Friday, 21 September 2018

Forests in roleplaying games

Aside from the dungeon, the forest is potentially the most ubiquitous environment in fantasy roleplaying. Chances are you've passed through, delved into and become lost in a woodland on many occasions. We love forests because they're liminal places. When you enter one you're in essence transported from one world to another - one where things might work a little differently.

Folklore has a lot to answer for here. Back when common fairy tales would have been told, the woods were a real risk. Bandits would waylay travellers, while some held the danger of wolf packs on the prowl. So tales were populated by witches, fairies and goblins. The forest became its own character - dark, gnarled, enchanted, forbidding, mysterious. One sure thing is that you'd never be the same person coming out as you were going in.

I don't believe in 'passing through a forest uneventfully'. For me that's like taking a quick detour through a dungeon where nothing happens. This is a place where you can let your imagination run riot. Start by thinking about the character of your forest. What's its essence? Is it filled with dread? Is it a confusing place where paths shift? Is it a tease to lure in strangers before showing its true colours? Is it playful and enchanted? Then think about how its character affects the forest physically. A forest of the undead would probably be blackened, rotten, replete with fungi. An enchanted forest will be brighter, with flowers, birdsong and little calm pools.

Every forest needs a guardian - a creature that could be good or evil (or neutral). This is the being that, above all else, locals are aware of. They tell tales of the guardian in taverns, they have folk songs about it. You might decide on creating some rumours - some true, others false and it's up to the players to discover which is which. Guardians aren't necessarily the most powerful beings in the forest, but they should be the catalyst for how the PCs are altered. Witches are common forest guardians, like Baba Yaga in her chicken-leg hut or the witch in the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. These are the essence of the forest personified, usually found at the heart of the wood.

Aside from the guardian, you've got the flora and fauna of the forest, some of which will be working with the guardian (whether they're conscious of it or not), while others will be neutral or perhaps antagonistic to the guardian. I like to have at least one helper in the forest - a wise old hermit, a dark elk queen, a happy Muppet - whatever it is, it's going to act as a guide through the forest, perhaps giving them a clue as to how to defeat the guardian. They can also equip the PCs with something to aid their quest (think the Phial of Galdriel). At least two warring parties in the forest can allow the players to pick a side (and face the consequences of picking a side).

I love the forest. It's an organic funky dungeon where you can pretty much do anything you want. The above is just a template I like to use when designing them, but don't let that hold you back from adding and removing elements.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

T&T character type: Botanist

Botanists in Trollworld aren't really related to the real world profession. Sure, they still work with plants and they know all the Latin (well, not Latin per se - Troll, actually) names for them. Botanists tend to raise plants to help them hunt for treasure in the depths of the world. They use plants as ropes, lights, lockpicks and even weapons. 

Prime attributes: INT/CHA/LK/DEX

Prerequisites: Must have 13+ INT

Recommended talents: Botany (duh) (INT), Thievery (DEX), Nature (INT), Inventor (INT), Poisons (INT)

Plant armour
Botanists can choose to have plant armour covering their body. When they wear no armour, the plant armour wraps around them giving 6 armour. Increase this armour by 1 every two levels. 

Clever vines
Botanists train sentient vines called Velluns to help them in treacherous locations. These vines can do the following:
- Become a grappling hook to save you from falling. Roll a SR-CHA with a level equivalent to the number of feet you will fall divided by 10- if successful you are saved and lowered harmlessly.
- Become a 3d6 melee weapon. 
- Become a 2d6 ranged weapon with a range of 15ft
- Create a flower that glows up to 50ft.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

D20 strange dungeon doors

1. A swirling yellow portal taking you to the next room, but all you armour is removed, becomes sentient and attacks.

2. A face on the door that must be kissed by good aligned PCs to open.

3. A door of rancid ogre flesh with a bone handle.

4. A sentient door that must be put to sleep to relax its lock and open.

5. A door with a mouth that must be fed fresh meat every hour otherwise it calls an alarm in another room/level.

6. A door you must make laugh to open (in reality, make the GM laugh).

7. A furry door that if stroked lets off a pheromone that attracts cat people in all adjacent rooms

8. A mirror that you walk inside to find yourself in a backwards version of the previous dungeon (and everything happens backwards - alignments swap)

9. A huge dead toad that contains a staircase beneath it's tongue.

10. A door with six knockers that must be 'played' in order to perform the wizard's favourite song.

11. A door that was once a witch. Entering through it curses the first person to vomit for 1d4 hours.

12. The word DOOR written vertically in chalk sure enough opens somehow.
13. A door of suspended acid that must be neutralised with alkali.

