Wednesday, September 21, 2011


As inspired by Diablo 3.

Headcleaver is a large skeletal headsman wielding either a greataxe or a greatsword. Within its lair is a wood or stone or iron block that was once used to execute prisoners by beheading. Headcleaver can use Suggestion as the spell to entice characters to "take a nap on the stone" and thereby grant him a huge bonus to hit/damage/crit.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


The chick who is opposed to the word retarded uses the following analogy:

Imagine your name is Kelly, and one day, people decided to use the word "Kelly" to mean "gross." "Yuck! This food tastes so Kelly!" Wouldn't you want them to stop using your name like that?

Wow, I never thought of it like that. And, like, imagine your name was Rob, and one day, people decided to use the word "Rob" to mean "steal from." "Hey, let's go rob that liquor store!"

Okay, that's not the best example. But imagine your name is Retarded, and one day, people decided to start calling you Kelly. And they're like, "Hey, Kelly, let's go retarded that liquor store." And you're like, "What? I'm completely lost." And they're like, "That's because YOU'RE RETARDED, KELLY."

Hurts, doesn't it?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Trap Ideology & the One Man Left Behind Trap

I want(ed) to do a video about this but I never sat down and did it.

It came out of DCC RPG and the 0-level character "funnel." Each player gets 3-4 0-level characters and most of them are expected to die in the first 1-2 adventures, leaving only one character that gets to attain 1st level and pick a class.

One of the major design decisions in DCC RPG is the use of player intelligence and reasoning to figure out traps and puzzles instead of relying on dice rolls for adjudication.

The video would have compared two traps: the first is my classic 10-count crushing ceiling trap (where each time you press a button, the ceiling retracts to its original position and the count-down starts over from 10; the only way out of the trap is to not press the button and let the count down reach 0, at which time the ceiling stops a foot or two above the floor and a secret hatch lets you escape) and the second is the One Man Left Behind trap (a piston-mounted lever concealed inside a column that requires one PC to seal himself in the dungeon in order for the others to escape).

The point of the video was to contrast the two traps to reveal what each taught the players.

The 10-count trap is nice for a mind screw but it is counter-productive in the long run (and especially in a game like DCC RPG). In the short term (while they are trapped), the PCs will become experts in exhausting every last idea on how to escape. Unfortunately, they are all in vain, as the only way out is to do nothing. This teaches players that anything they do is pointless. It also teaches them that the DM will not kill them and they should just trust him and let him direct the story without any interference. Bad bad bad. But fun for the DM.

The OMLB trap can have any number of details (i.e. exactly what is going to kill everyone unless someone holds down the lever) but its actual purpose is to allow roleplaying and, in particular, for the emergence of a true hero. Say the 0-level party has worked its way through the funnel, whittled far down in numbers, and vanquished the evil high priest in the last room. They then find the column at the beginning of a long hallway with a door at the other end. Inside the column is a handle attached to a cylindrical weight that just fits inside the column. When someone twists the handle and lifts, the door at the other end opens. As soon as the handle is released, however, the door slams shut. So, one PC must remain trapped in the dungeon in order for the others to escape.

Watching a party decide which guy stays can be entertaining and enlightening, especially since these are the PCs who survived the rest of the funnel and, if players utilized the "send in the red shirts" method of play, presumably the 'best' characters by roll or race. It can end pretty anticlimactically if one players has multiple PCs remaining while the rest have one each, or if one of the PCs is a really crappy roll. But the trap works well with the 0-levels because no one's favorite character moulded over months of play has to die somewhat arbitrarily (and no one has much equipment available to jerry-rig an alternate way of holding the door open).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Glow-in-the-Dark Monsters

I accidentally closed the window and now I am not going to write as much.

Idea - underground monsters that are nearly (or actually) invisible in torchlight but grow increasingly visible (almost or even to the point of glowing) in shadows and darkness.

The Hellcat devil already does this. I was reminded of the idea by a Terraria video where black slimes become transparent and gray as they approach a light source.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wiggler's Cave

I think Wiggler is the name of the caterpillar enemy from Super Mario World.

