Monday, July 17, 2017

Efficiency is Beautiful, Efficiency is Art

First--there's been some really great stuff out lately online:

-Nick Whelan carefully handcrafted d100 Bandit leaders, half of them are an adventure hook all by themselves.

-The Coins and Scrolls blog has been killin it lately--and in this case eating it, too.

-Weather, names, and groups of NPCs--these are pretty decent and the names are funny. The weather generator allows to adjust climate and includes "magic weather" (and you can decide how much of it you want.

-And remember those random level up versions of character classes I did? Well Jeff went and finished the set and threw both sets together in a doc--along with Rey Madrinian's Paladin and Anti-paladin.

-And, big Demon City news...
click to enlarge
Alright, so, 4 months, 80,000 words and 300 typewritten pages and a dozen paintings later, Demon City is a game now. Or at least a playtestable first draft.

That's like a novella a month.

God damn I'm exhausted.

There are some cameos and co-stars:

Paul D Gallagher, who turned my Vornheim into a book of cyberpunk tables graciously allowed me to use some of his stuff to help build a modern setting.

Patrick Stuart wrote up Demon City's financial district for me, and gave me some rituals.

Scrap Princess gave me a very disturbing monster with  some great a great adventure hooks attached, and

Evan Elkins helped fill out what happens in Demon City when you get outside the city.

If you were a Patreon backer at the right level as of last night you should've got this monstrosity in your email. If you didn't let me know.

If you missed out but now want to see it--you can still get access to it if you sign on at at least 10$.

If you just want to wait for the next draft, I have a new reward at the 3$ level for that.

I also added a new goal: I'll be running a solid week (from when I get up until when I go to sleep every day) of Demon City public online test games if I reach the next monthly goal.

I also changed something bug: before I was promising deadlines for the art, but the art's going so well and is so fun I've decided that regardless of when the text is done I'm just going to just keep doing Demon City art up until layout time as long as I've got Patrons.

Friday, July 14, 2017

When To Use Dice

1. If an outcome is not in doubt, don't use dice.

"The door is locked."
"I have the key."
"The door opens."

2. If an outcome is in doubt but failure could not produce any result with interesting consequences, don't use dice.

"The door is locked and, like we said before, you're really drunk."
"I have the key but maybe I dropped it?"
"Sure, but you get in there eventually and get to bed before your phone goes off at 7 am the next morning when you hear your brother's been murdered."

3. If an outcome is in doubt, and success and failure could both result in different interesting consequences, use dice.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, I've been shot!"
"I open the door!"
"It's not so easy since you're drunk--roll!"

4. If an outcome is in doubt, and success and failure could both result in the same interesting consequences, use dice but only if you want to ratchet up the tension--and only do this sparingly and to point out something strange is going on.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, I've been shot!"
"I open the door!"
"It's not so easy since you're drunk--roll!"
"Success!"
"THE LOCK HAS BEEN CHANGED! You're too late!"
"Why has the lock been changed?
"Why indeed? That's part of the mystery."

5. If an outcome is in doubt and success could not produce any interesting consequences, the GM probably wrote the adventure wrong.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, someone's trying to kill me and ps this whole adventure is going to be about figuring out who killed me!'"
"I open the door. Natural 20! Door's open, who's killing my brother?"
"Oh, fuck, umm..."

6. If someone at the table thinks using dice would be more fun than just making a decision normally alotted to them, use dice

"The door is....roll roll....locked"
"I have the key, I open it."
"Behind it is...(rolls on a table)..holy hell it's your brother, he's bleeding out on the floor!"
"I...(rolls on a table)...tell him I never liked him anyway."
-
-
-
p.s. Yes I know about Vincent Baker's "Say yes or roll dice". It doesn't work for all games.

"The door is locked."
"I have the key."
"Umm, no you don't you don't even know whose house this is?"
-
-
-

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Moral Panic Guide To Ennie Voting

The annual Ennie votes start today. Who will Contessa's all-wise all-knowing Stacy Dellorfano bestow the plaque and ribbon upon this August before our awesome Ennie-night party? None can say.

But I know where to throw a vote. To find which products are the most innovative and deserving just look for the game designers who are the most conservative and abusive--and do the opposite of what they say.



Could they possible be so exercsed about Blood In the Chocolate--a light-hearted, if lethal, body-positive and LGBT-friendly romp by Least Offensive Man In The Western Hemisphere Kiel Chenier?






So, that's settled--Vote Blood In The Chocolate for Best Adventure.
Now, you may be thinking--Zak, I know you don't have anything out this year and that sucks, because not only do we not get to play it, but when you're nominated fun things happen like Cam Banks compares you to Hitler

Well, fear not! Cam is at it again, this time--he's trying to compare my publisher Lamentations of the Flame Princess to......Donald Trump?




And what about Cam Banks' brothers-in-harassment over at Something Awful?



 And the grumps within the OSR...?


 The choice here is clear: Vote Lamentations of the Flame Princess For Fan Favorite Publisher.

The Ennies also have a rank-voting system, so you can also give shout-outs to LotFP allies Satyr Press, Hydra Collective, Frog God Games, Goodman Games et al as well as other totally metal DIY RPG goodness like Hubris for Best Electronic Book and Santa Is Dead for best free product.

But you may be wondering--on the LotFP hate-front--Blood In the Chocolate received but one nomination, Cursed Chateau is nominated for Best Cartography and Jeff's Broodmother Sky Fortress got a Judges' Spotlight Award

....but that's just three awards? So what has earned this veritable frenzy of sour grapes and right-wing spite?

Well,
for Best Monster/Adversary
and Best Rules
aaaaand Best Writing
and Product of the Year

...we have Veins of the Earth 
...by my Maze of the Blue Medusa co-author False Patrick, and hardest working witch in games, Scrap Princess.

So, vote for honor, vote for dignity, vote for quality, vote to disappoint bigoted psychopaths who mope on a hateforum all day thinking of ways to harass LGBT creators (and Patrick)...


Monday, July 10, 2017

You're Breaking My Heart

games designers:
make weird games
make political games
make uncomfortable games
make games people don't like
make games that speak to you

Somebody tweeted that. I love it. I want to do all these things.

I love this language--but then, I'm a painter, I went to art school for like a decade, this is in many ways is my native language.

If the Indie Gamers or Story Gamers or Narrativist Gamers or PostForge or whatever you can call the clique that makes the arty games without offending them have one virtue, it's that they brought this language--a language about creativity and art--to game design.

I am eager for a world where this language is normal in game design circles--and used and taken seriously.

The same storygamer who retweeted this decided it was #rpgtheoryjuly. The usual orgy of discussion (or at least assertion) began on the hashtag...



I appreciate the earnestness of the attempt. I am as glad the idea of theory is there as I am glad for the importation of the language of personal expression.

So this is my question for these earnest theorists and dreamers here in this #rpgtheoryjuly, in 2017, on the brink of yet another Ennie Awards night where some tight-as-fuck, eminently playable, megacreative, well-written, carefully-thought-out, lovingly information-designed, beautifully illustrated RPG stuffs from not-them are going up against (yet again) some postForge product written by people who don't play the game they wrote and won't in the future that was drawn lazily by a parrot holding a cintiq and graphic-designed by someone with no game experience or fond-feeling for fellow humans in their heart and with the profits going to line the same old conservative white dad's pockets as usual....

Looking at the promise of this language and the promise of all this theory--does the failure of the postForge game community to live up to any of it ever bother you?

Fifteen years of talking about how games function and yet so many in your scene play other games instead--or don't even roll outside cons?

Fifteen years of theorizing about how much more y'all know about what The People want and how to make the table share a vision and nobody in the postForge seems to have gotten to talk to a decent illustrator? Maybe even one who also likes games?

Fifteen years of talking about games as art yet every other part of tabletop gaming has attracted  a larger proportion of talented writers and talented artists?

Fifteen years of talking about how pumping out tiny bad games will lead to big good ones and the only person who seems to be able to make a design as functional as the rest of gaming is Vincent Baker and maybe Epidiah on a good day?

Fifteen years of talking about making games less sexist and y'all still sit by and watch Contessa do all the heavy lifting?

Fifteen years of talking about incentives and mechanics and you got people who still don't understand what random encounters are for or why combat usually has more rules than talking?

Fifteen years of talking about diversity in games and fucking James Does Not Give A Fuck  Edward Raggi IV is better at hunting down diverse talent than y'all?

Fifteen years of asking for "weird games" and y'all are still stuck at "which movie genre can we imitate this week" while Fire on the Velvet Horizon is shrieking past on your left?

Fifteen years of asking for "uncomfortable games" and yet whenever we do you've produced and supported moral-panic after moral-panic?

Fifteen years of talking about "political games" --and about how alternatives to abusive power structures are encoded in these games and they're radical documents--and yet you have the most abusive, harassing subculture in tabletop?

Fifteen years of asking for "games that people don't like" and you've got a political dynamic where nobody Indie can admit to not liking each others' games?

Fifteen years of saying "make games that speak to you" and...what have they said that genuinely changed anyone's mind about anything?

Does all this talk and so little action ever bother you?

And, even if it doesn't: What is all this chatter for?

Because, honestly: I want to believe. I want to think that a game can have all the things of art inside it, and I want to think we can change how people think with them. I want games to interact with every idea in the philosophical firmament. And you're telling me it can be done.

But when I step back and go "I'm excited, show me!" what do we get?
--
-
-
And now, a word form our sponsor:

Donate to the Demon City Patreon.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Retropost Sunday: Dungeon Types

Some kinds of dungeons I'm interested in:


The Lesser Crazy-Wizard (or Funhouse) Dungeon


So this guy (often a wizard, though it can be a demi-lich or an innkeeper or just some jerk) threw a place together for largely the purpose of fucking with people. Full of puzzles. Un-full of internal logic. Room follows upon room for no particular normal-architectural-function-serving reason. Egregious genre violations are likely but not essential. (The Crazy Wizard being the traditional catch-all excuse for all D&D genre-violations). The worst parts usually have stupid puns, old jokes and references to showtunes in them but these, likewise, are not essential.

A slightly more "sane" rationale for a puzzle dungeon like this can be: "Evil force treating the PCs like test subjects in order to plan future attack on humans/earthlings/surface-dwellers/air-breathers/two-legged-ones etc."

Either way, this sort of dungeon is among the easiest to write. (Though the hardest to master.) Perhaps the best thing about puzzle dungeons is it's very easy to pull individual rooms, gimmicks, or traps out of them and stick them into other puzzle dungeons. So if your players miss a bit of it, you can stick one onto the next lunatic mage tower.

It's kind of pointless to buy a published one of these and just keep the structure and re-skin all the details, because all the designer's work generally went into the details, not the structure.


The Greater Crazy-Wizard Dungeon


This resembles the Lesser Crazy Wizard Dungeon only there is a structure and that structure is as crazy as the details.

That is--some over-arching meta-puzzle or meta-challenge profoundly affects everything you try to do in the dungeon. The rooms all spin independently of each other so it's a mapping challenge or you can only see what's in a room if you enter from the proper direction or you have to kill everything in the blue rooms but not everything in the red rooms. These can be awesome if done right but are highly taste sensitive--if the gimmick doesn't fit what you or your PCs want to do, the whole thing's pretty much useless.


Working Palace

This is any kind of big residence of some people/monsters/entities that are alive and active in the world and have built a big place to hang out in. The logistics and aesthetics of the place tend to match whatever race inhabits it.

These dungeons put the most pressure on the DM to actually make some sense. (DM's are free to ignore this pressure, but whatever, anyway...) Locked doors have keys, the inhabitants have bedrooms or other quarters, and there should probably be whatever things a big residence is supposed to have just in order to function normally as a residence like, say, a kitchen.

All this, PLUS the fact that it should still be fun, PLUS you need a way for the PCs to get in there without immediately being killed by guards, PLUS trying to give it enough monster/NPC variety so that, say The Palace of the Lizard Prince isn't just endless fights with Lizard Man Guards makes this the hardest kind of dungeon to write. Plus it's really hard to buy a published adventure of this kind and re-skin it because if the featured monster/NPC race doesn't particularly fit what you're trying to do, then a lot of the other elements might not fit either. Like, sure the Red Dragonmen have a magma bath but if I want to re-skin it as a Kenku palace then you've got to re-write the bath, too, which sucks because the magma bath was kind of cool...

It is usually easier to write by making the monarch insane, therefore giving excuses for making parts of it into a Puzzle Dungeon.

I have yet to see a good, published Pure Working Palace dungeon. Yes, that's a challenge.


One-Shot Funnel Dungeon

This dungeon can be gotten through in a session or two and never lets you forget the main objective. You know "Den of the Moldy Ogre Who Is Like Ten Feet Away" or whatever. There's a big bad or quest item or major gimmick in there and the rest is just roadbumps and the PCs generally know it. These are useful to have around but a good DM can write one in his sleep.

(A subgenre of this is the Strongly Implied Plot One-Shot Dungeon, where the PCs not only are moving toward some simple goal, but have few enough options that they have a decent chance of tripping certain predictable plot events on the way. This doesn't have to be a railroad.)

When you buy one, you tend to go "I could've written that in my sleep", unless it has some really clever stuff in there which allows the PCs to "use" the place in more than one way.

When you buy a full-length adventure that turns out to be just one of these stretched out to ridiculous proportions--say, not just Dragon + A Handful Of Sucksmear Kobolds And Not Much Else, but, say Dragon + Several Thousand Sucksmear Kobolds And Not Much Else, then it can make you want to not buy a published adventure ever again.


Re-Purposed Forgotten PlaceThere once was a mighty empire, then it sucked and died and now blobs and tribes of ratmen crawl around their Once Mighty halls. Relatively easy to write because if you don't want to write in the Once Mighty Kitchen or Once Mighty Horseshoe-Making Room then you can just say there was a cave-in or it's been emptied out or lost to the mists of time or whatever. However, they're more fun when you write in some politics among the new inhabitants--like the ratmen hate the blobmen who are servants of the cheesemen who are imprisoned by the Elephant Pig who worships the Demon Pheasant who possesses the Fairy Cow. If they bump around long enough, the PCs can do a pretty good job of unwittingly stitching together their own plot.

(This is a good place for Schrodinger's motive--i.e. there's several mcguffins and several mcguffin-wanting NPCs/intelligent monsters, but which of them wants which mcguffin is left in the air 'til the PCs actually show up. Whatever the NPC/critter wants inevitably forces the PCs to go to some part of the dungeon they haven't been in yet or go to some place they have been and try harder.)

It also allows you to throw in bits of Crazy Wizard Logic but you don't have to carry them out to their conclusion because maybe part of it has Fallen Into Ruin. So like this room fills with water if you try to cast a spell in it but the next one just has some orcs and a pine cone.

Also, this kind is really easy and fun to re-skin if there's some politics since you can just change the factions around and pin any uncongruous element on the long-dead "architect" culture. Like I pointed out yesterday while re-skinning Tomb of The Bull King.


The Dungeon Where Something Just Happened
This dungeon can be any of the other kinds of dungeons, but then some large and transformative event just occurred--invasion from without, meteorite strike, experiment-gone-awry. An important function of this change is to create an easy in-game reason why a horde of supposedly powerful, intelligent, dungeon-dwelling beings can't keep 3-12 adventurers of levels 1-3 from just waddling up to their front door and stealing all their stuff.

Once you come up with a good event, this kind of dungeon writes itself. Plus it provides an instant in-game excuse for rooms to radically change if things get boring. The only problem is it can get in the way of the default "delve/loot/rest at inn/delve/loot/rest at inn" default-OD&D type adventurer-whim-centric dungeoneering schedule. Things in this kind of dungeon have to have a little bit of a life of their own.


The Place That Wasn't A Dungeon A Second Ago But Now Is

Basically, it's like Alien. It's an ordinary (to the PCs) place and something bad just got loose and so now every corridor is infused with primal terror and whatnot. Generally I kind of hate this kind of dungeon because it's hard to make the environment "come alive" for an extended period of time (In a game, I mean, not in a movie. I like Alien just fine--I'm not a psycho) and, to me, D&D is as much about the place itself as the things in it. I've yet to see a really good one. However, it is closely related to...


The Dungeon that Used To Be That But Now Is This

This place was, long ago, something interesting but benign, like a zoo. Then it became horrible. Some malevolent and probably supernatural thing has evilified every inch of it. Like the Greater Crazy Wizard Dungeon, it's all about the premise. Unless you like that, a published one is probably going to be kind of useless.


The Dungeon of Beings Who Are Completely Weird

Unlike the Crazy Wizard/Puzzle dungeon, the entities in charge here are not necessarily hostile or cruel, they just behave or live in such an alien way that it's a big pain in the ass to go around finding stuff in their house. Like the Bath House in Spirited Away or Lewis Carrol's Wonderland. Again: the premise here is everything, and there is a huge possibility of genre-dissonance. If you don't like the premise then you won't like the dungeon because the premise affects everything about it.
__________

Obviously there are other kinds of dungeons--and most dungeons have elements of more than one "species".

Anyway, can anybody think of excellent examples of dungeons that fit one of these bills (aside from the usual suspects--like we already know about White Plume Mountain)? Are there types of dungeon you like that I've left out?

(Not "types" in terms of what specfically is in the dungeon, but in the sense of the structure of the dungeon.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tarot Rooms 2

More Tarot Rooms for your dungeon which if you don't know what I'm talking about it's here.

ON LEVEL THREE

Three of Wands Room--The golem stands, palm out, between three upright quarterstaffs. If any object is placed in the palm, the golem will take it and offer a quarterstaff in trade. Furthermore, at this point, the Three of Wands Golem will then immediately begin to build a business based around the item it was handed. It will seek to buy, sell, import, export or trade that and only that kind of item, using whatever resources it can locate in the dungeon. It has stats as a 3rd level wizard and its intelligence is 3d6+3. If the PCs visit again, they will likely notice the golem has developed a thriving business, staffed by whateve creatures are at hand in the dungeon.

If any 3rd level wizards are present when the room is opened, the golem will offer the wizard(s), in writing, a chance for a 1/3 share in the partnership in exchange for undertaking various tasks related to the new business. These will be dangerous, but the golem is honest.
Three of Cups Room--These golems in this room are carved to represent 3 hot drunk chicks. They will motion for any visitors to join them and offer them as much wine as they like. Once the door is open, it will never close and any creature wandering nearby will be offered drink by what essentially is an endless magic fountain in the shape of 3 convivial girls.

If any 3rd level clerics are present when the room is opened, then the tall, skinny blonde one will flirt with them (regardless of gender). She will eventually become hopelessy infatuated with the cleric(s) bringing them fried chicken on their birthday and writing them long letters about how they used to wish they could be a cleric but they eventually realized it was a meaningless title and was happy just being a wooden nun but is still really impressed with the cleric(s). She'll be really possessive, want the cleric to move in as soon as possible, and constantly write about how she wants to have her face re-carved when she gets older.

Three of Coins Room--The mannequins in this painstakingly crafted tableau will not move while observed. However, if left alone with any object, they will go to work improving it. Any nonliving thing left in their presence will be heartily pimped when the owner returns.

If any third level thieves enter the room, they golems draw for them a map of a nearby raggedy object in the care of a hostile sentient being. If stolen, left in the care of the golems, and improved, the object will then be worth twice the original value. They will otherwise behave as normal.
Three of Swords Room--A vast and very real heart of genuine levitating flesh pulses redly in the air, pierced three ways by swords, as blood drips and then pools beneath. If any sword is removed, blood will jet out, filling the level (and only that level) at a rate of 3 inches per turn per sword removed. When the blood reaches 9 inches, it will spawn three red demons of sorrow in the rooms of the other 3 suit cards on the level. These demons will seek the swords wherever they are, then use them to grievously wound all they can, inflicting terrible, mutilations that can never heal.

Other than the demons, only third-level fighters possess the mix of skill, caution, and humility to be able to wield the swords, and in their hands they will inflict wounds that can never heal once every three days. Anyone else who attempts to fight with them will fumble and hurt themselves.
The Empress Room--The secret door to this room can only be found by women (though anyone may enter). The Empress sits unmoving, crudely carved in an intricate but primitive style, on a stepped pedestal under a gazebo-like roof, with a drawer in her stomach. Opening the drawer will reveal a newborn child of a random humanoid species found in the dungeon, bathing in amniotic fluid. Closing it and opening it again will reveal a child of another random species. The children are-, and will behave as-, infants of the indicated species.

In addition, any immature living thing--animal, vegetable or monstrous--within the room will begin to grow at the the rate of 1 year per minute until it becomes an adult--at which point it will age normally.

If any mother is present, the empress will stand and hand any child so generated to the mother, along with an ivory box containing a deed to a parcel of 3 acres of land within 100 miles, a map to that place, and everything necessary to keep the child fed, tended and clean for one week. So long as the child is tended, the deed will be honored by any intelligent being of lawful alignment. If the mother takes the deed, after one year, the Empress will send a wooden emissary with a scroll asking the mother and/or child to join her army as she retakes her lost empire.


ON LEVEL FOUR

Four of Wands Room--This tableau's major feature is a sacred or celebratory space marked out by four standing staves int he corners. Any creature entering will be compelled (no save) to coexist peacefully and indeed festively with any other creature inside. In addition--no-one standing behind the painted wooden castle in the background can be harmed in any way.

If any fourth-level wizards stand in the space, any beneficial spell they cast will be increased fourfold.

Four of Cups Room--This room contains four cups and an aura of general shabbiness. Anyone spending more than a round in the room will be compelled to ask themselves four questions:
1. What am I even doing here?
2. Why?
3. Why?
4. Why?

(For example:
GM: "You ask yourself: What am I even doing here?"
PC: "Looking for the silver monkey of Pi Fin Pong"
"Why?"
"It's valuable."
"Why?"
"It's made of silver"
Why?
"Some asshole decided it would be?")

If after any of these questions, the PC responds with "I don't know" or takes more than 4 seconds to answer, they will be compelled to drink from one of the cups. This will result in a nightmarish hangover (-1 to everything) and they will have to go four more "Why"s down the rabbit hole. Again: if they do it wrong they'll have to drink from another cup, get another -1 etc. If they drink all 4 cups they will sleep for an hour. The cups refill immediately.

If any fourth level clerics enter the room they will immediately be compelled to drink all 4 cups and answer the corresponding questions. If they answer each one unhesitatingly and with perfect orthodoxy within their faith's dogma, they will immediately gain enough experience to reach the next level. No one else will have to drink.
Four of Coins Room--A simple golem closely resembling Ben Horn from Twin Peaks without his glasses sits clutching four massive coins worth 4000 gp each (he wears a crown but it's fake gold). If any are taken the contraption's mouth will open and it will issue a gut-curdling shriek which will trigger one random encounter check per round per coin taken.

Only a fourth level thief can disarm, detect or destroy the mechanism. There is no other way to hurt it and no way to stop the sound (even Silence will not work).
Four of Swords Room--This place is a tomb. Funeral plinths rise from the marble floor and 4 swords are hung on the walls. No harm can come to those who sleep here while they rest--the dead will rise from their sarcophagi, take up the swords and protect them unfailingly for eight hours.

If any fourth-level fighters die in the dungeon, their soulless bodies will arise and crawl here, to join the ranks of the invincible dead.

The Emperor Room--The door to this room is secret, but just barely. Passive perception checks will reveal its outline behind a desultory attempt to paint it the color of the wall. The room itself is lavish and pompous beyond all necessity, surrounding a wooden emperor, enthroned. As soon as the door is opened, a scroll will drop from a slot in the emperor's belly containing a demand (in the reader's language) to perform a task in the dungeon, one that will extend the emperor's dominions--often by compromising or killing another powerful male figure in the dungeon (especially Kings of the various suits). If the creatures present do not perform the task immediately, the room will flood with a toxic red gas, requiring causing 4d4 points of damage (save at -4). After any task is finished, the emperor will give the creature 4 gold pieces (from the same slot in its belly) and another task will be issued. The emperor cannot be moved or harmed by any means. In all likelihood, there will already be at least one faction in the dungeon carrying out the emperor's demands when the PCs find it.

If any fathers are present when the room is opened, the emperor will cast a Quest spell on them and demand (via scroll) that they bring to him one of his enemies in the dungeon, alive. When the task is done he will give them 4000gp.
-
-
-

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tarot Rooms


-A tarot reading always implies the immediate proximity of rooms corresponding to the cards in the reading.

-The advice represented by the cards will offer the key to finding those rooms.

-With one exception (The Fool Room), these tarot rooms always appear inside a structure—-a castle, a tower, a tomb, a labyrinth, catacomb, etc. --in other words, in a dungeon. It will be a dungeon with other kinds of rooms and occupants in it, often an otherwise quite vanilla dungeon. They can exist parasitically within any dungeon of sufficient size and complexity.

-If one room appears inside the structure, all other tarot rooms will be in the same structure—and in a specific relation to that room.

-“Major Arcana” rooms (i.e. rooms matching cards without suits) will always be behind secret doors or otherwise hidden.

-Each room has many correspondences and sympathies, not all are known. What is known is that each kind of room corresponds to a kind of individual, and if one of these sympathetic entities is present, the effect of visiting a tarot room is altered.

-Rooms of the various suits are sympathetic to individuals of a level and class corresponding to the room's suit and number:

All rooms of the suit of Swords are sympathetic to fighters (or rangers, paladins, barbarians, etc) of the matching level.
Cups are sympathetic to clerics (or druids, etc) of the matching level.
Coins/Pentacles are sympathetic to thieves (or rogues, specialists, acrobats, etc) of the matching level.
Wands are sympathetic to wizards (or witches, warlocks, illusionists, etc) of the matching level.

-Relative to the center of the structure:
Coin rooms are always south,
Cup rooms always east,
Wand rooms always west,
and Sword rooms always north.

-Each room generally contains life-sized, jointed, painted, wooden mannequins, set out in a tableau with painted backdrops and stages matching the design of the card matching the room. In some circumstances, the figures will animate and act--they are called Tarot Golems. They usually cannot speak but can understand any humanoid language. Their stats are scalable to however hard the adventure is supposed to be unless otherwise noted.


-The order of the rooms corresponds to dungeon "levels" or fortress "levels" depending on the structure, so, for example, if the rooms were in a maze below ground, the 4 of cups would be 4 levels beneath the earth, but if the rooms were in a tower, the 4 of cups would be 4 levels above--that is, on the 4th floor of the structure.

The first few rooms are as follows:

OUTSIDE THE STRUCTURE
The Fool Room -- These secret rooms can normally only be found on a fumble roll (any fumbled task in the right area might uncover it, not just a fumbled search roll), though an idiot (Int 4 or less or Wis 4 or less) can find one on a proper search in the right area.

Entering the room creates a new soul which then appears in the Fool Golem. As soon as the threshold is crossed, the jester or idiot mannequin in the tableau will animate, completely naive about the world. It will be fascinated by everything, and immediately seek to learn (wordlessly) about the world, experimenting with every object it sees. Its Intelligence and Wisdom are 3, its other stats are generated as a standard peasant. It will in all likelihood leave the room as soon as it has learned all it can and start to explore outside.

Note that a new soul and golem is still generated when the door is opened even if one has already left the room, so repeated visits (including by the Fool Golem itself) can result in any number of moronic, inquisitive golems wandering the countryside (they may be dressed differently, just as various tarot decks are done in different styles). Once outside, the golem will trade almost any service for more information (much of which it will promptly forget), and intimations of this fact will appear in the heads of any ambitious person it encounters. 

If any idiots (anyone of Int 4 or less or Wis 4 or less) are present when the Fool Room is opened, the fool mannequin will not animate. Instead, the mannequin of the Fool's cat will animate and wave to the stupid character(s) and take their hand(s) in its paw. It will silently offer to trade any pieces of adventuring gear the idiot(s) has/have for any brand new item extant in the setting of equal value. The items will be of high quality, fit for the coming adventure and will be brought out by the cat from behind the wooden curtains of the tableau. Only the cat can bring things from behind the curtain and only if the space behind the curtain is unobserved. Looking behind it reveals nothing. 


ON LEVEL ONE



Ace of Wands Room--The Tarot Golem in this room is a crawling hand of ordinary size like Thing in the Addams family or one of those wooden articulated artist's model hands and it is infused with energy and creativity. It can cast any 1st level spell that the GM invents on the spot once per round, and will do so in order to protect its spellbook, which contains 20 unheard-of first level spells.


If any first level wizards (or witches, or warlocks, etc) are present, they will immediately receive a wordless instruction that they must invent a 1st level spell on the spot. They have 14 seconds to do so. If the GM does not approve the spell, they may try twice more. If they successfully invent a spell, the golem will give the PC (s) its spellbook.
Ace of Cups Room--A vast iron cup fills the room, seething with the energies of generosity. It will fill with 1-10 doses of healing nectar (d4 hp per dose) precisely proportional to the amount of love that enters the room when the door opens (0 being the door opening on a combat of all against all, 10 being an ecstatic polyamorous orgy).


The first time any first-level clerics (druids, etc) are present when the door is opened, the cup will be of perfectly ordinary size and empty, but will immediately seem special to the cleric. It cannot be moved unless holy liquid is poured into it by the cleric or clerics. If it is, the cup will then be movable by the clergyindividual(s) in question and will possess magic properties: neither it nor whatever is poured into it can ever be taken from the cleric(s) or from any member of their faith it is gifted to.


Ace of Coins Room-- The handlike Tarot Golem here sits inside a large pentagram of gold-dust that nearly fills the room. Upon being discovered it will immediately crawl toward the nearest source of wealth and drag it back inside the pentagram. "Wealth" is here defined as any hoard of coins larger than the one currently inside the pentagram (which begins with nothing inside). If they do not stand in the pentagram, it's possible the nearest "hoard" will be the PCs' purses. The golem has one hit die and if the PCs do not handle the situation carefully they may not realize the vast potential of the treasure-finding device they've stumbled upon--though the golem will regenerate inside the pentagram if the room is empty and it is unobserved.

If any first-level thieves (or rogues or specialists, etc) are present when the door is opened then the hand will crawl over to them and open, palm up. If a coin is placed in the palm by such a thief, the hand will then draw for the thief a map indicating the largest source of other coins of that metal within one mile. It will do nothing else.


Ace of Swords Room -- The Tarot Golem in this room, consisting of a sword held in a slithering and snakelike armature, will immediately attack making use of radical insight. It knows each of its enemies' greatest weaknesses due to unfailing revelation. Any successful hit will be a critical.

The first time any first level fighters (or rangers, or barbarians, etc) are present when the room is opened, the golem will only attack them and will have hit points equal to the combined hp of all 1st level fighters present (at the start of the fight). If the golem is defeated by the first level fighter(s) without aid from anyone else, it will offer them its sword. The sword will (only under these conditions) allow the bearer to sense a single enemy within line-of-sight's greatest weakness once per week.
The Magician's Room-- The invisible door to this secret room can only be detected using magic. The Tarot Golem inside has stats as a wizard of a level equal to the combined hd of the creatures in the room+1, though it will only use spells of the transmutation type. When the door is opened, it will nod politely and then begin to follow the party. It is delighted by transformations--if the party should transform anything in its presence, the excited golem will use magic or guile to transform something else, more or less at random.  It will otherwise be quite neutral.

Transformations for this purpose generally exclude mere destruction--the alteration must be something which changes a thing to a way it never was before while not appreciably decreasing its level of complexity and organization. Living to dead doesn't count as a transformation, but cleric-to-lich or enemy-to-ally would.

If any wizards (etc) are present when the room is opened, the Magician will go to work demonstrating its abilities, lifting the objects off its mountebank table (cups, coins, knives, wands) and changing them one into the next. It will then enthusiastically gesture to the wizard. If the wizard then transforms something, the golem will bow and hold out its hand. If the wizard places any object into the golem's hand, the golem will change it into an object which will come in handy to the wizard in the future, though the wizard will not realize it at the time. It will not follow the party as described above.


