Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dealing with Unnatural Horrors

Dungeoneers encounter a lot of weird and terrible things. Eventually they get used to it, their sense of terror dulled by repeated encounters with the horrors of the Underworld. Here are some game mechanics to deal with it. When the adventurers encounter some serious weird shit:
  • Character: 2d6+WIT+Jaded Points (see below)
  • GM: 2d6+Danger (as determined by the vicious monster, terrible dungeon level, or horrific situation)
 Legendary Success 
 Don't freak out and gain a permanent +1 for Jaded Points
Critical Success
 Don't freak out and gain advantage on your next Weird shit roll
 Don't freak out
 Freak Out
 Roll 1d4 on the Freak Out Table
Critical Failure
 Serious Freak Out
 Roll 1d6 on the Freak Out Table
Legendary Failure
  Complete Freak Out 
 Roll 2d4 on the Freak Out Table

Freak Out Table
 Die Roll
 Character is stunned for 1d20 counts (plus any initiative roll)
 Roll everything at disadvantage until things are better
 Curl into a ball and cower until things are better
 Run away screaming for 5 minutes, then hyperventilate until things are better
 Everything Out 
 Evacuate bowels and bladder, drop everything, and roll 1d4 on the Freak Out Table
 Go full on catatonic for 1d6 hours even after things are better
 Attack everything because you can now see everyone is one of THEM! things may never get better ...
 Permanently lose 1 WIT and roll 1d4+4 on the Freak Out Table

"Things are Better"
This is entirely subjective and up to the GM and the situation.  Monsters may need to be defeated or shown to be able to be defeated, the tide may need to turn for a battle, the character may need to be dragged away from the horrible sight, or whatever makes sense. 

Ignoring Weird Shit
If the character's Jaded Points are equal to or more than the weird thing, no roll is needed; the situation has no effect on the character. Characters always begin with 0 Jaded Points until they get to adventuring.

Conditional Success
If anyone chooses a conditional success they don't freak out but, as usual, the GM will add something unpleasant to the situation. Suggestions are phobias, ticks, or odd behaviors than manifest and increase intensity over several gaming sessions.

OSR Rules
Not using playing Sorrow in Haven? Understood.

  • Replace WIT with WIS modifier (using the good old -3 to +3).
  • Replace Danger with Monster HD or Dungeon Level or encounter level or some gauge of how weird/bad the situation is on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • Replace Freakout result #1 1d20 counts with 1d2 rounds.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Killing the Heart of the Dungeon

Sorrow in Haven has a unique mechanic in which the adventurer crew can defeat the "living" dungeons. All dungeons have a Heart that, if destroyed (or mitigated/resolved), will silence the dungeon and stop its growth. The Heart may be a creature, on object, or something more abstract. If the Heart is not dealt with the dungeon will repopulate itself and may continue to grow.

Types of Hearts
If the GM needs some inspiration, roll 1d6 to determine the type of dungeon heart.

 1 - 8 
 9 - 11 

Monsters at the heart of the dungeon are the most common. In the local parlance of the Guild of Defenestration, these are referred to as the "Boss" of the dungeon. These creatures are invariably more powerful than the general inhabitants of the dungeon, either through physical power (a blood ogre), influence (sneaky goblin sorcerer), or a combination of the two (the much feared dragon). On rare occasion the creature is something innocuous (hellcat kitten) or difficult to identify (invisible stalker).

1 - 5
 Irulux the brute, a demon hound that eats only ash and tears. 
6 - 8
 Bishop Crux, an undead cleric that controls a doomsday cult. 
 9 - 10 
 Power + Influence 
 Dormut the Dragon, a massive beast with mind control.
 Terr, the lost goblin of which the dungeon is her nightmare.
 Os, the ghost of a faerie prince who does not know he is dead. 

Objects have the greatest range of possibilities.  Since dungeons are often thought to be shadows of places that the Underworld has already spread, objects are often localized/specific to the dungeon, but just as easily can be wildly anachronistic or out of place.  Heart objects could be living things that are not "monsters", relics, or treasures that are worshiped by the denizens. Removing relics and treasures from the dungeon have the same effect as destroying them, but there may be other consequences once removed from the dungeon.

1 - 4
 Altar of Ket, stained with blood of sweat of the enslaved.
6 - 7
 Simon's Pocket watch, ticking backwards, forever broken. 
8 - 9
Living Thing
 The Red Oak that lives within the Gardens of Kesh.
 The Eternal Chain, unbreakable links and unthinking torment. 
 11 - 12 
 Crown of Darvik, a horned skull wrapped in flame.

These are simply the most complex dungeons to resolve, because the concept could be an emotion that needs to be eliminated (fear of the light), a resolution to a conflict (broker a peace between the Almec and Frinda factions), or even more abstract (suffer in salt). The GM will provide numerous clues as to the concept and the players need to determine the solution. These dungeons are thankfully rare, for they provide the most complex challenges to the Guild (and to players).

