Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Amusing Dungeons: Part One

Sometimes when you're creating a dungeon, getting started is the hardest part.  If you need a 'seed' to get you rolling, try using an amusement-park map.  Any amusement-park map is going to have some shapes and pathways you can riff off of to create your dungeon map, as well as ride and attraction names which might inspire your monsters, traps, and treasures.  Having just returned from vacation in Hersheypark, PA, I'm going to use their map as inspiration to give this a shot (you may wish to open it in another tab and poke around).  Hersheypark was a good choice for me as a dungeon-inspiration map, as the chocolate theme suggests I drop this dungeon somewhere near the Candyland bit of Wampus Country...that's presuming, of course, that there's a chocolate thing going on by the time we're done mangling the map.

Let's look at the map as a whole, first.  Most amusement parks are broken up into areas or zones, each with a different theme.  Those are your dungeon sections and associated themes.  If you pull up the Hersheypark map in another window (it's pretty keen) you'll see that Hersheypark has the following zones:

1) Tudor Square - shopping village outside the main gate.  This is easily going to be the medieval village next to the dungeon entrance.
2) Founder's Circle - the hub.  Maybe this area is the zone once (or currently) controlled by the standard "mad" wizard, etc.
3) Music Box Way.  I want to throw some musical traps in this zone along with the ride-based monsters.
4) The Hollow.  Great name...could be anything.
5) Minetown.  It's a mine!  The dungeon writes itself!
6) Pioneer Frontier.  Perhaps rather than being a wild-west frontier, this is the dungeon's frontier with the Underdark or something.  Or a more-vanilla 'pioneer town' that sunk beneath the earth as part of a curse...cowboys versus drow, anyone?
7) The Boardwalk.  Mandatory underwater level?  Town on the shores of a subterranean lake?
8) Midway.  Could have game-related traps and tricks?  Or go metaphorical and be the portal between this reality and another?

Now obviously I'm not going to tackle a huge dungeon in a single blogpost, but this entry is meant to introduce the idea of using the theme-park map as inspiration.  At this point I'm not even worried about mapping - maybe sketch out the zones as boxes with some pathways connecting them; later we can write "secret tunnel" or "underground river" or whatever on some of those connections.  And we can tweak the relative sizes of the zones as well, as we go.

Take a look at the names of some of the major rides.  These could represent monster locations, a series of traps, or some kind of treasure, settlement, or rumor.  If you're the gonzo sort, some of these can be ported over without much change.  Starship America becomes a ghostly astronaut trapped in the dungeon in the wreckage of his ancient spacecraft, for example; Dinosaur-Go-Round (a kiddie ride) prompts some sort of prehistoric monster in that area.  Frankly, I like the idea of a creepy carousel in the middle of the wizard zone - especially if the beasts on the merry-go-round are alive, and "pinned" in place with metal poles like huge butterflies.  Imagine a carousel with an owlbear, some wolves, a peryton, a rust monster...  I'm imagining the Howler as a two-headed werewolf for some reason.  What's the Flying Falcon?  Freaking terrifying, that's what it is.  There's nothing more manly than holding onto a seven-year-old for dear life and muttering it's okay it's okay it's okay for the duration of a ride.  I'm...not into heights.

Larger rides, like roller coasters, might be bigger monsters or larger settlements.  That Fahrenheit coaster?  A clutch of fiery salamanders.  The Great Bear in Minetown?  Maybe a huge earth-elemental bear with diamond claws and flecks of gold and platinum in his stoney fur (now that's a pelt worth selling).  And you might go so far as to allow the form of a ride to shape what you do with it; how about a thrilling log-flume chase over some subterranean waterfalls as the PCs are pursued by their foes?

The point is that the theme-park map is chock-full of seemingly random crap that lends itself to a dungeonlike structure and can inspire monster placement and backstory.  I'm going to keep chugging along on converting Hersheypark into a dungeon, with periodic updates here.  In the meantime, throw "amusement park map" or "theme park map" into a Google image search and look at all the free inspiration lying around.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

d100 Demonichaos!

For no good reason other that being inspired by a chaos warband game, here's a d100 table of name-components suitable for chaos marauders and demonic-types, particularly of the Warhammery variety.

