Saturday, December 1, 2018

Monster Gut Table

So Zak S. did a cool thing a really really long time ago where he went through all the monsters alphabetically in the Monster Manual and he wrote a short thing about them. Some of them are just like "this monster sucks+a little joke about why". It's a good fun time.

I had the idea that I could do a similar thing (writing short things about monsters) after I saw this thing (pictured above) which is also very worth sharing, earlier today. I want to write about monsters from wherever, that could make great monsters in D&D. This would also just be a fun thing for me to do to gather a lot of unique weird monsters to use in my games. So I think the format for these will be some combination of a review of cool monsters and maybe stats or rules or mechanics for those monsters. Here's the first, it's not a monster, but it's a rule for monsters based on how monster-loot works in video games sometimes :


In fantasy video games sometimes you kill a rat, like in skyrim, or even a mushroom guy, like in mario or any kinda monster that doesn't have pockets and you still get some gold. This isn't a bad idea, it's fun to find loot on monsters. But I think most monsters don't hoard gold, that's a special dragon thing. So why do they have loot? Maybe because they ate an adventurer who was a little less lucky than you and that guy had a cool scroll on him. Or maybe the eyes of the Behir are just really good for 

So the idea is that some monsters have weird and/or cool loot inside their guts and you can get it if you cut em open.

Here's how I implemented this rule:

Step 1: Tell your players they can cut open the next big dead monster and it might have valuable loot inside, because sometimes wyvern-hearts are valuable, and sometimes wyverns eat wizards or just unlucky noblemen.

Step 2: If your players are like mine were, they immediately want to do this because it's gross and funny and they get loot and if you tell them there's a box with a present in it and it's for them, they will open the box because it would be rude not to and it's exciting, even if instead of a box, the present is inside the bloody carcass of some bat-winged monstrosity.

Step 3: All monsters that are big enough to eat people have a 1 in 6 chance of having loot from this table from now on.

As always, if something doesn't make sense reroll, if something starts to get stale, cross it out and write your own thing.

1 - 10. The Wizard in the party* suddenly remembers/discovers that a part of this creature carries powerful magical properties (this is true of all of this kind of monster from now on).
1. Tooth or Claw - This monster's teeth or claws can be easily fashioned into fine blades which won't lose their edge. They have the same damage die as the monster's bite/claw attack, but only one die. If the monster doesn't have a bite attack or a claw attack, reroll.
2. Hide - This monster's hide can be tanned and made into a cloak that makes animals (and some people) fear you.
3. Horn - If you carve a blowing-horn from one of the horns of this creature, it's sound will attract more. There is a 1-in-6 chance that they will not be hostile.
4. Lungs - If you light the dried lungs of this creature on fire they will burst into a cloud of choking smoke (as Stinking Cloud).
5. Tongue - If pickled with burdock root and placed in a box, the tongue will speak profane blasphemies.
6. Heart - Devouring this creature's heart will exorcise demons or other entities from the possessed and cleanse the otherwise corrupted.
7. Eyes - The eyes of this creature can be preserved in a jar and will remember whatever they see. When a player wishes to view what the eyes saw they must throw them into a fire and the images will reveal themselves in the smoke.
8. Blood - If you drink this creature's blood you gain +1 to attack/damage for 1d6 hours. If you use it for a ritual baptism you may rage as a 1st level barbarian once today, before the next sunrise.
9. Skull - The sutures on the skull of this creature form a specific type of arcane writing which can be read as a scroll of Animate Dead.
10. Brain - Spellcasters will pay a large sum for this creature's brain, which apparently can be dissected in order to reveal an organic pattern from which one may learn the spell "Brain Seed", which allows the caster to carve out an idea from their mind and plant it into the ground as if it were a seed, in order to grow the idea into fruition.
11 . Entrails - Can be read by a Haruspex to cast any divination spell of the creature's level or lower.
12. - 20. You find something it swallowed inside its stomach.
12 . Garbage.
13 . Dead knight with intact plate armor. Wanted dead for the murder of several local peasants. Proof of his death will be rewarded with 4d10 gold by their families.
14 . Dead nobleman with diary full of bad poetry.
15 . Dead goblin clutching fancy stolen necklace worth 3d10 gold.
16 . Dead Rogue with a grappling hook and a map revealing a nearby dungeon.
17 . Dead Fighter with a splintered shield, a dented helm, and a finely engraved axe.
18 . Dead Wizard with intact, albeit slimy spellbook.
19 . Roll a Random NPC from this region. They're inside the stomach and they have a % chance to be still alive = their HD.
20 . Roll on the Random Encounter table for this region. That monster is inside the stomach and has % chance to be still alive = their HD.

*or whoever would know, maybe the Ranger.

Also here are some monsters/monster ideas I want to do in later posts. Please comment any suggestions!

Future Monster Reviews
  • Blue Hell of the Pardoner Demon, based on the song Blue Hell by the band Pardoner
  • The Viscerons, sort of based on the Shit Monsters linked above, but more just also based on human anatomy. 
  • King Ghidora (AKA Monster Zero) from the Godzilla Series, specifically Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (AKA Invasion of Astro-Monster).
  • Rogol Domedonfors, tentacle ooze Wizard, from Dying Earth by Jack Vance.
  • Evil Dead 2-inspired possessed berserker.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

2 Character Ideas

I had two ideas for PCs but I play so rarely, I don't actually know when I'll be able to use them.

I think that later I will make them as experiments for my work-in-progress hack of Knave/5e/AD&D/any-other-things-that-have-rules-I-like-and-want-to-steal.

