Friday, October 26, 2018

Fleshing Out Lord of Heaven

I've been thinking more about Lord of Heaven. I want space opera, but I want everything to feel mossy and overgrown. Yoda's planet, not the Death Star. Feudal politics a la Dune or 40k. The cruel Arthuriana of Lyonesse. Knights who pilot hybrid ship/mechs. Pendragon of Mars vibes. Art direction by Chris Foss, Moebius, Miyazaki, and John Blanche.

I'd been planning this campaign as my first foray into running an online game, hopefully recruiting a few DMs and players from the OSRosphere, starting a Google+ community page to organize things and everything. But with G+'s imminent demise, I guess I'm going back to the drawing board. I never want to have to say "MeWe" out loud, but I suppose I should check out its capacity to organize something like this.

To recap, this would be a big game of space Diplomacy with roving RPG parties for hire to tip the balance in specific sectors each turn. One major thing these parties should be able to do is to prevent fleets and armies from carrying out their orders - through intercepting communiques, assassination, sabotaging important places or equipment, that sort of thing. Therefore, there should be details about the fleets and armies on the board that allow players to make strategic decisions - things like the commander of player one's third fleet has a weakness for prostitutes, or that the order runner for player two's fourth army has a favorite watering hole on a certain planet that he always stops at. I'll probably make a "strategic weakness" table to roll on when new fleets and armies are built. These tables might have to be player-specific depending on the flavor of their empire.

Another thing they should be able to do is to perform espionage to discover other players' plans. They should probably also be able to recover artifacts that allow fleets and armies to do things they couldn't before - hide their presence, jump around the map, increase their strength, etc. I will probably use Warband to run the RPG missions, though I'm not sure what rules to use for spaceship combat yet.

Here are a few sample Lord of Heaven regional powers to give you an idea of the flavor I'm going for. The strategic-level players could inhabit one of these or invent their own.

Ice Lich of Andorrh

A being of pure crystalline nitrogen. Whispered to once have been a great witch of the Numinous Imperium, who now rules an empire of bone from the crystal forest moon Andorrh-13. Sends forth fleets of polished onyx prisms, inscribed with softly pulsating runes and ridden by (literal) skeleton crews. Can mine ice worlds and gas giants that no other power can touch and uses high volumes these of exotic compounds to power strange magicks. Her force of will can compel legions of skeletal soldiers across star systems, but for more far-flung campaigns she must employ the few lieutenants she trusts, all in various stages of lichdom.

Baron von Maw of Kurrg

Who is called Most Profitable, who is called The Balanced Ledger, who is called Honor the Contract. Chief executive warlord of the Kurrg Conglomerate, a cartel of furnace worlds that has made a compact to control the means of production throughout known space. Has launched a jihad against all independent industry and commerce, and will not rest until the Great Monopoly is secured. Constantly on the move between the various Kurrgan holdings on his pleasure barge Ys, accompanied by his harem of bureaucrat-concubines.

Ishtar Imperatrix

Supreme goddess of sex and death, eternal ruler of the Numinous Imperium. Never seen, though depicted as a radiant young lady bearing a brimming chalice. Supposed to live on Holy Nimue. Governance of her vast empire falls to her knights-errant:

  • Inu Ilati, or “Through-My-Eyes-Our-Lady-Sees,” master of spies, Ordo Oculos Domino
  • Pu Ilati, or “Through-My-Mouth-Our-Lady-Speaks,” master of priests, Ordo Os Domina
  • Qatu Ilati, or “Through-My-Hands-Our-Lady-Strikes,” master of swords, Ordo Pugnus Domina

The Horned King

Borealis rex of the Thorne Stars, whose realm is branch, shadow, and root. His elite knights of the Entropic Order of the Flesh Mutable have trained to achieve complete and total mastery of body, reaching down to the molecular level to overclock their own mutation rates. Appearance of a fleet of Entropic Order monastery-ships over a world is sure to portend doom.

The Geminix Twins Li and Go

Young brother and sister ascendent to the throne following a hunting accident that claimed the lives of their mother and father in the Hron Asteroid Field. They often finish one another’s sentences and are described as deeply unsettling to be around. Currently, their uncle Chiron acts as their vizier. Some claim that he himself has designs on the throne, but others whisper that he is psychically controlled by the twins themselves.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Who Is Lord of Heaven?

I've only ever had one decent idea for a computer game, or at least only one that captured my imagination enough to actually contemplate getting into game design and programming for about a week. Unfortunately, the idea is complex, and I don't have the patience or dedication to build up my abilities over the next 5-10 years before I could even attempt something like it.

The idea is this: it's a massively-multiplayer combination of a real-time strategy game and top-down RPG. On one level, you have maybe 5-10 players managing kingdoms: building fortifications and public works, levying taxes, attracting peasant farmers, invading each other, fighting off monsters, etc. On another level, you have a multiplayer action RPG like Diablo or something.

The catch is that in order to get anything military done, the kingdom-managers need to hire the RPG players. Goblin infestation on a remote farm? Hire a band of adventurers to clean them out. Dragon terrorizing the countryside? Attract some high-level players to track it back to its lair and slay it. Want to conquer the nearby kingdom? Better hope you can attract more skilled combatants than your neighbor can. The kingdom-managers could hire RPG players as one-off freelancers or permanent retainers to foster loyalty, and reward them with titles, keeps, and even conquered land to manage as vassals.

