Thursday, December 31, 2009

Art - Fallen Angel

This is an old unfinished piece of mine, and one that is much the worse for wear.  There are several tears in the page and, as I am wont to do, I had not planned out what I was drawing when I started so one of his wings ended up being drawn on the tear-away left margin of the page which has since been mostly lost.  I think I drew this in 2001 or 2002.

Regardless of its condition, this is a good example of a style of drawing I was doing a lot of back then where there was one large image as the focus of the drawing with a lot of other creatures and faces stuffed into the larger image.

I made up an intricate story about this piece as I was drawing it, and I think it would work well in an RPG.

This is a fallen angel, as you can tell by the scenes depicted in his intact left wing.  You have a fiery Satan-type face looking down as the sun burns the fallen angel for the first time after his fall, with the eye of God winking out of existence next to the outcast.  Then you have the descent into hell below.  The fallen angel himself has had his skin burnt off through this ordeal, which you can easily see in his face, and it is really unfortunate that not much survives of his right wing because it was probably my favorite part of the drawing; it was a really disturbing looking wing melted right down to the bone (I am glad that the monkey head survived at least at the bottom of this wing).  

The cool part is that this fallen angel is a walking portal, or to be exact, several portals.  Each of the creatures and faces that decorate his body are alive and can use his body to access the prime material plane - for instance, his right pectoral muscle has been transformed into a portal to a layer of the abyss ruled by a slime demon, whose head you can see melding into the melted wing. The green face with yellow eyes and big ears is a trickster lord of the forest, a sort of cat-goblin hybrid who is not truly evil at heart but loves playing pranks.  There is a demon bee type creature that forms part of the face of a gargoyle, and a little cat-faced pink worm (unfortunately a rip in the paper makes its face tough to make out) that curls over the gargoyle's shoulder.  Of course, our old dog Mali makes an appearance (may she rest in peace) and for some reason I included an Apatosaurus that is rearing up and over the green trickster's head.  The cloaked figure with the red eyes and blue face (on the left thigh of the fallen angel) is the unfathomable lord of time (perhaps he had something to do with the dinosaur making an appearance).  

Anyway, I like the idea of a giant fallen angel walking around, tormented by his decision to leave heaven and in agony from all the beings that use his body as a gateway to enter the world.  I think the slime demon on his right pec is my favorite surviving piece of the drawing, but the dinosaur making out with Mali the dog is a close second.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Page Dungeon, circa 1993

I loved the concept of the one page dungeon that swept through the blog-o-sphere this year so much that I traveled back in time to 1993 and created one of my own, placed it in a folder of gaming material and left it to be found by my future self in the year 2009!

I made this map when I should have been doing some work in computer class back in 1993; it is little more than a map and key with monster locations, but I clearly remember the ecology of the cave complex and will explain its intricacies.

The upper left corner of the map depicts the mountain side outside the cave complex - each concentric line represents 50' of elevation.  A path crosses a gorge underneath a simple stone building that housed the workers who were expanding the natural caverns - the two small rooms accessed by doors to the outside are toilets, with oubliettes indicated by a circle with a D inside it.  An avalanche has descended down the mountainside to the west of this building, and has partially obstructed the cave mouth.

A "D" followed by a number indicates a drop of that number of feet over the length of the arrow that follows (see "1").  Directly inside the entrance is a very steep slope, far too steep to walk down.  Confusingly, I used a fill in of vertical lines to indicate both water (there is a pool in cave 37) and the sides of a vertical drop (the cave that opens to the south between 2 and 3 has a vertical drop down to cave 5).

Caves 2 - 4 are the home of a small band of trolls that terrorize the other residents of the complex - as the note for "4" indicates, their chieftain knows "spells".  True to one page dungeon form, these spells are not detailed!
The large caves below, 5, 36, 37, 42 and the unmarked caves between 36 and 42 are the hunting grounds of the trolls, who ambush any unlucky orcs, ogres or grimlocks that venture out to fish in the river or harvest the edible fungus.  The trolls wandered in one day from the mountainside and found easier hunting in the cave complex, so they stayed.

The finished chambers numbered 6-22 are the home of the Yellow Fang orc tribe, the first to move into this complex after encountering and killing the humans who were building a stronghold here.  There are a total of 122 male orc combatants, 150 female orcs and 75 children.  They war with the ogres for control of the other section of finished chambers - they are a smaller outpost of the main tribe which lives farther down the underground river that flows in from the south of the map.  They also mine for iron ore (which they use to manufacture weapons) in the section of tunnel marked 38.

