Dungeon Design: FoC The Hub (3/3)

In the final part of designing the Hub dungeon the Slave Galleon I work on the boss fight with the Nun Toad. Part I is here. Part II is here.

The room is 3.1 The Hall and as described previously has to include a boss fight and approximately 200gp of treasure. (I’ll probably include more gold to offset the quantity of treasure hidden in the exploration heavy parts of the dungeon.) The room is a large hall with an altar, pews, and platforms above it.

As explained before the Toad Nun is good at two things, jumping and snatching enemies from afar and keeping them. This leads to a naturally dangerous fight if the Nun can grab someone and then leap to a safer spot. However while she’s eating someone she’s vulnerable. That’s when the urchins should push to distract the players.

I have to be honest that I don’t use CR calculations or any of that. So if this seems to hard or easy by the time I’m done that’s why. My most basic calculation is that the players will have ~15hp by level 2 and assuming a party of five can take around 75 points of damage. With the 4-3 damage output of the urchins and most urchins surviving only 1 or 2 rounds they could take 4 or 5 urchins easily on their own, more with more difficulty. With the Nun Toad mixed in 4 or 5 urchins should work fine. More could be added mid fight if they’re cleaning up.


Entrances

Currently the Adventurer’s have two ways to enter the Hall, both identical small rooms that open onto the raised platforms on opposite sides of the hall. Technically they could also enter by leaping off of the balcony far above the hall.

Starting positions are crucial to setting up an encounter. Where the players are and how powerful they feel will dictate how the fight feels. If they come out surrounded or in a weak position the fight will feel more desperate, if they come out with an advantage they will feel more powerful.

We could make them incredibly close to the Nun Toad and immediately in range of her tongue while the urchins are spread out to pelt them from all sides. This would make the fight pretty desperate.

Or  we could let them sneak out onto the balcony overlooking the hall and take time to plan their approach, with plenty of time to use ranged attacks on the Toad and plan how to take out the urchins.

 

3.1 The Hall

There are two entrances to the hall, both small square rooms that open onto small platforms raised 20ft off the ground in the middle of the room. They are one turn from the Nun Toad crouching at the center of the room. (This is the middle ground, they’ll have the difficulty of the first option, but will still have a moment to think while looking down from above.)

There are similar platforms in each corner of the hall each 20ft above the floor.

The hall is scattered with long pews giving cover to anyone who hides behind them. (Disadvantage for anyone targeting someone in cover.)

Five Urchins are scattered around the hall each a turn and a half away from the entry platforms. They are putting the silver candles, relics, and other temple treasures in sacks.

The Toad has Passive Perception of 15, anyone failing a Stealth check while in the arena is spotted. The Toad will instruct the urchins to use their slings until She has grappled a target. Once she’s grappled a target with her tongue attack the Nun will jump up to whatever platform is furthest from the Adventurers and direct the urchins to charge the others. (If the Adventurers are smart here they can sneak about the arena without auguring the Toad. Otherwise they’ll have to jump down and be in the thick of the fight immediately.)

Each round where there are not 4 or more urchins, the Nun can croak and summon 2 urchins from the rooms surrounding the hall.

Rabid Urchin x4

Small / Humanoids

Someone has cursed these street urchins with a rabid fever and painful growths. The urchins have grown spikes and suppurating sores. They’re hunched over and sport nasty spikes.

AC: 10

HP: 15 (Upon death they trigger their spike attack.)

Speed: 40ft

Damage Immunities: poison

Dagger: Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+2) piercing damage.

Sling: Ranged weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 60ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) bludgeoning damage.

Urchin Spike: Anyone within 5ft of the urchin is pushed away 5ft as their spikes extend violently. Those pierced must make a CON or DEX save of DC 10 or take 2d8 poison damage. Other urchins hit by the attack take no damage and trigger their own spike attack.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: Loot Bag: 50gp

(I’ve made some changed to the Nun Toad. She’s got 10 more hp, special loot, and instructions for what happens when she dies.)

Queen Nun Toad

Large / Beasts

A huge toad with alert eyes and a white stripe painted down it in chalk. Preparing potions against acid would aid in this fight. This Nun has made her Urchin salves crown her with a silver candelabra.

AC: 12

HP: 60 (Once killed the toad collapses with a groan to the floor, the urchins freed from their mind control flee into the Galleon.)

Speed: 15ft / leap 50ft

Perception 15

Sticky Tongue: Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8) bludgeoning damage plus 4 (2d4) acid damage. Once struck a target is grappled requiring a DC of 14 to escape.

Confessional Purification: Once stuck to a nun’s tongue the target is dragged into the air where they begin being coated by thick acidic juices to “cleanse” the spirit. This does 4d8 acid damage. Once dead the nun swallows the target whole. As an action the nun can stop its grapple and throw the target 15ft away from itself. She will throw the target instead of purification if she takes damage. (The fall does 1d10 bludgeoning damage.)

Telepathy: The nun speaks in whispers in the minds of those around it. As an action the nun can launch a mental assault on a target. If they fail a WIS save of DC 12 the nun can issue simple commands.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: Toad Tongue. (25gp) – This reach does 1d4 bludgeoning damage and grapples target when hit. The target must make a DC 10 DEX save to escape.

Candle Crown (100gp) – Lights the area 80ft around you when worn on the head. As an action the wielder can shake their head as a bonus action and scald themselves with hot wax (doing 1d4 fire damage) and the crown casts Turn Undead. All undead within the light of the candles must make a DC 10 Wis Save or are forced to flee away from the crown.


Potential Fight

To test out how this arena will work I’ll perform a little thought experiment.

The Adventurers enter the room. They look out from the platform and see toad front and center and urchins spread out. The party consists of two or more ranged characters, and three or more melee characters.

The rouge likely will creep down and try to back stab urchins.

The fighty/tank character will want to charge the toad.

Support melee characters will likely join the fight against the toad.

The ranged characters will want to rain down damage on the toad and any urchins near enough to hit.

But… the toad’s attacks will change that strategy pretty quickly.

The toad can then seize one of the melee characters and leap to a platform away from the fight. Urchins will swarm the surviving melee character and the rogue, while one or two urchins remain to pelt the ranged characters with their slings. Once the toad has killed her catch she can return to the fight and seize another character.

The ranged fighters will have to chase after the toad and interrupt her Purification attack while the melee fighters keep the urchins away from them.

If the players plan on the toad’s attack (any wisdom checks could let the player know more about how nuns work) the melee fighters could make sure to stay far enough away from the toad while killing the urchins. While the ranged fighters attack the toad. If the toad gets to close to the ranged fighters they would have to flee to a safe distance.


