Thursday, March 26, 2020

Two Good Sources for Random Monsters

Below are a couple collections of links to the monster randomizers written by two prolific designers.

The links in the first collection are by Lum from Built By Gods Forgotten, who used a "remix" approach to randomize the abilities of the most classic D&D monsters.

The randomizers in the second collection are by Richard LeBlanc of Save vs Dragon. He uses a series of d30 rolls to randomize a creature's appearance, combat statistics, and special abilities.

Fortunately, both authors are from the pre Google Plus era of the Old School Renaissance, so they've both made each randomizer available as a one-page pdf. (Richard also wrote a number of unique new monsters, and both wrote a number of other generators worth looking at.)

Remixes - Built By Gods Forgotten

Dragons & Chimera
Esoteric Animals
Fey Woodland Beasts
Fey Woodland Humanoids
Gorgons Lycanthropes & Gargoyles
Otherworldly Monsters
Slimes Molds & Jellies

BONUS - Treasure Maps
BONUS - Treasure Hordes

EXAMPLE - The Widow of Hamelin is a beautiful woman's skeleton that's capable of a paralyzing touch and summoning rats, and is vulnerable only to silver and magic.

2 HD, AC 5, Atk 1d6 or special, Number Appearing 3d6-2. 
Special: must transform into a hideous monster to use special attacks, touch (save or paralyzed for d6 rounds), summon (call d100 rats, 3 times/day).

d30 Variations - Save vs Dragon

Berserkers & Barbarians
Ghouls & Ghasts
Jellies Oozes Puddings & Slimes
Plant Monsters
Sea Creatures
Troll Mutations

BONUS - Treasure Maps 

EXAMPLE - Runed Skeleton, immune to divine damage, weapon: short sword (1d8)
 AC 7, 1 HD, Atk  1d6 or by weapon, Number appearing 3d4, Save as Fighter 1, Morale 12, Treasure nil, Alignment Chaotic.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Actual Play - I2TO Kansas City - French District

My partner and I spent the week at home - working remotely, self isolating, and social distancing. To cheer ourselves up a little in the face of the grim realities of life in the early stages of a global pandemic, we decided to start a campaign using Chris McDowell's Electric Bastionland.

My partner mostly just wanted to play D&D and was pretty open about the rules and the setting. I thought that we would both be more engaged with the game, and distracted from the bad news outside, if we created the campaign collaboratively, rather than if I tried to make everything up beforehand to just tell her at the table.

Emily had already decided that her characters, whoever they were, would be named Jack Kelly and Spot Conlon after a couple characters from Newsies. I decided I would try to draw on whatever I could remember from the French Dispatch trailer as additional inspiration, since it's also about a newspaper.

So far, we've had a short session to roll up her characters, a session to make a borough map, and a few sessions of actual play that I'll detail in a later post. We're setting the game in a fictional Kansas City, and the starting borough is the French District.

My cat was also interested in playing D&D

Jack Kelly is a charismatic failed Under-Laborer. He knows the secret of whistling to discomfit underground vermin, and wears a pair of tinted goggles due to his sensitivity to sunlight.

Spot Conlon is a dexterous failed Science Mystic. She believes that Truth is hidden in magnetism and she has Foreseen that there is power in the human mind.

The two friends owe a $10 thousand debt to Mr Howitzer, a newspaper publisher and arms dealer who badly wants to start a war that he thinks will be good for both his businesses. He's also a literal cannon with arms and legs who wears a business suit, sash, monocle and barrister wig.

The debt is for the sale of an antique non-electric printing press to Jack and Spot. It's housed in the Barbeque Bottoms district one borough over. Mr Howitzer won't consider even turning over the keys to the building until they've paid down their debt some, but eventually, they should be able to take control of it and start hand-printing their own newspaper.

The pair also has a rival Denton, a failed Newspaper Intern, who now leads a detachment called The Snoozies whose motto is "No news is good news!" and who sell comforting fictions about the state of the world printed on broadsheets once a day. The Snoozies don't like the idea of Jack and Spot printing their own newspaper, but they're also opposed to Mr Howitzer and his sensational warmongering.

Jack and Spot have a couple leads on treasure. First, La Petite Patisserie has noticed some rival sweet stores connected to the Chocolate Factory setting up shop and muscling in on their turf, and Jack and Spot have a tip that they'll pay $1000 to anyone who can manufacture a crime spree to help scare off their rivals. Second, a wealthy shut-in living in the Thundercloud Estate Apartments recently died without naming any heirs. The apartment is locked up pending a visit from the probate court and an estate sale, so there's time to pull off a burglary before the authorities get there.

