22 April, 2011

E is for Erstwhile Ended Entry Effluvia

It's a good thing I had the presentiment to not sign up Explicitly for the daily post alphabet challenge. We've been in various stages of trying to get into a new Edifice for a little over two months now, and it's kept my output even more Economical than usual. But, it's finally at an End, and we Exchange money for keys later today! Excelsior!!

Although this Equivocally means that my Efficacy will actually further Erode for a while, it also means that after a week or so it will Escalate and Expand to a much greater, Even daily, proliferation.


In coming up with a couple more names for unplanned npcs in my Greyhawk game, I realised something enter.. er.. interesting. I like making non-player characters. It entertains me. My favourite part of making them, and generally the only thing I do to make them, is coming up with a name and personality.

I don't roll stats at all unless I absolutely have to. Even for a man-at-arms hired by the party, I eschew stats. He or she gets their attack roll based on their level, which is most likely zero-level-human, and that's pretty much it. In the incredibly rare instance that an ability check is needed, I assume it's an 11 unless I've already established there is something unusual about them. What about hit points? Well, level one fighting-men get a d6 in ODnD. Goblins are a d6-1. Goblins are able to drive peasants before them, whilst enjoying the lamentation of the women. Thus, here is the simple breakdown on ye common folke. Children, elderly, infirmed - 1hp; clerks, maids, typical townies - 2hp; farmers, laborers, healthy lads and lasses - 3hp; the burly blacksmith and other buff stereotypes - 4hp.

I got a little sidetracked, but it went in an acceptable direction. Back to names! I enjoy making up names and personalities. I have no trouble making up diverse personalities, and there are some great tables out there if I did. I should come back and edit this to give a ballyhoo to a couple of them.. With names, even though I love inventing them, I sometimes worry that since it's one person coming up with all the names of all the npcs, they will begin to sound like they're all cousins.

Today, while making two names for a couple hired spearmen that I hadn't foreseen, I thought "hey, I'm trying to make this as much a Gygaxian Greyhawk as possible.. how did he come up with names?" Easy - in addition to the much-discussed anagrams, he used lots of old obscure archaisms, oft times adjusted a bit. This has the added bonus of enjoying some synchronicity with Gene Wolfe's writing, so that makes it feel even better. Thus, I now share a few great links to aid in this method of coming up with proper nouns for a campaign.

Grandiloquent Dictionary

Luciferous Logolepsy

Strange and Unusual Dictionaries

Worthless Word FOR the Day


16 April, 2011


Lots of great discussion and synergistic ideas are clicking around the osr about lock picking and trap disarmament. So far:
Rather Gamey
Zak Smith
Roger the GS

One thing that occurred to me was the similarity between some of these procedures and playing an old game of Mastermind. Every time I played Mastermind with my dad, he won. He always won chess too. Smartest person I ever met :)

Mastermind Info at Wikipedia
So, to use Mastermind for picking locks or disarming traps, it's pretty easy to vary the difficulty. You don't have to use all four slots. The fewer slots used, the easier the lock. Also, you don't have to use all the colours. The fewer colours used, the easier the lock, although I would suggest a minimum of 3 colours. The third way to adjust the difficulty is by limiting how many guesses (how many turns) are allowed before the thief fails the attempt. Failure meaning, of course, either jamming the lock or setting off the trap.

The only thing remaining for this method, then, is to assign some appropriate terms to the different elements of the Mastermind game.

The standard version has 6 different colours for the code pegs. I'm going to assume the colours might be different depending on the individual set one happens to have, so I'll list it out this way. Once you assign a colour to a technique, it should stay that way for all your locks. The basic lock techniques discussed on the other blogs above would require using 4 (and only 4) colours.

  • colour a - bump
  • colour b - probe
  • colour c - rake
  • colour d - twist
  • colour e - undulate
  • colour f - flick

It also has two different colours for feedback pegs, often black and white. These are the pegs the DM will use to simulate what the thief finds out about the lock as he's making his attempt.

  • black key peg - you used the right technique at the right time
  • white key peg - you used a technique appropriate for this lock, but you used it at the wrong time
  • left open (blank) - you used the wrong technique!