The finished chambers numbered 26-35 are the home of the Blood Ogres, a savage group numbering 87 combatants (including females, who are every bit as dangerous as the males).  While this force certainly could destroy the orcs in an open confrontation, the orcs use superior strategy and ranged weapons to enforce an uneasy stalemate.  This is helped by the trolls who kill ogres and orcs alike when they find them out in the caves.

A meazel lurks invisibly near the bottom of the steep slide down to cave 39 - he occasionally exits this area and hunts through the complex.  He is greatly feared by all who live in the caves; while they do not know what he is, orcs, ogres and grimlocks alike have legends that speak of the curse of the caves, a silent death that comes out of nowhere to the unwary.

A small group of grimlocks lives in cave 40, with a group of warriors constantly standing vigilant outside the door in cave 41.  The grimlocks are starving and are on the verge of being wiped out by one of the more powerful factions.  There are 31 grimlock combatants, 20 females and 30 children.

Numerous holes and crevasses link the high ceiling of cave 42 with the mountain slope above, and bats, snakes and other small creatures seek shelter from the mountain storms in this cave.  Along with the fish in the underground river and the edible fungus that abound in the caves, these creatures form the only food besides slain enemy combatants for the residents of the cave complex.

Well, that's that.  Certainly not a masterpiece of dungeon construction or even a particularly interesting cave and chamber complex, but as a relic of my gaming past it holds a certain fascination for me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

4e, the Ever-Expanding Core, and D&D Insider

Back in the day, core rolebooks used to come in triplicate.  You had your Player's Handbook, your DM's Guide and your Monster Manual (or some version of a monster book, be it a compendium or a manual or a folio).  This formula was present at the very beginning when the first version of Dungeons and Dragons came in a boxed set with three books presenting character options, monsters and treasures, and DMing advice on running adventures in the wilderness and underworld. 

Fourth edition has turned that notion upon its head, as each and every book that comes out is considered to be part of the "core" rules.  The first Player's Handbook (because there are already two and there will probably be more) only presented a handful of classes with the understanding that more would follow - and follow they have.  Each power source (every class in 4e draws upon a power source, martial power for a fighter, for instance) gets its own book with new options for existing classes that use that power source and new classes to boot.  Individual races get their own book.  Heck, Martial Power 2 is about to come out so even one extra book per power source is not enough!

In many circles, this ever-expanding core is a major strike against 4th edition.  What happened to the days of just needing a player's handbook, DM's guide, pencil, paper, dice and imagination?  Do they really expect people to shell out hundreds of dollars just to be able to make a character that can keep up with the Joneses? 

The short answer to this is no.  The idea that you have to buy all these books to utilize their content is rooted in an older age, an age that 4e is desperately trying to break away from.  I recently bought a one month subscription to D&D Insider for $10, and that gets me ALL the content published for 4e to date, including stuff from Dragon magazine, all bundled into a nifty character builder that lets me easily search through all the options available for my Dragonborn Ranger (or whatever other character I wanted to make).  One subscription also comes with five updates a month to the character builder, so basically your entire gaming group (or at least five of them) could have an up to date character builder for $2 each!  This is not a lot of money.  I plan on waiting a few months and then getting another month subscription to update everything, doing this either twice or three times a year for a total expenditure of $20 - $30 annually, which is about the price of a single core rulebook! 

The D&D Insider subscription also comes with access to the compendium, every rule in the game fully explained with up to date erata included, and every issue of Dragon and Dungeon magazine.  Now, I for one like the tactile sensation of holding an honest to goodness book, and I made my character and leveled her up for five levels using my physical copies of the Player's Handbook, PHB2 and Martial Power.  Having gone through that experience and comparing it with making a character using the character builder, I can say that I vastly prefer using the character builder.

One of the most common complaints against later editions of D&D, and conversely one of the things held up as a major strength of earlier editions, is how long it takes to make a character.  The argument goes that if you have to spend hours making a character (which was certainly the case in 3e) and you have to have a degree of rules mastery and knowledge of how feat choices interact with each other later down the road (which was doubly the case in 3e), this leads to an unwillingness to kill off characters because it just takes too long to make a new one.  If you die in OD&D, B/X D&D or AD&D, heck, you roll up a new character and get back in the saddle within a few minutes!

