Monday, June 10, 2019

Familiar ideas for Sorrow in Haven

People love their familiars, and well they should! But more often than not they get ignored and just show up when needed. Mechanics have been built around this idea to match how the players play. Which at first irked me, but then I got this idea ...

Normal animals walking around in Haven aren't going to cause anyone to lose their mind. But monsters, even "tame" monsters cause the citizenry to get nervous and possibly even freak out and start calling for the Hammers to "Destroy the Demon!"

Walking Your Familiar
If a familiar is near the wizard that is their master and generally minding it's own business and the wizard isn't doing anything particularly odd or alarming, people just tend to not notice it. If Edward the wizard is walking around town with his Astral Beast, which is a mind-bending creature from the astral plane, it is just a wizard walking his weird dog. If Edward tells his beat to investigate an alleyway, however, folks will (probably) notice there is a freaky unnatural creature skulking about. This ruling cannot be used to "get away" with things ... it doesn't make the familiar invisible, and anyone directly interacting will notice it. It just lets the wizard walk around town with his weird-ass pet.


There. That was easy. But familiars aren't exactly normal creatures, even if they look like one. Your cat isn't a cat - it is a special cat. A magical cat. Not entirely on this place. Familiars are imbued with an intelligence and arcane possibilities that indicate they MUST have a connection to the Patchwork Kingdom like their master. In fact, their conduit is intertwined with that of the wizard. That makes them otherworldly, and they must have their own desires and goals. Familiars all want something, and if asked to do something they don't really want to do, they will ask for a payment, which they all call a gift.

Familiar Gifts
If the wizard asks a task to their familiar and they don't feel like doing it, or know the wizard needs them to do this thing, they will ask for a gift. If payment is not made, they may wander off for 1d6 days or more and sulk. The gift is particular to the familiar's tastes and desires. The gift may be presented immediately, or may be given later, but not too much later. Promising a gift and refusing it may have dire consequences.


Sample Gifts
A quick chart using your favorite 1d12 to get things going. Don't over-use this idea, just when things are important or interesting.
  1. A bowl of milk from a Black Goat
  2. A sip of the wizard's blood (1d4 VIT)
  3. A silver coin stolen from an honest person
  4. A lock of golden hair from a virgin
  5. Knowledge of a dark secret, suitable for blackmail
  6. A vial of tears mixed 
  7. A cake of ash from a burned contract
  8. Some fancy new clothes (probably a hat, maybe a vest)
  9. The teeth of a hanged man
  10. To be carried around like a baby for 1 week
  11. To bite an innocent child
  12. A crown of ivy plucked from a grave under the full moon




Monday, May 20, 2019

The Cosmology of Eradu

Some "common knowledge" about the cosmos of Sorrow in Haven.


Realm of Light
This is Eradu, the world of Man, the seat of Haven the Perfect City, a place of Order. While things outside the Dome of Haven are a terrible and dangerous mess, this is the prime dimension, the material plane. Eradu and her moons were created by the World God Xin in ancient times and the current state of things is because of the vile Phoenix Legion, who slew the World God but failed to bring about the end of Eradu itself.

Underworld
Another dimension of being that lies right next to the Realm of Light. It pushes through and grows like a fungus or mold, corrupting and twisting things. These tears in reality lead to the Underworld itself, a place of madness and perverted order. These "dungeons" are part of a greater problem.

The Astral Plane
The Astral surrounds the Realm of Light and the Underworld and, many suspect, all places. Most things have a form in the astral, people as shadows of themselves, sleeping wrapped in their silver cords. Wizards can step into the aether of the Astral, a gift or curse of their connection to the Patchwork Kingdom. From the Astral a wizard could travel to any other dimension.

Gloom
A filthy shadow cast by the Realm of Light cast upon the Astral. It is a place of darkness and blood. The gloom occasionally creeps into the foulest places of the Realm of Light - most often the residue of a wizard travelling there. Wizards attempting to see into the Astral often 'miscast' themselves into the Gloom. The reasons for this are unknown, the outcomes are often unfortunate.

The Patchwork Kingdom
Wizards have a connection to the Patchwork Kingdom - a hole in their soul - that allows the power and chaos of this otherworldly realm to be channeled and controlled - at least up to a point. It is a rarely glimpsed place of unrelenting chaos; pure energy of form and thought; demonic nightmares and creatures strange beyond comprehension. It is a place of demons.