After considering her options, Emily decided that Jack and Spot would try to scare off the rival sweets shops, starting with the Chocolate Fondue Shoppe. I'll post about those adventures later, but for now, here's the borough map we came up with, following the advice in Electric Bastionland.

___   streetcar line
- - -   bicycle route
......   pedestrian footpath
~~~   dirigible rides

1   Chocolate Factory
2   Weather Observatory
3   Thundercloud Estate Apartments
4   Howitzer Tower
5   La Petite Patisserie
6   River Landing
7   Turtle Fountain
8   Le Tabac Fumée
9   Steamboat Crash Site

A   chocolate marsh!
B   foggy with a chance of pickpockets!
C   weird weather!
D   over-critical fashionistas!
E   too many tourists!
F   talkative elderly turtles!
G   protesting pacifists!
H   ongoing construction!

Emily and I took turns deciding on the different landmarks and inventing potential complications. Almost everything needs more detail before it'll be very usable at the table, several of these elements are barely more than a name right now. But it was enjoyable to make these decisions together, build off each other's suggestions, and create something quite different than I might have come up with on my own.

I've also been trying to use Chris McDowell's advice, about information and choices, about offering Sophie's choices (pick one to save or risk losing both, the same dilemma we confront in triage), about filling the city with people. I've also been thinking of Richard G's advice about how to structure serial adventures for social climbers, and in terms of the travel complications, of Signs in the Wilderness's concept of defining places by their dangers.

One area where I've already "messed up" is in mapping the borough, where CMcD recommends drawing circuits rather than straight lines for the main paths. C'est la vie, it's probably not an over consequential "mistake", and at least I think the current set up feels reasonably like a sprawling American city. I also want to start taking more care to apply the triple rule (that people, places, and objects should have an original purpose, a current purpose, and something unexpected on the side) - I think that will contribute a more distinctive feel as I start laying on details.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Miniature Miscellany - Thorne Rooms, Doll Houses, Small Worlds, Lonely Deaths, Urban Grime, Gritty Architecture

Thorne Miniature Rooms
Art Institute of Chicago

"The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications."

The Doll Houses of Instagram
Ronda Kaysen
New York Times

"A growing community of artisans have turned the craft of dollhouse making into an exercise in aspirational home design on an itty-bitty scale, with their tiny rooms and furnishings displayed on well-curated Instagram accounts with glossy photographs and videos set to music reminiscent of HGTV. 

Scroll too quickly, or miss the photograph with a human-scale hand surreally poking into the scene, and a viewer might confuse the image for a real-life one, the type of image that leaves you feeling equally amazed by and envious of the enormous kitchen island with a soapstone countertop.

Social media has turned what was once a niche hobby into a decidedly trendy and increasingly profitable business, making it easier for artisans to find each other and potential customers online. Before, miniatures were only publicized through miniature magazines. Social media put it in everybody’s face."

Miniacs Live in a Small, Small World
Abby Ellin
New York Times

"So many 'miniacs' came to the modern mini movement by way of a childhood love of dollhouses. For some, there is a voyeuristic appeal commingled with the universal desire to inhabit and experience multiple environments at the same time. It’s a way to explore worlds you can’t explore, and tiny fake worlds are easier to make, and less destructive, than secret real ones. We spend a tremendous amount of time in fantasy worlds: watching TV, reading books, playing videos. Miniatures provide a way to practice things that we can’t practice in reality.

For a very long time, miniaturists have had this very 'Grandpa in the basement working on model railroad' vibe to it, or 'Grandma with her dollhouse.' But the miniature is most certainly a growing trend in contemporary art."

Rooms Where Time Stops: Miyu Kojima’s Miniature Replicas of Lonely Deaths
Spoon & Tamago

"Miyu Kojima works for a company that cleans up afterlonely deaths: a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time creating detailed, miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned.

Kojima has been working for the clean-up company for about 5 years and explains that she cleans on average 300 rooms per year. The replicas are meant to capture the sadness of these lonely deaths. One point that Kojima emphasizes is that it’s not the dying alone that is the issue but rather the duration of time that elapses before the bodies are discovered. These individuals were so cut-off from friends, family and society that weeks or sometimes months had elapsed before they were found."

