Friday, May 31, 2013

Skullfuck Mountain Wizard Magic

For Skullfuck Mountain (hereafter SFMTN), I'm using the Dying Earth Spells for D&D supplement. A magic-user's beginning spells are determined by rolling for them per the guidelines in the document:

So basically they begin play with read magic (which is the only 0-level spell in the supplement) plus three randomly determined 1st-level spells.

The magic-user has access to all spells known, but is limited in spells castable per adventure by the charts in the Holmes rulebook (and I guess for beyond level 3, I'll just use the charts for the wizard from the d20 SRD, since Men & Magic already has a discrepancy at 3rd level, and that bothers my OCD side).

Interesting that I'm using Dying Earth spells and not requiring memorization, isn't it? Do you see the irony? DO YOU!?!?!

So now the question becomes "How does the wizard advance the number of spells he knows?" Well, I figure all additional spells will be gained by learning them from scrolls or spellbooks found while adventuring. I've put together a pretty basic procedure for attempting to add a found spell to the collection of spells known. It is loosely built around Holmes' scroll creation rules, but I figure the time component will just always be one week. We generally assume one week of time passes between dungeon expeditions, so the magic-user will get one roll between each session of play. They can opt to wait additional weeks if they want, I guess, which reminds me, I need to make an events chart of stuff that happens in the dungeon and surrounding areas to make downtime matter. One event per week seems like too much, so maybe a 1 in 4 chance of an event each week, which would make things roughly monthly. Anyways, I digress. Here is the procedure for learning new spells:

Showing my true nerd colors with this flowchart
As far as limiting spells known, Holmes already has a chart for that, and if I find that too restrictive I could just use INT score as the maximum spells per level a magic-user may know.

Another thing I'm thinking about, but haven't quite figured out yet, is corruption. After playing DCC, I don't know if I could ever play without corrupting magic again. Just an idea off the top of my head that will require further thought:

X in 30 chance of corruption per casting, where X is the spell level.
Spell levels 1-2 = Minor corruption
Spell levels 3-4 = Major corruption
Spell levels 5-6 = Greater corruption

Then there's the cleric. Not sure what to do about clerics yet, but we currently don't have any, so I don't think I'll bother spending much brain bandwidth on that until we actually get one.

Skullfuck Mountain Rumors

Assuming the PCs made it back to town at the end of their previous adventure (and woe to them if they didn't!) each PC may attempt to gain a rumor concerning the dungeon at the beginning of a session by making a charisma check. The veracity of any of these claims is questionable, of course.

  1. There are hidden entrances to The Underworld scattered about the mountainside and environs.
  2. The Underworld is sentient, and despises uncertainty in those who enter. (Specifically, the phrase "I don't know.")
  3. When a corpse is abandoned in The Underworld, it can sometimes be found again, but with the skull missing. The skin of the head will be completely intact. How the skull is extracted is a mystery.
  4. Compasses are unreliable in The Underworld.
  5. Salt can be used to repel the unliving.
  6. All water found in The Underworld is either poisonous or magical.
  7. Blasphemous writings read aloud may be detrimental to your health.
  8. Burning sage will keep a cleared room free of new monsters for at least one year.
  9. Goblins' feet are the most sensitive parts of their body, much like a man's testicles.
  10. Iselda, the witch of the lake, is known to make deals with those desperate for a cure of some sort. Her price is always high, but it is never money.
  11. The League of Ordinary Gentlemen is secretly run by a mad hermit that lives in the woods on the NW side of the lake.
  12. Drunk Willy claims that he saw a periscope peeping up from the well one night last week. He swears it was a goblin, but no one believes him.
  13. Funzie Girt (of Funzie Girt's Gear Garage) is a failed blacksmith.
  14. Many denizens of The Underworld recoil from bright light.
  15. A ghoul-bear is said to haunt the swamplands on the east side of the lake, but no man has seen it and lived to tell.
  16. An ancient wyrm resides in one of the deepest parts of Skullfuck Mountain. She hasn't been sighted in over 100 years, nor will anyone utter her name for fear of waking her. Some say her lair can be reached through the volcanic crater atop the mountain.
  17. There are portals to other worlds within Skullfuck Mountain. Some say the original tunnels were built by alien beings.
  18. Those that go deep enough into Skullfuck Mountain will find themselves in Hell.
  19. Any who dare to sleep within the depths of Skullfuck Mountain will find themselves in a Dreamlands version of The Underworld, which is far more strange and horrible than the waking version.
  20. Somewhere within the eye-caves are a matched pair of gem-encrusted phallus-statues; one ruby and one emerald. Lady Sluthers (of Lady Sluthers' Home for Wayward Girls fame) is extremely covetous of these fabled items, and would give much in exchange for ownership of them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Holmes Monsters Illustrated: Berserkers

Doug Kovacs - DCC #70

My personal image of berserkers will be forever be influenced by the ones +Evan Elkins killed one of my characters with in his Nightwick Abbey. I was one-shotted by one of these guys. They were wearing human skin skullcaps, and I think their "leather" armor was made of human skin as well. I learned that just because you're on level 1, charging in like a dummy is still charging in like a dummy.

Basically, berserkers are men who have been supernaturally corrupted by hanging out in the underworld way too long. They have become bloodthirsty leatherface-type guys who cannot speak or do much of anything except kill. Bright light, such as a torch or lantern held to the face, will usually stun them for a round if they can't make a save against stoning.

  1. Eating a person
  2. Drinking blood from a skull
  3. Sewing some armor/clothes from human skin
  4. Sharpening bones into various stabbing implements
  5. Mutilating themselves
  6. Carving profane slogans into each others' backs and high-fiving each other
  7. Smoking PCP and playing Grand Theft Auto
  8. Having naked wrestling matches with a random dungeon monster from level 3.
  1. Miscellaneous heavy metal concert t-shirts
  2. Naked, but body completely painted in blood; human skin masks
  3. Daisy Dukes, mesh trucker caps and wife beaters
  4. Jeans and jean jackets (i.e. "Canadian Tuxedo")
  5. S&M leathers
  6. GWAR gear
  1. lead pipes
  2. spiked chains
  3. clubs, coated in resin and rolled in broken glass
  4. nothing. will charge and tackle opponents, headbutt, claw at eyes, bite faces, etc.
  5. iron spikes
  6. rusty glaives
Roll two exploding damage dice (d8s)

  1. 1d12 black metal coins of questionable worth
  2. 2d20 teeth of various sorts (1 in 6 chance of a gold one)
  3. eyepatch
  4. 10' rope made of human hair
  5. lump of soul coal
  6. bits of metal suitable for body piercing (if santized)
  7. a half-rotted eyeball
  8. a pair of testacles
  9. butterfly knife
  10. spell scroll. 80% chance it has been used as toilet paper.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Holmes Monsters Illustrated: Basilisk

This thing seems pretty nondescript. None of that stuff about six legs and what have you. It's nice that we have both a bite and a gaze to utilize here, since normally what happens in my experience is that it's figured out (six legs is a big red flag), gazes are averted, and the monster is handily defeated.

Within The Underworld, there is large hall with neatly lined up statues around the circumference. Anyone making more than a cursory glance will notice that the poses are all peculiar, sort of like candid photographs, not like the stately or action-oriented poses one would normally expect. 1-3 large lumbering lizards tend to come investigate the sent of live meat, tongues flicking all about. (I interpret "rather small reptilian monster" to be in comparison to a dragon.)

When it's all said and done, any newly-minted statues will be neatly arranged near the outside walls by some unknown denizen(s) of the dungeon with a penchant for neatness and order.

Holmes Monsters Illustrated: Bandit

One of the neat things about Holmes Basic D&D is that it barely has any illustrations. We have nothing but the text to go on, so we get to exercise our imagination a bit (or perhaps our googling skills), and take some liberties.

As an exercise, I'm going to attempt to go through each Holmes monster entry, and find a picture or illustration to accompany it. I'll add some additional stream-of-consciousness notes wherever possible as well. It's really just a brainstorming exercise to help give my Skullfuck Mountain game a simplistic sort of depth, but hopefully you will find it entertaining as well.

So without further ado, I present you with our first specimen - the Bandit.

Bandits are usually encountered in smallish groups that work together to relieve passersby of any valuables they may be carrying. They are not true warriors, so they will generally only attack when they can stage an ambush and gain surprise.

These bandits you just encountered are (50% chance of each):

  • A ragtag group of 4-24 unskilled, out-of-work men who need to feed their families. They wear ill-fitting leathers and wield a variety of makeshift weapons (clubs, 2x4's, fireplace pokers, crowbars, brick-in-a-sock, segment of chain, modified pitchforks, and so forth). Their morale is generally low.
  • A smaller group of 2-12 sadists that just likes taking people's stuff for the sheer fun of it. Given the opportunity, they will seek to humiliate and possibly even torture their victims. These kind will generally be wearing studded leather armors and wielding decent-quality military weapons. The leader will usually have a whip and fine clothes from a previous victim.
In both cases, there is an 80% chance that one of the bandits will have a sixgun loaded with 3-6 bullets. This guy will attempt to stay hidden until the second round of combat, at which point he will emerge and begin firing (from behind cover if available) 2 shots per round, first at any wizards he can identify, and secondly at any fighter types.

Sixgun Mechanics
All shots are fired as if against leather armor.
The first shot fired always causes an immediate wandering monster check.
Hits on enemies 3 HD and up cause 1d6+1 damage.
For hits on enemies less than 3 HD, roll the hit location die (or just a regular d12) to determine effect.
  1. Right Arm: 1-3 damage, any held item dropped, arm disabled until magically healed or 1-6 weeks bed rest.
  2. Left Arm: 1-3 damage, any held item dropped, arm disabled until magically healed or 1-6 weeks bed rest.
  3. Right Hand: 1-2 damage, any held item dropped, hand disabled until magically healed or 1-3 weeks bed rest.
  4. Left Hand: 1-2 damage, any held item dropped, hand disabled until magically healed or 1-3 weeks bed rest.
  5. Head: Instantly killed
  6. Body: 1-4 damage. Disabled. Die in 1-20 rounds unless magically healed.
  7. Stomach: 1-4 damage. Only bare minimum of movement/actions possible. Any strenuous action taken, such as trying to attack an enemy, requires a save vs. death ray to avoid passing out from the pain. Die in 2-12 hours unless magically healed.
  8. Chest: 1-6 damage. Only bare minimum of movement/actions possible. Any strenuous action taken, such as trying to attack an enemy, requires a save vs. death ray to avoid passing out from the pain. Die in 3-18 rounds unless magically healed.
  9. Right Leg: 1-3 damage. Fall prone. 1/4 movement speed. Leg disabled until magically healed or 1-6 weeks bed rest.
  10. Left Leg: 1-3 damage. Fall prone. 1/4 movement speed. Leg disabled until magically healed or 1-6 weeks bed rest.
  11. Right Foot: 1-2 damage. Need assistance to walk. Foot disabled until magically healed or 1-3 weeks bed rest.
  12. Left Foot: 1-2 damage. Need assistance to walk. Foot disabled until magically healed or 1-3 weeks bed rest.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Welcome to Skullfuck Mountain!

In a far-off land there is a small lake. On the lake's south end, there is a small village that has a cozy inn, a few shops, and a well-regarded brothel. On the north end is a giant fucking skull-shaped mountain reputed to have monsters and treasures in it. What would you like to do?

Last Saturday my home D&D group of friends met up in my back porch to play. It had been over a month since we played, and I was hemming and hawing about whether we should continue our Gamma World game, or the DCC-based Demonland game we played last time we met. So I did what any good ADD-afflicted DM would do - I started a brand new game!

I've been drawing some modular maps in the style of Stonehell Dungeon, or the One-Page Dungeon if you prefer. The only difference is that I did mine 20x20 instead of 30x30, just as a matter of personal preference. I'd also been daydreaming about a Castle Greyskull/Gamma World-based megadungeon for a while, and the kicker was when I stumbled upon this old thread about the UK version of Holmes Basic. I found the artwork to be very inspiring, and it prompted me to break out my Holmes book and give it another gander. So I cobbled all these ideas together, keyed a few of the maps I made, and grabbed a few unused or lightly-used things from my regular Outland campaign that's been going strong for a while now. I linked everything together so I had levels for the eyes, nose, and mouth, and some extra stuff in case something crazy happened. The end result was maybe 10 sheets of notes and maps, roll up some ultra-shitty Holmes PCs, and off to adventure!

Phony alternate universe cover I made with FF art by Fangorn
It turned out to be quite a fun adventure. The dwarf fighter rolled 1 hp, so right away the thief kept trying to gank him and lost two characters trying. That fighter ended up being one of two survivors, and was able to make 2nd level after carousing. He then proceeded to roll an 8 for his next hit die. Pretty sweet if you ask me. That is the stuff of legend. There was judicious use of the mule for cover, and the super-deadly 2d8 Holmes firebombs. I typed up the house rules we used on the Smith Corona XE 6000 my mom dug up and gave to me after the game, and that was a fun exercise in itself. I really dig the finality of it all when using a typewriter (my correction ribbon is expired). The typewriter itself probably post-dates Holmes by 8 years or so, but who cares. Old and crappy is old and crappy, right? Anyways, I think this things has legs, so we'll be playing this again next time.*

PDF of the typewritten house rules, for those that might be interested.

P.S. - I finally got an excuse to use the magnificent Dying Earth Spells for D&D, so that's a big plus as well!

P.P.S. - This is totally ConstantCon/FLAILSNAILS-able, and I think these guys could use some competition.

* Unless I get struck by another bout of ADD

Monday, May 6, 2013

Alternative Combat System for D&D

If you're playing B/X or something similar, but perhaps you're a bit of a "roll player" (like me!), here's a quick little bolt-on system to bring some extra action into your combats. It is built on the basic principles of the DCC Mighty Deeds™ combat stunt system.

Step 1: Bump the thief up to a d6 hit die. Let's face it, he could use the boost.

Step 2: Use this for attack rolls:

1d16 + HD, i.e.

Fighter/Dwarf: 1d16+1d8
Cleric/Thief/Elf/Hobbit: 1d16+1d6
Magic-User: 1d16+1d4

For stunts, you have to declare them before rolling, get a 4+ on the hit die and a high enough total roll to score a hit. If you do not meet both conditions it's a miss. If you do meet both conditions, you can choose between scoring double damage (called shot), or scoring normal damage plus applying an effect, such as disarming, knocking down, pushing back, etc.

There's no advancement built in, so if you want the PCs to improve, you'll have to figure that out yourself. I figure a magic sword or whatever would allow you to replace the d16 with a d20 (more or less equivalent to a +2). I figure this is enough of an improvement over the regular system that we can just ditch the improvement over time. If you want to see the mathematical effect, check this graph.

For crits, you can do whatever, but I'd probably just do natural 16's for the sake of simplicity and giving a very minor bump to crit chances. Maybe even have fighters crit on 15-16 so they can be real murder machines.

If for some weird reason you don't already have several sets of zocchi dice, d16s can be bought individually.