When the heart of the dungeon has been dealt with, the dungeon will eventually seal up and their shadow fades. How this manifests itself is different from dungeon to dungeon.

 The Slow Burn
 Immediate Collapse 
Fade Away
Everything Stops
Lingering Rot

The Slow Burn
With the destruction of the heart, the dungeon begins to erode slowly but surely. It doesn't collapse, but the entire dungeon takes on a wavering astral quality as parts of it simple cease to exist.  Area disappear at about 1 per hour, but not in any particular order.  Dungeoneers can explore a bit more, but if trapped will simply disappear with everything else.

Immediate Collapse
This happens fast - usually within a minute or two of the heart being dealt with.  The dungeon literally begins to collapse in on itself - walls tumbling, rooms erupting, stone and smoke and dust covering everything.  When this happens, the dungeoneers had best beat a hasty retreat, because lingering for even a few moments can seal their fate.  Many have lost their lives escaping collapsing dungeons.

Fade Away
This is similar to the slow burn, but the entire dungeon begins to fade into non-existence at once.  Everything becomes more shadowy and obstacles and creatures can no longer affect the party.  The fade is fairly quick, so tarry too long and one will find themselves in the Gloom.  A few intrepid souls have managed to come back from the Gloom, but never return as they went in.

Everything Stops
The dungeon becomes frozen in time - it is a mural or statue, a point of history that never existed. Dungeoneers can linger and learn, but as soon as they leave the place no longer exists.  Looting is not an option as everything takes on a 2-dimensional quality.  Some Lore Keepers have keep a dungeon in this state open for some time to study it, but they are in danger of causing the Underworld to erupt anew - and it is always much more dangerous that it was before.

Lingering Rot
Everyone hates the lingering rot.  The dungeon begins to rot as though it were a living creature.  Walls bleed, creatures fall apart and decay, the place fills with stinking goop and wretched miasma.  These places linger for a few days, and the area in which they burst into the World of Light fester a bit as well.  Those who explore a dungeon that is rotting are at extreme risk of contracting some rather nasty diseases.

Some dungeons without a heart stop being a threat and become utterly devoid and empty, but do not disappear.  They no longer birth traps and beasts not hold relics and treasure.  They are empty rooms and chambers that are often taken over by the citizens of Haven (for good or bad).  The Undercity is built from these places.  What is most disconcerting is that some of them hold passages deeper into the Underworld ...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Random Event Tables

Wandering monsters are cool, but I've always wanted more than just monsters - I want events!  Events are not necessarily encounters or things the players can directly interact with, but more along with the lines of dressing and setting and tone.

As an example, this is the random event table from the Gardens of Kesh
1d12 every Turn
1: Spores
2: Plants
3: Conflict
4: Facility
5: Wandering Monster
6-7: Lair Encounter
8-12: Nothing

Spores - this helps identify that the dungeon is dangerous
The air quality is pretty terrible in this dungeon because of the spores and pollen.  Characters have to pass a CON save or start to cough and sputter. Characters lose some END, but don't know how much until they lose it through damage or Giving it Their All.

Plants - these events show that the dungeon is alive
The Gardens are a living place where plants have gone crazy.  When this result comes up, roll 1d6:
  1. The party will be split as the plants fill the corridor/room
  2. PC pined against the wall/floor and takes 1d4 damage every 10 counts
  3. Random item is lost in the bramble
  4. Vines produce a prodigious amount of green berries
  5. Vines produce orange fruits
  6. Plants flower that stink like corpses and ooze blood
Conflict - the conflict results shows the dungeon is contested
There are two factions already in conflict in this dungeon. In an area within earshot, the crew can hear the two factions fighting.

Facility - these results show history and background
The dungeon used to be Lab 44A Advanced Botany Facility and while mostly defunct, still functions from time to time.  Roll 1d6.
  1. Pages a scientists to the observation deck
  2. Sprinklers turn on/off
  3. Air Quality update (Evacuate / Warning / Concern / Resolved)
  4. Emergency Red Lights turn on/off
  5. Underfoot plumbing makes a racket (50% rumbling as well)
  6. Electronic beeping coming from 1-3 a small speaker in the wall, 4-6 all over the damn place
So every turn there is a 57% chance that SOMETHING happens. This is a seriously active place. Of the events that do take place, the majority (57%) are things that set the tone and describe the dungeon, may impact play mechanically, or may allow for some problem solving or interaction. The rest (43%) are encounters with a random monster (including the factions) or a definitely faction encounter (lair meaning nearest lair).

Lair Encounter is particularly useful too - as monster "lairs" are changed through play, the encounter table changes simply because the closest lair is something different - faction A is nearly wiped out?  Faction B starts showing up more often.

All of this makes this particular dungeon incredibly interactive and busy outside of the keyed areas. One could easily drop the roll rate to every other turn or roll every turn on 1d20 to lighten the activity load.