Thursday, September 29, 2022

[Gygax 75] 20 FromSoft-y Treasures

I'm doing a worldbuilding challenge. The story so far:

Gygax 75
Week 1 - The Setting
Week 2 - Carving out the Valley
Week 3 - Into the Mines
Week 4 - Hitting a Wall
Week 5 - Divide and Conquer
Week 6 - Closing up the Cadaver
Week 7 - Building Irontown
Week 8 - The final week!!!!!!

Last week of the challenge! Let's have some fun :-)

Week 5 (8) - design the larger world around the starting region. you don't need a detailed map of the whole world, but you should know the other regions that can be reached from the current one (either by overland or magical travel) so that you can start writing rumors to entice your players to travel to them.

I've been doing a lot of mind-mapping, interweaving all the settings and factions. Consider this more of a victory lap than something set in stone.

Far Off Lands

Most of the worthwhile setting stuff is inside the dungeons, under the valley. TBH the rest of the world is still recovering from the last apocalypse, but there's at least three places worth mentioning:

Gnosc. To the north. Dark wizard military. Their artilleromancers have artificially elongated skulls, and long brains to match. The "menhir" shape aligns their neurons, magnifying sorcerous output like a psychic railgun (see: forehead lasers).

1. Trepaning Dart: as dagger, +1. +1d2 psychic damage, save vs mental mutation. For each point of psychic damage dealt, the target gets +5% chance to miscast.
"The tools of dragon hunters long outlasted their empire. These crystal daggers were designed to subvert the dragon's most potent weapon; their minds."

2. Monologue: spell for wizards, copied from long stone tablets. 1d6 radiant damage in a 60ft beam of screaming light, +1d6/turn up to a cap. (Gnomen start at 3d6) For as long as you concentrate, you can spend your turn sustaining the beam, only turning your head up to 90 degrees at a time.
"Throughout history, the shape of power has been singular; a straight line, unbroken. The Gnomen are aware of this, and have learned to shape the mind into a rod of sovereignty."

Nemea. To the east. Merchant-berserker empire. They wear ward-mail, an interlocking pattern of protective runes painted directly on the body. Their wizards often fight in the nude, in close quarters, bare-fisted.

3. Imperial Howdah: sized for an elephant, can be carried as a palanquin. Seats 2. Those seated within are protected from the elements.
"Commissioned by the Carmine Lord on his campaign to the City of Mirrors. The second seat was reserved for his future wife, and is decorated with chains of red brass."

4. Four-Point Nemean Rune: ritual for clerics. 160gp of golden paints in a 10-inch radius runic circle. Everything inside the circle is invulnerable. The paint flakes away after four hours, or after twelve minutes of vigorous combat.
"The Isles of Nemea bleed gold. Nemean warmages do not fear copycats, as no other school boasts the funds to reduplicate their methods." 

Lands of Ashen Rain. To the west. Nascent warlords and their gunmetal.

5. Rustic Handcannon: tool of a stalwart defender. 3d6, 3 rounds/reload, blows up in your face on double damage dice. The spiked handle is designed to be driven into the earth and absorb recoil.
"The oldest of these weapons were forged in starlight, which soothed the fearsome temper of black powder. Today, the tradition is shirked by desperate smiths."

And the countless ruins. Old Paradise. Spagyros. The Moon. Traces of these remain, but the greater halls have vanished into the earth.

To expand on last week's base-building thingy, representatives of the Sorcerer Kingdoms will make contact with the valley as Irontown's prosperity makes it harder to ignore [some sort of town HP related "heat" mechanic]. I envision players bribing scouts to keep their iron trade a secret, at least until they've amassed the man/firepower to withstand a proper army.

I don't have a hexmap for the region outside the valley (yet), but if I did it would have a nearby asshole faction led by a minor warlord who wants to snatch the valley for himself. Like defend-your-town training wheels.

I'm probably overthinking this.

The White Tiger's guns are one defensive option; plutonium is another. The Dungeon provides.

