Saturday, November 30, 2019

Podcasts (Fiction)

Following Dan at Throne of Salt, I decided to review some of the podcasts I listen to. Because "Oh God I Listen to So Many" is a sentiment I can share. I found his post very useful, as it finally convinced me to listen to the Magnus Archives, so I hope that someone else may find some gems here.

To keep the list manageable, I'm only listing fiction podcasts for now (not actual play, history, etc.), and I've broken it into "Abandoned", "Caught Up", "Underway", and "On My Radar". "Serialized" means you should probably start at the beginning, and "episodic" means you can probably start anywhere. "Nondiagetic" here means that the people doing the recording know there's an audience, but I've probably applied it inconsistently. "Explicit" means you'll want headphones, at least.

Abandoned

I started these, but have no intention of finishing or catching up right now.

Archive 81

  • serialized (?)
  • horror
  • nondiagetic

If the act of producing The Magnus Archives was itself a ritual of some kind. I just didn't have the time to get a feel for it.

The Signal

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

I remember listening to this, but nothing else about it.

Steal the Stars

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A para-military organization guards a UFO. Too tense for me. I can do horror, but I can't do suspense generated by human decisions. I imagine this is like how some people just cannot handle cringe comedy.

The Black Tapes

  • episodic
  • horror
  • nondiagetic

A podcaster follows an experienced paranormal investigator looking into his "black tapes"&emdash;the tapes he could never explain away. I liked individual episodes well enough, but they felt "unfinished". I didn't care at all for the metaplot, which from what I understand dominates later episodes.

It Makes A Sound

  • serialized

An obsessive fan of an obscure musician searches for an early tape. I think? It wasn't what I was expecting, so I left quickly.

The Other Stories

  • episodic
  • horror

Short horror stories. Seemed workmanlike, but I may revisit it. There is a different podcast also called The Other Stories, which is unrelated.

Kench!

  • serialized
  • comedy

I was only in it for the first miniseries (5 episodes), starring Ben Partridge of Beef & Dairy Network. If you like Beef & Dairy Network, you'll like that, but the rest is wildly different from what I can tell.

Mission to Zyxx

  • episodic (?)
  • comedy
  • sci-fi

A space-diplomat gets sent to the sticks. It's not bad, but there are too many podcasts. I do enjoy the episodes that crop up on the Max Fun bonus episode feed.

Caught Up

I've listened to all of these that there is to listen to.

Adventures in New America

  • serialized
  • horror
  • comedy

Satire in future America with space vampires. Very camp. I probably would have bounced off it, but I had a lot of time on my hands.

Beef and Dairy Network

  • episodic
  • comedy

Absolutely one of my favorite podcasts, but very difficult to explain. When I try to explain it to friends I just get weird looks. I recommend starting with the first episode ("Dr. David Pin") or episode 52 ("Tusk Henderson", guest starring Nick Offerman).

The Bridge

  • serialized
  • horror

Traffic reports broadcast from a watchtower along the (abandoned) trans-Atlantic bridge. I think I'm a sucker for both alternate history settings and horror about people with boring jobs.

Bubble

  • serialized
  • comedy
  • sci-fi

Inside the bubble is a city of relative safety, and outside is wasteland with devils in it. The devils occasionally break through and fighting them is subcontracted through a ride-share style app. A weird premise, but well-executed.

Deadly Manners

  • serialized
  • comedy
  • crime

Basically the Clue movie but with different famous people (LeVar Burton, Kristen Bell, Michelle Visage) and a good dose of cold war paranoia.

Dreamboy

  • serialized
  • horror
  • explicit

Weird things happening to a horny gay musician spending a winter as a zookeeper in Cleveland Ohio. It's a mood.

Getting On with James Urbaniak

  • episodic
  • comedy

Comedian James Urbaniak, whose voice you know, adopts a variety of personas to deliver deranged self-centered monologues. A true gem, but sadly dead.

