Deadly Dungeons 30 / Magical Marvels 29: The Treasure Chest Card

treasurechestcardThere are two rooms, empty, with identical features. They share a ~3’ thick common wall. The only entrance to either room is on the wall opposite the common wall. Ideally, there should be no obvious path from one to the other. After players find the first room, they should need to pass through several unrelated areas before they can reach the second one.

The common wall between the two rooms has a slit in it. It’s 1’ long horizontally, and 2” wide vertically. Big enough for an arrow to fit into perhaps, but not an arm or a spear. The slit goes all the way through to the adjacent room.

When characters look through the slot, there appears to be a chest sitting in the center of the other room. However, when they reach that room, they’ll find it just as empty as the first room was. But if they look through the slot from this room, they’ll see that the same chest now appears to be in the opposite room. If there are players in both rooms, they’ll both see the chest in the room opposite the one they are in, but will not be able to find it in their own room.

Spells such as “True Seeing” or “Detect Magic” will reveal nothing, because there’s absolutely nothing magical about any of this. The chest is a sophisticated, but completely mundane, optical illusion. In the center of the slit between the two rooms is a tiny card with a chest painted onto both sides of it. If the card is fished out and examined, the ‘lid’ opens like an envelope. Inside is a 2” x 3.5” white card. In bold printed letters it reads “This card is proof that the task has been completed.”

If the card is given to anyone who has assigned a task to the players, that person will accept it as incontrovertible proof that the task was completed. No amount of logic will ever convince this person that the players failed. Their brain will fold over on itself to find ever more ridiculous explanations for evidence to the contrary, and they will go completely insane rather than believe the task remains incomplete. Further, anyone they show the card to will similarly agree that it incontrovertible.

If the king points to his adviser standing 5’ away and says “I want you to bring me my adviser’s head on a plate,” and the players instead hand the king this card, the king will say “Excellent! My adviser’s head on a plate! Exactly what I wanted. Here’s the reward I promised you.” All the while, the adviser is still standing 5’ away shaking in fear. If this is pointed out to the king, he’ll assume he’s seeing his adviser’s twin brother, or his adviser’s ghost. He may be annoyed that he now needs to hire a ghost hunter, but that’s not really the PC’s fault, now is it?

The card only works once. If the players endeavor to steal the it back, then whomever they give it to next will still view it as proof of whatever first task it was used for. So if the players were to give it to a farmer who needed his lost child rescued from orcs, he would be horrified when the players handed him the royal adviser’s head on a platter.

Formidable Factions 1: Techno Priests

PA-17755123Faction play fascinates me. I’m bad at actually running it, mind you, but the best way to learn this sorta stuff is just to keep failing until you don’t anymore. So 85% of the worldbuilding I’ve done for “On A Red World Alone” has been inventing the various factions that control territory within the dome. For my most recent game I had to flesh out the Techno Priests, and I was happy enough with what came out that I thought someone else might benefit from it.

Priests and Practitioners of the Techno-ligion

The Techno-Faithful revere what they call “The Past Gods.” The Engineers of the pre-apocalypse are their pantheon of deities. People whose knowledge was beyond any modern understanding. The Techno-Faithful know that their gods were men and women, and that those people have long since died. But they also believe that those men and women were possessed of a power that was lost through the moral decay of the human species. The Past Gods were mere men, yes. But we have become some lower thing. A race of sub-men, shackled to weakness and ignorance by our own immorality.

The Techno Faithful marvel in the wonders of technology. They meditate by clicking a flashlight on and off, or playing a working gameboy. They pray to the collective spirits of The past Gods to guide them away from sin, and towards an understanding of technology.

While the Techno-ligion is widespread, there are just as many people who think the whole “Past Gods” nonsesnse is hogwash. But even they must admit that Techno Priests are the masters of getting old technology working again. They’re pretty much the only ones who can do it. Althought within the whole of their religion, no one actually understands technology. They’ve merely ritualized what we would call tech support procedures. The first rituals an acolyte learns are just over-complicated ways of checking to see if it has fresh batteries, or turning it off and back on again. Mid level acolytes can spend hours muttering “Ω” as they follow a wire to see if it has frayed.  The most experienced elders of the faith wield Smelting Scepters (soldering irons), and know how to repair a pathway on a circuit-board, or replace a blown capacitor.

But concepts like “an electrical circuit,” or even “electricity” are alien to them. Perhaps even blasphemous. When they get a shock from a frayed wire, they believe it is The Past Gods chiding them for their failings. Only through ritual and meditation do they believe the soul can be purified, and technology understood.

If you have a piece of technology you wish to have repaired by a Techno Priest, they will always begin with the lowest level rituals and work their way up. (Even if the issue obviously requires the fifth ritual, it is sacrilegious to skip rituals 1 through 4). Each ritual has a 1-in-6 chance of fixing the technology, and costs 100 credits multiplied by level of the ritual. So the first attempt costs 100 credits, the second attempt costs 200 credits, and so on.

Once a device has been given to a techno priest to repair, under no circumstances will it be returned until it has been repaired. If a given priest is not knowledgeable enough to fix it, they will take it to their superiors. If you don’t have enough money to pay for the next level of ritual, they will hold onto it for you until you do. This is a matter of cyber-heaven or giga-hell for them. They will not budge on this issue.

The Techno Faithful typically wear a broken computer fan or an LED somewhere on their person. Techno Priests cover their clothing in as much broken technology as they can. These are worn as a sign of respect for the knowledge of those who made the relics that cannot now be understood; and as an act of penance for allowing the race to decay to the point that this knowledge was lost.

Religious services for the Techno Faith involve gathering in large groups to spend an hour or more pedaling at stationary bicycles to charge batteries. The exertion cleanses the body and the soul, and means that most devotees of the faith are exceptionally fit.

Sample Monastery

A cell hidden deep in unfriendly territory. Tasked with seeking out relics that have not yet been discovered by the locals, and smuggling them back to Technotopia before they fall into irreverent hands.

High Priest Tsaros. A plump woman with a pair of satellite dishes on her shoulders, and a tiara of working LED computer fans. Tsaros is learned in the faith (can perform up to level 8 repair rituals). However, since she became the leader of an outpost far away from any of her superiors, she has become lax in her worship. A weak-willed person, but not stupid or cruel.

Adjunct Priest Sessarum – A middle aged woman a decade Tsaros’ senior. She has less of a knack for ritual, (only up to level 5), but she is disciplined and devoted. Always pedals the hardest during service. Handles most of the day-to-day administration. Doesn’t like Tsaros, but is supremely respectful and faithful in her duties as Adjunct Priest, and to the chain of command laid out by the church elders. She will not betray Tsaros under even the most dire circumstance. 

Knight Seeker Able’Tut – A brusque young man. Scornful of nearly everyone, particularly those who he perceives as being complicit in the moral fall of the human race. Constantly skirts the line of what is permissible in his hatred of High Priest Tsaros, and does not trust the dedication of Knight Shepherd Yule. He is capable of performing level 3 rituals, and his primary duty is leading search teams, out to find new relics.

Knight Shepherd Yule – An elderly man who joined the faithful late in his life, Yule performs rituals only up to the third level. But as a softspoken man, nearing the end of a life fully lived, he is uniquely qualified to tend to the spiritual and educational needs of the younger priests and acolytes.

Other – There are 12 priests capable of the 1st level of ritual, and 5 priests capable of the 2nd level of ritual.

On a Red World Alone Play Reports

A Domed City on MarsOccasionally, I’ve gotten requests to start writing play reports. Usually I’m only too happy to respond positively to reader requests. I rarely get them, and it strokes my ego to know that someone actually wants something from me. Validation is intoxicating.

But play reports…I hate play reports. They’re painfully boring to read, and I tend to skip them even when they’re written by some of my favorite bloggers. Heck, I even skip them when they’re written by some of my favorite bloggers and I feature prominently in them. Clearly there’s an audience for these things, and I don’t want to denigrate anybody who reads them, or indeed, anyone who writes them. It just feels uncouth to publish something that I wouldn’t want to read myself.

All that being said, I’ve recently been making a big effort to improve my note taking. Part of that effort has meant sitting down after a session and writing out detailed notes on what happened. Essentially, I’m actually writing play reports. They’re unpolished, and organized more for my reference than for readability. But whether or not I’m sharing them with people, they exist. So I may as well share them.

I don’t want to make them part of the regular stream of posts. The unpolished nature of the things would bother me too much if they were going to spend any amount of time on the front page of the site. But, if you’re interested, I’ve been uploading them to the campaign page for On a Red World Alone. I’ve actually been doing this for awhile now. It only just occurred to me recently that I probably ought to tell people I’m doing it.

There should be a new one every Thrusday.

