Saturday, October 26, 2019

City Map System & Making a Spooky City

This is a system to quickly and easily create unique cities that are detailed during play, using randomization and simple procedures. Content is provided by themed sets of tables. They look like this:

  • get a piece of paper
  • draw a large oval sort of shape that fills most of it. make it double-lined. these are city walls
  • get a polyhedral die and drop it inside the walls. a set of tiny dice will be helpful.
    - draw a circle around this die. this is a landmark.
    - draw slightly curved or mostly straight lines out from each point on the face of the die, through the walls, to the edge of the paper. these are main roads.

    LANDMARKS
    are something inside of a city that is known outside of it, and that everyone
    inside of it uses as a reference point. Everyone knows where it is, and they are all unique. A table of LANDMARKS is used to create for each city.
  • Drop a few more dice inside of the walls. Each one is a LANDMARK, with its' own roads. When you drop a die, the number on its' face now affects how the roads are drawn. If the die roll is odd, these roads will stop as soon as they touch another line. If the roll is even they go straight through, out to the edge of the paper.

    A city needs only a few LANDMARKS, each one indicates that several thousand people live there.
  • If a road goes through the walls, there is a gate. If a road crosses another or stops at the walls, there is an INTERSECTION

    INTERSECTIONS are small-scale "local landmarks". These are a way to orient yourself or give directions. They are not unique.

    e.g. roll 1d4: 1 - public well, 2 - inn or tavern, 3 - chapel or church, 4 - small public square or marketplace
  • These empty spaces between the roads inside the walls are DISTRICTS. A district is generally an area of "mixed-use" space, with both residential and business blended in. Every district has a feature, a sort of flavor or special something assigned with a table (e.g "garment district", "slum", etc.). Generally speaking districts are not unique, and are assigned using a table.
  • Every city has some broad TRUTHS about it, a general character.
  • As Adventurers travel through a City, they will have ENCOUNTERS.
NAVIGATING THE CITY
Every district is filled with side-streets. These are not detailed until they are used. When a side-street is needed draw a mostly-straight line from the middle of the main road halfway to the next line, and then roll 1d6 to determine what the street does.

1. it is DONE. It ends there.
2. goes THROUGH, to the next line. connect it the next line.
3. makes a T, add two arms that go halfway to the next lines.
4. there is MORE, to the right. Halfway to the next line.
5. there is a small courtyard with roads in 4 direction, like a "+". all lines halfway to next.
6. is LEFT, halfway to the the next line.

Additional side-streets are continued using the same 1d6 roll. Side-streets may be added to a district as long as they fit, at the referees' discretion. When there's no more room the side-street should simply connect to the nearest main road.

Here's a .gif that hopefully explains it, even with the washed out frame


PLACING THINGS
If you suddenly need to place a location, such as shop or where a missing object is, drop a d6 in a district and draw a side-street from it to a main road, using the chart above.

ENCOUNTERS
1 in 3 chance of an encounter along every length of main street, & during navigation of side-streets.


I've been working on this concept with some lovely folks in the Discord for a while now. Evlyn had the idea to make a Spooky City Set for Halloween, and so we did. Play with it, see what happens. There are many more in the Discord, and sometime between now and the future there'll be a zine.


Thank you to Viditya, Geoff, Humza, Lombardi, Brian, & Evlyn for contributing! I riffed on these a little, added something, or did a bit of editing but the vast majority of these are their work. 
SPOOKY CITY
Cities embodying the spirit of Halloween and spookiness. Whimsical and cheerful but also dark and dangerous, populated with monsters, humans, and the undead. Surrounded by a strange mist, these places appear in a lonely place for only one night before vanishing back into the dark.
  • everything is sinister, haunted and cursed.
  • skeletons are quite chatty, very sociable creatures. they are the friendliest things here.
  • instead of currency, a candy-barter system is used. precious metals are used for costumes.
  • humans and undead monsters live side by side, but come into frequent conflict with each other.
  • curses are fairly common.

