Saturday, August 11, 2012

Delver Signs

Inspired by Hobo Signs, and because I was trying to come up with a cool Dungeon Dressing subchart for Graffiti, I give you some of the common 'Delver Signs' that you might see scrawled in ruins or subterranean passages with chalk, charcoal, paint, scratched into stone, or whatever. If you're a delver, you might even choose to use a few of them yourself. I've chosen Unicode characters rather than drawing cooler symbols so that you can cut and paste from here into your notes or texts.

Δ - Danger, often used with another sign such as cultists, undead, etc

Ѧ - Extreme Danger

ஃ - Caution

 - You are being watched

Ж - Vermin or insects 

ჯ - Traps

Ψ - Cultists

✫ - Magic

҂ - Beasts

Ҩ - Weird stuff, aberrations, madness

Ջ - Humanoids

ਠ - Undead

૪ - Spirits or Incorporeal Undead

༇ - Supply Cache Nearby

ဂ Go Back

ပ Go Forward

င Go Right

၁ Go Left

 - This way to Surface/Exit

⊻ - This way deeper

※ - Safe to Camp

∲ - Stealth called for

⋈ - Make no fires here
 - Safe water 
≄ - Unsafe Water

What other signs should there be that I haven't thought of? Seems like there should be more but I'm not thinking of them.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How Awesome is my Horse? or How is my Horse Awesome?

Some of the humans in Iron Canyons automatically get better horses than average.  Or, if you're maybe stealing a bunch of horses or rounding up a wild herd or buying a horse from a non-human who doesn't know to charge you more for what's obviously good horseflesh, theres a 1 in 20 chance of any horse being exceptional per this chart.

roll d100

1-10 Sprinter - 3 times per day this horse can take a double move as a move action (3E) or just move twice the normal amount in a round (older versions). Or if you're doing a double move action anyway, make it a triple.

11-15 Endurance Runner - 1.5 times normal overland travel rate

16-18 Desert Horse - Needs half the water of any other horse

19-21 Cunning - add +1d6 Int or Wis. Understands commands in 2 languages.

22-25 Scout Horse - Horse can move silently 10% per HD or +2 Stealth/HD if you're using skills.  Might also know some hand signs.

26-30 Spirited & Loyal - will try to buck anyone else but its owner off (Horse rolls d20 + str bonus [3E] or HD [older] vs. Ride check or d20 + Dex bonus: if horse wins rider is bucked, if horse loses rider stays on. Keep going until rider is off or you beat the horse by 5)

31-33 Biter - add bite attack 1d6 per HD

34-36 Kicker - improve Hoof attack by one die size

37-42 Mountain Pony - ignores difficult terrain

43-45 Herd Master - other horses naturally follow this horse for whatever reason.  Get a bonus to Handle Animal checks or whatever while riding this horse. Set it free near some wild horse herds and in a week it'll come back on its own with 2d6 new horses that wanna hang around it.

46-48 Pack Horse - Add 100 to each of the weight allowance categories

49-50 Wary - add +4 to the horses CMD (pathfinder rules) to avoid combat maneuvers. For older editions, it takes a similar bonus against any attempt to trip it or push it or whatever.

51-55 Cave Horse - this horse will go underground, no problem. Others not so much.

56-58 Nimble - Add +1d8 dex and accompanying AC bonuses etc

59-60 Hardy - better saves than normal by +1/HD

61-63 Pushy - Likes to push opponents back; gets a free Bull Rush or push attempt on successful attack

64-66 Trippy - Free chance to knock something prone or Trip on successful attack

67-71 Tough - 1d3 bonus HD of hit points

72 Lassie-like intelligence - no speech but can answer yes/no by stamping feet and will go get help if you're stuck in a well or whatever

73-77 Sharp Ears - more difficult to surprise by whatever metric your game system uses for that

78-81 River Horse - Bonus to Swim checks; can swim while carrying rider at no penalty

82-86 Extra-Trainable - +2 bonus to Handle Animal checks to train it (or lower the DCs by 2); can learn one more trick than normal

87-90 Jumping Horse - +5 on Jump checks or just know that it can jump like twice as far as other horses

91-93 Battle Evacuation - If rider falls unconscious but not unhorsed, this horse will make a tactical retreat to safety but keep you on it.

