Sunday, October 30, 2011

Killer Dungeon (Part II)

So - back to the halfling rebel base:
The tunnels are well defended, so let’s talk about the rest of the complex. First off, the other rooms are not so completely cramped. There would be a couple of rooms where the ceilings might go as high as 5-6’, but offered the chance, the defenders would not fight in those rooms. What are the rooms for? Well, there are definitely barracks rooms. The rebels have some non-combatants down here with them, so women and children are housed. There will need to be some manner of kitchen, which requires that there be a smoke outlet. The thought was that the chimney would go up a tree, letting the smoke out amongst the branches/canopy, so it would be dispersed by the time it floated up, making the smell likely apparent, but not the tell-tale sign of smoke.
Most importantly, there are two laboratories. We said that everything in the complex could be explained. Now, we assume that the rebels could get weapons (spears, daggers, crossbows) but the labs build their traps and brew their poisons. Think about the advantages that the big adventurers have over the little halflings - They are faster - We took that away with the low ceilings. They do more damage - We took that away with the narrow halls. They are probably better fighters - We took that away with the narrow halls and the wider guard posts. The halflings are better with agility based weapons, thus we gave them the ability to shoot crossbows. Major spells will likely be slowed down by the twisting and turning tunnels - and explosions are as likely to kick backwards as they are to move forward.
So what do the halflings need to really even the score? They need to do more damage. How do they do that? Well, almost every weapon they’re packing, including their traps, is poisoned. It doesn’t have to be the killer kind of poison, just something that can bump up the damage when they hit, making every movement forward that much more dangerous for the invaders. The point is to be a nagging increase, not an all out death “spell”, but to be honest, either will work.
Meanwhile, the halls, the doors, the chests, the walls, everything is lined with traps. The traps can be simple: toothed jaw traps (bear traps), foot traps with punji stakes, trip wires to crossbows, nothing hugely clever, but add some poison, and all of a sudden, it’s a dangerous encounter.
That’s about the end of where I had gotten. The one issue I haven’t decided on is magic. How much, if any, would I give the halflings? Would they have some moderately powerful healers? Illusionists? In this crazy tunnel scheme, an illusionist can cause a lot more harm than a sorcerer. Alchemists? Don’t want to give the invaders anything they can use against the rebels, so that might not be right. I like the idea of some sort of “golem” that the halflings don’t care about. These weren’t supposed to be evil guys who were willing to kill each other. More like fanatics willing to die for their cause. Then, you could send a golem, skeleton, wind up robot, something out to fight in melee, without worrying too much if it caught a poisoned bolt in the back. With all the “evening of the scales” we’ve tried to do, the halflings would still be horrid in melee, so this could give them a better chance of fleeing.
What do we hope you’ll take away from this? Well, that if you think about it a little, moderately powerful defenders should be able to take on powerful invaders pretty easily. You just need to give them a chance to play to their strengths while taking away the strengths of the other guys. You don’t have to be out to kill every player character (and I was really out to do that with this dungeon). Just remember - the hardest fought battles are the ones the players remember the most!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Killer Dungeon (Part I)