The first and better idea is for a probably evil wizard who uses illusions, invisibility, stealth and especially the phantasmal spells to terrorize and torment his enemies, in the style of 70s/80s horror movies. More specifically I was thinking of Suspiria, but even Hereditary could be a good reference for this kind of use of magic. Hell, even Halloween has that bit where Michael sets up all the corpses in a very theatrical way. I bet Michael would've been a theater kid if he had made it to high school.

A buddy of mine brought up Hausu as well, which I have not seen in it's entirety, but which seems very relevant to this idea.

The other idea was more of a straight-forward adventurer/hero type. Probably a fighter, maybe even a paladin. This would be a slightly different way to play a chaotic neutral character who has a save-the-world type quest.

The scene I initially imagined was one in which the party was in a settlement buying supplies for their next expedition into the mega-dungeon or whatever, during which time this self-righteous fighter would be robbing the innocent potion-maker at swordpoint and justifying it by being like "we need all the help we can get, you'll thank me when we save the world". It's murder-hoboing for a cause. Maybe with less murder.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Why Joining the OSR Feels Like Joining A Mystery Death Cult


To clarify the click-bait title: A Mystery Cult is a thing from antiquity & a Death Cult (as far as I know) is more of a D&D thing.

The OSR, like a Death Cult, preaches a lot about death, specifically deadliness in games. And like a Mystery Cult the OSR is opaque and hard to immediately understand, especially as an outsider. 

Title roughly translates to "Fiend Folio" in English.

The only way, it seems to me, to gain a deeper understanding is by climbing into an unending vault of arcane texts: the Death-Temple megadungeon's library level, or the OSR blogosphere.

Many OSR ideas feel sort of confrontational at first. People talk about TPKs and metagaming and characters not really mattering as much as players and all sorts of things that are totally contrarian to the kind of ideas I had previously seen in more general RPG spaces on the internet.

At the same time, OSR content, (specifically for me the books by Zak S.) just blew every D&D thing I had ever read before out of the water. And then from there, I found that there are a lot of amazing books scattered in and around the OSR (work by Patrick Stuart, Scrap Princess(!), and others, like some of the stuff from Dungeon Crawl Classics).

When I actually started really using OSR ideas in my games, it was similarly revelatory. I found a lot of material online about sandbox games and how these were done in AD&D, and it sounded really cool. I ran a sandbox game this summer for a small group with 3 core members and a couple more people who showed up intermittently. It was easily the best campaign I have ever had the pleasure of GMing in my 6 short years of running games. More on that to come.

An OSR group, circa 1863. Zak S. pictured far right.


The biggest learning curve in my own experience trying to do OSR games was getting over an emotional fear about killing my party. Rationally I believe that making my games deadlier would make them better, but on an interpersonal level, I was worried my players wouldn't be down for this change and I didn't want to make things not fun just so I could try out some shit I heard about on the internet.

I had already heard a lot of advice in GM guides, and online (r/rpg specifically), and from my friends who also wanted to learn the craft, but I don't think any ever addressed how to respond to your own hesitation/worry about drastically changing your former way of playing the game even who you earnestly believe it to be a good decision.

Posts on r/rpg didn't help me much, OSR blogs really did. Which makes sense, because deadliness is a central part of what OSR is about most of the time, so people talk about it more.

I'm going to continually add stuff that I find/found helpful in my games, mostly just bits of what feels like good advice and links.


I don't know if any of this will be of interest or use to other people new to this part of the hobby but these are the things that were of most use to me.

  1. Zak S.'s 5e Hack: this is a super helpful + easy set of house rules to make 5e feel like old school games. I also think it's a great eye opener to the kinds of changes you can make to your system that can push it into different thematic/gameplay directions. 
  2. Zak S.'s 5e Character Creation Rules: this is also super helpful. I ended up writing my own version of this with some minor changes. I let my players choose how random they want their characters to be but I encourage them to roll to determine race and class because it's fun. The random starting equipment table where everyone probably gets armor and shit is so fucking fun it's stupid. My players love this stuff because if they're new they get less stressed about not knowing how to make a character and if they've played the game before then they are often at a point where they're like "fuck it i'll just roll for everything, I just want to play."
  3. Alexandrian's "Jaquaying The Dungeon" : really good dungeon design advice, if a bit too dense and academic for easy consumption. It is thorough at least. The basics that really stuck with me are that branching paths end up feeling like linear ones but if you have loops and dead ends and other weirdness then it feels like there is a real sense of exploration because there are things you could miss. 
  4. Last Gasp's "House of Rules" : Good house rules.
  5. Last Gasp's "In Cörpathium" : this is the first thing I ever saw from Last Gasp and probably the first OSR thing I ever read. I had no fucking clue what I was reading but I knew it was amazing. Still is. 
  6. Jeff Rient's Carousing Table : carousing tables seemed silly to me at first but it ended up being one of the most effective and fun and interesting plot-generating mechanics I've used.
  7. Crowd-sourced Pre-Built Hexcrawls! The story behind these as I understand it is that a bunch of people got together and everyone picked a few hexes and wrote like one or two sentences about what's in them following the general guiding principle that "connections are good". This is great advice as to what it takes to write a hexcrawl map, because it turns out that you can make something pretty great by just having a lot of really small ideas. I highly recommend reading these and shamelessly stealing from them for your own hex map, and also the framework used to create them will serve you well.
    1. The Hexenbracken
    2. The Kraal
    3. The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar