Friday, March 15, 2024

The Ludologic Plague: Practical Advice for Running Derro Encounters

To understand this post, I need you to go read this post from False Machine. Ready? OK, let's move on.

The Derros are characters with a history before D&D, and Patrick Stuart's interpretation of them in Veins of the Earth is my favorite iteration.

Whereas he relies on these wonderfully flavorful and evocative splorshes of text to give you a sense of the Derro, I am going to give you practical advice on using them in your games. 

Metatextuality

The Derros understand that they live within a metatext. This is a terrifying existence for them. The second they are forgotten or unobserved, they do not exist. In the frenetic moments that they do exist, they put all their thought into escaping.

The Derros recognize that PCs are special. They torture various "named" creatures to see if they are PCs, but can quickly find out that they are not. They interrogate PCs to understand the "Machines" they use.

A machine is a game mechanic. 

The Derro lack the language to describe game mechanics, but understand some things as metaphors. A book of rules. Fate is random chance--sure, call it dice. These are all machines

They ask about the machines. Is the book brown? Is the book little and brown? Does it come in a white box? The one that is brown does not come in a white box? Do not lie. 

They address the "people behind your eyes." The people who "inhabit your skin."

They want to go back with you to the "upper world."

Every encounter with the Derro has this motif, has this refrain. 

Eventually, the PCs will begin to understand the gimmick the GM is trying to pull with the Derros. Then, they are infected.

The Ludologic Plague

Derros carry a magical disease called the ludologic plague. When PCs start wondering out loud, at the table, if the Derros understand that they are in a game--BAM! 

Every time a player says something about the Derro understanding the real world, the GM takes a post-it note and puts it inside the book. Put it anywhere. The game text hidden by the post-it note no longer exists. The GM can't see it, the players can't use it. The post-it note represent the ludologic plague spreading. 

If the players ever tell the Derros about the "machines." If they ever metagame and start talking, in character, about the mechanics of the game--the PCs become infected themselves. 

Put a post-it note over parts of the PC's character sheet. That part does not exist. That part cannot be read. 

The Derros have false machines that can control the plague. They can write on post-it notes that exist in the real world. They can rewrite the rules for reality.

Whatever is written on top of the post-it note is what the "real rules" are. Oh, you have PASTA HP now? Sure. That's how that works. You've always had PASTA HP. D&D is well known for giving fighters PASTA HP. 

The PCs can beat the Derros up (in the game world) and break their false machines to erase (or rewrite) what is written on the post-it notes. But the notes can't be removed until the plague is cured.

The plague is cured by obtaining, in real life, a copy of the Veins of the Earth. Then, rip the pages out from 167-172. The Derro no longer exist. They can no longer hurt you.


Monday, March 11, 2024

Four Rival Adventuring Parties

I love rival adventuring parties. I half use them to express ideas I have for characters in games I'm GMing. "I wish I could play this." Here are four that might appear in the first supplement to His Majesty the Worm: the dungeon named The Castle Automatic

Rival Adventuring Parties

The Debtors

A team of debt-bound dwarves. They travel under the cover of a giant's brass helmet. They speak Cant exclusively. They warn about the presence of any traps in this room (less out of kindness and more out of fear that the players will set them off while they're still nearby). 

Quest: They are searching for the Coin of Pentacles to pay off their collective debt. They will pay 20g for solid advice about how to navigate the Palace of Pentacles. 

The guild consists of:

  • Sam Miner the necropolis architect (dwarf, Path of Cups) - De facto leader. Fights with a mattock. Knows a lot about dungeon design due to his background in building trapped necropolii for other underfolk. Owns Zach, a sassy canary.
  • Albus Sapper the sapper (dwarf, Path of Cups) - Fights with a flamberge. Pyromaniac. In possession of a homemade bomb and is looking for an excuse to use it. 
  • Ethel Tinker the trapsmith (dwarf, Path of Pentacles) - Fights with a crossbow. Professional to a fault. Just there to do a job.
  • Sue Hauler the dumb muscle (dwarf, Path of Swords) - Fights with a maul. Loves her mates. Loves her beer. Loves her work (bashing heads and hauling heavy shite). Simple as. 

Mr. and Mrs. Not

Gnomish husband and wife duo who are looking for rare and exotic flowers. They travel with orcish guards who are paid to protect them. 

Quest: Exotic flowers. They are willing to pay high prices for flowers from the Castle Automatic depending on how rare they are: white lotus from XX - Ossuary (500g), roses from XX - Bower (25g), Fidelis Rose from area XX (1000g), and black lotus from XX - Pleasure Dome (50g).