Conclusion

This seems like a solid boss fight to me. After some play testing I’ll know whether the HP is high enough or not. The fight naturally rewards payers who take more risks as the number of urchins increases (by killing only one urchin and letting two more come in each time) they can get more and more loot bags.

Read Part I and Part II.

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Dungeon Design: FoC The Hub (2/3)

Last Time on Dungeon Design I shared how I had begun to design a quest and dungeon in the “Midden” area of my new game Fields of Carcosa.

We created two monsters for this area: the Rabid Urchin and the Nun Toad.

Rabid Urchin

Small / Humanoids

Someone has cursed these street urchins with a rabid fever and painful growths. The urchins have grown spikes and suppurating sores. They’re hunched over and sport nasty spikes.

AC: 10

HP: 15 (Upon death they trigger their spike attack.)

Speed: 40ft

Damage Immunities: poison

Dagger: Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+2) piercing damage.

Sling: Ranged weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 60ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) bludgeoning damage.

Urchin Spike: Anyone within 5ft of the urchin is pushed away 5ft as their spikes extend violently. Those pierced must make a CON or DEX save of DC 10 or take 2d8 poison damage. Other urchins hit by the attack take no damage and trigger their own spike attack.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: 1gp

 

Nun Toad

Large / Beasts

A huge toad with alert eyes and a white stripe painted down it in chalk. Preparing potions against acid would aid in this fight.

AC: 12

HP: 50

Speed: 15ft / leap 50ft

Sticky Tongue: Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8) bludgeoning damage plus 4 (2d4) acid damage. Once struck a target is grappled requiring a DC of 14 to escape.

Confessional Purification: Once stuck to a nun’s tongue the target is dragged into the air where they begin being coated by thick acidic juices to “cleanse” the spirit. This does 4d8 acid damage. Once dead the nun swallows the target whole. As an action the nun can stop its grapple and throw the target 15ft away from itself.

Telepathy: The nun speaks in whispers in the minds of those around it. As an action the nun can launch a mental assault on a target. If they fail a WIS save of DC 12 the nun can issue simple commands.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: Toad Tongue. (25gp) This reach does 1d4 bludgeoning damage and grapples target when hit. The target must make a DC 10 DEX save to escape.

With these enemies designed we can begin thinking about how to lay out the galleon. First lets sum up the information we want to use:

  1. The nun is a semi-boss fight that should challenge the players.
  2. The toad can leap, and can use its tongue to grapple targets from a distance.
  3. The urchins are pretty easy to kill, but on their deaths they trigger their spike attack, and this can cause a chain reaction with other urchins. The spike attack pushes targets away from the urchin.

Area Design

As with all game plots there must be a reason for the players to go in where others do not. In this case Noatalba needs a reason to want the players to go in, and why he can’t. For one he’s a coward, unlikely to fight even though he is a priest of some significant power. Furthermore as stated the galleon has been locked and the urchins inside have the key.

This also provides the first design question for the area: how can the players get inside?

Since this is a galleon it must have several entrances already. There will be hatches on deck, a possible doorway into a captain’s cabin or fore-cabin, holes in the sides for an anchor or hatches for cannon. The ship could also have cracks that players could sneak into.

Hatches on the deck and a crack or hatch hidden somewhere around the side will be fun. One will require a dangerous climb up the side, the other will require searching for hidden crannies. There is also the locked door where Noatalba stands. Players could just knock it down, but the priest would likely frown on destroying his temple no matter how temporary. However its good to remember it’s there.

I also have an idea for several rooms:

  • Narrow hallways with multiple slave cells off of them. This would be ripe for traps, hidden treasure, and ambushes.
  • A large open area with an altar, some sort of balcony and/or raised areas. This is probably the central encounter with the nun and the last of the urchins. I like the idea of the players being able to enter this room on high up balconies and skirting around it before getting into a proper fight.
  • Other rooms could be cabins for important crew, open decks with rows of rusting cannon, or storage rooms.

The urchins are also clever and unlikely to have invaded something as valuable as the galleon temple without having planned on protecting themselves, so they may have left traps and scouts to warn each other.

I think the route of the dungeon will be a vertical fork, so to speak, with one path from the hatches on top and one from a lower crack that is hidden below. There might be minor or hidden paths between these but they will generally meet at a central point where both converge on the wide open room with the altar.

The top route from the hatches will be the one the urchins expect, filled with traps and ambushes. The lower route will be a forgotten area, left alone but harder to travel through. Several places will cross between them where someone in the lower route could break through and surprise the urchins or skip traps. Otherwise players taking the upper route might find a hidden entrance to the lower one and avoid danger that way.

Well number the upper route 1 and the lower route 2.


Areas

1.1 Climbing to the Deck

The sides of the Galleon are plated in rough iron scales. While climbing the sides are easy the rough metal is often sharp. Climbing the sides is DC 12. Failing the check results in 1d4 slashing damage. Often I forget to include the result of failing an ability check. This is especially important when describing places where someone can fall. More than once I’ve bee running a game and realized that a failed check is probably an instant death as they fall into some abyss. Think about the consequences of each roll you require. If they aren’t interesting or too risky you might need to change them.)


1.2 Deck Hatches

The deck of the galleon hasn’t been used in years. Trash fallen from the Palace above lies in haphazard piles, partially covering the starboard hatch to the decks below. (The hatches are the most important thing here so they’re described early on.)

A large grate, now rusted in place and immovable, opens above the yawning slave pit in the galleon’s heart. Light can be seen flickering below as Rabid Urchins scurry around filling sacks with loot. One urchin, with several criss crossed belts can be seen fiddling with some keys at a door. As the urchin manages to open the door a giant toad tongue snakes around the door and pulls her inside. The toad leaps through the door and leers around at the urchins around the hall. The urchins begin to back away slowly, however after a moment they stop and seem to nod at some silent voice and return to their looting. (To make this dungeon riskier I like the idea of the Toad Nun mentally controlling the urchins, however this means the toad nun needs a telepathic power and during the fight killing the nun might cause the urchins to flee after its control is broken.)

Shooting through the large grate imposes a penalty die. If any urchins or the toad are hit they will retreat into the rooms around the outside of the pit and hide until the danger has passed.

The starboard hatch to the lower deck is easy to lever open. A steep ladder descends foreword to the 1.3 Cannon Deck.


1.3 Cannon Deck

A long hall lined with rusting ancient cannon. (I’d like the first encounter with the urchins to take place here. It can also teach the players that the urchins are laying traps.) A turn away from the Adventurers is a trapdoor with two urchins behind the raised hatch only partially visible. Another turn behind them is a third urchin attaching something to a door in the bulkhead at the other end of the hall.

