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.


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.


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"
"It's valuable."
"It's made of silver"
"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:

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. 


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.


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...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017



Cruelly afflicted, the lycanthrope, or werewolf, is unfit to mix with our society. The stricken creature twitches and bends, staring into thin air, bestial even when adopting an ordinary shape. They make their dens in blood-streaked rooms with broken windows, alone or in wretched, hierarchical packs, or—worse—are caged and used for sinister purposes by weird malefactors. The condition lasts 7 years. Their malady synchronizes the shape of their lives with that of the moon.

Only during the night of the new moon and the day after can the werewolf wear a complete outfit of clothes, use human language, or imitate the selves of their former life—or at least drunk, forgetful distracted versions of those selves. Some even manage, during these 24 hours, to provision their dens with mounds of steaks or pay rent. Calm: 1, Knowledge: as former life -2 (minimum of 0).

During the 7 days and nights when the moon is waxing crescent, clothes become intolerable, and speech becomes increasingly impossible. It becomes irritable, growling at any presence like a guard animal. Its memory of the previous month returns over the course of the day and it will begin to hunt animals. Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.

On the night of the first quarter the werewolf schemes, looking for human victims for the coming feast days. It will be capable of both memory and forethought until the moon wanes gibbous. Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.

As the moon waxes gibbous for a week the creature’s demeanor is casually criminal and cunning. It will prowl by night, crawling along the rims of rooftops, eating fellow citizens.  Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.
During the night of the full moon the lycanthrope is ravenous, eager for flesh and homicidal beyond all reckoning, she also physically transforms in the night, taking the form of a wolf with 45 teeth until the sun rises.  Calm: Negative, Knowledge: Animal.

The week the moon wanes gibbous the subject is amnesiac, but filled with an inchoate remorse. It will avoid the light and whimper in corners. Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.

On the night of the third quarter the werewolf lies unable to eat, moaning with a pain it cannot describe. Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.

As the moon is waning crescent, the beast becomes anxious and obedient. It will begin to bathe and groom itself to the degree it is able, some simple words and phrases come back to them during the 7 days. Calm: 0, Knowledge: Animal.

Typical Lycanthrope

Calm: See above
Agility: 5
Toughness: 8 (Starting toughness is always at least 7 for lycanthropes)
Perception: 7
Appeal: 1
Cash: 0
Knowledge: See above

Calm check: 4 (if the character only sees signs they’re dealing with a strange cannibalistic human or murderous wolf) 8 (if the character realizes they face a werewolf)

Exceptional lycanthropes can have Agility as high as 6, Toughness as high as 10 and Perception as high as 8.

Special Abilities:

Invulnerability: Lycanthropes can’t be reduced below 0 Toughness by ordinary means, including firearms, crushing, falling, fire, etc.

Bite: Does damage as an ordinary physical attack. Anyone bitten while the lycanthrope is a wolf will begin to take on the characteristics of a lycanthrope over the following week, gaining all the creature’s special abilities and, over the coming month, the curse modifies the victim’s characteristics as follows— Agility +3, Toughness +6 (minimum of 7), Perception +5, Appeal -1(minimum of 0), Knowledge -2 (minimum of 0/Animal). Calm is 0 until the night of the full moon, at which point it is negative until the new lycanthrope feeds on human flesh, then it follows the lunar pattern above. A dose of wolvesbane will stop the transformation (and induce nausea and vomiting) if it is administered before the victim eats human flesh.

The lycanthrope fears silver as an ordinary animal fears fire. Weapons made from silver harm a werewolf as easily as they might harm a normal human.

The herb known as wolfsbane (aka Aconite, monkshood, devil's helmet, etc) repels lycanthropes and swallowing it causes Massive Damage to the werewolf as an intensity 9 attack.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


A lot of game masters have experience with dungeons but have trouble writing investigation or horror adventures--especially ones that aren't railroady--and very few pre-written commercial modules help with that.

Here's a way to write investigations and visualize how they work for yourself--it combines the idea of a Hunter/Hunted investigation set-up with the idea of the criminal conspiracy organizational charts cops use--(which Ken Hite calls a "conspiramid" in Night's Black Agents. This is a step or two more complex and concrete.).

It visualizes the possibilities in an investigation as a dungeon:
So, first, you have The Horror--this is the final boss, the supernatural or at least bizarre thing that is revealed after all the investigating is done. You probably already have in mind what that is. Imagine it as occupying a room in the center of a dungeon.

Around that you have the "Gatekeeper"--this is the NPC or the building or whatever that you encounter right before the final horror. This could be the crime boss who keeps the werewolf in his basement or the cultist wizard that summons Cthulhu or, yes, like Dana in Ghostbusters who brings forth Gozer.

The point of the Gatekeeper is they are a mundane front that, once encountered, triggers the appearance of the horror.

Picture the Gatekeeper as occupying a set of halls around the Horror. You can move through those walls when investigation reveals new information. Think of information as literally the key. You unlock the adjacent "room" with information.

Don't worry about those little rooms in the corners yet, they'll be explained in a second. They're an important difference between this and the simple conspiracy pyramid.

So outside the Gatekeeper's room we have other connecting rooms that the PCs have to get through before they have enough information to get to the boss. 

I put some examples: a pawn of the boss, their lawyer, etc. You can also move laterally, like investigating the boss' lawyer might lead the PCs to the sub-boss, etc. This is fine. The point is whatever they're doing be fun, not that it be efficient.

You can wrap the center in as many layers of these adjacent "buffers" as you want.

The outer layer of "buffers" are the first things the players can do when investigating the situation. Imagine the PCs beginning outside and moving inward. In this example, the players can interview the victim directly, search the crime scene, do research on the place where the crime took place (like in the library or on the web), or ask their contacts about it.

Different "entrances" lead to different parts of the conspiracy.

The outermost ring is the "room" where players start--discovering there is a crime to solve.

The orange spot in the lower right is some pizza cheese stuck on my scanner. It's not that important.

I haven't yet talked about those little boxes in the corners. These are kind of "secret rooms".

These are where the dangerous people and things associated with the crime lurk. They do two things:

A) They attack the investigators if they get stalled in their investigation. This keeps the game moving.

B) Their attack brings the investigators closer to the center of the investigation.

For more detail on how and why this works, check out Hunter/Hunted. This is the most important difference between this and a simple conspiracy pyramid.

Here's an example:

Our investigators start out having heard of the suspicious decapitation of Bunny Monrovia, cherished uncle.
 They begin to comb through the internet, looking for information about Bunny's work and possible enemies he might've made in the experimental entomology business.
They figure they'll interview Bunny's wife, Capybara Monrovia (victim), she tells them Bunny's best friend was Sweetwater Baize, a kindly fellow who helped Bunny out and always brought Jelly Bellies for the twins.

Sweetwater Baize warmly welcomes the PCs into his abode.

They can tell he's hiding something but don't manage to question Sweetwater's suspicious butler, much less sneak upstairs and find the hideous mantis creature that once was Sweetwater's sister or figure out anything much about Sweetwater.

Dinner seems to drag on, the GM is getting restless.

So out of the "attack" box the GM conjures the Mantis Cultists, who Sweetwater calls in to deal with these meddling kids. They strike hard...

...but not hard enough. The players defeat them, learning in the process that the mysterious butler was actually the head of the mantis cult.

The players can now confront him (the Gatekeeper) and he can unleash the hideous beast (The Horror).

To walk you through the analogy with a dungeon a little clearer, I made the actual investigation more complicated than it needed to be.

This "dungeon" is the same structure but a little simpler for a GM to write--it has 3 initial methods of investigation and only 3 kinds of buffers between the crime and the Gatekeeper.

To create a whole campaign, imagine this is the top view of a stepped pyramid seen from a helicopter--all you have to do is add more "steps" to the pyramid.

This investigation advice will be cleaned up and expanded for the Demon City project. To donate to it, go to the Demon City Patreon here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Complex Luck of Charlotte Stokely

2:15 PM

"...I'm just saying: you've died three times in this dungeon already Stokely and every time you did you were either hungover or drunk."

2:39 PM

"You walk down to where the dog and the ape are licking the stairs and you slip--roll a Dex save--falling down the lard-smeared stairs and landing on some caltrops taking....4 points of damage. The dark elves snicker from the darkness"

"They demand you hand over the children of Torgos Zooth to them"

3:02 PM

(Karolyn) "I'm gonna intimidate the remaining ones!"

"Roll and--What do you say?"

"I ask--why are their ears so round!...NATURAL 20!"

"Ok, they saw you walk down the stairs, then you walked back up the stairs, they set up an ambush, slathered lard and caltrops all over the steps, called up 5 friends, they outnumbered you more than 2-to-1 and you kicked their asses and called them 'round-ears' --the remaining ones run"

3:10 PM

"Down on his knees he's like 'Please! We simply wanted to ransom them back to Torgos Zooth!"

"Take us to him!"

5:08 PM

"Ok, Stokes that puts you at -1 hit point, roll d100.........Instant and demoralizing death, all allies present must Save or be stunned with shock for one round. The Chameleon Woman's machete crosses your throat, your head flies up spinning this way, your headless body spins the other way..."

5:17 PM

"Ok this is Jessica she's my new character."

"What are y'all doing?"

"Well we still have to find Torgos Zooth and return his kids to him, where is he?"

"They said in the Almery"

"Let's go to the Almery"

"This is the Almery, this whole section of the dungeon is called the Almery"

"Jessica gonna yell 'Hey Torgos Zooth, we have your kids!'"


"..oooth ooth ooth' the walls echo and the DM rolls a wandering monster check"


"Ok...d100....Oh my god..."




"14--look Zooth wanders in."
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