The guild consists of:

  • Mr. Waste Not the cantankerous naturalist (gnome, Path of Wands) - Fights with a wand. Grumpy all the time. Traditional and conservative.
  • Mrs. Want Not the garden witch (gnome, Path of Cups) - Prefers not to fight, but will wield her cast iron pan in a pinch. Kindly. A good cook. 
  • Maer Finrydottir the mage killer (orc, Path of Pentacles) Fights with a pair of daggers. Always wears iron armor because she hates the feeling of magic being cast on her. Utterly in love with Peta. 
  • Peta Ulysdottir the pathfinder (orc, Path of Swords) Fights with a razor boomerang. Half hyper competent, half lazy. 
  • Oyster the dead one (orc, Path of Wands) Fights with a bone club. Came back from the dead once and came back weird. 

The Penitent

Templars, sponsored directly by the Cult. Believe themselves to be on a holy crusade. On one hand, they see themselves as agents of a temporal authority in the otherwise lawless space of the Underworld, which makes them come across as true dicks. On the other hand, they practice what they preach and will treat others fairly. They hate ogres, the undead, and vampires, and will always join in on battles against these opponents.

Quest: They are searching for the Chalice of Life, which they believe to be the sacred Grail of Mythrys. 

The guild consists of:

  • Philo "The Confessor" Heartsbane the inquisitor (human, Path of Swords) - Fights with a warhammer. Cautious and disciplined. Holds his guild to high standards. Comes off as joyless. 
  • Dyvin Minor "The Shield of Faith" Heartsbane the knight  (human, Path of Swords) - Fights with a mace. Lives in the shadow of his father. Overeager to prove himself.
  • But-by-Every-Word-that-Procedeth "The Holy Demon" the convert squire (troll, Path of Swords) - Fights with an iron-studded war club. Struggles with their identity as a troll living among humans. A true convert. Rich, baritone singing voice. 
  • Sister Miriam "The Water Bearer" Ormulon the war nun (human, Path of Cups) - Fights with a censer flail. Skilled healer, bad bedside manner. Has an incredibly grim view of sorcery. 

The Ones

A group of failsons who each believe they're the chosen one. 

Quest: They are searching for the Perfect Sword. Each member believes they are the true inheritors of its legacy. If they ever actually get within sight of the sword, things will get dark fast. 

The guild consists of:

  • Kinwa Too Tall the dashing bravo (high elf, Path of Swords) - Fights with an archwood sword. In love with the nymph, Imaga, who lives in a different section of the Underworld (you wouldn't know her). 
  • Franklin "The Wart" Noname the mage knight (human, Path of Wands) - Fights with a quarterstaff. Marked with a solar-burst like burn on his hand. Dismissive of dangers because he believes himself to be the child of prophecy. 
  • Bingo Beekeeper the people's burglar (halfling, Path of Pentacles) - Carries a hive of trained bees on his back. Fights by directing the bees to attack his enemies using two signal wands. Comes from a noble background, but dedicates his life to helping the poor and unfortunate.


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Four Tips to Drive Role Playing

Dungeon games have a historical bad reputation of being all about kicking down doors and looting treasure. But even games with the most traditional trappings of bash-n-loot fantasy can have vivid, funny, interesting, memorable roleplaying. If you need a bit more in your games, try these tips.

Use Reaction Rolls

By default, nothing should be outright hostile. In The Hobbit, the three trolls Bilbo came upon felt sorry for him and wanted to let him go (at first). Use Reaction rolls to see if the dragon is hungry, angry, sleepy, amused with your antics, or otherwise. Every encounter is then a roleplaying encounter by default, unless the dice and player actions determine differently.

Meaningful language rules

Choose language rules that actually facilitate talking to lots of stuff. Go beyond letting players choose at random from "Aquan" and "Goblin." Have a tight list of 3-5 languages that everything in your setting speaks. Even when an NPC is hostile, understanding their language is a boon. The NPC can shout orders to their minions, giving you a chance to prepare and react. The NPC can speak out loud about what its motivations are, giving you a chance to parley instead. The NPC can talk about different sections of the dungeon, such as a trap in the next room it's trying to push you towards, which gives you information to work with.

Talk to everything

No seriously, you can talk to everything. Kick "languages" up a notch by making almost everything verbal. Campfires. Doors. Skeletons. Change the paradigm of what can speak and what language is for rich roleplaying experiences.

Recurring NPCs

I put recurring NPCs on my random encounter table. These entries can expand out to a secondary table, like "Rival Adventuring Party, roll again on the Rival Adventuring Party Table." Then, the players see the same merchants, the same witches, the same rivals, the same Big Bad a few times, learn their tactics, develop relationships, etc.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Metroidvanias and Megadungeons

Sometimes, I see the question: "How do I run an RPG like a metroidvania/like Hollow Knight/like Blasphemous?" 