In Darkness Vast

  • serialized
  • horror
  • sci-fi

Season 1 is "when Star Trek goes wrong". Season 2 is a about identity and celebrity, but more about survival on a hostile planet. I really enjoyed these, and hope for more.

Middle:Below

  • episodic
  • horror (?)

Aims for Doctor Who with Ghosts, but sometimes ends up a little on the "community theater" side of things. Charming though, enough to compensate.

The Orbiting Human Circus

  • serialized

Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel tells surreal Christmas tales for children. If it had actually been broadcast in the 20th century, I expect that listening to it would be a family Christmas tradition, like a sharp-edged Rankin-Bass film.

Pounded in the Butt by My Own Podcast

  • episodic
  • comedy
  • explicit

Podcasting celebrities read the works of Chuck Tingle aloud, sometimes with friends, rarely sober, and apparently with very little preparation.

Sandra

  • serialized

What if the engine behind the newest voice assistant was actually just a secret warehouse of people with access to all of your personal information? Despite that setup, this is not a satire or sci-fi show. It hit the same "tension comes from people's decisions" note that I found very stressful in Steal the Stars, but I made it through.

Tides

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A scientist is trapped on the surface of a strange planet, with only intermittent communication. A weirdly meditative experience.

A Very Fatal Murder

  • serialized
  • crime
  • comedy

The Onion does Serial. If you're the type of person to read a whole Onion article, you'll get a kick out of this. If you're the type of person to laugh at the headline and then move on, you'll probably be content to know that it exists. The ads are memorable.

Your Attention Please

  • episodic
  • comedy

Monologues delivered without context. Dead at two episodes, but I was laughing out loud at both of them (well, giggling madly).

Underway

I have listened to some of these and either finished, or intend to finish.

Alice Isn't Dead

  • serialized
  • horror

Season one, a trucker makes odd deliveries around the US while searching for her wife (Alice) and running from things. Season two is all conspiracies and paranoia. It's really good.

The Cryptonaturalist

  • episodic

Each episode describes an encounter with a fantastical cryptid, and also has some poetry and other ramblings. Took me a couple episodes to get into, but I think it was just me.

The Ghastly Tales Podcast

  • episodic
  • horror

Scottish people read short stories.

Hello From the Magic Tavern

  • serialized
  • fantasy
  • nondiagetic

A podcaster fell through a gap in reality to the mystical land of Foon and this podcast is his lifeline. Every episode he and his friends interview a different resident of Foon. It's like an improv game, where the only rule is that anything anyone says is canon. It's hilarious, and I understand there's a great second season and a spinoff podcast, but there's just so much of it.

Lake Clarity

  • serialized
  • horror

Strange goings-on around Lake Clarity. A pastiche of classic campground horror.

LeVar Burton Reads

  • episodic

LeVar Burton Reads things to you. It's good.

Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • episodic

A small stable of narrators read stories from recent issues of Lightspeed Magazine. I'd recommend a lot of them.

Limetown

  • serialized
  • horror
  • crime (?)

A radio host looks into the historical disappearance of a secluded research facility. Really good tension, satisfyingly banal evil. I haven't listened to season two yet, and I understand there's a show on "Facebook Watch", which I unfortunately do not care enough to learn how to use.

The Lost Cat Podcast

  • serialized (seasons 2 & 4)
  • episodic (seasons 1 & 4)
  • horror

Nominally, the host looks for his lost cat. Each episode in any season is a well-crafted horror story, and in the first three seasons, each one has a brief musical interlude. I really love the worldbuilding.

The Magnus Archives

  • episodic
  • horror

I'm listening to this as I write these reviews, and it occurs to me how many other podcasts must have been aiming for this, and how skillfully it avoids all of their pitfalls. An archivist inherits a backlog of supernatural witness statements, and sets about recording them on tape and sometimes taking new statements. It's a very clean premise: every episode, of necessity, has something supernatural, and then the host is allowed to poke at it after. I appreciate that this poking is usually disbelief, but not always because it might be more likely within the world of the Archives.