At the beginning of their turns the two urchins at the hatch will lower the trap door and move behind the rusted cannon nearest them to use their slingshots as cover. The urchin at the back will close the door and move forwards. (The Players normal reaction would be to rush the urchins, however the trapdoor requires them to go around it. The urchins will use their spike attack to try to push them into it. Meanwhile they will use the extra time to pelt the players with rocks while in the relative safety of cover.)

The trapdoor is a simple trap with a flimsy rod holding it closed. When stood on an Adventurer may make one quick action before it falls open and deposits them into the chamber below. Throwing themselves off the trap door requires a DC 12 Dexterity Save. Falling does 1d10 bludgeoning damage. It also takes a DC 12 ability check to disarm the trap while out of combat. The chamber below is Prison Cell 2.

The door is rigged with a thin trip wire. When triggered a heavy spiked iron ball dripping with poison on a chain is released and swings into the doorway hitting anyone in front of it. The Adventurer who triggers the trap has a quick action before it strikes them. It requires a DC 14 Dexterity Save to leap out of the way. It does 1d6 bludgeoning damage + 1d4 poison damage. It requires a DC 14 ability check to disarm the trap while out of combat. The door opens onto 1.4 Stairs.


1.4 Stairs

The door opens onto a square space with a steep staircase descending.


1.5 Slave Hall

The stairs end a deck below in a narrow hallway. The hallway is 5ft wide and only allows one person to pass at a time. Ask for marching order before the Adventurers continue.

Along the hallway are eight cells with 5ft of iron bars on either side with a sliding iron bar door in the middle. The cells doors are spaced out 20 feet from each other. Each cell is 15ft by 15ft. The cells are numbered 1-4 on the left from the stairs and 5-8 on the right from the stairs.

Cell 1 & 5

A tripwire has been placed between the open door of cell 1 and the closed and locked door of cell 5. When broken it triggers another swinging poisoned spiked ball. DC 14 Dexterity Save or take 1d6 bludgeoning +1d4 poison damage. DC 14 ability check to disarm.

Cell 5’s door is locked and requires a DC 14 ability check to unlock. Inside is a skeleton shackled to the far wall. Around their neck is a metal chain with a flat collar. On it reads: “Slave 5: Morris Strong Tall Healthy”

Cell 2 & 6

Cell 2 and 6 are open. A Rabid Urchin hides in cell 6 and won’t attack anyone until they are standing directly in the middle of the cells. Cell 2 has a trapdoor that will break and drop a person into #######.

Cell 6 has a hole in the wall. Inside has been pushed a purse containing two shards of ruby worth 50gp each. There is also a note. “For anyone who finds this, This ship is evil and this treasure is a testament to my sins. I worked for a decade bringing prisoners to the slave docks of the City of Song, sold like cattle to the Ravenous Resort, Death Masks in the rift. No matter where we went we disposed of human goods for gold. Now I repent. When humans become items to be sold any human appears to be worth a sale. My eternal regrets. H.Z.” The note is from Harrington another NPC in the Hub.

Cell 2 has piles of skeletons on either side of the trapdoor. 1d6 gold coins are hidden in the piles. There are three metal slave collars: “Slave 2: Tanya Weak Short Healthy” “Slave 3: Anya Strong Short Sick” “Slave 6: Palia Pretty Short Healthy”

Cell 3 & 7

Cell 3 is locked. It requires a DC 12 ability check to open the door. Inside are two skeletons locked to opposite walls. One still wears a worn cloak that seems not to have decomposed. On closer inspection the inside is embroidered with green threads in complex droplet patterns. The holes in the cloak seem to have been melted into it. The cloak is resistant to poison and grants +1 poison damage to all attacks while wearing it. It is worth 100gp. The skeletons both have slave collars: “Slave 4: Aboraga Pretty Tall Healthy” “Slave 7: Gustovus Strong Short Sick”

Cell 7 is unlocked and the back wall has been broken away. The boards have been put back to hide the hole. Anyone with Passive Perception above 8 will notice the hole. The hole leads down into the deck below to the 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop. A slave collar has been left on the floor with a broken chain: “Slave 1: Troya Strong Tall Healthy”

Cell 4 & 8

A trip wire crosses the hall from the bars of cell 8 to the door of Cell 4. If triggered another poisoned ball swings across and strikes anyone in the hall. It takes a DC 14 Dexterity Save to avoid, or DC 12 ability check to disarm while out of combat. A Rabid Urchin hides in cell 4. The Urchin will attempt to use its spike attack to push people into the trap.

Cell 8 has a table set up in it with a ribbon, a vase with a wilted flower, and several candles on it. The candles have mostly melted down. A note is attached to the table by a large knife. In the center of the table are two salve collars. “Slave 8: Sophie Strong Tall Sick” “Slave 9: Maia Weak Child Unhealthy.”

The note reads: “You were the fairest port in any storm and in the calmest weather. I always knew I had you to come back to. I will forever look for your wave and glowing lantern smile as I sail. I will find you again under the ocean or in the stars. Fare ye well.” 

The Knife is the Knife of Sword Revenge (100gp) does 1d4 piercing damage and no attack bonus is added. If you target the last enemy that has done damage to you it does an additional 1d4 damage per point of damage you took. (This weapon is probably overpowered. However it ties into Harrington’s story so letting the players know something is this important can be useful. Use at your own risk.)

Cell 4 is empty.

The end of the hall opens onto 1.6 Catwalk.


1.6 Walkway

A railed walkway of 5ft in width extends around the large multistory open space in the center of the galleon. Ahead of the players against the starboard side of the hull the walkway has collapsed leaving a huge gap. To the left the walkway crosses the ship to the port side. There it crosses to the foreword deck of the ship.

Below two floors can be seen, a second walkway mostly in ruin with several rooms off of it, and the bottom deck where pews and an altar have been arranged. At least five urchins scurry back and forth looting the temple while a huge Toad Nun gloats from atop the altar. Falling from the walkway does 1d10+10 bludgeoning damage.

If the Adventurers make too much noise the nun will angrily croak and the urchins will begin pelting them with their slings. It is DC 12 the sneak around the walkway. The Nun will hide in one of the adjoining rooms if threatened. The urchins will also run for cover if they take too much damage.

To the left the walkway extends to the port side. But halfway along a portion of the floor has been broken. The railing is still supported and a dexterous person could walk across it. It takes a DC 15 ability check to cross. To the left is a door. Another two doors can be seen on the other side of the hole. The door leads to 1.7 Overseer’s Office.

The second door leads to 1.8 Armory. The walkway ends at the Port side of the hull where it continues forward.

The second door past the hole is to a cell hall like the one on the starboard side. Broken beams have filled the hall making it unpassable. A Rabid Urchin hides inside the doorway and will try to surprise attack passing Adventurers. She will try to use her spike attack to push adventurers off the walkway.

