Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Taking Traveller Encounter Tables to Heart

I rolled a "2" for one of my stats creating a new Classic Traveller PC and an extremely poor attribute roll (in this case DEX) got me thinking about how to incorporate the low stat into the overall character concept. I was also hankering to use Classic Traveller to game out baroque Space Opera styled adventures and using extreme ability rolls as a jumping off place for creating alien characters seemed like a way to go. But first I decided to finish out enlistment and background skills before I came down on some type of new alien species.

The character failed initial enlistment and was subsequently drafted into “Other”. After surviving an initial term of service this new character failed a reenlistment roll and entered the campaign world with the skills Mechanical-1 and Medical-1.

So a Saroid Priest-Scientist from a planet of primitive mystics travels to a mining colony looking for help in reaching the Vault of the Stars. His mission, reset a celestial machine to protect the universe for the next ten thousand years.

This is all tangential to the meat of this post, wilderness encounter tables in Traveller, but here we go.

With my adventure idea writ in broad strokes it is time to fill in the details, to key the dungeon. Classic Traveller relies on Encounter Tables to drive the action during a game. I believe the LBB's encourage the referee to create their own specific to the adventure worlds. So I took the plunge and started drafting encounter tables for the world where the adventures would occur. 

The randomly generated World Profile gave me a thick jungle planet 80%-85% water covered with a tainted atmosphere. Mining outposts with a total population of 50,000 live high in the mountains while native tribesmen keep to themselves in the toxic jungles below. The adventure should lead a group of PC's to penetrate the planet's jungles in search of a lost city. As you can see one table sometimes sprouted another and in no time I had a satisfactory adventure setting for the PC's! In writing these up I'm just following the LBB's suggestions. There are no hard and fast rules on why the tables are the way they are. Each creature will still need its own stat block, but at least with a good set of tables I know what is actually there. One thing for sure, tread the jungles of Ramea with care!

Adventure Encounters

Daily Encounter Chance is 50%. If an encounter is indicated roll on the following appropriate Encounter Table for terrain type.

Ramea Jungle Encounter Table roll 1d20

1 Raccoon Men
2 Insect, Giant
3 Sauroid, Giant
4 Cat, Giant
5-7 Wilderness Hazard
8-10 Weather
11 Snake Men
12-13 Insect, Swarm
14 Dangerous Plant
15-20 No Encounter

Forbidden City Encounter Table roll 2d6

2 Sauroid, Giant
3 Insect Stinging Flyer, Giant
4 Plant Barrier
5 Raccoon Men
6 Snake, Giant
7 Spider Men
8 Herd Animals; Stampede Check
9 Equipment Failure
10 Intact Structure
11 Water Feature
12 Other Scavenging Party

What are the Natives Doing? roll 1d6
1-2 Establishing Territory
3-4 Hunting for Food
5-6 Traveling to a place of Worship

Insect Type roll 1d6
1-2 Trapper
3-4 Pouncer
5-6 Flyer

Sauroid Type roll 1d6
1-2 Aquatic; Single, Large
3-4 Tree Dwelling; Herd or Single, Medium
5-6 Ground Dwelling; Herd or Single, Large

Wilderness Hazard roll 1d6
1-2 Groge/Crevase; delays travel and forces another encounter check.
3-4 Water Barrier; lake, mire/swamp or river. Delays travel and forces another encounter check.
5-6 Tectonic Activity; volcanic, geothermal, quicksand.

Weather roll 1d6
1-2 Driving Rain; stops travel for 6-12 hours.
3-4 Corrosive Cloud; atmosphere is much more corrosive than normal. Piece of equipment fails.
5-6 Thick Clouds; low light and decreased visibility.

Swarm Type roll 1d6
1-2 Ants, mobile.
3-4 Termites, stationary.
5-6 Aquatic, during water crossing.

Dangerous Plant
Uses vines to grasp and strangle prey.

Plant Barrier roll 1d6
1-2 Blocks Progress; delays travel and forces another encounter check.
3-4 Attacks!
5-6 Has Scientific Value.