Let me tell you, if you haven't experienced the 4e Character Builder first hand, it makes generating a character almost that quick and easy.  Well, quicker and easier, actually, if you use the quick build option that lets the character builder choose your feats, skills and powers.  But even if you hand pick each option, having it guide you through each step and present you with all the choices and their definitions without having to flip a single page dramatically speeds up the character creation process.

I think in many ways, 4e is much closer to the old school ethos than some people would give it credit for.  It is certainly much more "old school" than 3e, with its dramatic reduction of skills and general de-emphasis on the penalty for trying a skill untrained and its rapid character generation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Encounter - Kur-Ken

What may seem at first glance like a single deformed monster is in reality two conjoined twins who each have half of a body, Kur and Ken.  Kur is the left head and the right side of the body, and he is a giant.  Ken is the right head and the left side of the body and he is very small.  Kur-Ken, as they are collectively known, are the sons of a mountain witch named Agu Yobi.  They are attached to her mobile house (think Baba Yaga's hut) with a magical silver chain that can stretch out to 3000' and will phase through any obstacles that it encounters as Kur-Ken wanders.  Agu Yobi and her hut will be detailed in an upcoming post; her hut is far larger inside than it appears and has many portals linking it to far flung locales where Agu Yobi hunts for food to feed herself and her sons.

I think the cards are legible enough as is, so refer to them for more detailed stats and play notes.

Quick Stats for Kur:
HP: 80
AC: 12
Attack: +10
Damage: club 2d6+5, boulder 1d8+5, 50' range
Movement: 20

Quick Stats for Ken:
HP: 25
AC: 13
Attack: +1
Damage: 1d4 (dagger)
Magical Abilities: Telepathy and Detect Life Forms, both 200' range, Telekinesis up to 30 lbs
Priest Spells: light, cure minor wounds x2; command, cure light wounds, sanctuary; hold person, cure moderate wounds

Play Notes:
Kur is constantly angry, in physical pain, and is immensely strong.  Kur is like a tired and grumpy child... who could crush your skull in his bare hand.  Ken is calm and happy; his atrophied body does not pain him like Kur's.  He is the brains of the operation and attempts to minimize the damage done by his angry brother.  Kur-Ken should be encountered a few thousand feet from the hut, as the sight of a one legged giant hopping around with an atrophied person sprouting out of his side, attached to a silver chain that disappears into the trees, should be enough to pique anyones curiosity.  Woe unto anyone who harms the twins, as their mother is the real danger.  Should anyone follow the chain to the hut, it is extremely difficult to enter from outside when Agu Yobi is away - she uses a form of wizard lock on the giant rolled up tongue that serves as door and access ramp.

This is a good example of how I scribble on anything handy when inspiration strikes me - in this case, the backs of some flyers for my band.  Agu Yobi's hut is pretty cool, I have no idea how similar it is to Baba Yaga's hut because I have never seen that adventure, but I was inspired by the folktale of Baba Yaga.  I love the idea of a hut on legs walking around.

Does 4e encourage people to go to Rules Law School?

One of my least favorite things is when a good RPG gets interrupted by rules lawyering.  There seems to be an inverse relationship between the sparcity of rules in a game and the amount of arguing with the DM - while it might seem at first glance that if there are no rules to cover a given situation, it would be open for debate, in practice that normally means that the DM just makes a ruling and play moves on.  Games that attempt to nail down every possiblity with their ruleset seem to open themselves up to players second-guessing the DM, quoting the relevant passage and bickering about the exact interpretation. 

4th Edition D&D is, whatever else one thinks of it, a very tightly designed game that has eliminated many "extraneous" elements that bogged down the DMing side of running a 3rd edition game.  Monsters and NPCs do not have extensive skill lists and are not constructed using the same mechanics as PCs - if you look behind the scenes at a 4e campaign, it is much like looking backstage at a play.  You will see that all the beautiful set pieces are actually flat constructs, unpainted from behind, and there are people franticaly memorizing their lines in the green room.  One thing this emphasis on only providing rules for things that come up in play has done is to make the 4e ruleset an amazingly cohesive and comprehensive thing.  It has an internal logic and almost any action a PC could attempt is covered in the rules.