I'm making this blog post mostly so I have something to link to when I encounter it.

Definitions of terms


What is man? A miserable little pile of interconnected, gated dungeons.


"Metroidvania is a subgenre of video games focused on guided non-linearity and utility-gated exploration. The term, popularized by video game critic Jeremy Parish, is a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania." - Definition from the sidebar of reddit.com/r/metroidvania

"Some common characteristics and philosophies for a mythic underworld or megadungeon (keep these in mind when creating your dungeon):
1. It's big, and has many levels; in fact, it may be endless
2. It follows its own ecological and physical rules
3. It is not static; the inhabitants and even the layout may grow or change over time
4. It is not linear; there are many possible paths and interconnections
5. There are many ways to move up and down through the levels
6. Its purpose is mysterious or shrouded in legend
7. It's inimical to those exploring it
8. Deeper or farther levels are more dangerous
9. It's a (the?) central feature of the campaign" 
- James Cone, Philotomy's Musings

Locks and keys

To open the door, you must do what needs to be done.


The basic gimmick of any metroidvania is that players can see pathways that they don't yet know how to access. This is done through a series of locks and keys.

Locks are anything that prevent the players from making progress. 
  • They can be spatial—something is separated from you by distance
  • They can be physical—something can physically block your progress
  • They can be temporal—something only happens at a specific time or after time is spent on a task
  • They can be environmental—you need to overcome the limitations of the human body
  • They can be interpersonal—you must convince the NPC that you’re worth helping
The simplest example of this is a locked room. You must find the key to enter it.

But the principle applies to much more than that.

Entire sections of the dungeon can be locked. Example: You cannot journey through the Drowned Marshes without waterbreathing.

Non-player characters can be locked. Example: The ghost of the nurse will not help you until you give her the skeleton of the fair haired girl buried in the First Graveyard.

Specific items can be locked. Example: You can’t pick up the Communion Bread and Wine until you have first confessed your sins.

Certain events can be locked. Example: The ghost of the baroness only appears in the witching hour.

Achieve a metroidvania effect by using obvious locks and hidden keys.

Gated, non-linear dungeons

The map from one of the metroidvanias that lends the genre its name

As a gamemaster, creating a megadungeon can seem daunting, but it’s really just a series of small, discrete tasks.
  • Break a megadungeon down to its atomic constituent parts.
  • Populate it with interesting things.
  • Connect these levels together.
It’s less making one huge megadungeon and more creating several, smaller dungeons. Each dungeon should be interesting enough to stand on its own. Here's one recipe for stocking a dungeon. Here's another. 

That said, because you are creating several dungeons and connecting them together, not every dungeon has to have everything. Each dungeon's theme will be reflected by the choices you make while stocking it. One dungeon could be completely devoid of enemies but be full of traps (like Hollow Knight's Path of Pain). One dungeon could be free of both traps and enemies--a rare moment of quiet and place to rest in the center of the megadungeon; a camp between the over world and mythic underworld. 

Create locks between these constituent dungeons. Place their keys in places that clever PCs can find them.  

One powerful technique is to show the players they haven't unlocked yet right off the bat. Many metroidvanias do this in the first stage to establish the pattern of explore -> find a roadblock -> explore some more -> return to bypass roadblock.


This is what Sersa Victory calls a "Foreshadowing Loop"


Another powerful technique is to show a key behind a difficult puzzle that can be ignored -> the lock that blocks the PCs' progress that contains a clue for the puzzle. This lets players muse over the puzzle in context. See the puzzle, see the blocker, get a clue, backtrack to the puzzle itself.

The non-linearity of the maps and expanse of content works to your advantage. Because there are many ways to go, you can afford to get "stuck" on a puzzle. In linear dungeons, a puzzle that blocks the way forward can cause hours of frustration for player and GM alike. In non-linear dungeons, it's not a problem. The players can leave and continue to play and explore. If someone has an insight or if a key is later discovered that fits that puzzle's lock, they can return. Also, because of the nature of the medium, there should be many ways to solve any puzzle. You're not just trying to guess what the game wants you to do--you're finding logical solutions that work within the context of the game world.

"Story" and level design work together

As you play Hollow Knight, the bright Infection spreads.


In many RPGs, and especially in games of this format, the "story" is what happens at the gaming table.  To support this, GMs should imbue the megadungeon with lore seeds that bloom when cared for. 

That is to say, do not create a plot--explicit things that you think are going to happen or actions the PCs will take. Instead, create the backstory of the different dungeon levels/overall megadungeon, and let that shine through your choices of traps, monsters, treasures, and special areas. 

Embed lore and information into each level. A trap can reflect the theme of what it guards or its maker. Treasure might depict the scene of a historical or recent event. The gold might be minted with the faces of ancient goddesses. Ruins might have partial Rosetta Stones that allow the translation of unknown and forgotten languages. Let your lore shine in dark places.

Ultimately, players might ignore all this as just a bit of flavor. And that’s okay—the game is ultimately about the player’s choices. But, at the same time, if you repeatedly hit your players over the head with bits of lore, they’ll begin to form connections. Things that seemed like one-off bits of description will suddenly be remembered. Players will have “aha” moments. They’ll feel like Sherlock Holmes—and that’s fun for everybody.

Ability-based exploration 


In Blasphemous, you upgrade your thorn-covered sword, Mea Culpa, by finding new altars.


Sometimes its okay having the blue dungeon gated behind the blue door which is opened with the blue key. But a key feature of metroidvanias is to unlock progress through ability-based exploration: Samus learns how to drop bombs so that her morph ball bounces up into the tunnel, Alucard learns how to become a mist to phase through gates. It's more interesting to open new levels because the PCs gained a new ability that opened up a new mode of play for them.

There are some abilities that work better in a dungeon-crawling context and some that work less well. The same is true for metroidvania-esque exploration.

Abilities that are bad for metroidvania-megadungeons

In every old-school module, especially tournament dungeons, there was a big list of spells that just didn't work. There's a reason for that.

Passwall: Avoid any ability that removes the essential structure of locks and keys from the dungeon. Passwall (and equivalent abilities) is like that glitch where you pressed Start during screen transitions in Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening--you bypass sections of the dungeon, but you're breaking the experience.

Jumps and spider climbs: It feels counter-intuitive. Getting a double jump works so well in video games! But TTRPGs have different modes of input than video games. When the GM says: "Ha ha, you cannot reach the door on the ledge because it is, like, 15' up," the players are well within their rights to say "Oh, uh, okay we just climb the wall" or "We have a grapple" or whatever. Putting your next level on a super slick unclimbable wall just feels cheap.

(Although, having written this, I just got an idea for an entirely upside down dungeon that's only really navigable if everybody has spider climb. Although I think you'd get a nose bleed after a few minutes. I guess my point still stands.)

Flight: I'm not an advocate for flight in dungeon crawling games. Too many great puzzles and environments only have tension because the players can't fly right over them. Putting a dungeon in the sky and then giving your player's flight is cool, but comes with a cost. It's better to unlock the sky dungeon through taming a friendly roc or climbing a giant's fishing line. 

Teleportation: Teleportation between set points is fine. But the ability to teleport small distances (i.e., through doors) will disrupt the most essential locks (doors) in a megadungeon. Intangibility has the same problem. 

Abilities that are good for metroidvania-megadungeons


Giant size / giant strength: Moving huge boulders blocking a door is a classic. It's even better if you have to move something that's inhumanly heavy: cranking a giant winch, pushing open a giant door, winning an arm wrestling contest with a giant, etc. 

Tiny size: Alice in Wonderland style, shrinking into a mouse size lets you enter through small doors or navigate doll house dungeons. 

New languages: New languages can allow you to traverse the dungeon in dramatically new ways. It might turn enemies into friends--once you can speak to the kobolds, you can negotiate passage through their territory. It might allow you to solve previously unsolvable problems ("Speak FRIEND and enter? We had this all wrong.")

Healing: Sections of the dungeon can be gated by dangers that you can eventually mitigate. For example, you can only survive the Poison Swamp once you gain the ability to Remove Poison. Or a particular type of healing might be needed to bypass a lock: a door can only be opened if the demonic sword pinning it shut has Remove Curse cast on it. 

Damage immunity: Relatedly, some dungeons can be gated by hazardous environments. Entering the Dragonfire Forge deals 1 damage by heat every turn. If the players gain Rings of Resist Fire, they can traverse this environment. Or perhaps they can enter the Poison Swamp if everybody gets a gas mask. 

Elemental damage: Even without 5E style damage types, puzzles that deal with different types of elemental effects "read" well at the table. To open the door encased in ice, you need to cast a fire spell. To charge up the elevator that takes you to a new level, you need to cast lightning bolt on it. 

Water breathing: Water is a great, natural barrier. Water breathing allows you to descend to dungeon levels at the bottom of a lake or traverse the underground river.


Further reading

Sersa Victory has written about the patterns of "locks" and "keys" in their supplement Cyclic Dungeon Generation. It's very much worth checking out.

Game Maker's Toolkit has a Patreon post analyzing Zelda dungeons, which provides a very handy dungeon graphing system.

I wrote about my procedures for making a megadungeon in a supplement called Dungeon Seeds. This no-frills, low-art draft went on to become a chapter on megadungeon creation for my upcoming game His Majesty the Worm. 


If you sign up for my mailing list, I'll send you Dungeon Seeds for free (and let you know when the full game is available for purchase!). 


Friday, January 19, 2024

Mutatations

I swore I'd never let myself get this bad. I swore I'd never write a mutation table.

I lied.


In general, the mutations have some benefit--but everyone thinks of you as a freak. The last four are not great, but let me explore some of the fantastic races that don't get a lot of love in a surfeit of elves and dwarves.

Mutation Table

  1. Infernal head: A teratoma grows out of your neck in the shape of a jack o' lantern head. It's all hair and teeth, with a little mouth that squeaks blasphemies in Tylwyth while you try to sleep. You can never be ambushed, however, because the little head squeaks out a warning. 

  2. Third-arm: Your left shoulder now has two arms growing from the socket. You gain a third hand slot.

  3. Crab claw: Your right arm becomes a giant crab claw. It can't hold anything, but can be used as a weapon. Your claw has a special weapon property, per the rules in the core book, page 170. When you successfully Attack, you may choose to Notch an opponent's weapon or armor instead of dealing a normal Wound.

  4. Enlarged brain: Your skull swells until you look like a comic book villain called "Braino." When you make eye contact with a person, you can talk to them with telepathy. This gives them a headache and is uncomfortable, but allows you to overcome language barriers.

  5. Centaur: You gain a centaur's body configuration (although your flesh is the same color and you don't have hooves—just four, flat humanoid feet). You gain 4 more pack slots. You cannot climb ropes, and might have all sorts of other problems with the world not being well shaped for you.

  6. Honeycomb head: Your head above your mouth swells and becomes trypophobic, like a lotus pod or honeycomb. You can still see, but it's not apparent how. Creatures that need to make eye contact with you to use their abilities can no longer do so.  

  7. Eye stalks: Your eyes grow out of your head and sit atop long stalks. You can see behind you without turning your head. You can see around corners easily. 

  8. Antennae:  Two antennae gracefully curve off of your head. When you wave them, you can "hear" the simple thoughts of insects. 

  9. Callused body: You grow a thick, red callus all over your body. This mutation is treated like a piece of armor that can be Wounded twice. You can burn charges to heal these Wounds, like a Wounded talent. You find it irritating to wear normal armor; if you do, you gain no benefit from this mutation and you become Stressed.

  10. Frog tongue: Your tongue becomes long and sticky. Speak Incantation actions are made with disfavor. However, you can use your tongue to reach out and grab anything that you can fit in your mouth up to a yard away.

Page. Panotti: Your ears grow as large as an elephants. They both fall down like sacks of skin on either side of you. They don't hear better or worse than your old ears. 

Knight. Akephalos: Your head shrinks into your chest. Your eyes are about at your shoulders, your nose is in the center of your chest, and your belly sports your wide mouth. You cannot wear anything on your torso and function normally. 

Queen. Cyclops: Your eyes merge together into a single, giant eye in the center of your forehead. You cannot take the Aim action with the bow (core book, p. 170).

King. Monopod: Your feet fuse together into a single giant foot. You hop everywhere you go. You cannot take the Dash action. 


Mutation Rules Sidebar:

All mutations are intended to be permanent, but GMs (as always) have discretion.


To represent a mutation, write the rules on an index card and paper clip it to your adventurer record sheet. It sticks out like a sore thumb. You'll never forget you have it.


Starting Disposition for GM characters who see your weird mutation is (usually) automatically the distaste Disposition (core book, p. 101).


For many mutations, an adventurer will need to discard their clothing and armor as they no longer fit comfortably. Commission bespoke clothing and armor in the City. Bespoke clothing and armor is always a luxurious upkeep expense.


Feel free to also use the mutation table for things like the Cloaca Maxima City Action (core book, p. 307).


Saturday, January 13, 2024

House of the Revelers - Mindstorm Guest Blog Dungeon

When Ty of Mindstorm said he was going to do a blog guest tour this year, I raised my hand immediately. I had no idea that it'd go this hard. I am blown away. 

A His Majesty the Worm drop-in-dungeon. Put the secret entrance in another dungeon corridor and let your adventurers discover the terrible secrets of the...

House of the Revelers

Theme: Decadence

Entrance: A crease in the dungeon wall indicates a secret door. The aroma of freshly baked bread and sizzling meat seeps out from the cracks. Pushing lightly on the wall causes the door (well-oiled) to the Dining Room to open.

Hallways: Opulent, full of small alcoves where marble heads (giant sized) look back at the adventurers. There are coins sprinkled here and there, everywhere.




Dining Room

The aroma of freshly-cooked meat. Scurrying feet of a feasting man. The crunching of teeth and the smacking of lips. 

The moment anyone pockets treasure from the dungeon, the door leading to and from the dungeon swings closed. There is a flash as it magically welds itself shut. It opens freely for anyone wearing the pendant from the Dance Hall.

A man, dressed in a grease stained frilly shirt, feasting.

  • Action: Consuming as much food as he can, as fast as he can.

  • Appearance: Once fancy clothes, covered in grease. Unkempt hair. A big belly. 

  • Attitude: Implore others to join him in the feast. Becomes hostile if they try to push past, and when struck explodes into a mass of Hungering Worms.

  • Ancillary:

    • “I can’t remember my damn name!”

    • “Damn, it’s just… so good, it’s all so good.”

    • “Oh, don’t worry. Someone always brings more! There’s more coming!”

    • If observed, signs of movement under the skin on his tummy.

An eight-armed glass chandelier lights the entire room.

  • Fresh wax candles. Expensive.

An ornate wooden table full of food and taking up most of the room’s space.

  • Savory meats, roasted vegetables, crumbly cheese, juicy fruit.

    • The feast is extra filling! Anyone who eats doesn’t need to consume rations during the next 1d3 camp phases. There is a 1-in-6 chance of contracting the Great Hunger affliction; see below.

  • Silver platters and plates, golden utensils, crystal wine glasses

Mechanics

Hungering Worms. Attributes: Swords 0 | Pentacles 2 | Cups 0 | Wands 0. HD: 3/0

Each worm is about three feet long and as thin as string. There are dozens.

Lesser Doom

  • Scatter! Play a lesser doom card to have the worms scurry apart, into the cracks and crevices of the dungeon. Unless the adventurers have a way to pull each worm free, the Challenge ends. The worms will be back. They’re hungry.

Greater Doom

  • Burrow! Play a greater doom card along with an attack. If it hits, the worms go down the throat of the adventurer. They immediately are Afflicted with The Great Hunger. The Hungering Worms immediately lose 2 Health, representing the majority of them finding a new host.


The Great Hunger. (Affliction)

  • Stage 1: You’re peckish. Test Wands during the camp phase. On a fail, you need to try sneaking a second ration or you starve. 1 charge to cure.

  • Stage 2: You’re just really, really hungry. You must consume 2 rations during the camp phase or starve. 1 charge to cure.

  • Stage 3: You’re ravenous. Test Wands whenever you’re in the room with something edible: if you fail, you’re going to try and eat it. 3 charge to cure.

  • Stage 4: You explode into a nest of Hungering Worms. There’s no cure at this stage, because you’ve exploded.

Baths

A misty steam filling the room, making you sweat. The splash of something moving in the water. A low, rumbling bass of unnatural laughing voices.

Steam obscures anything further than ten feet out.

Sconces on the wall burn brightly, filling the room with hazy light.

Pools of a liquid that looks like water, but thicker.

  • Stairs lead down into the pools. They’re 8 feet deep.

  • A mortal soaking in the water for a quarter-hour heals all physical wounds, but not perfectly—instead of scabs and scars, their skin is patched with gold, like a living kintsugi. Even missing appendages grow back, but made purely of gold.

12 Marble Revelers soak in the pools.

  • Action: Enjoying their endless soak, gossiping with each other.

  • Appearance: Twelve-foot tall living marble statues. Perfect bodies with (literal) chiseled muscles. They open their mouths (but don’t otherwise move them) to speak in deep baritone voices.

  • Attitude: Curious about the small ones. Completely unafraid and unfazed.

  • Ancillary: 

    • “It’s not water, little one, but it won’t hurt you! Have a dip.”

    • “Ah, what a fool you would be to choose to dance instead of soak! This is the life.”

    • “The way out? Oh, little one, you can’t get out. The dance hall is too dangerous for you. Stay with us!”

An elevated section of the north eastern room is surrounded by wooden railing.

  • Climbing up the wall and over the railing leads to the Alcove.

Alcove

A hazy mist of pipeweed fills the nostrils and stings the eyes. Leather creaks. A distant splash of water from afar.

A woman in finery leaning back in an armchair smoking from a pipe.

  • Action: Smoking endless amounts of pipeweed.

  • Appearance: Wrinkly and thin. A beautiful dress. Glazed over eyes.

  • Attitude: Languid, dazed, and happy to chat with anyone who doesn’t harsh the vibe. 

  • Ancillary: 

    • “My name, darling, is Madame Olivia of House Dusklight.”

    • “Leave? And risk being crushed by the brutes of this place? No thank you. Besides, sweet thing, nobody leaves this place once the door seals.”

    • “Yes, yes, smoke with me. Let me light that for you, sweetie.”

Two armchairs, facing each other.

  • Olivia Dusklight is in one.

A small table between the chairs with a single candle, the only light.

A lounging couch.

  • The amount of coins between the cushions is astounding, really.

The alcove is open to the south and west, blocked by a waist high wooden railing.

  • Below, the splash of water can be heard and a rumbling of stone. Hazy steam obscures vision.

  • Leaping off the railing leads down to the Baths.

Kitchen

Racks of hanging cured meat, dried spices, and kitchen implements. A many-armed figure moving through the chaos as easy as pie. Bubbling cauldrons, sizzling frying pans, and warm ovens.

A humanoid figure with twelve arms scurries about the kitchen, flipping, cutting, spicing, and plating several different courses.

  • Action: Cook meals, bake bread, and prepare desserts.

  • Appearance: Twelve arms. A face longer than it should be with sharp teeth. An old apron. Fingernails as sharp as a chef’s knife. Also brandishing a chef’s knife.

  • Attitude: Busy, scatter-brained, and willing to put people to work. If threatened, Chefy turns hostile and unleashes his homunculi on the group. More meat for the pot.

  • Ancillary: 

    • “Parts, parts, parts! Bring me things that were once alive, and old Chefy here can make you up some nice takeaway. Delicious!”

    • “Worms? In the food? No, no, no, not from me, what an accusation! Who did you dine with?”

    • You want out? Of here? Gotta get the pendant from the dance hall… And if you’re going that way… kill the guardian in there, bring me the body… Chefy’ll cook it up nice for you.”

Firelight from the ovens bathes the room in orange glow.

Racks of food, spices, and implements make up every square inch of the walls.

  • There’s enough here to fill every pack the adventurers have with rations.

(HIDDEN) 4 homunculi are hidden away in cupboards and drawers.

Chefy’s Takeaway

Chefy can whip up takeaway in no time at all. Use the Alchemy rules, but the Brew Alchemy doesn’t require tools, talents, or time. Chefy does demand the entire body, though. He’ll do the sorting of parts. In addition to an alchemical substance, Chefy also produces rations for the party with each meal.

Statblocks

Chefy

Special: Chefy, with his many limbs, always grants +1 draw in the Challenge Phase.

Attributes: Swords 5 | Pentacles 4 | Cups 2 | Wands 2. HD: 6/0

Lesser Dooms:

  • Knife-skills: Chefy can play a lesser doom card as a Riposte. This does not count as his action for the turn.

  • Taste test: If Chefy is in his kitchen, he can play a lesser doom card to take a quick snack break. He shovels down some of his own creations, Healing 2 Wounds.

Greater Dooms:

  • Chef’s knife: Play a greater doom card along with an Attack. If the Attack is successful, Chefy cuts free a random limb.

  • Need more sous-chefs: If Chefy is in his kitchen, he can play a greater doom card. His free hand slaps together 2 homunculi who join the fight in the next round.

Homunculus

Attributes: 0. HD: 2/0.

Lesser Doom:

  • Season: The homunculus throws salt and spices on the character. Chefy makes any attacks against them with favor.

Greater Doom:

  • Mise en place: Pick one adventurer and play a greater doom card. For every homunculus engaged with them beyond the first, deal 1 Wound.

Dance Hall

Polished floor stretching out into the dark. A massive hanging lamp in the center of the hall throwing the entire room into contrasting shadows and light. The thunderous crunch as a hundred twelve-foot tall marble folk dance the endless dance.

A golden lantern, the size of a giant’s head, rotating on a clockwork device, throwing out strobes of light. The ever-shifting nature from this creates impenetrable shadows that dance across the room.

100 Marble Revelers dance in a rhythm of chaos on the dance floor.

  • Action: Dance, baby! With each other, in a line, in a mosh pit, swinging with a partner, performing intricate ballroom maneuvers, and every other variation.

  • Appearance: Twelve-foot tall living marble statues. Perfect bodies with (literal) chiseled muscles. 

  • Attitude: They ignore the small folk entirely and never speak. Ignoring the small folk means that if you’re on the dance floor, a twelve foot tall statue might crash into you at full dance-speed.

(Hidden) The Gold-Eater, an abomination of flesh and metal, stalks among the dancers, waiting for those made of meat to try and get the pendant.

  • Appearance: Rhino-sized. Bulbous globs of flesh. Five legs of varying, mismatched sizes. A hundred misshapen eyes. Coins, jewels, goblets, and all manner of treasure pressed into the flesh as if it were jelly.

  • Attitude: The Gold-Eater, in order of importance, will act in the following way: 1) protect the pendant. 2) eat anyone that enters the dancefloor. 3) stay hidden from intruders of the dance hall.

  • Ancillary: The Gold-Eater is bound by magic to the dance floor and cannot leave it under any circumstance.

A raised dais, in the center of the dance floor, with something shining on a pedestal when the lantern light hits it.

  • The center of the dance floor isn’t terribly far from the edge, but is a treacherous journey through the dancers.

  • The pendant is draped on a golden holder.

Rows and rows of tables, covered in appetizers and dusty bottles.

  • The appetizers are all freshly made and constantly replenished by Chefy’s Homunculi in the Kitchens.

  • Wine goblets, made of silver and inlaid with gems, are scattered haphazardly everywhere.

  • The dusty bottles are unopened wine. The vintage is from the past age.

The Pendant

The pendant is sized to be worn by a marble reveler, but once picked up it resizes itself to fit around the neck of the adventurer holding it. It is golden chain and glowing red ruby.

The pendant can be used to unseal the door out of the dungeon back in the Dining Room.

The pendant can also be used to reach this dungeon once again. Use chalk to etch the outline of a door and then fill a small brazier with three handfuls of gold coins. Light the brazier while holding the pendant in a fist. The coins are consumed, but the door opens into the Dining Room.

The pendant is heavy. It takes up 2 slots. If you take the pendant off your neck (even to hold in your fist to make the door) you cannot put it back on until you are inside the dungeon. If you aren’t wearing the pendant for a day, it begins to fade and crumble. On the third day it vanishes, returning to the pedestal in the Dance Hall.

The Challenge

Moving onto the dance floor begins a Challenge Phase. The ever-shifting and unpredictable dance of the marble revelers means that it’s no simple feat to reach the pedestal in the center.

Special Rules: Draw +1 card for the revelers. The marble revelers always play the GM’s lowest card for their Initiative, and it is played face up before the players choose their own initiative cards. Anyone who has an Initiative below the marble revelers immediately takes 1 Wound as they don’t take enough time to predict the upcoming dance maneuvers.

Gold-Eater

Sorcerous Elite

Attributes: Swords 4 | Pentacles 4 | Cups 4 | Wands 4

HD: 6/6


Restorative: You must seal, by burning, the attacks you make, lest they heal over! The Gold-Eater heals 1 Wound at the start of each Round unless damaged by fire or acid.

Lesser Doom

You’ve brought me gifts: The maw of the abomination opens and it lets out a sickening cry that worms its way into the hearts of the greedy. Play a lesser doom card. The adventurer in the same zone who is currently carrying the most amount of pilfered treasure reaches into their pack and throws their most valuable piece of loot at the feet of the Gold-Eater.

The predator hunting in the dance: The Gold-Eater instinctively understands the motions of the marble revelers. Play a lesser doom card face down and vanish amongst the forest of moving marble bodies.

Major Doom

Golden shake: The abomination shakes it all off, like a wet dog, freeing embedded coins and trinkets and sending them flying. Each character in the same zone takes 1 Wound from the coins and treasure pelting them at bullet-like speed.

Altar

A skeleton, the meat rotted away, lying on the floor. Charcoal etchings on every inch of the wall. A towering old altar, accompanied by benches surrounding it in a circle.

There is no light in the room.

A human skeleton is leaning against the altar in a seated position.

  • Their pack, beside them, is rotted away to scraps. They’ve been dead for centuries.

A marble altar, sized for the marble revelers, is in the center of the room, surrounded by benches.

  • A marble dagger is placed carefully on the altar. A regular-sized person would wield it as a greatsword.

The walls are covered in charcoal markings.

  • The etchings are the culmination of research about this place.

  • One section shows this small area being torn free from the world. It appears the dungeon is a shifting demi-plane.

  • Another section shows the Gold-Eater. Etchings show it magically confined to the dance floor. Another section shows it launching coins at unaware adventurers. The last part shows it about to pounce on an adventurer as they snatch the pendant in the center of the dance floor.

  • The last section is a drawing of the pendant and illustrations about it. It serves as a key to this place—to get out, but also to get back in. It resizes itself to the wearer. If not worn for some amount of time, it fades away from the world and returns here.


---

Many, many thanks to Mindstorm for this incredible post.