Curses can be caught for a variety of reason, but all can be spread through spilling blood. When you harm someone who has harmed you, they must Save or absorb your curse. (The opposite is also true

  1. Abrasiveness: roll for Reaction using only 1d6 with everyone you meet.
  2. Stench: you reek of rotting flowers and old sour honey. It is very hard to hide.
  3. Profligacy: whenever you spend money, or money is spent near you, an extra d10% (10-100%) is lost.
  4. Bleeding: whenever you lose HP, Save or lose an additional HP. (including losing HP lost from this curse)
  5. Mournfulness: whenever you fail to do something by rolling a die, you weep uncontrollably for 1d6 rounds. Doing anything while weeping is at -4. If you fail again, additional weeping time is added.
  6. Nightwalking: whenever you sleep you and all around you must Save or spend the night wandering the streets, waking up suddenly in a strange new place.



d10 NAMES: Nachtsenke, Zwłokidom, Colina Assombrada, Proklyatiya, Ténèbres, Ürpertici, Gräisslech, Paura, Vaivata, Crowsgarret.

d12 LANDMARKS
  1. The Great Pumpkin Mother. her vines and tendrils spread around the city, creeping into homes. Her pumpkin spawn become Jack-O-Lanterns after death.
  2. Sucremont Candy Manufactory -It's reputation precedes it, the quality of its confections are unmatched. Either the most or the least cursed place here.
  3. Gravers' Quarry - You can't miss it, the very deep pit with all the hammering sounds.
  4. Palestone Keep - Large yellow-white castle that all insist is empty, but clearly has some kind of occupant. (Torchlit halls, echoing laughter, etc.)
  5. The Old House - Never mapped, many rumors of treasure within. It grows new rooms as it grows older.
  6. Twisted Tree Park - People who squat here for too long turn into trees, some becoming Dryads, lots of abandoned tents and camps to be found.
  7. Hallowed Hill - where trials, rituals, and initiations occur. Blood, innocence, and promises of all kinds have been sacrificed here. The grass and tree leaves grow deep crimson.
  8. Nanna's Cauldron - giant black cauldron the size of a luxury coach bubbles and steams with strange, delicious smells.
  9. The Wharf of Mere Amusement. A derelict, barnacle-encrusted penny arcade and zooloogical display around a stale lake. Teens and romantics congregate here. The gulls are notorious thieves, lately they’ve begun plotting heists rather than mere snatch-and-grabs.
  10. "Thee Dreadful Throne" - gigantic nightmarish chair, a hideous sculpture. none dare remove it.
  11. Thalassia Fountain - a magical wishing pool that grants wishes, with a spooky twist. 
  12. The Great Cathedral - Haunted construction site. Squatted by all kinds of ghouls and ghosts. Supposed to an all-bone cathedral, someday, but construction has ceased due to the infestation.

