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.