Podcast Episode 40 – Over-production in RPGs

The edited version of our recent podcast recording “Over-production in RPGs” is now available on Anchor, I’m joined by Johannes Paavola, Mathew Bryan, Andre Martinez and Dennis Bach.

Music on Podcast Title

Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/XTaKeRuX/Empty_Grave/Shinigami

Used under creative commons licence:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Random Things – Fellow Prisoners

We’ve all been in the situation where our character has been caught bang-to-rights for some sort of indiscretion or perhaps has been falsely accused and has found themselves in prison. Perhaps you were taken captive whilst raiding a dungeon and now languish in a cell yourself?

One thing that can add flesh to these encounters are interactions with NPCs who have also been taken prisoner, but trying to figure out why these people are in prison can sometime be a bit tricky on short notice. Below are two tables for quickly generating these reasons, one for ‘civilised’ prisons and the other for dungeons or savage jails.

Civilised Prison
1D8 Roll Reason Prisoner is in Jail
1 This prisoner is a debtor who owes a large amount of money to a landlord, noble or guild (equal chance of each) and is currently being held until their debts are repaid. The captive swears that this is all a misunderstanding and her has the money. Roll a D6, on a 1 the person is lying and is a conman, 2-4 their possessions have been confiscated and they have no chance to repay the money, 5-6 their debts are being repaid and they will be released in 1D3 days.
2 They were caught stealing valuables from people at a local marketplace and are being held whilst the local authorities decide their fate. Roll a D6, on a 1 they will be executed, 2-3 they will have an appendage chopped of as punishment before being released, 4-5 they will be branded as a thief and released, 6 they will have to serve community service to repay their debt.
3 The person is a foreign agent caught spying and attempting to steal valuable state secrets, they will be held, tortured to find out what they know and then executed. If the PCs strike up a friendship with the prisoner, they may try to bribe the PCs to take a coded messenger to their handler, promising them rich rewards for doing so (even chance if they do so they get a reward or the handler attempts to have them silenced).
4 The prisoner accidentally killed someone in a tavern brawl and is scheduled for execution once the headsman has finished sharpening his axe.
5 The unfortunate prisoner claims to have no idea why they are in here, they were dragged by guards from their bed in the middle of the night and thrown in jail. Roll a D6 on a 1-3 the person is lying, roll again on this table or decide what their actual crime is, on a 4-5 it is a case of mistaken identity and on a 6 they are deliberately being framed by a third party.
6 The prisoner is a commoner who either refused to behave appropriately towards a noble or was found to have been carrying a weapon in public. Roll a D6, on a 1 they will be executed, 2-3 they will have an appendage chopped of as punishment before being released, 4-5 they will be flogged through the streets before being released, 6 they become the property of the offended noble.
7 The person has been arrested for outrageous drunken behaviour. Once they sober up they will be stripped and made to wear the drunkard cloak, a barrel with shoulder straps before being paraded through the town and mocked.
8 They have been arrested for a minor offence such as stealing a load of bread, they will be placed in the stocks for 1D3 days, pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables before being released.
Savage/Dungeon Jail
1D8 Roll Reason Prisoner is in Jail
1 Captured by raiding parties and bought back to the jail to serve as a either cheap labour or a source of food (even chance of each).
2 This person is the lone survivor of a previous adventuring party who attempted to raid the dungeon and has been left here to rot. Roll a D6 to see what happened to his companions, on a 1-2 they were killed exploring the dungeon, 2-3 they were taken captive but have since been removed by the jailors, 5 they died in prison, 6 they were eaten by the last survivor as the only source of food.
3 The prisoner is a member of the race who inhabit the dungeon, they once had status but failed in some manner of tribal testing and have been judged weak/unfit to remain amongst the tribe.
4 The prisoner is a spy for those who inhabit the dungeon, who has been placed here to wheedle their way into the confidence of the PCs and find out what they know before the dungeon owners decide what to do with them.
6 The current owners of the dungeon are not the original inhabitants, they seized it by force from the true owners, throwing the survivors into their own jail cells as a mark of their scorn.
7 The captive is a victim of magical experimentation by the dungeon owners, their skin is covered in strange glowing runes and brands. Roll 1D6, on a 1 the captive has gained a magical ability from the experimentation that made aid an escape plan, on 2-5 they have no useful abilities but some knowledge of the dungeon layout and on a 6 the torturous experiments have reduced them to the level of a mindless beast. Either way the experimentation will eventually prove fatal to the captive if they do not get medical help in 1D6 days.
8 The captive is being held for food, if they do not escape then in 1D3 days they are dragged screaming from their cell and never seen again.

Whitebox Race Class: Tiefling

Tiefling

I had great fun adapting/creating some race-classes previously for use in Whitebox, you can see my prevous post here. I’m also a huge fan of the Tiefling in 5E so it seemed natural to make a race class for the Tiefling but it took me a while to consider what niche it may fill in relation to existing classes. Then I remembered reading in an old Planescape product that Tieflings were often the result of unions with Succubi, looking at the 5E Compendium version of Tieflings their main score was charisma, so I hit on the idea of making a class with an ability allowing them to adjust the initial reactions of NPCs when first encountered.

Update 1st May 2018 07:55 – It was suggested to me (I’m sorry but I forget the name of the person who suggested it) that I change the fire resistance so that–instead of being a variable amount based on level–that it simply halves fire damage, I think this is a great idea and makes for less admin, so I’ve altered the class. The link above now points to the altered version.

Adapted White Box Classes

Whilst preparing for my sandbox/hexcrawl campaign the Undying Lands I decided to use the race as class option, I’m going with Whitebox: FMAG as the rules system but I’ve always been a big fan of having demi-humans and the like be classes in OSR style games. I’m not entirely sure why but it seems to reinforce the strangeness of non-humans for me and also gives people a reason to play humans, rather than the slightly limp ‘humans are very versatile’ rationale or free feats that some games try to use to tempt people into playing humans.

I purchased some Labyrinth Lord class books by the awesome James Spahn who is responsible for White Star, Heroes Journey and more OSR stuff than you can shake a +1 stick of awesome at, these were great but seemed to focus a lot on giving the various classes spell-like abilities. I’m not sure whether this is how LL does things because I’ve not played it, but it wasn’t the approach that I was going for. So I decided to roll up my sleeves and have a go and adapting some of the concepts to work with my own ideas.

Please note: These adapted classes are entirely non-profit, no challenge is intended to any copyrights James may hold, in-fact I urge you to go out now and check out his excellent OSR stuff and then come back here, I’ll wait 🙂

Barbarian

My first attempt wasn’t actually a race but was the barbarian class, my wife is a mad fan of this class but I’ve always found it a bit of a pain in the arse, especially in D&D as you get to higher levels and the list of rage-fuelled abilities start to grow. In this version of the class, Barbarians receive a bonus to initiative, to hit and damage as they level up, gaining the ability to gather their own horde when they reach level 9, I also included a Wilderness Survival ability allowing them to forage and hunt since it seemed appropriate.

Half Elf

The next class I worked on was a staple of D&D style games, the Half-Elf. Given that the Elves pretty much have the whole combi-warrior/mage sewn up I didn’t want to go down that route so I went for giving them a lesser version of the ability to spot secret doors and also giving them some thievery abilities.

Half-Orc

Another race that has become commonplace in D&D games, the strong and often brutish Half-Orc. In this version of the class they have a Savage Strike ability similar to the Barbarian, but they have none of the Barbarian’s other abilitys, they can wear all armour (unlike Barbarians), have Darkvision and also level up a little quicker.

So those are the three classes that I created for my game, it’s my first go at adapting/creating stuff for Whitebox and OSR games so I’m not expecting them to be perfect (in-fact I’m pretty sure they won’t be), but I’d love to hear what people make of my first attempts.

The classes featured in this article were adapted from James Spahn’s excellent Labyrinth Lord classes, whilst the icons used were from http://game-icons.net/ and were used under creative commons license.

10 Noises in the Darkness

We’ve all been in the situation where your PC is exploring some sort of underground dungeon, lit only by the flickering light of their lantern, suddenly someone falls into a trap or there is an unexpected gust of wind that extinguishes the lamp and plunges the group into darkness. In the darkness the PCs are forced to rely on senses other than sight, this can be challenging for a GM to come up with something on the fly since we’re so used to the convenience of visual short-hand.

Below is a D10 table of sounds and other sensory input that might occur to worry your PCs in the dark:

No.Description
1A sound like something wet being dragged over stone echoes through the darkness.
2Your foot plunges into something some and sticky like a ripe melon and a foul smell wafts into the air.
3The ground becomes sharp and fragmented under foot, cracking into dagger-like shards as you walk.
4In the distance a dull, monotonous tone like sombre drumming begins.
5The high-pitched shriek of a beast or someone in trouble echoes in the blackness, but it is impossible to tell where the sound is coming from.
6In the quiet darkness only the echoes of your own footfalls and your heart beating in your chest accompany you.
7Something hisses quietly nearby and the smell of rotten grass fills the area.
8From somewhere you can hear the constant dripping of water.
9You hear a scraping sound like someone sharpening a knife and–for just a second–you see sparks up ahead, bursting and then vanishing in the gloom, leaving only an after-image.
10Up ahead you hear the sound of stone grinding against stone, like an avalanche occurring in slow motion or perhaps the working of some great and ancient machine.

20 Abandoned Dwarf-hold Encounters

Ancient–and often abandoned–Dwarven strongholds have been a staple of the fantasy genre ever since the mines of Moria captured the imagination of readers, and perhaps for even longer. There’s something about the great stone halls of the Dwarves, delving deep below the surface of the earth, bedecked in the faded grandeur of a one mighty race that speaks to the typical role-player and is–of course–pretty much tailor made for dungeon delving.