The Courts
Reference of the Fairy Courts, Lands of the Fey (also Faerie, fae, fyrae, and all manner of spellings have been found) are common in the tales of children, drunk, and adventurer alike. Elves of all manner, hobgoblin, bogarts, and bogeymen run amok, beautiful people offering delicious food and unexpected wine, and a war so ancient that everything is said to be a pawn. If the five courts (Summer, Winter, Spring, SUmmer, and Moonlight) even exist, be wary if things seem too idyllic.

Star Realms
Somewhere beyond Erau, not exactly in the Realm of Light, hiding in the darkness between the infinite stars, are the Star Realms. The Old Gods, if they exist or ever existed, wait here sleeping. Their avatars can sometimes be seen searching the night skies, looking for worshipers, casting their strange repeating melodic messages. Members of the Esoteric Society claim that in the most ancient texts Eradu was part of a vast network and the Star Realms were but a moment away. 

Sigil and the Variance
Adventurers sometimes run across rumors of a place called Sigil, a city in the heavens at the center of the universe. They also find references to the Variance, some sort of subtle shifts in Realm of Light and perhaps elsewhere. Talk of divergent streams and parallel lines, the appearance of odd mathematics and references to the Machine Core; these are signs of Sigil and her three rulers: The Lady of Pain, The Lady of Suffering, and the Lady of Dreams.



Rumors Around Haven

What is happening Haven right now?

Dungeon Goodness
1. Sorrow has been rumbling! The vermin at the Block have multiplied and the Hammers have been keeping a goblin infestation under control. Rumors that the Recasting on Jubilation woke the dungeon up.

2. The Gentlemen of Success (GDD 638 - North Gate) have made a concerted expedition into the Sorrow! On their last venture they spoke of the Great Halls beneath the Gauntlet ... a place of giants.

3. The Night Runners (GDD 719 - Smouldering Wharf) leadership has had a mighty blow - a confirmed TPK of their most senior members a dungeon on the wharf. The new crew is continuing the contract, but their standing among the Guild is in question.

Political Nonsense
4. With the Jubilation celebration over and Summer in full swing, the Collective of Farm Guilds is throwing their weight around, and many of the non-collective guilds are considering retribution. 

5. The Hammers have a new commander! Redzik the Wise has retired to a country estate and now Ophelia Crownhammer (formerly of the North-central Branch) has the Gavel of Justice. Petrik and Asgud (Lieutenants inside Haven) are strong supporters, but the other three Lieutenants of luke-warm at best. Levin Gasoux now in charge of the North-central Branch is said to have had several public arguments with her.

6. A new deacon, Wendell Worthington, has been making a name for himself in Old Town among the nobles. The Church has suggested that his rhetoric of Divine Right is not in alignment with current doctrine, but his longstanding charitable works (with hearty donations from various noble houses) are highly valuable. Not all of the nobles houses agree with his statements

Weird Shit
7. A ship, tattered and beaten with no obvious crew is floating on the edge of the Dome, wandering in and out. No-one has taken it upon themselves to investigate.

8. A young woman was found dead near the Wall covered in inexplicable injuries some alchemists are calling "chem-burns". A nearby tower was reported to have been "taken over for a short while by  some sort of gang". The two incidents may be related, but without knowledge of the teen (a Jane Doe) and a lack of identification of the gang (well armed from one report) no more is known.

9. A rogue wizard has flooded a field in New Hope village after an apparent conflict with the elderly farmer who was offering him board at her farmhouse. Some claim this ties in with a well in Quail Point overflowing with rancid filth, but nothing has been confirmed. The wizard has since disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown. 

10. On two separate occasions, mysterious floating women in golden armor with flowing blue robes have whisked away the recently dead claiming to take them to "a better place". The Hammers are actively searching for more information, as one of their own was taken up. The Magistarium is turning a portion of their efforts on research as well. On both occasions the strangers disappeared in a flash of "wan green light that smelled of foreign spices".

Outside The Dome
11. A Storm Titan was seen on the horizon, surrounded by a pair of tornadoes. Wall Wardens report that the Titan looked right at them and even pointed before disappearing into the mountains northwest of the Derembel Forest and Trogdic Hills.