What I have noticed in practice is that this leads to a lot of arguing with the DM.  Well, I should qualify that and say that one player in my group does a lot of arguing with the DM.  He is an excellent role-player who really gets into the spirit of his character, but if the DM rules that he cannot do something that the rules says he can do, he gets quite upset.  The rules are pretty straightforward and when they say you can identify a magic item with the use of the Arcana skill, by gum, he wants to identify that item and he does not want to hear that the strange glowing box that seems to be animating all the zombies cannot be identified without taking a short rest and looking it over more thoroughly.  When his legs get severed at the ankles and he attempts to move around on his stumps, he does not think that should count as the "prone" condition as the DM ruled because the text of prone clearly reads that prone applies only when you are lying down.

I suppose that this player could and would have argued with the DM in any edition, but previous editions made it explicit that the DM was going to have to make rulings to keep play moving forward.  There were huge lacunae in the design space of every edition up through AD&D 2e, and these gaping holes were patched with the understanding that the DM was the final arbiter.  I grew up with the understanding that the DM was god in an RPG, and it seems that this understanding has shifted.  In 4e as written, it seems like the rules are god, the rules are the be all and end all, if there is a gap in the rules it will be patched up with the ever-accumulating erata that makes much of the text in the original core books completely out of date if you do not have the D&D Insider account.

I will have to go back and reread the 4e Player's Handbook and DMs Guide and see if there is any sort of mention that the DM can and should ignore the rules as he or she sees fit.  The very nature  of the rules discourages this sort of thing, but it would be interesting to see if there is at least lip service paid to the idea of DM as final arbiter.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bestiary - Sally's Siege Engines

These are truly horrifying monstrosities, brought up from the depths by the great orc warlord Sally Forth (Sally was named after the war cry of the humans his father fought on the frontier).  Shortly after Sally was possessed by the river god Xylitin and became obsessed with destroying the dam and unchaining the river, he disappeared into the tunnels under the orc warrens and was gone for months.  He finally emerged leading three baby beasts out, having slain their mother in a truly epic combat.  He raised them by hand and trained them to become the pride of the orc army, instrumental in uniting the warring factions and raising the great army of hill and grey orcs that did finally overrun the defenses of the dam and set the river free.

Here is the original sheet detailing Sally's Siege Engines:

They are eyeless and shaped much like a sperm whale in the body.  They have thick legs and two boneless, muscular tails that can expand and contract up to 50% from their base length of 70' (giving them a maximum range of 105').  A 30' club with 12-15' spikes caps each tail.  Their only attack form is to anchor their massive head on the ground, raise their tail end and thrash wildly with their tails - each tail can target a 40' diameter area and one attack roll serves against all targets in that area.  While it is not particularly hard to hit them, their hide is thick and rubbery and they are protected by a thick layer of blubber.  They sense their prey with sensitive "ears" (pits along the side of their body) which can pick up vibrations, odors and electro-magnetic fields.  Much like a shark, they go into a frenzy at the smell of blood and will seek it out.  They pound their prey to a pulp and then snuffle up the bloody remains with their toothless mouth.

Quick Stats (using D&D 3e conventions):
HP: 350-440
AC: 18
Attacks: +30 / +30 (40' diameter burst)
Damage:4d20 / 4d20
Damage Reduction: 8/everything, 1/4 damage from blunt weapons, 1/2 damage from slashing weapons

Play Notes:
The siege engines in play made quite an impact. Two members of the party had been previously shrunk to the size of grains of rice and cast into the pit that served as the siege engine's home in the orc encampment, so they already had a healthy fear of the creatures.  When the orcs finally descended down the mountain pass, the defenders of the dam met them at the narrow gorge that they must funnel through, at the point that so many orc invasions had been stymied before.  This time, the orcs stayed out of range and sent a score of naked berserkers running down.  These frothing maniacs were whipping themselves with thorns as they ran, leaving a trail of blood behind.  As they neared the gorge, a hail of arrows rained down but the orc beserkers were in a frenzied state that propelled them forward with the blessings of their god even as their bodies suffered mortal wounds from the arrows.  As they neared the massive logjam that choked the gorge, evidence of an ancient flood, each berserker grabbed a bladder that had been tied to its back and hurled it at the logjam.  The bladders burst and covered the ancient petrified trees with blood.

The defenders were quite confused about what was happening until the siege engines were brought forth from the rear of the orc position.  The lumbering behemoths followed the bloody trail left by the berserkers, ignoring the arrows and lightening bolts that rained down from above, and began to smash the logjam with their tails.

