Category Archives: Single-Post Rules Discussions

My Players Captured Some Scientists

Donatello Does Machines, D&D ScientistsRecently, my players assaulted the stronghold of some high level dudes. These dudes were traitors to The Internet, which is a secret society of technowizards, who keep their knowledge of science and technology hidden from the masses. When these traitorous dudes left, they absconded with some technology, and so I figured it would make sense for them to also have absconded with some low level science guys.

As the players were hacking and slashing their way through this stronghold, they came across a number of these scientists, and decided to tie them up and leave them in the relative safety of an empty meeting room. Their intent was to drag these scientists back to their own stronghold, which has left me to wonder: what can players do with a cadre of scientists?

I imagine ORWA as the adult version of a saturday morning science fiction cartoon. So, what are scientists for in a saturday-morning context?

They exist to solve problems, usually by making cool stuff. Ergo, that’s what scientists in ORWA will do.

In order for scientists to function properly, they must have a fully outfitted lab to work in. A lab costs 2,000cc for each scientist it supports. So, if you have a 10,000cc lab, and you have 6 scientists, you can only gain the benefits of 5 of them. You’ll need to add on to the lab before that 6th scientist can contribute.

Once they’ve got a lab to work in, players may assign their scientists a project. They can work on any idea that seems to make sense, but the most attractive projects will probably involve inventing a new device, or improving upon an old device. In either case, the project should feel like a single step forward, and the referee is entitled to reject anything too ambitious. If the game is set in a world where the most advanced form of transport is the horse and buggy, scientists won’t be able to make an intergalactic space ship. But they may be able to develop a Model T.

After the players have decided what they want their scientists to work on, the referee must decide on a cost, and a difficulty.

Costs will vary, but should be pretty high. In fiction terms, science is expensive, with lots of custom, high-precision tools and materials involved. In game terms, the ability to advance the technology of the game world should be a strain on player resources. It’s something for high level players to pool their effort on.

Difficulty is based on how complex the referee thinks the problem will be to solve, and determines how long it will be before the project is completed. A good baseline for most projects would be a difficulty of 100. Particularly simple or complex projects may modify this up or down.

When the project is begun, the scientists will begin chipping away at the problem. Each haven turn, the difficulty number will be reduced by the number of scientists working on the project. So, if your difficulty is 100, and you’ve got 9 scientists, then after 1 haven turn the difficulty will be reduced to 91. After two haven turns, it’s down to 82, and so on, and so forth. Once the difficulty reaches 0, the project is done, and the results will be made available to the players.

The referee should assign it a price to any new technologies. The players get a free prototype for funding the project, but any extras they want will need to be purchased. As the game goes on, new technologies will probably begin to spread through the game world, unless the players make a specific effort to keep their inventions secret.

During the long game-months that the project is being worked on, the referee can figure out how the new technology will work. Basically, we’re talking about a Wish here. The players have free reign to ask for whatever they want, and it’s up for to the referee to interpret that in an interesting way.

However, contrary to my views on how a wish should be handled, I think referees should flex their “omnipotent dickhole” muscles here. Fuck with the players a bit by making their new technology work differently than they intended. That may sound hypocritical of me, but there are two major difference between scientists and wishes which make all the difference.

First, wishes are limited. Players are usually lucky to get just a few in their adventuring careers. It’s something special, and the referee shouldn’t take it away from them. Scientists, on the other hand, are an inexhaustible resource. As soon as they’re done with one technology, you can have them moving on to the next one.

Second, when players make a wish, it’s often about altering themselves in some way. If they wish for cool claw hands, and you give them crab claws that make them incapable of holding anything, then their character is basically ruined. With technology, if they ask for a death ray and you give them a weapon that kills whoever uses it, then they can just choose not use it. Or, they can try to find some way to make it useful. Or, if they really don’t like it, they can just set their scientists to the problem of fixing it, and eventually get what they want.

So every new technology will have some significant drawbacks to it. Limitations that make it less useful than the players were maybe hoping for, but still a good tool if they’re willing to get creative, or take some risks. If they try to make a teleporter, for example, don’t give them something that always teleports people into deep space. But maybe the teleporter is bad at reassembling faces, so every time you use it, you lose 1 charisma.

Then, if the players don’t like it, they can immediately hand the device right back to the scientists, and insist that whatever flaw upsets them be corrected. This, of course, will require a new cost, a new difficulty number, and a new countdown of haven turns before the device is ready.