Long Dead Gods

Also here's a few gods. I named four in the last post:

The Lion Sun. God of prosperity, the civilized world, and restrained ferocity, patron to serfs and bankers. "To shade the sun" means to hold back one's emotions. A popular fable details how the Old Sun chose his heir, and what became of the Lion's many siblings. 
The Old King. God of stone, the body, and language, patron to surgeons and miners. The Old King owns everything beneath the surface world; thus, all excavation is barter. His names are Hazog, and Kanek, and Burmanon II, and others.
The Black River. God of understanding, drinking, and death, patron to thieves and poets. If you drop something into a river, you have relinquished it, and anyone who fishes it out is its rightful owner. All rivers can speak; the Black River speaks like an explosion. "Everything ends up downstream."
The Moon. God of traveling at night, the natural world, and secrets. Actually two gods, the Nemesis and the Lover, worshipped as one. Mentioning one to the other is taboo. More than one fable begins with the Moon fooling a creature into calling it by the wrong name, as an excuse to punish them.

Here's some more, all dead, buried, or worshipped secretly.

The Pilgrim Tree and The Beast Tree. Rivalrous sisters cut from the same branch. Both fear the Gray Saint.
Hal'i, The Scaleless Mother. Mother of the second generation of dragons.
The Wyrm. Last metastasized in ancient times.
The Unspeakable Corpus, also called Ur-Lich. Fragments of the Corpus litter the world like scraps of ash.
Leviathan. Ghost-devouring whale, Lord of the Eternal Sea.
The High Warden, also called BelosAskadion, and Eyoch. King of Hell.
The Line. Yet unbroken.
The Iron God. Worshiped by the depraved: first demons, then the Centipede Lord.
The Frog Pope of Spagyros.
The Dragon At The End Of Time. Foretold. Forewarned.

Long Lost Relics

I wrote 5 item/spell descriptions above. Here's 15 more:

6. Constellant Blade: a blacksnake weapon made of glass and stars. As glaive, +1d6 radiant damage, save vs mutation on 6s.
"The original architects of the Stellar Furnace were a race of noble giants, who could pluck the stars directly from the sky."

7. Flensing Sword: a long, curved sword of bone. +2 vs ghosts.
"Whales once ruled the surface world's seas, but departed. The sailing tradition of paying tolls to the sea continues to this day."

8. Ghost-Rotting Pot: a large urn of debased ghosts; scraps of former scraps. When smashed or imbibed, 2d4+2 cold damage in the splash radius (heals undead).
"The dead must be managed, lest decay set in. Bodies may be burned, but spirits must first be reduced."
("Yes, very good, but how does it taste?")

9. Syncretize: golden city sorcery, encoded in florid poetry. For 1 hour, two creatures understand one another and only one another.
"Thousands gathered amongst the roots of the Capital Tree. Dreams flowed like water beneath its arcing boughs, and the barriers between men eroded until they stood as empire."

10. Dark Sun Knight's Set: blackest plate eclipsing golden trim. +1/piece to save vs gravity. As a complete set, grants resistance to all forms of gravity damage.
"Mad Knight Narn surrendered his humanity to walk with the stars. The Dark Sun knights worship his new form as heretics."

11. Ring of Crawling Cruelties: an iron ring depicting a centipede. Restore 1 HP when you harm someone who trusts you.
"The phoenix centipede bursts into flame at century's end, only to emerge anew from its ashes. Through observation of this cycle, the Carmine Lord learned the secrets of life and death."

12. Chain of the Arena Beast: worn by the morningstar manticore, made of cold iron. You have an edge while riding or being ridden by a creature that despises you.
"Mad Knight Narn is widely credited with taming the sun, shackling it such that it marched across the sky."

13. Clot: blood sorcery, written in rags. 1d6 piercing to yourself and target, ignores iron armor, no Save.
"Ancient sorcerers were confounded by the properties of iron, which their magicks could not affect. The first blood sorceries were developed to subvert those properties."

14. Flagellation: blood sorcery, carved flesh tome. 2d6 piercing to yourself and everything nearby, ignores iron armor, no Save.
"Iron and Hell were alloyed in the earliest ages, when dragons yet ruled. Thus, many blood sorceries originate from demonkind."

15. Plutonium Shard: scavenged by glass giants on the Eternal Sea. Socketed item deals +2d6 necrotic. On crit fail, everyone nearby saves vs mutation.
"When too many spirits occupy the same space, they condense into a dark, howling stone. The ancients witlessly harnessed this haunted stone for its sorcerous potency."

16. Azure Missile: firmament sorcery, taught by the old red sage. Loudly declare the law; the first three creatures to break the law take 1d6 force, no save.
"Once, a philosopher thought the stars might grasp the keys to absolute morality. Thankfully, the law of stars is utterly alien to that of men, and is thus-wise soundly ignored."