One of the levels in New Super Mario Bros. Wii involves an underground cave system where giant wigglers march around at all angles. You are forced to dodge them in areas in order to get ahead and, in other areas, you are forced to jump off them to reach platforms.

An underground cave system criss-crossed by purple worm tracks (or other delvers, such as delvers, bulettes, anhkegs, etc) and still inhabited by those creatures could serve as an unusual venue. In addition to dodging the diggers, PCs would have to utilize their newly built tunnels to get around.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

DCC RPG - The Obituary, Memorial, Graveyard

Not sure what to call this idea.

The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG balances character creation not through complexity and trade-offs but through a funnel. What is a funnel? Each player makes multiple 0-level characters (2-4) and runs them all concurrently through the adventure. Those that survive get to take a class level. Those that died ...

Well, that is where my idea comes in. There is very little upfront investment in character creation in DCC RPG. You randomly roll about 10 things, make no choices beyond name/sex/appearance, and then promptly see most of your characters die in the first adventure.

In order to capitalize on that wasted potential, I want to create a memorial for dead 0-level characters. I had this flash after reading a DM talk about "another notch on your DM's screen". My first idea was to literally put notches in my DM screen. The problem is that there are no details to go along with it; just like the dead 0-level characters, it is nothing more than a number.

My second idea was to have players fill in some information on a post-it note and attach them to the outside of my screen. That way the players are constantly forced to look at their own dead characters (albeit ones that were not particularly meaningful to them). This might still be a good idea.

My third idea was to have the players write the characters' names and means of death on a blank DM's screen or large piece of paper. There would be no rhyme or reason to the order; the first dead could start in the top left corner or could write the details in huge letters right across the center. This generated the scene where a player writes his character's obituary in the middle of another character's name (like inside an "O") to find room.

It makes more sense to use the post-it note idea for a particularly deadly dungeon and keep track of which 1+ level PCs die within (to amp up the mocking factor) while using the paper for the otherwise "nameless" 0-level deaths.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Disguised Dungeon Animals

A follow-up to Dungeon Jellyfish, I was reading more about weird animals.

The first article covered animals with amazing disguises. There were:

A spider that looks like bird poop (somewhat similar to the carrion spider I wrote about long ago);

Caterpillars that can make themselves look like miniature snakes (by semi-retracting their head into their body, they produce the wedge-shape of a serpent's head and spots on the side look like eyes); Caterpie from Pokemon is one of these caterpillars; the Y-shape on its head is supposed to resemble a snake's forked tongue

Walking sticks, Leaf insects, and dead leaf butterflies are damn near invisible in natural settings. Walking sticks actually sway back and forth to mimic branches in the wind. Leaf insects not only resemble leaves, they actually resemble leaves with a little bit of damage (like dead edges where caterpillars have eaten away the leaf). Dead leaf butterflies can simply fall to the ground and look exactly like dead leaves due to the markings on their wings (they can also cling to trees and look like dead leaves that have not yet fallen).

There is a clam whose "lips" resemble a minnow (I believe it is actually an egg sac). When a predator attempts to eat the minnow, the eggs burst open to release burrowing, parasitic larvae who then infect the predator.

There are spiders who look exactly like ants. One species has very large fangs/mandibles for mating rituals and fighting; however, since the ants it mimics do not have large fangs, it disguises them by looking like the front half of a second ant. Imagine fighting a giant ant coming up through a hole in the ground (with another ant visible behind it) when suddenly the ant splits in half right down the middle to reveal that it is, itself, a giant pair of mandibles.

The stonefish looks exactly like ... a stone. It sits motionless on the bottom of the ocean and sucks shrimp and small fish into its mouth. It also has poisonous spines across its back that can kill a grown man in two hours. A living stone in the floor that eats vermin and can poison adventurers who step on it is a jerk.

The king of disguise, however, was the Indonesian mimic octopus. It is able to bend and shape and recolor/repattern itself to resemble a number of other creatures, such as hiding in a hole and using two of its tentacles to mimic a deadly sea snake or pulling all its tentacles around it to resemble a foul-tasting flatfish.