94 Ghost Horse - this horse can see spirits, incorporeal undead, ethereal creatures 25% of the time and invisible things 10% of the time. Highly favored by Shamans

95-00 Roll Twice

 I know there are some detailed and inspired tables and ideas in this space already, but I didn't have them in front of me at work today while I was jotting this down, so this is what I came up with.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blood Pillars Dungeon Area Generator Part 1: History and Current Usage

Inspired by some recent tables on Wizard Towers, I decided to brainstorm ideas about things that might be in the ruins and dungeons in the Bloodstone Pillars region of the Iron Canyons. 

Should be mostly self-explanatory.  Roll once per column or if you're in a hurry just roll once and use the whole row.  Or for more complex areas, roll a Controller/With and then roll 1d6+1 areas controlled by that same Controller. [square brackets] indicates a subtable to roll on below. More on lithophages and ichneumon later. Oh, and of course I put it on Abulafia to play with.

RollUsed to be...Now used as...Controlled byWith...
1thoroughfare, throughway, or main passageused for the same purpose once again[elves] elvesa decent map of the level
2garrison or armorya well-organized lair[elves] elvescaptives
3monasterya refuse dump and body disposal area[dwarves] dwarvesnoncombatants to protect
4cathedral, temple, or shrinea workshop or crafting space[dwarves] dwarvespoor morale and desperate for food
5crypt, catacomb, ossuary, or mausoleuma haphazard camp[humans] humansbetter than normal armament/training/combat skills
6prison or slave quartersa storage cache for supplies or food[humans] humansno faces
7tannery, abattoir, or slaughterhousean area controlled but taboo to enter[skaven] skavenextra tentacles, limbs, or other appendages
8magical or alchemical laboratorya worship space[skaven] skavenbetter than normal stealthiness
9necromantic, medical, or graft laboratoryhunting groundsaberrationsan insatiable appetite and very pointy teeth
10collection of low class dwellings and homesa plague colony or asylum for the sick or insane[cult]better than usual treasure (x2)
11collection of mid-high class dwellings and homesa primary sleeping place and lairadventurersunusual diseases or curses
12library or storehousea temporary campa big bad monstersome interesting pets, parasites, or companions
13school, academy, or training areaa tavern, eating area, or food production arealithophagesworse than usual attitudes
14collection of low class services & shops (eg Barbers, Brothels, Taverns, etc)a trading post or neutral groundgiant verminrecent wounds from a hard-fought battle
15collection of high class services & shops (eg Jewelers, Silversmiths, Restaurants)a performance, ritual, or entertainment spacemagical beasts or hybridsunusual size or proportions
16stable or animal holding pensa highly trapped areasummoned demonsa desire to partner with the party
17natural cavern, park, or preservea hardhold or fortresswild animalsgrafts
18refuse disposal area or sewersa nursery, hatchery, or noncombatant quartersdegeneratescreepy rictus grins
19ritual chamberan unused space still ocasionally patrolledoozes or swarmstoo much or too little hair
20wasp cavalry (Ichneumon) hivea gruesome display of the remains of past enemiesapparitions, spirits, or other hauntingsa desire to find something in particular (on [level adjustment] levels away)

4,ichneumon reconquista

4,militant squatter
5,religious crusader
6,well-established colonist

4,squatting or temporary settler

1,deep corrupted
4,a family of scavenger
5,a group of bachelor adventurer
6,a squatting matriarch. broodmales, and connected household

1,cult of undead worshippers
2,cult of personality
3,demonic/diabolic cult
4,aberration cult
5,cult of an object or image
6,spider/vermin cult

I chose a nice bell-curve function for the following table so that the encounter level (or HD or CR or whatever) would be likely to be at/near the current 'dungeon level' (roughly every 100' from surface).  Inspired by tables here (and pointed out by Jeff Rients on G+)

;level adjustment (3d4)
3, -4   (~2%)
4, -3 (~5%)
5, -2 (~9%)
6, -1 (~16%)
7, +0 (~19%)
8, +1 (~19%)
9, +2 (~16%)
10, +3 (~9%)
11, +4 (~5%)
12, +5 (~2%)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Bloodstone Pillars

Here's the first draft map of the starting campaign area in Iron Canyons - imagine a huge canyon like the grand canyon with high grassy plateau on either side and some lush bottomlands in the basin. Most of the time its 5-25 miles wide at the bottom, and then big cliffs and caprock up to the plateau which continues as far as the eye can see. Humans live up on the plateau most of the time. Dwarven soldiers and priests and Skaven farmers have been slowly settling some ruined elvish cities on the plateau and clashing with the humans because of it. 

There's a point at which the canyon becomes a mere 2 miles wide, with cliffs of about 2000ft on either side. All throughout the basin are huge pillars and there is an archipelago of natural pillars in the narrow part. Once, long ago, a major elvish city and trade hub was built around a bridge that spanned the two sides, with routes through cavernous dungeons and winding ramps and palaces and temples of death. What remains are its ruins - still dungeons and undercities and elevators and ramps and laboratories and ritual rooms and bound demons in summoning circles and ossuaries and prisons and experiments gone wrong and grafting surgeries and slave pens and monasteries. 

And now the Dwarves have a small fort and a couple of thousand soldiers and settlers living in the area, and they want to clear the passages and rebuild the bridges, but its going to be slow going and dangerous work. As the ruins get cleared to the point of safety, dwarves will want to inhabit them, and so besides the elvish artifacts there is money to be made in real estate if the undead left behind don't kill all the investors or the dungeon-clearers.

Right, so the map. numbers are elevations. So at the north end, you're at 2000ft above basin floor. The next place bridged to is 1500, so there's a 500ft drop there - there is an uncleared dungeon of elvish undercity and sewers under the ruins that leads out from a tunnel onto that bridge and over to the 1500ft pillar, then there's a long ramping bridge to the next pillar at 1700ft (and ruins on top of all the pillars and caverns and everything else I mentioned above _within_ the pillars potentially all the way down to the basin floor and below. 

The 1700ft pillar again has ramps and passages spiralling down to ~1200ft where theres another tunnel leading out onto a bridge over to the 1200ft pillar, then across another bridge in derelict condition to another waiting tunnel to a big 1900ft pillar. Thats where the richest elves lived and where the tastiest looking ruins are, at least from what you can see over on the North Ridge. Then there used to be a big final bridge over to the South Ridge but that's gone. 

(posh elvish ruins hanging off the 1900ft pillar)

The Dwarves have managed to discover a bunch of different entrances to the undercity within the North Ridge ruins and have even begun to inhabit them. They've also rigged a temporary elevator down the cliff face to the first bridge, but the tunnel back into the cliff is unexplored, as is anything deeper than the surface of the 1500ft pillar. 

In the middle of the ruins and near several entrances to the North Ridge undercity is a large magical circle that the elves used probably for demon-summoning or planar travel back when elves knew how to do that kind of stuff. Now, suddenly, people and monsters from other planes are appearing in it. (FLAILSNAILS multi-campaign tie in)

That's the basics. 

Iron Canyons Skaven: Good or Just Vegetarian?

So instead of Halflings we have Skaven - rodent-featured anthropomorphic humanoids with aspects of rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, squirrels, etc.

Rodents (and therefore Skaven) have long and constantly growing incisors, so Skaven like to have something to gnaw on, like a stick or a corncob.
Skaven are matriarchal and polyandrous - one female typically has several to a bunch of males exclusive to her. This has several possible repercussions on the culture, such as younger females ending up as adventurers because their matriarchs saw them as threats and pushed them out, or skaven males automatically deferring to a female of any race, or skaven females assuming that males of other races will defer to them, or whatever. Just an idea to play around with.

The Mouse Guard comics by David Petersen are a good touchstone, especially for Skaven with the (3.5E) Scout class. Note that Mouse Guard are mouse-sized and Skaven are ~hobbit-sized, but lots of the ideas transfer just fine. 

Skaven class options are OD&D Halfling, 1E Illusionist, 2E Dark Sun Trader, 3.5E Scout, or 4E Warden with some specific options.

