Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lakamha: A City of Tables

Occasionally, when the madness seizes us, the denizens of the GLOG Ghetto decide to spew forth ramblings on a specific topic. A challenge, if you will. It usually percolates through the assorted blogs like honey, reaching some more slowly than others. Here's my hat toss for the city challenge, with a bunch of tables that I recently used over the course of three sessions in my ongoing GLOG campaign. 

Lakamha, or "Big Water", is a large Mayan metropolis so named for the myriad aqueducts coursing and crisscrossing the hill the city slopes down, bringing sheets of white water from the rainy mountains. If the Incans gain control of the water management system, they can stop the flow of water to lower, outlying agricultural demesnes, triggering a chain of surrenders that will cascade all the way to the coast, cutting off the unconquered western edge of the Yucatan from Triple Alliance supplies and reinforcements.

If you're playing in my campaign, I'd ask you not to look at the tables below because I'm probably going to reuse parts of them. The one table you really shouldn't peep at is the Loot! table. 

Alexander Skold

Main Objective: Extract an Triple Alliance Incan infiltrator - with important information - from a neighborhood under attack. 
Other Objectives:
- Map a clear path for evacuees to reach the camp. 
- Kill Incan scouts and soldiers. 
You have 9 ticks before the building is cut off from our forces. Each time-significant encounter/detour takes a tick to resolve, and might prompt a roll for another random encounter. It takes 7 ticks to get to the building by the straightest route.

Encounter tables (1d8)
  1. Environment
  2. People
  3. Friendly
  4. Hostile
  5. Hostile
  6. Mixed
  7. Mixed
  8. Mixed
Mixed encounters - roll to get 2 other encounters that aren’t Mixed and combine. Examples below.
  1. Medical tent for wounded run by Inca - 4 soldiers on patrol, 1d4 Mayan wounded, 1d4 Mexica wounded, 2 Incan doctors. Loot!
  2. 2d4 Incan soldiers removing wounded Mayans from a collapsed building, giving them first aid, and putting them on stretchers. Loot!
  3. 2d4 Incan soldiers with 1d4 unarmed prisoners, escorting prisoners to Incan camps
  4. 1d4 unarmed civilians, one is a spy who will set next encounter to hostile ambush
Environment encounters (1d4)
  1. Burst water main - provides fresh water, but forces you to go around. Add a tick.
  2. Collapsing building! Dex save to avoid rubble, on failure, take 1d2 damage and have to scramble over or around it. Add a tick.
  3. Functioning car with seating for 4 - will shorten distance by 1d2 ticks before running out of fuel. If shot at, breaks down after 10 damage (75% chance) or explodes for 1d4 damage (25%) chance.
  4. Abandoned shop
    1. Abandoned open-air market - 50% chance of ambush by a hostile encounter. Otherwise, can scavenge 1d4 rations of fresh food
    2. Children’s toys shop  - has usable solution-powered gadgets and solution
    3. Rubber shop - outfits for disguise and 
    4. Doctor’s - scavenge medical kit with 1d4 uses (2d4 with Medicine skill)
    5. Pottery store - bowls/cups, kilns, dangerous chemicals
    6. Calendrist - accurate timekeeping materials, predictions, omens

People encounters (1d8)
  1. 1d4 armed Mayans holed up at a chokepoint, armed with rifles and 1 grenade. Intensely paranoid of all “foreign soldiers”, if convinced to help, will hold the point as long as possible.
  2. Fleeing crowd - Str save to avoid taking 1d2 damage and being pushed back a tick.
  3. 2d4 unarmed civilians, if helped, give 8 rounds of pistol (evens)/rifle (odds) ammo.
  4. Priest of Tlaloc praying at a fountain. If convinced to evacuate, will sense party’s location through water and advise them through water.
  5. 1d4 civilians carrying wounded or dead, if helped, will give clotting factor.
  6. 1d4 unarmed civilians, one is a spy who will set next encounter to hostile ambush
  7. 2d6 civilians trapped on higher floors of a burning building. If saved, give the party an introduction to a noble family.
  8. 1d4 civilians attempting to extricate a trapped kid with a wounded parent inside a collapsed building. If helped, give party access to important infrastructure

Friendly encounters (1d8)
  1. 1d4 Triple Alliance soldiers escorting 2d6 refugees to safety. If directed to avoid obstacles, earn services of random shopkeeper
  2. 4 soldiers resting in a building, 3 wounded, 1 on patrol. If helped, provide info on hidden arms cache.
  3. Ambush set by 1d6 friendly soldiers. When defused, give info on movements of enemy patrol
  4. Temporary command post set up by Triple Alliance/Mayan soldiers. Refill on 1d4 rounds of ammo, one slot of special equipment, choose next encounter from 1d4 options
  5. Wounded Mayan officer from a slaughtered division with important information which gives hints to the next random encounter. If helped, will get back to headquarters and the party gets a favor from the Mayan military hierarchy.
  6. Ome of Xipe Totec with an attendant, looking for people to be healed/put to peace.
  7. Ome of Tezcatlipoca, can provide a charm allowing for concealment
  8. Special auxiliary separated from group (50%) or only survivor (50%). If directed to safe location, owes party a favor/can introduce them to a group.
    1. Wizard (roll to generate which one)
    2. Radiomancer
    3. Biomancer
    4. Rubberist
    5. Berzerker
    6. Ome (roll to generate which one)
    7. Veteran
Hostile encounters (1d6/8) (1d8 is for when they get close)
  1. Artillery barrage
    1. Tear gas - 40’ radius, visibility 10 feet, dissipates in 6 rounds. Save vs Con or be blinded and coughing. Effects persist 1 round after exposure ends. Visible white cloud.
    2. Atlacoya’s Kiss - 40’ radius, dissipates in an hour in sunlight after 1d6 hours. Save or gain 1 Exhaustion from dehydration every round of exposure. When mixed with water and exposed to light, the water evaporates. Visible blue cloud. 
    3. Qaparqachay - 1000’ radius, dissipates in 2d4 hours. Emits a loud, wavering cacophony, making sleep impossible. Save or gain 1 Stress/hour when audible. Within 100’, Save or be deafened.
    4. Tracer round - 10’ radius, Save vs Con or be blinded for 1d4 rounds. Enemies will converge on this position in 2d6 rounds.
  2. 4 Incan soldiers, either on patrol (evens) or waiting in ambush (odds). Loot!
  3. Incan command post - contains 2d6 soldiers and a captain along with a mobile telegraph station. The captain knows where the tank is heading. 3 things of Loot!
  4. 1 TIA warlock with 3 Incan soldiers on patrol. Loot!
  5. 2 Incan soldiers carrying 2 more wounded with 1 soldier on patrol. Loot!
  6. Incan medical post guarded by 4 soldiers, with 2 medics attending to 1d4 wounded Incans. 2 things of Loot!
  7. Sniper, holed up at the top of a building, kills a visible target (evens) or misses party (odds) on first shot. Loot!
  8. Tank, rolling through the streets. Main gun deals 4d6 damage in a 20’ radius but takes a round to reload, machine gun deals 2d8 damage. Rolls at 20’/round. Cannot be damaged by small arms.

Loot! (1d6)
1. Grenade
    1. Frag nade - 2d8 damage in 10’ radius, half in 20’ radius, save for half (Cover grants advantage), 1 action before detonation
    2. Flash nade - Save vs Con if looking at the nade or be blinded, Save to end at start of round, cover means automatic pass, 1 actions before detonation
    3. Smoke nade - Emits dense smoke that reduces visibility to zero in a 20’ radius for 1d4 rounds, instant detonation
2. Flare gun with 1 colored flare loaded
    1. Yellow flare - call for reinforcements/evacuation, which arrive in a tick.
    2. Blue flare - call for artillery strike, which arrives on that location in 2d4 rounds.
3. Quipu with coded information
    1. Info on Incan infiltrator
    2. Specifics on future (evens) or present (odds) assault
    3. Location of shop which is a front for an Incan weapon cache
    4. Details of special mission the quipu’s owner was sent on
4. Ornamental object
    1. Small engraved gold shotglass
    2. Patterned blanket denoting native ayullu
    3. Tintype of the soldier’s family (evens) or partner (odds)
    4. Checkerboard ceramic bowl with red lip
5. Small silver animal
    1. Alpaca
    2. Condor
    3. Guinea pig
    4. Tapir
6. Magical objects/drugs
    1. Inti quipu - if thrown over back, wearer becomes invisible for one tick in direct sunlight. Recharges when left in darkness for a day.
    2. Ayawaska powder - if inhaled, thrown in eyes, or eaten, Save vs Con or have a seizure/hallucinate for 1d4 rounds. 50% chance to get a glimpse of the future. If mixed into water and drunk, Save vs Con. On a success, see a round of future (evens) or past (odds). On a failure, shit yourself. Add one Stress until you change your pants.
    3. Coca rocks - if crushed and snorted, remove one point of Exhaustion and can skip lunch without ill effects, advantage on initiative rolls for a tick.
    4. Black ceramic flask - can store 1 inventory slot of stuff for every day exposed to direct sunlight, subtracting one slot a day without sunlight exposure. Wide enough to fit a hand inside. Starts at 1d4 slots.
Design Notes:
These tables worked pretty well introducing situations and obstacles for the party to bypass/push through. The best part was definitely when I rolled an artillery barrage and a tank at the same time while the party was already motoring along in a car. They eventually took over and commandeered the tank, reducing the pilots into a potpourri of meat mush. 
The best situations came up when I mixed two situations together, because then I created a scene for the party to interact with, events that had their own dynamic and motion even before the party intervened. 
Since all of this material was generated as necessary to simulate the impression of a city, whenever I had to specify where the party could shelter from hostiles, I improvised shops. I need to make a building generator, complete with unique contents for each type of building. 
The "tick" timekeeping mechanism is a time abstraction. Very loosely, each tick is supposed to represent a unit of time in my in-game timekeeping system, which is still thoughts rattling in the corners of my cranium. It worked pretty well with the table to create a sense of tension on the way to the extraction.
Since the generator could blossom into several nesting dice rolls, I started to roll before I needed an encounter and built up a slight block of scenarios. That reduced the mystery of the table slightly but gave me a leg up on segueing smoothly between scenes. 
I think that each encounter should have a lasting effect on the PC's. These effects could be HP loss, insanity, death, loot, or favors, but the PC's should carry something away from each encounter. Otherwise, why did it happen?
Loot and wounds are an obvious thing to gain from hostile encounters, but what can be gained from friendly and environmental encounters? Consumables (or consumable expenditures, but those should be reserved mostly for hostile encounters), intangibles like information (both pertaining to the immediate situation/possible encounters, to later scenes, and to important NPC's), favors from all sorts of groups, access to otherwise unreachable locales, and direct assistance. 
I did absolutely no sort of table balancing. I largely operated on "do I have enough options to roll at least 1d4? Okay, good."
Speaking of balancing, I decided to have a d8 decide the frequency of encounters instead of using a huge table so that I could scale the weight of different scenarios. I could've just condensed all the possible encounters into a huge table, to reduce the number of rolls, but for a quick prep, just staffing the different tables with ideas and then using a dice to moderate the type was faster. This format leads to slower generation at the table, but offers more opportunities to tinker with the encounter tables as separate gears rather than as one behemoth.