d20 DISTRICTS

  1. Bone Shops. where people craft and repair bones for skeleton people, many skeletons live here.
  2. Burial. extensive graveyards. Long standing families of grave diggers live here.
  3. Artificial Hauntings, houses where the living practice being dead. Lots of souvenir shops. Living and undead kids often become friends. 
  4. Bat-Nest. Large-eaved houses, attics, and small local caves, etc are home to bats. Air fills with them at night. Quiet cafés and insect powder shops. 
  5. Coffin Carpenters. Hammer and saw sounds throughout the night.
  6. Gourds. You can hardly see the houses under the growth. Some of the houses are the gourds themselves.
  7. Mists. A lake. You make your way through via small boats that ferry you from house to shop to house. All establishments are on small islands. An odd mist covers the surface of the water. How deep is it? No one remembers.
  8. Lantern. The air smells of wax and the streets are lit with the soft glow of lanterns. The designs all vary here, from hooded lanterns with spokes that curl like gnarly fingers to elaborate, jeweled, candelabras. 
  9. Feline. Also known as the cat district. Abandoned houses, parks at the very center where cattail plants grow. All trees here have their branches bent low. The streets are littered with small altars for cat offerings. They say the Queen of Cats may live inside.
  10. Shaded Gardens. Intermingled cottages, wooded spaces, and horse trails. Always shaded, very little direct sunlight even on the brightest days. Shadows move on their own, beckoning and whispering kindnesses to those who pass through them.
  11. Familiars’ Grove. An area where orphaned familiars who have lost their wizards, witches and sorcerers call home. For newly inducted practitioners who wish to gain a familiar, stand at the center of the district and see if a familiar chooses you.
  12. Web Warren. A series of twisty alleys and ramshackle lean-tos all covered in silky spider webs. The arachnids that call this area home vary from the small and shiny to the large and furry. Careful where you walk! Spider families have spent a lot of time and energy making their webs "just right." You wouldn't want to mess that up, would you?
  13. Dreary Hills. Suburbs made up almost entirely of semi-abandoned manors built atop wilting grey hills, with angular blackened trees that jot up through the land like needles left in a quilt. Often present, an acidic bog, and many a jagged cliff overlooking an ever-bubbling body of brackish water. 
  14. Meat Packing Block. Old crimson brick buildings with large industrial chimneys which blow out a salty off-grey smoke at all odd hours. Mosquitos congregate. Workers whistle tunes through the gaps in their teeth, they always smile. Hard to navigate at night, all the lights are red and the alleys clogged with fatty waters and fog. Notable firms: Gristlegrin’s, Marrowmore, Tendonnes, Sternuhm-Clavica.
  15. Wildlife Preserve & Campground. A fenced-off but labyrinthe expanse of gnarled woodland, seems to get snow before anywhere else. Groundskeepers wear masks so as to not gain the personal grudges of crows in the park. Everyone seems to look the same, and hardly anyone talks. Staunch anti-bullying campaigns have seen its summer camp programs flourish. Notable sites: R.J. Savini Preserve, Redpaw Acres, Greenwood Mire, Bogwif Boscage
  16. Institute of Learning. A small campus with a sprawling library containing many foreign and ancient texts. A bit derelict and rural in appearance, surrounded by dense botanical gardens & creeping vines. Basements are strictly off limits, even to staff, though they allegedly snakes its way under the whole town. Notable institutions: The Henrietta Knowby Memorial School, Saint Cruor College, University of Funerary Sciences, Sanguis College of Sepulchral Architecture
  17. Nightmare Blowers District. Glass blowers who use nightmares instead of glass. Lots of glass and lanterns shops. 
  18. Books. Printers, editors and writers work here. Lots of pulp magazines and journals kiosks. Imaginary characters often escape from their books. 
  19. Witches. Books, toads, cauldrons and broom stores. Private magic and music schools. Boarding houses for maids and students. Lots of flirting between magic and music students. 
  20. Eyes. Eyes are painted everywhere, all kinds of eye-creatures live here. Eyeball shops. The best place to hire spies. 