Old Gods of Appalachia

  • episodic (?)
  • horror

The Appalachain chain was a prison for unspeakable things, and also there's witches. It's pretty good so far.

The Orphans

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A bunch of crash-landed amnesiacs try to survive on a weird planet. I'm not far into it yet.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour

  • episodic
  • comedy

Different titles recall different types of show from classic old-time radio, but with modern comedians doing the voice acting. I particularly enjoy "Beyond Belief" (what if Nick and Nora saw ghosts) and "Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars" (self-explanatory).

The Truth

  • episodic

Each episode is a fully-produced, sharply-written, short drama. There's a lot of them, and a lot of them walk that same uneasy line as Limetown and Sandra.

Welcome to Night Vale

  • episodic
  • horror
  • comedy

"Community radio from the Twilight Zone". Justified and ancient. Sometimes gets a bit caught up in its mythology, but when it's good it's really good.

Within the Wire

  • serialized
  • horror
  • sci-fi
  • nondiagetic
  • second person

A series of guided meditation tapes help you escape from some kind of dystopian institution. Immersive experience.

Wolf 359

  • serialized
  • sci-fi
  • horror
  • comedy

Comms officer on a remote monitoring station broadcasts his logs into the void. There's a lot of Red Dwarf in the DNA, but also some alternate history world-building and some banal corporate evil.

On My Radar

I haven't even started these yet.

  • Darkest Night
  • DUST
  • Empty
  • Twilight Histories
  • The Walk
  • The White Vault
  • Wooden Overcoats

Monday, November 11, 2019

Discourse & Discord

“The Discourse”

I can't keep up with The Discourse. There's always something happening, and I mostly don't care. But I try to be a good person and also to not support shitty people, so I have to care a little.

I stopped using the "OSR" tag on this blog, because it has been associated with a lot of terrible people, and also it seemed unnecessary1. This was an imperfect solution because "OSR" has a defined sensibility that it was useful to have a name for. (*DREAM is a cool group, but I think it's turning into something different—compare a game like Songbirds V2 with a game like Bastionland.)

Then Zedeck had a thread and pointed out that it was selfish to continue playing in the space but to disown the label. I still respect people who used to be "OSR" and then decided that it didn't actually describe the games they enjoy, or that it wasn't worth dealing with the people. But I'll try to use the "OSR" tag for my stuff where it seems relevant, and also to be a decent person.

Discord

Where is the OSR community now? As far as I engage with it: mostly Discord. Many Discord servers are runaway reactors of creativity. Unfortunately, they're also transient, and brief conversations get lost. Here's some things to come of them that I hope others might find useful.

Troika! Backgrounds Jam

I may never play Troika! proper, but it's an infectious idea. Similarly, I don't know if I'll ever sell my games, but itch.io seems to be where the cool games are these days. The Troika! Backgrounds Jam was apparently the push I needed to throw something together and put it on itch2. The jam is over, but this clip of how-to seems worth keeping:


(Instructions from Jared Sinclair, used by permission.)

And here is my entry, loosely inspired by Dial H:

I went ahead and put Bloodring up there too:

Alternate Beholders

Something about a beholder demands an answer. "Dungeons and Dragons" is nominally about dragons, but you know you're really playing D&D when you see a beholder. The 5e Monster Manual has three or four variant beholders. The AD&D Monstrous Manual has twelve. Everyone wants to do their own take3.

So the OSR Discord server was brainstorming alternative "beholders": burning wheels of eyes, disco-laser robots, etc. And I had what I thought was a pretty good idea, and now a bona fide meme: An Octopus with Too Many Wands. Now that we've survived one in Spwack's game, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share the idea here for posterity. It's a great monster: it's weird, it's dangerous, it's intuitive, and it makes its own treasure.


(Art from Nate Treme, used by permission.)

1 I call all the games I play "D&D" in speech, even things like Mothership. It's just easier sometimes.back

2 Looking back at my blogging, I find I am unexpectedly motivated by challenges and competitions, even though I am not a competitive person by nature.back

3 What I can find on short notice includes:

But there are many many more, I'm sure.back

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The City of Emination, a Newer Crobuzon

Following Anne at DIY & Dragons, I've made a city out of some monsters (three "humanoid" minorities and three "bizarre" creatures).