14. A sentient door that must reveal a PC secret in order to unlock.

15. A door that if opened outside reduces Dex to 2. If opened inside Dex is boosted by 5 for an hour.

16. A door with a shaggy dog's head that must be fussed and called a good boy to open (its tail initially bars the other side until it wags)

17. A door formed of 10,000 mouse skulls
18. A demon door that tells a truth and a lie about the next room

19. A clockwork door that unlocks for a minute at the chime of midnight

20. A door that eats the three most valuable items in the party

Monday, 10 September 2018

Game this: dancing plagues

Many hundreds in Strassburg began
To dance and hop, women and men,
In the public market, in alleys and streets,
Day and night; and many of them ate nothing
Until at last the sickness left them.
This affliction was called St Vitus’ dance.

Often a dancing plague begins in the throes of jubilant celebration. Groups of revellers dance, music plays and jesters slake their thirst with warm ale. But the dance takes a hold - the kinetic energy increases and refuses to let up. Soon spectators are joining in, a crowd of gyrating peasants writhe, hop and clap their way around town. They can go on for days with no food, finally collapsing due to exhaustion. The clerics blame it on overheated blood. Some chime in, offering a cure - to dance the plague away. Soon halls are cleared out and makeshift dancefloors created to lure in the revellers. Musicians are paid to keep playing. Don't stop - the demons will remain of you stop.

Of course, the dancing plague continues. Only a blessing from a divine fountain can cure it, showered on the crowd. Those who contract the plague will dance for 1d6+1 days and nights, with a 10% cumulative chance of death for every day danced.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Let's take a look at T&T Adventures Japan

Despite Tunnels and Trolls being the second roleplaying game ever, the majority of material created for the system is made by small press publishers like my own. In fact, in the scheme of RPGs T&T is one of the more obscure (criminally so). Despite this, the game has enjoyed great support over in Japan where it was actually released before D&D (I believe the same goes for the UK through Corgi publishing).

The most prominent publisher of T&T material in the land of the rising sun is SNE, who produced the localised Deluxe T&T, a series of adventures and T&T Adventures Magazine, which includes solos, GM adventures and manga. This is all genuinely high quality stuff with its own art, including Kiyoshi Arai (Final Fantasy VII). Earlier this year T&T Adventures was released for the first time in English, complete with original manga plus some Steve Crompton illustrations.

T&T Adventures is an introduction to the game with examples told through some light-hearted manga antics starring a dwarf warrior, human rogue, elf wizard and fairy wizard. It's a nice little explainer that leads into a few pages of mini rules and a short spell list. Rather than using the classic racial multipliers, the mini rules give you bonuses to add. It's not a bad idea actually, though it means you're less likely to get the swingy attributes we all know and love. That said, it gives you everything you need to get started and I kind of love it.

After the rules we get into the adventures. First up we have Kitten-napped, where the PCs have to become tiny animals to save a little girl from a troll. Yeah, it's manga-licious and beginner friendly. The Secret Order of the Eye is the solo adventure, which has a pretty cool innovation where NPCs will change their reactions towards you as the adventure goes on. It's something I've not seen in a solo before. Journey to the Black wall Street is the final GM adventure in the book, which is followed by some  more manga to close everything out.

If you want to introduce a newbie to T&T, give them this. It really is everything they need and more, complete with manga that both brings the rules to life and provides veterans with a fresh perspective on the game.

Images: Group SNE/ Flying Buffalo Inc.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Thief of Kasar now available

I've just released my new mini solo for Deluxe T&T - Thief of Kasar, which you can download as a pay what you want PDF.

Kasar is a city of corruption and riches, and a place a thief for hire can make a pretty penny if they know who to seek out. Fortunately for you the job has found you, but it'll take all you skills to steal back a magical talisman.