and bones. As Barry starts looking into the bones, and savaging some of the arrows: a fight spills into the shooting range! Blue foxes (more the size of a wolf each...) are ferociously going at a trio of Peahawks (which are basically evolved into some sort of winged velociraptors).

At first the battling beasts pay no mind to the PCs, but one of the peahawks gets starts to isolate itself from their group, and sights the wizard ladies and the barbarian. Giovgia quickly casts a Cacophony spell to the group, deafening and confusing most of the beasts, that quickly run away with their feud. The curious peahawk remains, now angry, confused, and goes to attack the group. Gwynnie quickly casts Fire of Judgement on the bird-raptor, giving it a fire crown, and its attacks should backfire. Barry and Giovgia go into melee with the beast, the wizard marches with its stinky horn, hurts the peahawk, that then retaliates, takes 1 point of STR of her, and then has to run away due to the Fire of Judgement spell damage. One momentary victory, the Gwynnie and Barry quickly stabilize Giovgia, they take 2 massive peacock feathers and treasure, and continue their exploration of this overgrown gardens.

Further Exploration Giovgia's player was missing for this session #2

After some wandering around, a neat herb garden with 14 tight rows of overgrown spices appear in front of the PCs. Two of those rows catch Barry's attention, but as he's moving closer to them, a flock of huge parasitic wasps bees come flying from the East! With enough time to hide, the group sneaks behind the nearby bushes, and ultimately flees, leaving the bees working and tending to the herbs behind.

They continue to move carefully, and stumble upon a clearing with a 60ft diameter limestone square of ground. On the center, a fist-sized diamond. Up in a ramp in the ground, 120 or so feet away, a huge log. Half-rotten with the passing of time, and with tiny gems encrusted. A lot of things going on, and more importantly: the promise of treasure!

Of course Barry and Gwynnie decide to investigate separately. Do split the party.
The barbarian runs to the log and starts prying gems out of it. Quickly, the log starts coming to life, a hermit spider the size of a cart looking pissed out of it! In the meantime, Gwynnie decides to prey at that gemstone. Which is of course a trap! She gets imprisoned into a bubble of water that starts slowly floating into the air, like a balloon.

After some struggling, Barry is able to set the log ablaze, pissing the spider off (and more importantly, providing a distraction!). He then runs to aid Gwynnie, and using of the retrieved Peahawk feathers, and with some feat of strength, is able to pull her out of the bubble alive. Gwynnie quickly casts Hail to Dave, creating a distraction for the spider (but also loosing her only magic die).

The trap resets (and the huge diamond resets to where it was at the center of the limestone floor), and the group just makes a run for it, fleeing this bizarre scene.
I should have used the rules for running blindly, where they advance d4-1 layers deeper. They were fleeing the site, and not looking for exact clues and trails to follow. Oh well...

Do check before looting!

After running their lungs out, the PCs arrive at a collection of idealized greek marble statues, right next to a chess lawn. The place is pristine, has a lamp post throwing some light, and sees an ensemble of chess pieces of the White Court arrive. Knights coming on the nighttime, reading themselves for an upcoming game against the statues.

A jovial knight by the name of Sir Ilian turns to the PCs. With a bro-like attitude, he is in a good mood, offers his bottle of rum, and hears what these strangers have to say. Hearing about Merrick, the knight shows understanding, and agrees on giving the PCs general direction if they swear fealty to the White Court, and to bring down the Red Court, a sworn rival chess court. That didn't need much convincing; Barry jumps at this offer promptly. Sir Ilian gifts them with a handy oil lamp to continue their exploration: "Seek the Rose Maidens, not fat to the North. Be careful, they have adopted some odd superstitions".

Merrick Oakblood... seek the Rose Maidens?

As they start traveling North, night fully kicks in, and Barry sets himself in front with the recently acquired oil lamp. The barbarian starts noticing thorns and vines to grow quickly in front of them, a dense forest of razor sharp roses. A rose garden. The PCs will have none of it, and decide to surround the location, sneaking as best they can around it. This might seem counter-intuitive given the recent clues, but the PCs see this as a trap, and decide to avoid it. They are like shadows (all of them excelled at their Dex saves), and even avoid a flock of parasitic bees flying high in the air as they surround the area.
At the time I thought this war an odd choice on their part. Thing is, it wasn't a trap, but the Maidens were meant to have further clues to Merrick's past steps. PCs could have taken a short cut, but at the risk of potential violence. Bypassing this was probably wise.