Intact Structure* roll 1d6
1-2 Creature; roll for Giant Slug, Carnivorous Swarm, or Giant Spider.
3-4 Tribesmen; roll for either Raccoon, Snake, or Spider.
5-6 Empty
* Further 50% chance a tradeable good will be found.

Water Feature roll 1d6
1-2 Blocks Progress; delays travel and forces another encounter check.
3-4 Provides subterranean access to the wormhole.
5-6 Others present; roll for either tribesmen, predator/prey stand off, lurking predator.

Other Scavenging Party roll 1d6
1-2 Pirates hiding out.
3-4 Scouts surveying.
5-6 Scientists on expedition.

For the map of the lost city I plan on using I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and the machine to repair there is The Puissant Machine from the Dread Machine adventure module. It would work excellent here and is free. Game on!

[Edit: 08-08-17]

Here are the stats for;

Ral Al'Neon (a priestly Sauroid) 8286A5 Age 112 1 term

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fixing B4 The Lost City

B4 The Lost City was my favorite classic TSR Dungeons & Dragons adventure module and another one (much like B3 Palace of the Silver Princess) which vexed me to no end. See, the problem was for this eleven year old was the upper tiers didn't make any sense. How the different factions lived in an uneasy alliance within its halls, and how the traps all remained unsprung, and what the hell are a bunch of Sprites doing hanging out in the fireworks closet?

But the whole package of buried pyramid and underground “lost” city and its mysterious inhabitants was just magnificent. I thought if I can figure out how to run this adventure I would be a true Dungeon Master!

This week I sat down with my PDF copy of the module and decided to solve the problems I had with the upper tiers once and for all. And it didn't take much.

First off, the whole upper tiers as the Old God factions personal club house just had to be chucked. If there were going to be cultists on the upper levels they were going to be groping around blindly just like the PC's, almost. Here is the set up I used to justify the various cult member's activities in the upper tiers; a search for a McGuffin. In this case the McGuffin is an artifact, a magical weapon which can slay Zargon. Say a “Flame Sword” capable of sheering off the monsters horn and destroying its regenerative properties. It will naturally be buried somewhere in the upper tiers. I'll make the Magi of Usimagaras and the Brotherhood of Gorm collaborating on the search. The Priests of Zargon suspect its existence but have never found a way into the upper tiers. They anxiously search the city for evidence of the Old God factions and its members.

For example; in the module the PC's find entrance into the pyramid because a Hobgoblin was shot down opening a trapped secret door. This has no rhyme nor reason. But replace this corpse with that of a Cyndecian and put the bolt in the victim's back. Struck down just when uncovering a great secret, of a portal to the outside world! Perhaps he still draws breath and carries a piece of parchment with ordered pairs of symbols? The fact that the unfortunate cultist triggered the door trap it is no small leap to decide now all the traps are now armed in this room. That the cultist was unaware of the proper sequence needed to perform with the doors to pass through safely. With just this simple musing the rest of the upper tier now starts to snap into shape. The Old God cultists are attempting to deceive the Priests of Zargon. While one band leads the Priest's loyal acolytes on a merry chase through the upper tiers another group penetrates the tombs of Alexander and Zenobia to secure the legendary sword. So I replace any of the other dead bodies found on these levels with Gorm, Usimagaras and Zargon cultists. The bees are not guarding any treasure on the second tier, no they are a clever trap uncovered by the collaborators and used against the acolytes. Perhaps these cultists fight a desperate battle on the second tier against the acolytes while their companions are dying beneath the traps found in the hidden tombs? Ancient plans exploding into action and the PC's stumbling into it all.

I've changed the Wandering Monster Tables to reflect my preferred assortment of crypt vermin and the cat and mouse game being played out by the warring Cyndecians. The temple on the fifth tier needs to opened up as well. While the statues of the Old Gods have been pulled down and many of the corridors are still neglected, the Priests still bring sacrifice to Zargon and hold worship in the horrid lower tiers. This is also how the Old God cultists penetrate the upper tiers. They know of secret doors which lead to the upper levels. They have secreted their agents among the acolytes and travel to these entrances under darkness and stealth.