I envision it creating a complex and shifting web of feudal politics, diplomacy, and backstabbing, leading to some emergent narratives of heroism, loyalty, and betrayal. I like the idea. But building a complex strategy game and role-playing game on top of a multiplayer network that can handle maybe a hundred players in a shared, persistent open world? Yikes.

That's part of what I like about pen and paper games - it's much easier to implement new ideas, and the results can often be more complex than even big-budget electronic games. You could run something like this as a traditional RPG. In fact, I've seen a few examples of it.

The catalyst for this post was Adam Koebel's Far Verona, a Stars Without Number campaign he's streaming on Twitch. Stars Without Number has a fairly complex system for managing dynamic setting politics called the "Faction Turn." Kevin Crawford presents this as something the DM does alone, but Koebel has turned the factions in his campaign over to his Patreon community. Supporters join a faction and vote on its actions each week, and then he determines the outcomes. I've only actually watched a little bit because it's a dull spectator sport (probably more interesting if you're actually a faction member) and I find Koebel and his players annoying. Still, it's a good idea.

Zak Sabbath had also already tried something like this a few years ago for his Vornheim campaign, implementing his own homebrew strategic wargame in the background. The shear number of factions seems exhausting, and he said as much to me at some point. I don't think I'd do something like this with my regular D&D campaign for the same reason: too much going on already.

The idea of doing this with a space opera-style campaign appeals to me, though. One level of the game would be diplomacy and war between maybe 3-5 interstellar powers. I don't think I'd use the actual Stars Without Number faction rules. They seem far too complex for my tastes. I'd probably create something much closer to the actual Diplomacy rules with some random events added.

To gain an edge, though, players in the diplomacy game would have to hire players from the RPG level of the game to complete missions for them: find a powerful artifact, gather intelligence, assassinate a general, sabotage an installation, etc. This would work much better if there were multiple parties to hire with their own specialties and loyalties, but that would be too much work for just me. If I could find a few other DMs to run the game, maybe, but that could get too unwieldy unless everyone was really reliable.

So, this is percolating in the back of my mind. I think I'm calling it Lord of Heaven. Time to start creating the setting and factions and see where this leads.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

How to Format a Bigass Table for Hex Describe Fast

Say you've got a big ole' list of gameable things - like from a blog post, pdf, or personal document. You're just dying to add to the Hex Describe Bible, but the thought of putting 100-plus entries in the right format is making your eyes glaze over. Don'a worry, Lucy! I found a collection of text-manipulation tools that can do it for you in seconds.

Right now I want to add the entries in this post to the Bible. Can't go wrong with Vance, right?

The problem is it's not in the right format. The first problem is that there's blank lines between each entry. I can remove those with a tool called "Remove Empty Lines." Just paste the text into the top box, click the button, and it shows up fixed in the bottom box.

The next thing I want to do is remove the entry numbers to get ready to add the weights that Hex Describe expects. There's a tool called "Remove Line Numbers" for that. You can also specify a prefix or suffix to remove before or after the number. I specified to remove the comma and space that follows each number.

The last thing to do is just to add the number 1 and comma to the beginning of each entry, so we'll go to the tool "Add Prefix and Suffix to Text." Paste the corrected text into the top box, specify the prefix as "1," and click the button.

That's it! The correctly formatted text is below. Now I just need to decide where to add these. I'm thinking they'll mostly be forest landmarks and NPCs, but we'll see. There's a bunch of other potentially useful tools there too, like changing the text case, removing duplicate lines, removing lines containing a specific set of's cool. Check it:

