Monthly Archives: April 2019

Tuesday Toot!! | Art & Carapace Play Test

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.


MarcinSWhen G+ was swinging, I came across the artwork of Marcin S, and decided that if I ever made anything ‘worth’ publishing (even informally), I’d try and get Marcin involved. Recently Marcin did some artwork for my procedural adventure Carapace. What a great guy, and what great work he did too! If you like his stuff, I can recommend him wholeheartedly. The revised Carapace adventure (with new art) is still in layout, but will come out when it is ready.

Aside from a little teaser art below, I thought I  might as well give some details from a recent play test of Carapace.

Play test of Carapace – Session 1.

Shire Runner

A snippet taken from a concept fight scene by Marcin S

Start & Setup – In the play test we used 6 characters from the  module “Tomb of the Lizard King” (2 x fighters, a fighter magic-user, a magic-user, a cleric, and a thief), and I DM’ed using AD&D 1e rules. Why characters from the TotLK? Just thought any random party might tackle this adventure, so I picked a random party. And I’d rather have a highish level party, so they wouldn’t die in the first encounter …

I started by sourcing the table for a back story. So I asked why the PCs were in this borderlands backwater with only their kit and low on food? I was informed that the PCs were here due to “problems” they had encountered in the regional capital, specifically trouble with the local regional ruler (a despot).

The PCs headed straight to the nearby village/town (taking the big hint to start the adventure there).

Town & NPCs
On the ‘in medias res’ table, I rolled for a hidden assassin taking a potshot at the PCs with a poisoned crossbow bolt … rolled a *natural 20*, hitting the cleric square in the chest. The cleric thankfully saved vs poison, and managed to survived the first 5 minutes of the adventure (phew). The assassination attempt also fitted in neatly with the idea that the regional despot wanted them dead.

Town Guard

Tergite (head of the town guard) – Doesn’t like troublemakers. Outsiders are usually troublemakers; drawing by Marcin S

This prompted the PCs to speak with all the NPCs in the town, trying to figure out who tried to kill them (they presumed wrongly that this was an integral part of Carapace’s plot). I printed out 12 NPC portrait cards to help in exploring the town (like the one shown up and left).

In town, all fingers seemed to point to the ‘thief in residence’ for any help in finding the would-be assassin, and also to the dodgy merchant.

On the random NPC relationship encounter table, I rolled that: (i) the local druid wanted help from the PCs in finding his missing apprentice; (ii) the rich merchant wanted to do the PCs harm (I decided he had more than just trade connections with the regional capital and the associated despot); and (iii) one of the PCs knew the blasphemy-prone peasant looking to recover his daughter’s body from the Hive.

Travel & Preparations
With a bunch of side quests queued up, the PCs, with the local thief in tow as guide, headed for the Hive (incidentally this was the same direction the assassin was last seen headed towards).

Before leaving town, the PCs asked lots of questions, and learnt that the giant ant larvae will be with the Queen, and need to be kept moist; so in the Hive follow any damp air currents. This knowledge gave the PCs a +1 on the (Labyrinth Move) navigation rolls.

The Druid prepared a salve that mimics ant pheromones (for a short time) to use if the PCs needed to go unnoticed. The Cleric in residence, gave each PC a healing potion for the promise of soldier ant stinger glands.

At the Giant Ant ‘Hive’
PCs travelled the two days to the Hive without event.

The PCs after being freaked out by the giant wasps living at the top of the Hive, decided to head straight for the main Hive entrance, rather than risk being caught out in the open by giant wasps.

If you don’t know, the internals of the Hive is generated procedurally. The idea is to find the Queen in Zone 4. Zone 0 being outside.

Instead of calling out each Zone by its ‘number’, I decided to describe each Zone as:

Zone 1 = compacted earth with sticks and bits of organic matter
Zone 2 = same as above, but without the sticks and stuff
Zone 3 = as above, but with embedded rocks and stones
Zone 4 = as above, but in which chunks of worked masonry in found in the earth

I let the PCs infer which Zone they were in from the Zone description.

So as the DM, I generated the encounters (if any), and indicated if there was a Zone change. The players roll the ‘dungeon dressing’ using player facing random tables.

The dungeon dressing is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather is there to be used as the basis for inspiration, to build off.

slaad FF.png

Slaad – from Fiend Folio (not by Marcin S)

After a few attempts, the player really warmed to the task, improvising off the basic dungeon dressing information. For example, when the PCs learnt about the link with an abandoned Slaad temple (i.e. below the Hive, from the bits of worked masonry embeded in the earth of Zone 4) and rolled a “buttery smell” in a polygonal room, they stated that the PCs were in an abandoned Slaad birthing chamber.

The DM generated encounter gave two resting Slithering Trackers, which I decided looked just like water in a central birthing pool, needless to say, this  ‘liquid’ tempted the PCs to poke about.