So I included only two of the Old God cults as being involved in the search. The Warrior Maids, while the strive against the power of Zargon, are not in others confidence. This can help illuminate the mistrust and infighting among all the factions. This will require the emptying of the Warrior Maid's club house and restocking but much of the other rooms on this tier, tier 3, can be left as is. Oh, and those lycanthropes running around secretly living in the upper tiers. They got to go. Another nonsensical addition to the antics of the dungeon.

For me this set up creates a world pregnant with possibilities. At the end of the day the PC's need to secure enough supplies to escape the danger of the desert or secure long term lodging in the city below. How they can leverage the goings on in the upper tiers to achieve survival and eventual securing of loot in which to enrich themselves now has a handle. A DM's deft handling of the cults, each with a clear mission being attempted at the outset of the adventure, will create a much more dynamic dungeon environment. This approach also helps me envision the lower tiers which the priests of Zargon continue to use. Not only are these crude lower chambers the source of the Priest's power but of their greatest fear. They sit on a literal powder keg of evil. They attempt to keep the terrible creatures inhabiting these lower levels in check with sacrifice and magic. In this role the Priests of Zargon are not insane bloody zealots, but wise stewards protecting a deranged populace. Ah yes, the rabbit hole goes deep on this one.

Anthropomorphic USR Session Report #2

I had a chance to run another session of Anthropomorphic USR this morning when the full game group could not suit up and show up. When we last left off with Yak 'n Ape they were still in the lab fending off security robots. And another one showed up. Fortunately another of the players was able to eventually make the game session so the party was now up to one Yak, one Ape, and one Badger. The combat encounter took place in an equipment room and the Yak tried to operate some of the gear lying on the racks. He managed to discharge a “smoke fountain” which obscured vision for the PC's. I levied a -2 penalties to attacks because of the thick black smoke. The robot of course is unaffected by the discharge. The Ape evens the odds with a well aimed fling of poo and blinded the security bot. The battle seesawed back and forth for a couple of rounds. I then remembered I was playing the USR rules relatively straight, not the simultaneous combat method I use in USR Sword & Sorcery. The PC's got the upper hand on this third robot and than began to fool around with more of the equipment and the defeated robot. The Ape decided to bath the Yak's wounds in the brain fluid from the robot. This triggered a random mutation and the Yak was endowed with bulging chest and neck muscles. He will now receive a +2 on any strength related Action test as long as the condition persists.

Further exploration of the lab reveals equipment monitoring all sorts of media and radio communication, laser scanners harmlessly strobing the PC's in blue light, a fluid bath which heals enhanced anthropomorphs and a room with strange wired instruments mounted on a pulsing purple jell. The Badger decides to chew on the purple stuff and gets electrocuted for his troubles. The party picks up the fact that the Capitol City Zoo is wrestling with the bizarre and mysterious disappearance of four zoo animals; a lion, snake, yak, and silverback gorilla. This was squawking out of all the comm equipment alcove. 

All the while the rooms and corridors of the complex are getting extremely hot and start to cause the PC's heat damage. Not finished with their investigation they stumble upon the power grid for the lab. Utilizing their homemade battery grenades they toss them into the machinery and flee to the last room they haven't explored hoping against hope for a way out.

They do manage to leave the lab complex emerging into a dank sewer tunnel. They also feel a deep shuddering through the earth as if terrible explosions were occurring underground. The sewer tunnel eventually leads to a subway tunnel and the party decides to scurry up onto the busy metro platform. This has the predictable response of freaking out the crowd in the station waiting for the next subway. While people flee for the exits a transportation cop steps out to confront our heroes. The cop draws his gun on the Yak (he is carrying an alien laser rifle) and orders the anthros onto the deck with their hands up.  With a well directed fling of poo the cop was gagging and incapacitated. The PC's take advantage of the horrible distraction reigned down upon the poor civil servant and duck onto a subway just pulling out of the station.  At the next stop scared patrons flee the car and other passengers are hesitant to get on, except one hippy looking woman. She gives the party a thumbs up and compliments them on letting themselves be themselves. Show their true identity. Not the social masks we are all trapped under, you dig? And yeah, she knows which stop the zoo is.