Skaven society is sort-of like hobbits in that they are agricultural (in fact they are the only race in Iron Canyons that grows very much above ground), they tend to prefer comfort and home over mystery and adventure (PCs may differ of course), and they tend to think a nice cup of tea or pint of cider will solve most problems that most people might be encountering. 

Skaven are mostly vegetarian but will eat prettymuch whatever without being too picky. Most skaven cuisine is along the salads, stir-fries, veggie curries, nuts, fruits, beans, and corn line of thinking. 

Skaven weapons tend to be kinda agriculturally-derived, like flails, bill hooks, machetes, sickles, scythes, hatchets, slings, and shortbows. Mostly light armors but a lot of skaven have scavenged armors  with bits of metal plate or chain or whatever.
Most skaven are naturally helpful and good-natured, but they can be fierce in defense of what they love. Skaven homes are dug into the sides of hills like hobbit holes or in near-surface cave systems or in old elvish ruins or sewers. Many non-PC skaven are surface farmers growing corn, beans, and vegetables. Others are itinerant traders, with usually one female and her male attendants travelling together from place to place moving goods and scavenging ruins for anything of value to sell.
Skaven love pranks and illusions (1E illusionist class is an option; their primary spellcaster class). They love stories and especially tall tales but don't really have much that any of the other races would call 'religion'. That said, some skaven that live among dwarves have adopted the dwarvish religion, but its not a really good fit for them. 
Skaven love to race (can go on all fours if not holding anything for faster movement), climb (racial bonus), swim (racial bonus), drink (no racial bonus), rut (no racial bonus, but 'multiplying like Skaven' is a common saying in Dwarven) and party for just about any occasion. Most prefer to be up at night and asleep during the day. 
They love shiny treasures like amulets, bracelets, anklets, tail rings, gems, and baubles. 

Skaven like to solve problems by common sense, hard work, ingenuity, trickery, or stealth. Violence is not preferred but sometimes its the only real option. 

Skaven have a strong guest/host hospitality protocol.
Skaven are naturally immune to most plant and creature based poisons. Chemical and magic poisons still affect them and a number of such poisons were specifically developed by the elves for this purpose.

Skaven are often found as vassals/tenant farmers in dwarf-controlled country, with the skavens growing the aboveground crops and the dwarves providing the protection. Such is the case on the frontier of the Iron Canyons.
There are probably some Dark Skaven somewhere corrupted by elf magics, but they're not available as PCs. Probably hanging out deeper underground.
Occasionally a skaven or a whole group of skaven will get Rabies and go a bit crazy - thats bad news for everyone involved

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Humans of the Iron Canyons: Best Avoided if Possible

Masters of Horse and Bow
Touchstones: Comanches, Sioux, Mongols, Huns, Celts, Vikings, and other warrior-centric cultures
Known for savagery and brutality but have a rich culture of stories and religion
Wealth measured in horses, captives, falcons, gems, and trinkets
Tribal; non-unified, multiple bands exist with no central governance
Nomadic - follow herds of wooly rhino across the high plains
Warrior culture - chieftains lead bands of families but independent war chiefs recruit warriors for specific raid/campaign/battle
Always favor tactical advantage - flee if outnumbered or outmatched - never attack in strategic way to gain an objective at the cost of lives - each warrior always does what is best individually
Raid elven trade posts, dwarven supply chains, other humans, skaven burrows. 
Max armor: ring mail
Weapons: Shortbow, lance, Harpoon, club, flail, short sword, axe, bola
Never take a penalty for fighting from horseback
Bardic tradition of storytelling, dances, horns, sitars, drums, pantomime
Druidic priestly caste 
Live on the high plateaus but venture into the canyon basins to hunt, winter camps
Rangers, Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Warlords

Food: herd animals (horn to hoof), hunting, gathering, flatbreads, roots
Drinks: Fermented Mares Milk liquour, Spruce tea, tequila
Sometimes leave male dwarves alive but 'beard-scalped'
There might be other kinds of humans somewhere else but this is the only kind here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Iron Canyons Dwarves: Lawful or Just Really Annoyingly Zealous?