I think most (fantasy) gamers start by going into “dungeons”. Dungeons are actually easier on the GM. He knows everything, and the players are contained to a limited space. Pretty quickly, things move to a “wilderness adventure”. These seem more realistic, because we all know that nobody actually builds dungeons. But with the added freedom comes a lot more difficulty for the GM. Now there is terrain, and nothing to hold the players into a restricted area.
Having disrespected dungeons, I think we all remember them fondly. That’s why I ran “The Killer Dungeon” many years ago. I gathered all my best traps and encounters, put them into one dungeon, and held a tournament. (The prize was a tiger’s eye topaz - we thought it was pretty cool!) Immediately after running that Killer Dungeon tourney, I started writing the next one. I never got to run it, but here’s how it went. I still think this is the most deadly dungeon setting in the world.
The main concept is that this is a base of rebel halflings. They are living in underground tunnels based in many ways on the VC tunnels. Nothing was going to be included that could not directly be explained by the people in the base itself.
Let’s start with the tunnels or hallways first. Assume that the halflings are 3’ tall. The tunnels are triangular shaped (flat floors, peaked ceilings). From an engineering sense, this is supposed to be one of the strongest ways to build a tunnel. So the peak will be 3’8”. This allows a 3’ halfling to run down the middle of the tunnel without having to watch his head. It forces human sized people to crawl on all fours - you likely couldn’t even crouch. The tunnels are only 3-4’ wide at the base. This is intended to leave enough room for halfling shoulders, but prevent anyone from swinging a slashing weapon. No magic swords, no axes - should severely cut down on most any adventuring party. The halflings inhabiting the base rely on crossbows and spears, with knives as backup weapons. Therefore they should be able to fight in the confined spaces. Remember - the big invaders are on their hands and knees; they may not be able to use their hands for combat or possibly even magic in the hallways.
To protect the hallways, there are guard posts. Basically, they widen the hall to 10’, giving the guards the ability to hide behind the tunnel walls and shoot their crossbows. I also like the idea of a defender using a pole arm to fend or basically block the hallway. Should someone try to force past him, he can use the pole arm to stab and slash, and the invader would have a very difficult time trying to get past. Sure, he likely would have the strength to rip the pole arm from the halfling - IF he had the room to maneuver and was standing on two feet. In a confined space, he’s a sitting duck for the spear or blade.
The hallways are also trapped. We’ll get into that later. But assume that the invaders come down the tunnels, manage to storm a guard post, and the halflings go off running. First off, halflings should be slower than humans in a sprint, but the halflings are sprinting and the humans are bear crawling. That evens the odds considerably. As the halflings run down the halls, they avoid the traps, because they know where they are. Put enough corners into the design so that invaders learn quickly that blundering around a corner often means a crossbow in the face. This also prevents the invaders from seeing the defenders avoid the traps. Meanwhile the guys retreating are dropping caltrops or even broken glass. While the broken glass only helps against people in cloth or leather style armor, the caltrops will poke through chain mail - like the chain mail glove. This isn’t only a distraction, but a possibility of messing up a warrior’s attack hand.
Meanwhile, the halfings have stout doors and the previously mentioned twists and turns. They can hide their lights (or rely on that mystic heat vision that every non-human has in some games). This allows them to listen and watch for the invaders’ lights. Typically the invaders’ lights will give them away long before the defenders give away their position.
OK - This is already too long, so we’ll end here and finish up next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coins of the Road

Over a year ago, we promised that the next Grain Into Gold supplement was on the way: Coins of the Road. This supplement was supposed to expand Grain Into Gold and add all manner of additional products, mainly things that would be used as trade goods and therefore could be used as treasure, cargo, loot, or whatever (stuff adventurers care about). The problem is that every time we start developing the concept, we splinter it into several books.
Well, the Coins of the Road as a generic book was splintered too far. There just isn’t enough valuable information that GMs will care about. Most of the stats were already in Grain Into Gold, and the narrative read more like Wikipedia.
So - what do we plan to do? Well, to a point scrap that project, but not entirely. All the information about caravans and shipping is good stuff. We think GMs want that stuff, but it isn’t a whole book. So we’re going to forget about the generic book and publish Coins of the Road - A Guide to Fantasy Trade Goods. Sounds the same doesn’t it? But it isn’t. We’re going to put the good cartage info in the same book as all the brand name stuff from Fletnern, including some of the “fantasy” products. Fantasy products include everything from “dwarven steel” to mastodon ivory. We’re going to try and avoid the magic items, as that just doesn’t seem to fit, and it is typically game specific. We’ll likely avoid gem stones and alcohol as we covered booze in 100 Bar Drinks and will cover gems in Facets. However, we are likely to follow up Coins of the Road with 1000 Coins of the Road - a d1000 book basically giving you a random table for randomly determining what you would find on any caravan or ship.
OK - So we’re delaying the book again! But we’re releasing 100 Professions and Royalty in 2011. Urban Developments and City of Rhum could still be 2011 or early 2012. Coins of the Road will most likely fall mid-2012.
Oh - We’re plotting out the release of Legend Quest - Modern. The thought is publish the core rules (as last seen in The Forgotten Hunt), then publish source books for the three campaign worlds that were planned: The Forgotten Hunt (dinos), Convergence - An Alien Armageddon (yep, that would be an alien invasion), and Dark Hour (more of a noir with magic environment). Not sure that 2012 is doable for all that and the couple of 100s and Bakers’ Dozen books we’re hoping to finish, but we’ll see. We always bite off more than we can chew!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sorry about that...

For those of you who noticed, our blog went away for a couple of days there. Just a silly misunderstanding between us and Google as to how old “Board Enterprises” was, and whether the company was allowed to have a web site. Silly thing is that Board Enterprises was started in 1991, and should be allowed to vote. Don’t know how they’d draft it though.
Anyway - That’s behind us and everything should be running smoothly from here on!