In the end, my players decided to make an alliance with the big bad guys whose citadel they were invading. Part of the negotiations involved returning all the scientists they’d captured. Which is kind of a bummer, because I’d already come up with this whole subsystem that I was getting really excited about.

So now I’ve gotta stuff some scientists into the treasure chests of my next dungeon, or something.

Making Languages Relevant

Loading Ready Run ForeverDoes anybody actually use language mechanics? I suppose there must be some not-insignificant number of people who do. There wouldn’t be so many games that include languages if nobody was using them. But the people using them sure aren’t playing with me. I can’t recall the last time I encountered an NPC who only spoke some specific non-common language. Occasionally I’ve encountered non-common inscriptions or writings. Usually, though, those seem to be intended as set dressing, rather than as something meant to have an impact on the game. That’s a poor justification for having a language skill.

It makes sense. Both why we have languages in the game, and why nobody uses them. Language barriers are intrinsic to the sort of genre fiction a lot of us have in mind when we play D&D. But games and fiction are different things. In a game sense, language barriers don’t work out to be very fun for anybody.

For players, encountering a language you don’t know generally means you’re going to miss out on information that is helpful, but not strictly necessary to move forward. You could waste time finding a translator, or you could waste a spell slot carrying around “Comprehend Languages,” but usually there’s an easier way around the problem.

For the referee, why bother doing anything in any language other than common? If your players do speak Elvish, then the only benefits from adding anything Elvish to the game are:
1. Atmosphere, and
2. to validate the usefulness of speaking Elvish.
On the flip side of things, if none of your players speak Elvish, you’ve either got to put work into making something interesting that they’ll probably never see, or you’ve got to validate their apathy by making something trivial.

None of which is to say that languages can’t work in their current form. I realize that the above criticisms are an oversimplification. But I do think it’s a reasonable assessment of how languages work in practice. So instead of modifying the way we play to accommodate the rules system, I thought I’d take a shot at modifying the rules system to accommodate the way we (I?) play. I have two proposals.

The first is to divide languages into two groups. There are the languages of the common folk, and the languages of the uncommon folk.

Common folk are any species that has a widespread, peaceful presence in the game world. In a standard fantasy setting that’d be stuff like elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, humans, and so on. Every single member of all of these races speak Common. There will never be any language barrier to talking with them. However, everybody prefers to speak in their native languages when possible. If you meet a dwarf, and you speak to them in the dwarf tongue, it will be taken as a sign of respect. Speaking to a member of a common race that is not your own in their native tongue grants a +1 bonus on reaction rolls and social actions.

The uncommon folk are the sorts of things that aren’t part of normal society. The creatures your players don’t normally talk to. Oozes, Dragons, Beholders, Orcs, Goblins, etc. These creatures only speak their native tongues. So if you want to parley with them, you’ll need to speak it as well.

Using this system, knowing a commonplace language grants the player a significant, logical benefit, without requiring that the referee change the way they prepare their game in the slightest. Meanwhile, knowing an uncommon language ‘unlocks’ the ability to speak with a whole group of monsters. There’s no need to make an individual orc particularly interesting to make knowing Orcish worthwhile. The very fact that you can talk to any orc ever at all is the interesting thing.

Alternatively, language could be used as a kind of fence. A way to keep your players penned into an easy to manage area without being too heavy handed. After all, this is pretty much how language works in the real world.

Ya see, here they speak English. You can undersatand what everybody is saying. Because of that, you can function effectively in this part of the world. If you go too far to the east, then everybody will speak French. You don’t speak French, so you won’t be able to understand anybody in that area. You can go there if you want, but it’s unlikely anybody will want to hire you, and even if they do you’ll have a hard time understanding what they want. Probably easiest just to stay within these English-speaking hexes here.

If you were to use language this way you’d probably want to alter the language system to be more limited. I’d start players off speaking only their native language. They could spend X amount of time and gold to learn a new language, thus allowing them to go to a territory which speaks that language without difficulty. (Not to mention giving me some lead-time to prepare interesting stuff to go there).

Thoughts?

Facilitating a Jailbreak

This is one situations in which I wouldn't recommend the Socratic method. *Rimshot*
The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Over time, as an adventurer adventures, the probability that they will end up imprisoned for some reason approaches 1. For my newest group, their luck ran out in our last game, and they found themselves locked in a bland stone cell, without their equipment, in a part of the dungeon they had never explored before. Which was necessary, since there were actually no prisons in the dungeon before they managed to put themselves into a position where the bandits had significant motivation to lock them up.

