Print Page

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Thinking out loud about Procedural Generation

DunGen has been around awhile now. The theming tags are a success in making the kind of rooms & monsters used make sense together when applied, but the random placement is still lacking for what I'd like it to be. I think they need at least one more level of tagging that would help organize usage, maybe "inner" versus "outer" for each room label, and a clumping algorithm that tends to make rooms from the same theme clump together adjacently more often, with "outer" room labels being used more around the edges of clumps and inner labels more where they don't border labels from other themes. Still make it all biases and not absolute so there can be serendipitous adjacencies to spice things up. Then do something that creates explicit bosses and groups them and the bigger treasures more in "inner" rooms. Entrances could be made explicit, and be "outer" rooms. I'll need to think about algorithms to get this effect. I'd also like some sort of explicit locks and keys mechanism where some rooms have elements that are made accessible by bringing some item from another room. I'd like to have something of the vibe of the computer game "Unexplored" in that feature. Another pass through adding an attribute to every label doesn't sound like much fun to do, but I think it might be worth it for this effect. It probably would be a good idea to clump creature types somewhat as well.

 So maybe the room count is established, then the graph gets linked up. Then instead of the random rolls for each room, roll up separate lists of room labels, retaining the whole object for each, and a list of monsters (or blanks) and traps (or blanks) and quirks (or blanks) and hooks (or blanks). Sort the lists by monster theme tags and level total, or room theme and inner or outer. Then draw off of these as decks, starting by placing the entrance and several edges away the boss room or boss rooms, which should also be spread apart if of different factions. Then deal out inner room labels in rooms adjacent to boss rooms and outer labels for the entrance and adjacent rooms, and then remaining inner rooms around similar theme inner rooms and outers to fill in the gaps. Some sort of shuffle and draw might place creatures, traps etc, as objects, only rendering out to strings at the end, so the final result is editable by the DM using the tool.

 This is still more ideas than implementation, but I think something along these lines could move DunGen the next step along towards making coherent, useful procedurally generated dungeons with less tweaking needed between generation and worthwhile playability. It's concrete enough for me to start thinking more clearly about implementing it.

Another, back of the mind thing I've been thinking about is doing classic multi-level dungeons, from midi to mega size, with built in side views,  themes for different levels, and linking entrances/exits that jump you from one level map to another. This would probably make more sense to do after a rebuild along the lines above, but keeping it in mind, while working up what goes into a level.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Warding Undead - adding partial effect to the Turn Undead roll

The cleric's Turn Undead effect in OD&D is an awfully binary affair. Even in the rolled range, the result is T or nothing.  Some drama could be added by having a close miss on the roll have partial effect. Here's a possible rule: A turn roll missed by one or two points give the effect W, Warded. The cleric's holy power is having some effect on the undead but it is still contested. While the Warded condition is in effect, undead attacks that just do conventional damage have it halved, round up and undead attacks that do drains have it downgraded to dice of damage. A shadow's strength drain or a wight's single level of life drain becomes a die of damage, a spectre's two level drain adds two dice of damage while warded. So there is still a fight on, but the party is protected temporarily from the scariest effect of powerful undead, their life drain. The warding effect emanates in a 30' radius around the cleric.

So, how long does warding last? That depends on how strong you want it to be and how much mechanics are worth keeping track of. The simplest answer is one combat round. Next might be 1D6 rounds, or a round plus at the cleric's next action, there is a new roll, that either resolves the condition or continues the ward. There could be rolls against WIS or CHA to maintain concentration each round, or when damaged by an undead, or other finer grained mechanics.