17. Corpus Fragment: a scrap of the Unspeakable Corpus. Burn it: on your next roll, 1-16 = crit fail, 17-20 = crit success. Read it: save vs mental mutation.
"A lich's madness, blackened indelibly. The Order of Censures will pay any price to keep these pages apart."

18. Moonjuice: a jug of drug. Drink to surface an alternate personality, or create one if none exists. (A new alter has only as many memories as you wish.)
"The enigmatic Moon is actually two gods worshipped as one. Its highest priests, so often neglected, follow suit."

19. Dragonscale Set: heavy stone plate reinforced with steel. +2 AC/piece. As a complete set, grants immunity to lightning damage.
"When told of the dragon's extinction, the Old King dismayed. 'What,' he cried, 'will we serve to the guests?'"

20. Lens of the Giants: spotless black glass, two yards across, found in the deepest Giant Lookout. 1 HP. Reveals secrets unerringly.
"Having mapped and quartered the skies, astrologers turned their eyes to the earth, and found it rich with prophecies."

And that's the Gygax 75! My purpose fulfilled, I retreat beneath the waves from whence I came.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

[Gygax 75] The People Who Live in the Crucible

Mononokehime concept art

I'm doing a worldbuilding challenge. The story so far:

Gygax 75
Week 1 - The Setting
Week 2 - Carving out the Valley
Week 3 - Into the Mines
Week 4 - Hitting a Wall
Week 5 - Divide and Conquer
Week 6 - Closing up the Cadaver
Week 7 - Building Irontown

Irontown is a lakeside fort full of exiles, migrants, and strangers from the far reaches, kept afloat by its ironworks. Iron is outlawed in the Sorcerer Kingdoms, and so those who would refine and distribute it are often coerced by circumstance. For now, Irontown remains safely tucked away from the Sorcerer Kings' notice, shielded by their high valley walls and relative obscurity.

At present, the town is uncharacteristically still. The ironsand on the shore is running out, and the mines in the forest have been taken over by fae folk. More than half the townsfolk have left, having seen the writing on the wall; sixty men and women, with more skill than sense, remain.

[# of townsfolk is roughly equivalent to the town's HP, which stands for... uh... house points? Housed People? More on that later.]

The Forge has been cold for a month. Sometimes, inexplicably, it smokes, and locals hear something heavy moving inside. (A giant centipede lairs within.)

Speaking of the locals, they're decent folks. Despite their situation, they'll offer you free room and board in The Long House, a dirt-and-wood mess hall built around two long fire pits. It is loud around mealtimes, and devoid of privacy.

Irontown's hospitality is easy to abuse, so long as you are polite and non-subversive. Draw arms, however, and The White Tiger will hasten to the scene, much to local chagrin. They gather at the Old Firehouse, gambling and drinking idly, rarely alert. Each clings to their gun as if it were their mother.

In a Tidy Little Shrine at the edge of town, the disparate gods of a migrant population are cloistered together. The trinkets are four: a carved sigil of the Lion Sun; a Black River totem; the Old King's idol; and a mirrored coin, cult symbol of the Moon.


The White Tiger is the leader of the eponymous tribe of mercenaries. An up-and-coming, gun-toting warlord from foreign lands, she wants (in increasing order): 1) to make Irontown a worthy seat of power; 2) to claim the valley's iron for herself; 3) independence from the Sorcerer Kings' growing empires. She is ruthless, middle-aged, well-versed in occult metallurgy, and fond of laughing. Her left leg is a prosthetic.

She needs a solid plan to drive back the forest folk. Reinforcements from her home town will arrive in three weeks (she only has half-a-dozen men in town); one week later, they will begin methodically clear-cutting the ancient forest.

The Founders are a council of five ancient men and women, who witnessed the town's oldest contracts with the fae. They are no friends to the forest, but they're suspicious of the foreign woman and her guns. They are led by Grandbaba, who can speak to the trees because she is their elder, or so she claims. She is wall-eyed, alcoholic, pacifistic, and (hypocritically) insistent on proper speech and posture.

Grandbaba needs to speak to a faerie, or to be convinced to trust The White Tiger. For now, she is the highest authority in town, and the locals have good reason to trust her judgement. If the conflict heats up, The White Tiger will attempt to have her poisoned.