Artist Creates Miniature Worlds Mimicking the Grit and Grime of Urban Architecture
Jessica Stewart
My Modern Met

"Artist Joshua Smith is a former stencil artist and gallerist turned miniaturist. For the past two years, Smith has focused his attention on creating miniature urban landscapes replete with detail. From graffitied walls to discarded cigarette butts, he uses everyday materials to bring his scale models to life.

Smith primarily uses MDF, cardboard, and plastic for the framing and base. Layers of paint and chalk pastels give the architecture its realistic feel prior to wiring and lighting. The artist’s newest work is a four-storey replica of a building in Kowloon."

Sculptor Creates Detailed Miniatures of Philadelphia and New Orleans’ Gritty Architecture
Jessica Stewart
My Modern Met

"Philadelphia-based rtist Drew Leshko is creating a sculptural archive of the city’s most at-risk architecture with his detailed scale models. Leshko produces these miniatures in order to preserve the history of Philadelphia’s grittiest neighborhoods. From local dive bars to pawn shops and convenience stores, each commercial space is transformed into an artistic sculpture that is filled with nostalgia.

Leshko prefers to prioritize his attention and skill on rapidly changing, or gentrifying, neighborhoods. He selects the most vulnerable pieces of architecture as his focus, as these historic storefronts will soon transition over to slick corporations that push out the individual merchants who had once defined the area. In this way, Leshko’s work is a push to ponder the history of buildings and how they inform our lives."

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Actual Play - GLOG Wizard City - Freshmen Year

The Wizard Grad School 1st Year Dungeon Exams

So I've finally gotten around to playing a GLOG campaign. The players are Josh and Peter from my regular online group. I'm GMing, although we agreed before we got started that we'd learn the rules together, play things pretty open, and not require homework from anyone, including me.

To that end, we had a "session zero" where we looked at a few different GLOG rules documents together, rolled up our characters, and had a "haven turn" where our characters hit the town before going into the dungeon the next time out.

We're using Goodberry Monthly's "Wizard City" setting, with the Wizard City Hexcrawl as the basis for in-town sessions, and his Under Gallax Hall kilodungeon as the site for our dungeon delves. The conceit is that we're playing wizard grad students, whose annual "exams" involve going into the dungeon under the university, possibly just because the other wizard professors want to prank the Torture Department which is housed down there.

So the first "night on the town" happens over the holiday break of the characters' first year of grad school, and the first dungeon delve is their first end-of-year exam. I should mention that Josh in particular is loving the gonzo-ness of the setting Martin has built.

Session 0 : First Year Winter Holiday

Peter, Josh, and I looked through A Blasted, Cratered Land's Mimics & Miscreants rules, and Coins and Scrolls' Many Rats on Sticks rules, and ultimately decided to go with MRoS as our GLOG ruleset (although we did borrow some equipment from M&M).

Then we rolled up our characters:
- Josh made Jimbo Chirrup, the grasshopperfolk garden wizard
- Peter rolled up Arivaderchi Zeuchinni, a human orthodox wizard
- I got Lunai Lovegood, a lunai orthodox wizard (from the moon!)

Orthodox wizards have a choice to roll on a short list of good spells or a long list of interesting spells. Peter took one of each and got Knock and Mirror Item. I rolled two interesting spells and got Horsebane and Battering Beam. Since I'm the GM, I played Lunai as rather passive and open to suggestions from her classmates, but for my first time using the GLOG, I wanted to get in on the fun a little bit.

Since our characters were all chartered wizards, they all had crippling student debt from their time as undergrads, and only a handful of pocketchange to spend. Well, except Peter. He sold off his wizard robes for some walking around money, and immediately hired a camp follower. He got a minstrel, who, we all agreed, must be Dandelion from The Witcher. Since he had all the cash, Arivaderchi Zeuchinni took the lead, wanting to visit the Hat Shop and the Krill Shop.

I rolled on Martin's campaign events table and got doubles. The first and most obvious result was that deep in the Student Ghetto, the bar known as The Wandering Monster animated and turned into a literal wandering monster. The three friends - and their minstrel! - went to the Hat Shop, where Arivaderchi could afford the rent on a couple hats, but not the deposit you have to put down beforehand. As they went back outside, muttering about unfair prices, the Wandering Monster strolled up and stole the Hat Shop's sign to wear as a hat before continuing on its reign of terror.