At its end it enters 1.9 Crew Quarters.


1.7 Overseer’s Office

A rectangular room with a built in bed against the left wall. A large table is bolted to the floor. There is a large cabinet on the right next to a door in the middle of the wall to the 1.8 Armory. Behind the table in the middle of the back wall is a open door way and a ladder descending to the 2.6 Powder Room.

Two Rabid Urchins are scrabbling around searching the room. They have a sack of loot worth 200gp already from the candle sticks, plates, and silver plating from the room.

If the urchins are attacked they will be joined one turn later by two more urchins from the 1.8 Armory.

The cabinet is locked and requires a DC 15 ability check to open. Inside is a note, a Tricorn (50gp), and a small purse of 1d10+12 gold coins.

The note reads “Captain Rince, I warn that if we continue with this plan Grin will discover what you’ve done. We should return the woman and her daughter to the islands. If he finds out and still has a heart beating in his chest he will search you out. Me too if I am not careful. Theodora Baggs, Overseer.”


1.8 Armory

There is a door to the 1.7 Overseer’s Office and another to the far side of the hole on the 1.6 Walkway. There is a large iron door at the back of the room that contains another Nun Toad.

The rest of the room is lined with low chests containing old weapons. Most are so rusted they are useless. One contains a Rusty Cutlass that is still useable. It does 1d6 slashing damage + 1d4 poison damage and is worth 50gp.

Three Rabid Urchins hunker around a cannon. It is too big to wheel through the doors. If someone enters the room one of the urchins will light the fuse. It fires directly into the Overseer’s Office and does 4d10 bludgeoning damage to anyone fails a DC 17 Dexterity Save to get out of the way.

If the urchins hear fighting in the office two will go and join the fight while the third will wait until an enemy is in line with the doorway and they will fire the cannon. It takes them a full round before they can reload the cannon. They can fire it every other round.

If an Adventurer approaches the iron door at the back of the armory they hear a whispering voice in their head. The Nun Toad tries to convince them to let her out. She will try to dominate them. It requires a DC 12 Wisdom Save to not be taken over. She can issue simple commands including instructions to open the door.


1.9 Crew Quarters

The walkway continues along the port side of the hull to an open doorway. Inside is a long rectangular room extending from port to starboard with posts in the center of it. Hammocks have been hung across the room haphazardly. They swing back and forth eerily. The room can be crossed by zig zagging around the hammocks or crawling underneath them. There is nothing else in this room.

At the end of the crew quarters is a ladder descending a small empty room that opens onto 3.1 The Hall.


2.1 The Hidden Entrance (And now we go back to the other entrance. They’ll meet up again at 3.1)

With passive perception of 12 or higher or succeeding on a DC 10 ability check a secret entrance can be found.At the edge of the paved area in front of the Galleon is a walkway constructed of planks of wood balanced on beams over the Ocean far below. It snakes around the aft of the ship to the flat back where a huge rudder hangs over the water. A crack has formed in the aft of the ship which can be used to sneak inside.

(While this is a place where you might include an ability check having the Adventurers fall to an early demise in the Ocean isn’t a great way to begin the dungeon.)


2.2 Bilges

The crack at the back of the boat leads into the galleon’s bilges, filled with the water and the garbage washed off of the decks.

(I’m tempted here to add in a new monster, something one off. But no I’ll hold to my design so far and make the environment the challenge. This means that there have to be choices of path for the players, if there’s just a series of ability checks all this is doing is forcing the players through a series of hp sucks.)

The bilges on the galleon are larger than most ships, the crack at the back has slowly drained the ballast that would take up most of the room leaving the back end where the crack leads a rubble filled beach slowly dipping into dark dank water. (A weird quirk of this game is that its supposed to be a MMO in my Call of Cthulhu game, so I can’t use smell, or temperature descriptions. Feel free to add your own disgusting scents.)

A gouge has been taken out of a bulkhead 30 feet up above the water leaving deck planks dangling over the water. Climbing the planks would be very difficult, slick with moss and over the deepest part of the pool. There is a slight ramp of ballast against the hull that curls to nearly just underneath the far edge of the hole opposite the planks. But a slip could cause the whole pile to collapse potentially pulling the climber under it.

It’s a DC 12 Ability check to swim in the pool, failing it means the cold over comes them and they must make a DC 12 Con Save to not take 1d4 cold damage. Climbing the planks takes a DC 20 Ability check and falling back into the water incurs another Con Save.

Climbing up the ballast takes a DC 15 Dexterity Check. If the Adventurer fails the pile collapses into the water and does 1d8+4 bludgeoning damage as huge stones crush them. It can’t be attempted again.

The hole leads to 2.3 Lost Storage Room


2.3 Lost Storage Room

A tiny room at the back of the Galleon that once contained carpentry materials. It has been lost long ago to the inhabitants of the ship since it has been added to the Midden.

(Because why not lets add in a new mechanic here. Cobwebs that can only be burned through. Players with torches will have an excuse to use them, wizards can waste their fire balls here. I’ll break my design a little bit by having some wandering urchins with torches as well. Not to mention cobwebs are a great way to make the players think there are some dangerous giant spiders around.)

The room ends in a broken bulkhead with a narrow crack 20ft long. Half way along on on the left of the crack are thick cobwebs. It takes a DC 12 Dexterity Check to pass them without being stuck to them. A DC 12 Ability Check is also required to pull someone off of the web. Once stuck in the web the player is not able to move their limbs. The webs can be broken with fire of any kind. Behind the webs is 2.5 Hidden Passageway. The crack in the bulkhead leads to 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop.

Under one of the boxes is a small chest containing a bag of 80 gold coins and a dagger worth 25gp.


2.4 Carpenter’s Shop

A low hall that extends 100ft in a gloomy half light. Low tables, capable of hiding one person, have slidden against the wall. There are five clumps of three tables every 20ft. The tops of the tables are strewn with old carpentry tools and scraps of wood. These are flammable.

Halfway along the hall is a urchin searching amongst the old carpentry tools. The urchin holds a torch shining a light 60ft around him.

There are two doors halfway down the hall. The left one is coated with a spider web and leads to 2.5 Hidden Passageway if the urchin is left alone at first he’ll move over to the cobwebs and burn them. He’ll proceed down the passageway and search the chest there unless he hears movement.

The right door is open and opens onto a ladder that leads to a small room that opens onto  3.1 The Hall. There is also a door at the far end of the hall coated in cobwebs. Behind the webs are stairs leading to 2.6 The Powder Room.