Banken is the prince of a mountain sorcerer tribe, cast into exile for his magical ineptitude. He is tall and kind and a bit of a himbo. He will try anything if he thinks it will unlock his sorcerous potential; he's contemplating fishing up the lake-moon-beast, which is rumored to grant wishes.

Mursa is Grandbaba's daughter. She often stares or drools, and looks like a short woman stretched lengthwise to 6'2". She wants someone to help her sneak into the forest, without Grandbaba finding out. The townsfolk whisper she is a kidnapped faerie princess; this is only half-true. (The stretching rack is in the garden, overgrown with veggies.)

Dried fish, rice, and basic supplies (ropes, poles, ladders) are available for purchase in Irontown, but most businesses have moved out of town. HOWEVER, if you invest your hard-fought treasure into the town's growth, you can bring useful merchants back to Irontown. [Even if you don't use XP for GP, investing in the town always rewards XP proportionally.] 

Some merchants to invite:

  • Salvage House: Battlefield salvage with most of the dents buffed out. Armor sets are incomplete. Shitty versions can be bought, with a % chance of breaking in combat.
  • Ride On Strong: A stable of mud donkeys and red elk, for rent. The former can only bear an unarmored rider at a solemn clip; the latter abhors violence and deception, and will return to the stable if offended.
  • Gold Begets Gold: A bank built like a shady tavern. Give your gold to the thing in the back, ignoring its dirty wrappings and unsettling clatter, and it will invest it as it sees fit. This provides passive income, at the expense of furthering the Banker's agenda.
  • Anything Bazaar: Come sample our wares, travelerrrrrr~! Each visit, the merchants hawk 3 to 5 moderately magical items from their buffalo caravans. Their real wares are rumors, news from far-flung lands, and secrets.
  • Dhali's Man Service. Dhali is the old woman on the peacock-feather pillow. She will hire out her husbands to you, as day laborers or dungeon crawlers, at a rate proportional to the perceived risk of injury. They're brave, and handsome, and have diverse aspirations. Dhali forbids you from falling in love with them.
  • Saintmaker's Guild. There are many saint-guilds, all devoted to single figures from history. They provide blessings, and sometimes medicine, but will also try to build churches and convert the townsfolk. If you invite multiple saint-guilds to town, they'll hinder each other's efforts.

As the town gets wealthier (more merchants hired, more money spent, more HP), the options for new merchants/services expands to include medieval infrastructural engineers, magic item vendors, alchemists, mentors, a proper tavern (more hirelings), etc.

I haven't figured out a proper system yet, but every 3-ish merchants brings a random "bonus" merchant. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad:

  • The Rook. A profitable gambling den run by an ogre of a man. They primarily deal in aerial hawk fights and physical intimidation.

Seeya next week.

Monday, September 19, 2022

[Gygax 75] Closing Up The Cadaver


pic unrelated

I'm doing a worldbuilding challenge. The story so far:

Gygax 75
Week 1 - The Setting
Week 2 - Carving out the Valley
Week 3 - Into the Mines
Week 4 - Hitting a Wall
Week 5 - Divide and Conquer
Week 6 - Finishing up the dungeon...

This is the last week I'll allow myself on the dungeon proper. The maps are rough and the key is loose, but I'm already 3 days late so [unintelligible scrabbling].

I won't whine much about how hard this challenge has been. I will say it's been a hugely introspective process for me to document the whole process so thoroughly.

Here be dungeon.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

[Gygax 75] Divide and Conquer

gungeon map

I'm doing a worldbuilding challenge. The story so far:

Gygax 75
Week 1 - The Setting
Week 2 - Carving out the Valley
Week 3 - Into the Mines
Week 4 - Hitting a Wall
Week 5 - The dungeon, continued... (for real this time)

Let me regale you with a tale of dungeon design gone wrong. You see, I'm a real freak for vertically engaging maps (Dark Souls 1, etc.). So, the first thing I did while designing the 3 dungeon levels was figure out how they all stacked on top of each other.

This was a very bad idea.

Breaking a dungeon down into segments is a really useful tool (whether you're a DM running it or a player navigating it or a designer building it) because it makes it semantically accessible. If the dungeon just flows into itself, suddenly you're building 30 rooms all together instead of 10 at a time, and that sucks major balls.

In my case, I was doing a lot of Jaquaying on the level of the whole dungeon before properly dealing with the individual levels. To center myself, I laid out each level as a closed space first.

