Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Working on an Adventure

I'm working on a maritime sandbox adventure for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Sort of.

I'm running it for 1st level characters, with the following changes:

No Clerics, Elves, Dwarves, or Halflings

Instead, Delvers is a class that function like dwarves, and Trackers are a class that function like Halflings. Both are really modified versions of Specialists, so like Specialist kits.

Once I get them written (or find someone else's versions) I'll be set.

We're also using backgrounds and Advantage/Disadvantage from 5e, The Black Hack as much as possible, and spellcasting tables from DCC.

There are physical and mental ACs. Wisdom functions like Sanity, and encountering the undead or extra planar creatures of chaos requires sanity checks -- attack rolls against mental AC, adj by Wisdom, failure suffers a lost point of wisdom. Wisdom score of 0=insanse. Wizards are technically immune to these kinds of encounters, but they are also always borderline insane because of decades spent researching obscure, Eldritch knowledge. Wizards tend to have high Mental ACs and have natural bonuses, plus add intelligence bonus instead of wisdom to their mental AC.

They have learned methods of shielding their minds from alien intrusion.

A wizard's actual wisdom never drops, but they track lost wisdom in the same fashion. When this "imaginary" wisdom reaches 0, they have gone made and/or become possessed by one or more alien minds.

It's a Frankenstein ruleset, we'll see how it plays.

If I can find examples of someone else doing these specific rules changes, I'll apply any lessons they've learned or methods they've used.

The story revolves around a Queens's order to explore a new island chain recently discovered south east of the kingdom. She's already declared the islands as her own, and a ramshackle settlement has been established on the largest of the islands.

The ship the player's are on carries the crew, a team of mercenaries hired to explore the surrounding islands, and settlers willing to join the new settlement and help strengthen the Queen's presence on the islands.

Players choose a background package: Sailing crew, Mercenary, Laborer, Settler, Stoaway, Vistani.

What happens next is completely random; the shipped may be attacked, by pirates or sea monsters. Storms may destroy it or knock it off course; it may find the settlement wiped out; it may end up at a different island, or at an entirely different island chain; it may become lost at sea forever.

All of these possibilities will be determined during the course of play and based on what choices the players make along the way. There is nothing here to railroad their sea-based hex crawl.

This adventure is inspired by watching "In the Heart of the Sea", a movie about the story that inspired Moby Dick, as well as Jacob Hurst's "A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island", Cecil Howe's "Hex Kit", and the 'Maritime Adventures' section of "Lamentations of the Flame Princess".

More to come. Apologies for the bad image; will replace it when I'm home again from Florida (on or after Friday, 9/30).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Elves and Druidhs of Waste

Here are two more additions for my Waste setting:

Elves of Waste

"Wood Elf", by Marcel Nilo.
There are no elves in Waste. Not in the traditional sense. No sprawling civilizations of treetop dwellers; those are all gone now. What remains instead, what one might call the elves of Waste, are creatures...creatures that are as cold as the dim starlight they hold in their eyes, pinpoints of sparkling embers set against fields of solid black.

When encountered, these elves pause, as if trying to remember something, a hint of an ancient memory lingering just out of their grasp.

But it's hopeless, and soon the elves descend back to instinct.

These are misxenothropic beasts. These are carnivores. And nothing that lives or walks in the Living Forest is safe from them.

Druidhs of Waste

Artwork sourced here.
The druidhs of the golden thirst are tired, shriveled husks, who stumble on thin stalks of bone tightly wrapped in leathery skin. They wear armor made of wheat; it is all their magic can keep alive.

Their voices rasp and grate like stones rubbing together. They hate conversation. It is useless. Nothing grows from words.

Nothing grows here, period.

They are sworn enemies of the cosmogaunts; they are too weak to fight them off, but they know a method for destroying the parasite kings and demolishing their stomach palaces. The cosmogaunts fear the druidhs because of this.

But druidhs hate conversation. So the cosmogaunts are safe. Cautious, but safe.

Druidhs are cursed, just like everything else, immortal protectors of a garden that has mostly died off, drained of its nourishing waters. Nothing can kill them. They are ghosts of forests. How they lament the trees and the fields.

And the world.

Druidh tears heal wounds and diseases.

But why waste the water?

(Note: There are druids among the illadon who protect the living forests that grow on the backs of megaturtles, but those forests are nourished by blood from the shells of the turtles, so they are abominations.)

Update+Evey Lockhart added the following (she's cowriting Waste with me and +David Lewis Johnson):

Only wheat still lives on thier backs. Pitiful tamed wheat. The ghosts of the wolf clothed in shame.

I imagine they are their own dream manifestation, cursing themselves with every stray thought and whimper and day dream memory.

They are difficult to make cry unless you know the secret.
Let each see its own reflection.

There is a merchant palace, taking over the entirety of a headless, walking god. At the center is a room of mirrors.and a chained druidh. It's eyelids have been cut away. It cannot help but see itself. It has been crying for a thousand years and not yet reached the middle of its weeping. A line of dead eyed children patiently collect every precious drop.

Qua'al Din, Merchant Prince, monopolizes both torture and healing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Color Coded Non Hex Hex Map

So some people over on Google+ helped me out with a little thing I thought of a couple of weeks ago:

The drawing was done by +Zach H originally; I asked him if I could turn it into a map, and then +Christian Kessler did the coloring on it, carefully dividing up the images into distinct regions. Then I let it loose on G+ to see what people would make of each pictured area, as some kind of weird, non-hex based hex map. Or whatever. So here's what happened:

+Jay Exonauts suggested each section is ruled by different demigods, and then added the following:

REDGranklon the God of Spilled Blood (the Helmet is his temple) demands sacrifice to keep wars from breaking out. The dragon creature in the lower portion is his enforcer, both to worshipers and infidels from other regions.

+Noah Stevens added:

ORANGE: The eastern orange zone is ruled by Black Smoke on Still Ocean, a Vampire/Werepanther Demon Queen

The 4 coins in the sky are full moons, when the sacrifice is due, and near the lake the Ancient Hero is tortured nightly and regenerates each morning. Some say he is the Queen's brother, or lover, or both. At each sacrifice her jaguar head is placed on the body of a virgin, whose old head is rolled down the stairs of the ziggurat and there is taken to the crypts below to whisper secrets to the hero and abide eternity with him.

Those who overhear the whispers learn a random spell and can cast it at the cost of half of their POW/SAN/LUCK/HP, or less on the day of a full moon

Then +James V West added:

PURPLE: Once a small realm ruled by a kindly wizard. The wizard, whose name is lost, summoned a terrible demon from the inner dimensions and was dominated. The demon-seed in his brain was spread through magic, turning the once-kind people into soulless zombies that occasionally go on bloody rampages. The demon-seed spread through other realms and the Purple Plague is currently raging, pushing, and festering its way into any available, vulnerable region. Even gorgons, dragons, and behemoths are not immune to the demonic disease.

Only slaying the Plague Wizard might put a stop to it. But who can ascend that purple tower of blood and bone built from the bodies of plague victims?

Any character encountering the Purple Plague must pass a saving throw (vs. wands) each night when they close their eyes or else wake up as a victim. A victim can still function, barely, but must pass a saving throw (vs. spells) to make any sort of meaningful choice. When such a saving throw is failed with a roll of 1, the plague victim goes on a murderous rampage, killing anyone in sight until slain or knocked out.

And then +Christian Kessler added to this:

The other thing that killing the Plague Wizard will accomplish is ending the spell that fills the lake beside his tower, which was once a valley ruled by tyrannical, cannibalistic elves. They've survived for centuries in their magically-airtight fortress through the controlled breeding of a livestock class. If the lake is emptied, they'll be free to expand across the island and beyond; they'll do so mainly in order to demand tribute in the form of people to eat.

There is a door hidden away deep in the caves beneath the Purple Tower which leads directly into the heart of the Castle in the Lake.

*Update 9/19: +Gennifer Bone added the following:

YELLOW: The honeycomb with the eye and pyramid - The long-abandoned Hive of the Crystal Bees.

This huge, crumbling beehive is crafted of bluish crystal. It has been looted, but searching it can reveal a cashe of Blue Honey (10% chance), or an active Psychic Shard (1% change, treat as a lightsabre with 10 rounds of use. Can be recharged with Blue Honey) However, the Hive is haunted by the psychic ghosts of crystal bees (Treat as giant bees, but they are etherial, and shoot psychic stingers at +4 to hit- anyone hit takes 1d4 damage, and looses a similar amount of INT) 


That leaves the two green sections (Light Green and Dark Green).

So if anyone is interested in adding to the description of the map pieces, or expanding on the sections already started by Jay, Noah, and James, please do so in the comments section below.

And if you manage to make some kind of use of this map and the key, let me know! Either comment here or email me: thesecretdm@gmail.com

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Black Stone Starship


Here's an adventure for you. I tossed together the above image with lots of imagery I found on a google search and altered. I unfortunately forgot to copy down the sources, so apologies to anyone that hurts. Hopefully it's all been modified enough to justify its use. It's also not perfect, but do you get the idea there's a crashed ship and black shadow creatures slinking around? Great.

The Adventure

A slab of rectangular, black weirdstone has fallen from the sky and crashed into the forest, not too far from a village or city (or maybe it didn't).

Shadowy shapes -- hunched over beasts with long, strange limbs and spines that curve long and circular and heads that hang low to the ground -- stalk the forest now, hunting for meat. Their bodies are covered in a glossy black, ink-like skin; if anyone gets close enough, it seems to slide around like oil. There are mouths full of sharp teeth in various places, and all of them chomp and drool and crave.

This one has a mouth in its stomach; this one on its feet; this other one has a long tentacle growing from the back of its neck stump that ends in a circular maw full of gnashing, shadow fangs.

These creatures see in the emotional spectrum; Fear is bright hues to them, bright as daylight. Other related emotions, like apprehension, sparkle like starlight. Anger bleeds red across their field of vision. Those emotions are easy to track. Happiness eludes them. Love is as black as themselves.

They smell noise. They taste time. They hear light; bright light deafens them.

Shadow Ink Creatures: d6 appearing; Hit Dice: 3 (15hp) No. of Attacks 1d3 (each creature has a different number of attacks), Attack: +3, 1d8 bite attack, They move pretty fast.

The creatures are led by a weird wizard, a column of weirdstone with shadow tentacles writhing all over it. It wears a mask that's a mirror, curved and embedded in its surface near its midsection, which comes to about human height. Thus humans that encounter the wizard see themselves when they look in its direction. There are runes carved around the mirror. These are buttons that activate magic, so the weird wizard is both a creature and a magical artifact.

The wizard can manifest knives on any one of its tentacles, and it has a reach up to 30'. Roll 1d20 to determine # of active tentacles. It can manifest 1d8 knives, but must reroll each round. Each knife attacks as a 3rd level fighter, and deals 1d4 points of damage. But the knife doesn't cut flesh, so it doesn't deal damage to hitpoints. The knives cut through time and dimension, so they slice away Wisdom. Anyone whose wisdom is reduced to 0 fades from existence forever, and the timeline is rewritten as if they never existed.

Knives can also cut silver cords, so if somehow anyone ends up in the astral plane facing a weird wizard, they can easily become trapped. Wizards attack silver cords as if the cord has an AC based on no armor, although the AC is modified by a person's wisdom bonus.

Weird Wizard: No. Appearing: 1, Hit Dice: 5 (27hp) No. of Attacks 1d8, rerolled each round. Attacks as 3rd level fighter; can cast 1 spell/round


Tranmsute Plants to Weirdness:

D6 plants in a 100' radius from the wizard become anchored shadow ropers; they grow teeth and sprout black tentacles that can grapple within 20'. HD 3 (17hp) No. of attacks: 5 Attack +3, must make two successful hits to GRAPPLE, a grappled creature that doesn't break free gets pulled into a central mouth and suffers 1d8 points of damage

Pull Their Faces Off:

Choose a victim within 10' of the wizard; that victim makes a saving throw against spells. If they fail, their face is imediately ripped off of their bodies and appears dripping over the mirrored section of the wizard. It falls off in 1d10 rounds; the victim suffers 1d4+1 points of damage and must make a constitution check or become stunned for 1d3 rounds by the experience. The wizard can't wield any other magic while it wears someone else's face.