The group went to the Krill Shop next, where Arivaderchi hoped to treat his friends to the local cuisine, but they found it to be inedible for humans, and frankly for anyone who's not a whale, and so left empty-handed again, but again, their night was saved by the Wandering Monster, which ran up and began riding the Krill Shop like a mechanical bull.

Spurred onward by the spirit of adventure, the three grad students found the second random event, the Rooftop Dueling Federation hosting a wizard fighting tournament. Arivaderchi was trained as a war wizard, and he still wanted adventure, so he entered the contest. He got paired up against a wizard gang member - the doggy gangster Damien Knight of the Good Boyz, who is (and this is worth quoting) a "Method actor. Completely assumes the role of 'beloved cute dog that you must painfully put down'. Frequently acts death scenes gratuitously." So when Arivaderchi entered the rooftop field of honor, Damien promptly and quite dramatically played dead. With his opponent apparently defeated, Arivaderchi was declared the winner. A quick search of Damien Knight's pockets turned up ... a severed human tongue. Dandelion grabbed the prize out of his employer's hands and stuck it in his cap like macaroni.

With Dandelion following behind, the three friends linked arms and skipped away, setting out again into the night, the sky lit with red and blue flashing emergency lights and the sound of sirens like backing music for Dandelion's songs, as the Wandering Monster continued its own kaiju pub crawl across town. It was one of those magical nights, where yes, for once, the real magic really was the friends we made along the way.

Three friends enjoying a night on the town over winter holiday

Sessions 1-3 : First Year Final Exams

After another semester of studying, Jimbo Chirrup, Arivaderchi Zeuchinni, Lunai Lovegood, and Dandelion the bard entered the dungeons under Gallax Hall, with an ambiguous assignment whose purpose, instructions, evaluation criteria, pedagogical merits, and role in their overall graduate education all ranged from obscure to opaque. (Typical grad school, ammirite?) They marched downstairs with Arivaderchi bravely leading the way, and Lunai cautiously watching the rear. Their first stop was peeking into the office of Professor Sitch, who was glaring at them through the blinds on his office door. "I'm watching you, Zeuchinni... always watching..." Sitch warned them menacingly.

The group quickly ducked into the next room to get away from Sitch, and found themselves in the Bones Lounge, belonging to the Gallax U chapter of the Skull & Bones Society, and home to their club mascot, the skeleton "Mr Bones." Searching the seat cushions of Mr Bones's club chair turned up a couple coins and a key, and looking behind the donor portrait on the wall revealed a hidden door.

The hall behind the door had more portraits of the same donor, as an old man, as a dead man, as a wizened corpse, and finally as a skeleton. This last portrait had another hidden door to another lounge, this one occupied by several jovial seeming skeletons standing around a crystal decanter. Well, they seemed jovial until anyone looked like they might touch the decanter, when the room suddenly became very still. Jimbo and Arivaderchi had the bright idea to fetch Mr Bones, who came to life, happily quaffed the entire bottle in one long glug, and then seemed content to tag along with his new friends. The other skeletons all sulked, either because Mr Bone drank their good liquor, or because he used up all the bait for their student trap.

After making it through several secret doors in a row, the classmates felt sure there should be another, and tapping along the walls revealed the hollow sound of a neighboring room, but no obvious way to open anything. Arivaderchi cast his Knock spell and a hidden door blew open, devastating the plaster wall of the lounge. A horde of terrible looking animals, rats and dogs, including some that were possibly dead, along with the angry ghosts of the same, poured through the new opening, set upon the lounge skeletons as they scrabbled uselessly for the exit, and then tore down the hall to the Bones Lounge. Distant screams suggested that the plague of lab animals was causing quite a stir at the entrance. Dandelion played some storm music to accompany the mayhem. Mr Bones shrugged theatrically and gestured at the new door.

Inside, they found a ruined laboratory, obviously belonging to the Department of Torture. There were a dozen wrecked animal cages, and the floor was covered in dried blood and animal droppings. Searching through the detritus found a secret staircase going down embedded in a false cage (the only one not destroyed), a small fortune in platinum (perhaps grant money?), and three syringes labeled "zombie potion", which Arivaderchi, carefully tucked into his breast pocket. They also closed the secret door, hoping the janitors would just plaster over it again. "Brave, brave Jim Chirrup, bravely stole the grant" crooned Dandelion.

