Friday, November 24, 2017

VoDF: Zone 1- Kill Parlour

Zone 1- Kill Parlour

This zone is the old foreman's house, long abandoned after a night of red butchery that forever marred the walls of this house.  You enter this zone by traveling down a recently dug tunnel until you reach a hole in the floor.  Going down through the hole leads to Room 1. 

1: Broom Closet.

This room is a storage for brooms, mops, and cleaning supplies.  Also in here are 1d6+1 Servant outfits, 50% of being maids dresses and 50% being butler's tailcoats and black trousers.  Wearing a servant's uniform will prevent the Butler from attacking you, unless you try to steal something or attack a guest.   

2: Servant's passageway.

This is a hallway that the servants use to pass through the house without drawing to much attention from the guests. 
It is pitch-black, and utterly silent.  There is a door to room 7. 

3: Butler's Quarters

Here is where the Butler lives.  The Butler sleeps on a futon on the floor, which is neatly rolled up in the corner.  There is a painting of a rather, plain, but smiling woman in a fine dress, with a faceless man in a black tunic standing behind her.  Everytime you try to focus on the faceless man, your gaze slides off him.  The painting is not magical.  There are letters sitting on a shelf, each one with lots of similarly obscured text.  All the letters are addressed to the same person, but you have no idea who.   

4: Kitchen

Here is where the food would be prepared.  Unfortunately, the shelves are bare.  The only thing to eat is name-day cake, freshly made and delicious looking.  The cake has "Happy 111th Name-Day, Phoebe!"  Written on it in blue icing.  The cake is poisonous, and anyone who eats it also has a 20% chance of finding on the needles in the cake.   

5: Guest Room 1

This is an immaculately clean, well kept room.  Their is someone sleeping the bed.  They are sleeping soundly, with their hair having grown ridiculously long.  It is braided.  Their nails have grown as well, and they have been filed and painted. If awoken, the guest will attack in a frenzy.  They will not pursue you beyond the room, but they will come after you.   

6: Guest Room 2

This room is different.  The person sleeping here has clearly been here for much less time, and is not sleeping soundly.  She is clearly having a nightmare.  Sitting on the nightstand next to her bed is a ventriloquist's dummy.  The Dummy is kind of creepy, but very well made.  A handsome thing that could fetch a fair price at auction.  The Dummy is magical.  Anyone who pours blood over the dummy will activate it.  The Dummy will then pursue the blood's owner to the ends of the earth and kill them.  Once they are dead, the Dummy deactivates.    

7: Grand Dining Room

Here are long table, fit to sit thirty, is immaculately cleaned and set with enough plates, plus carefully folded napkins, silverware and the like.  If anyone sits down at the table and takes a Napkin, they must make a Charisma check.  1d20+Cha modifier+1 per level past first.  If they pass DC 15, the plates are instantly filled with enough food to feed all thirty people.  If they fail, mocking laughter fills the air, and the Butler is summoned to the hall.     

8: Ballroom

Here is a grand hall where the guests would dance, or engage in social frivolities.  There is a fountain here with a Kappa watching, hiding in the deepest part of the fountain, in the center.  If anyone investigates the fountain, he would grab them and drag them down the shaft in the center, which is a 50 foot flooded shaft to Zone 3.   

9: Child's Room

The room is obviously meant for a young girl, painted in soft pastels with a large toy-chest in the corner, colorful plush rugs, and a giant stuffed bear to cradle the child's head.  The child is a young girl, who is asleep in the bed, and looks perfectly innocent and perfectly young.  If you jostle her, she will wake up.  This girl's name is Phoebe, and she is a demon.  Phoebe is absolutely ruthless and savage, with no regard for other's lives.  On Phoebe's bedside table is a silver bell.  If someone drips blood over the bell, they are bonded to it.  Whenever it rings, no matter how far away they are, they will hear it, and no the exact location the bell was when it was rung.  This bond is broken if the bloodstain is wiped clean.     
10: Master's Room

The Master's Room.  His last remaining servant is awaiting his return, and has kept his room exactly as he left it.  The room is a complete mess, the tables crowded with rotting food, the attached half-bath covered in mold and lichen, the drawers full of broken glass and metal shards.  In the bedside table is the key to unlock the confinement cells, and in the dresser, surrounded by spiky metal and glass shards, is a belt of gold links, worth 300 g.  This belt is the prime treasure.  Anyone searching through this stuff must succeed a Dex check or cut themselves.  Anyone who does cut themselves must save vs disease.  The disease will slowly begin to transform someone into the House's Master, eventually transforming them to look exactly like him.  Anyone wearing the belt of gold will have no trouble from the butler.    

11: Confinement Rooms

Here is a series of three cells with iron bars.  The cells are open at the moment, but if they are shut, they will lock.  The Butler and the Master are the only ones who have a key.  If someone is in the cell, the Omitted Butler will not attack them. At the rear of the third cell is a pair of skeletons.  One of them is wearing some moth-eaten robes, and has a spellbook by his.  The robes are crusty with dried blood.  The other skeleton is hideously charred and broken in half at the waist.  He has a dagger that was once gilded, but the gold melted and is now on the skeleton's hand.  The spellbook contains 1d4 spells of a random school.  The dagger is magic, and does +4 damage to Wizards or spell-casters.  Anyone who touches the spellbook or uses any of the spells inside must secretly save vs madness or develop the Wizard's insanity, and anyone who uses the dagger is cursed to die in a fire (no save against the curse; fire deals double damage to them).        

12: Foyer

This was supposed to be the room that greeted guests as they entered.  It is a nicely decorated room.  Going through the door leads to Flux A.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

VoDF: Well that did not go as planned

I think I just learned one of the perils of typing out your thoughts before they've had adequate time to metastasize.  I've been working on the Vaults of Dr. Facilier, though it might be better called Facilier's Failed Factory.  In short, my early concept underwent significant evolution, until it basically did not resemble anything that I wrote about in my last post.  But I'm going to push ahead, regardless, as I feel that the foundation has been laid securely enough that such a radical metamorphisis will not happen again.

Mandatory Background Lore Stuff

Dr. Facilier was a wealthy industrialist who founded a company that began to excavate a series of caverns to build an underground factory.  This factory, despite being underground, was rather normal, and passed all safety inspections.  What was strange about the Factory was that it seemed designed to limit the impact the factory had on the world, confining all the labourers underground in a town built within one of the more spacious caverns.  This was because that while Facilier produced conventional goods, he also wanted a safe place where he could research and experiment on the mysterious substance found at the bottom of the Cavern. 

The material they found was a substance they named Achorine [Ack-or-eene].  Achorine mutates anything it touches, creating hideous, but improved beasts.  The first few test subjects exposed to Achorine either died, or changed utterly.  The survivor became something utterly removed from humanity; as distant from us as we are from apes.  In later experiments, Achorine was diluted, mixed with water and other chemicals to make a less-potent, but more stable brew.  This is called Accro by the management, or Ace by the labourers.    

The factory had two levels.  The outer factory produced conventional goods, namely munitions; but it also had smaller sub-factories that produced in-house goods for the labourers who lived within the company town.  This level was the only one that supposedly existed, and was all above board.  The inner factory was different.  Officially it did not exist, and all the management denied it, or were ignorant of it.  The inner factory was dedicated to producing weapons based off Achorine, and experimenting on human subjects. 

But for all the power Achorine brings, it also contaminates everything it touches.  Inert physical materials will be warped through long exposure, and it causes mutation and change in living tissue.  Accro does not cause immense mutation, but even the most diluted type twists the genome of those unfortunate enough to consume it, like a skilled harpist plucking at the RNA. 

So the experiments began, but after a while, Dr. Facilier realized that Achorine would only corrupt and pollute everything it touched.  So he decided to destroy it.  But before he could do that, A group of conspirators assassinated the foreman and took over the factory.  Facilier barely escaped with his life, but he vowed revenge.  In his rage, he ordered the destruction of the tunnels to the surface, blowing them up and trapping everyone still in the factory underground.  Facilier managed to cover up the whole incident by claiming it was an industrial accident and that everyone underground was dead, but the ensuing public relations fiasco ruined him, leaving him penniless, his company torn to pieces.  And so the contaminated land was left undisturbed, until recently.        


But this is largely opague to the players.  All I plan on telling them is that their is a dungeon underground, and that they should go and raid it.  I wrote the lore stuff to help myself stay on theme.  And the themes I'm working with are abandoned industry, twisted, malfunctioning technology, mutation bringing distance from mankind, and the poisoned fruit of power.    

Below is a map of the Vaults.  Each Zone is a mini-dungeon in itself, which I am currently writing.  I will publish the Zones as they are written. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

VoDF: A new project- The Vaults of Dr. Facilier

So last night I was thinking about something unimportant, and after reading a stack of Vaults of Vyzor actual play reports, I thought I would shamelessly steal- I mean make an homage to it.  So I started writing, and this is what I came up with. 