Humanoids

Doppelgangers

Recent refugees of distant war, they are not trusted. Good merchants, negotiators, tour guides. Some rumors about doppelgangers:

  • They bleed a different color (true, but so do some Aasimar).
  • They can read minds (true).
  • They can't stand garlic (false).
  • They'll replace the recent dead (sometimes: they consider dead people's identities "unclaimed").
  • They'll leave you to raise their children for them (false).
  • They'll steal your stuff (rarely: they have different ideas about property).
  • They can't drink alcohol (true, or at least, they can't keep it down).

Ghouls

Unable to enter the inner city (which is hallowed ground) sprawl has forced the ghouls to integrate. Well-fed, they work as laborers. Otherwise they don't think so good and eventually go dormant. Those that let hunger drive their actions are swiftly dealt with.

Aasimar

Aristocratic upper-class, descended from celestials that followed Wormwood (they claim). The original celestials have long since moved on, leaving their progeny to manage the city.

Bizarre

Aboleth

In the city square, a mound of unrotting flesh. It spasms in the rain, and it's good luck if it twitches when you spit on it. It's unknown how it got there, as Emination is landlocked.

The Angel Wormwood (Solar)

Millenia ago the angel Wormwood came to the mountains and there made itself a throne. It never speaks. It has not moved. Ancient pilgrims cut paths through the mountains from all sides, making Emination into an important crossroads.

Earth Elementals

Before the city were the mountains, and the elementals there. Taking the forms of rams and bears, they cut swathes through the outer city until they smash on the inner city walls, raining down charged earth. They always travel in a North-South direction and are more active around geomagnetic reversals.

Other New New Crobuza

There are also some entries from 2009 collected at The Book of Judd. Sphinxcorland (Sea of Stars) was a late addition (2010).

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Other Palaces

I entered the 200 word RPG challenge! I nitpick and revise constantly, so you can see the final version here, and past versions here (I am bad at GitHub). I wanted a widget to see my revisions side-by-side, so there's also this:

PALACE RUN Swapper


(Art from Evlyn Moreau, used by permission.)

Notes

  • In the swapper, I did not mark the changes when lists were re-ordered. Between versions 0.4 and 0.5, I made all the lists alphabetical, because I worry about limiting my imagination by consistently "matching" e.g. "kitchen" and "food". I also think it's more presentable. (In longer lists I do this to catch duplicates.)
  • Due to my personal refereeing style, CHECKs are very rare in practice, so I had a hard time deciding a good value for STAT. The expected damage of an attack that causes a CHECK is 4, occurring on 5 in 6 attacks. Therefore, if STAT=18, there is a 1 in 4 chance of failing a CHECK as a result of the first attack. At STAT=16 this is 1 in 3, and at STAT=12 this is 1 in 2.

The Future

I've been working on the set-up of a specific palace, "The Palace Semi-Infinite". I had some wonderful playtesters who were willing to just mess-up a a palace, but I think something with more direction might have better staying power. I'm keeping the palace generation parts, but I may end up scrapping the game system for Into the Odd or something.

That said, the system is a svelte 61 words in the official word-counter, so it may make a reasonable base for future entries. I'm eager to see what other people have cooked up when I have a chance to sift through them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

PALACE RUN 0.2

I wrote this game that I'm very pleased with. I'm hoping to enter it in the 200 word RPG competition when submissions are open. Until then, I'll be playtesting it and tweaking it on Discord, and you should hit me up for a link to the server if you're interested.

Rules

The current version, at time of writing.

One player is REFEREE. Others, CHARACTERS.
"d6" means "six-sided die". "d20", 20-sided.