1,Loald, a submarine giant
1,eery knight Sir Sacrontine who could not sleep of nights until he had killed a Christian
1,the crone named Dyldra, who was profound in the lore of herbs, and by some considered a witch
1,Ewaldo Idra, Adept of the Caucasian Mysteries.
1,a wagon from which a pair of maidens tossed handfuls of pennies into the throng.
1,Blausreddin the pirate built a fortress at the back of a stony semi-circular harbor. His concern was not so much assault from the sea, but surprise attacks down from the pinnacles and gorges of the mountains, to the north of the harbor.
1,Go to Thripsey Shee just as the first rays of sunlight sweep down across the meadow. Do not go by moonlight, or you will suffer a death of weird invention.
1,Queen Sollace showed great cordiality to religious zealots and priests, and found much of interest in their creeds. She was thought to be sexually cold and never took lovers.
1,What to do with the defeated magician, who seethed with evil and hate? Murgen rolled him up and forged him into a stout iron post, ten-foot long and thick as my leg. Then Murgen took this enchanted post to the crossroads and waited till it shifted to the proper place, then he drove the iron post down deep in the center, fixing the crossroads so it (Zak: the heretofore fugitive Goblin Fair) no longer could move, and all the folk at the Goblin Fair were glad, and spoke well of Murgen
1,Never-fail will serve you all your life long, always to indicate where Lord Dhrun may be found. Notice!" King Throbius displayed an irregular object three inches in diameter, carved from a walnut burl and suspended from a chain. A protuberance to the side terminated in a point ripped with a sharp tooth
1,"Tell about Goblin Fair!"
1,"Well then, it's the place and time when the halflings and men can meet and none will harm the other, so long as he stays polite.
1,books of fairy-skein, written with words that you can't get out of your head once they're in.
1,a mordet* on him."
1,*A unit of acrimony and malice, as expressed in the terms of a curse.
1,the orangery
1,Dame Boudetta, Mistress of the Household, a severe and uncompromising lady, born into the petty gentility. Her duties were manifold: she supervised the female servants, monitored their virtue, arbitrated questions of propriety. She knew the special conventions of the palace. She was a compendium of genealogical information and even greater masses of scandal.
1,Prince Quilcy, is feeble-minded and spends his days playing with fanciful dolls and doll-houses.
1,Hall of Honors beyond, where fifty-four great chairs, ranking the walls to right and left, represented the fifty-four most noble houses of Lyonesse…One chair was characterized by a shifting sidelong deceit, but pretended graceful charm; another exhibited a doomed and reckless bravery.
1,the crags Maegher and Yax: petrified giants who had helped King Zoltra Bright Star dredge Lyonesse Harbor; becoming obstreperous, they had been transformed into stone by Amber the sorcerer
1,King Oriante, a pallid round-headed little man, was ineffectual, shrill and waspish. He reigned at his castle Sfan Sfeg, near the town Oaldes, but could not rule the fiercely independent barons of mountain and moor. His queen, Behus, was both tall and corpulent and she had borne him a single son, Quilcy, now five years old, somewhat lack-witted and unable to control the flow of saliva from his mouth.
1,four gaunt Druid priests.
1,They wore long robes of brown furze, belted and hooded to hide their faces, and each carried an oak branch from their sacred grove.
1,…caught a mouse and changed it into a fine horse. 'Ride home at speed,' he told me. ";Do not dismount or touch the ground before your destination, for as soon as your foot touches ground, the horse is once more a mouse!
1,…a pair of young mermaids. They had seen her and called out, but they used a slow strange language Suldrun could not understand. Their olive-green hair hung about their pale shoulders; their lips and the nipples of their breasts were also a pale green. One waved and Suldrun saw the webbing between her fingers. Both turned and looked offshore to where a bearded merman reared from the waves. He called out in a hoarse windy voice
1,King Casmir now dispatched a secret emissary to Dascinet, urging attack upon Troicinet, and promising full assistance.
1,On the rocks west of the Chale crawled cripples, lepers and the weak-minded, in accordance with the statutes of Lyonesse.
1,Each was spread-eagled naked to a frame and hung upside down, facing out to sea. Down from the Peinhador came Zerling, the Chief Executioner. He walked along the row, stopped by each man, slit the abdomen, drew out the intestines with a double-pronged hook, so that they fell over the chest and head, then moved on to the next.
1,…the Tower of Owls
1,…green glass bottle of a size to hold a gallon. The mouth fitted tightly about the neck of a double-headed homunculus, so that only its two small heads protruded. These were squat, no larger than cat-size, with wrinkled bald pates, snapping black eyes, a nose and oral apparatus of tough brown horn. The body was obscured by the glass and a dark liquid, like strong beer…"Let the bottled imps clamp your hair or your fingers and you will learn the meaning of harm."
1,an octagonal mirror in a frame of tarnished wood…I see nothing. It is like looking into the sky."
1,The surface of the mirror moved; for an instant a face looked into her own: a man's face. Dark hair curled down past a flawless complexion; fine eyebrows curved over lustrous dark eyes; a straight nose complemented a full supple mouth.. .The magic faded…From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue—all as perversity strikes me. now I am silent; this is my mood."
1,…trained animals, which King Casmir had ordained for his pleasure. Bears in blue cocked hats tossed balls back and forth; four wolves in costumes of pink and yellow satin danced a quadrille; six herons with as many crows marched in formation.
1,…a weird-woman dressed in white entered the chamber holding high a glass vessel which exuded a flux of colors swirling behind her like smoke
1,…Brother Umphred, a portly round-faced evangelist, originally from Aquitania
1,…the Skyls, a dark crafty race of unknown origin, were uncontrollable. They lived isolated in mountain glens, emerging only when the time came for dreadful deeds. Vendetta, revenge and counter-revenge ruled their lives. The Skyls' virtues were stealth, reckless elan, blood-lust and stoicism under torment; his word, be it promise, guarantee or threat might be equated with certainty; indeed the Skyl's exact adherence to his pledge often verged upon the absurd. From birth to death his life was a succession of murders, captivities, escapes, wild flights, daring rescues: deeds incongruous in a landscape of Arcadian beauty.
1,Five golden crowns rolled forth. They became five golden butterflies which fluttered into the air and circled the parlor. The five became ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred. All at once they dropped to cluster upon the table, where they became a hundred gold crowns.
1,A cavalcade of twenty knights and men-at-arms came down the Sfer Arct and into Lyonesse Town. At their head rode Duke Carfilhiot, erect and easy: a man with black curling hair cropped at his ears, a fair skin, features regular and fine, if somewhat austere, save for the mouth, which was that of a sentimental poet.
1,A great lummox claims that you have molested his wife; he takes up his cutlass and comes at you.
1,Pomperol is an ardent ornithologist
1,swan-headed barge, which a dozen young girls clad in white feathers propelled slowly across the lake.
1,They breed and train the cannibal falcons, each a traitor to his kind.
1,a scarlet and gold carriage drawn by six white unicorns
1,a tall shape muffled in a long black cape, with a wide-brimmed black hat obscuring his features. He stood always back in the shadows and never spoke; when one or another of the magicians chanced to look into his face they saw black emptiness with a pair of far stars where his eyes might be.
1,Sartzanek, perhaps the most capricious and unpredictable of all the magicians, resided at Faroli, deep inside the forest,
1,the Spell of Total Enlightenment, so that Widdefut suddenly knew everything which might be known: the history of each atom of the universe, the devolvements of eight kinds of time, the possible phases of each succeeding instant; all the flavors, sounds, sights, smells of the world, as well as percepts relative to nine other more unusual senses. Widdefut became palsied and paralyzed and could not so much as feed himself.
1,a plague of maggots
1,He was compressed into an iron post seven feet tall and four inches square, so that only upon careful scrutiny might his distorted features be noted. This post was similar to the post at Twitten's Corner. The Sartzanek post was implanted at the very peak of Mount Agon. Whenever lightning struck down, Sartzanek's etched features were said to twitch and quiver.
1,She appeared to him as a female clothed with a soft pelt of black fur and an oddly beautiful cat-like mask. This creature knew a thousand lascivious tricks
1,In niches beside the entrance stood a pair of sphinxes carved from blocks of black diorite: the Tronen, or fetishes of the house.
1,imps riding like knights on armored herons
1,A griffin's claw reposed in an onyx case.
1,A gallstone cast by the ogre Heulamides gave off a peculiar stench.
1,Persilian, the so-called "Magic Mirror." This mirror would answer three questions to its owner, who then must relinquish it to another. Should the owner ask a fourth question, the mirror would make glad response, then dissolve into freedom.
1,This feather," he said, "is indispensable to the conduct of daily affairs, in that it infallibly detects fraudulence."
1,a young harpy in a cage.
1,Desmei moved away. Presently she departed through the forest in a palanquin carried by six running shadows.
1,Over a time of two hours she worked a great spell to sunder herself into a plasm which entered a vessel of three vents. The plasm churned, distilled, and emerged by the vents, to coalesce into three forms. The first was a maiden…
1,The cow's horn yields either fresh milk or hydromel, depending upon how one holds it.
1,a green meadow where rose an array of twenty poles, half supporting impaled corpses.
1,I am a student of magic. I am taught by the great Tamurello, and I am under obligation, so that I must refer to him matters of policy.
1,Balberry's Abstracts and Excerpts, a vast compendium of exercises, methods, forms and patterns inscribed in antique or even imaginary languages.
1,Using a lens fashioned from a sandestin's eye, Shimrod read these inscriptions as if they were plain tongue.
1,a cloth of bounty, which, when spread on a table, produced a toothsome feast
1,fairies of Tuddifot Shee, at the opposite end of Lally Meadow, who loved music, though no doubt for the wrong reasons.
1,Fairy musicians, discovering that a human passerby had chanced to hear them, invariably inquired how he had enjoyed the music, and woe betide the graceless churl who spoke his mind, for then he was set to dancing for a period comprising a week, a day, an hour, a minute and a second, without pause. However, should the listener declare himself enraptured he might well be rewarded by the vain and gloating halfling.
1,On certain occasions fairy horn-players asked to play along with him; each time Shimrod made polite refusal; if he allowed such a duet he might find himself playing forever: by day, by night, across the meadow, in the treetops, higgledy-piggledy through thorn and thicket, across the moors, underground in the shees. The secret, so Shimrod knew, was never to accept the fairies' terms, but always to close the deal on one's own stipulations, otherwise the bargain was sure to turn sour.