Continuing North, as instructed, the ensemble travels for a longer time, and they start to cross a dense wood with an enticing and mysterious song in the distance. The deeper they go into the forest, the slower they go (and the easier it is to hide). Eventually they find the source of the singing, a group of 5 molekin that stop on their toes when they see the armored adventurers. "Snot! That's my name goodsir!", offers the boldest of them. "We need to retrieve a key important to us, up there in the tree! It will help us to take over the Myconids and claim their business.". All the molekin look up in unison, towards the top of a wide tree.

Snot, a molekin with a goal, by Manuel Castañón
After the PCs discuss what to do, they decide to help the little rats. Giovgia gets a head start assisted by Barry, and starts to masterfully climb the tree. Her Levitate spell also comes to the rescue. When she's almost on top, the molekin start to grow unrested, sniffing the air. A candle golem is coming! As it's a clearly visible creature, Barry and Gwynnie have enough time to hide in nearby bushes, as do the molekin. The golem behemoth continues scouting the area with heavy steps, in duty and looking for... something? Barry, again with superb skill, is able to sneak around and throw a stone in the direction the molekin hid. They start screaming and screeching, and run away (with the candle golem closely following their steps). The PCs use this opening to flee as fast as they can in the opposite direction, Giovgia taking the stash to herself.

The PCs continue their search, and arrive to a two-story clockwork building. Before venturing any further, they decide to check the retrieved stash: a fan (acts as a regular shield if opened), a letter with clues, and a spell scroll with Obedient Stone.

A pair of knight women leave the building, making their way to the stables behind it, and leave the area on a quick gallop. The dark of night covers most of their features. The PCs avoid them, but are puzzled as to who they are.

After a failed attempt to to sneak into the house, they enter the building escorted by a halfling called Tomek "This is Tomek's Timeless Teahouse, welcome!". Invited by the owner, they enter the property to a welcoming teahouse, with ready pastries, and a banquet. In the far corner, with a group of bookcases, the group finds a limping young man, a bald Merrick Oakblood!

Barry, wanting to investigate the upper floor and with an odd feeling about Tomek, is denied by the proprietor. The whole situation seems too fishy to the barbarian, so he takes his axe out and chops at the halfling! Roll initiative!

How Axe You? Giovgia's player was missing for this session #4, but we had Evalderer join!

Tomek reacts quickly by throwing a boiling teapot to the pastries table in front of the PCs, which summons an Ambulatory Pudding! Now Gwynnie and Giovgia have a pressing distraction. The halfling casts Mirror Image, and now with 4 illusory copies of himself, runs upstairs to the 2nd floor, with Barry at his heels.

Meanwhile, on the 1st floor, the pudding is menacing the three wizards (Gwynnie, Giovgia and Merrick). But lucky for them, a beefy man with bagpipes and a menacing battleaxe enters the building. Reinforcements Caeldrim sent, Evalderer joins the scene.
Over time I've come to waive characters coming/leaving if players join/can't make a session. Sure, sometimes it's not very plausible. But why delay the fun even one bit for "the right moment"?

Evalderer also enters a barbarian rage, but before that the pudding engulfs and severely hurt Gwynnie (dipping into her STR score). It turns into a filthy skirmish, both down and upstairs. But the murderhobos are vicious to no end, and come up victorious and without fatal casualties. They kill Tomek, chop the pudding, and have some time to explore and try to loot the Teahouse before getting the hell out.

Surprisingly cautious, they avoid the most dangerous traps, monsters and hazards in the place. The only encounter results in the PCs petting and feeding the 3 dogs Tomek kept in his lab area (reaction rolls, baby). After snatching 3 potions, some magical ingredients, and a king's ransom worth of gold, it becomes clear that Tomek was associated with the Red Court chess pieces, and that he built candle golems with/for them.