It's two columns of 100 options each; roll as many times as you like in whatever column and arrange the elements to create a chaotic name.  Four elements - two for personal name, two for surname - seems to be the classic vibe (Gloom-Eye Murderpox), or you could just go with two (Verminspike).  Whatever floats your boat through the warp.  Obviously, these are meant as inspiration, not a straitjacket - add or subtract plurals, change 'dog' to 'cur', whatever.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mascot Monday: Bloodglass Proselyte


We may never know from whence they come - another time, a distant moon, some farflung plane? What is known about the Clade would fill a thimble. They are a liquid lifeform, a kind of sentient, ambulatory blood - and they all claim descent from a single bloodform ancestor who divided aeons ago. The Clade's only apparent goal is the assimilation of all life, and they very well might succeed - for whoever takes the Clade into their system, by drought or injection, becomes part of the Clade. Naked Clade in their fully-liquid form are rarely seen - much more common is their golem-like dreadnaught of apostasy known as the Bloodglass Proselyte.

Each proselyte shares two features in common: first a large, stout, headless humanoid body constructed of a transparent, glass-like crystal; and second, an immense humanlike face sculpted into the chest or torso, twisted into a rictus grin. Within the glassy body sloshes the viscous blood-body of the Clade warrior himself. The bloodglass proselyte pummels its foes with massive crystalline hands, then grapples. There is a hole in the glass where the "neck" should be; it is this aperture the proselyte uses to force part of its own bloody body down the throat of its target, converting the hapless victim into another Clade. Or, more properly - a Clade walking about in a meat-suit. Once the victim has a taste of the blood, conversion is near-immediate, and quite painful. Clade apostates such as these may be slain normally; it takes years for the infant blood-form coursing within the human veins to mature into a 'proper' Clade.

The crystalline structure of the Bloodglass Proselyte is such that the "face" in the torso can resonate forth substantial sonic energy. This attack comes in the form of a shouted affirmation - implying the inevitable victory of the Clade - which is particularly suited to destroying fortifications and walls. In addition, humanform Clade apostates can sometimes gate in a Proselyte via unified chanting to the Clade.

These warrior-suits are thankfully rare in the Wampus Country, but several of them attack Sugarplum Castle each season, testing the Witch-Queen's defenses. Early sorties were easily dismissed as the Witch-Queen magically manipulated the blood sugar within each Clade bloodform; but recently the Clade has adapted and begun dispatching Proselytes equipped with synthetic enhancements which are resistant to the witch's sucromancy.

BLOODGLASS PROSELYTE (Clade golemsuit warrior)

# appearing: 1 (50%), 1d3 (50%)

AC3 HD 5+5 Save as Fighter 5

Attacks: two pummeling fists (2d4 each) or one affirmative shout (thrice daily; does 3d6 to flesh or 6d10 to structures). Following successful grapple, save vs death or swallow Clade bloodform and be converted.

Proselyte variants:

1 - the warrior carries a conversion-enabling device containing extra Clade; -2 to saves resisting conversion.

2 - the Proselyte's bloodform is chilled, providing it resistance (half damage) to fiery attacks.

3 - the glass-suit's fingers are hypodermic needles; no grapple is necessary, each attack carries a risk of conversion (save at +4).

4 - synthetic carbon-chain enhancement; Clade is immune to sucromancy.

5 - variant color (purple, orange, green). This Command Clade has 7 HD.

6 - color-changing Proselyte can shift the color of its bloodform at will, allowing a kind of camouflage.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Peacock Throne

(I neglected to publish a 'Mascot Monday' last week. Here's penance. Should have a regularly-scheduled Mascot Monday on...well, on Monday.)

The Peacock Throne
Historians tell us that we are far from the first sentients to inhabit the lands we now call Wampus Country, and not even the first humans.  In the Long Long Ago, after the fall of the Empire of Apes, three rival kingdoms feuded; sages now know of them only through incomplete records and occasional artefacts, and refer to these apparent monarchies by the pictograms used to represent them in the ancient scrolls.  The “Watching Eye” and the “Sequential Runes” cultures, while widespread, were dominated in this period by the kingdom known today as the “Peacock Throne”. 

 The Peacock Throne influenced the entire region for years, but today we know very little about how it functioned, traded, made war, or even worshipped.  Only tiny shards of evidence exist, some of those perhaps false or misinterpreted, but historians continue to attempt to piece together odds and ends.  Appended below are a few notes on what is surmised regarding this proud kingdom of ancient times, and its heroes and villains.