So, in this method the coloured clue pegs stand for different picking techniques. What do the slots stand for? Well, not tumblers. Generally, if I understand Wikipedia correctly, most locks are just one tumbler, or at least one tumbler per keyhole. A tumbler has multiple pins, but usually more than four. Thus, the four slots simply stand for how many techniques it takes to open it, or basically how complex the lock is on a scale of 1 to 4. The number of guesses allowed (lines on the board) shows how forgiving the lock is. Something made by gnomes to be highly pick-resistant might only allow 3 or 4 guesses. Some locks may require special techniques that most locks don't, thus using more colours of clue pegs.

How about Telecanter's example where an experienced thief just knows you should never bump a dwarven lock? Easy. If it's a dwarven lock, the DM doesn't put any bump-coloured pegs behind the codemaker screen on the board. Then it's up to the DM and player as to whether the player realises it's a dwarven lock, and knows what to avoid.

Now for the Suspense!!
Each line on the Mastermind board, each guess, takes one round of game time. This is where it really becomes exciting, because everyone knows that the thief picking the lock on the door to the escape route only has 4 minutes before that bugbear guard comes back this way on his patrol! Can he do it?!! They all want him to hurry, but they have to stay quiet!! Every time it's not right, that bugbear gets one minute closer!!! Or that insane cultist has nearly finished summoning Tsathoggua, and every round spent trying to put the right coloured pegs in the right holes to pick the lock on the Necronomicon brings the yawning black gulfs of terror one round closer!!!!
Are you excited yet?!!!?!

If you want to give an experienced thief more clues to reflect their knowledge, use their pick-locks chance (or disarm, as appropriate) to get hints. When you see a black key peg, for example, the picker usually only knows they used a correct technique at the right time (put the right colour peg in the correct hole.) They don't know which step (hole) they got right, they just know they made progress. If they roll under their chance, maybe they do know which step they got right, thereby drastically reducing how long it will take them to finish the lock. Many other types of hints are possible too, perhaps even allowing the thief to know which technique to start with (which colour to put in the first hole) just by recognising the type of lock.

13 April, 2011

P D eFfery

The ever-stylish and informative Matthew has brought the light of handy pdf-any-post goodness into our dark little corner of the universe. Visit Rended Press to partake in the greatness.

12 April, 2011

Tekumel 11

After you untie him, Chk-chk, the undead tinaliya, slowly sloshes up into a sitting position. He rises in a disturbingly mechanical way, a single slow motion, as though his muscles are merely tools and don't have the normal sensations of a living thing. He twists his head back to you in the same unnerving manner. "This is a labor.. labor.. laboratory of the Old Ones. Food may be anywhere, depending on what you are willing to eat. I do not think I need to eat anymore."

The small creaking creature slides down onto the floor, and walks over to the bejeweled metal table next to the first platform. "I do not understand this." He begins walking toward the archway into the room filled with unusual items and equipment, saying "what is in here?"

11 April, 2011

Engravings, Etchings and Embellishments

"..and its surface is covered with engraving. It looks like.."

  1. The flowing script of an archaic language. If interpreted, it details part of the history of an ancient society, including clues to their lost city.
  2. Circles and arcs of varying size and width, with ornate symbols. A wizard or astrologer will recognize it as alignments of planets, stars and planes.
  3. Arcane sigils and glyphs, which form a still-potent magical ward.
  4. The chiseled runes of dwarven master craftsmen. If interpreted, it contains metallurgy hints.
  5. Intertwining vines and leaves.
  6. Symbols, twisting script and repulsive depictions of evil rituals.
  7. The symbol and heraldry of a Great Kingdom, the rule of which once included this area.
  8. Repeating geometric patterns.
  9. Weird shapes & pentacles, and strange symbols & script, arranged in patterns which a mage or cleric can tell was intended to contain an otherworldly entity.
  10. Intertwining serpents.
  11. Arabesque patterns of lines and ornate curves.
  12. Circles and triangles of glyphs, narrow angular lines and patterns of tiny circles, all glowing with a dim light. If the surface is broken, the engravings continue to occupy the same points in space as before.
  13. The story of the ascension of a deity, depicted in intertwining consecutive images.
  14. Faces. Unless you look directly at it - then it just looks like chaotic lines and shapes.
  15. The hieroglyphs of an ancient empire which covered the lands all around. Those who are able may read of their society, and perhaps be forewarned of an ancient curse.
  16. The text of a recent religious tract, but illustrated with forbidden rites.
  17. Stylized flowers, acorns, leaves and pine cones.
  18. Lines of crude atavistic pictographs. Given time and perspicacity, anyone might glean their meaning.
  19. Warriors and athletes of an ancient civilization.
  20. Nightmare depictions of Elder Gods and ungulate horrors from the black gulfs of chaos. Save versus insanity.