Muffled sound of hooves. The 2 knights return! The party flees in time to avoid being caught.
What follows is a chase back to the entrance door Caeldrim led them to. So we get to see (almost all) locations. The PCs are extremely lucky with their navigation rolls and reaction rolls from the White Court when they break the news of "As instructed, we have brought some combat to your house. Ah, and we killed Tomek.". They even had proof of the deed. Sir Ilian & co are grateful, given them a squire (=pawn) to serve as guide, and stay at the chess lawn ready to kill the knights of the Red (?) Court.
The last encounter happened when the party jumped into 4 Myconid Composters at the herb garden, when the mushroom-people were tending to some soil. They get initially aggressive, but Evalderer has the brilliant idea of just bribing them off with the looted gold by tossing some coins to the ground and fleeing.

With little trouble, the party returns to Grimewood with Merry Oakblood and pockets full of gold.

Referee Commentary / Things I Learned

Green things above are lessons learnt. Also, ...
  • My review still holds after this mid-length adventure in Ynn. Gardens of Ynn belongs to any referee's toolbox. It's an excellent product to generate interesting locations. The random tables are just brilliant (locations, details, events... everything!). They work very well with extra material, like monsters from Into the Wyrd and Wild, or whatever fae-like material you can find.
  • In my scenario, I dropped the hint that the door to Ynn could close after only a few days, before the PCs went in. This clear direction made them not want to stay and explore further, or get lost in the place. This might have been a mistake, and a missed opportunity to go deeper into the module.
  • Faction play was small (White / Red Court of the chess pieces), but had a profound impact on the final outcome, and the players capitalized on it.
  • My criticism of an overabundance of beasts in the initial levels of the Gardens still holds. I tried to mitigate this by introducing more humanoids the PCs could interact with (the molekin, Tomek), to good effect.
  • Tighter mechanics on how to sprint through locations or do a chase sequence would have been helpful. The finale felt a bit rushed, and I should have put higher stakes on the table.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Santicorn 2019: Drow Econ 101

Martin O requests the following gift:
What trade goods do the Drow export in order to destabilize their human neighbors? Gimme the weird stuff.
Things that make the Drow unique as a society compared to their surface-dwelling humanoid counterparts:
  • Live underground. Duh.
  • Full of hatred; waiting for their moment to snatch their deserved respect.
  • Do deeds that would be beneath other societies' standards. Slavery being the most obvious example.
  • Highly hierarchical, they follow a code of their own. Impossible to decipher for any non-Drow.
Drow prefer to destabilize a society with fear, blackmail, secrets or other powerful intangible currencies. From the shadows, without incriminating themselves. Letting their lackeys do their biding. Carrying out a carefully planned assassination. But let's focus on a less obvious take: Trade goods. Tangibles. What can Drow do to a society and destabilize your typical medieval-esque fantasy economy? With a longer horizon for fruition, economical destabilization through (mostly) licit trading can have dire consequences.

Due to the difficulties presented in the Underground, it will be tough for the Drow to tackle mass market and export of goods. Or compete in a price war. Food is more valuable than gold in the world below the surface. Therefore, either a very meticulous and calculated strategy or a stroke of luck (likely provided by the aid of a 3rd party) are the only ways such an edge can occur when talking edibles. Similar logic can potentially apply to energy sources, lacking the sun in the Underground is a HUGE disadvantage.

Generally, Drow can outperform and potentially destabilize their surface counterparts with one of two strategies:
  1. They produce luxurious items, finely crafted or rare on the surface. Requiring Drow expertise in manufacturing.
  2. They export or manufacture an item not available on the surface. Assuming a geographical advantage; access to artifacts or edibles not present outside of the Underground.

To the Point, Hammer!

I present 8 tangible trade good examples the Drow can use, broken down into broad categories (food, energy, etc.). Pick and choose. Or roll a d8. Or take all 8 at the same time and have a train-wreck. Treat each one as campaign fodder. Entries follow these formatted points:
  • Description: what is this, and why is it special?
  • Effect: does it have an in-game effect of interest to a group of adventurers? 
  • Cause: what has made the Drow capable of producing this item at an alarming rate, and/or at a low price?
  • Omen: what begins to happen when this good is introduced into a surface dwelling humanoid society?
  • Destabilization: longer term, why does this item destabilize their human neighbors?
The Omen is the first thing the PCs will notice. Perhaps they arrive to a new city or town. Or they return after a long hex-/dungeoncrawl to civilization, to find this new item appeared. The challenge for the PCs will be to investigate and uncover that this is a ploy, and will have dire consequences to the society in the long run. Allow some time (randomly roll some dice with to determine a horizon) until the Destabilization phase kicks in. That's usually the point of no return, and wiser adventurers would better leave town.