Cool Stuff in the Wrong Direction: Forests

Bear partySo. Your players are tracking Zalgag, the two eyed cyclops, through the woodlands where he’s rumored to have his lair. The ranger is using her tracking skill to follow the trail of trampled ferns and broken branches, then, she rolls a 1. The players have lost the trail. Worse yet, you use classic hexcrawling rules, and they’ve gotten themselves lost. Still worse, nobody thought to purchase a compass. The situation is bad for them, but for you it’s even worse. You’ve gotta figure out how to make being lost in the woods interesting.

Fortunately, you’ve got this table.

  1. An ancient stone church. From the construction you can tell it originates from the very earliest days of the common faith in this land. Back when the abhorrent faiths that were once practiced here were forced out at swordpoint. A titanic oak has fallen on the roof and crashed its way through the floor, revealing a hidden chamber beneath. There appears to have been no way to reach this chamber from the church prior to the floor collapsing.

    The floor of the chamber is covered in a layer of dead wasp husks 2’ deep. The many-pored hives of their living descendants hum with activity all along the chamber’s walls and ceilings. Directly under  the altar in the church above is a stone ring, 3’ tall. Human femurs have been placed on the inside edge of the ring, each pointing towards the center. There are hundreds of these, leaving only a narrow passage of about 5’ in diameter down the center of the ring.

    Runes in an ancient local tongue describe the necessary ritual. A victim’s face must be pressed to the narrow bone passage and pain must be inflicted on them. Their screams suffice as an offering to the god of this place. After having been so long forgotten, the deity will be willing to proclaim anyone who gives it offerings as a champion. Much will be given, but much will be expected.There is a passage in the wall which wends beneath the earth for nearly a mile before opening out into the side of a treacherous gorge. The native peoples built this place to worship their god in  secret after open worship was banned, and to negate the hateful presence of the interloping faith.

  2. A meadow where the trees overhead are so thick they form a veritable cavern. It would be dark as night, if not for the multicolored, luminescent fungi that hang from every tree branch, and float on the waters of the pond. This is the court of the pixies. A place which can only be found when you’re not looking for it.Typically the pixies hate to be intruded on by the big folk. They punish intruders with cruel games. These are really just sadistic tortures with strange rules, and a false hope that the victim might ‘win’ and be allowed to leave.

    Today, however, the pixies have need of some of the big folk. They have a gift for the big-folk king, and need someone to deliver it. Unfortunately, the serpent bird became enamored of the shiny paper the gift was wrapped in, and has stolen the gift for its nest. The pixies require the players to retrieve the gift before they take it to the king. They assure you that the human king will reward you amply for your trouble. He will not. If the players are reticent to pursue this quest without any obvious reward, the pixies would be happy to play “games” instead.

    As it happens, the gift is a smooth white stone with a jagged “X” carved into its surface, and colored with a pasty red powder. If touched, the stone causes the victim to be uncomfortably large for any man-made room they enter. In nature they are normal size, but as soon as they walk through a doorway they will find they have to stoop, and cannot take most actions normally. (Though they can always fit through doorways, somehow). Their new size confers no benefits of strength.

    The pixies would be deeply offended to learn their curse did not reach its proper target.

  3. The characters break through the underbrush into a small clearing where they find a council of bears. Most are sitting on fallen logs or tree stumps, while 2-4 are standing amid the rest, having a formal argument with one another about the moral state of the forest, trade agreements with the squirrels, the reliability of sense perception, or some other esoteric topic. When the characters are noticed, the bears will be mortified at having been discovered. Some of them will begin awkwardly acting like normal bears, but these will be chided by the rest for being ridiculous. After all, humans aren’t that stupid.
    The bears are polite and highly rational, but are insistent that they do not want their intellect to become widely known. While they have no currency with which to bribe the players, they offer their council on any number of issues the players wish to discuss. Of course, they are given to long argument on even the simplest subject, but patient players will always receive good information. Under no circumstances will the bears resort to violence on the player’s behalf.

    If the players attempt to betray the bears’ secret, they will have a difficult time of it. Tales of the bears are common enough from travelers in these woods that the surrounding villages have adopted the term “Meeting The Bear Council” as a euphemism for consuming a certain kind of hallucinogenic mushroom that grows on by the river there.

  4. In the middle of nowhere, its presence not even indicated by a deer trail through the underbrush, is the Crosseyed Wolf Hunting Lodge. It’s a large, well maintained building, with a green moss growing on the walls and roof. Within, the building is rustic and homey, with a welcoming barkeep and a host of cheerful huntsman. Notably, some of these will be peasants, while others may be as high ranking as princes or kings. There is no rank in the Crosseyed Wolf Hunting Lodge.