10 April, 2011


“We go around the corner.. what do we see?”
“After another twenty feet, you see what seems to be a door. It is...

  1. Solid Iron with a one foot square window. The window has iron bars, and sits at a height of 5 feet. It opens away from the party with a locking latch handle on the left. Hinges are on the side away from the party, on the right.
  2. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple round iron pull hanging from the centre of the door. It possesses no lock, but is stuck tight in its frame. The party can see the hinges, on the left.
  3. A collection of old boards across an old door opening, nailed into the wooden frame. Roll to open normally to burst through.
  4. A rough stone cave opening, natural and un-worked.
  5. An empty archway, carved with ornate patterns and glyphs. Attempting to pass through will loudly damage one with electricity, unless the warding glyphs are dealt with.
  6. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party, and no means of opening, hinges, or other hardware are visible from the party’s side. It hinges to its frame on the right.
  7. Solid stone. No means of opening is apparent, but the unusually wide door pivots easily on its centre.
  8. A round wooden door with a large brass knob in the centre. It opens away from the party, swinging on hinges on the right. It was painted once, but is now heavily scratched. A keyhole lies in the centre of the knob.
  9. Solid iron with a turn-handle on the right. It opens toward the party, with visible hinges on the left. A lock sits above the handle, only on the party’s side.
  10. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party. Unseen by the party are hinges on the other side, on the right. On the party’s side, a simple iron handle is on the left. Unbeknownst to the party, a heavy bar sits in brackets on the other side, preventing all but the strongest from breaking in.
  11. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple iron handle on the right. Hinges lie on the left. Heavy iron chains are sunk into the 4 corners of the frame, and are joined by a large iron padlock at the centre of the door.
  12. A thick mat of webs. It will take 10 minutes to cut through, or 1 minute to burn through.
  13. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens toward the party, with a simple iron handle on the right. Hinges lie on the left. Opening past 2/3 open sets off an arrow trap on the other side, firing 3 arrows at anyone in the doorway. Roll the arrow attacks as a monster with dice equal to the level on which the door is found.
  14. Heavy wood, with an iron pull-ring in the centre. It opens away from the party, swinging on hinges on the right, which the party can’t see.
  15. Heavy wood, with a simple iron pull handle on the left. It opens toward the party, on hinges to the right. A heavy wooden bar lies across the door in brackets on the party’s side. The door itself is stuck tight.
  16. Solid iron with a turn-handle on the right. It opens toward the party, with visible hinges on the left. A lock sits above the handle, only on the party’s side. Turning the handle springs a hidden poisoned needle out of the door, scratching the hand. Failing a poison save results in death after a number of minutes equal to the victim’s constitution score. Success leaves an ominous burning sensation.
  17. Heavy iron-bound wood. It opens away from the party. Unseen by the party are hinges on the other side, on the right. On the party’s side, a simple iron handle is on the left.
  18. Heavy wood. It opens away from the party, and no means of opening, hinges, or other hardware are visible from the party’s side. It hinges to its frame on the right.
  19. A series of heavy iron chains, hanging vertically. Both top and bottom are sunk into the surrounding material. The chains are four layers deep, each layer slightly offset, and one inch away from the layer next to it, so that it is nearly impossible to see through. A close light source on the other side will be apparent, however. Only those both strong and sveldt might be able to squeeze through, and would be ‘held’ in the chains for 4 to 8 minutes as they did so. A hidden catch releases each layer of chains at the bottom.
  20. A heavy iron portcullis. The raising mechanism is out of sight on the side opposite the party. The bars are set close enough to prevent passage by anyone larger than a halfling child.

09 April, 2011

Tekumel 10

The tinaliya finally produces some sound from it's moving beak, croaking "chk.. chk.. chk.. chk... my name is now Chk-chk" in a flat and unemotional drone.

The shen is encouraged somewhat by the fact this thing is speaking Shen. C'nor is surprised to hear his native tongue. Johannes hears the tinaliya's answer in German.

As you reach up to re-adjust the apparatus, Chk-chk says "may I get up first, master?"

08 April, 2011

My Troll Babe

The Grumpy Old Troll is, of course, married to a Troll Babe. Not Ron Edwards' awesome game, which I can't recommend highly enough.
image by the awesome E James Heil

No, my own Troll Babe, who has just started up her own blog.