ON LEVEL TWO


The Two of Wands Room--As soon as the door to this room is opened, the golem will push forward through the door, intent on moving directly toward the most powerful magic-using creature in the entire structure and striking up a mutually beneficial relationship with them. It has abilities as a second-level wizard and will use them to banish any impediments in the most direct way possible.

If any wizards of 2nd level are present when the door is opened the golem will take them by the hand and, using signs, describe the location of some nearby, as yet undiscovered, place of interest (a treasure hoard, a magic library, etc) and gesture that they go seek it. It will attempt to bar any non-2nd-level-wizards from following. If the wizard(s) go alone and return successful (and the golem is still alive), the golem will allow the wizard to copy the golem's spellbook. The spellbook will contain at least one useful spell the wizard would not otherwise be able to access.



Two of Cups Room--The two figures will briefly acknowledge anyone entering and then go back to drinking. As soon as they are, the GM should add another entry to the random encounter table: an NPC party precisely like the PC party aside from two things:

-They will be associated with the opposite god
-They will be erotic counterparts of the PCs and find them immediately attractive

If second level clerics are present when the room is found then one of the golems will offer the cleric a drink. If they take the cup and drink from it without suspicion, one of the golems will be revealed to be a 2nd level cleric of the same god and will, in its golem way, go about attempting to found a church of that god within the structure in an attempt to curry favor with the cleric. The NPC party will still be added to the random encounter table.
Two of Coins Room--This juggling golem juggles under any circumstances. It begins by juggling two coins. The coins are clearly worth 200gp each (go ahead and add zeroes to that figure if 200gp isn't enough to entice your party). If either of the coins are taken (it's easy) it will immediately begin looking for other things to juggle, seizing on the first cup/container, bladed weapon or wand/staff/rod/stick it can find to replace the lost coin and begin juggling again. It cannot be damaged in any way but otherwise has stats as a 2nd level thief.

When the coin or coins are replaced, the rest of the dungeon/structure will change: for each coin missing, half the coins in the place will be replaced with their weight in cups, (useless) wands or swords, as appropriate. So if, for example, one of the coins is replaced with a blade, half the coins in the entire dungeon (including any on the party) will be replaced with their weight in swords, if the other coin is replaced with a stick, the other half of the coins in the dungeon will be replaced with wands. If both coins are replaced with swords, all the coins in the dungeon turn to swords. In any event, putting a coin back returns that half of the dungeon's collective hoard to normal.

If a second-level thief steals one of the coins then the golem can replace the coin with the nearest convenient noncoin object, and the coins in the dungeon will be replaced with an equivalent weight's worth of second-level thieves of various races. These thieves will immediately scatter throughout the dungeon.

Two of Swords Room--There will always be another room on the far side of this one, accessible only this way--and that room will always clearly contain something of value. The Two of Swords Golem will defend that room with her life, but if no-one attempts to pass she will simply meditate quietly. She will also defend anyone who peacefully occupies her room.

Her stats are as a second-level fighter with two exceptions: her starting hit points equal the combined hit points of whoever she faces (at the moment the fight begins) and she has two actions per round--the first unfailing parries the first attack against her (even magic) and the second unfailingly strikes a target.

If a second-level fighter joins her in meditation for eight hours (while, for example, the rest of the party sleeps) they will learn the secrets of either blind-fighting or dual-wielding. Mechanics depend on the system, but generally both are still done at some kind of penalty, just not at the usual, big, one.
The High Priestess Room--This room cannot be found by looking for it--the entrance to this secret room can only be found via passive perception checks. The priestess herself is exquisitely carved and articulated, a perfect golem cleric of the structure's original architect culture and faith with stats equivalent to a cleric two levels higher than the combined hit dice of everyone in the room.

The Priestess Golem will answer questions with oblique gestures. If a PC can manage to do absolutely nothing in her presence for 2 minutes, she will hand them a small box carved from a mysterious blue stone. In the box will be a tool which will allow the creature to overcome their greatest weakness one time. A spindly wizard might receive a potion of strength, an illiterate barbarian might be given an earring which whispers a text, etc The boon only works on the character in question.

Once the door is opened for the first time, it will remain open, the High Priestess will begin collecting recruits for her faith, drawing recruits from whoever wanders in. She will give them each a boon, slowly turning wandering monsters into more dangerous and zealous wandering monsters--each time the GM rolls a random encounter, mark a tick next to the next creature down on the table--that creature (or one of them) has been converted and now has a boon.

If female clerics of any faith are present when the door is open, the High Priestess will gesture to the ground before her, offering them the opportunity to kneel at her feet and be converted. If they refuse, she will draw for them a map directly to the nearest exit. If the clerics leave, she will station several of her new recruits at that exit so they can never come back.

To be continued...
-
-
-