The defenders that were holed up among the ancient tree trunks fled as the siege engines smashed a broad trail through the logjam, pausing only to snuffle up the remains of the unfortunate ones who could not scramble out of the range of their deadly tails.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unified Mechanics in RPGs

D&D's wonky game mechanics never used to bug me.  Low AC was good, high HP was good, roll high on a d20 to attack, roll low on a d20 for an attribute check - I had no trouble grasping it all, and never gave it too much thought.  When I started playing 3.5 it took me a second to get used to the new concepts, but that too came swiftly.  Recently, however, I have introduced my girlfriend and a host of other first time pen and paper RPGers to Mutant Future in my ongoing campaign.

Mutant Future is a relatively rules light game, due to its Labyrinth Lord cum B/X D&D heritage, but it has been difficult to get everyone to remember the rules.  While there are not a lot of rules in terms of specific game mechanics to govern things like the use of skills, or sneaking around, or any of the other things that have been codified in 3.5 and 4e, what rules there are have little mechanical relationship to each other.  People ask me constantly if they are trying to roll high or low on a particular throw of the dice, because they like to know before they throw.  I remember one attribute check when somebody rolled a natural 20 and was very excited until I told them it was the worst thing they could have rolled.

I have also been asked the difficult question, "So why is a lower AC better?" and have given my dutiful old school answers, that it stemmed from a miniature war game, that descending AC lets you add all the modifiers on both sides of the attack roll together, that it is just the way it is, dammit!, but it still seems dissatisfying to the players.

What I have come to realize is that there really isn't any good reason (in my opinion) that all the mechanics in a game shouldn't share some logical principle that makes them easy to explain to a first time player.  While I am not a big fan of 3rd edition D&D by any means (4e I like for its tactical combat options), this is something that I think it got right.  This may hurt my old school credentials, but then again, I'm not even 30 yet (barely) and I started playing D&D with 2d edition.

Being able to tell someone, "The basic mechanic is that you add your modifiers to a d20 roll and try to match or beat a target number" is much easier than having to explain all the ins and outs of the old school method.

Just my two cents worth.

Christmas Goodies - Heroscape

I asked for and received the Heroscape game for Christmas.  This is an immensely satisfying toy for both the inner kid in me and the little RPG demon that screams in my ear, "Buy more RPG crap!  Buy more RPG crap!". I had fun setting up a terrain map using both the original master set and the Marvel superheroes and villains expansion master set, and here is the result:

I may eventually use this to set up a particularly climactic battle for my Mutant Future campaign:  I particularly like the ruined building with the knock-out wall that came with the Marvel expansion:

I will be taking the minis with me to my 4e game tonight, I don't have all that many D&D minis and these will definitely help to bring our game to life.

In general, I was very impressed with the quality of the minis.  Check out this dragon:

And this dinosaur rider:

How cool is that?

Some wicked robot/mecha type units:

The Hulk:


I haven't tried playing the actual game yet, but I know that even if I never do I will have a ton of fun with the minis and the battle terrain tiles.

Encounter - Gorradons

This encounter was a lot of fun when I ran my 3.5 group through it last year. The Gorradon are a race of winged gorilla demons, the result of the the devil progenitors mating with the jungle apes that lived in the shadow of the great cliffs. The Gorradon disappeared thousands of years ago along with most of the other races of devil progeny (the devil progeny are also known as "old ones" as the Gorradon are referred to on sheet 1 below) as the bloodlines began to thin, but the more powerful early generations sequestered themselves within domes equipped with life support systems that kept them in a state of stasis, awaiting the return of the comet. When the black gates were opened in the dam and the flood waters spilled from the upper plateau over the cliffs and scoured the lowlands below, one of these Gorradon life support domes was exposed, the top of the dome poking out above the muddy jumble that remained when the flood waters subsided.

I may never get around to fully explaining the world that my 3.5 campaign occurred in (I have hundreds of pages of material), but I will post pieces of it here that I think would be useful taken out of context. Here are the two sheets that I used to run this encounter:
Sheet 1:

Sheet 2:

While these sheets make perfect sense to me, I could see how other people might have trouble deciphering my scribbles.