Food

Food is hard to get by in the Underground. Down there, starvation is the real enemy. Achieving destabilization through common edible goods would require a tremendous breakthrough, and is possibly not worth the effort for the Drow. There are more effective means to destabilization.

1) Troll Steak

  • Description: thick and gnarly meat, filling.
  • Effect: Troll Steak is a feast when in the Underground. But continuous consumption can have... interesting effects. If a person had troll meat for 3 consecutive days, Save vs Poison. On a fail, skin and inner organs start mutating, adopting the regenerative properties of a troll, but without the fire vulnerability. Of course, people can still die of age. Missing a day of meat consumption reverts the effects.
  • Cause: after years cross-breeding trolls in their laboratories, the Drow found the key to fertilizing them. Increasing the troll population at their whim, it is just a matter of waiting for a particularly harsh winter, where the grain reserves are running low on the surface cities. Drow can be patient to make their move, and will wait decades if necessary.
  • Omen: feeding entire populations is no longer a challenge. A surplus of meat is always a win, right? Well... cattle farmers will go out of business, unable to compete on the price race. Troll meat becomes a standard of living, consumed by all class segments of the population. Repeated consumption brings the regenerative effect to a sizeable portion of the population.
  • Destabilization: people develop the regenerative effect, after repeated consumption. Most wounds no longer being fatal, even the smallest disagreements turn to a violence bath. Creative torture measures flourish. Some even develop a twisted taste for physical pain, akin to the first segment in Black Museum. Society embraces the new currencies: violence, torture, and pain. Now the Drow only have to swap the Troll Steak back to a counterfeit. Or enjoy the society they helped create.

    Energy

    Similar to food, but to a lesser extent. Potentially hard to transport to the surface efficiently. In our world, oil and gas would be an incredible asset to have. But their value is unclear to me in your typical D&D game (magic being more common and all).

    2) Fecal Coal

    • Description: mundane coal, but in ridiculous quantities.
    • Effect: coal is black fuel. Nothing more, nothing less.
    • Cause: Drow houses struck a deal with Xiromanthas, a red dragon the size of a mountain. The dragon poops as much coal as the elves need, and then some, in exchange for gems and golden coins. An unprecedented surplus of the black.
    • Omen: coal prices have been driven to the mud. It's cheaper to warm your house than ever before, and winter is no longer the harsh season of the year. A coal cargo stored in a warehouse requires no locks or bodyguards. A cart of the black fuel will only get you a handful of apples.
    • Destabilization: this one is all about geographical location. In a town where half its working force is employed at the local mining industry, the effects can be devastating. Unemployment would hit hard, with the depression that surfaces from that. The working class taking the hardest hit (as always). They would be looking for new leadership that can put food on their tables... Time for the Drow to infiltrate an agent, push the politician on their pocket, or a similar ploy.

    Drugs

    Drowning, Pamela Gomez

    Drugs move insane amounts of money, power, and influence. They can destabilize whole countries and economies. There are plenty of examples in our own world, where disposable 1.5 million $ submarines are used to transport them across the sea. They empower those distributing them illicitly at an exponential rate.

    Assuming the Drow can create an efficient network for distribution of rare drugs, these can easily destabilize whole nations both economically and through devastating effects to their consumers.

    3) Blue Roses of the Syn'ar Valley

    🌷 DEMORIE 🌷
    • Description: their metallic scent elevates you in eerie, giving a feeling of relaxed power. Describing them as drugs is misleading, because the fact these roses are one is only known to the Drow and the most skilled scholars. Blue Roses are subtle.
    • Effect: when within smelling distance Save vs Poison, or become indifferent to sighting any sort of violence, no matter how crude or visceral. Someone getting knifed to death in front of you becomes less interesting than your morning's porridge... The act is not invisible to you, just utterly mundane and uninteresting.
    • Cause: Drow cities always had copious supplies of the Blue Roses from the Undeground Syn'ar Valley. The distribution network and their survival to the surface were the missing keys. But the right fertilizer started allowing the roses to grow on cities washed by the sun. Accelerating ultimately their rapid distribution. They have to spread quickly, otherwise their effect might be uncovered! loosing their destabilization effect.
    • Omen: priced items, Blue Roses are introduced to the surface dwellers by powerful merchant families. Soon every petty noble wants their gardens full of them. It's a symbol of status. And the rich always want to be part of a material capitalistic trend. Full grown gardens are a slow process to attain, but a worthwhile one.
    • Destabilization: when every garden, grove or patch of land is full of these roses, the ruling class is literally indifferent to any sight of violence. Assassinations can be carried just in front of them at a dinner party, and they won't even blink twice. Guards won't be alerted on a violent revolt. An orgy of violence can unleash without anybody of power moving a finger. The moment is ripe for the Drow taking over, and keep the common-folk as slaves. Maybe.

      4) Ghoul's Marrow aka "Black Gums"

      • Description: denser and darker than honey, the two could be confused otherwise. Has to be eaten to apply the effects. Highly addictive, and can have fatal side-effect consequences. Could be sold as a medicine even, the endurance inducing properties to body and soul so invigorating. "Black Gums" is both the visible cue on consumers, and the name commonly used for this drug.
      • Effect: even one consumption is extremely addictive. Anyone trying the drug has to be restrained for the next 3 days, or they will try by all means possible consume more doses (even going to self-harm to do so). On every consumption of the drug, Save vs Poison. Gain d10HP and +2 to all Saves regardless of the result. On a fail, the consumer turns into a ghoul in exactly 7 days. No Clerical prayer will work to prevent this, it's not a curse.
      • Cause: the name is just a mislead, the consequence of consumption. PCs will think that's the source of the drug. Let them. The origins are a bit more twisted. Drow have been cross-breeding cannibalistic slaves for generations, studying their behavior. Finally understanding their physiology, the Drow found the key cranial source of the appetite. And are able to induce it with the right combination of narcotics.
      • Omen: stories of miraculous recoveries, elder cripples able to walk again, reach the PCs ears. The local duke won the recent war against all odds, like by a miracle. His soldiers more efficient at their task, able to endure more physical and mental pain. Then the first ghoul sprouts. From there, it's a quick down spiral.
      • Destabilization: the population is either addicted to the drug, or a ghoul as a consequence by now. The undead creatures lurk at night like an army. "Show me your teeth" becomes a common greeting when encountering strangers. The Drow have a weakened target, and half a ghoul army waiting to take over.

      Mundane Luxury Items

      Slaves provide skilled hands to produce some of the finest items. In almost every segment, objects of quality and bizarre properties attract surface humanoids. Their alien nature part of the selling point. Barring problems in their distribution network, Drow can gently introduce luxury items to visible individuals (merchants, nobles, warlords), in hopes of forcing a fashion trend. Fear of missing out is real. Very real. And acting recklessly is a natural consequence of said fear.

      5) Spider Silks

      exellero
      • Description: brightly colored silks, soft as a lover's touch. Embroidered out of spider webbing by tiny gnomish slave hands. A prized possession for fashionistas and adventurers alike.
      • Effect: Let's focus on Spider Silk cloaks. Their price go at d4+300gp. Roll a d6 for the effect on this cloak:
        1. Fair piece of garment, envy of sultans.
        2. This silk can't be stained by blood.
        3. Counts as leather armor, but takes no weight in encumbrance/item slots.
        4. Wearer takes no falling damage on a 20ft or shorter drop.
        5. Increase the number of followers/henchlings you can have by 1, regardless of your Charisma score.
        6. Translucent, wearer or objects concealed by this silks gain a +1 to hiding when in shadows.
      • Cause: locating the gnome enclave within the Underground was an arduous task. But with that, plenty of skilled hands in the crafting of Spider Silk were added to the slaving task force of the Drow.
      • Omen: these fine cloaks become a status of symbol. Everyone wants one. Squires queue in front of the regal tailor shop. Loans become frequent to purchase multiple changes. Burglaries and planned heists increase exponentially, as manors start protecting their wardrobes more than their treasure chests.
      • Destabilization: taxes get a hefty increase to finance the ruling class and their fashion habits. Disenchantment between the common-folk, protests and strikes flourish. Social unrest. Several merchant families and nobles go bankrupt, leaving a power vacuum. Unable to pay for mercenaries or hired swords, they are at the mercy of their lenders.