Dream of Screams:

Instead of attacking, the wizard can withdraw all of its tentacles. It releases a cone 50' long. Anyone caught in the cone must make a wisdom check or have their minds pulled into a warped, alien version of the Astral Plane that is made entirely out of people's screams. The wizard exists in both places simultaneously. If it cuts the silver cord the victim(s) are trapped in the plane of screams forever, but it can be attacked in either place. The spell effects end after 1d6 rounds or the wizard is slain. If someone's cord has been severed before the wizard is killed, they are lost on the plane of screams forever. Same if their cord is severed by the wizard before the spell effect ends. Characters fighting on the plane of screams suffer a -3 penalty to all attacks, due to the incessant noise.

What happens next?

If the wizard is killed its mirrored mask portion (with the runes) can be removed. If someone wears it the mirror immediately fuses to their face permanently; they now perceive their surroundings like the shadow ink creatures. They'll be able to activate the abilities by pressing one of the runes. In addition to the 3 spell abilities above, the other runes have special effects as well. make up to 7 additonal abilities, all of them harmful or deadly. The easiest thing to do is to have each additional button sap one of the character's ability scores, but feel free to get creative (and post your own ideas in the comments below).

The DM records the character's wisdom score as a timer. Every day the mask is worn this timer counts down. It has no effect on the character's actual wisdom, but they might feel a slight burning in their mind. When the timer reaches zero, the character fades from existing, becoming a Weird Wizard on the Plane of Screams.

Where it bathes glorious in the screams of all victims across all versions of reality.

The Ship

Touching any part of the weirdstone surface of the ship transports the players inside. It's a vertical colum with the rooms at wrong angles. If the players can figure out a way to ascend to the top of the slanted column of rooms, they will find a treasure chamber with a star-colored orb placed into an altar of some kind. This orb controls the movement of the ship, but the ship has crashed, so it's a useless orb full of a map of the universe.

But someone will likely find it pretty, and would probably pay handsomely for it. Probably a wizard. And who knows what secret magics they could cull from such a strange and wondrous device?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Across the Stars: Yurei Morovosky

Praetor Yurei Morovosky. The High Armored One. A name as cold as the box that keeps him alive. His visage, with its sunken, mummified cheeks, hangs down with foreboding doom, emerging through an opening of his coffin-shaped life support system, crude technology that sustains his life beyond natural limits. Unwilling to relinquish control of Yukev Machina Industries, Yurei speaks to everyone he encounters with a contempt only concealed by his thick accent, a relic of Old Earth, much like himself. He has no patience for the brazen attitudes of those who are younger than him. It's rumored he's older even than the rogue AI Mankh, and possibly owes his current state of near-immortality to Mankh's failure to upload Yurei during the 'Grand Convergence'.

Here, Yurei is pictured with a helvoyska, one of his elite personal soldiers. Yukev Machina is known for their weapons division, and many ships throughout the terran systems are equipped with Yukev Machina weaponry. But for Yurei, he's most pleased with his personnel armaments, gruesome and primitive looking as they are.

They inspire fear. And that allows Yurei to save his breath. 

Because for Yurei, every breath taken is a precious one.

(For "Across the Stars". Artwork by Khairul Hisham.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Looking for Help

It's that time again!

This could be you!
Artwork from clipartof.com. All rights reserved.

I'm looking for a personal assistant who can help me on a weekly basis to get and stay organized, help me manage my schedule, create and follow deadlines for specific tasks, and manage some light communication for me via email.

My contract with +Ariana Ramos is sadly at an end. She was positively amazing for me as an assistant, but the truth is she's becoming very involved as a writer, and in other aspects of professional game design as well, so I don't want to get in the way of that for her. Of course she and I will continue to work together, just in a different capacity going forward than her being responsible for managing my emails and Google drive folders.

Because of this, my virtual office space (which includes my easy-to-distract "cat brain") is starting to look a LOT like this:

I know I had a game I was working on somewhere around here...
Artwork from clipartof.com. All rights reserved.