d100 ENCOUNTERS when in doubt, use a 2d6 Reaction Roll.
  1. 3d6 Skeletons dance with you. Their intent is unclear.
  2. Swarm of bats. Once they clear you are somewhere new.
  3. Passing cart spills numerous bones everywhere as it tips over.
  4. Postal Bat drops sealed letter, an invitation to masked ball. You aren't sure if it was meant for you, but it's yours now.
  5. Worker skeletons carrying long boards by themselves, very hazardous.
  6. 1d6 Pumpkin Children begging for “candies or worms”. Very troublesome if denied.
  7. Traveling Batmerchant, selling pet bats and accouterments & utility bat-gadgets.
  8. 3 older folks gathered around a cauldron, offering cups of purple burbling liquid. Very friendly, liquid is delicious.
  9. Undead body, headless. It needs help finding a new one. 
  10. Someone, or something, accidentally drops a mask on the ground and walks away. 
  11. A small bag of candy, half-spilled onto the street. Labelled “Arin”.
  12. A bat in a fancy top hat, struggling to stay aloft. It will not make it where it's going without help. (to a Pumpkin Princess, deep in the city)
  13. Worm farmers offer candy to anyone who'll bring them good incubators (corpses) for baby wormlings. Their regular stock have begun to simply stand up and walk away. 
  14. Three black cats tell you about a ritual taking place here, at midnight tomorrow. They insist your attendance is mandatory.
  15. Withered old coachman with gold coins for eyes and a silver tongue waits by his wagon, he’s sure you must be there for a ride. He says he's never wrong, and the price is cheap: two coins. The destination is a place you only half-remember.
  16. Family of odd, grotesque, dapper beings are loudly having fun nearby. It is some kind of bizarre party. They are enthusiastic and enjoyable to watch, but completely blocking the way. Anyone who attempts to get them to quiet down and allow passage will be offered a bribe, or challenged to a duel.
  17. Skeleton laborers on a coffee break, staining their teeth with cups of mud. They won’t return to work because the foreman made a joke, saying “it’s a living”, and they will not tolerate further puns. Foreman begs for your help.
  18. A mad acid-scarred preacher with a blob-in-a-jar is preaching "the consumptive truth of the world" and "how it all deserves to be swallowed up". The blob wants out of the jar, as it is bored of the preacher but very entertained by having a crowd. It wants to be in show business.
  19. Procession of gigantic puppets and their handlers, one of them comes to life and wanders off. The puppet-master offers a reward.
  20.  A circle of violet robed figures are chanting around something, you can’t see what. some red-robed figures approach to shoo you away, saying  “You were not invited". They will flee violence. In the center of them is a chalk circle with a bag of candies in the center. Interrupting this ritual will inflict a Curse on you.
  21. A pleasant , charming couple approach you, they ask where you are from, what you are doing, and so on. They walk with you for a time, and then suddenly they vanish.
  22. Imagine a daddy long-legs or harvestman spider, 12 feet tall, but it is an albino pumpkin with long spindly vine legs. It’s chasing some cats around. It sees you, and charges.
  23. Out of control Jack-O-Lantern, flame spirits jumping out of its head. Nearby buildings start to burn. 
  24. Workers walking home, joking and eating candies. Street orphans attack them, steal their candy and run.
  25. Frustrated ghost trying to carry its' gravestone away. It is looking for a new home.  
  26. Empty suit of Armor trying to investigate a crime. It forgets which crime, so it wants you to find one for it. It won't mind if you do one yourself, as long as it doesn't know it was you.
  27. Newly arrived family with cart, looking for a place to settle down, one of their children is a skeleton. The rest look rather sick.
  28. Twisted Tree Dryad lost her way. She needs to get back to her home before sunrise. 
  29. Blood appraiser doing their work near a recently exsanguinated body. Only interested in the blood, not the crime that caused it to spill.
  30. Large witch cauldron rampaging through the streets, smashing through walls. A nasty evil spirit inside the cauldron is driving it mad.  It clambers around on claw-feet like a bathtub.
  31. Zombies birds harass a cute human-monster couple. 
  32. Monstrous sculpture has become animated, walking around confused by newfound life. 
  33. Fish-person-creature is looking for a group to sewer delve with it, to find a magic pool to lay their eggs. 
  34. 2d4 ghouls and ghosts hanging out. They take an interest in you. Their motive is unclear.
  35. Skeleton broken into pieces, needs help to find their missing bones throughout the city. they are in 1d4 places.
  36. Gravedigger family searching for a rogue corpse who rudely escaped grave. 