Once I had my players under lock and key, I realized that I faced an interesting game mastering challenge. In most respects, being locked in a cell isn’t significantly different from any other problem PCs must deal with. Certainly the trappings of imprisonment are familiar: locked doors, hostile NPCs, and crazy plans. But there’s an important, and potentially game damaging difference: the players can’t give up. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter how hard a given obstacle or puzzle is, because the players can always walk away from it, and seek adventure elsewhere. But when the players imprisoned, walking away is the challenge. If it’s too difficult, the players may become frustrated.

There’s also danger in making escape too easy. After all, the players ought to believe that their prison would have been able to hold most people. Just not super awesome adventurers, like themselves. It would be agency destroying to simply allow the players to escape because keeping them locked up is boring. If the players feel as though their escape was handed to them, then they’ll justly begin to wonder whether they’re being railroaded through scripted events.

This didn’t turn out to be a problem in my specific case. The players relied on a few prison escape cliches (faking sickness? Rly?) but took some creative steps to make it convincing. They earned their way out the door, and have struggled tooth and nail through room after room, gathering a hodgepodge of equipment, and trying to find their way out. But had they been a little less creative, or given up a little sooner, being imprisoned could have turned into a problem. So as an exercise, I thought I’d work on a few different solutions that could be used to either believably aide the characters in an escape, or to outright release them, without letting them entirely off the hook.

They Were Unprepared It’s unlikely that most jailors would really know what to do with an adventurer. They may think they’re tossing a few troublemakers into the clink, never suspecting that their prisoners are a master lockpicker, or a cleric who can call upon the magics of their god. And even if the players demonstrate their abilities prior to their capture, it’s unlikely that a local sheriff is going to know what to do about it. It’s not as though they have antimagic cells handy on the edges of civilization!

It would be silly if every jailkeeper were unprepared, of course. More civilized areas will have more sophisticated holding facilities, and ought to be more difficult to break out of.

24 hours to catch the REAL killers For one reason or another, the players could be released from captivity on the condition that they complete a task for their captors. Most likely, there would be no reward for this task other than freedom, and possibly amnesty for whatever landed the players in prison in the first place. (Of course, it’s still possible they’ll be told not to return to town).  There are a number of ways you could do this. A just court could offer to let the players out on parole, on the condition that they take care of a local goblin problem–or better yet–pay a tax on any treasure they haul out of the local dungeon. If the players are held prisoner by an evil character, they might be commanded to perform an assassination or theft.

And, of course, there’s no reason the release needs to be officially sanctioned. If the guard who is protecting the players is in great need, he or she may be willing to release the players in exchange for a favor. It’s unlikely the guard would do this lightly (as they would no doubt lose their job, and possibly be imprisoned themselves) but if their spouse was captured by the devilbear, or their father murdered by Kranos The Red, then the guard may be willing to risk their freedom in exchange for a favor from some powerful adventurers.

The B Team If the players have hirelings who were not captured along with them, then the GM can allow the players to take control of those characters for the purposes of mounting a daring rescue operation. It may be difficult if the hirelings are significantly lower level than the PCs. But then again, escaping from a heavily guarded cell when you have no equipment or spellbooks severely hinders a character’s abilities. Fully equipped characters who are trying to get in rather than out may have better luck than their higher level counterparts.

Pulling a Skyrim Sometimes events completely unrelated to the player’s situation can work out to their advantage. It’s likely that anyone who is powerful enough to have a dungeon to keep people in, is disliked by some people. Maybe those people are, themselves, powerful. If a full scale battle breaks out while the players are imprisoned, it’s a good opportunity for them to slip out in the chaos. Maybe they can convince their captors–or their captor’s attackers–to let them out so they can help in the fight. All the while the GM can roll each turn to determine if a catapult or flicking dragon’s tail opens an escape-sized hole in the cell’s wall.

If all else fails, it’s unlikely that anyone will be paying too much attention during the battle. So the players can attempt the noisy stuff which would normally attract guards.

Skipping Out on the Long Walk I’m a little dubious about this last one. It has the potential to be exciting, but there’s also an implied threat here which the GM will be required to act on if the players don’t make good on their escape: execution. A public beheading, for example, puts the players in a do-or-die scenario where any plan is a good plan. And once they’re out of their cell, opportunities to escape will doubtless present themselves. If they’re marched out onto the streets, then if they get away, they can disappear into the sidestreets quickly. Or perhaps they’d prefer to go a more dramatic route and attempt to shoulder the executioner in the chest when he raises his axe to strike.

I’m curious to know if this is how other GMs approach imprisoned players, or if there’s a different approach entirely that I haven’t thought of.

Simple, Deadly Poisons

Mr. Yuk says POISON BAD!
Mr. Yuk

In appendix 1 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, a number of poisons are listed. Each poison has a bunch of attributes under their fancy schmancy names. The type indicates how the poison gets inside the body. The onset is how long it takes for the poison to begin its work, while the frequency is how often the poison’s effects will repeat, and for how long. The fortitude save varies by poison, and may be attempted each time the poison’s effects repeat. Normally a single save at any point will cause the poison’s effects to end, but sometimes multiple saves may be required (noted under “cure.”) To be fair, most of these poisons can be deadly, but they don’t really suit my needs when I’m designing a trap.

Poisons highlight a problem I have with Pathfinder: the numerous opportunities to save. It’s an excessive amount of rolling which seems designed to give players a better chance to resist whatever effect is directed at them. But I don’t see why. I prefer a game where an effect either happens, or it does not. A save is either passed, or failed. Allowing 6 saves for a given dose of poison just means that poison won’t be a very large threat to players, because they’ll almost always save within their first few rolls. And the one time that the odds are against them and they roll poorly numerous times in a row, dying because of it, they’re going to feel cheated because their fate was left up to random chance. Survivability from poisons should come in the form of the player’s ability to avoid becoming poisoned in the first place through intelligent play. It should not come in the form of an increased number of die rolls. Many effects, such as enchantments and diseases, suffer from this same problem.

For my own use, I’ve devised a simpler system for poisons which are much deadlier, and simpler to remember. Instead of being enumerated individually, poisons are created by the GM according to these basic guidelines. I don’t find that it’s important to identify the method of contraction, because that’s implied by the delivery method. If the poison is in cloud form, then its inhaled. If it is delivered by a needle, then it needs to be in the bloodstream to work. If it’s in food, it’s an ingested poison.

Most poisons belong to one of six types. These correspond to the six ability scores.

Strength poison weakens the muscles of the victim, and can eventually stop the heart. Constitution poison causes nausea, and makes it difficult to breathe, eventually leaving the victim too weak to swallow food, leading to death. Dexterity poison afflicts the victim’s control over their limbs, and can eventually leave the victim paralyzed. Intelligence poison causes the victim to lose focus, and can eventually leave them in a vegetative state. Wisdom poison tampers with the victim’s connection to reality, and can eventually drive them mad. Charisma poison is rare, and expensive. It saps the victim of their cheer, and personality, leaving them ill-tempered and prone to lashing out at their companions. Eventually Charisma poison can drive a person into such misery that they will wish to kill themselves.

Each of these poisons is available in five levels of potency.

Very Weak poison is old, and may have largely dried up. The save to resist it is 12, and it deals 2d4 damage to the indicated attribute.
Weak poison may be watered down, or perhaps not enough was applied. The save to resist is 15, and it deals 2d6 damage to the indicated attribute.
Normal poison has a save to resist of 17, and deals 3d6 damage to the indicated attribute.
Strong poison may be fresh, or taken from a particularly potent source. It has a save to resist of 20, and deals 4d6 damage to the indicated attribute.
Very Strong poison may have been refined by a master alchemist. It has a save to resist of 24, and deals 3d10 damage to the indicated attribute.

The five levels of potency scale nicely with the levels of character power in a given attribute. Weaker poisons are deadly if the character has a very low score for that attribute, while the stronger poisons are deadly for characters who have high scores in the given attribute.

Screenshot of Ability Score Damage by Poison Strength. Graph created using AnyDicea

Graph made with AnyDice

If the save is failed, then the poison will run its course unless an antidote is applied. The first die of the poison’s damage is rolled immediately when the poison is contracted. Every 15 minutes after, another die of the poison’s damage is rolled, until the damage has been dealt in its entirety. If the character takes strenuous action which gets the blood pumping (such as running to get the cure) then the poison may act more quickly (a die rolled every 10 minutes) while a character at rest may be able to hold out longer (a die rolled every 20 minutes)

If the poison reduces the character’s attribute below 0, then the damage is permanent, and the character suffers the fate indicated by the attribute the poison afflicted: death for Strength, inability to eat for Constitution, paralysis for Dexterity, vegetative state for Intelligence, insanity for Wisdom, and suicide for Charisma. If the poison ends its run (either naturally, or because the antidote was applied) before the character’s ability score reaches 0, then the score will regenerate at the standard rate of 1 point per day of rest, until it returns to its previous state.