CHARACTERS
===
Choose name, POSSESSION. STAT=18.
CHECK or SAVE: roll d20<=STAT.
(CHECKS do; SAVES avoid.)
Attacks auto-hit, d6 damage to STAT.
After 2+ damage, SAVE. Failure --> STAT=1.
STAT<=0 --> death.
REST --> STAT=18.

POSSESSIONS
  • Sword (+1 damage)
  • Hand-mirror
  • Marbles (100)
  • Chalk
  • Glue
  • Flute
  • Rope
  • Wine
  • Bucket
  • Hammer

ROOMS
===
d6ROOMCONTENTS
1.CourtyardPlants
2.GallerySculptures
3.BallroomPillows
4.BedroomBaskets
5.KitchenBanquet
6.LibraryFountain

d6EXITSFEATURE
1.N-EENCOUNTER
2.N-SGLINT
3.N-WTREASURE
4.S-ETWIST
5.S-WWay UP
6.E-WWay DOWN

ENCOUNTERS
===
2-in-6 whenever CHARACTERS dawdle, REST, or clamor.
Flight auto-succeeds, CHECK or become lost.
d6MoodEncounter
1.SleepyGuards
2.HappyNobles
3.SadAnimals
4.AfraidServants
5.HungryIntruders
6.AngrySupernatural

GLINTS
===
Encounter clues.

TREASURE (d6)
===
  1. Jewels
  2. Wine
  3. Porcelain
  4. Tapestry
  5. Letters
  6. Gold

TWIST (d6)
===
  1. 1 damage crossing (example: thorns).
  2. Secret Door: CHECK locates.
  3. Oubliette: SAVE or fall (d6 damage).
  4. Non-Euclidean: exits to far rooms.
  5. Unique room-type (example: laboratory).
  6. Palace exit.

(194 words!)

Inspirations

Sparks

Tables are rough to fit in the game because each number also counts as a word. A d6 table is a minimum of 14 words. So I put this together, but can't even begin to fit it in. I worry that some of the words are too similar anyway though.

d20Spark 1Spark 2
1ancientbanquet
2black-marketceremony
3crystalchandelier
4dancingchivalry
5decadentdiplomacy
6exoticeducation
7foreignespionage
8gamblingfaçade
9giltgift
10hiddenhistory
11honorablehunting
12illegitimateinheritance
13ivoryintrigue
14legalmarriage
15luxurymoney
16mahoganymusic
17marblepiety
18paintedtaxes
19socialtradition
20usurpingwar

Notes

It works well so far. I'm running a game on discord that's a mostly-straight whimsical fantasy palace. One of my players is putting together another game that's flavored after Darkest Dungeons. We haven't yet used the combat rules in anger, and running a game on Discord takes getting used to, but I'm optimistic.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Black Ships and Bad Hydrodynamics

I was going to make a quick fun game about boats. Treasure Island, The Odyssey, One Piece. I wasn't going to get caught up in the details of how boats work. I told myself this at the outset, and believed it. I was going to borrow liberally from other, nicer rulesets, and not worry about realism. Now I'm writing about boat hydrodynamics.

When Viking explorers found new lands, they were usually about a week's sailing away. More distant lands were reached by following a chain of smaller stops. This is because they could survive for about two weeks at sea, so one week was the point of no return1. Rather than start with existing historic boats, we can take this type of exploration as our goal, and then work out how best achieve it.

Some Rules

I haven't playtested these, they're just draft rules.

  • Every week, the crew2 rolls against mishaps. An undercrewed ship rolls with disadvantage.
  • An overburdened ship moves at half speed.
  • When there are fewer sacks3 of supplies than people, the ship is at half rations. At half rations, all ability checks are rolled at disadvantage. For each additional week at half rations, an additional die is added to the disadvantage (e.g. on two weeks of half rations, an ability check is the worst result of three dice). This assumes some kind of subsistence fishing, scavenging, rationing, etc. This doesn't kill you directly, but you're going to die.