1,To the side a long-bearded troll, with an extravagantly large cudgel, beat a lank furry creature hanging like a rug on a line between a pair of trees. With every blow the creature cried out for mercy: Stop! No more! You are breaking my bones! Have you no pity? You have mistaken me; this is clear! My name is Grofinet! No more! Use logic and reason!"
1,He placed down a small box, which expanded to the dimensions of a hut.
1,…the severed member. Rings decorated the four fingers; the thumb wore a heavy silver ring with a turquoise cabochon. An inscription mysterious to Shimrod encircled the stone.
1,In the forest nearby a door opens into the otherwhere Irerly. One of us must go through this door and bring back thirteen gems of different colors, while the other guards the access.
1,isolated mountains of gray-yellow custard, each terminating in a ludicrous semi-human face. All faces were turned toward himself, displaying outrage and censure. Some showed cataclysmic scowls and grimaces, others produced thunderous belches of disdain. The most intemperate extruded a pair of liver-colored tongues, dripping magma which tinkled in falling, like small bells; one or two spat jets of hissing green sound, which Shimrod avoided, so that they struck other mountains, to cause new disturbance.
1,three small transparent disks. "These will expedite your search; in fact, you will go instantly mad without them. As soon as you pass the portal, place these on your cheeks and your forehead; they are sandestin scales and will accommodate your senses
1,you will need this sheath. It is stuff to protect you from emanations.
1,a pair of iron scorpions crawling at the end of golden chains. "These are named Hither and Thither. One will take you there; the other will bring you here
1,three competing religions: The Doctrine of Arcoid Clincture; the Shrouded Macrolith, which I personally consider a fallacy; and the noble Derelictionary Tocsin.
1,a jet of blue magma
1,Shimrod brought the House Eye down from the ridge-beam, and set it on the carved table in the parlor, where, upon stimulus, it recreated what it had observed during Shimrod's absence.
1,On the great table he found a silver penny, a dagger and a small six-stringed cadensis of unusual shape which, almost of its own accord, produced lively tunes.
1,WITHIN AND ABOUT THE Forest of Tantrevalles existed a hundred or more fairy shees, each the castle of a fairy tribe
1,BOAB: who used the semblance of a pale green youth with grasshopper wings and antennae. He carried a black quill pen plucked from the tail of a raven and recorded all the events and transactions of the tribe on sheets pressed from lily petals.
1,TUTTERWIT: an imp who liked to visit human houses and tease the cats. He also liked to peer through windows, moaning and grimacing until someone's attention was engaged, then jerk quickly from sight.
1,GUNDELINE: a slender maiden of enchanting charm, with flowing lavender hair and green fingernails. She mimed, preened, cut capers, but never spoke, and no one knew her well. She licked saffron from poppy pistils with quick darts of her pointed green tongue.
1,WONE: she liked to rise early, before dawn, and flavor dew drops with assorted flower nectars.
1,MURDOCK: a fat brown goblin who tanned mouseskins and wove the down of baby owls into soft gray blankets for fairy children.
1,FLINK: who forged fairy swords, using techniques of antique force. He was a great braggart and often sang the ballad celebrating the famous duel he had fought with the goblin Dangott.
1,SHIMMIR: audaciously she had mocked Queen Bossum and capered silently behind her, mimicking the queen's flouncing gait, while all the fairies sat hunched, hands pressed to mouths, to stop their laughter. In punishment Queen Bossum turned her feet backward and put a carbuncle on her nose.
1,FALAEL: who manifested himself as a pale brown imp, with the body of a boy and the face of a girl. Falael was incessantly mischievous, and when villagers came to the forest to gather berries and nuts, it was usually Falael who caused their nuts to explode and transformed their strawberries to toads and beetles.
1,Twisk, who usually appeared as an orange-haired maiden wearing a gown of gray gauze.
1,The troll Mangeon
1,He marshaled two armies of mice and dressed them in splendid uniforms. The first army wore red and gold; the second wore blue and white with silver helmets. They marched bravely upon each other from opposite sides of the meadow and fought a great battle
1,He assembled an orchestra of hedgehogs, weasels, crows and lizards and trained them in the use of musical instruments.
1,Falael, from boredom, next transformed Dhrun's nose into a long green eel which, by swinging about, was able to transfix Dhrun with a quizzical stare.
1,a fairy sword. "The name of this sword is Dassenach. It will grow as you grow, and always match your stature. Its edge will never fail and it will come to your hand whenever you call its name!"
1,a locket around his neck. "This is a talisman against fear. Wear this black stone always and you will never lack courage.
1,a set of pipes. "Here is music. When you play, heels will fly and you will never lack jolly companionship."
1,"This is a magic purse," she told him. "It will never go empty, and better, if you ever give a coin and want it back, you need only tap the purse and the coin will fly back to you."
1,"Go your way and do not look back, on pain of seven years bad luck, for such is the manner one must leave a fairy shee."
1,a clearing planted with plum and apricot trees, which had long gone wild.
1,Before the hall the ground had been tilled and planted with cabbage, leeks, turnips, and onions, with currant bushes growing to the side. A dozen children, aged from six to twelve, worked in the garden under the vigilant eye of an overseer boy, perhaps fourteen years old. He was black-haired and thick-bodied, with an odd face: heavy and square above, then slanting in to a foxy mouth and a small sharp chin. He carried a rude whip, fashioned from a willow switch, with a cord tied to the end.