There was no other way out of the room, but in a few spots, crazed animals had long ago worn weak spots into the walls with their furious scratching, and the group managed to break another hole, winding up in a hall leading into the Academic Probation detention center. The skeleton jailer, Bones Malone, was making the rounds of the imprisoned students. One wept and cried out loudly. "Oh please feed me, I don't know the answer, if I knew any answers I wouldn't be in here, please!" Mr Bones chattered a joke to Bones Malone and the two shared some side-splitting, fall-on-the-floor laughter.

Arivaderchi ventured in among the cells. "Is someone there?" He saw that most of the students had been in detention so long they'd turned to skeletons themselves. "Please help me, they'll never let me out, I don't want to die!" Arivaderchi found a bored and jaded looking undergrad witch. He asked if she needed help, and she rolled her eyes at him. What-ever. "I need help! Oh god please help me!" Feeling a slight pang of guilt, Arivaderchi finally went to the crying student's cell, found an obviously unprepared freshman undergrad, and opened the cell door. "Oh thank you, I didn't mean to plagiarize, I thought I'd never get out of there!" Arivaderchi tried to give the kid the brush off, but the grateful student insisted on tagging along because he was too scared to find his own way back to the entrance. The witch looked scornfully at Arivaderchi and flounced back down onto her prison bed. What-EVER!

Bones Malone gave Mr Bones and Dandelion some hearty handshakes and pats on the back as the group left. They next found the Experimental Torture Lab, its walls painted black, its floor a depthless pool of black water. "Please don't make me go in there, I'm scared of the dark, I'm scared of everything!" pleaded poor Zygot, the pitiable freshman. Jimbo Chirrup decided to go in, and the door snapped shut behind him. He emerged a short time later, pale as a sheet, mumbling and stuttering. He had acquired a couple forms of madness, he developed a wandering mind that would enter a fugue state while traveling between locations, and was wobbled by the need to be drunk to read, cast spells, or sing.

Jimbo was visibly traumatized by his experience

Unfortunately, Arivaderchi and Lunai didn't have long to comfort Jimbo, because The Melted Muse, a glowing hot metal statue whose features had all melted away, rounded the corner and began lumbering toward the group. They were hit by a blast of hot air like opening an oven, and the temperature continued to rise as the statue staggered closer. "Oh god, what now! My nerves can't take this! I should have listened to my mother! Accountants never get burned up by statues!" Arivaderchi almost immediately regretted rescuing the sniveling young student, and tasked Dandelion with keeping Zygot out of the way. The group dashed away from the slow-moving creature and into the first room they could find, the office of Dr Kinsley, a faculty member in the Department of Torture.

Inside the office, a custodian was carefully dusting off Dr Kinsley's wall of awards and diplomas. Temporarily-illiterate Jimbo was as impressed as Zygot, but Arivaderchi and Lunai noticed that most of the papers had someone else's name crossed out and Dr Kinsely's penciled in in another handwriting. The group asked the custodian to deal with the out of control statue, and the worker quickly dashed out into the hall, where a lot of yelling and clanging could be heard. The group quickly started casing the office. Arivaderchi grabbed a couple of expensive looking medical textbooks. "B-b-but... stealing is wrong! They'll throw us all in detention again! The only spell I know is Circle of Gunpowder, I'll never survive in jail again!" Jimbo found a neat box of gold coins in the desk. "Brave, brave Jim Chirrup, stole another grant!"

The next room was Torture Laboratory S, where they found a magical pane of glass that kept shattering loudly and reassembling itself, and another custodian cleaning up some human-sized cages. After taking in the scene for a moment, the group closed the door and hustled further down the hall.

They next entered Dr Baun's office, but everyone but Arivaderchi was almost immediately forced back outside by splitting headaches and tinnitus that seemed to emanate from two brains in jars displayed prominently on the back wall. Arivaderchi helped himself to some textbooks about medicine and psychiatry, and used Mr Bones to carry the growing library of pilfered books.

The next room's door sign read "Quartering Pylons" which put everyone on edge. In each of the four corners of the room, large metal pylons with spherical heads faintly crackled with magical energy. The entire group crept very carefully along the wall, studiously avoiding the middle of the room, and the impetuous Arivaderchi Zeuchinni attempted to sabotage one of the arcane devices.