"A man named Dr. Salvador Facilier discovered some hidden catacombs in a ruined district of his home city.  He and some of his pals ventured down into the catacombs to see what was up.  Of the five that went in, only Dr. Facilier returned.  He returned with a few treasures, some disturbing stories, and an obsession.  Dr. Facilier would make five more delves into the dungeon, before he went irrevocably insane and was confined to his family home where he still lives, under close supervision by a physician.  But before that, he founded the Ground-floor or Lower Demolition, Inc.  GOLD, Inc. still operates today, hiring expendable pawns to go down into the dungeon and plunder the vaults discovered by the good doctor of any potential treasures."

For about seven minutes of work, that's not bad.  But before I go any further, let me set a few guidelines. 

And yes, I was watching princess of the Frog

Firstly, this project, which I will be tagging VoDF until I can come with a better name, is not meant to be high art, or even medium art.  I am creating it with the intent that this can be the D&D equivalent of a game of pick-up basketball.  There will be continuity between each session, but it doesn't depend on a regular group of players regularly attending to work.  People should be able to easily drop in and out, with minimal hassle. 

Secondly, it should be modular.  The Vaults will be constructed using Paper and Pencils' flux space concept, meaning that it is essentially a bunch of small dungeons connected by various passageways, secret doors, and etc.  But the Vaults should still have some connection to each other, so that they complement each other, but you could still remove one and use it as a small mini-dungeon.

Thirdly, it should be low-effort, but still fun.  I don't plan on putting a lot of work into this, it's just meant for wine-and-nachos fun.  So that means Goblins, Elves, Dragons sleeping on piles of gold, all that stuff.  But I'm still going to throw in a few curveballs, because that's just how I roll.

Four, it will have Roguelike elements.  Most editions of D&D and their clones have de facto permadeath, so that's not an issue.  But I also plan on introducing a few others, such as the ability to work toward some collective goal, and permanent upgrades that any party member can use. 

Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Problem with Into the Odd

I've recently been looking through some of the old blogs I used to read, and Sooga Games leaped out at me.  About this time last year, I discovered that blog and the wondrous creation of Chris McDowall.  It fascinated me at the time, but after looking over the basics of Into the Odd once more , I discovered my primary objection to the game. 

You see, Into the Odd almost seems like an experiment in game design, specifically an experiment that posed the question "How much can we hack off D&D for it to still be vaguely recognizable?"  The answer, as it turns out, is a lot.  Into the Odd has no races, no classes, no attack rolls, only three attributes, no skill list or skill checks, and a handy-dandy chart that lets you build a character in about five minutes, provided you already know what their personality and name will be.

And I don't have a problem with any of that.  McDowell should be commended for what he's done.  I find Into the Odd to be remarkably intuitive, with a fascinating setting and just enough content to stir up the imagination while leaving plenty of blank spots for an creative GM to fill in.  So that's clearly not my problem.  But I did have a problem with Into the Odd, I just couldn't tell you why.

So I kept thinking, writing and rewriting potential additions to Into the Odd to see if I could fix this problem.  I thought I found a solution in my creation, the Odd Fellow.  You see, in the Into the Odd, there are objects called Oddities.  Oddities can be anything from magic hammers that ask you why you wield them to giant fountains that can produce any fluid but water.  As players survive and complete adventures, they acquire Oddities.  These are one of the main ways that players increase their ability set in Into the Odd.  There are some other ways, but I wasn't really aware of them at the time.  I decided to expand upon this, by writing an NPC type called the Odd Fellow.  Odd Fellows are people who bond with a specific Oddity, to the exclusion of all others.  This grants the Odd Fellow a greater ability to use that Oddity, but prevents them from using any others. 

And this naturally lead to the idea of letting my players become Odd Fellows.  But as cool as this idea was, it lead me to an immediate stumbling block.  You see, Into the Odd campaigns follow a very simple pattern: Go on expedition--> Get treasure + Oddities--> Sell treasure and useless Oddities--> Go on Expedition--> etc.  But if I am limiting my players to only one Oddity, then that robs them of a lot of incentive to adventure.  And I can't even do what LotFP does by linking treasure to XP, because Into the Odd doesn't have class levels!

Though I suppose this problem is not insurmountable.  I could just get the players very invested in the world, and actually keep track of all the gold they earned, but I hate tracking minor resources like that.  Besides, Gold doesn't really affect that much about the players, not like a magic sword or XP does.  I thought that perhaps the ideas were simply too incompatible; that Into the Odd was a semi-horror game about plucky nobodies venturing into the weak points in the world to scavenge the known from the incomprehensible, and Odd Fellows are based off a concept from Japanese mangaka, Hirohiro Araki.