Monday, April 2, 2018

How to Add Entries to the Hex Describe Bible (With Pictures!)

Want to get involved in the world's most comprehensive hexcrawl generator, but don't know where to start? Why, you've come to the right place! I am not a coder - not by a long shot - but I figured Hex Describe out, and you can too. Here's the easiest way to help this project out.

1. Find that blog post, Word doc, notebook, or crumpled up napkin with the hex descriptions, encounters, NPCs, or items you like. Maybe you only have one or two. That's ok. No contribution is too small. We're like fuckin' NPR that way. Let's say all you have is this:

  • A clear pool hidden in a rocky ravine where moss hulks and lichen dryads can often be found playing. At the bottom lies the golden hand mirror of a lady of the Seelie Fey court.
  • 2d6 hungry wolves
That's cool, baby. We ain't gonna turn you away.

2. First, let's put it in the right format. You need to start each entry with a number and a comma. The number essentially represents the number of times the entry appears on the table. The pool sounds pretty rare, but maybe you want the wolves to be more common. Put [brackets] around dice rolls, and the program will roll it for you. Also, put the most important parts of the entry in bold by surrounding them with *asterisks*. Maybe you could add a few simple stats while you're at it, for convenience, and flesh out the behavior of those wolves:

  • 1,A *clear pool* hidden in a rocky ravine where *moss hulks* (HD 7 AC 17 crush d10) and *lichen dryads* (HD 3 AC 15 whip d6 + charm) can often be found playing. At the bottom lies the *golden hand mirror* of a lady of the Seelie Fae court.
  • 3,*[2d6] hungry wolves* (HD 3 AC 14 bite 2d4) begin to stalk the party. They will wait for a moment of vulnerability to strike.
3. Now we're set to add them. Go to the Hex Describe Bible.

4. Make sure the outline is visible by checking View -> Show document outline.

5. Scroll down on the outline to Wilderness Tables and decide which terrain type (or types) your entries are most appropriate for. I'd say "fir-forest" sounds pretty good for these. Click on the terrain type to go there in the doc.

6. There are four tables for each terrain type: landmarks, encounters, NPCs, and items. Decide where each of your entries fits best. I'd say my first entry is a landmark and the second is an encounter.

7. Copy and paste under the table heading, which always begins with a semicolon. So I'd paste the first entry under ";fir-forest landmarks," and the second under ";fir-forest encounters."

That's it! When you paste it into Hex Describe, you might now get a hex description like this:

0101: Boreal forest.
Landmark: clear pool hidden in a rocky ravine where moss hulks (HD 7 AC 17 crush d10) and lichen dryads (HD 3 AC 15 whip d6 + charm) can often be found playing. At the bottom lies the golden hand mirror of a lady of the Seelie Fae court.
Encounter: 2 hungry wolves (HD 3 AC 14 bite 2d4) begin to stalk the party. They will wait for a moment of vulnerability to strike.
NPC: none
Item: none

You can get fancier by using subtables and reading +Alex Schroeder's tutorial here, but you don't have to! Give yourself the gift of knowing you've contributed to something that may someday make countless DMs' lives that much easier.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Help Make Hex Describe the Best Thing Ever

A little while ago, +Zak Sabbath posted this on G+:

"Here's what I want:

A program that writes an entire setting book using a variety of the existing random OSR tables online.

(Like Last Gasp and Abuafia's automated crowdsourced random generators)

It generates a random map using an existing random map program, then for each area it generates random contents using an existing random hex contents widget, for each village it generates a random village using existing random village generators, for each dungeon it generates random rooms, for each room it generates random contents, for each creature it generates a personality and stats and a history, etc etc fractally all the way down."

The last comment in the thread was +Alex Schroeder casually dropping a link to his web app Hex Describe. It fucking rules.

It generates the contents of a list of hexes by pulling from tables for each hex type using Abulafia formatting. So if your hex list was:

0101 forest

You could have a table like this:

1,A stone bridge crosses a valley stream, under which a troll lurks.
1,A pack of wolves makes its den here, which is strewn about with coins from previous victims.
2,A merchant has broken a cart wheel and offers reward either to fix the cart or otherwise transport her and her goods to the nearest town.

The numbers before each entry are weights, so the merchant entry has a 2/4 chance of being selected, while the other two only have a 1/4 chance. You can also have sub-tables, so you could alter the table in this way:

1,A stone bridge crosses a valley stream, under which a troll named [troll name] lurks.
1,[group of beasts] makes its den here, which is strewn about with coins from previous victims.
2,A [goods] merchant has broken a cart wheel and offers reward either to fix the cart or otherwise transport her and her goods to the nearest town.

;troll name

;group of beasts
1,A pack of wolves
1,A pride of lions
1,An ambush of tigers
1,A bear


Things can get pretty complex just by typing out a long list of tables. And, in fact, Alex already has a damn impressive example here.

The more I play with and read about it, the more I'm convinced this is the program that can do what Zak was asking. OSR folks just need to get together and build the library to support it.

So in that spirit, I'm creating The Hex Describe Bible, a library for Alex's Hex Describe set up to be built by Gygaxian Democracy. My ambition is for it to grow into nothing less than the definitive source for random hex contents generation. I want this thing to be over 500 pages long and inspire awe in those who use it. I want people to talk about hexcrawls in terms of "before Hex Describe" and "after Hex Describe".

But for that to happen, I need you. All of you. I'm sure you have at least a few hex descriptions lying around. Add them to the Hex Describe Bible under the most appropriate hex type. It's set up to spit out hex descriptions like this:

0101: Bush.
Landmark: Several ant mounds at least 20 feet tall dot the horizon. Food, even in large quantities, tends to go missing here.
Encounter: Scrub brush hides an opening to a deep pit. At the bottom lie the skeletal remains of an unlucky traveler holding scissors.
NPC: a human fighter (lvl 2) named Nayara who can inspire another character to perform an extra non-attack, non-spellcasting action once per fight and can disarm an opponent on a successful hit if they fail a strength check. Is generous and motivated by family. Wields a longbow. Carries 10 days’ rations, a taxidermied animal, priest's robes, and priest's robes.
Item: A thorny shrub oozes sap that can be used as a powerful adhesive. Can only be removed with goblin urine.