These are not the last tables - my campaign is going to be centered in this city for some time, so expect more tables as they're created and used. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dwarves Dwarfs Dwarii

I think dwarfs very underappreciated. Here are some stereotypes I see around dwarfs I'd like to refute.

Dwarves are Boring
Dwarves are awesome. Do you know the heat conductivity of basalt in lava or how to safely handle ghost encrusted uranium ore? No? What about the magnetite-petrolate slimes that attract and then dissolve all metals and organics they get their pseudopods on, and ignite as a defense mechanism? What about the current motions of the local fault lines that are the only things keeping that vein of fossil vampires buried and hibernating?
When dwarves talk to you, they are being nice. They are keeping things relatable and attempting to remember the last 50 years of your history. If they are off by 5 years who cares? This dwarf is the only thing standing between you and some insane undead warchasses with corrupted memetic kill-pattern phosphorescent ablative carapaces that cause schizophrenic murder personalities to emerge in those who see them. His grandad locked them in an airtight adamant-lined room and he's switching out the locks. Fucking elves and their toys.

Dwarves are Drunkards
Dwarves are not drunkards. They are patient and their livers are incredible. Dwarven livers can be blown up like goddamn balloons half the size of the dwarf it came from. They have had thousands of years to perfect the art of underground mushroom hops and by god it shows in their ale. Dwarven ale to beer lovers is like oatmeal to chocolate bourbon pecan pie. One of these makes the other taste bad.
Dwarven livers store concentrations of alcohol so high that strings made out of preserved dwarven liver act as great ignition fuses for explosives or artillery shells if you can find some of those. The dwarf with you is probably still breaking down her hangover from last Saturday.

Dwarves Have a Beard Fetish
Eoin Colfer already addressed this. Dwarven head and beard hair is not actually hair. It is a large and sensitive series of vibrissae (that stuff that makes walruses so cool looking) that can detect air direction, temperature, and the relative moisture content of air. Vibrissae are extremely sensitive, so any cutting or burning causes tremendous pain. Dwarves tolerate beard grooming because whiskers snagging is unbelievably agonizing.

Dwarves Hate the Outdoors
Dwarves hate uncontrolled variables. It's necessary to know the exact structural stability of a mine to extract the maximum possible ore with the minimum of effort. It's necessary to know if any stray elvish archaotech has permuted the surrounding area. It's necessary to map the entire cave system because demon nests are tenacious and stealthy. The outdoors is a system in constant flux with lots of allergens and dwarven vibrissae get overstimulated. This is why dwarves armor their beards away from the caves and are grumpy.

Dwarves are Greedy
Dwarves understand the exact process needed to get from electrum to gold and silver. They treat the materials involved with the amount of respect they deserve. 99.999% refined gold requires huge quantities of acids, that, when combined, are so powerful they are nicknamed aqua regia (king of water). These huge quantities of acid are used to create equally large quantities of choloroauric acid (acid with dissolved gold) which is also incredibly detrimental to organic material.
You think your chemistry class is hard. Dwarves learn how to do this as part of their education. This creates a distinct appreciation for any well-made item of purified metal or an exquisitely cut gemstone as well as an incredible snobbery for such.

Dwarves Have a Metal Fetish
You're damn right dwarves have a metal fetish. They also have a rock fetish and an engineering fetish. When you live 250+ years, you have to come up with things to do and perfect or go insane.

For example, dwarves like to build things. Go google the Sagrada Familia. It'll be finished in 2026, hopefully.

Dwarves do that....upside down....over a huge underground lake full of giant mantis shrimp and catfish titans.

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