Huxt of Koz - called by some historians one of the great wise men of history, Huxt of Koz ruled the Peacock Throne during its most prosperous period.  After spending much of his youth as a spy and saboteur, Huxt rose to power in his later years, seized the throne, and came to be seen as a father-figure by much of the citizenry; everyone paid rapt attention to the comings and goings of his progeny.  The eldest princess of Huxt’s line is said to have been transported to a different world, after which she sullied her family name with lewd acts; the eldest prince was often seen in the company of a humanoid insect.  Extant from Huxt’s reign is an enchanted piece of clothing called the Mantle of Huxt, which imparts the wisdom of its legendary namesake at the price of self-denial.  (Mantle of Huxt: this gaudy, colorful woolen garment is ensorcelled such that the wearer gains +1 Wisdom, but is also cursed to never experience that thing they most desire - be it love, fame, offspring, or a really good sandwich).

The Nocturnal Judge - a trickster-hero and magician who, accompanied by an entourage which included both an incubus and a giant, meted out justice when the sun went down.  Possible member of the Cheerful Society (qv); one sage suggests this so-called Judge may have been related to the Beautiful Barristers of La, or The Ma’at-Lock (He Who Seals Justice), as part of a widespread brotherhood of Order.

The Cheerful Society - it is known that in one of the major cities of the Peacock Throne, there existed a subterranean gathering-place where various misfits, ne’er-do-wells and the like (who today might be called ‘adventuring gentlemen’) came together to exchange tales of derring-do and drown their sorrows with an intoxicating liquid soma.  The proprietor is supposed to have been a champion of the sacred ball-court; regular society members included Klaveen the Deliverer (who “knew all things”) and a corpulent bookkeeper who was betrothed to an invisible demoness.  It is said that the society knew the names of every person in the kingdom; they may have acted as a kind of secret police.  An incomplete papyrus suggests that the mind-mage Phra-Zar was exiled from the Cheerful Society and locked away in the Great Needle, from whence he beamed his thoughts directly into the ears of his followers.

The Glimmering Witches - an influential coven of three (some say four) witches or hags who embodied the magical qualities of Lust, Ignorance, and Frustration.  These creatures, of indeterminate age - possibly immortal - reigned over one of the warm-water port cities of the Peacock Throne for years.  Within that same city, a small band of Lawful adventurers, led by a scarred mathematician, fought a never-ending battle against the Lords of Vice, but the historical record is unclear as to whether these crusaders ever came into conflict with the witches.

Much research remains to be done regarding the Peacock Throne; our historians know almost nothing, for example, regarding the Eater-of-Cats or the Riding Knight, and sages regularly come to blows arguing what the great sage Willis was truly talking about.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breakdown: Let's Go To The Zoo (Part One)

In the occasional 'Breakdown' feature, we take a piece of busy, fairly random art and tease some Wampus-y content out of it.

This time 'round we take a look at some very strange creatures located within the 'Marvelous Menagerie', a private zoo and  rescue refuge for captured curiosities, accidental hybrids, magical mistakes, and the irrevocably cursed.  The Menagerie is in River-Town, and regular admission is one dollar.


From upper left, sort-of top to bottom in rows:

Mercutio is a baboon-donkey hybrid; he is bright enough to understand Common and follow simple orders, and he is employed as an enforcer within the enclosures of the Menagerie.  Mercutio uses his stick to break up fights between other creatures, and in return receives a larger ration of food.  He is partial to chocolate bars and easily bribed.  Given his stupidity and innate love of violence, he would make a spectacular henchman.

The Tortephant (AC3,HD4) is crippled by its inability to retract its massive pachyderm head into its shell.  Menagerie keepers presume the beast to be female, but have no real way of checking.  Interestingly, the outer layer of the tortephant's shell flakes off each Spring, revealing a new splotchy pattern beneath.  Some animal-watchers have begun to interpret the patterns as letters, and believe the Tortephant is very slowly making some sort of oracular prediction, but whether we have the entire sequence of letters is up for debate.  Most zookeepers believe the accurate sequence thus far to read "KILM ENOW SOM UCH PAI", which may be a message in an ancient tongue; we all eagerly await next year's letter, and hope that the Tortephant lives a long life so that we may benefit from its sagacity.

Many visitors admire the glossy coat of the Scaragiraffe (AC8,HD3), which prances about the enclosure whenever an audience is evident.  The creature can flap its diaphanous wings impressively, but cannot get off the ground.  Refuses to eat anything but marzipan.

"Lucky" (AC5,HD3) is the unfortunate result of a botched polymorph into a 'giant rhinoceros beetle'.  He spends much of the day sleeping in the sun, rolling in dust to keep clean, and glowering at small children.  Whoever he was before the transformation, he was most certainly unloved, as nobody has come to claim him despite several newspaper articles implying a reward.