Mishaps

  1. 1d4 sacks of supplies lost or spoiled
  2. ship damaged - move at half speed (rigging, rudder, etc.)
  3. you are lost
  4. injury among the crew
  5. disease among the crew
  6. stowaway found
  7. becalmed for 1d6 days
  8. ill omen - next mishap check at disadvantage unless the crew makes appropriate supplication

Encounters

Encounters at sea are never by surprise excepting with beasts, and evasion is down to chance (1d4 to evade: on a 1, success, on a 2, success but off-course or lost day).

  1. Global Faction
  2. Local Faction
  3. Foreign Faction
  4. Unaffiliated
  5. Wild
  6. Flotsam or sign

Exploration Sailing

Going back to "islands are a week away", we can interpret this two ways, which I will call the "dense ocean" assumption and the "sparse ocean" assumption. Given the distances and speeds involved, the classical 6-mile hex quickly becomes more hindrance than help, and instead everything is worked out in points and lines. Obviously all these assumptions are different for large ships with large crews, but I don't think those are conducive to the game I'm trying to make here. It's also worth noting that I'm explicitly fitting the geography to the type of game I want to run here, not to any kind of reality.

Visibility

A person can see d km away on a clear day at sea, where:

d = 13 h d = sqrt {13h}

and:
d is distance seen (km) and
h is the height above sea level (m).

This means:

  • A 2-meter person standing at roughly sea level can see 5 km.
  • A person standing atop a 30 m crow's nest can see 20 km.
  • In ideal conditions, smoke rises to a mixing height of 518 m, so can be seen from 82 km away.
  • A bird flying at 4000 m can see and be seen from 228 km.

The Dense Ocean

On average, there is an island one week's travel in any direction.

This means that each day of exploration, there is a 1-in-7 chance of finding an island. Call it 1-in-8 and be done with it.

The Sparse Ocean

On average, the nearest island is 1 week away.

This means that in a circle of radius one week's travel, there will be an expected two islands (start and destination). Here I will make a series of poor assumptions which allow me to simplify my calculations: Assume that the ship will sail in a straight line each day in one of eight directions, and that it will see everything there is to see in that direction. The area seen in one day is then:

A day = 1 8 π ( 1 7 r ) 2 A_day = {1} over {8} %pi ({1} over {7}r)^2

where:
Aday is the area of ocean seen in one day, and
r is the distance traveled in one week.

Then the probability of finding an island in a week is roughly:

P week = 2 × 7 ( 1 8 π ( 1 7 r ) 2 ) π r 2 = 1 28 P_week = 2 times {{7 (1 over 8 * %pi(1 over 7 r)^2)} over {%pi r^2}} = 1 over 28

and the probability of finding an island on any given day is:

P day = 1 7 × 1 28 = 1 196 P_day = {1 over 7} times {1 over 28} = 1 over 196

Exploration sailing is terrible using a sparse ocean.

What about Vikings?

The Draken Harald Hårfagre has a top speed of 14 knots or 25.928 km/hr. If the crew never rests, then the ship could travel 4356 km in a week. If they use birds to find land, then they explore a swath of ocean 4356 km x 2(228) km in one week. The probability of finding an island is then:

P week = 2 × 2 d × r π r 2 = 2 × 2 ( 228 ) × 4356 π ( 4356 ) 2 = 912 4356 π 0.0666 P_week = 2 times { {2d times r} over {%pi r^2} } = 2 times { {{2(228)} times {4356}} over{ %pi(4356)^2}} = 912 over { 4356 %pi } approx 0.0666

and

P day = 1 7 P week 0.01 P_day = 1 over 7 P_week approx 0.01

This is about twice as good odds as with worse assumptions, but still doesn't seem great. I'm sure that realistic exploration sailing had any number of other factors going for it and the math here is all wrong, but for my purposes the Dense Ocean seems more fun anyway.

How Much?

Assume a party of 5 people. We'll say that a week's supplies for one person is a sack, and in addition each person has a sack of tools and gear. So our small ship must now carry 20 sacks of weight (5 people, 10 supplies, 5 gear).