    On the walls hang trophies from all manner of bizarre creatures, the likes of which the players have never seen or imagined. Furry toad heads the size of an elephant’s, with majestic deer antlers; a fleshy horse with no eyes and 12 rows of razor teeth; a coiled python with the upper body of a mole-like thing where its head ought to be. The hunters are only too happy to share exaggerated stories of how deadly each creature was, and how much daring it took to bring it down.

    The Crosseyed Wolf Hunting Lodge is managed by Gullenet the Jocose, a muscular wizard of considerable skill with portals. The exploits of his youth made him wealthy enough to fund this place for the next four hundred years (which is good, because he plans to live at least that long). Gullenet’s specialty is creating portals to other worlds, and he spends years doing careful research to find new and exciting prey for the finest hunters in the world to tackle. They gather here once every two years (aided by Gullenet’s portals) for a great hunt. And a new one is just about to begin.

  5. A tree with a wise old face in its trunk. When approached, it will greet whomever it sees with a raspy voice, as though they were expected some time ago. It will agree to answer a single question for any group of people who come before it. It’s answers are generally nonsense disguised by profound language and portentous tone. It avoids specifics, but if need be, it will give specifics that are very far away from wherever it currently is.

    Truth be told, this tree has only been sentient for about 6 years. It is not very old, nor is it very wise. But every face in a tree seems to look old and wise to humans. She got tired of trying to convince people she didn’t know the answers to their questions (everyone assumed it was some kind of test), and instead just started making shit up to get people to go away.
  6. One of the party stumbles into a hole, taking taking 1 point of damage. It was disguised by a burlap tarp covered in dirt and dried leaves. The hole is 6’ long, 3’ wide, and 8’ deep. It’s lined with tightly packed stones, and there’s a metal grate at the bottom. The whole thing is covered in ash.If the players spend any time searching nearby they will find human bones. It doesn’t matter where they look. In hollow stumps, fallen logs, under stones, everywhere. It would be difficult to dig in a spot within 100’ of the hole without finding bones.

    If the players wait, there is a 1 in 6 chance each night that Hershel Volik will arrive, carrying a body. Hershel lives in the nearest village. During a childhood he tries not to remember, Hershel developed a taste for the meat of his fellow man. He makes frequent trips to towns throughout the area on business, and his murders (about one every week) have thus far gone undetected.

Do not attempt to place dice in another person.

Earlier today I was at the thrift store with my ladyfriend. As I am wont to do, I spent some time pulling through the board games. It’s 99% crap, but there’s always a chance of finding something cool. Like I did today!

Collective Wisdom ABC Dice GameThis unmarked tin caught my attention, so I popped it open and discovered these large dice with letters on them. These by themselves would have been worth the $2 price sticker. My immediate thought was that I could use them for generating the names of people or places. But also included were some rules for a fairly simple scrabble-like game where players roll dice, then try to create as many words as they can from the letters they roll. All in all, a very neat find. This is exactly the sort of thing that I love about garage sales and thrift stores.

But then there’s this:

DACE CAN KILL YOU BRUHThis warning takes up the entire back side of the 8 1/2″ by 11″ page that the rules are on. For the benefit of Lynx users (and google), here it is in normal text:

Do not play this game on a surface of glass or on a fragile surface that may be cracked, scratched or dented.

Do not forcefully toss the dice so as to damage the playing surface. Never throw the dice: Do not throw the dice at another person because this can cause severe injury. The corners of the dice can cause injury if contact is severe.

Do not throw the dice at glass or other objects because this can cause property damage and broken glass which is hazardous.

Place the dice back in their box when you are finished using them.

Store the dice in a place out of the reach of small children (under the age of 3 years) or pets who might try to chew or swallow them.

Do not leave dice on floors, steps, beds, chairs, sofas, or other places where someone might step on them, trip over them, or recline on them.

Do not beat dice with a hammer or heavy tool, which may cause them to chip or crack. If dice become chipped, cracked, or broken, discard the dice and broken pieces.

Do not place or attempt to place the dice in your mouth or any other body part or in that of another person.

The dice are not designed to be used in conjunction with any other product.

The dice should not be used to support the weight of another object.

Children should use the dice only under adult supervision.

Warning: Severe bodily injury could result from a failure to follow these guidelines.

This makes me feel very odd, because I can’t even.