  37. Lonely kid from gravedigger family. Feels like they will never be a good grave digger. They dream of learning a different craft. 
  38. Old man practicing to be undead, failing hard at being spooky.
  39. Tall figure approaches: it is a cloak filled with a swarm of bats. Save to avoid them stealing a random item.
  40. Several people carrying a large coffin. Something is moving inside. They want you to ignore it.
  41. 1d8 Gourd creatures. Hide your torches and lanterns, they eat flames.
  42. Mistmonster covering district in thick fog. Mistmonster has parasites that harass the solid. Ridding it of these parasites will earn its' gratitude, and that of the district. Mist parasites are clammy, pale humans that are slightly translucent. They can only whisper, and dissipate like smoke if the air is disturbed too much around them.
  43. 3d6 floating candles, they want to illuminate things, and will follow you if you go into any darkness.
  44. 1d4 Lantern Handlers are scaring away ghosts with their enchanted lanterns. They want to build a house on this tiny graveyard plot. 
  45. Rogue Lantern Handler draining blood from an unconscious person into a strange red glass lantern. 
  46. Very large black cat fighting off a pack of skeleton dogs & rats. 
  47. An owl wearing a witch hat, it is a witch cursed into an animal form.
  48. Helpful enchanted horse, anyone cursed person will transfer their curse to the next person who rides it.
  49. 1d4 lost, homeless familiars.
  50. Mutated human fly trying to find a hiding place. 
  51. Vampiric Spider looking for prey. 1d6 Ghouls nearby attempt to hide from it. Spider will prefer whoever bleeds first, should there be a fight.
  52. Vampire Spider Hunter in the middle of tracking down a vampire. 
  53. Traveling Spider merchant trading silk items. 
  54. Eccentric noble or official and costumed retinue. 
  55. Rogue butcher looking for "rogue meat" to harvest. 
  56. 1d6 apprentice Butchers on a lunch break. 
  57. 1d6 Runaways, children or teenagers. 
  58. Masked serial killer looking for victims. 
  59. 2d6 Partying students. 
  60. Street teacher, artist, magician or prophet. They follow you, offering their service enthusiastically.
  61. Escaped nightmare. 
  62. D6 Imps looking for trouble.  
  63. Escaped fictional character. 
  64. Writer trying to track down a fictional character. 
  65. Tired witch teachers returning home, distractingly mumbling a random spell. 
  66. 1d6 mischievous Witch Students.
  67. Group of Witches and music students flirting. 
  68. Talented music student cursed with a animal head.  
  69. Runaway enchanted 1d6: 1 broom, 2 cauldron, 3 hat, 4 cloak, 5 book, 6 wig. 
  70. Dangerous monster half turned into a toad by a clumsy Witch Student. 
  71. Creepy eye creature spying on you from the alley shadows.
  72. Traveling Eye-Merchant offering all kinds of eyes. They are stolen.
  73. Eye-Collector, looking for eyes. They are evil, won't mind where eyes come from.
  74. Eye-Creature looking for their glasses.  
  75. Curse Trader offering a special deal: “trade two curses for one”. 
  76. Cursed Owlbear Skeleton.
  77. Lost Black Cat Princess looking for her lover. 
  78. Haunted Carriage offering a ride. Invisible horses and driver.
  79. Sad Flesh Golem, it does cards tricks for a living. 
  80. Friendly scarecrow, actually full of rats & other vermin. 
  81. Construction crew having a hard time controlling a large flesh golem. 
  82. Candy Golem enjoying it's freedom. Candy Enchanter shop burns behind it.
  83. Monster tourists ask you for directions. 
  84. Crypt inspector looking for people to deputize. 
  85. Friendly undead sex workers taking a break, looking for someone to gossip with about the world outside the city.
  86. Tarot reader looking for their lost cards. 
  87. Sad necromancer. Lonesome, has been unable to keep anything undead for very long.
  88. Pulp horror writer looking for inspiration, would like to tag along.
  89. Ghost kids playing poltergeist. 
  90. Swarm of possessed candy wrappers follow you and occasionally obstruct your view.
  91. Carnivalesque people, who in fact wear no masks. 
  92. A large gourd-monster causing trouble with the local merchants. Filled with stolen candy & other goods.
  93. Strange candy house. It seems like it should not be there. The door swings open, it seems to welcome you in.
  94. Friendly vampire who recently got into trouble with a lot of different people. 
  95. Drunk transgender werewolf, trying to drink away their gender dysphoria. 
  96. Mummy looking for a stolen artifact, offering to absorb curses if you find it. 
  97. Non cisgender Witch Student needs help with their homework. Gathering up ingredients for a potion throughout the city.
  98. Desperate were-panther who failed a mission for the cat queen seeks your help.
  99. Demon of Gluttony madly hunting for candy. Strong but stupid, easily distracted.
  100. d6 Living Shadows, they try to steal yours and make it join them. Harmed by light.