12. The Spiced Winds, smelling of clove, cinnamon, persimmon, and plum, have started. This good omen is though to be a sign that the year will be bountiful ... but on the farthest horizon those that watch the Endless Grey say the Bitter Storm is boiling with more lightning than usual - and great shadows have been seen dancing among the thunderheads.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Magic is Hella Dangerous

I was never quite down with the Vancian magic system of traditional RPGs. Eventually I read Vance and it made a lot more sense, but the game mechanics never quite matched the feeling. Conan had crazy sorcerers, but classic fantasy RPG magic-users just had a list of things they could do. And the term "magic-user" was just awful. Clever wizard players would end up doing weird logical arguments about what a spell meant, which is boring at the table. I always wanted magic to be weird and personal and unexpected and crazy and, more than anything else DANGEROUS.

If we step back for a moment and think about what a world with "classic" wizards look like they are basically academics. If anyone could potentially learn wizardry then the world would be very different. Eventually magic just becomes/replaces technology. Uhg. Boring. Robots and trains and communicators and just fucking shoot me. Magic missile was kind of cool until everyone had it. In 5e low-level wizards (et. al.) are walking guns.

Sure, you can wrap role playing and setting and everything around it, but it still never comes across as dangerous. Wild magic came into the fold. Interesting. The Deck of Many Things and the Wand of Wonder? Cool - but a smart player would just burn that shit and walk away.

I really dug on Ars Magica's idea of crafting spells that suit your needs. But again - danger. If there is just a chance of shit going wrong that is also just purely random chance. DCC did a pretty good job of making things much more interesting, but it is still Vancian magic and wizards pretty much dominate the game.

If you like those things, cool. Not me. Ages ago I added in "free casting" with the chance of things going wrong. It was a massively clunky add-on to D&D/Hackmaster. Eventually I wrote the system we are using in Sorrow in Haven.  Check it.


  1. The basics: an opposed roll (like everyhting else): 2d6+arcane vs 2d6+difficulty.
  2. The spell is built by the player taking looking at a chart and figuring out range, target, duration, and effect.  Effects outside of direct numbers (like 3d of damage) are a bit subjective and must be related to the wizard's focus (more on that below)
  3. Total everything up from the chart and that is the difficulty.
  4. Chances are, a character's arcane attribute will be in the 3-6 range. Difficulty for "average" spells float around 10, but have no ceiling if the player keeps piling on effects

The character has a few "foci". These are effectively words or phrases they must base the spells they cast. For example, in a recent set of games, a wizard with "Barrier of Steel" used it to cast up a steel wall and is working on casting a spell to make their skin steel. Both are super valid.

Now the danger/risk part comes in when you look at the possible results

Action Roll (that 2d6 opposed biz mentioned above) is a Success, the spell goes off. There are benefits for rolling up a Critical or Legendary Success, but those aren't interesting for this. If the spell Fails, there is a chance some Magical Chaos shows up. On a Critical Fail Magical Chaos definitely happens. on a Legendary Failure ALL THE MAGICAL CHAOS happens. At once.

Magical Chaos is represented by a number of cards. One card is presented per focus the wizard has (and some rules for multiple wizards and the like). The players can see the names of the magical chaos, but not what they do. If Magical Chaos happens, they choose a card and deal with the consequences.

The player can spend some of their character's Endurance (stamina)to improve their chances (as with all Action Rolls). They can also spend their Vitality (causing themselves actual wounds) to improve chances of success. This is where the choice and risk come into play.

If they spend too much END and VIT to make sure the spell definitely absolutely goes off, they have weakened themselves for future encounters (think of it as spending you Hit Points). If they don't spend enough there is not just a chance of failure, but a chance of failure with something going WRONG.

So what the hell is Magical Chaos? The players have encountered this twice so far.

One time the wizards tongue swelled up into a huge worm while their mouth disappeared. They had to choose to bite off their own tongue or suffocate. In the end some clever dagger-work did the trick and neither resulted.  Role playing to the rescue!

Another time Tiger Mott (a famous wizard of GDD Chapter 938 - the Extravagant Philosophers) cast a spell and all his skin sloughed off. All of it. Beneath the skin he had transformed into a porcelain mannequin. He ended up being even stranger than before - knowing that a single critical attack will shatter his fragile body. Role playing to the ... that was MY character. That sucked, but Tiger sure is interesting now :)

Magic is dangerous. People fear it because if it messes up, monsters can come through and destroy the world.

Magic is powerful. A wizard can attempt to cast anything they can think of, but if they over-reach things go wrong (see Magic is dangerous).

Magic is magical. It is unpredictable and creative instead of a list of things. It has strange effects and often unknown consequences and, at least for non-wizards, it is mysterious and weird.

How does this work in play?  Really well!  It takes a new wizard player a session or two to wrap their heads around it, but it works and encourages creativity.

END!



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Environment of Adventure

Adventure Biz
After much dicking around in the Lost Catacombs of St. Brigit, including
  • finding her sundered-yet-alive-yet-dead body being tortured by weird energy
  • meeting 2 of the 4 "deacons", killing 1 of them
  • discovering that deacon Wentworth has left the dungeon (uh oh)
  • free the four sister-queens of Elesia (imprisoned by Wentworth)
  • and defeating a summoned monster that was way too tough for them
the party has returned to Haven in the middle of the Jubilation celebration, during which, on midsummer, the Dome shall be re-cast.  It has been fun and they've got a lot left to do back down in the Underworld, but what I want to talk about is that last bullet and how they did it and why it is important (at least to me, and possibly other GMs)

Killing the Demon
The crew was trapped in the underworld by a demon summoned in the entrance by some bad guys (details irrelevant for this discussion but worth another post some time later because it is all about conspiracies in the urban adventures!). This particular entry way was trapped with mondo-destructo lasers, the trap triggered in a specific and repeatable manner.

The players decided to use this trap to their advantage. That is the important part. The dungeon environment needs to have things to interact with. Not just traps that stab a few points of END/HP away from the characters or inconvenience them (stupid pit traps); more than drink from this fountain and gain/lose a stat; things to fiddle with. Things that are memorable. Things to play with!

This particular trap was one of those things. They knew it was a trap. They knew there was a way around it. A character died trying to get by it, but everyone knew what was happening. They didn't bypass it with a die roll, they figured it out through play. Some will argue that this is boring - and for some stuff it is. The "i search the door" thing gets old, and if the GM dings you with a poison needle because you "didn't search the hinges where the poison needle was" is extra lame. By interacting with this trap and figuring it out the players not only remembered it, but later on decided to use it.

Through some clever spell use - Edward the Wizard carved his mandala of Barrier of Steel into one of the gravehounds that he had charmed and sent it running into the room. It exploded into s a huge steel wall. While the demon bashed at the wall (after his sweet TPK-level breath weapon was deflected) another character ran into the room and triggered the trap. 10d6 of laser damage. Not enough?  they did it again! The players used not just their character's bits and bobs, but clever planning and role playing (the guy who is without fear was the one who ran in) to bypass a challenge, but use the dungeon itself. I was so happy.

This demon should have FUCKED UP the party. If they would have faced it directly I expect at least 3/5 characters would have died. This was brilliant. Another awesome GM monster defeated because the players are treating big-ass monsters like this as challenges, not as fights. It was great!

Summary
  • Give the players things to play with in the dungeon environment
  • Monsters are challenges, not all of which need to be fought to defeat

Class Groups
When a character chooses a class, they also roll 1d6 to determine which group/organization within that class they belong to. These have no mechanical effect, but give the player some jazz to role play with.

1d6
Explorer
Paladin
Scoundrel
Templar
Warrior
Wizard
Type
Club
Creed
Ring
Order
School
Lineage
1
 Tusk's Historians 
 Golden Vanguard 
 Alabaster and Wine 
of St. Bjern
Charidemuth
Bringers of Storm
2
Tomb Raiders
Knights of Valor
Murder Hobos, Inc.
of St. Blün
Blade and Board
Dusk-bound
3
Eagle and Shark
 Knights of Scions 
Night Carolers
of St. Brigit
Children of Krom
Promaethean
4
League of Toth
Silver Legion
Secret Mouse
of St. Lith
Munkhousun Society
 Skyward Watchers 
5
Devil's Horns
Black Sentinels
Red Ghosts
 of St. Osgüd 
 Brotherhood of Blood 
Unseen Servants
6
Your Betters
Iron Brigade
The Viscounts
of St. Raster
Sisters of Battle
 Patchwork Knights 

A few selections ...