Notes on Sheet 1:  The flood has uncovered a dome that rests on a disc of solid stone.  The disc is 5' tall, but 3' is still buried in the sediment.  The dome has a 55' diameter and is 25' tall at its apex.  It is made of a nearly perfectly transparent, thin but extremely durable material.  For game purposes, the dome should be more or less indestructible, unless some truly extraordinary measures are brought to bear against it.  There are four entrances at the four cardinal directions - these are 12' tall arches (see sketch) which appear to be completely open but are blocked by a mild force field.  This force field keeps out dirt and water, and any other non-living substances.  Living organic tissue can pass through, so if a PC wants to enter they will have to remove all clothing and equipment.

Inside the dome, a score of unresponsive Gorradons lie in a ring on beds, covered in organic looking webbing that turns into a solid covering over their faces; thick tubes connect this face covering with a 10' diameter globe of steel which radiates energy and a faint hint of evil or chaos (the device is a soul battery, a device that stores captured souls and uses their energy).  The beds are made of a soft, squishy black material (foam cushioning with black vinyl exterior).  A chest lies at the foot of each bed.  Directly above and to the left of the sketch of the dome entrance, there is a top view sketch showing the 20 Gorradons connected to the central globe.  One Gorradon is awake, but he is gathering his strength and appears as motionless as the others.

Chest Stats:  The chests are made of a burnished black steel, 5' long, unmarked except for a large hand shaped indent  on the side facing the bed.  Each indent is keyed to the hand of its owner and the chest will open for no other. The chest has 200 HP (and a hardness of 10, which I forgot to mention on the sheet, so 10 damage is subtracted from each blow that hits the chest) and is protected by a forcefield that grants the chest an effective AC of 22.  See sheet 2 notes for chest contents.

Gorradon Quick Stats (using ascending AC and other 3e conventions):
Movement: 40, Flight: 60 (good maneuverability)
AC:20 (while covered in webbing, which is extremely durable and rubbery) or 16 (normal unarmored AC)
Attacks: +15 / +15 (bare hands)
Damage: 1d8+5 / 1d8+5
If both attacks hit, the Gorradon gets a free grapple using its legs as well with a +18 to the grapple check.

Gorradon are extremely intelligent and had an advanced high-tech society.  They are very disciplined and war-like, and will use sound tactics in combat.

Notes on sheet 2:  While the more powerful older generations of the Gorradon slept in their domes and waited in a dreamless state for the comet to return, the vast majority of the Gorradon devolved as the devil genes in each successive generation became more diluted.  The large, semi-intelligent gorilla-like apes which populate the forest today are their descendants - they still sport vestigial wings, boneless flaps of skin and cartilage on their back.  They can be encountered in the forests and muddy plains surrounding the dome.
Quick Stats for the Gorradon descendants:
Attack: +10 / +10
Damage: 1d6+5 / 1d6+5
A quick sketch of one of the Gorradon descendants can be seen to the left of their stats, showing the vestigial wings.  On the upper left of the sheet, there is a quick sketch of a Gorradon on its bed, chest at its feet, covered in webbing and connected with a tube to its face covering.

The rest of this sheet is dedicated to the contents of the chests - the Gorradon war kit.  Each chest contains: a suit of fibercloth armor (granting the Gorradon an AC of 25 when equipped), a battle helmet, a rations belt, a bracelet of gas grenades and a blast staff.  The armor and helmet are, of course, sized to fit a 10' winged gorilla.

Battle Helmet:  There is a quick sketch of this item under the word "helmet" on sheet 2.  An opaque viscous membrane stretches across the open bottom of the helmet; to don the helmet, the wearer must push his head through this membrane which gives way and reforms an airtight seal around his or her neck.  The helmet has a sophisticated air filtration system which will nullify almost all poisonous gases.  The lenses in the eye holes enable the wearer to see in the infrared and x-ray spectrums, and also function as telescope and microscope.  These modes are activated by clicking a button by the right eye - each click cycles through from infrared to x-ray to normal vision - while in any vision mode, a dial by the left eye serves as a zoom.  The helmet also has a super-imposed crosshairs that appears over the visual display when its wearer is wielding a blast staff - this grants a +2 bonus to hit with the blast staff.

Rations Belt:  This belt has 16 tubes attached to it (see sketch).  Each tube has two indents that separate it into three parts.  You can easily break the tube at an indent.  The first two sections are a condensed, high protein meal (tasteless and powdery) while the last section expands and pulls moisture out of the air, becoming a large, ready to drink cup of water.

