Sunday, 5 March 2017

Delightfully Cinematic Ending

Delightfully cinematic ending to our "Lords of Memory" session today.

Due to schedules, it's been almost two months since we got together, and in that time my half-scribbled session prep for the Shrine of Ranian they were headed for had expanded into the Moon is a Mirror adventure.

I reskinned the dogfolk as goat men, since in this campaign the shrine is on the slopes of Mount Wint, but otherwise wrote it as written.

From the start, I thought we were headed for a misfire. "Moon" has specific rooms, but their arrangement within the palace is determined as players explore. Literally the first two random rooms they rolled were the stairs up to level 2, then the room with stairs up to the dome.  Woops!

But it didn't work out that way, since the second set of stairs are hidden behind a secret door, so they explored about half of the second floor.

One thing that I really liked was the way the players learned so much about the adventure ahead - they had cleverly allied themselves with the goatfolk before getting anywhere near the shrine, for one thing.

That taught them to be wary of the sage (who is actually an evil moon reflection of the real sage), but it also added a neat twist. The goatfolk were desperate for help (the moon baby's enchantments compel them to guard it and fill it with traps), and begged the PCs not to kill their friends.

This meant that encounters with the goatfolk inside the shrine, normally a sort of low-powered fight with guard monsters, had a completely different function, with the players trying to scare them and drive them off rather than fighting tooth and nail.

The moon baby's second tier of guards are the "brass soldiers", which are incredibly dangerous. They're super slow, but as strong as forklifts, so getting in close quarters with them means certain strangulation.

My son's PC triggered the encounter with the moon baby by leaping into the arms of a patrolling brass soldier (he's super impulsive). Wisely, I had written that patrolling brass soldiers only want to drag their captives up to the moon baby, rather than fighting to kill, otherwise it would have been lights out immediately.

Everyone piles after Farrin and his the brass soldier carrying him, which reveals the hidden way up to the dome.

The moon baby's goal is to find wizards and turn them into reflections just like itself, to increase its magical power. Farrin is up for anything, so by the time the rest of the party ascends to the dome, he's agreed to 'see a vision' (which lets the moon baby check him out for magical powers).

He doesn't have any, other than his spiritual sensitivity ('Commune' skill), so she lets him go, turning her sights on 'Zero', who is lighting the party's way with a flaming hand.

It's at this point I should mention that I had forgotten to think of a way to kill the moon baby. It's immune to weapons (which turn to rainwater when they strike it), and even magical attacks are iffy. It has twelve brass soldiers, and it's careful to stay encircled by them. This could easily have turned into a TPK.

Here's where the party's intel made a huge difference. They knew it was an imposter from talking to the tithing troll, and they knew to look out for a brass bracelet. So when it insisted on giving Zero 'a vision', they sprang into action. Opera grabs the bracelet, Garbageo tries to shove it into the pool, and Zero invokes her flame magic.

Those were the good moves - the party also managed to waste an arrow, a thrown knife and a favorite sword (all turned to rainwater), but after the first round they had a decisive advantage.

Zero aces her spellcasting roll and the resulting incandescent heat blast is enough to crack the hearts of the two nearest soldiers.

The attempt to pitch the moon baby into the pool doesn't go as well, and Opera gets cut up by her "opposite knife" as a bunch of them all grapple at the edge.

At this point, Ferrin pulls out the gray knife and announces he's cutting the relection of the moon. This is one of those amazing player plans that caught me totally off guard, and it took me a full minute to figure out what this would even do.

The moon pool is a reflection of the moon that the sage used for scrying; seeing her own reflection (never do that!) is what allowed the moon baby passage to earth. The grey knife, on the other hand, is an artifact used to cut the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.

So I decided it would open a portal to the moon!

So, just like the penultimate scene in Aliens at the airlock door, all the air in the place suddenly starts blasting into the well, which is suddenly a pit into an airless void.

In goes scrolls, loose scraps, all the Sage's tools. The party all makes their saves and Opera uses the bracelet to have the soldiers grab onto the party's clothes, holding them in place.

For a few moments, the moon baby and Opera struggle for the bracelet.. and the moon baby gets it. At that instant, Berlin, who has tied a rope about his waist (the other end tied to a soldier), full-on tackles the moon baby and pitches them both into the howling pit.  He gets a mighty jolt about the middle, and the moon baby spirals down into darkness.

At this point, another hilariously emergent effect takes hold: the soldiers always move to be near the wearer of the bracelet. So, one by one the soldiers step up and toss themselves into the pit.. including the one Berlin has used as his anchor.

'Agatha' cuts that in time, and the party hauls Berlin up. With the moon baby back on the moon, the portal closes with an ear-popping crunch.  The party looks into the pool (now bone dry), where they see the comatose body of the real Sage of Lune.

They actually cheered!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Moon is a Mirror

Toward the end of his life, King Raeldus built an enormous palace of spiritual marvels. Fearful of punishment in the afterlife, he hoped to win favor with the unseen world.