A SAMPLE CITY

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Good Comment


My in-thread comment replies aren't working, and I also deleted a good comment by mistake, so here I am! The good comment was on this post about Open air Dungeons, and it was (paraphrased) "how is this materially different from a point crawl?".

The answer is that it's not materially different at all, it's just points and lines. 

I guess the implied question with that was: "what's so special about this then?". The answer there is that that system about using randomization and semi-conscious procedure instead of deliberate design to create an adventure. 

If I wanted to make a miniature cave system, for example, I just need an impure block of limestone, a continuous drip of water, and thousands of years. I don't need to "design" it, there's a process that'll do it for me. I want to make things that work like that, but faster.

So just drawing a  point crawl would be fine, but in that case you end up having to make all these decision about where everything is, what kind of spatial relationships there are. That can be alright, but if a randomized procedure does that instead you end up seeing the meaning of the layout as you play the game. Things will happen that you didn't plan, or couldn't ever plan. For me, at least, that's way more interesting to run, and play with.

I also like what it does for the imagination. You have a process that'll lay things out, right? You just need to think of stuff that might be in there. Beyond that, you can mix and match. Place what's necessary, randomize the rest. 60/40, 50/50, 90/10, whatever. It's flexible.

When it comes to making maps I'm not really trying to like, find new shapes for people to make maps out of or whatever. I'm trying to abstract space and time in ways that aren't about accurate scale, trying to make something that allows you to prep and use an adventure in like 15 minutes, and also something that let's you have an actually different Adventure if you run it again later. I also think of it as a play-aid instead of an illustration, every kind of map I use looks like scribble, but it's functional scribble.

A map that make the game a process of discovery-through-play for everyone. I like that a lot. That's what's different about it. 


Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Voyage

Part One To reach the land of wonders the ship travels to the furthest point from land, the very center of the open sea. The path is takes is inefficient and confusing.  The journey can last months.


The ship is controlled by unseen forces, and the Attendants have no influence. They cannot leave it, held in as if by magnets. They are servants of the masters. The Ship itself is demonstration of the masters unearthly power. The top deck is an austere Roman garden filled with uncanny amenities.


The Greater Attendant acts as mouthpiece, strolling the decks or standing at the bow, while the Lesser Attendants have other duties. They are nudged into work or relaxation by instinct. They are meek and submissive around visitants.


  • Standing at the edges of the topmost deck, watching the open sea. As the masters view it, all things adrift at sea are “lost”, and can be claimed by them. This includes those marooned, or shipwrecked. These attendants carry long hooked poles that extend out when placed on fulcrums round the deck, and can lift in any living person. 
  • Tending to the gardens, and harvesting its many fruits and other byproducts.
  • Perform music on numerous remarkable instruments, in small groups. They have developed a unique style across the centuries, built on group improvisation. Hypnotizing and complex, between raga and bluegrass.
  • Below deck, they have created many impressive macrame using found rope and collected fish skeletons. Parts are reused, all is as temporary as sandcastles.
  • When there are visitors, some Attendants catch and others prepare the bounty of the sea. Fish is served sliced, and raw.
  • Attendants will obey all visitors, more or less. They are here to serve them, as well. They will not harm them, or free them, but most all else is valid.

THE GREATER ATTENDANT
It remembers its old life only vaguely, as it has been years and years. It was once a fisher, it remembers always knowing the sea. The body it has now is very different from its old one (as are all the attendants). It is thankful for the many wonders it has seen, but sometimes misses its former life. It trusts the masters, perhaps for lack of other options. It has seen islands of solid ice, rocks that can only be reached by birds, tiny sandbars in the midst of nothing with only a single tree.

Offerings are left to their own devices, they may “pursue all pleasures”. Time on the ship passes loosely, a mixture of idleness and distress. Unless time is tracked deliberately, speak about it passing in the broad est generalities.