Right now there are only a few examples up there for the bush hex type, but there are also things like character traits, a system for generating NPC fighters, clerics, thieves, and magic users, equipment, the LotFP spell list, and lots and lots of names.

Over the next week I'll be filling out more and more of the tables and highlighting some of the things this can do on my blog. But I can't do this alone. Even if you don't want to contribute, please share with people who might.

I need you. Your hexmap needs you. Let's do this.

EDIT: If everyone who read this post added just one hex description to the doc, we'd have 1600+ by now. Just sayin'. If you found this blog, chances are you've written at least ONE hex you're proud of in your whole life. Go add it right now. I've written a tutorial for exactly how to get started here. If you have a big table to format, check this out.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Great Goblin Wood

On the eastern border of the Elf Empire, past the River Sleep, the woods grow knotted and strange. This is goblin country. There is little agreement what "goblin" truly means: does it refer to the creatures who infest this land? The process that changes them? The land itself? Some external force leaking into the land?

Whatever the truth, it is acceptable shorthand to refer to the diminutive, warped, spacetime-damaged beings native to the wood as goblins. Goblins are not born - they are changed. They have no children themselves and so are forced to kidnap the infants of other races. They heavily favor elves. This is the reason for the eternal elf-goblin war: for goblins, it is a matter of reproduction. Raids fill them with orgiastic zeal.

At the wood's heart lies a labyrinth. At the labyrinth's heart, a tower. This is the Tower of Change. Goblins, for whom navigating a maze is as natural as taking a breath, lay their captured children at the tower's door and return in a year and a day to find new goblins.

Every time you look at a goblin anew, something is a little off. Weren't its ears bigger? Its nose sharper? Goblins are never truly done changing. This impermanence of form means that goblins have a tendency to dematerialize, pass through walls, or rearrange their molecules to flow like liquid or float like gas. It also places them close to dreams. Goblin oneirists explore dreams - sometimes their own, sometimes others'.

The things goblins make often come off as parodies of the things other cultures might make. They love to buy and sell, but they place little stock in money. The Goblin Market has things for sale not found anywhere else, but expect to pay a heavy price. The greatest goblin export is spidersilk, a gift of the spider goddess Anansi and the spiders of the wood. Goblins fashion the silk into the sails of airships from which they launch their raids.

These are the tables I use to run the Great Goblin Wood, finished not a moment too soon because my players now find themselves deep in the wood. I know I sort of promised more regular posts of these region tables, but that's not going to happen. They take a long time to write. I kind of have to sit and daydream with each region for a while until I start to get a feel for what makes it tick. So, ten more regions are coming, but who knows when. Probably when my players get to them.

This also turned out to be my response to this Kotaku article about boring goblin fights, even though I was already working on it when the article was published. I'm not as down on Cecelia D'Anastasio as others have been - she does identify a real problem. My response is threefold: I give goblins Cheshire Cat powers, weirdass motivations and culture, and I make the environment of the wood itself part of the danger. Monsters without goals more defined than just "kill the PCs" will always be boring monsters. Also, the problems she has with D&D combat can be fixed with group initiative re-rolled every round.

To the tables:

Encounters by Terrain Type (d100)

Roll once per day of travel, more if you want. Re-roll after rolling weather events. Rolling over the highest number listed means no encounter.

EncounterKnotty woodsThorny brambleBog
spatial distortion (see following chart)1-81-81-8
swamp gas-9-129-16
hallucinogenic spores9-12-17-18
thick fog13-2013-2019-26
goblin war party28-3228-3235-38
pig cavalry33-34-39
scribble shaman35-3633-3440
goblin merchants37-38--
displacer beast41-4237-3842
balloon pig43--
creeping vine-39-4143
chiron crawler---
spider goddess4444-
spider emissaries45-4645-46-
switch pig4949-
id pig5050-
rat alchemist-5547
consuming fog--48-50
suicide pig5556-
tsetse fly swarm--51-54
idiot birds56-5757-58-
goblins in dragon costume58--

EncounterLabyrinthGeode caveGoblin city
spatial distortion (see following chart)1-8--
swamp gas-1-8-
hallucinogenic spores-9-10-
thick fog---
goblin war party9-1611-129-20
pig cavalry--21-28
scribble shaman17-201329-32
goblin merchants21-241433-40
displacer beast2616-
balloon pig--41-44
creeping vine---
chiron crawler27-3021-
spider goddess-22-
spider emissaries-23-2445-48
switch pig31-50
id pig32-51
rat alchemist-27-2861-64
consuming fog---
suicide pig37--
tsetse fly swarm---
idiot birds38-40-65-68
goblins in dragon costume-2969

Spatial Distortions (d8 or use the d100 encounter die number)

  1. No matter how far the party travels today, it will end up exactly where it started.
  2. The party will arrive at its destination tomorrow, no matter how far away it actually is.
  3. The party can only get closer to its destination by moving away from it.
  4. The party wakes up in an entirely random part of the wood.
  5. The party wakes up outside the wood on the border nearest where it slept.
  6. The party wakes up in the Goblin Market.
  7. The party moves at half its normal speed today.
  8. The party moves at ten times its normal speed today.