  • Are you self motivated?
  • Do you like to tidy up other people's messes, especially when they are digital?
  • Are you good at task management, organization, and scheduling?
  • Do you feel confident in going through my emails and organizing important information into Google Docs?
  • Do you want to get paid for 2-4 hours of weekly work?
My preference is to find someone within the game industry who is highly skilled at organization. The reason for this is that it makes sense to me to have someone who understands gaming looking over game content/notes and determining if they are important; having someone from outside the industry, or without an interest in gaming in general, means I may need to explain more about what my needs are.

So if you are someone who fits the description above and you're looking to pick up some extra cash, or you know someone who might be interested, please have them email me at: thesecretdm@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for your time!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Getting Wasted

So I have another project that's been in development for years. I've mentioned it before, here and on Google+. It's a big, weird world, made of dreams, and it involves a dying god. or maybe gods. It's a terrible place; there's no name anymore...no one cares to remember what it was. No one wants to die; death is horrible.

And no one wants to dream, because dreaming is worse than death. Here, your dreams become real. They manifest as nightmarish creatures. Dreams are feared. Dreams are the terrible curse of this place. This once-world. This reality, in its awful death throes.

This waste.

There are a LOT of details about Waste I'm keeping secret, but here are some things to know:

  1. +Anxy P. and +Andrew Walter are making art for it. +Michael Raston just signed on as well.
  2. +Evey Lockhart is writing for it.
  3. It's a collection of weird people, places, and things.
  4. It's fantasy based, but it's not limited by fantasy themes.
Here are some things I created for it last night. How all of these different pieces will come together is something I'm still working out, but the concepts are fun to create and I'm very interested in the weirdness this place inspires.

Chronal Lake Eater

Aboleth artwork found on Google, run through Prisma App.
There's a pit near an edge of the Thirst, a deep and narrow hole bored into the earth, like an ancient mine. It's walls are lined with glistening crystals, chromatic rings of geodes casting sparkling tones of lavender, cobalt, and crimson.

The effect is lost on the sole inhabitant of the pit, the chronal lake eater, whose 12 eyes are all dull, white, and listless.

For this beast, the immortal and temporal devourer of the Waste's last ocean, the beast still drinking in the salt water in some distant history it inhabits, is blind.

So it languishes at the bottom of the pit, its gargantuan body drifting in a bath of silt, its long neck exposed, reaching upward like a lone stalk of wheat, chasing warmth.

While its mind drifts backwards through earlier eras, before this world went dry.

Lake Eater Hunting Parties

Hunting parties prepare their sub to assault the Chronal Lake Eater.
Artwork by +Juan Ochoa 

Nearer to the coast lies a graveyard of metal ships, jutting up through dirt and sand like layered shark teeth. A tribe of humans have built homes here, cut into the hulls and down into their long abandoned bowels.

This tribe is crazed, like most of the human tribes scattered across the Waste, and they hunger for the flesh of the last fish, the Lake Eater.

They have fashioned from their ship-homes crude submarines that screech down through the air on thick, rusted chains. From these they lunge at the Lake Eater, but it always knows they are coming, even though it is blind. Because its future self knows the pain of their terrible harpoons, and warns itself across the distance of time.

And so the hunters die as the beast thrashes at them. And the survivors retreat, to plot the creature's murder for another day.

The Fetid Carnival

Found via Google. Artwork by Bridget Monro.
There's a carnival troupe that can be found sometimes in the Golden Thirst, rolling on croaking wheels between the rows of starving cities, made of old, broken wagons, all covered in dust and cobwebs and vacant.

When the croaking comes to a halt a tent slowly rises from the center of the caravan, and a noise, like an organ, bellows a somber tune.

The earth stirs and ancient beasts rise up, taking part in the festivities.

People are drawn from the nearby city, enchanted by the music.

The stench of rotted meat hangs over everything.

Soon, a thrush of hook-limbed scarror birds will fletch through the air, their thrumming, fur-covered wings stirring up the dust that coats the wagons as they prepare to feast on the attendants. They skewer down through the air, piercing and ripping at the crowds and pulling meals off to their nests.

Each victim stolen away draws a cheer of revelry as skeletal whalephants perform stunts in the center of the massive tent.

By dawn, the horror is over and few survivors remain. They slowly drift back to their cities, jealous they weren't stolen like their neighbors, their loved ones, their friends.

Waiting for the next time the carnival rolls around, that they might become a feast.

