Friday, October 9, 2020

GLOGtoberfest 6th, 7th, and 8th - Food, Adventure, and Mystery

Trying to get myself back on schedule...


GLOGtoberfest the 6th is food. Here's a list of monster parts that, if you eat them, grant you special powers. You must eat the entire part in less than an hour, with no help, and cannot significantly alter it (salt and pepper is fine, serving it on a bun isn't). 
  1. Dragon's heart; you're immune to fire, and can roar huge distances.
  2. Troll's feet; you gain +1 HP per level, and every time you regain HP, you regain +1 HP.
  3. Mind Flayer's tentacles; gain +1 INT for each type of humanoid brain you consume (so +1 for humans, but multiple humans don't stack).
  4. Displacer Beast's tendrils; when you want to, you have a 50% chance to flicker in place for an hour, distorting your position.
  5. Roc's wings; you suffer no falling damage.
  6. Carrion Crawler's skin; you can eat corpses and carrion as if they were fresh meat.
  7. Beholder's eyes; you can see invisible objects and creatures, your eyes stay open and alert when you sleep, your eyes can see through your own head and body, and your eyes can spin around 360 degrees.
  8. Lich's brain; you can hear magic like a lute being strummed, smell magic like fresh bread out of the oven, and feel magic like static electricity in the air. You get +1 MD, permanently.
  9. Ooze's ooze; you can squish and contort yourself to fit into small spaces easily; your spit can slowly dissolve through weak materials, like cardboard or burlap.
  10. Werewolf's ears; you always know what phase the moon is in, how many hours until sunset or sunrise, and one small part of your body (both of your ears, three fingers, a single kneecap) is immune to mundane attacks.
  11. Cloaker's mandibles; if you hunch down and throw a cloak or coat over yourself, you can fade into the scenery, provided you're in an at least somewhat-dark space.
  12. Hook Horror's hooks; you can climb twice as fast and twice as well as everyone else, and can cling to the sides of walls as if you were standing up straight (so you can't, say, hang on for an entire day, but several hours is probably fine).
  13. Flumph's bell; you can speak to the strange, deep creatures of dungeons and the dark; your skin can glow slightly blue if you need it to.
  14. Rakshasa's hands; any magic that would detect you lying doesn't detect your lying, unless you want it to; gain +1 CHA per humanoid leader's heart eaten (so kings, generals, and high priests count, but peasants and servants and grunts don't).
  15. Treant's crown; you gain +1 AC, you grow callouses quickly and easily, and birds will always sit on you if you let them.
  16. Naga's tongue; if you die, there is a 50% chance you will rise again, but every time you die after that, the chance halves.
  17. Vampire's skull; you gain 10 ft. of night-sight; for every cup (or 1/4 liter) of humanoid blood you drink, you regain 1 HP.
  18. Bullette's snout; any damage sustained solely to your head or face only deals half damage; your hair turns silver; you can tunnel twice as fast as a regular person.
  19. Owlbear's beak; wizardly detection devices ping like mad near you; you can hoot very loudly; both bears and owls take a shine to you.
  20. Mimic's juice; disguises are shockingly effective on you, Sherlock Holmes-style; you can lick an object to tell if it is secretly alive.
These are, basically, delta templates. And I think that's cool.

GLOGtoberfest 6, food, done.


GLOGtoberfest the 7th is adventure. I wrote a class, along similar lines to the Heresiarch, but even more so: the Rightful Heir.

That's GLOGtoberfest 7, adventure, complete.


GLOGtoberfest the 8th is mystery. This isn't content, but instead a quick analysis and a recommendation for Cavegirl's Stygian Library. The Stygian Library is much-lauded, obviously, but not in the way I want to talk about it now.

One of the enduring challenges I encounter in many of my campaigns is the question of "How do you let players uncover the answers to secrets and mysteries?" Many campaigns hinge on secrets: who murdered the Queen, how can the Dark Lord be defeated, where can the Dungeons of Doom be found. Uncovering ancient wisdom and forgotten knowledge is, in my view, an important part of the adventurer fantasy, and it's one that isn't usually done very well, in my opinion.

Usually, when there's an important secret to a campaign, it gets resolved either by A) having a prelude/setup quest where you go to a dungeon to learn the important secret (sometimes with their own prelude dungeons, ad nauseum); B) having an NPC just tell you, or have a big bad enemy drop their notebook or something, or C) just handwaving it and telling the players where to go or what to do through some not-really-diegetic way. 

These methods... work, technically, but never feel particularly good, and really tend to burst at the seams in more open sandboxy games. Most OSR games get around it by leaning into the "don't have secrets" angle, which can work, but what if you want to have secrets and be sandboxy? Well, the self-promo answer is to have a Sage in your party, but the real answer is to just play the Stygian Library.

People love the Library, we all do, but most of the reviews and commentary I've seen praises its atmosphere or its procedural level generation or its clever writing or a bunch of other stuff—but not the structural problem the Progression mechanic solves. (As a refresher: you earn Progress as you delve deeper into the Library and read more books; get enough Progress, and get the answer to a question you have, with thresholds of progress for difficulty of question.)

See, Progression gives players a mechanical, systemic way of answering questions. Not just the Big Important Campaign Questions that you can plan for ahead of time, but basically any question that comes up at any point. Players need to know where the necromancer's hidden fortress is? Take a trip to the Library! Need the secret formula to make a turbo antivenom so can you take on a turbo-Naga? Take a trip to the Library! Need to know which courtier is planning on betraying the party? Library trip!

The brilliance of the Library, structurally, is that it is an optional, risky means for players to answer questions. It can be accessed from most cities but not in the wilderness, so it takes commitment and planning, but it's not determined by the DM; it's a systemic way to solve mysteries that players are in control of. They never must go to the Library, but they always can go to the Library; it puts the onus of solving mysteries not on contriving some way to feed players information, but instead on the players deciding to take a risk and go dungeon delving. It's ingenious.

So yeah. If you want to run a sandbox game that still has mysteries and secrets to uncover, open the Library's doors to your players.

Bam, GLOGtoberfest 8, mystery, finished.

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GLOGtoberfest 6th, 7th, and 8th - Food, Adventure, and Mystery

Trying to get myself back on schedule... FOOD GLOGtoberfest the 6th is food . Here's a list of monster parts that, if you eat them, gran...