Below is a D20 table of people, creatures and events that your PCs might encounter whilst exploring the dark passageways and cobweb strewn chambers of an ancient Dwarf stronghold.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1A crumbling statue of an ancient Dwarf hero stands as a reminder of the proud heroes that once occupied this place, in one hand he holds an axe whilst the other points towards the entrance of the once grand structure.
2A group of D6 Dwarven adventurers are exploring the passageways, each of them is equipped for spending a prolonged period underground. The leader of the party has ancestors who once occupied the abandoned stronghold.
3The walls of this chamber are covered in crude chalk drawings and the remains of several crushes cots attest to the fact that this was once a nursery of some sort.
4The broken remnants of the statue of a Dwarven forge god are strewn over the uneven floor. Old, dried blood-stains and damage to the walls and statues attests to a fierce combat having been fought here long ago.
5The characters enter a series of seemingly random tunnels, branching off from the main thoroughfares of the Dwarven Hold. These tunnels seem more naturally and rounded, in contrast with the strange lines and angles of the previous corridors. This area is the lair of a purple worm, for each hour the PCs spend in it's domain there is a 1 in 6 chance they attract it's attention, this rises to a 3 in 6 chance if they're particularly noisy.
6A group of 1D6 goblins are scavenging in this area, they aren't much threat to a group of armed PCs and will most likely flee if challenged. However if attacked, the noise they make pretty much guarantees that something else will come to investigate.
7A hole in the wall of this chamber leads to one of the many thin shafts that bring air from the surface to the stronghold, the air current will extinguish any unshielded lantern bought into this area.
8The chamber is covered in thick webbing and will be difficult to cross unless the webbing can be removed or burnt away, there is a 50% chance that there is a spider swarm or a giant spider (50% chance of each) in the web when the heroes enter.
9This area is criss-crossed with rusted–but still functional–metal tracks that would have once carried Dwarves to and from a mine-face.
10A tiny door (fair too small for even a Halfling) in the wall of this chamber leads to a small alcove where a shrine to the ancestors was housed, there is a 50% chance that the shrine is undisturbed and may contains offerings made long ago.
11A flock of bats, harmless but startled by the PCs progress briefly fill the chamber as they seek to find a quieter resting place.
12A shining golden helmet hangs in mid-air in the centre of this chamber. In-fact the helmet is a lure used by the 1D12 giant spiders that have made their home here, hanging it from almost invisible threads of webbing to entice explorers and scavengers into their grasp.
13The walls of this chamber and the bones lying here are scorched black by some sort of magical conflagration, anyone capable of sensing magic can still feel echoes of the heat and pain that were summoned into existence by the Dwarves enemies. Anyone lingering in this room will occasionally hear screams or feel sharp (but non-damaging) stabbing pains. The spirits of the Dwarves killed here cannot rest, if given a decent burial the spirits will point the PCs towards a magical hammer, covered in blackened soot (but still usable and with magic intact) before departing for the afterlife.
14The sound of distant, primitive drumming echoes through the corridors.
15The forgotten remnants of an ancient Dwarven forge, although much of the finery has been looted or rotted away, a deligent PC can find some salvagable Blacksmith's tools and some serviceable weaponry here. If the forge could be restored then it would be capable of producing great wonders, its flue may also offer a way to the surface for those mad enough to climb it.
16A dust covered mine cart lies here, tipped over on its side. Most of the items in it have been looted or were taken as the mine was abandoned, however, a PC looking though the dust can find some miners tools and 1D3 gems in a small sack pushed down into the bottom of the cart.
17A half-mad survivor of the original attack on the Dwarven Hold has made this part of the ruins his home, driven mad by the bloodshed that he saw the Dwarf survives by eating cave moss and goblins, spending most of his time pointlessly trying to seal the dungeon and attacking anyone he perceives as being in league with the ancient enemy.
18The rotting remains of a huge, heavy bound book written in Ancient Dwarven lies half-burned amidst the remains of a shattered stone lectern. The book details the final last desperate defence of the stronghold, it may also offer some hint as to the nature of the ancient enemy.
19The heroes encounter a group of 1D12 Troglodytes who seem to be stringing up dead animal and bones around the walls of this tunnel. They are part of a small tribe that worships/fears the Purple Worm, they leave these offerings in the hope that they will be spared it's wrath.
20A pile of rotting wooden and stone items in the centre of this room were once formed into a barricade by the Dwarven defenders against enemy forces, their bones litter the floor around the crumbling barricades, attesting to their failure.

Poll: Drag and Drop Content

I want to get back to writing some RPG stuff again, probably OSR since that’s what I’m enjoying at the minute and OSR stuff can be used by basically anyone who plays D&D. I’ve been toying around with some ideas and I want to create stuff that will be of maximum use to as many people as possible, so I’m thinking of doing a range of mini-supplements I’m calling Drag & Drop, stuff that can be dropped into an existing campaign with a minimum of effort. But I want to get your opinions regarding what is valuable to you.

What sort of Drag & Drop content would be most interesting to you?

Locations
6 Vote
NPCs
7 Vote
Deities
2 Vote
Monsters
5 Vote
Villains
3 Vote
Items
1 Vote
Encounters
9 Vote
Maps
2 Vote
Dungeons
4 Vote
Trinkets
0 Vote
Legends
1 Vote

If you think of something that isn’t in the poll feel free to mention it in the comments below.