(Artwork by Bridget Monro. Found on the Internet. Sadly, she no longer does illustration.)


In addition, here are some poetic "snippets". The first one is by me, the last two are written by Evey Lockhart, who I'm so thrilled to have working on this book. Her writing and conceptualizing is very similar to my own, in a lot of really good ways, only her visions are a lot more twisted and detailed. I love her stuff. (Can you tell I'm excited?)

Song for a Screaming Sun, Metal Lands, and Mountains of Bone

A lullaby

There's a portal in the earth to a place where a god lays on scarred metal, dying. His eyes shine bright as a star. He is a world, and his worshippers make of him homes, burrowing caves and dungeons into his leathery flesh.

The elders sing poetry of how their tribe's use of the god land pleases Him who Screams.

They are wrong.

And there are worms growing in his heart that will teach them the error in their sagas.

When they dig too deep.

And here's the first piece written by Evey:

Song for the Möbious Worms

The möbious worms wait. They grow. They do not know.
But they hate.
They are his pain. His fear. The dying shivers of necrotic hope.
They will rend. Unmake.
However, this unmaking will take forever. An eternity of of undoing.
They turn impossibly upon themselves. They were your beginning. They are fear coiling in your guts. They will come for you in death.

What was will never be... right up until the end.

No one actually believes the sagas. They wish to. They try to. But it falls through their fingers like the weeping waters of his veins.


And here's another piece by Evey, this one is very much a rough, "stream-of-consciousness" post, but it very much captures that sort of visceral nature she has with her writing:

Nights of the Absent Moon “Only the dead have it worse."
It whispers through cracked lips, sighs across yellow teeth, echoes in many ears. The phrase, the ritual, the words, the knowledge, the pain of it touches all in the Waste… But how might one know? How might one comprehend a fate worse than this? The dead scream. Not often, but the dead always cry, when given voice. The ever-changing sky sometimes reveals an awful moon or perhaps some horrible planet. It is huge and dark and cold. A terrible, round absence, the orb flows across the sky at impossible angles. Dilating madly, it never quite winks out of existence. This is why you never drink your last bottle of sleep… not ‘til you’ve seen the night’s sky.
The cacophony is maddening. The very bedrock of this world is death, bones can be dug from the ground as frequent as stones. Nothing, not even deafness, can halt the hearing of them. Only dreamless sleep can save you. -- -- -- -- -- - The mad priests of Xanthrill claim to hear patterns, learn truths in the unbelievable noise of the Absent Moon. Whispering wizards sometimes say they recognize voices. Some few even claim to have given the dead solace, though any who have lived through an Absent Moon cannot believe them.* Most simply suffer, as ever, as always. It’s best to try and remember: “Should I dash myself upon the bones and stones, should I let flow the red water of my wrists, should I hang choking from the rafters, it is I who will scream forever.”† -- -- -- -- -- - Wizards do not wish this to be known; however, magic does not exist under an Absent Moon. It seems the souls of the objects to which they speak are no longer there. If you need to kill a wizard, endure the screaming for he or she will be weak. -- -- -- -- -- - * It is worth noting that all such claims have come from particularly powerful wizards. Whether this is a simple ploy to demand loyalty or an unexpected truth is the subject of much debate.(At least, amongst those with the luxury of contemplation.) Perhaps souls never leave this place but instead reside in each stone, rest in each door, wait in every window, burble in every stream. Only under the Absent Moon, each soul must find its bones and speak its lack of peace. Or the dead simply scream because it is terrible. Just like every other facet of this awful world. † Few know, but this oft repeated adage is from the sacred texts of Xanthrill. Should a priest come across someone awake during an Absent Moon, he or she is bidden to hold the unfortunate soul tightly and shout these words into their ear. Those who walk in Xanthrill’s footsteps are ever slaves to kindness. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- - -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

I'm going to be posting more about the three projects that are in development (Across the Stars, Bag of Astronauts, and Waste) for the next few months, possibly based on a set schedule of announcements for each product. Each one is very much in the early stages of design, and while I would love to be ready for a January or February release for my first title, it's more important to me that I make something polished. I'll likely release free "samples" periodically, and I've already started to set up private communities on G+ where I can discuss each product's development.