03 April, 2011

Chests for The Discerning Dungeon Master

"Peruse our wide selection of fine containments."

1. The Black Dougal
2. The Standard - wooden barrel-top, bound in iron, unlocked.
3. The Ironsides - all-iron flat-top, locked. Our heaviest model.
4. Hat Box - leather covered wooden two-foot cube, flat-top, locked. Handle on top.
5. The Pirate - wooden dome-top, iron-bound, locked. Waterproof! With side handles for easy minion toting.
6. The Steamer - leather covered wooden flat-top. Brass-bound with locks and latches. Side handles. Pressure gauge and chronometer.
7. The Old Vic - iron-bound wooden dome-top, locked. Numerous trays, lined, decorative painting inside lid.
8. The Trickster - animate monster 'mimicing' a chest. Sharp!
9. The Russian - looks like our Standard, but blades spring from the bottom when opened.
10. The Toy Chest - like our Standard, with four legs! Walks as fast as a halfling. Caution - small decorative exterior items become real when removed.
11. The Hemingway - iron-bound wooden dome-top with lock. Front folds down into a writing desk. Compartments trapped with poison darts.
12. The Solo - like the Pirate, but false bottom hides a three inch deep compartment. (not waterproof)
13. The Trapdoor - looks like any of our other models, but built-in. Open bottom reveals steps down to next level. Opt for a trick bottom and it doubles as storage! (next dungeon level not included)
14. The God Box - iron-bound wooden dome-top, unlined. Locked. Closure opens a conduit to one random entity of power. Cannot be opened from inside, regardless of force. Opening or breakage severs the connection, though items or substances may be left behind. It is rumoured that special keys exist which will open the chest without severing the link. Keys may or may not be attuned to specific entities. (not sound proof)
15. Jack - looks like the Old Vic, but unlocked and tray-less. When opened, a young knight springs forth and attacks. 2 in 6 hold bards instead.
16. The Schrödinger - looks like our Hat Box, but able to resurrect cats. (note, we cannot guarantee cats are either alive or dead until the box is opened)
17. The Barker - brass-bound wooden cube. No apparent lid or opening method. Slides apart into two identical 'U' shaped parts.
18. The Barter Box - any item placed within vanishes when closed. Two openings later, something is in its place. For extra-large, specify The Caligari.
19. The Mason - all stone flat-top. Hinge-less chain and padlock closure.
20. Chest of Drawers - 4 foot by 2 foot iron-bound wooden dome-top. False bottom reveals wooden stairs leading down, starting at one end. Eight steps descend to a wooden extra-dimensional room, 8x8x8. Drawers of widely varying dimensions cover the walls from floor to ceiling. (light source not included, do not close while other extra-dimensional products are within)

Security of contents not guaranteed. Not responsible for damages or injury due to poison or transdimensional collapse.

02 April, 2011

Books Magical and Mundane

"You see an ancient and musty tome before you. The cryptic writing on the cover resolves into.."