To this end, he stocked his palace with altars to every cult and religion he could find. Through donations, command, and threats, he saw that every one of them was maintained by representatives of the religion. In some cases, whole splinter sects were transplanted to the palace.

Foolish of that sort never lasts long, and a century later the palace was home only to ghosts, animals and the occasional bandit. That is, until the Sage of Lune arrived.

A fittingly remote place to carry out her work, for years the Sage used her mystical lenses to scry out omens and prophecies by gazing at the surface of the moon. She called it a mirror, a reflection of our earthly existence, and said that the mirror image of every person.

Those willing to make the long trek to the palace, and the harrowing trek through the palace itself, could be sure of a wise insight as a reward for their efforts.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Isometric Dungeon #5 - Cavern Waterfall

Here's a fifth video in my isometric dungeon drawing series, a cavern waterfall.

This time it's a cavern waterfall. I don't say much, although I had fun with the audio regardless. Happy to take requests - what has stumped or intimidated you in the past?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Trilemma Adventures Known World Map

As those of you following along may have discerned, there's a nominal campaign setting where I situate my adventures.

I will eventually detail the cultures and history of the place, although even once I've done that, I expect that most people will take the adventures and either use them as one-shots, or reskin them and put them into their own campaign setting.

To that end I'll provide a glossary of terms that will need adapting or hooking into your own campaign setting. The Seree are a magocratic precursor civilization; the Martoi a bunch of half-undead fey, and so on.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Curves in Isometric Mapping

A recent post in a G+ map-making community highlighted how difficult it is to draw curved objects in isometric maps.

Here's a typical, challenging object: a curved chute that drops from a trap door into a lower level.

This is a worthy attempt at a complicated shape, but as you can see it doesn't look quite right; it looks a bit twisted, like licorice.

The main problems seem to be two-fold:

1. How the $#*@! do you draw a nice curve?

2. How do you take that curved surface and extude it into a three-dimensional shape?

Drawing Isometric Circles

I've taken a stab at this before, but I've found a couple of ways that are a lot easier.  Here's the basic structure, taken from this excellent blog post by Douglas Flynt:
That blog post spends a lot of time on subdividing the original square, but on isometric graph paper it's a lot easier. I'm drawing the outer curve of the chute, which has a radius of five squares:

Next step is to draw the inner curve, which has a radius of four squares:

Erasing my construction lines, I'm left with this shape:

Extruding the Shape

Now I need to extrude this into a three-dimensional form. The trick to doing this is to draw exactly the same curves one square over:

With a bit of practice you can manage this freehand, until then, you may need to set up the curve-drawing framework you used for the original lines.

Once you've got this, follow the northwest-southeast axis to "tie" the two sets of curves together. In the lower left, you're drawing a tangent across the two sets of curves:

Then, trace the lines that will be visible to get the outline of the final form:

It's still a little bit wonky; as always I recommend doing all your construction work in pencil (or better yet, with blue pencil/marker so you can pull it out with Photoshop), so you have lots of tries at the freehand curves.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Project Coma v0.2

Here's a slightly revised and updated Project Coma. There are some tweaks to the moves, a few formatting minor changes, but the main addition is the GM's pages which has suggested effects as static climbs, GM moves, and guidance for choosing the NPC's simultaneous counter-mission.

I have a chunk of this written up as a gaming text (as opposed to just a bunch of reference sheets) but holy crap is there ever a difference between some skeletal mechanics and a document that explains itself. I'm pretty sure the latter isn't worth tackling until the game is quite far along, it's an entirely separate task from just presenting mechanics.

This is all as free from playtesting as a field of fresh-fallen snow. I have the feeling I'm going to need to rip the basic procedures apart to cover a bunch of ordinary espionage situations a bit more economically.

Having said that, I'm super interested which of the playbooks (if any) grab you, and which look like duds.

I'm also interested whether you feel that there's enough structure here that you could comfortably run this, or whether you look at it all and wonder how the heck you'd get started.  (I'm aware that the sample missions just trail off in incompleteness.)


In unrelated news, Dropbox is ditching its public hosting, which kinda blows, so at some point I'm going to have to shuffle a zillion files and links to another location. Yay!

Veil of the Once-Queen

Deep in the forest is the citadel of Tanibel, once the capital of Martoi. Although their time has passed, they have found a way to cling to the world by straddling the veil between life and death.

In my home campaign, the three Lords of Tanibel have ridden out and poisoned entire watersheds with the black draught, leading to the terrible undoing of society hinted at in the Unmended Way.

Even if you don't go quite so apocalyptic and campaign-defining, Tanibel is still easy to slot into any forested region of your campaign world. Treat the Martoi like a fey court with a particular obsession with treachery.

The gray proctors are probably my favorite part of this one, if players haven't figured out what's going on with the veil by the time they get to the gates, I think there's potential for a truly horrible realization.