Advanced Expansionist Culture of Chivalry, Piety, Honor

Strongly Monotheistic with Large Families

Crusaders and Colonizers - NEED MORE CAVES
Always looking for new habitable underground areas like Elvish Ruins, natural caverns

Classes: OD&D Dwarf, 1E OA Samurai, 2E Runecaster, 3E Crusader, Pathfinder Inquisitor, 4E Paladin
Manifest Destiny brings them aboveground to conquer

Once the slaves of the elves, they are sworn enemies

Clash with humans over territory

Subjugate or work with Skaven to colonize and spread

Armor: Plate, Chain, Scale, Breastplate, 3/4 Plate, 1/2 Plate
Very Early Firearm Use: ~1520s or so - Arquebuses and first Matchlocks

Swords, Pikes/Ranseurs, 2H Swords, Early Firearms, Crossbows, Hammers
Only dwarves know the secret of creating/using gunpowder

Preferred wealth: gold, gems, silver, garnets, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topaz

Dwarves have no penalties to fighting in darkness

Linguistic Basis: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese

Food: Spicy preserved meats, mushroom flour noodles, rich sauces, breads

Drink: Mineral waters, whisky, white wines

Puritan, intolerant attitudes

Sometimes hire/coerce humans as scouts
Strong Warrior Religion - Paladins are warpriests, dress in Blue

Inquisitors dress in Green

Crusaders dress in Yellow

Samurai in the colors of their house

Iron Canyon Elves: Evil or Just Necromantically Misunderstood?

Live Thousands of years but have imperfect memories - only recall last ~150 years or so
Thus, many elves seek to discover their own distant pasts
Civilization in complete decline; a shadow of the glorious elven past

Powerful, terrible magic with fearful results

No religion remaining except death cults - necromancers as priestly caste

Captured humanoids become thralls or terrible experiments
White, yellow, gray, or greenish skin - not always easy to tell undead elves from living elves

All elvish armors:  chitin, bone mail, skinsuit, Ichor - all dead things, no minerals

Most remaining cities are in river valleys but the high plains are full of elvish ruins and massive undercities

Immune to undead special attacks

Linguistic basis: Greek

Food: None; sometimes partake of bitter herbs or nutrient supplements made from dead sentient races and beasts

Drink: Fermented Bloodwine, various serums and chemicals

Largely asexual or with highly abnormal habits

Grafts or other magical body-modification 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cross-Edition D&D in Iron Canyons

The basic ideas for Iron Canyons arose from a design constraint I put on myself at the very beginning: No fighters, no Magic Users, no Clerics, and no Thieves.  I still wanted fantasy races, so there are Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Skaven (which take the place of Halflings), but none of the class options available for any class are available for any other.   I also wanted to play with the idea that each race would have a (non-base) class option from each edition of D&D and would use the rules from their edition when resolving combat or other situations, just as has been done when incorporating characters from different games or editions in FLAILSNAILS games on G+.

So here is the current race/class options chart, subject to frequent revision as I flesh this out:

EditionHuman (C)Elf (E)Dwarf (L)Skaven (G)
OD&DZak's Random RangerOD&D ElfOD&D DwarfOD&D Halfling
AD&D 1EUnearthed Arcana BarbarianAD&D MonkOriental Adventures SamuraiAD&D Illusionist
AD&D 2EVikings Campaign BerserkerNecromancer Specialist MageVikings Campaign RunecasterDark Sun Trader?
D&D 3.5EDruid*HexbladeCrusader (Tome of Battle)?Scout
PathfinderCavalier (with flavor changes)WitchInquisitorBard
D&D 4EWarlord (with constraints*)Assassin (with constraints)Paladin (with constraints)Warden (with constraints)

*So, for the later editions where its all feat-trees and ability-combo building, I will probably highly constrain the choices so its more like the traditional "at-this-level-you-get-this" rather than "choose from these 15 things" to bring it a little more in line with the amount of variation available in older editions 

Humans may not be any kind of Lawful.
Elves may not be any kind of Good.
Dwarves may not be any kind of Chaotic.
Skaven may not be any kind of Evil.

 A lot of the choices in the above chart will make more sense as I explain the different cultures of the PC races.

Iron Canyons Touchstone Pics