So there we ended the second ever session I am aware of of Anthropomorphic USR. We are now at a classic, and formative event of fuzzy animal comics; the heroes first encounter with the real world! What started as a side game for when our regular session can't run has now sprawled into a full-fledged comic book adventure! Time to start creating the principle hooks and adversaries found in Capitol City. We know it has cops and hippy chicks.

The session also helped motivate me to finish the POD of the Anthro core rule book. The only section of the rules which now need a rewrite are the damage and healing rules. I am modifying the straight USR rules as written to better represent four-colored comic book action.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Some Helpful Tips for POD Self Publishing

Here is  link to a useful article. I don't create enough content to always remember how I did it last time. I'm also too lazy to write down all the steps I take to make a PDF print ready.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Horrors Material & Magic Malignant Proof is in...

[EDIT] 08/20/17: New proof is in and the book looks great. Order away!

and there are some errors with the art. Looks like any graphic I saved as a PNG file prints black.

There are also some typos uncovered during my initial hard copy review, but overall pleased with the product.

If you are planning on ordering this POD format wait until I update the files at DriveThruRPG.Com. The PDF obviously downloads and prints correctly. The update will only affect the uncovered typos for the PDF and can be easily printed later.

Here is a look at the new book alongside USR Sword & Sorcery. 11" x 8.5" format, black and white interior.

This book, unlike the basic rulebook, has a table of contents and page numbers to aid in thumbing through. But really, the book is only 31 pages of content so navigating the book is easy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cthulhu & Chivalry NPC Deaths of Recent Note

The players of my Cthulhu & Chivalry campaign have had the luxury of travelling in a group of well armed NMA troopers. Enough of these "red shirts" suffered grievous wounds today one of my players accused me of whittling down the herd because I didn't want to keep up with the paperwork. Nothing could be further from truth! I had given the entire squad names so I could lovingly track the horrible fates which some of the supporting cast would surely meet. Here are the brave NPC meat-shields which took the deadly hits instead of my band of plucky PC's in this morning's session;

Chris Cox, NMA Soldier; died falling from rope bridge fending off an attack from a large bird.

Roger Howard, NMA Soldier; gunned down by his own party after becoming infected with a strange, sticky substance.

Thomas Williamson, NMA Soldier; fell from rope bridge trying to flee from the horrid sticky substance turning his flesh into writhing vines.

There is also the case of the unfortunate Mr. Bartlett. This unlucky soldier has been battered by possessed trees, attacked by wolves, almost joined his brother in arms Cox in the rope bridge death-plunge and now suffers a gruesome wound from an errant musket shot. His last hope now resides in the good Dr. Norton patching him up. With that man's track record absolutions are already being prepared for good Mr. Bartlett.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New USR Sword & Sorcery Supplement

[EDIT 07/11/17] Softcover 8.5" x 11" print version now available!

Horrors Material & Magic Malignant is now available from DriveThruRPG as a $1.95 PDF. This 11" x 8.5" publication will also be available as POD 31 page softcover black and white with a green color field with red lettering, not the black and white as depicted in the PDF. If you are concerned about toner ink I would not print out the cover from the PDF. There is a title page which will make for a less toner-intense cover. Anyways, the POD version will not be available for sale until I get my proof back and uncover all my typos. It will cost the same as the POD 38 page rule book, just shy of six bucks?

HM&MM provides 24 non-player characters typical of a sword and sorcery realm, 32 beasts and monsters as well as magic for all three schools found in USR Sword & Sorcery; Artifacts, Mesmerism, and Sorcery. With both USR Sword & Sorcery and Horrors Material & Magic Malignant the Crypt Keeper has everything they need to start playing sword and sorcery fantasy adventures in less than twenty minutes.

USR Sword & Sorcery features fast character creation, random encounter tables and simple resolution mechanics so folks can get down to the business of playing, not learning. 

So gird your loins, quaff your wine flask and leap into the fray with Vanishing Tower Press' latest release!