Non standard poisons may exist, such as poisons unique to a specific creature. But when stocking a dungeon with traps, these six simple poisons in 5 different potencies are varied enough to be interesting, and deadly enough to make players think twice before they open a door with their bare hands.

The only flaw I see in the system is that since the poisons do not have names, players can’t seek antidotes for them. But that’s simple enough: give them names, and have shops sell antidotes for them. Or, better yet, come up with specific plants which can serve as antidotes for them, so players can learn those plants and search for them if they’re poisoned and don’t have any antidote on hand.

Synchronizing Calendars To Avoid Temporal Displacement

The Movie Poster for Back to the Future II
The movie poster for Back to the Future II

For a couple months now, I’ve been considering running a second campaign in my ToKiMo game world. It would be concurrent with my monthly Pathfinder game in that same world. Both groups of players would have free reign to explore and change the world as they desired. The effects of each group’s adventures would manifest themselves in the other group’s world. So if there are rumors of a great legendary sword hidden deep in the forest, then the first group to reach it claims their reward, while the second group to reach it only finds a stone with a strange slit in it.

I’ve wanted to do something like this for years now, ever since first reading the classic “Head of Vecna” tale. I wouldn’t want to pit the two adventuring parties against each other, because I personally don’t think that would be very fun. What I would like is for each party to add life to my game world. I do what I can to make the world around my players seem alive, but there’s only so much that a GM can do. By adding a second party to the mix, it becomes possible for one party to develop a place or an NPC through play, and then for the other party to enjoy the benefits of that development.

Most of the logistical problems involved in running two groups in the same world are minor. If group 1 loots a dungeon, then by the time group 2 arrives at the same dungeon, I’m sure other monsters will have moved in. And if treasure is hidden properly, than it’s doubtful that a single group will ever find all of it, so there ought to be plenty left for the next group to find. And if the players interfere with each other’s quests…well that just sounds awesome, actually. I don’t know why I would want to fix it. There is one problem, though, which I am at a loss for how to fix. How do I keep two games leashed to a single timeline?

When two parties are adventuring separately, what’s to keep them from ending up weeks or months apart from one another? If one of the groups wants to take a month off to craft a suit of armor, and the other group wants each session to begin right where the previous one left off, then this won’t work. There needs to be a method of keeping both parties in roughly the same time period. A task which is particularly difficult since my current group meets monthly, and my new group would probably need to be run bi-weekly.

My first thought is to make time a limited resource for the players. For the group meeting twice a month, they would have a maximum of 1 week to ‘spend’ during the session. For the group meeting only once a month, they would have 2 weeks to spend. Each group would also have the opportunity to spend any time they didn’t use during the game session on other tasks, such as crafting, magical research, carousing, etc. Making time a more tangible resource is something I’ve wanted to promote in my games for awhile, so this would help with that goal as well.

But what if a game session ends on a time sensitive goal? What if the adventuring party is charging into the dungeon to stop a sacrifice which will be performed on the 30th day of the Month of Blood, and they only have hours to spare when our time is up and the session must end? It would be unreasonable of me to force the players to start their next session a week or two into the future, if they didn’t run out of time to stop the sacrifice through play. They must be given the option, in these cases, of beginning the next session immediately where the previous left off.

Perhaps the best way to fix that is to implement a mandatory resting period after an adventure. If group 1 typically has two weeks worth of time to spend in any given session, but a session ends after only a single day, and the next session is a continuation of that same day, then the party must rest for 4 weeks after the adventure to recover from their injuries. I can’t think of a reason why my players would object to this–unless there are further time sensitive goals for them to worry about. If players did object, they could always be given penalties for adventuring while exhausted. A -1 to all physical rolls for each week of rest they miss should work.

But then there’s the opposite problem. What if a single game session ends up taking more time than is allotted to the group? Travel doesn’t take up a great deal of time in the real world–particularly if the players are taking a route they’ve followed many times in the past. But it does eat up game time much more quickly than other tasks do. If you’re running a 3 hour session, and you’ve given the players a week’s worth of time for that session, all they need to do is travel through roughly 30 hexes within the session to exceed the week you allotted for them. And while a lot can happen within 30 hexes, I don’t know if you can (or should) force travel to take up an excessive amount of real-world time just to keep your game’s calendar on track.

The only method I’ve been able to come up with for keeping both parties on track when one spends too much time traveling, is to quietly add a few days to the other party’s resting period at the end of their next session.

I can’t help but feel like I’m over complicating this. Maybe these are edge cases which won’t occur frequently in play. But the last thing I want is for this experiment to turn into a clusterfuck of time travel just because I didn’t create an adequate structure for managing the game’s calendar.

I would very much like some input on this issue, if anyone has relevant experience or thoughts!

Changing my Dungeon Notation

A kitteh opening a secret door in the dungeon. +2 cute.
An image macro from I Can Has Cheezburger

I’m a long-winded kind of guy. When you get me talking, I tend to go on for a little bit longer than anybody wants to listen. It’s a failing which has often crept into my game mastering. When it’s time for me to make a dungeon, I’m inclined towards writing detailed descriptions for each room. Sometimes these descriptions can be a paragraph long or longer, noting what’s in the room, where that stuff is, what the room smells like, what it’s used for, and so on. It takes forever for me to finish a dungeon. And because of the time it takes, I’ve often had difficulty keeping to a gaming schedule. If I’m being honest, the paragraphs I write about rooms aren’t even that useful to me at the table. Every time the players enter a new room I need to flip through a large stack of papers, and once I find the description I need, reading it takes even more time. All the while my players wait, twiddling their thumbs and making dice towers.

My saving grace has always been improvisation. I’m good at figuring out what comes next while my players are describing what they’re doing right now. In fact my verbose note taking has given me many opportunities to practice my improvisation. I’ve sunk so much time into my notes in the past, that I often don’t have time to finish everything which need to be finished by game day. When the players arrive, I’ve often needed to come up with more content on the fly just to keep the game rolling. It doesn’t help that I have a penchant for games which last until everyone is exhausted of playing. One of my fondest memories is a ~14 hour overnight game session. I think I ran out of prepared material for that session within ~2 hours.

A couple months back whilst I was improvising a dungeon, it occurred to me that I’ve been a fucking moron. As much as I may personally enjoy writing comprehensive notes for my dungeons, this strategy has obviously not served me well, while improvisation always has. Why in the world have I wasted all of this time trying to write notes so detailed that I would never need to improvise? What I should have been doing instead is writing brief notes which give me structure, but still allow me to do most of my elaboration at the table.

Thus was born my new rule: Dungeon room descriptions must fit on a single line of handwritten notebook paper. One additional line each can be added for traps (T), secrets (S), monsters (M), and loot (L) if any (or all) of those are present. The descriptions need not be complete, because anything missing can easily be filled in during play.

If the descriptions says “Bedroom in bad shape. Rotted. Bed, Armoire Fireplace, Painting of a woman.” then when the players enter the room I might say “It looks as though this bedroom was once very fine. The bed appears to be made of oak, but the mattress sags to the floor and emits a stench of mold. From the bed’s canopy you can hear the skittering of vermin. An ornately carved Armorie rests against the north wall, while on the east wall is a fireplace filled with ash. Above it is a painting of a woman.” And if, for some reason, my players decide they want to smash the bed and ask if there are any blunt object nearby, I may say “There’s an iron firepoker laying next to the fireplace.”

Additional lines are just as easy, and might add bits of detail to the room which were omitted in the original description. For example, in one octagonal room I have mirrors on every wall which doesn’t have a door on it. The S line says only “If the mirror on the wall marked with an S is pressed, it swings open revealing a locked safe.” The T line reads “Safe has needle trap [relevant numbers]. If any mirror other than that one is pressed, a spear is launched from behind the mirror. [relevant numbers].” Finally, the L line reads “Safe contains bag of 200gp, and a small bronze statue of a cat. Non-magical. Worth 50gp.”

I’ve already run 3 sessions using this notation system, and I’ve found it to be remarkably effective. I’ve never found dungeons more fun to run, or more fun to create, in all my years of GMing. I expect that the system will continue to evolve the more I use it. Tomorrow I’ll post the first sublevel of The Ironbone Tower dungeon, to serve as a full example of how I’m currently using this method.

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