You could take this octopus pretty much at face value (changing it to a land-dweller who just mimics other deadly creatures; Spot check DC X to notice the creature, DC Y (Y>X) to realize the mimicry), or dial it up (allow it to utilize some of the attacks of the mimicked creature (poison pneumocyst in the tentacle doubles as a snake's bite), or dial it WAY up (make it an actual shapeshifter).

Some of these creatures just follow in the footsteps of classic dungeon mimics, like lurker above, trapper, darkmantle, piercer, and, of course, the eponymous mimic. As such, their use must be deliberate in order to maintain effectiveness and not bog down gameplay by making the PCs paranoid.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Ancient Trokair Sank

There is a real world city that sank into a limestone cave like Ancient Trokair.

It is called Ubar and it was a city in the Middle East that existed for 5000 years before finally being swallowed whole in 500 or 600 AD. The city prospered as a trade destination (particularly for frankincense, apparently) and its main advantage was the existence of an oasis. Over the centuries, the inhabitants drew up fresh water from a limestone cavern beneath the city. Once it was depleted enough, the cave roof collapsed and the city fell into the earth. It was subsequently buried by sand.


There is another ancient city that was buried three times in a row.

Helike was a Greek city that sank into the earth during an earthquake. The displacement of the city and the earth beneath it caused a huge wave that traveled across the Mediterranean and rebounded back as a tsunami. This tsunami created a lagoon atop the buried city. Over the centuries, river silt deposited atop the city until the lagoon was no more and ground stood in its place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deadly Animals & Dungeon Jellyfish

I am reading an article on deadly creatures and I had ideas to steal.

1. One of the creatures was the box jellyfish. While reading, I had the idea of a floating, jellyfish-like creature in a dungeon (like a grell) with poisonous tentacles that dangled beneath it. But then I thought, "just use a grell." Then I suddenly had the mental image of a jellyfish "swimming" in the dungeon corridor like a blooper in Super Mario Bros the Lost Levels. Despite the complete lack of water, that creature (and likely other aquatic menaces) "swim" around the dungeon. Perhaps they are ghosts. Perhaps there is a slight overlap with the Elemental Plane of Water.

2. An earlier article about other deadly creatures featured the huge swarms of giant jellyfish plaguing Japan. The article mentioned that these swarms arose out of nowhere and that killing the jellyfish is useless because they release millions of eggs/spores that can mature into jellyfish when they die. Also, these jellyfish weigh 440 lbs. Whether actual jellyfish in the ocean or similar creatures who float along on land, this is scary.

3. Yet another aquatic creatures, the blue-ringed octopus looks cool and reminds me of a tako from Oriental Adventures. I like the idea of an unusual marking to warn PCs to stay away. I also like the fact that they are the size of golf balls and paralyze a victim of their bite (which is strong enough to penetrate wet suit gloves).

4. There was also mention of the deathstalker scorpion, one of the most deadly scorpions known. Good reference for a black scorpion.

5. Another article mentioned the Malaysian/Bruneian ant, whose mandibles contain large sacks of poison. When threatened, the ant detonates these sacks, spraying poison at its enemies while also causing its own head to explode.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sandbox Trokair Ideas

Stolen (or adapted) from Actraiser:

Pyramid full of the reincarnated human slaves who built it (now monsters and undead)

Bloodpool (a literal lake of blood inhabited by a sea monster)

- A source for the bloodpool could be a massive giant inside of a mountain (he is as large as the inside of the mountain) and a wound in the earth has caused him to bleed a literal river.

A fortress carved into the ice of a frozen lake (almost the entire thickness of the lake is frozen, with small pockets of icy water in the fortress and a small lake below; most likely something would allow the PCs to thaw out the lake and destroy the fortress)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Real Meaning of P-values

"The p-value represents the likelihood of the evidence given the null hypothesis, not the likelihood of the null hypothesis given the evidence."

-wackojacko1138, XKCD forums