Old ships are measured in tonnage4, the number of tun-casks the ship could fit. From this random image I found, a tun cask takes four people to carry, so is equivalent to 4 sacks. Therefore our small ship is 5 tons.

How Fast?

An early limitation on ship speed is the "hull speed", where:

V hull = 1.34 L WL V_hull ~= 1.34sqrt{L_WL}

and:
Vhull is the hull speed (knots), and
LWL is the length of the ship measured at the waterline (ft).
Strictly speaking this isn't a "limitation", but I must stress that we're talking about terrible boats here.

From the tonnage, we can back-calculate the length of the ship using the Builder's Old Measurement:

T = ( L OA 3 5 b ) × b × b 2 94 T = {(L_OA - 3 over 5 b)times b times {b over 2}} over 94

where:
T is the tonnage (tons burden),
LOA is the over-all length of the ship (from stem to sternpost, ft), and
b is the beam, or width of the ship (ft)
and also using a random rule-of-thumb found on Wikipedia somewhere:

b = L OA 2 3 + 1 b = nroot{3}{ L_OA^2 }+1

(LOA and b in ft.) Finally, we must assume that, for our purposes, the waterline length is equal to the overall length. This isn't a great assumption, but it's not terrible if our boat is built more like a bathtub than a canoe.

With all of this, I wrote a quick ocatve script to generate the following table:

T (tons)LOA (ft)Vhull (knots)
19.52554.1357
212.8374.8011
315.2945.2404
417.3195.5766
519.0745.8523
620.6396.0876
722.0616.2939
823.3726.4782
924.5936.6453
1025.7396.7983

At this point, I started to think I might have lost track of where I started, so I stopped. When someone asked "how fast do boats go" on a Discord server, I just pointed them at this table from Labyrinth Lord:

Underdark-Ocean Island Generator

One more in a continuing series.

Where to get it

The Manse

What is it

Six tables, d6-d12, giving approach, material, monster, hazards, treasures, and inhabitants (1-in-6).

Sample Output

Island 1

  • Well developed. Tons of range markers, buoys, shark nets and docks. If the island is inhabited, there is a steep dock fee. If the island is uninhabited, then this place is long abandoned.
  • Island of bones and insect shells; discarded for centuries as flotsam.
  • Dark-Elf Spellcaster. Very powerful, but water burns her like acid.
  • Glass Dog. It's lonely, but every time it jumps or licks you it deals 1 damage cause it's made of glass. If you managed to catch it and bring it to the mage's guild you'll get a hefty reward.
  • Pearl & Diamond Earring. The matching pair is lost at sea. Worth a few thousand gold.
  • Uninhabited

Island 2

  • Unnaturally calm. Feeling of dread. Roll a random encounter.
  • Island of bones and insect shells; discarded for centuries as flotsam.
  • Ogre Zombie, dressed head to toe in very thick armor. There's actually 1d8+1 of them, they're just all identically dressed, so rumors only ever speak of one.
  • There is a fairy grove on this island, unsual mushroom and lichen instead of trees and grass. But the fairies still play tricks on you, steal your map, make time pass faster, etc.
  • Magic warning sign. If a creature can read any language, then reading this sign forces them to make a morale check to proceed if they aren't in combat or chasing you or something.
  • Uninhabited

Island 3

  • Filled with dark, spooky seaweed. If you fall overboard, they pull you down and drown you.
  • Standard rocky island affair. Mushroom forest and lichen bog; very verdant for a place in the underdark. Elves probably lived here once.
  • Dark-Elf Spellcaster. Very powerful, but water burns her like acid.
  • Poisonous berries and fruits, tainted fresh water. No chance for resupply.
  • Bag of a hundred silver coins. If you spend an exploration turn tapping coins, you have a 1 in 6 chance to find a fake coin that's actually gold underneath a silver paint. About 20 of them are fake.
  • Uninhabited

Notes

I like these ones, they're detailed and evocative. They're definitely tied to a setting, and they might be just specific enough that it's weird to re-use one on a second island. I also think that only 1-in-6 islands being inhabited means the inhabitants table doesn't get enough use, similar to the "exotic materials" table on other generators.


1 This is what the tour guides of The Draken Harald Hårfagre told me, but I might be misremembering.back

2 Following from UVG, a "group" check rotates throughout the crew.back

3 Sacks are another useful abstraction from UVG. A sack is: as much as one person can carry unencumbered; all of a person's prefessional gear; one unconscious human; one unit of trade goods; or enough food, water, and consumables for one person to survive for one week.back

4 These are tons burden (a volume measurement), as opposed to tons displacement (a weight measurement). As an engineer, it distresses me the number of meanings that "ton" can take, but here it is unavoidable.back

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Town Called January

The challenge this week on the GLOG Discord channel was to detail a city or village or quarter or similar. This is my attempt.

Apollo speaks through his oracle at Delphi, Aphrodite through Dodona, and even the gods of the Celts and the Norsemen all have their own seers. So Janus, among the highest of the Roman pantheon, he too has prophets, established in a town called January. Once, upon the discovery of this gift from Janus, the town grew at an enormous rate. Surely, visions from the gatekeeper of the gods himself must be of a purer, stronger sort, it was reasoned. And they are, for his oracles are two, and both prophecy only the truth. But one will only see the past and one the future, and even they do not know which is which. So the city fell into disrepair and is now mostly a curiosity.

Downtown

The core of January.

  • Joram runs an aging, but still upscale hotel, The Golden Fleece. He is also an expert on military defense and sieges.
  • Hiram is a mask maker who sells them from his cart every day. In the past, the locals would all wear masks on the backs of their heads, but these days it's mostly for tourists.
  • Mayors Miriam and Beelzebub won the least and the most votes for mayor respectively (that's how it works here). They get along together regardless.
  • Pam is the law and head priest around here. She will defer to the oracles on all matters, but they usually don't interfere.
  • Elam is a sculptor of growing renown. He claims not to know where the Wandering Adonises come from, but this is obviously a lie. His main income is sculpting large marble body parts to be offered to the temple (e.g. a large marble foot for foot for a foot problem).

The Temple

A short ways away up a small hill. Here there is a hot spring where people throw lead curse tablets, and then also drink the water for their health. You could probably get some good dirt on people from the accumulated curses, if you're willing to risk a god's disfavor.

  • Seppha and Piper are the two oracles, who all this fuss is about. They used to have more attendants and they're not pleased about the change.
  • Gerontus is the historian. For a not insubstantial fee, he can offer you some insight into which of the prophecies applies to the past, and by extension, which applies to your future.

The Old Town

The ruins of a massive city surrounding the core downtown. Unsavory sorts lurk here, but also just people trying to get by. There's a 50% chance that anything can be found here, albeit in rough shape (blacksmith, horse stable, observatory, waterpark, etc.).

The Quarry

An uncommon bright spot in January's future, Januarian marble is becoming trendy in some circles. The impurities give it distinctive purple veins.

The Orchards

Januarian farmers graft their trees relentlessly, such that something is always in season, and they can practically tell what day of the year it is by what's in bloom. Empty doorframes dot the landscape, but they are not magical and the locals will think it's very funny if people walk through them to check.

Encounters

  1. Boram, a political up-start. He's spreading positive propaganda about Miriam, hoping to snag last place in next year's election.
  2. Hephelot, a general of little renown. He can't afford the pricier oracles, but still wants to know about upcoming battles.
  3. A wandering marble Adonis. They don't speak. There's a few of them around.
  4. A caravan of pilgrims with various ailments, thirsty for the healing waters of the temple.
  5. Filiam, a disaffected local teen attempting to run away to a "real" city. Keeps getting lost in the ruins, but won't admit it. Claims instead that he's looking for something important.
  6. Poram, a massive quarryman. Wears the Janus mask on the back of his head, so looks quite frightening from behind. Needs people to check out a scary cave for him, but won't phrase it like that.

Other Cities

This is only my entry in a second GLOG challenge, these are some others: