Saturday, January 23, 2021

Megadungeon School of Magic!

I am playing the excellent and wonderful Inkenfell, it is a RPG adventure that happen entirely in a school of magic, a uncontrollable magic force have been unleashed and the spirits of mundane items awaken and turn them into whimsical monsters. So you fight flowers, floor tiles, chairs, lanterns, books and other mundane items as you explore the school and uncover it secrets. This made me think that you could could play a magical school like a megadungeon or turn a megadungeon into a magical school. 

You can craft your own megadungeon school or, in the spirit of my post about playing the orcs moms in the classic B2 Keep of the Borderlands module, you could hack a megadungeon to turn it into a gigantic school and play characters who study there. 

If you craft your own megadungeon school of magic it could be fun to use the Ikenfell formula: you craft a gigantic school and you add a ton of secret areas, then you unleash a magical force in it. At the beginning of the campaign the school is your "ordinary" whimsical school of magic, the players can explore it freely, only expecting danger in specific mysterious areas. But once they gain a level or two you escalate things by unleashing a wild magical force that turn all the school areas into dangerous ones. That magical force could be enchanting people, animals and items, awakening spirits or opening portals to import monsters. The end goal of the campaign would probably be to seal that magical force and to make the school relatively safe again. The main advantage of this formula is that the player can familiarize themselves with the school before it become dangerous.  

But if you feel like hacking, to create your school, you could take your favorite megadungeon and turn some of it rooms into school's facilities like classrooms, cafeteria, dormitory, lecture hall, library, courtyard, headmistress office, etc... And turn some of it monsters or occupants into teachers, librarians and the ground keeper. The big difference is that instead of starting with a safe school you start with a dangerous one. Maybe the megadungeon school was once safe and have only recently become unsafe. The campaign goal could still be to make the school safe again or it could be to prevent a dangerous force from awakening and making things even worse. Or you can simply play in sandbox mode and see what kind of goals will emerge. Even if the school is dangerous from the beginning I would assign some areas of the mega dungeon as no or low encounters zones. These warded zones could grow or shrink depending of the characters actions.

As for the characters themselves? They could all play young magic users but it would be more interesting to have a variety of classes or archetypes. Maybe a class less system like Macchiato Monsters could be a better fit to run that kind of campaign. But then again it could be somekind of school for adventurers that teach fighting, thievery, thaumaturgy and wizardry. 

Let try to turn a dungeon room into a class room, I present you Barrowmaze High, School of Necromancy

Room 103 (original text)

A Runic Golem (1) appears as a large pile of runic tablets in the northwest corner of the room. It will flicker to life with magical energy when the PCs proceed into the crypt.

A large elaborate mirror on a pedestal is positioned near the southern wall of this room surrounded by burial alcoves. Five feet in from the mirror is a bottomless pit. Anyone vain enough stand in front of the mirror will fall in. 

Burial Alcoves: hexagonal, disturbed remains. Content: 87ep, Sapphire (75gp) and a Tome of Clear Thought. 

Classroom 103 

The Runic Golem is clearly a teacher and is teaching magical runes and writing. The mirror work like a black board and is sometimes used as a test. Falling into the bottomless pit take you back to the study or detention room. The burial alcoves contain the remain of past students, you can cast "speak with dead" to get help for your assignment or to gossip. The one with the Sapphire probably have a sidequest. The Tome of Clear Thought can be borrowed by asking the teacher. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cosmic Usage Dice

The Black Sword Hack is about the end of the world but there is no pacing mechanic to trigger it end.
I guess that you could establish that reaching level 10 trigger the end but let try something that follow the fiction and the character's actions. 

Law and Chaos have a Cosmic Usage Die

  • They could both start at d8 but you can also start with a unbalanced world. 
  • If a cosmic usage die go under d4 or above d12, it trigger the end of the world. 
  • When both cosmic dice are equal, the Cosmic Balance is in equilibrium.

At the end of an advenutre: 

  • Test the usage die of the defeated or hindered faction: on a result of 1-2 it cosmic die step down. 
    • The lost was extra hurtful (the death of a champion, etc): roll with disadvantage
    • The lost was minimal: roll with advantage.
  • Test the usage die of the triumphant faction: on a maximum result it step up. 
    • The trimph is exalted or glorious: roll with advantage
    • The trimph is minimal: roll with disadvantage
When factions fight each other without the intervention of the player characters: roll their usage dice, the faction that roll higher win the conflict. Result of 1-2 are a disaster. 

So aligned players can cause the end of the world by crushing the opposed faction too much (lowering it cosmic die under d4) or by being too triumphant (rising their faction cosmic die over d12). 

Optional rule: Cosmic Momentum.
  • When your faction's cosmic die become the highest (or step up?), your Doom dice step up by one for the duration of an adventure.
  • For characters aligned with Balance this happen when the cosmic dice reach the same value.

Black Sword Hack actual play

I started a campaign of the Black Sword Hack, a game by Kobayashi made with the Black Hack and that use Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion cycle as it inspiration. 

What attracted me to the game is that instead of proposing you to play in the Young Kingdoms like how Stormbringer and later Elric did, Black Sword Hack propose you to craft your own doomed world and to save or destroy it. 

Personally I think that this is the best way to write a RPG about a work of fiction: give the group the tools to craft their own setting inspired by the main tropes and elements of the original work. This way the campaign is not constrained by the canon and it don't feel like you are playing in someone else pre-made campaign world.  

A big part of the fun was the creation of our doomed world. To do so we used the random tables provided in the book but instead of just the GM (me) rolling on them, I asked in turns each players to roll two dice and to choose the result they prefer. This way we were able to collectively create the world. I feel like this a great way of creating players engagement into the world they are going to save or DOOM. 

  • The forces of Order are championed by a network of brains enclosed in engraved bronze casings. 
  • Their troops are an army of automatons made in the image of angels. 
  • The world suffer from earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • The Balance stronghold is a refuge built underground by an advanced civilization.

  • The Nothern Raiders are declining and favorable to Chaos. 
  • The Dust Empire is warmongering and allied with Law. 
  • The Last City of a Dying Specie is divided and favorable to Chaos. 
  • The Grey Spire Dominion is declining and favorable to Order. 
  • The Land of the Black Pyramid is declining and favor diplomatic solutions. 

  • The Rapier of Devouring Horde is brutal and call for action. It inflict the STR of it wielder as damages. It is made of Quicksilver. When it kill it transfer back d6HP to it wielder. It can be found on the Moon! 
  • The Long Sword of Splitting Death is silent and don't care about it wielder. It inflict the WIS of it wielder as damages. It is made of rusted metal and stone. When it kill it absorb memories. It can be found on a floating Island.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Humpday RPG Show and it blogs review is back!

A RPG podcast I love that talk about posts from the RPG blogsphere. I like it because I don't follow old school blogs anymore and listening to it often inspire me to blog. So hopefully the RPG blogs posts review will reignite my desire to blog. Check out the Humpday RPG Show!