Devils’ Horns
Thrill seekers of the highest order. The Devil’s horns have an extravagant clubhouse where they regularly throw wild parties. New discoveries are always an excuse for a party, but so is simple survival. More than one Devil’s party has been broken up by the Hammers when some of their more esoteric guests have gotten out of control. They have a reputation for ignoring the conventions of society and walking the edge of heresy.

Black Sentinels
The Black Sentinels hide their faces from society under black hoods to avoid the complications of their sworn duty - to root out witches and sorcerers. They are the oldest of the creeds and can trace their origins to the founding of the Chancery. Each member of this creed must be blooded in a witch hunt, suffering hexes and curses to protect their fellows. Their true identities are rarely known outside of the Chancery.

Murder Hobos, Incorporated
Their name causes most to look on them disdainfully, but as the Murder Hobos take nothing seriously they find the sour looks quite amusing. This ring helps perpetuate the stereotype that adventurers, particularly members of the GDD, are awful morally bankrupt folks. They think this is hilarious.

Unseen Servants
Where most wizards are ostentatious in their dress and manner, the Unseen Servants prefer subtlety, quiet reflection, and deep contemplation.  Many have taken a vow of silence except when casting spells. Unseen Servants are preferred advisors to the noble houses because of their nature.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Adventures, V2 Updates, and the Revised Encumbrance System

Adventures!
Since the last major adventure update, a TON of stuff has happened. Here is a summary of the recent adventure, each chapter is an actual session of play:

Chapter 1

  • Jordan Klem is hired as a henchman
  • The crew meets Hellen of the Black Leg Gang
  • Learn of the turf war between the BLG and the Serpent’s eyes
  • Learn of Teluni’s Rest and the Dungeon Kings (Guild 111)
  • Meeting with Ingref and the Ageless Vaults
  • Jordan is affected by Astral interference from Jacob
  • Learned of Petey and his mercenaries wearing false skin
  • Confront Hellen with her love letters to Abby (from the Dungeon Kings)

Chapter 2

  • Spent some time dicking around in Cowtown
  • Gathered information and contacts at the Exalted Hound
  • Finds out about the Slippery Begonia
  • Brutal fight with Serpent’s Eyes
  • Find connections between Serpents Eyes, Black Leg Gang, and Dungeon Kings
  • Take on Jerry as a henchman and his debt to Nico Forte
  • Jordan is getting worse
  • Enter Taluni’s Rest

Chapter 3 [the last session notes on the blog a few posts down]

  • Get messed up by something big and shadowy and magical
  • Pick up a strange egg, keening hound?
  • Find several graves, including one that seems to be related to St. Brigit
  • Rescued from certain doom by the Hammers and the Windward Pistoleers
  • Jordan Blackwater, insane now, escaped the templar
  • The bar was attacked, Hellen perished, but had a letter for the crew
  • Some time spent at the Chancery of Arbitration to deal with the bounty on the crew’s heads put there by Serpent’s Eyes
  • Visit from Killington from the Gentlemen of Success (senior GDD chapter)

Chapter 4

  • Found more about the Serpent’s Eyes leadership
  • Interrogation and a new ally at a Buns Shop
  • Discovered the Ageless Vault
  • Spent quite a bit of time working on deciphering the letter from Abby to Hellen

Chapter 5

  • Massive Serpent’s eyes activity at the Vault
  • Discovered the TRUE entrance
  • Jacob is killed by defense mechanicsm
  • Iggy has his eyes put out and puts what are expected to be Brigit’s eyes in his head
  • Gain entrance to the False Tomb
  • See a congregation of the dead
  • Approached by a blue creature named Beetle

Chapter 6

  • Beetle trades a sack containing Edward and some information for a pretty music box and a memory from Forval
  • Find a strange scrying pool that is also a gate to another place and time?
  • Encounter the Defiler Lord and his Masked Defiler adherents
  • Parley with them
  • Massive battle with the Congregation of the dead and Deacon Ramirez
  • Retrieve the arm of St. Brigit
  • The masked defilers are following and watching

Chapter 7

  • Serpent Eyes found the real Vault Entrance
  • This Dungeon is growing, it's probably an entrance to Sorrow
  • We find several interesting books
  • Deacon Thrum gives us lots of information about Sorrow
  • We find an elevator and go down approximately 1 level

Chapter 8

  • Happening this Friday night - who knows what will transpire!


Sorrow in Haven V2
Things are moving along at a reasonable pace. The Players section of the rules are nearing completion.