2.5 Hidden Passageway

A hallway connecting the Lost Storage Room and the Carpenter’s Workshop. In a nook near the door to the workshop is a chest. The top of the chest has the name “Zell” scratched into it. Inside is an old battered shield worth 50gp, a heart shaped ruby with a crack on it worth 50gp or 100gp if sold to Harrington. It grants +2 AC when wielded and as a reaction the person holding it can take the damage meant for a different ally within 10ft of them. The wielder then takes the damage minus their AC. (The assisting action of these shield is powerful, but it’s meant to let a player play a serious tank with less penalties to helping others than protecting oneself.)


2.6 Powder Room

A square room with a central wall splitting it down the middle with 10ft gaps on either end. The wall is surrounded with shelves with bags of gun powder stacked around them. If any of the powder is touched by flames they start to burn and after 1 round explode doing 10d8 damage to anyone in the room, 4d8 to anyone in adjacent rooms and 2d8 to anyone still in the ship as the explosion rips out the ship’s bowels, throws shrapnel everywhere and the galleon slowly disintegrates. 

(Here is my first draft for this room. Note that the players could get their hands on multiple sacks of gun powder. While the video game nature of FoC could negate this problem it seems unfair. Instead I’ll reduce the quantity, turn it into a treasure item (flash paper, which I use in a later area as well) and lower the damage and threat of the room.)

A square room with a central wall splitting it down the middle with 10ft gaps on either end. The wall is surrounded with shelves where bags of gun powder were once stacked. A few bags remain. If touched with fire they explode doing 2d8 damage to anyone in the room. However the bags are old and if anyone tries to remove them the powder spills out and is spoiled. Careful collection of powder results in enough to create 1d6 Flash Paper, which when applied to a weapon converts all damage to fire for 10 rounds or 1 minute. Flash paper is worth 25gp in the Hub and 1125gp in the Rift. (That price hike is massive yes, but understand that the prices are tiered to level and area. Plus in the Rift there’s way more undead so it makes sense that an item that lets you do fire damage would be in more demand. By the time the players get to the Rift they should be level 14 and 1125gp will seen like a lot less.)

A ladder at the far end climbs to 1.8 Armory. On the other side is a doorway clogged with webs leading to the 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop.


3.1 The Hall

Here’s the big boss fight room… aaaaand this post got really long. So there’ll be a part III!

Part I

 

 

Dungeon Design: FoC The Hub (1/3)

I thought I would leave my notes and a few bits of my new dungeon project here as I go to let people see how a game might be designed.


First Step: Design Documet

My first step is to usually bash my head against a wall for awhile.

But then I stop myself and sit down and write a “design document” which is really just a list of things I want in the game.

Fields of Carcosa is meant to play like a video game, something like a mix of Diablo, Sunless Sea, and Dark Souls. Here’s my design doc for the entire game:

FoC Design Document:

  • FoC should be very challenging and requires learning to succeed.

  • It should reward exploration and experimentation.

  • It plays like a video game while still gives roleplaying choices and interactions.

  • It contains several distinct zones with central quests, with side quests involving NPCs in that area.

Then I need some ideas for the Hub.

Hub Design Document

  • The Hub should be an introductory section that teaches FoC play style.

  • The Hub should involve a series of areas that introduce the main NPCs and their stories.

  • The NPCs in the Hub will provide essential services, as well as side quests.

  • There are secret areas that can be found with exploration and some problem solving.

  • The Hub will expand over time to reflect the progress of the players.


Basic Area Design & Central NPCs

Now I know what direction I should take my ideas. I already know what sorts of characters I have in the Hub so I begin working on the areas that will intoduce the NPCs and their services.

The Hub is made up of two parts:

The Midden

As explorers, just like the players, have arrived to help the Queen they have left their vessels stranded in a huge heap underneath the Palace. Made up of slave galleons, temple ships, galleys, frigates, iron clads, and submersibles, the Midden is a hive.

Pirates, magicians, and demons share the space equally. There’s always a bar, shop, or fight around the corner.

The Palace of Three Thousand Pillars

A floating palace of black and white stone looms out of the mist. Its roofs are held aloft by countless (or exactly 3000) pillars. At four corners huge chains strain upwards attached to a iron structure not unlike a slave collar around a large craggy chunk of moon rock. The moon pulses with alien light.

Among the pillars winds Queen Cassilda and her train. Marking her path are the millions of salves, servants, accountants, generals, supplicants, and attendants all clamoring for the silent grieving Queen’s attention. 

These main areas will be where players return in between exploration of the rest of the world to visit shops and get main quests. Throughout the game as they complete quests the palace will be expanded with more services. But at the beginning the hub is only for speaking to the Queen and Priest Noatalba.

There are three main NPCs other than the Queen I want to introduce with a whole area. By making a quest around them that also serves as an introduction to the feeling of FoC’s world hopefully the players will be hooked by their longer term stories, and will remember to return to these NPCs for side quests and supplies.

Zolona

A craggy old witch that runs a potion shop in the more residential part of the Midden. She ages slightly every time the players leave. Zolona knows she will die soon and has sworn that she will use her powers of sight to help people in need across the planet. 

Harrington “Evil Grin” Zell

A part man, part machine harbor master. He looks the part of a sailor/pirate. Peg leg, pipe, ship captain’s hat. But the bottom of his face and one eye has been replaced by crude machinery and he carries a burning boiler on his back belching steam. Harrington wants to convert himself entirely into a machine. He often has a store of items to sell, either washed up in the sea of confiscated from merchants who don’t pay their dues.

Priest Noatalba

A strange priest of the Old Nameless Idiot Gods who seems to have the Queens ear. He whispers that he can help players get an audience with the Queen if only they help him first. He may indeed be the designer of her woe in the end, but for now he seems friendly and pathetic enough not to fear. He will trade for magical items and can revive dead comrades.


Planning

This is an introductory area and the players will be starting at 1st level and ending at 3rd level during this section. I usually award xp per “room” or encounter. This means that if the players manage to skip and encounter they still get that xp. If they talk, fight, or burn their way through they get the xp.

However one of my design goals is to reward exploration and I’m basing this game off the likes of Dark Souls. To create an interesting difference I considered some alternate xp systems.

  1. Make xp gold. Players must work to find gold, or do quests to earn it and spend it on levels, or items. D&D 5e is lacking in economy already so giving the players something to buy could help this problem. I could make life hard for myself and let players buy feats and abilities separately and ignore levels entirely.
  2. Use a “souls” currency where killing enemies or finding dead bodies would reward a special level up currency. However this negates the reward for skipping fights. It could allow for a re-spawn mechanic like Dark Souls but in practice I found players didn’t mind making new characters on death instead of reviving them.