Level 1 - Haunted Mine
Themes: Trapped, buried, mine, stone, grudge
Objectives: Retrieve the Scar; secure site A; break the iron circle; drive off the forestfolk; recover the faerie trinket; rescue the starving dogs; appease the ghosts; catch a big cave fish.
Characters: Forestfolk/dogs/faeries, rats, ghosts, carbuncle, fish, surface monster.

This level is the most accessible from the surface, and by surface factions. The hooks come from them: you can help the forestfolk restore the natural environment or the Irontown residents take back the mine. Within the dungeon are a lot of ghosts (dead miners and such) who act as the social obstacles within the crawl.

Level 2 - Infested Caverns
Themes: Toxic, infestation, gas, fire, sick, metal
Objectives: Exterminate kobolds/centipedes; steal the centipede eggs; recover the body of the kobold king; making the dungeon safe for miners.
Characters: Kobolds, centipedes, oozes, kobold king (ghoul), fungi, roots

The vibe here is that of pulling up a floorboard and finding out the underside is infested with termites. Kobolds are great to talk to (goblins always are), and they have treasure in the form of their king, who they keep in a deep hole. This level is mostly full of obstacles to "cleaning out" the dungeon: it has the biggest impact on the wandering monster table, and is the most dangerous.

This was the moment I realized I needed to double back to Arnold's Dungeon Checklist FOR EACH LEVEL.

In retrospect, I could flesh out this level a bit more by giving blood sorcerers some more presence here. A magic puzzle that the kobolds have tunneled around; a victimized adventurer, and their partner nearby; something valuable in the tainted water.

Level 3 - Ruins
Themes: Archaeology, ruins, crucible, artifacts, communication
Objectives: Defeat the golem; assemble Chernobog; steal the big artifacts; rescue/defeat the blood sorcerers.
Characters: Blood sorcerers, golem, demon, ghost dinosaurs, traps, husks

This level is back to basics: a dungeon with traps that's already been traversed by another adventuring party. Some have been reset. Some new ones have been set. Messages have been left. Corpses remain. I imagine there were somewhere between 9 and 4 blood sorcerers in total, and they've all been scattered or routed. There's one last gate they failed to breach, and they released something terrible before they could overcome it.



There's a secondary consideration I'm making as I lay out the maps--a rule I'm leaning on because I'm not very good at drawing maps. It's this: All crossroads should be well-informed. When the road forks, it only forks twice, and the options are distinct: one tunnel radiates heat and skittering, another is quiet and subtly stinky.

Fork-in-the-Road Qualifiers: Up/down, sloping/steep, noisy/quiet, warm/cold, dry/wet, stinky, lit up, wide tunnels/tight corridors, worked stone/natural rock.

Oh, and the most important differentiator: messages left by other adventurers. The whole dungeon has been traversed by others multiple times, first the miners, then the blood sorcerers on level 3, and they left notes. (this should be a major theme of level 3)

So, priority #1 in my key is to put a bunch of obvious colored chalk in the first room, and a note on the wall.


Oh, I've also been mapping. Level 1 is the closest to fully realized, level 3 is the furthest. You can probably figure out which is which.

we're getting there, albeit slowly
i should trim the room number a lot

Saturday, September 3, 2022

[Gygax 75] Hitting a Wall

I'm doing a worldbuilding challenge. The story so far:

Gygax 75
Week 1 - The Setting
Week 2 - Carving out the Valley
Week 3 - Into the Mines
Week 4 - The dungeon, continued...

Classes have started, so progress has been slow. To lower the hurdles for myself, I'm trying a new technique.

The idea is based in 5 Room Dungeons. Entrance, puzzle, setback, boss fight, reward/twist: these basic components, rearranged and remixed, can form into a basic dungeon very quickly.

In trying to Jaquays the first two levels of Ashroot Mine (working title), I've seen a similar pattern emerging: a loop consisting of entrance, obstacle, alt. route, exit, and reward. In this way, the

that helps split the mine into chunks worth roughly one session


Y'know what, I'm busy. I have stuff to show for this week, but it isn't very conducive to a well-manicured blog post. In order to not trick myself into pushing the post deadline forward, I'm just going to keep making progress on my own.

For the time being, enjoy these sketches.

my ghosts are cnidarians for no good reason

some cool wiki imgs I use for reference