In Zone 4  and the hunt for the Queen
With a +1 to the PCs navigation rolls, the PCs got to Zone 4 quite quickly. The PC’s thief guide (with a secret map of the Slaad temple) ditched the PCs in Zone 4, looking for a secret entrance to the temple. The PCs had a few encounters before discovering the False Queen. The PCs had no reason to expect anything but a true Queen.

The False Queen sent the PCs pheromone ‘message 2’, asking the PCs (i.e. by these smell messages) to find and destroy a ‘False Queen’ (which in reality was the true Hive Queen) … which is where the session ended.  

The False Queen also gave the PCs the equivalent of a pheromone map to the True Queen (so, I’m going to add big modifiers to the encounter tables to get to the True Queen; if that is the direction the PCs take), so I’m sure the PCs should find her quite quickly.

What’s next in session 2 … we’ll see?!!

Overall, so far, I think the core ideas in this procedural adventure work as well as I hoped …

If you ever run ‘Carapace’, I’d be glad to know how it all panned out!

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.

One Page Dungeon Contest 2019 | In the Heart of the Sea

This is my first attempt at the “One Page Dungeon Contest”. Clearly, it won’t win!

I made this entry because I figured there is a ‘need’ out there in RPG-land for a procedurally generated sea-going adventure. This is my take on it:

:: In the Heart of the SeaA Procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’

Please see below. A PDF version can be downloaded for free here: ItHotS

InHotS the cover image

Underlying mechanic explained a bit:

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Tuesday Toot!! | Finish the darn Magic System …

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

Background: This is an incomplete magic system that I posted about, back in early 2016,  … maybe now that G+ is closed I will finish it. I had some very good comments back in the day, and hope to incorporate them … Below is the original post unedited (excepting for the most egregious typos), with some added pictures for interest:

I had an idea for a new (at least I think it is new) magic system.

When I say ‘system’ I mean a concept. Unlike Vancian magic, it might be too awkward to make into set of workable rules. Maybe someone out there knows better …

Here’s the idea:

pom aThere is a huge desolate plane, riven with craters, troughs, ravines, gorges and cannons, and in the reverse, there are hills and mountains that pile upwards. In short, the plane of magic defines an infinitely thin surface of very irregular shape.

Most of the plane is a barren waste. In few places there is ‘precipitation’ that falls and then pools to form puddles, ponds, lakes and even oceans. Some areas of the plane are in a ‘static phase’ where no precipitation has fallen for eons, and others are wracked by raging typhoons. In some places the pools only slowly evaporate and in other places they boil frantically.

The ‘precipitation’ is of course magical energy, and in many ways this energy is recycled in the plane like water in the water cycle, i.e. ‘evaporating’, forming ‘clouds’ and ‘raining’ down again.

pom bEvery self-aware creature has a ‘conduit’ to the plane of magic opening somewhere at its surface. For most the conduit links to a desolate ‘dry’ area with no magic energy present. They therefore have not access to magic energy.

For the lucky few the magic conduit connects to a pool of magic energy from which, with the right training, they get can draw from. Those lucky few can train to be magics users.

There are two kinds of magic users.

(i) ‘Dead pool’ magic users – In the first kind the conduit connects to a ‘dead pool’. That is, the pool only has a certain amount of magic energy stored within it and will not fill again with magical energy in the lifetime of the magic user. This pool might be small as a puddle or in theory be as big as an ocean.

(ii) ‘Live pool’ magic users – In the second kind, the conduit connects to a magic pool that gets topped up with magic energy periodically, i.e. a ‘live pool’. In most cases this topping-up of the pool is a regular occurrence, hourly, daily, monthly, but it could be just once in their life time. Once the pool is full obviously it cannot fill any further until some draining occurs.

pom cFor most would-be magic users, the conduit lies at the base of a shallow, ‘dead pool’. During training the pool is drained and that is then end of their career. They are given a few years to see if their pool will fill again. If not, they can stay on as envious servants or are put out of the magic school.

In some ways it is easier for magic users when they drain their pool and it fills again, that way they know their limits and can cut their cloth accordingly. Like a man with a steady income.

It is more difficult for a magic user who has not yet ‘gone dry’. Do they have a ‘dead pool’ or not? One day will the magic all be gone, just when they are at their prime? These kinds of magic users tend to be thrifty with their magic not knowing if it will ever end. It’s like living off an inheritance without knowing how much money is left in the bank, and if it is getting topped up (or not).

Each magic user also has an internal ‘well’ within themselves.

pom dMagic energy travels from the pool in the plane of magic, down the conduit and fills the magic user’s internal ‘well’. Once the ‘well’ is full no more magic can enter the magic user from the plane of magic (until it is used up in casting spells). So, the size of the internal ‘well’ limits the size of the spell they can cast. With training (and levelling up) the internal ‘well’ size increases as does the width of the conduit (so the internal ‘well’ fills faster). Generally, the internal ‘well’ can not exceed the size of the pool on the plane of magic.

In this system, you could imagine two extremes – a magic user with a small pool on the magic plane that fills rapidly. The magic user might never be able to cast more than a magic missile but could shoot these out like a machine gun.