Treasure/Search the Body (d100)

1Night Wood black candle, darkens room when lit
2d4 orcish nuclear beast eggs, explode when thrown
3Primeval Forest moss baby
4icon of the Twilight Grail, ends one curse or affliction
5northern whale lamp oil, burns underwater
6Southern Isles lizard man rum
7Lotus Straits bathyscope
8goblin key, can lock any door
9jeweled marionette from the Reach
10account of a doomed expedition to the Land of Shadow and Flame
11Rusted Land clockwork lamp, rubbing grants one very minor wish
12Voivodjan mince pie
13elven opium (Yoon-Suin p. 283)
14-63gold equal to half dice roll
64mask, fools any goblin (but only goblins) into thinking you're a goblin
65fine spidersilk robes
66imitation spidersilk robes, will make goblins mock you
67spidersilk glider
68vial of tsetse flies, carry sleeping sickness
69scribble shaman chalk
70nilbog blood, drinking makes you healed by damage for the next round
71Spool of spider thread from Anansi herself - leaving a trail prevents distortions
72airship bomb
73vial of spider venom
74very nice pocket lint
75goblin liquor, Con save or lose 1 HP per drink
76book of vulgar nursery rhymes
77map of geode cave tunnels criss-crossing the wood, not subject to distortions
78letter from one goblin noble to another, detailing plans to backstab a third
79necklace of elf ears
80crown of the Goblin King, return carries a reward
81black iron manacles, prevents goblins from changing form
82blowgun with tsetse fly darts
83poem detailing where a goblin's treaure horde is hidden
84invoice from Reach merchant, instructions to find the One Market
85goblin map, looks like accurate map of region but gets all non-goblins lost
86elfsear mushroom, CON save - pass: +2 WIS, fail: -2 WIS
87purple amanita mushroom, causes lucid dreaming
88bat wing mushroom, leaves eater open to dream invasion
89green ghost mushroom, makes eater ethereal for several minutes
90magic tattoo needle, creates living tattoos
91random animal scribbled in chalk on slate, acts as that animal
92spell-stealing egg, absorbs one spell that can be cast when cracked open
93scroll of walk on wall/ceiling
94delicious pastry, totally normal
95papers of ownership for an airship in drydock for repairs
96spidersilk sail, allows small boat to become an airship
97clutch of spider eggs, will hatch into sons and daughters of Anansi
98elven infant
99spider, has important information to return to Anansi
goblin bone scribed with ash and chalk, consuming prolongs life but causes mutations

NPCs (d20)

  1. goblin raider
  2. goblin merchant
  3. goblin shaman
  4. pig knight
  5. airship bombardier
  6. spy
  7. hermit wizard
  8. fungus farmer
  9. oneirist
  10. lizardman separatists from Southern Isles
  11. traveling merchant
  12. orc scout
  13. rat man
  14. elf crusader
  15. snail rider
  16. idiot bird, goblin court attendant
  17. goblin noble
  18. spidersilk weaver
  19. emissary of the spider goddess
  20. Anansi, the spider goddess

Wilderness Locations (d10)

  1. bog
  2. labyrinth
  3. geode cave
  4. moving city on chicken legs
  5. hedge maze
  6. mushroom field (hallucinogenic)
  7. misshaping pool
  8. deep cave
  9. spiderwebs
  10. beanstalk

Settlement Locations (d10)

  1. airship yards
  2. drinking hole (think Star Wars cantina)
  3. rat laboratory
  4. menagerie of intelligent creatures
  5. palace
  6. pig stables
  7. oneirist chamber
  8. shaman's hut
  9. spidersilk works
  10. fortress

Dungeons (d4)

  1. Goblin Market
  2. web of Anansi, the spider goddess
  3. Tower of Change
  4. spire of Sarpedon the Shaper

Events (d8)

  1. Four goblin nobles, three goblin merchants, two goblin children and a handsome shrew all claim to be Goblin King. Each develops a violent following, especially the shrew.
  2. An assembly of mushroom-worshipping oneirists gather in a large mushroom field for the harvest festival.
  3. A goblin merchant plots to kidnap one of the player characters to sell to an eccentric collector.
  4. A giant in a floating castle recruits goblins for a campaign of terror across the world.
  5. A procession of goblins carrying babies from the latest raid makes its way to the Labyrinth.
  6. A ragtag flotilla of airships passes overhead on its way to raid the elf borderlands.
  7. A great migration of the forest leaves the place unfamiliar even to seasoned inhabitants.
  8. A hermit wizard claims to have unlocked the secret to eternal life by studying goblin anatomy.

Customs (d6)

  1. Goblins of means compete to see who can be the worst host for travelers.
  2. The upper classes get around via a network of underground geode cave tunnels.
  3. You cannot truly trust someone until you have been inside each others’ dreams and lived to tell about it.
  4. Offering to pay for something with money is an unforgivable offense.
  5. It is customary to leave an offering of flies to the spiders before undertaking any great venture.
  6. Goblins often claim the support of the Goblin King in disputes, but it is rude to ask who or where the Goblin King is.