  • need to flesh out some of the "flavor text" for the classes, specifically the organizations for each class and a bit about them. Using this to add 'implied setting' directly into the rules
  • building out the equipment section a bit more without being an endless list of shit
  • The rules for action resolution have been tidied and simplified - we dropped a few fiddly things and after a play session everyone agreed that they didn't really miss them
  • the two magic chapters are on deck, followed by the rules for Followers (Henchmen and hirelings)
  • review and clean up the combat chapter
  • the "reaction rules" are being cleaned up
  • adding chapter for Encounters - they don't always lead to combat
  • segmenting some rules and flavor into 3 chapters: Urban, Wilderness, Underworld
  • going to focus these sections on player-facing needs and keep GM stuff out for now 

Chapters, by the way, are sometimes a page long, sometimes two. Only a few of them span more than that. I'm making a point to spend at least 8 hours a week working on this, trying to write or think about things almost every day. Like a writing month that never ends :) I'm targeting end of April for a the complete Players Section.

Once I'm set with the Players section, I'll deep dive into the GM section. I'm going to try and translate all of my at-table activity into rules/descriptions as well as flesh out some of the details

Encumbrance Rules
Everyone hates encumbrance rules. But how much junk your character is carrying around is important. What doesn't work (and isn't fun) is totaling up the weight of everything a character is carrying and where they are carrying it and maintaining that every hour. it suuuuucks. That is why HM4e had the "Encumbrance Audit" rule, which was basically the GM saying "fuck you" to players who didn't do the book keeping.

What works, though? Slots. Like in the Diablo games. I've used some version of this previously, and in the last few years several games use something similar (Black Hack, Veins of the Earth come to mind). SO here is how it works in Sorrow in Haven.

Containers
Gear Containers from the Character Sheet
Every character has a Primary Container with 9 slots in a 3 x 3 grid. They also have 5 small containers, each with 3 slots. The containers are abstract concepts, not meant to be actual continers like backpacks or pouches.

Slots
Small items take up 1 slot, medium 2 slots, and large 3 slots.  Slots for a specific item must be adjacent in a single container. A few things, like armor, can take up more than 3 slots. Slots are an abstraction of weight, bulk, and access. For example, you can carry more than 1 dagger in a slot, but if you plan on using them in combat or having easy access to them, they need to be a in a single slot.

Ephemera
This is for things that don't take up a slot. A piece of paper, an earring, and small stuff like that. These don't "count against you" for encumbrance.

Calculating Encumbrance
Anyone can use the 9 slots in their primary container with no fear of running afoul any encumbrance rules. As soon as they starting using the small containers, the rules trigger.

Encumbrance points = (# of small containers being used, even a single slot) - size modifier (all characters are medium, so this is 1) - STR action modifier.

Example: 2 small containers, STR action modifier +0 ... 2 (containers) -1 (size medium) -0 (STR mod) = 1 encumbrance point.

Dungeon Cart model I put together ... it also has a flag
but didn't have it attached when I took this photo
If a character has at least 1 Encumbrance Point, they are considered Encumbered. Each Encumbrance point is -1 to ALL ACTION ROLLS. Being encumbered will also impact other things - like being able to climb certain things, what happens if they fall into deep water, and so on, but the -1 penalty is what makes everyone pay attention.

Does it Work?
Mechanically it is a breeze. In actual play it works because players have quick visual cues as to how much they are carrying and if they are going to have any penalties. So far, players do everything they can to avoid that Action Roll penalty, which is exactly the point of the entire system - awareness and ease of use!

Players are making use of followers (Henchman Jerry carries stuff for the group) and we even have the first "dungeon cart" in play to haul stuff around. It works and isn't confusing and is the least amount of book keeping I've seen with an encumbrance system than has the feel I like. That decision to keep some stuff and leave the rest behind can be a Hard Choice ™, which is perfect.




Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Organizing Dungeon Events

I love events as part of the 'random encounter' tables.  They can add so much to a dungeon
  • evocative sights and sounds
  • clues as to what is happening
  • tension builders
  • NPC encounters
  • faction play
  • and whatever else you can think of
In the Gigadungeon Sorrow there are
  • Levels: you know and love them already!
  • Layer: these are a discrete collection of dungeon levels (although there may only be 1 level)
  • Regions: a collection of layers that have a common thread
In the end, I've got multiple tables. Let's look at one set of tables

Lost Haven Events - things that could happen anywhere within the Lost Haven Region
Catacombs of St. Brigit Events - for just that Layer, which is in Lost Haven, which is in Sorrow
The Gauntlet - events for the Gauntlet Layer within Lost Haven within Sorrow
and so on

                                           Art by Alex Mayo
PLAYERS: DON'T READ PAST HERE : POTENTIAL SPOILERS

So from the bottom, let's look at Events in the Catacombs of St. Brigit: a simple 1d6 table:
  1. Chanting - the prayers and enthusiasm of the nearest congregation can be heard
  2. Rustling Dead - any nearby dead groan and shudder
  3. The Crypts Grow - a new chamber of the crypts is added to the map
  4. Filth - Raiments are soiled, holy symbols dirtied
  5. Cold Sensation - as Wentworth spies on the party
  6. Cries of Pain - the echoes of St. Brigit are heard, volume based on proximity
Each has a description and sub-tables/rules where appropriate and are contingent on other events. For example, if the party deal with Wentworth, he will stop spying on them and that event no longer exists (treated as No Event).

Lost Haven is a Region, so I've created two tables for it - major and minor events. Minor Lost Haven Events are designed more around adding context and flavor
  1. Strong scent of the City
  2. Sounds of the City
  3. Sounds of the Bitter Storm
  4. Pillbug corpse removers
  5. Gnomefolk working resetting a trap
  6. Swarm of sewer/dock rats/lizards come flooding past the party
Major Lost Haven Events have more specific things ralted to them - aspects that can and likely will start to change the game and how players interact with things.
  1. The Star Wizards spy on the crew
  2. The Lore Seekers want what something the crew has
  3. Meekum's Devils looking for a sucker
  4. Nearby faction arrives
  5. A new sub-level blooms nearby (Threat +{1d3})
  6. Monster
The Star Wizards, Lore Seekers, and Meekum's Devils are specific factions within the Lost Haven region.  Nearby faction could be any of those or one from a neighboring region come exploring. Sub-levels are "temporary" mini-layers that have better loot but more danger. and the Monster entry are specific monsters - unique ones that are seriously bad - that wander Lost Haven.

Sorrow Events don't exist as a separate table. Maybe in the future, but there are already a shitload of things going on and that might make it too chaotic. As the players engage in exploration, though, the events tables can and will change and these changes, that are effectively sorrow-wide events - can be reflected in the regional event structure.

So when do I roll on these tables?
Check it:

Each Layer has a random encounter table (rolled every 20 minutes).  Two examples:
Catacombs of St. Brigit (1d12)
1-2: Monster Encounter
3-4: Evidence of Monster
5-6: Events
8-12: Nothing
The Gauntlet (1d10)
1: Monster Encounter
2: Evidence of Monster
3-4: Events
5-10: Nothing

Then in both cases, the Events Sub-table looks like this:
Events (d6)
1-3: Local Event
4-5: Minor Regional Event
6: Major Regional Event

How Does this Play in Real Life?
Pretty well! Here is a random sample over a 6 hour stretch:
1:00  ---
1:20 Evidence: Lair
1.40 ---
2:00 Event, Major Lost Haven: Nearby faction arrives - Halls of Pain
2:20 ---
2:40 ---
3:00 Encounter: Lair (Tombs - Cadaver Collector  x2)
3:20 ---
3:40 Event, Catacombs of St. Brigit: the crypts grow
4:00 ---
4:20 ---
4:40  ---
5:00 ---
5:20 Evidence: Lair
5:40 ---
6:00 ---
6:20 ---
6:40 ---

While engaging in their usual exploration and rooms and encounters and whatnot, they will

  1. Find clear evidence of the nearest monster lair (or of the nearest monster if there are no lairs left) - then again which could be a different lair or even the same one depending on where they are and what they get up to.
  2. Major Lost Haven event - encounter a faction from the Halls of Pain region.
  3. Have an encounter with creatures from the nearest lair (or 2 Cadaver Collectors if there are no lairs left).
  4. be witness to the Catacombs growing and expanding, which should scare the pants off them >:)

This might not seem like a lot, but the party has been in this Layer two sessions now and already had two of the catacombs specific events - based on our groups rate of play, they should definitely encounter all of them and a few more Lost Haven events.