Next you have a magic user with a ‘dead pool’ the size a lake. Only their internal well can hold them back. In theory at very high level (as their internal well increases) they might be able to rip a castle up from its foundations and hurl it through the air. But one day the magic might simply end, and then they would be nothing more than a commoner again. A commoner with lots of enemies.

pom eMagic items have their own internal ‘well’. They are either filled will magic when created, and so have a limited number of charges, or they are connected to the plane of magic via a conduit, and so do not run out of magic. Some wands/staves can be filled by magic users with magic energy and so can be used as a ‘reserve’ tank of magical energy. Clearly, such wands are sought after by magic users with small ‘live pools’.

Magic creatures – these are born into a race predisposed to tap into the same large pool of magic. If it is a dead pool the magic might simply end for the species someday.

Twins are an oddity and connect to the same pool of magic, but not necessarily at the same height, so one might run out of magic before another. It is also not impossible, but very rare, for two unrelated magic users share the same pool.

Gods, greater devils etc. obviously have access to massive pools of magic. Over eons their internal wells have become massive.

pom fClerics are selected by Deities, they are ‘called’ into their service. Deities always select individuals connected to ‘dry pools’, i.e. so with no access to magical energy. The deities then fill those dry pools with magical energy which the clerics can use. The deities often select individuals with very large dry pools, and so have the potential (as they level up) to access lots of magical energy, if given to them.

After spells are cast using energy from the internal ‘well’, it returns to the magic plane.

So that’s the general idea – is there a workable mechanic for it?

I think the idea is fun, but it needs work, well to be workable …

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.

1988 Dungeon| A video review

Vince “The Evil DM” was kind enough to give my throw-back ‘1988 Module’ a review on his YouTube page – check it out:

image_preview  The module is a free PDF for download on DriveThruRPG: LINK

This is one of the first dungeons I ever made way back in 1988, when I was a teenager. So, it’s about as Old Skoool as it gets … not in an OSR sense, but in a “I’ve made a dungeon who wants to play” kind of way. If you’re looking for understandable/sensible dungeon ecology, themes, plot, and balanced encounters etc., then you’ve signed up for the wrong adventure!  It’s 1e AD&D, and I’d say for PCs at about 3/4 level.

My original blog post is here: LINK

Here’s the original map (with original numbering):

1998 Original map

A Spreadsheet Adventure Module (SAM) version of this adventure can be fond here:
xls  download  |  YT Demo


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Tuesday Toot!! | Stick of Thorns

Tuesday TootG+ is closing gone. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

The Master’s Hoard is a compilation of quirk-some magic items which I posted on my G+ page over a period of weeks. The compilation of magic items can be downloaded for free here: Link

:: Stick of Thorns ::

Wooden sword with thorny vines growing around and through the blade, that can entrap the target

The weapon operates like a scimitar (e.g. D8 damage), but with vines writhing like a sawing edge, and thorns that drink the blood of its targets. Occasionally, the weapon puts forth small pink, white, and/or yellow flowers after combat.

Druids and rangers intuitively recognize the nature of the weapon.

:: Combat Quirks
Natural 20 – the blade vines unravel and grow, grabbing and tearing at the target (double damage), and enveloping them in a thorny cage of vines. In addition, one unravelling vine grows earthward, boring in to the ground and taking root, firmly anchoring the cage in place. The weapon is essentially useless at this stage.

Carefully pruning the sword away from the thorny cage and root-anchor allows it to be reused. A carnivorous vine grows from the cage in a few months.

Breaking free of the cage takes two rounds of effort, causing rending damage each round (D8). Alternatively, friendly hands outside can cut out the ensnared victim.

Natural 1 – the blade vines unravel and grow as above, forming a cage and anchor, but in vain, since it missed the target.

:: Other Wielders
When handled by someone other than a druid, ranger, or woodland creature, the wielder often pricks their hand on the thorns. This annoyance hints at a more dangerous drawback:

When the rooting-stem grows, it tries to grab the wielder’s forearm. The wielder must succeed at a Agility/DEX check, or become entangled, taking 1 damage, and requiring 1 round to disentangle or cut free.

:: Background
In the besieged vale of Nether Stowey, an enclave of druids created several of these weapons, by magically grafting a carnivorous vine to a wooden sword. The druids wielded these weapons in defence of the vale, and also used them as pit stakes, to ensnare trespassers.

The carnivorous vine’s snaring instinct remains within the vine, making the weapon unpredictable as described above. These weapons are usually found poking out of (and ensnared in) a thorny briar, growing around crumbling bones. Recovering the weapon requires clipping it away from the main briar. Druids and rangers can do this without the vine attacking.

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.

Rubik’s Cube Stat Generator | a review

I made a blog post about using a Rubik’s cube to generate charater stat’s here. I think it’s a neat method. There was a follow up post here.

A free .pdf is on DriveThruRPG.

Recently, Mathew Perkins on YouTube was kind enough to do an entertaining review:

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