Yet More Magic Words

I gotta stay in practice, yo. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s happening here you can read the original system proposition. I also wrote not one, but two previous magic word lists similar to this one. Also, it’s relevant that I’ve actually been playtesting this idea in my current campaign. It’s going really well, and at present it seems likely that this will become a permanent fixture of my gaming. Most successful house rule I’ve ever written. Doctor Faustus







Fourth Tomorrow

A spell that can be cast instantaneously, without any of the normal gestures or verbalization which would normally reveal spellcasting to foes. The caster disappears into a state of non-existence which lasts four days. 96 hours later they will reappear exactly where they were when the spell was cast. To them it will seem as though only an instant has passed.

If the space they would reappear in is already occupied, the spell jerks them towards the nearest unoccupied space. The caster takes 1d6 damage for every 5′ they have to be dragged.

Wild Tomorrow

A ritual spell used to create a circle 15’ in diameter. A map is placed in the center of the circle with a drop of blood on the caster’s desired destination. Anyone who sleeps within this circle will enter a shared dream for 8 hours. There they will be tested together by a mysterious being called The Blue Coachman. The test will usually take the form of a maze which they must reach the center of before the 8 hours are up. There is no penalty for dying within the dream, though you will spend the rest of the dream in a black void, and wake up with a headache. When the dream ends, the characters awake.

If they were successful, they will appear in a convenient location at the planned destination. If they were not, The Blue Coachman will leave them wherever he finds the most amusing. Perhaps in the middle of a desert, or on a solitary island. He might still take you where you wanted to go, but will place you in the most inconvenient spot he can find. Perhaps right into chains in the dungeon beneath your foe’s castle, or in a deep gorge that is about to be flooded.

Tomorrow Tree

A spell which causes a tree to grow to its full maturity in a single night, even if it is only a recently planted seed in the ground. This growth happens along the natural course the tree would have taken, assuming it received ample sunlight, water, and fertilizer. It will typically grow around barriers, rather than pushing through them.

The caster must sleep for 8 hours during the night for the tree to grow. But other characters can remain awake to watch the tree, and may attempt to guide its growth through pruning and bending if they wish.

Tomorrow Slash

A subtle spell. It may be cast quietly in private, and is activated in one of two ways. Either the caster must touch the target’s clothing, or they must momentarily draw their target’s attention to themselves.

20 + 1d6 hours later, the target takes 2d8 damage. Save versus Magic for half. The spell leaves a dagger wound on the body.

The Wild Four

Summons four revelers. They appear from around the nearest corner and jubilantly approach the caster. They cheer the caster’s name, they dance, and they drink. They always seem to have whatever celebratory accouterments they need, though they’re unable to give any of it to anyone else. (For example, they’ve always got a beer in their hand, but if asked to give you one, they can’t do so unless there is real beer nearby).

People who see the revelers will be enticed to join in the party. No save is required, but unless they have some reason not to party (such as being on guard duty), they’ll probably join in for at least an hour or so.

The wild four will continue to party until the caster is so exhausted that he falls into an 8 hour sleep. They will then dance off into the night, and disappear once they’re out of everyone’s hearing.

Four Trees

A one hour ritual spell which causes an apple tree to grow 10’ to the north of the caster, a fig tree to grow 10’ to the east, a pineapple tree to grow 10’ to the south, and a cherry tree to grow 10’ to the west. The trees will reach full bloom at the end of 1 hour, with ample fruit, regardless of environment. They will persist in this state for as long as the caster concentrates, producing new fruit every hour. Once the caster stops concentrating, the trees will become subject to whatever environmental and climate conditions they are in, and either flourish or decay in real time.

Four Slash

A touch-range spell that can be cast on any friendly target. On the target’s next turn, they can make 4 separate melee attacks. They can move up to 10′ between the attacks, and these 10′ steps do not count as part of the caster’s movement.

This spell is unique in that it has only a 2-in-6 chance of failure if cast within an anti-magic field.

Wild Tree

In an instant, a target tree that is touched by the caster grows to twice its current size. The caster may direct the trees growth, causing it to form a bridge, or a barrier, or to crash through a nearby structure. The cater cannot direct the tree to grow in a way that will cause it to come crashing down under its own weight. 

Wild Slash

A single target within the caster’s line of sight must save versus Magic or be cursed. In any round where the victim of the curse makes a melee attack, their armor class is reduced by 1d6 for that round.

Tree Slash

When cast on a tree, that tree will sense vibrations in the earth using its roots. Anyone who approaches within 15′ of the tree will be attacked by swinging branches. They must save versus Breath or be struck for 1d6 damage each round.

The tree is indiscriminate in who it targets. Not even the caster is safe.

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