Bracelet with Gas Grenades (see sketch):  This bracelet has six gas grenades attached to it.  Twisting a grenade 90 degrees releases it from the bracelet and activates it - once activated, it will explode on impact into a rapidly expanding cloud of green gas.  It expands 10' per round until it fills a 40' diameter sphere.  Gas: fortitude save DC 20, initial damage: 6d6 HP and 1d6 CON, secondary: 2d6 rounds to kick in, blindness for 1d4 hours and extreme nausea for 1d10 rounds.

Blast Staff (see sketches):  This is the primary weapon of the Gorradons.  It collapses down to 4'10", just fitting inside the chest.  It weighs just over 100 pounds, making it an extremely unwieldy weapon for someone of human stature.  The sketches show it collapsed, expanded, and a detail of the middle section with the hand guard, trigger and three way selector switch.  The staff is powered with a small, unscrewable soul battery, containing 3d6 charges.  The three way switch selects between: wide fire - a 25' long cone, 15' wide at the apex which does 6d6 damage; medium fire - a 50' cone, 7' wide at the apex which does 9d6 damage; and narrow fire - a 200' column, 3' in diameter which does 12d6 damage.  All three take the form of a crackling blast of blue energy which ignores AC bonuses granted by armor.  A Gorradon can take two attacks a round with this weapon at +14 to hit, +16 if using the battle helmet.

Notes on running the encounter:
When I ran this thing, the party could not pass up the chests that were in plain view inside the sphere.  They were more than a little unnerved by the realization that they would have to remove all clothing and gear to enter, but after discovering that they could put living plant matter through the entrance, they animated a tree and had it fish out a chest.  Unable to break into the chest, they hauled out a sleeping Gorradon and hacked off its hand, using this to open the chest (!).  The lone conscious Gorradon inside the dome scrambled to its feet and ran to the central sphere, sending the signal through it to awake the rest of the sleeping ape demons.  The party fled and very nearly ended up being killed down to the last man.  The stone disc began to rotate and slowly raised up, revealing that it was just the top of a much larger pillar-like structure that extended hundreds of feet down.  This structure was honeycombed with chambers containing all sorts of ancient technological artifacts, including hover vehicles that the Gorradons used to pursue the fleeing party!

The party had a very guilty conscience about their actions in this incident, and were sure that the Gorradon were going to hunt them down and destroy them for what they had done.  Much later, in a city far away, the party was sitting in a tavern and became convinced that two men were watching them.  One of the party members ate a seed pod of a desert plant that granted an altered state of awareness, and realized that the two men where in fact not men at all but were some other kind of creature entirely wearing the semblance of humanity.  The party instantly assumed it was the Gorradons come back to get their revenge and they ran for the hills!  As it turned out, it was not the Gorradons after all, but that shows how badly they were spooked by the encounter and how disturbed they were with their own actions (cutting the arm of an unconscious being to open a chest is probably not a very good act no matter how you slice it).  Still, the gear they got from the chest proved invaluable and saved their butts on many an occasion.

Friday, December 25, 2009

vine golem / wire robot

Just an old unfinished piece of mine. Looking at it today through the RPG lens I see a cool vine golem or wire robot. I imagine it having a body made up of hundreds more twisting strands. These strands can grasp a weapon that strikes its body, and a legion of little barbed jabbers will unfurl and make a pin cushion out of anything that gets too close.

This is my other blog.

By that I mean that I have been pouring my blogging energy into my Mutagenic Substances blog for half a year now, and in that time I have had a lot of non-Mutant Future ideas percolate to the top - this blog is my other blog, a place to post about everything else in my roleplaying life besides my ongoing Mutant Future campaign.

I want this blog to be a behind the screens look at my DMing process, in a way that my Mutant Future blog can not be because my players have full access to it. I will probably be featuring the mountain of material I scribbled and drew on reams of loose paper for my previous campaign, a D&D 3.5 homebrew for which I created a very detailed world.

I will also scan in and post a number of my older drawings and discuss their possible uses in an RPG (my drawings are often pretty surreal and could inspire cool demons and other-worldly locales).

I am kicking off the content with something I drew tonight - an early Christmas present to myself of sorts because I allowed myself the time to just sit down and doodle without a firm idea of what I was drawing. I had the guiding principle of "mutant" to work with and not much else when I lay the pen on the paper.

So welcome to my other blog, and enjoy your stay behind the screen.
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