      6) Myconid Cranial Condiments

      • Description: sized colorful grain-sized, somewhat mushy.
      • Effect: sprinkling a pinch renders anything amazingly flavorful. It's like hearing Beethoven after being born deaf. Priced reasonably (cost of a mug of ale per portion).
      • Cause: smoking powdered myconid brains has been practiced in the Underground for centuries. But the Drow know how to twist the knife a little deeper. Experimenting. Plotting on extravagant uses. Alchemical labs and gourmands alike arrived to this condiment.
      • Omen: you come across an inn where they serve a dish of worm stew. Street food stalls offer grass, cloth, and even mud, complimented with the novel Myconid Cranial Condiments. Food gets creative.
      • Destabilization: able to overcome any food shortages. Missing a crop shipment? Eat spiced maggots. BUT, this doesn't change the nutritional value one bit. Illnesses and famines begin to sprout. Mercantilism in the mid to high end food industry takes a hard blow. Open feuds between merchant families, some going completely broke.

      7) Carnal Suitor Perfume

      • Description: smells like a mixture between intertwined sweaty bodies, roses, and faint dried plasma. Invigorating. Pleasant.
      • Effect: this perfume could well be in the drug category. A vial is priced like a good seasoned wine. Lascivious immediate effects, that can spiral in the very long term. Anyone smelling Carnal Suitor has to Save vs Poison, if they decide to resist the effects (Drow are immune). On a fail, the perfumed individual becomes a libido driven sexual magnet. Urgency to fulfill the most primitive needs grows.
      • Cause: mixture of watered down floor swipes from Underground orgies dens and fighting pits.
      • Omen: the PCs could come across a wild orgy at their tavern of choice. Or individuals openly fornicating on the open of a freezing night. More than one odd matching pair should raise eyebrows.
      • Destabilization: local churches and temples start a holy quest to finish this descent into mad lasciviousness, causing social unrest. Long term, the birth rate torpedoes to the roof. The overpopulated city will become hard to feed with time.

      Mundane Magical Items

      The artifacts and magical paraphernalia found within the twisted labyrinths of the Underground are akin to our own gold rush. In comparison, the surface wands and magic trinkets are like the only souvenir shop selling hats before a day-long tour of the Egyptian pyramids. Mid-summer.

      Including these seems like a cheat when talking about trading goods. But minor magics are fair game. Enough of them can make it to the surface, and they don't disturb the day to day life to the point of destabilization.

      8) Subsurface Shells



      Aaron Griffin
      • Description: shaped like a broken egg-shell, covering the eyes when worn. Surprisingly comfortable. Black like the abyss.
      • Effect: wearing a Subsurface Shell confers blindness after a 30ft range. Mildly inconvenient. On the flip side, it grants powers to communicate telepathically at a distance of up to 1 mile, if the individuals have previously met and shaken hands (basically any type of physical contact). Constant communication is so addictive... Save vs Device to take it out.
      • Cause: Drow assassinated a city of Illithids. Every. Single. One. The octopi invented an apparatus capable of the most pathetic telekinesis. Producing them is surprisingly simple and cheap.
      • Omen: Subsurface Shells are introduced en masse. Cheap as they come, everyone wants one. And they can have it for change. To kick, it's all advantages. Information just flows. Fast. Transportation is relegated, no longer necessary. Leaving the security of home becomes... inconvenient.
      • Destabilization: tuning in becomes an effort. There is no way to refuse telepathic communication. But at the same time, physical isolation is the real deal. There's no incentive to leave home anymore. So you just stop doing so. Talk is cheap, and the signal-to-noise ratio is garbage. Yet this new form of communication is highly addictive. Gaining a "connection" by touching another Shell user is charged at a hefty rate. Whores and escorts no longer need to open their legs, but instead to have an interesting rhetoric. Now an isolated society, the Drow could literally march through town unnoticed. The 30ft visual range doesn't help of course.

      Reading Reference