Once past that seeming peril, the group ducked into a janitor's closet, hoping for a moment to relax. Inside, they discovered a display of cleaning supplies that was set up almost like some sort of shrine or altar. Arivaderchi and Zygot both peered too closely at the swirling water in the central mop-bucket, and were pulled inside. Jimbo and Lunai watched, aghast, as Arivaderchi was seemingly flushed down to a deeper level of the dungeons under Gallax Hall, and Zygot was whipped around and around in the watery vortex until he drowned. With his employer vanished, Dandelion slung his guitar over his shoulder and walked away, singing to himself, "Toss a coin to your camp follower, oh college of plenty, oh college of plenty."

A long moment passed as Jimbo and Lunai stared at each other in horror, until another figure kicked open the door. It was Deeringer, the deerling drowned wizard. "I heard about your friend," he announced brusquely. "What? How? Who are you?" Deeringer introduced himself as a wizard private investigator and a survivor of the drowning of Atlantis. He also immediately convinced them that Arivaderchi had been carried to hell, "The same place that bastard ocean takes everyone who falls into its rotten grasp," since that is one of the drowned wizard's cantrips. Deeringer offered Jimbo his flask, and he managed to drink enough to restore his spellcasting ability before Mr Bones bogarted it and finished off the liquor. The group quickly rallied themselves to seek revenge against the ocean's cruel collaborators - the custodians who built the shrine The Torture Department!

Their next stop was Torture Laboratory F, where they found Dr Klaus sharpening his flensing knives and testing his whips. A failed reaction roll later, and Dr Klaus set upon them with a fois gras funnel, prepared to teach them a lesson in force-feeding torture. Lunai used her Battering Beam spell to try to push the hulking, Frankenstein-looking scientist backward, and tried to convince her friends to use this chance to run away. Dr Klaus was strong enough to push forward through the beam a couple times, alternately throttling Jimbo and Deeringer. He very nearly killed them both, and probably would have, if he hadn't been pushed out of arm's reach for most of the fight. Jimbo had good luck with his Magic Missile spell; the spell spirit returned to his brain to be recast several times before flying away for the night. Finally, the group decisively got the better of Dr Klaus, and cracked his skull against a table. Deeringer put a fois gras funnel into the scientist's mouth, filled it with corn, then kicked out a leg of the table to make it look like an accidental collapse. "A freak fois gras-ing accident. Happens all the time. We were never here. No one will suspect a thing." Deeringer felt certain he'd arranged the scene to disguise their coldblooded murder noble victory over an agent of the ocean.

Unable to take any of the valuable-looking whips from the room, the classmates "borrowed" Klaus's key and snuck into his office. They stole another four textbooks, and continued their habit of checking behind portraits. The oil painting of Dr Klaus's mother had a note tucked into its back: "If you've managed to steal this, then I have need of your services. Ask the bartender at the Wandering monster for a feline on the rocks." They gave the books to Mr Bones, pocketed the note, and hurried to replace the key in Dr Klaus's pocket.

Next they found Torture Laboratory D, but they could hear the sounds of a lecture (or maybe a practicum?) through the door, and decided not to check inside.

Next, the group entered the backstage area of the auditorium. There was no lecture going on at the moment, so the front of the stage and the seating area were dark. Jimbo was curious to investigate an alabaster statue of a rich donor, Mr Alabaster, while Deeringer and Lunai studied some colored levers. Deeringer first raised the house lights, then accidentally turned on a focusing ray meant to induce students to pay attention. Jimbo became fixated on the details of the statue. "Enemy of cats? Hmm. It's clearly blocking a secret door, but what's the mechanism? Hmm." Deeringer and Lunai got very interested in the levers and tried to guess what the last one would do before pulling it. (Lucky thing too - it was a death ray!) Eventually, the wandering monster check turned up a custodian, who turned off the fascinator and escorted them trio back to the entrance.

They were met by a crowd of mourners, none sadder than poor Mr Sitch, who was nearly inconsolable. "I ... I promised him! I told him I was always watching, but I wasn't watching! And now he's gone!" Deeringer, Jimbo, and Lunai made plans to divvy up their coins, fence the textbooks, and visit The Wandering Monster together over the summer. Jimbo was also very interested in using his student heath insurance to visit the university counseling center for help with his two traumatic difficulties.

Three school friends and their skeleton

786 in platinum coins