I think I would go with this: the cleric can maintain the ward until choosing to reroll for resolution or damaged by one of the warded undead. While maintaining the ward, the cleric can attack but not cast spells.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Temple of Zozer

This is an example of starting from a run of DunGen, and digging in and editing the results until a usable scenario emerged. It was a basic run, so makes a midsize, unthemed dungeon for a low level party, approximately 1st-3rd in OD&D. I put in about an hour and a half making edits and figuring out what it is about. And another hour and a half making it into the blog post and revising some more. I relabeled edges, added more description & elements to rooms, moved some linking edges, customized the entrance rooms on the map to make them stand out, tweaked names, moved some items to rooms they fit better, renamed monsters, etc, to adjust it from being a hodgepodge to what it is now.

Most of the spiderkin started out as "spiders" but when I looked at it, they needed sentient agency, so the spiderkin were born. Zozer and his religion started out by rationalizing and expanding on some vague hooks. The hooks got religious themed because the preponderance of random rooms that weren't caverns happened to be religious theme rooms. 

On the tip of a peninsula stands the crumbling ruin of a lighthouse and in the caverns beneath, an ancient temple of the god Zozer who traveled the sky in his skyship. The temple is desecrated and overtaken by a Spiderkin cult (think lesser ettercaps, mostly level 1, led by a mad science inclined wizard). Some unlucky mushroom men got captured by the Spiderkin and a few who escaped and are trying to get out completely are on the wandering monster table. They might talk the PCs into rescuing their comrades from the wicked experiments of Vvixx. There are a couple of ways here to draw Zozer's attention and one way to make a distant magical travel to another place for a sequel scenario.

Location Descriptions 
1: Spiral staircase down Tp: Filled with magical darkness,
This trap can be disarmed by concealed lever in the shape of a ship's bow, 
projecting from the wall, just inside the darkness at the head of the stairs.

An incautious person might stumble and fall when stepping onto the first stair in the dark or fall if out into the open space in the middle. The drop is 30 feet.

2: Bridge in cavern A ten foot oar leaning in the corner
A ghostly scene of priests boarding a ship that flies into the sky plays out and repeats hourly.
Ts: 100 silver, Jewelled brooch worth 10 GP
Mg: Necklace of Accents

3: Fane There is a small, empty basin projecting from one wall, 
and an empty oil lamp on another. 
A healing aura will fill the room if holy water is poured 
in the basin and sacred oil lit in the lamp.

4: Cave crossed by stream
M: 3 sick zombies lurking in ambush beneath the water
Ts: Bracelet worth 480 GP

5: Fane
Empty, but for a broken basin and ugly marking scratched into the walls. 
There is are niches that used to hold oil lamps near head height on the walls.

Loose bones, about half a human skeleton, 
are around and some under, the fallen part of the stone basin.

6: Fortified cavern M: 7 spiderkin, 1 is Sivvik, a 3HD monstrous boss who wears a necklace roughly set with the four blue sacred gems (@1000GP as treasure) that fit and activate the altar in the Curtained Cavern (7)
Ts: Torc worth 20 GP, 10 silver, 4 electrum
7: Curtained cavern Hook: Stone altar shaped like a ship, 
stripped of 4 sacred gemstones.
If activated by their replacement, it will heal, cure of conditions, and emit a 30' radius Protection from Evil aura.
This will also draw the attention of the diminished god of the Sky Ark, Zozer.

8: Pentagonal room
Ts: Illuminated Hymnal of Zozer worth 550 GP
Mg: Potion of Levitation
Hook: Rare imported spices in small jars, 
would be very valuable sold to nobles or rich merchants. 
Enough to spice about 100 meals richly, 
200 GP is the maximum value they might sell for.