Since I want shops to be important and this is supposed to be video gamey I decided on the xp gold idea. This solves multiple problems. For one 5E’s xp per level is non linear, but I’ve chopped the areas of FoC up into even level blocks. Normally this would mean players zoom through levels and then slog through the rest of the zone on a higher level, or are stuck for longer at a lower level until near the end when they get a sudden boost. It also means that shops are more important.

The Hub will take players from level 1 to level 3. After some figuring level 2 costs 100gp, level 3 costs 200gp. That means 500gp for an average party to get to level 2, and 1000gp to level 3. With a little extra for shopping we can round that up to 650 and 1350 respectively.

The area with the priest is meant to be harder and more appropriate for level 2 players. It should have about 1000gp in it.


Overall Design

I’ll focus on Priest Noatalba first of all. Since the next “zone” of the game will be the Chapel of the palace the Priest doesn’t have somewhere to pray. This gave me the idea of an old ship he has turned into a temple. This also makes a good way to introduce some of FoC’s world religion into the mix. The history of the boat will also help to add some mystery that the players can investigate if they want or leave alone.

I imagined Noatalba would choose something grim and forbidding for his temple, like a fort like slave galleon. Something black with metal columns up along the hull. The priest is also meant to seem a little pathetic so his problem should be rather self pitying.

First Sight

As the players climb the ramps towards the palace they rise onto a flat area leading to a black galleon set into the Midden at an angle. The ship’s hull has been plated with crude iron with raised towers making it appear like a fortified wall. Short broken masts stab upwards barely scraping the bottom of the palace.

A small man stands near the hull fidgeting. He wears a robe of green and gold with a long trail and many frills. His hood is up and only two bright pinpricks of eyes can be seen. This is Priest Noatalba. 

This is the players introduction to the galleon and the priest. Approaching him they will hear his problem: some street urchins robbed him of his key and broke into the galleon. He can’t get in himself and he fears the urchins would have released the “nuns” from their cells.

The nuns will be an introduction to an enemy the players face in the next zone. Since players of this section will only be 2nd level the nuns will be a challenge that should be used sparingly. The urchins on the other hand should be easy to kill, even if it is slightly morally wrong to do so. With this in mind I can design the monsters that players will face in the galleon.

I do monster design before actually writing out each room because how a monster fights will be crucial to what sorts of spaces I put them in. The nuns are a intelligent giant frog like creature so a space where they can leap and use their sticky tongues will give them an advantage. An enclosed space will put the nuns at a disadvantage. Likewise urchins probably use traps and tricky fighting techniques that will have to be figured out before I put them anywhere.


Monster Design

I use a monster template to speed up the process of creating 5e monsters. I’ve already customized this to fit with what types of monsters exist in FoC. At the bottom of the monster I include a chart of ability modifiers and damage types.

Monster Name Here

Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, Huge, Gargantuan / Aberrations, Beasts, Constructs, Dragons, Giants, Humanoids, Monstrosities, Plants, Undead

AC: 20-10

HP: 10 (The monster’s death action goes here)

Speed: 30ft-120ft

Damage Weaknesses: various damage types go here

Damage Resistance: various damage types go here

Damage Immunities: various damage types go here

Special Weakness: special ways of defeating the monster go here

Attack Name Here: Melee weapon attack: +# to hit, reach 5-20ft., one target. Hit: 6 (2d6+3) type damage.

Attack Name Here: Ranged weapon attack: +# to hit, reach 20-120ft., one target. Hit: 6 (2d6+3) type damage.

Special Attack Here: Description of special types of attack go here.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
17 (+3) 9 (-1) 10 (+0) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 12 (+1)
1 -5 16 to 17 3
2 to 3 -4 18 to 19 4
4 to 5 -3 20 to 21 5
6 to 7 -2 22 to 23 6
8 to 9 -1 24 to 25 7
10 to 11 0 26 to 27 8
12 to 13 1 28 to 29 9
14 to 15 2 30 10

Acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, piercing, poison, psychic, radiant, slashing, thunder

We can now create monsters for the Slave Galleon.

In a first play-test my players fought urchins. Some were less incentivized to kill children with no discernible monstrous traits. Later when I changed them to “rabid urchins” with sea urchin spikes the players had no problem. This will play in nicely to another side quest that will give the players the option of curing the urchins. Suddenly their slaughter will seem heartless again.

Rabid Urchin

Small / Humanoids

Someone has cursed these street urchins with a rabid fever and painful growths. The urchins have grown spikes and suppurating sores. They’re hunched over and sport nasty spikes.

AC: 10

HP: 15 (Upon death they trigger their spike attack.)

Speed: 40ft

Damage Immunities: poison

Dagger: Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+2) piercing damage.

Sling: Ranged weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 60ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) bludgeoning damage.

Urchin Spike: Anyone within 5ft of the urchin is pushed away 5ft as their spikes extend violently. Those pierced must make a CON or DEX save of DC 10 or take 2d8 poison damage. Other urchins hit by the attack take no damage and trigger their own spike attack.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: 1gp

The urchins should be an easy opponent, with only the danger of their spikes. In a group they might really mess with the Adventurers as they push them around.

The original toads in my notes are from the main rules. Since I’ve added the detail that the toads are intelligent and nuns they should probably have different powers. Remember they’re supposed to appear in a later section, so their use here should be almost like a boss fight. The text in bold explains my reasons for powers and features.

Nun Toad

Large / Beasts

A huge toad with alert eyes, and a white stripe painted down it in chalk. Preparing potions against acid would aid in this fight. (In this description I’ve noted that potions or gear that helps against acid would help. I’ll make sure to hint about this in the Priest’s quest description as well.)

AC: 12

HP: 50

Speed: 15ft / leap 50ft (I never liked the fact that the giant toads can only leap the same distance they an walk.)

Sticky Tongue: Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8) bludgeoning damage plus 4 (2d4) acid damage. Once struck a target is grappled requiring a DC of 14 to escape.

Confessional Purification: Once stuck to a nun’s tongue the target is dragged into the air where they begin being coated by thick acidic juices to “cleanse” the spirit. This does 4d8 acid damage (The toad has no attacks while doing this, so tactically they should retreat once they’ve stuck an enemy. It’s also a good time to have a wave of different enemies.)

Telepathy: The nun speaks in whispers in the minds of those around it. As an action the nun can launch a mental assault on a target. If they fail a WIS save of DC 12 the nun can issue simple commands. (This was added after beginning the room descriptions.)

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 10 (0) 9 (-1) 6 (-2) 6 (-2) 6 (-2)

Loot: Toad Tongue. (25gp) This reach does 1d4 bludgeoning damage and grapples target when hit. The target must make a DC 10 DEX save to escape. (This item should be fun to let players grapple targets from a distance.)

With these enemies designed we can begin thinking about how to lay out the galleon. First lets sum up the information we want to use:

  1. The nun is a semi-boss fight that should challenge the players.
  2. The toad can leap, and can use its tongue to grapple targets from a distance.
  3. The urchins are pretty easy to kill, but on their deaths they trigger their spike attack, and this can cause a chain reaction with other urchins. The spike attack pushes targets away from the urchin.

Next time: Area Design

 

 

Modern Occult Informative Allies

Nichalohtep here to share a great gaming tip with you! And with it some goodies! Nick Snacks if you will.

In many of my games the PCs are investigators and there is a lot of information to uncover, untangle, and make use of. Often I come up with allies who know plenty about the world and are posed to be the PCs best friends if only they ask…

And there’s the rub. The PCs have to get information to find out about the allies. Their natural paranoia kicks in. Fair enough. I am a pretty nasty GM most of the time. The PCs never want to ask anyone anything. In fact any place that seems safe screams TRAP to them.

So here the trick!

When a PC rolls on one of the knowledge skills instead of giving them an info dump or clue, tell them that they don’t know themselves and their searching has been in vain, but they do know exactly who to ask!

It’s pretty hard, as all of us reading gaming blogs should notice, to be very knowledgeable without knowing the community of other people who have the same knowledge. Instead of your players remembering an old paragraph they read long ago, or making them list to lore their character should already know, having an engaging NPC to ask, interrogate, and use again in the future cements the information in a more engaging way.


Information Givers

Without further ado, your goodie bag of the day: # of useful information givers who they can remember upon rolling a skill.

Computer Use

  1. The Electrician is a fable in hacker and computer building communities. In an ever interconnected world he is said to have spread his wires out to every network in the city. And anyone who has a line to every computer, phone, and database around would know a little about everyone. The chat forums online say even the crime bosses have to pay him not to sell his information to the cops.

    The forums only have one way to find the Electrician. Supposedly you have to go to a specific saki stand late at night and the Electrician’s messenger will meet you.

    And indeed the rumors aren’t wrong. A woman sporting a tight business suit and a prosthetic leg appears out of the night, downs two saki glasses in an instant and demands a favor. A simple test or a hard one. But she need to know if they’ll be useful to the Electrician. If they succeed she will take them to the man himself and they can ask for information.

    The Electrician only appears as an old face on a computer screen. He is a principled man and he demands payment in only one thing. Porn. The old man insists information seekers bring stacks of porno mags to him so he can shred them.

    His messenger acts as secretary and accountant. The Electrician took her in and gave her new leg. She is grateful, but she is also rebellious. To his horror she takes each porno mag first and reads it.

  2. Kling Stag’s Cyberspace Bar is a well known hangout in the ruins of Extra Dimension, an old immersive sim game online. While the strange god like communities that fueled the game originally burned out long ago Kling remains, a god of sex, drugs, and computers. His avatar is jet black, with horns, a snakeskin jacket, and gold teeth. His hair extends in a pompadour out into the air in front of him like a cow catcher. He mercilessly hits on any female avatar in his bar. He is not afraid to dive into any depravity. But Kling is god of computer parts. He has some secret stash of the best bits around and can build, dismantle, or restore even the most damaged computers.
  3. There are plenty of anonymous hacker gangs online but the [l]ight in [d]ark is one of the strangest. They’ve made a habit of hacking into a the strange world of revenge sites and exposing anyone and everyone who uses them. Often they set up moral dilemmas, setting up a website that will reveal personal details about people who have paid for hits, revenge attacks, or sex acts online, unless the person admits to the acts publicly. The LD have pissed off a lot of people, but so far they’ve gone untouched. If you need some dirt on someone you might be able to weasel it out of the LD.
  4. Recently on social media some of your friends have mentioned a strange detail, on their way to work, or to school, on a walk or a run, they noticed a wire sticking out of a drain. A USB cable poking out from the holes in a man hole cover. An ethernet cable snaking out of the bottom in a drain pipe. Each one had a note. “Plug Me In.” None of your friends did. But whoever is snaking these cables from under ground might know something.

Occult/Mythos/Magic

  1. There are lots of occult practicers online. But recently a group calling itself the Scooby Gang has cropped up. They play at being occult sleuths, busting fakes, spreading simple spells, and searching for the grains of truth. While they are obviously having fun playing the part of amateur magicians theres an intensity to their searching. They clearly need something and they need it badly. They probably know plenty about powerful locations, the odd real spell, and can even help cast a few. But in the end the Scooby Gang are probably on the search for something they won’t be able to control. Without help themselves they might be just as doomed as you are.
  2. A teenager at the occult shop last week was going on and on about a weird spell she picked up. Supposedly if you go down to a subway station at night, buy an extra ticket and write a question on it and leave it on the floor of the third train that stops there the next time you get on a subway train you will get an answer.
  3. In your reading about Japanese occult you have heard several times about a visionary occult artist. The person, artistically androgynous, apparently takes pleasure in having a hidden art studio that can only be found by following various obscure artistic clues around the city. If you can put the clues together the visionary will likely have plenty to teach you.
  4. Every so often you’ve seen a comment on an occult forum you read that someone has stumbled into a Manga Cafe. A special one, the windows don’t open onto the street they entered from. The people who mention it say they always seemed to find a manga that perfectly related to their problems at that moment.

 

Journal of an Archaeologist in Assassin’s Creed 4

Day 1: Gosh darn I’ve done it! I managed to get Abstergo Entertainment to agree to let me use their memory system thingy to do research. I have so many theories about the ancient civilizations of the Caribbean. And it just so happens that this “Edward” fellow is my ancestor!

Day 2: Finally my interview with Abstergo. A very friendly lady with one of those, “better take notes or I’ll kill you” demeanors. She explained how their “animus” memory system is supposed to work. Essentially I don a VR headset and relive the life of Edward Kenway, a pirate and one of my ancestors. The memories implanted in my DNA (the repercussions of such genetic memories seems less then well thought out) will allow me to explore a good portion of the world around Kenway, so long as I indulge in actual events that took place under his watch.

So now and then I might be bothered by having to replay some violent act, but otherwise I should be happy to explore the ruins around the Caribbean to my heart’s content.

As long as its all recorded Abstergo is happy to let me do my research, the lady reminds me. Shame I didn’t catch her name.

Day 3: I have a desk and electronic passport to Absertgo now! I can log in and browse Kenway’s memories however I want.

I can’t help but be annoyed by Kenway already. He’s brutish and seems to only want money. He was a pirate I suppose… but no motivation like misguided loyalty, or mistaken identity, or even romance like other more famous pirates. I guess that’s why he doesn’t have any mentions in the Lyfe of Pyrates. 