100 gp in gold coins
textbooks worth 10 gp, 15 gp, 20 gp, 20 gp, 30 gp, 30 gp, 45 gp, 45 gp, 50 gp, 60 gp

Arivaderchi Zeuchinni
Zygot the hapless freshman

1026 for treasure (the textbooks re-sold for half their MSRP)
1026 ÷ 3 = 342 XP each, enough to reach 2nd level!

Director's Commentary
I feel like this campaign is off to a pretty good start. We've been enjoying the weirdness inherent Wizard City premise, and GLOG spellcasting rules are working out so far. The variability of whether you'll get your Magic Dice back after casting a spell produced some interesting results. Now that we're leveling up, there will also be a possibility of doubles-induced spell mishaps going forward. I suspect there might be a kind of mismatch between the expectations about currency in the rules and the setting, but it hasn't really been a problem, so I think I'm just going to ignore the possible discrepancy.

Since the GLOG is pretty rules-light, I've been tending to simply say yes when Peter and Josh propose doing something that seems like it would be part of a grad-student wizard's wheelhouse, and calling for roll-under-attribute checks for things that seem like there should be a chance of failure.

My only complaint about the rules so far is that I find the roll-under system to be non-intuitive for me in combat and other opposed-roll situations. When attacking, for example, you're supposed to roll the dice and hit a target number or lower, where the target is "your attack – (10 + their defense)", and somehow the order of operations there kept throwing me off. It helped me to think of it as "10 + your attack – their defense" and honestly, I almost want to make a table, or switch back to a roll-over system to make the mental math easier.

So far the only difficulty the no-prep approach is introducing to the game is figuring out who the various professors are, and what their personalities are supposed to be. If necessary, I might go so far as to print out the wandering encounter table and the "bestiary" of professors. The other other problem I'm having is that my lack of strict time recordkeeping (sorry not-sorry, Gary) makes it a little more difficult to use Martin's interesting structure where both the room-based encounters and the wandering encounters vary over the course of the day. I might either need to try a little harder at that, or figure out some sort of simplification.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Best of the Blogosphere (Jan/Feb 2020) Fun Character Classes!

One of my goals for my blog this year is to do a bit more sharing of other people's work that I find interesting or enjoyable. You may have gathered from my post collecting character backgrounds that I enjoy the opportunity to play someone interesting and special. So, first up, fun character classes!

From Twitter, @spookybri has a couple posts with some great inspirational art for Gothic horror gaming. I'm especially fond of  the Dire Knight and the Thief in the first image, and the Nightingale from the second. (Thanks to the Graverobber's Guide to bringing Spooky Bri to my attention!)

Necromancer, Apothecary, Dire Knight, Theurgist, Thief by Spooky Bri
Nightingale, Pariah, Doctor, Hunter, Priest by Spooky Bri

Also over on Twitter, @scumbelievable has a 42-post thread of delightful sounding character classes. The list is worth reading in its entirety, both for the names alone and for the delightful suggestions of interesting character powers. I've included a few examples below. (Thanks to Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque for linking me to this one!)


Over on an actual blog, Flight of the Sky Eels has a list of 16 character precis that sound delightful. These aren't as easy to list as the others, but here are a couple examples:

"Blossom is a Jezoflorid ecologist. Jezoflorids are serpentine plant people who are sold by the monolithic Mothercorp. Blossom is a member of the Glade, an anarchist faction that opposes Mothercorp. They are exploring the galaxy looking for bio weapons to use in their guerrilla war."

"Sir Kraver of Dung hill is a Fandoran trash knight. The Fandorans are a rat-like race that have recently been annexed into the neo-floozy empire. In the conquest Sir Kraver lost their ancestral home. They are questing for allies and material for their rebellion against the nep-floozies."

You might remember Stone Drunk Wizard from his D6 Crabmen and D6 Slugmen character sheets that made the rounds on Google Plus. He also has some really interesting character designs for a polar bear who hunts orcas, a ghost narwhal, a three-headed seagull in a diving helmet, and a "Priest of Pearly Wisdom".

Ghost Narwhal by Stone Drunk Wizard
Priest of Pearly Wisdom by Stone Drunk Wizard

Ynas Midgard has an ongoing project to write up a "heartwarming sandbox". This post has the Badger and the Basilisk as playable character classes, and this one has Crows, and Dwarves that are unlike most contemporary fantasy dwarves.

My favorite so far are the Badgers, who are described as "Dwarf-sized bipedal creatures; they often wear suits and glasses. Badgers are grumpy and cynical, but also hard-working and loyal to their friends and loved ones. Most work as solicitors, accountants, and real estate agents for the fairy folk. They never give anything away for free, and they despise slouches and bums. They hate Foxes, but due to some esoteric fairy law, they belong to the same trade union."

I don't know why, but I love that detail about the trade unions.

Advanced Xerox Lord only has one post so far, but it's a really good one. They wrote three new player species for the Mausritter game. What particularly impresses me is that these three aren't just variations on a common theme; each species has unique abilities that make them feel different from the others. Consider just one ability from each:

"Moles can easily dig in soil. They aren't restricted to already existing tunnels, and can dig far faster with their powerful front claws than a mouse can with a shovel - about half their walk speed. This is tiring and tunnels can only go a short distance before you must rest: think tunneling a shortcut in a burrow maze, not tunneling across a map hex. Your GM will let you know if you can dig, and where you come out!"

"Lemmings love adventure and inspire others. Roll with advantage when forming a war band or determining 'number appearing' for hirelings."

"Hedgehogs are well traveled. When exploring a map hex, roll d6: on a 6, you've been here before. The GM will tell you what you know about the area - for example, you may know a safe path past the owl’s nest, the name of the mouse family who live in the oak tree, or where the squirrels bury their nuts."

Over at ArtStation, Kyong Hwan Kim has a series of 12 concept art images for cats with character classes. I first saw this being called "Floofs of D&D", but that appears to have been a fanon title. As with so many of these lists, it's difficult for me to pick my favorites, but I think I'm particularly fond of the Turkish Angora Healer and the Siamese Magician.
Turkish Angora Healer by Kyong Hwan Kim
Siamese Magician by Kyong Hwan Kim

Finally, Remixes and Revelations has a system for organizing of knights. In addition to the expected Paladin as White Knight and Blackguard as Black Knight, we also get the Folk Hero as Blue Knight, which was the entry that especially caught my eye. There's also the barbarian-like Red Knight, and the ranger-like Green Knight. As a system, I thought this was quite clever, and it's not often you see the Folk Hero (the Knight Errant, perhaps?) elevated to the same status as Paladins.

As a final bonus, here's a d100 table for choosing one of these classes to play:

1     Necromancer
2     Apothecary
3     Dire Knight
4     Theurgist
5     Thief
6     Nightingale
7     Pariah
8     Doctor
9     Hunter
10   Priest
11   the Bruiser
12   the Martyr
13   the Blue Mage
14   the Hedge Witch
15   the Entity
16   the Damned
17   the Cipher
18   the Drudge
19   the Punished
20   the Warrant
21   the Hive
22   the Murmur
23   the Fatale
24   the Haunt
25   the Beast
26   the Twins
27   the Falconer
28   the Weaver
29   the Cur
30   the Spiritualist
31   the Mandrake
32   the Lurk
33   the Penitent
34   the Eater
35   the Devout
36   the Swarm
37   the Wind Singer
38   the Bloom
39   the Shard
40   the Automage
41   the Grave-Robber
42   the Clothier
43   the Huntmaster
44   the Null
45   the Carrier
46   the Bellwright
47   the Atavist
48   the Oracle
49   the Vessel
50   the Magpie
51   the Husk
52   the Maestro
53   robotic sword fighter, black rainbow destroyer
54   human monster hunter from a death world
55   dog person, member of the Cult of Master Vigilant
56   former human mutated into a candyling from candy addiction
57   serpentine plant person ecologist
58   sapient computer virus and hacker in a humanoid robotic frame
59   Prime Strain crystal smith
60   human academic from the Academy of Gnomic Arts
61   psychically strong but physically underdeveloped Power Fetus
62   cybernetic grub-creature telekinetic
63   reptile/human hybrid with biokinetic powers
64   a human that has adapted to live in dreams
65   a cyborg monk with an electronic brain and organic body
66   a rat-like trash knight
67   an amphibious star fish, former Orphan Guild operative
68   a sapient fungus, exorcist
69   Crabman
70   Slugman
71   Polar Bear
72   Ghost Narwhal
73   Sea Gull
74   Priest of Pearly Wisdom
75   Badger
76   Basilisk
77   Crow
78   Dwarf
79   Mausritter
80   Mole
81   Lemming
82   Hedgehog
83   Maine Coon Berserker
84   Abyssinian Bard
85   Norwegian Forest Cat Shaman
86   Persian Scholar
87   Bombay Assassin
88   Sphinx Fighter
89   Scottish Fold Warrior
90   Bengal Archer
91   American Short Hair Knight
92   Turkish Angora Healer
93   Siamese Knight
94   Russian Blue Thief
95   Paladin (White Knight)
96   Folk Hero (Blue Knight)
97   Holy Marshal (Grey Knight)
98   Red Sword (Red Knight)
99   Druidic Warrior (Green Knight)
00   Blackguard (Black Knight)