The Storkwasp (AC9,HD2) is both less and more dangerous than it seems; while it has never attempted to sting the keepers, this supposed hybrid is in fact a Dauber of Thoth, accidentally gated in from a less-whimsical dimension.  All alone, it is a dumb creature which happily gulps the smelts tossed by zookeepers; if reunited with its extradimensional fellows, however, it will be re-inserted into the dark hivemind and again gain akashic access to the Immaterial Papyrus-Nest of Eternal Damnation (where dwell the astral forms of all Daubers), instantly becoming a Chaotic fourth-level magic-user.  The cruel iblis stork-men who lurk in the marshes of Snollygoster Swamp have a strong desire to 'rescue' the Storkwasp and wield it as a weapon.

The Don't-Touch-It (AC9,HD1) is a poisonous insect up front and a porcupine in the rear.  Contact with its skin, chitin, or spines demands an immediate save versus poison (failure demands a 1d6 reduction in DEX for several hours as the extremities go numb - including the tongue).

Mr. Snootypants here is one of several Owlynx (AC8,HD1) in the Menagerie; they are presumed near-extinct relations of owlbears.  Some natural philosophers suggest that at one time Wampus Country was thick with owl-creatures of every size and shape until, millenia ago, most of them were wiped out in some fashion (an "owlpocalypse", if you will); only the megafauna (such as the owlbears) survived in any number.  Mr. Snootypants is so named because he is the only male owlynx in captivity, and he steadfastly refuses to breed with any of the females, despite the scientific cajoling of the keepers (it mostly involves rations of rum and saxophone music).

The herondillo (AC5,HD1) gets spooked every few weeks and attempts to roll into a ball.  Sadly, this usually results in a visably-unpleasant beak/rump interaction which requires medical intervention.

The Menagerie contains several handfuls of butterslugs (AC6,HD 1/2) at any given time; the creatures reproduce asexually and independently, and are too stupid to leave the zoo grounds.  Twice per year the butterslug population grows unacceptably large, and the 'spare' creatures are netted and grilled with a very pleasant hollandaise as part of a fund-raiser for the Menagerie.

This haresnail (AC7,HD 1/2) is said to be over fifty years old, and typically hides amongst rocks within its enclosure.  On two known occasions over the past decade, the haresnail has burst from hiding and hurled itself at an onlooker, bashing comically over and over into its cage.  Both of these zoo visitors later became serial killers, although whether the haresnail was warning of the coming tragedy or inspiring it is not known.

Forthcoming in a later 'Breakdown' - another visit to the Marvelous Menagerie.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mascot Monday: Vegetitan

Tales occasionally reach civilization of a towering humanoid figure striding through the pine-deeps like a colossus, larger than any giant heretofore seen.  That creature is the Vegetitan, a massive colony of plants in the shape of a man, guided by some form of limited sentience.  It is unknown at this time whether the Vegetitan is a godling in plant form, a collective of treants, or something stranger; the sagacious Dr. Harcourt Runcible (late of River-Town) has written of his belief that the Vegetitan's origins like in some obscure vale, far beyond the territory thus-far explored.

The Vegetitan walks like a man, yet has the ability to transform itself into a forest - this shapeshifting takes several minutes, and when complete, where once stood an enormous green man there is instead an expanse of trees, shrubs, and grasses. [1]

In either form, the Vegetitan maintains a symbiotic relationship with the sproutlings which bud off of its body in pods; these sproutlings - some call them vegepygmies - are smaller than man-sized and of average intelligence.  Typically a party of sproutlings is armed with wooden spears and short-bows, and they will fight to defend the Vegetitan, who is their parent and god.  When the titan is a forest, they live under the boughs of his trees; when he is a gargantua, they climb over his surface like so many lice and even prune the Vegetitan of dead or worm-nibbled leaves. [2]

Although it is intelligent, the vegetitan rarely speaks, instead using its booming voice to intimidate enemies or warn animals away from a wildfire.  If forced to defend itself, the vegetitan wield both its obvious physical prowess and plant-related magic with aplomb. [3]

[1] The vegetitan's shapeshifting abilities conform automatically to the region in which it finds itself; deciduous trees, pines and evergreens, cactus, a field of wheat, magnolias and swamp-moss, etc.

[2] The gargantua is charged with life-magic, and eating a handful of his leaves or bark may (25% chance) act as a superior healing potion (1d12hp); there is also a chance (10%) that the leaves selected are poisonous.  The Vegetitan may spawn potion-fruit at will if it benefits him to do so, though he himself cannot partake of these potions.

[3] The Vegetitan has 25HD (30HD in Spring) and the magical ability of a ninth-level caster; all of its spells should be plant-focused or reskinned spells which then appear to be plant-focused (ie fireball is instead an exploding ball of rose-thorns, etc).  In times of absolute crisis, the Vegetitan may force himself to create a multitude of sproutlings; for each HD the Vegetitan sacrifices, 2d6 sproutlings are immediately spawned.

"And this one time, we found a spaceship from the future!"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Fearslayer

I don't normally spend a ton of time in the demon-infested waters of the "dark and bloody" portion of setting-creation; but when called upon to do so, who am I to complain?  As part of a challenge, I was given the following task by Jack from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque:

"Stat [James Fenimore] Cooper's Hawkeye as a demon-possessed villain."


"I can taste your fear, little one, but fret not.  I can take that fear from you in an instant..."


Born to human parents on the frontier during the aftermath of the battles at Cadaver Canyon, the man known as Hex-Eye the Fearslayer was abducted from the crib by Chaotic warriors of the barbarian Death-Clans, and raised as one of their own in service to dark, demonic lords.  As a boy, he cavorted with snake-men and learned to hunt and track with hell-hounds and barghests; during adolescence, he learned something of runewerk, and of the courts of the Vicelords and Horned Ones.  Finally, he proved himself a great Death-Clan warrior, and a fetal demonshard was transplanted where once his human heart had been - thus was born the Fearslayer.

Now, this frontier half-devil and his evil companions stalk the night in the wilderness, leaping upon innocents when the opportunity presents itself.  While his associates are rapacious, the Fearslayer himself is more selective about his prey, hunting only the souls necessary for the nourishment of the demonshard within his chest.  Some of their time is spent in trying to prevent internecine war between the Death-Clans, who have fallen to squabbling in the years following their defeat at Cadaver Canyon.

The Fearslayer appears as a tall, strong human male in his thirties, clad in buckskins.  Upon closer examination, however, the hunter's leather-stockings are obviously made of human skin, and his eyes are a hollow darkness.

The Fearslayer
AKA Hex-Eye, La Languissant Carabine
HD 8 (54 hp)
AC 5
attacks as Fighter 8
saves as Fighter 8, with a +2 versus spells and death magic (see Gear, below)

Gear & Powers:
Demonshard - the fetal demonstone within his ribcage invests Hex-Eye with his powers, as well as boosting his STR, DEX, and CON to 18 due to long exposure to the evil enchantment.
Scion of the Death-Clans - once per month (measured new moon to new moon), the Fearslayer may gate in 2d6 hell-hounds.
Hexing-Eye - It is said that the Fearslayer cannot miss any target he can see; this is, thankfully, an exaggeration.  However, any creature of Lawful or Neutral alignment which is in his sights suffers an instant curse (no save) which reduces their AC by 4 that round.  Note that since this is a decrease in AC (rather than a to-hit boost for Hex-Eye), the Fearslayer's companions benefit as well.
Hell-Rifle - Hex-Eye carries a custom, rune-encrusted longrifle which does regular rifle damage, plus those struck by its rounds (who survive) must save vs spells or be slowed as per the spell.
Leatherstockings - Hex-Eye's enchanted suit of human skin, meticulously crafted by sorcerors of the Death-Clans, provides him (and any Chaotic creature wearing them) with a +2 to all saves against spells or death magic.

The Fearslayer is often (70%) seen with his dear friend and 'brother', Big Snake; there is a further 15% chance each that Hex-Eye's other occasional associates are in tow.

BIG SNAKE is a 7HD snake-man of noble Death-Clan blood, one of the last of his kind in Wampus Country.  Although Big Snake is a skilled hunter and fierce warrior, he also possesses the abilities of a 2nd-level sorceror, learned from his demonic masters.

DOCTOR BAT is a 3rd-level cleric and a werebat.  He thinks himself very clever.

"FLOATING TOM" is a (male) penaggalan of 3HD; he was scalped and murdered before his conversion, so now he covers his exposed brain with a top hat.  When feeding or in combat, Tom removes his hat, and his grey matter swells like a balloon, causing his head to detach from his torso (trailing innards) and float about.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fantasy America Roundtable

What you see above is an hour and a half of me rambling with Trey Causey (Weird Adventures) and Jason Kielbasa (Dust) about Fantasy America.