1. Zarathustra's Atlas - A massive folio volume with non-euclidean maps of the multiverse. Shows time-space locations of portals and gates, transitory, migratory and fixed. Several pages are enchanted with illusions to illustrate working models of worlds, systems and planes.
2. Gormenghast's Bestiary - Each page gives information about a different animal or monster. As soon as the book is opened to a page, an individual of that sort is instantly summoned forth.
3. The Vitiform Codex - As long as this heavy book is kept damp and exposed to at least four hours of sunlight each day, each page grows a different herb (loosely defined, may include fungi, etc.) Raised texture resembling vines pervades the volume, rising up into actual vines in the centre of the page to present the herb detailed on the opposing leaf - even those not generally associated with vines. If left on the ground for long enough, it will put down roots.
4. Holy Scripture - The sacred text of a local religion, but containing bits of heresy in several of the passages. Was this its original form? Includes several clerical spells within the writings.
5. The Book of Faces - Once a person, or a part of the person's body, has touched a blank page of this tome, a simple sketch of the person in their current environment will reside on that page when next the book is opened. Certain conditions and incantations can increase the quality of the image up to a fine painting. Though the image is unmoving, it will 'update' each time the book is opened.
6. Gnomes - A detailed study of a small, mostly woodland-dwelling people. Those in this volume are from six to twelve inches in height, and frequently wear pointed red hats. They make their homes inside trees, large mushrooms, or occasionally underground, biding their time and drinking their wine.
7. Piracy on The High Seas - Rather than a narrative account or record of legal codes, this unusual book proves to be a manual of instruction for prospective privateers and freebooters. Includes several Jolly Roger designs and advice for selecting parrots.
8. Pie - Recipes for a wide variety of sweet and savory pies. Several are purported to have effects similar to simple potions.
9. Ledger - The records of a local shop, business or bank. Examination will show a decided lack of honesty in the proceedings.
10. Journal - The first third of this book details the trials and tribulations of a group of explorers or adventurers, including a handful of maps. The hand of the writing changes suddenly about halfway through, then abruptly stops, leaving the remaining pages blank.
11. The Warlock of Zeveste - A fictional account of the adventures of a weretiger warlock, filled with dangerous trolls, scantilly clad women, thrilling sorcery, and narrow escapes.
12. Asenath's Art of Fine Brewing - Detailed information on the creation of a wide variety of beer, ale and mead. Includes guidelines for distilling faeries.
13. Science - A hand-written treatise on the basics of astronomy, physics, biology and chemistry. Trapped with a blinding curse.
14. On Faeries - A thick tome full of pressed faeries, pixies, sprites and more. Pressed between the pages, and annotated with text, much in the manner of a traditional herbal.
15. Dreams of Evaericar - This appears to be an old but unused journal, and is found with random coins tucked in the pages, totalling no more than 2 gold. If at least one copper coin is placed inside, then the book placed under one's head before going to sleep, more coins will be found within the next morning, totalling no more than 2 gold. Additionally, a narrative of all the sleeper's dreams for the previous night will be recorded on its pages. At some point within the first 1 to 8 nights, one of the unremembered dreams thus transcribed will be terribly disturbing, testing the sanity of the dreamer when they read it the next day. After one week of consecutive use, the sleeper will find themselves able to lucid dream. After one month, they will discover the 77 steps of lighter slumber, leading down to the cavern of flame. After sleeping with the book under their head for one year and one day, their physical body will be transferred to the dreamlands as they sleep, leaving the book behind, now blank.
16. A History of The Royal Family, by Telgar Vosk - A study of the royal family of a nearby kingdom. A thorough reading will reveal that the current ruler does not actually belong on the throne.
17. The Verses of Dimloth - A book of poetry. When opened, the pages generate a warm light in a five foot radius.
18. The Book of Ning - This ancient tome, bound in some questionable material, contains frenetic descriptions of a multitude of unwholesome rituals. Extended ritual versions of several magic-user spells are contained within.
19. Codex of The Silver Key - Careful study of this lengthy and sanity-trying volume will eventually empower the reader with knowledge of how to part the veils of reality. The gate thusly formed will lead to entities which must be entreated for passage to the desired destination. The entities themselves may well prove too much for all but the strongest minds to endure.
20. The King in Yellow - Once begun, the reader will find this convoluted and paradoxical manuscript of a play very difficult to put down. If the entire play is read, the reader is rendered irrevocably insane (although not necessarily unplayable.) See this link to convey partial details of the play to the unfortunate reader.

01 April, 2011


"The slippery bognad before you stands out amongst his kind. He's wearing a.."

1. Waistcoat - it may have been satin, silk or even velvet. Now it's just used.
2. Monocle - with a chain of brass, silver or gold.
3. Jeweled Leather Harness - criss-crossing his chest, the gems are surely paste. Or are they?
4. Lupin - like a feather in his cap. Only slightly wilted.
5. Eyepatch - black leather.
6. Tophat - black and slightly dinged and dingy.
7. Red Cape - may or may not be black on the outside.
8. Kilt - complete with sporran.
9. Pair of Long-Toed Curling Shoes - probably sans jester bells.
10. Liripipe Hood - independent of shirt or coat.
11. Bandolier - designed for darts.
12. Rope Belt - with pots, pans and utensils hanging from it.
13. Hollow Skull - as a helmet.
14. Pointed Hat - leather and creaky, with a stuffed reptile wound round.
15. Book - strapped flat to his chest.
16. Pennant - from a pole on his back.
17. Sack - over his head, with eyeholes cut out, and covered with runes.
18. Holy Symbol - of a random deity.
19. Pair of Striped Hose - separate for each leg.
20. Animal Fur - complete with head and claws.