Sunday, April 28, 2024

Why Are You So Emaciated and Your Face Half-Crazed? (Carousing Rules)

 This is a way of getting experience points through having intense experiences, turning the money-for-risks carousing house rule common to early OSR games into an excuse to wring emotions out of those ill-fated PCs. Players are surrendering some of the normal province of their agency to chance. They should be allowed to look over these tables, and should hopefully enjoy the thought of playing out even a negative result. It will be the player who decides how much the PC spends during this period of intense feeling. The PC themselves may bemoan the expense in retrospect.

It is important that the downtime containing this procedure is long enough that it makes sense to cast the party's activities into abstract. At least a week. It often makes sense to allow a PC to do other things during that downtime, but they almost certainly can't have two melodramatic actions going unless prompted by a table result. When using these melodramatic action procedures, they should not be used to replace more intentional, measured downtime activities. If you normally have a rule for PC funerals contributing XP to a new PC, consider rolling the gold spend in relevant bouts of Insane Grief into that total. If you normally require a certain cost and time investment to create a magic item, consider counting Running Yourself Ragged With Obsession about that magic item towards the requirement. Ex chetera.

Two tips for players. First, notice that rolling for one of these activities will seldom give an outright solution. Marrying your amore doesn’t solve any issues that may have come up, Obsession won’t give you a neat resolution, etc. Roll on the table and go from there. Second, you can and should have your PCs borrow money to roll on these tables. That’s like an advance on your next level, baby.

Insane Grief
Spend any amount of gold in funeral rites, sacrifices, or senseless destruction. If you mourn a deep loss, like a close relative, battle-brother, limb, or personal tragedy, gain the gold spent as XP. Otherwise, get half. Then, roll a d6. If you spent more on this bout of Insane Grief than you ever have before, you can reroll if you blanch at the result
1. Go feral. Abandon worldly things and, if you wish for a bonus, speech, hairlessness, and clothing. Live as an animal does, only roused to continue your adventures by your friends.
2. Commune with the spirit you've lost, or a psychopomp. Learn from them hard truths.
3. Swear an unwise vengeance oath. Against your named victims, you get an extra turn when reduced to half HP and when reduced to 0 HP, interrupting other characters' turns. You may roll on the Run Yourself Ragged With Obsession table for free.
4. Dissociate. Feel a great, numb anti-epiphany drape over you. Reroll any number of your attributes. If you reroll at least 2, the DM can choose another to reroll.
5. Carry On. Fill an inventory slot with grief. One day, you can set it down.
6. In cold arms find warmth. An NPC, like a family member or friend, gives solace. They gain a level and become your fierce defender. If appropriate, you may roll on the Passionate Romance table for free. If you have no one, another PC can comfort you but gains no bonus. If none does, save vs death.

Passionate Romance
(If you don't already have an amore in mind, force the DM to roll up 3d1 romance-ready NPCs.)
This is not simple courtship. This is to throw yourself from your ship into the sea of love and not to know if you will ever stand at the helm again. Spend money with wild abandon. If the amore loves you back by the end of it, or if endeavor fails spectacularly, gain that much XP. Otherwise, gain half. Then, roll a d6. If you fear death’s nearness, you can roll twice and get both results.
1. A rival intercedes. They offer something you cannot. Their heart is less fragile than yours.
2. Your love is forbidden. To proceed risks everything for one or both of you.
3. Swear an unwise devotion oath as you are swept up into an intense fascination. If they are attacked when you are nearby, you can intercede to take the harm. This either ends in mutual love or a spectacular failure, so you’re sure to get the full XP reward. You may roll on the Run Yourself Ragged With Obsession table for free.
4. Unrequested, your amore renders aid. They may have learned a useful scrap to your other endeavors, or secured a favor for you. They’ve been thinking about you. 🥰
5. Fruit of the union impends— either a child or another shared enterprise. To accept this is to change— reroll an attribute of your choice. To defer this may be loving, but it risks a reverie from the passion.
6. Their hand in marriage they offer— to you! They would brave any obstacle— the world’s scorn, a misapproving family, a fault in your stars. If you accept, you must prepare an appropriate Triumph roll for anything from a grand celebration to a covert elopement. Their family may give you gold, goats, etc. Get +1 to any two attributes for the duration of the relationship.

Hateful Feud
This is not simple antagonism. This is to hold the ruin of another as dearly as your own success. This is to make the bastards pay, regardless of the cost to you. This is to dig two graves. Spend any amount of gold on projects, schemes, bribes, spies, and the like. If you're escalating above and beyond the most recent sleight in the feud, gain that much XP. Otherwise, gain half. Then roll a d6. If you live for nothing else, you can roll twice and get both results.
1. A misstep exposes someone or something you love to the bastards, and they strike hard. You may want to roll on the Insane Grief table, for free.
2. Your least-defensible means of attack are discovered by authorities or a trusted ally, making them suspicious or prompting opposition. If they only knew the truth about those base villains!
3. An opening presents itself! You get advanced warning of when one of the spiteful worms will be unprepared. Maybe they're leaving behind their guard detail or relaxing without their armor or celebrating some triumph. 
4. Muckraking turns up a shameful secret of those infuriating freaks.
5. Spite calls to the spiteful. One of the cucks' old enemies gets in contact with you, expanding the feud to a whole new front.
6. A sudden rumble! Your and those philistines' mutual hate impels you to fight it out on neutral ground with only a couple hours to gather your followers. Depending on the outcome, you may roll on the Insane Grief and/or Triumph tables for free.
7. Your foe makes reparations and submits themselves to your judgment.
Spend any amount of gold in feasting, games, performances, and other celebrations. If you have a hall or other appropriate venue, gain the gold spent as XP. Otherwise, gain half. Then, roll a d6. If your victory was total, you may reroll an undesired result.
1. Ambush! Like flies fouling sweet fruit, the scattered remnants of a foe you defeated strike when you are unprepared. If you pull through, you may roll on the Hateful Feud table for free.
2. A leak breaks the confidence of your councils. Someone, somewhere knows your secrets— perhaps not some great sin, but the workings of your defenses and the people you rely on.
3. Swear an unwise conquest oath. Against your named foes, you are never surprised and give followers +1 loyalty. You may roll on the Fix the World table for free. 
4. You win renown. A random interesting personage arrives to pledge service as a hireling or retainer in exchange for humble terms.
5. Much conversation fills your ears. Learn 2d4 rumors from your guests.
6. Your celebration leads to a consolidation of victory. Your less powerful enemies flee the area, cowed by your triumph. See how they run!

Fix the World
Spend any amount of gold in philanthropy, careful expenditures, and good works. Gain the gold spent as XP. Then roll a d6.
1. Rule fairly. Someone close to you turns against you. The DM might not say who.
2. Speak the truth. The common people turn against you. 
3. Be inquisitive about how power is used. A local authority turns against you.
4. Display generosity. You may negate one bad result of a future Fix the World roll.
5. Come up with a wise solution. Ask the DM one question and they will answer honestly. They may not be straightforward.
6. Show respect. An enemy contacts you, explaining earnestly what it would take to bury the hatchet.

Run Yourself Ragged With Obsession
First set a goal— initiation into the deeper mysteries of your faith, the solution of an arcane riddle to rhyme a spell or craft a magical object, a spiral of paranoia to make a place impregnable, training new techniques into the body, or anything else. Then spend any amount of gold in research, drugs and medicines, consultants, and related expenditures. If you’re overreacting to something relatively minor, gain the gold spent as XP. If not, gain half. Then roll a d6. If you spent more on this bout of Running Yourself Ragged With Obsession than you ever have before, you can reroll if you blanch at the result
1. Fatigue betrays you, inviting illness and malaise to thwart your pursuits. Save or contract a random disease, then reroll all your hit dice.
2. Shove off dead weight— phony friends, false platitudes, too-convenient insights. Gain -1 to a mental attribute of your choice. 
3. Gain the knack by frantic rote. Learn the use of a tool or technique which will help with your obsession. Yours is not the common way, and a normal practitioner will balk at your methods.
4. Learn how to listen for secrets that long to be held in the tongue and mind. Invite a presence to slide easily into communion with you, for most who know the things you seek are not living, safe, and sane. Learn from them dangerous truths.
5. Come up with a wise solution. Ask the DM one question and they will answer honestly. They might not be straightforward.
6. Incorporate the perspective of someone like-minded— a person with the same obsession, or an expert. If they are still living, they are now your ally. If, against all odds, appropriate, you may roll on the Passionate Romance table for free.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

d20 Random Button and Lever Effects

 In the vein of my classic goo table and my more recent shrine procedure, I have come to value these workhorse lists and tricks that can be referenced or tacked onto the design of a dungeon space or scenario.

d20 Random Button and Lever Effects 

  1. Self-Destruct. Room is destroyed, then the damage radiates at 1d4 rooms per Turn, increasing in die size on a 3 or higher.
  2. Overload. Dungeon functions speed up and increase. 50% chance they malfunction after an hour. If no dungeon function, undead and constructs and so on become hyperactive. If no such creatures, a few walls explode.
  3. Portals. 50% all doors and windows open. Otherwise they are stuck in their current position.
  4. Dispenser. D6: water, snakes, acid, fire, treasure, supplies
  5. Klaxon. Monsters approach. Make an extra encounter roll right away, but encounters are less common elsewhere in the dungeon for 1 hour.
  6. Exit. d4: ejector seat, evactuation chute, whole room an elevator, teleportation rune.
  7. Convenience. Activate internal furnishing. d6: fireplace, music box, sharpener, chamberpot, laundry, loom
  8. Open. Hidden desk or door clicks open. 
  9. Do Not Disturb. Defenses or signage deters random encounters.
  10. Missive. Those in another room can hear and be heard by those in this room. 25% chance of a magical hologram granting vision.
  11. Magic. Casts a random spell.
  12. Lights. Illuminates dungeon with a random color.
  13. Memento. Reveals a symbol, trophy, or art piece.
  14. Screen. Displays dungeon information. d6: map, life signs, roster and biographies, history, inventory
  15. Vent. d4: hot, cold, dry, wet.
  16. Layout. Non-Euclidiciously rearranges a section of the dungeon, changing connections.
  17. Relocate. Dungeon moves to a new spot 1d20 x 5 miles away at 1d100 miles per hour (1d100 x 2 kilometers per league, for European readers). d6: burrowing claws, muscular strides, crab legs, helicopter wings, slithering, pioneer boulder scooting)
  18. Lockdown. Shuts off egress from another sector of the dungeon. Ingress unaffected.
  19. Defenses. Designed to protect the button-presser, not harm them. d4: alligator pit trap, laser-eyed statue watches door, fiery perimeter, reveals weapon rack.
  20. Launch. Fires ze missiles!


  • Capacity. 50% chance that dungeon denizens lose a special ability, like poison or infravision. Otherwise, they gain a new one
  • Reset. Returns dungeon to original state, perhaps absent some important creatures and magic items.
  • Gravity. Either deactivated or reoriented.