I’ve already discovered a fair number of ruins. Surprisingly in Kenway’s time many wooden structures seem to be in good condition.

Jotted notes:

  • paint still on walls
  • huge temples in several places
  • diffusion among islands
  • obsession with patterns and “key stones” involving a religion based around puzzles and locks? Opening the way to paradise? (Too christian?)
  • Weight based locks that involve climbing – gymnastic peoples
  • Cavernous temple structure – extreme use of water as decoration/protection involving very advance engineering
  • weird prey = predator symbology

I’ll formulate my notes into some more complete ideas later. Meanwhile the Abstergo company people have been acting really weird. The IT guy wants me to hack into computers here. Not to mention what my supervisor is going to say when I tell her that my research will also involve an interactive media product sold by a private company.

A Witchy Encounter

The Wood Witch

The players are tracking through the woods when they spot a little girl.

The little girl is dressed plainly and:

  1. is dangling a doll by the arm. It has a dress as ragged as the girl’s, but it is wearing a sparkling tiara made with real diamonds.
  2. has been crying so much the mud on her face has turned into two streaks.
  3. holds her side to stop the blood from coming out. Only there’s no wound there. She complains of thorny bushes.
  4. wears a flower crown woven from rare mountain flowers. They seem to still be covered in dew.

The girl hums to herself and lets out a hiccuping gasp when startled. She is lost and lonely. She claims that her step mother led her into the woods after she broke the woman’s favorite pot. Said the faeries might take her and swap her for a new one.

When her step mother took her out her papa told her to drop glass beads on the ground so she could follow the trail back home. Lo and behold there are beads shining in the dirt along a path.

The beads lead to a little cottage. The cottage roof has partially fallen in, a wild elm has grown through the disappearing thatch and shades the clearing. The walls are covered with ivy and the creepers threaten the tree.

Inside the cottage are two areas separated by a half wall and a damp moss covered cloth hanging.

The door opens into a main room, the elm’s trunk grows from the corner of the room, its roots cradling a man’s body, he appears to be sleeping, though investigation proves he is dead. Dispelling illusions reveals he is in fact a skeleton. Under his body is hidden a:

  1. small bag of bone dice, each from the knuckle of a different creature. If they roll all 1s they produce a curse.
  2. iron thorn. It is poisonous to the witch and if she is stabbed with it any other weapons do double damage.
  3. pendant with a drawing of a young woman and a small cutting of hair matching the color of the little girl.
  4. letter from an ancient lord offering a reward for the destruction of a beast haunting the woods.

The room also has an old wooden bed, an old empty barrel, and a decomposed sack of grain.

The second part of the house is much darker. Moving the cloth covering causes it to fall. It all stinks of rot, damp, and swamp gas. The space appears dark, even to those species who can see in the dark. The dark seems to burrow into the space.

A hole has been burrowed into the dirt floor and lined with moss, fungus and slime. Indented into the bak corner at the holes deepest part is another body, a woman’s skeleton clothed and in a torn red skirt. She is curled up in intense pain, each limb askew, her bones are broken.

Upon discovering the body the girl becomes agitated, for she is the witch. She begins to squirm and strange bumps begin growing under her skirt. Her head grows larger, her jaw distending until it could swallow a person whole, and her face appears to grow old and haggard. Her feet grow scaly and claws sprout until she has chicken feet.

The Forest Witch

Chicken footed, as short as dwarf with a large old head and a jaw big enough to swallow a person whole. The witch has gained her powers through her hatred of her step mother, its has burrowed into the hut like a tick. The witch can be appeased with child sacrifice, or by burning the step mother’s body. The witch is very intelligent and ultimately wants closure. It will bargain for aid, and if appeased will give curses or spells in exchange for ingredients or food.

The witch has several powers:

  1. Child’s curse. The witch channels the fear of a child into her target. Everything grows in size compared to the target, the world darkens and every doubt and fear of abandonment slowly becomes true.
  2. Mother’s Back. The witch stamps her feet on the cracks of the dirt. With a snap the backs of all around her begin to twist and churn as if trying to snap. It hurts.
  3. Witch smarts. The witch knows a few cures. She can cure a few wounds, and will sow up the odd cut.

Thing’s I’ve Learned From… 13 Demons

13 Demons is a 2016 low budget horror film that recently was added to Netflix. While the cover image might make you think it is a fantasy film it really isn’t. Instead it is a bizarre psychological twist on a board game. Two men covered in blood (and this isn’t a spoiler, this is literally the first shot of the film) tell police interrogators that they paladins of the realm hunting the 13 demons of the apocalypse. They are forced to explain how with another friend they began playing a board game. The movie progresses as they grow more obsessed with the titular board game and slowly descend into madness. If you like horror and role playing games this should be a great watch.

But the movie struck a note for me about concepts. The movie ends in a very particular way that I have to respect a great deal. You see every Halloween I run a role playing game where each person plays as themselves in a horror scenario revolving around the real world. It’s usually good fun with a variable amount of actual scares. But as I started watching 13 Demons I wondered what it would be like to run a game where I ask the players to start with D&D characters and slowly reveal that they’re in reality themselves killing innocent people around them. This seems like a valid horror game idea. In fact I’ve played several video games that do just that.

But in reality it probably isn’t a great concept. For one letting players think they are in one type of game where killing things is a valid way to solve conflict and then revealing that they were wrong and you never hinted at it at all is as they say “a dick move.” But also doing this while the players are literally themselves is an even worse idea. Not only are the players forced to commit immoral acts that in hindsight you will chastise them for, but you will make it extremely personal. The players would have to condemn their own actions.

Horror games, and ones like Call of Cthulhu with sanity mechanics especially, let players be rather lose about their morals. I to this day slightly regret that I formed my main group with a CoC game instead of DnD. Something about the risk of going insane, (or the things going insane allows) lets players play really morally corrupt people. I was rather distressed recently when I ran a game with a very clear villain, anti suffragette cultists, yet a player not only sided with the misogynists, but nearly murdered the head suffragette.

I recently posted about the rather depressing EAT 3, where players discover that the human race has decimated a dungeon’s ecosystem and institutionalized colonialism has doomed the world.  On reflection it is very important to consider the implications of a game. In EAT 3 (not unlike 13 Demons) I’m not sure I know how I would excuse and eventually payoff the players  behavior.

Indeed it was the ending of 13 Demons that really made me think. I won’t spoil it, but you may be a bit surprised. But the more I thought about it the more I liked it. The movie let the characters reach a point of no return. Sometimes I forget to do this with the insane and irredeemable PCs. Take a step back explain why what the player did was bad and turn them into an NPC, or if they are really that bad simply have them die off screen, they’re either too crazy to have around, or two guilty to interact anymore.