9: Chapel
Tp: leg breaker pit near entrance
M: 2 spiderkin hiding behind statues
Ts: 20 gold
Mg: Mace +1, +2 vs undead held by statue of Zozer
The mace, Zozer's Fury, will draw the attention of Zozer,
and give its wielder dreams of restoring his power

10: Chamber M: 4 spiderkin pacing, one is poisonous and 2HD

11: Laboratory M: Vvixx, spiderkin wizard 2 and 2 spiderkin assistants performing weird experiments on a mushroom man wired to a strange machine, 
with two more horrified mushroom men in a cage.
Vvixx wears the Ring of Protection +1, with a crown shaped like a winged golden ship.
Ts: 500 silver, Jewelled box worth 120 GP, 40 electrum
Mg: Strong healing potion that can cure spider poison

12: Stream Torchlit by ghostly torches
A skittering voice in the dark
Tp: spiked pit, triggered by opening door
M: 2 unquiet spirits, incorporeal, drain 1D4 constitution (recovered at 1 point per hour) on a hit, 1 HD, AC 0, vulnerable to holy water, turn as 1HD undead
M: 1 water spider
Ts: Ring worth 878 GP beneath the water
Mg: Healing potion lodged amongst some detritus along the bank

13: Stockroom Remains of food stored in amphorae, 
4 red jars of sacred oils (fire plus holy water effect if set alight), 
and moth eaten vestments.
Hook: inscribed pillar
The pillar remains from previous use as a temple. 
The inscription, if deciphered, is in the ancient tongue of the Primacy of the Sky Ark, 
effectively a scroll of a spell that when spoken will transport all in the room to the Sacred Sky Ark, 
a place of holy power, now desecrated and occupied by unholy enemies.

14: Cave with pool Tp: slippery oil trap on sloped floor, 
triggered by tiny earth elemental that looks like a rock, 
would make victims slide into pool and risk drowning
Ts: 5 x 10 GP gem

15: Lair A crumbled lighthouse tower. It shows signs of a sea bear having laired here. 
The sea bear is out on a hunt and won't be back for 4D12 hours. 
A corridor leads away into the remains of the curtain wall.

blocked tunnel 7: Curtained cavern to 3: Fane
channel 1: Spiral staircase down to 3: Fane
rope climb 8: Pentagonal room to 3: Fane
crawlway 2: Bridge in cavern to 7: Curtained cavern
archway 13: Stockroom to 3: Fane
narrow hallway 6: Fortified cavern to 8: Pentagonal room
empty room 12: Stream to 2: Bridge in cavern
barrel vault 5: Fane to 2: Bridge in cavern
secret tunnel 4: Cave crossed by stream to 1: Spiral staircase down
subterranean river 11: Laboratory to 3: Fane
subterranean river 14: Cave with pool to 2: Bridge in cavern
long tunnel 10: Chamber to 6: Fortified cavern
corridor with collar of spikes trap to deter the seabear 15: Lair to 1: Spiral staircase down
passage blocked by huge corpse 9: Chapel to 4: Cave crossed by stream
door 6: Fortified cavern to 7: Curtained cavern
stream 14: Cave with pool to 4: Cave crossed by stream
winding subterranean river 2: Bridge in cavern to 3: Fane
spiked door 10: Chamber to 14: Cave with pool

Wandering Monsters
1: 2 least demonspawn, one is malicious, both have a spiderlike aspect
2: 1 Yellow Slave cultist waiting for orders:
Othoix Boneshaver: charismatic fighter 2, charmed by the Spiderkin wizard Vvixx
3: 5 mushroom men evading capture, one is ribald
4: 3 giant spiders guarding, one is infectious
5: 4 spiderkin

Possible hook: The wizard Whaltis hired the party to retrieve the Ring of Protection from Zozer Caverns. 

Basic spiderkin are 1HD, look like a cross between people and spiders, and have chitinous hide equivalent to leather armor.  The spiderkin have a poisonous bite they can employ in the round following a successful grapple. Each spiderkin can use this bite once per day.

Organizations involved:
The Sky Dancers - descendants of the cult of Zozer
The Yellow Slaves - Spiderkin cult

Settlements nearby:
Henoxcross, population: 41, middling, half a day's sail to the northwest. Dark Jarfer, population: 126, wealthy, four days walk to the southeast. Chael, population: 50, middling, two days sail to the southwest.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019