The concept I borrowed was that of the [Stand].

A Stand is like a ghost manifested by a person's body.  Perhaps in the future I will make another post about how Stands work, and how to adapt them to D&D or a role-playing setting.  But that's not the point of this post, as cool as Stands are.  They are a bit out of place with a setting like Into the Odd's, a land of pseudo-Enlightenment revolution, Industrial Age cities, and dark corners crawling with many-mouthed horrors.  Stands are much less jarring in the setting of JoJo's bizarre Adventure, the manga I stole them from, an alternate version of modern day earth, but where everyone wears experimental high fashion, strike fabulous poses whenever the occasion arises, and some people can summon colorful ghosts projected from their bodies.

But I think that ultimately my problem is that Into the Odd is too simple.  It does everything that a more traditional RPG does, but because of its ultra-minimalist construction, every piece is absolutely essential.  You cannot pull anything out or modify it, unlike something with a bit more redundancy.  If you change anything about it, you aren't playing Into the Odd, and that's bad, because it'll cause the whole game to unravel.  And I don't like that.  I'm the type of person who is constantly trying to improve.  I've never run two campaigns exactly the same way, and I have no intention of ever doing so.   

Additionally, the other problem I have with Into the Odd is the lack of clear advancement.  Characters in D&D are always getting stronger, better, faster.  But leveling up is much more abstracted in Into the Odd.  And there is leveling, but it just doesn't sit well with me.

And in the end, that is kind of disappointing.  Ultimately my real objection just comes down to mechanics.   

Friday, November 10, 2017

We've all come to look at America

Let's get started, shall we?

I want you to watch the above, then I will dutifully explain to you what I dislike about this ad for the next 350 words or so.  My main grievance comes at 0:03.  There you see a blond haired woman standing in a suburban park, a girl with similar hair hugging her at the same time.  Now, there's nothing wrong with her or the little girl in of themselves.  But it's what the picture does not show that bothers me.  The little girl bears an unmistakable resemblance to the woman, meaning they are most likely mother and daughter.  This bothers me because I find the way our society tolerates and appreciates single mothers, while denigrating fathers and the nuclear family immensely harmful. 

Now this woman is not married, she is a single, working mother, most likely divorced.  Now that may seem a leap in logic, but I will explain why I think so.  First, the woman is most likely middle class, judging by her nice clothes, styled hair, and clean appearance.  This is not a woman who works in retail or blue collar worker.  She has a well-paying, white collar job or she has some other form of income.  Maybe she married a wealthy man and is living off alimony. 

And she's obviously older, as her daughter is at least eight to ten years old.  And since the girl doesn't look adopted, the woman is most likely be her biological mother.  And that means there was a man involved at some point.  But he's not here anymore, or at least there's no sign of him.  We can't see the woman's hands, so we cannot confirm the presence of a wedding band.  In past times, it was shameful for a woman to be unmarried like this woman most likely is, and now we lionize her.     

And since college educated women of the upper middle class tend to vote Democrat on the majority of issues, this is clearly pandering to that demographic.  But even more than political points-scoring, this is encouraging destructive practices, or at least not condemning them.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Weird Al Yankovic- Foil

Yankovic's song, Foil, is a parody of Lorde's most famous song, Royals.  It is not a rebuke of her politics or statements, but merely a series of funny jokes.  Foil begins by Yankovic complaining about how his food goes bad, and he uses aluminum foil to keep it fresh.  Royals starts by talking about what life is like for low-income teenagers, and then goes on to critique many pop songs for their glorification of wealth and financial grandeur. 

But Yankovic does not stop there, he continues, as the second verse diverges even further from Royals, as he launches into a bizarre tirade about how the government faked the moon landing and they are currently spying on us.  Then he reveals that not only is aluminum foil good for keeping food fresh, but also for keeping aliens from reading your mind or abducting you.   So it appears that Mr. Yankovic is aware of other uses for this humble preservative technology.

Then, just as he is about to launch into another rant, some men in dark suits appear and drug him, before dragging him off to presumably never be seen again, while his producer rips off his face to reveal he is actually a reptilian monster wearing fake skin.  And that has nothing to do with the decadence of our modern culture, or of the gross, materialistic pop music of 2014.  So Yankovic is successfully parodying Lorde's song, but not satirizing her.