Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Mystery of Backstory Castle

And the readaloud maze

The osr diaspora is now successful enough and dispersed enough that no-one is in any danger of perceiving me as a leader and I can slink back to my comfortable position of cackling goblin irritant

anyway, watching everyone talk about what lessons do we teach about doing dungeons

and whats the principals of a trap

and we have to teach people how to think for themselves and not be dorks

for without the TEACHING DUNGEON - HOW SHALT ANYONE KNOW HOW TO DUNGEON AT ALL??

actually I was pretty jelly about all the attention everyone elses teaching dungeons were getting
and wanted onto that bandwagon

but then I thought about it for a second and realised


  • firstly that would be a lot of work
  • second I'm not that good at dungeon design anyway
  • thirdly isn;t the very nature of a teaching dungeon slightly boring anyway?


if you want to instil principals in people, isn't it a lot more fun to make...





THE WORST FUCKING DUNGEON EVER!!!




And so it was that I conceived the idea for Backstory Castle, home of the Readaloud Maze, created by the Wizard Bocht Techt purely to be some kind of fucking catastrophe that no-one ever went to

Or to be more precise I had the idea to have the idea of Backstory Castle. I didn't have any of the useful detail-like ideas about how it would work, instead I just thought of a dungeon that was just exactly and precisely the WORST in every possible way

as in, it taught exactly the wrong lessons, both to anyone reading it, anyone running it, and anyone playing in it

lets see if I can have any interesting ideas

I wonder how exquisitely bad we can make something




THE PATHETIC PRODUCTION



The Handout


There is a 128 page handout with full color pages so it prints horribly. It contains a long rambling history of the locality, with multiple generations of unmemorable characters who have ruled for generations. Make sure you spot the clue on page 37!



Compulsary Tie-In Novels


I expect there would be a novella's worth of flavor text about Goblin Boss Gloob's early life and how he came to serve Orc Boss Gark. So that when the climactic battle finally comes, we can see the fruition of this tale as Gloob stealthily fucks off while the PCs carve away Gark's 12hp.

Just like the RoS released important info through Fortnight, there are a series of Tie-In Novels about minor characters and (despite the insane lore dumps) you cannot understand the actions of major characters without buying and reading those novels.


Loathesome Layout


Id suggest moving even further into the depths of meta-contrition: perverse layout decisions, pictures with text encroaching their borders, broken links, nested indicies scattered throughout the text, random font switch 60% through, all printed/laid out horizontally in tabloid/broadhsheet format

Awful Index 



What about an index? Misspeled of course, and sourced from an earlier draft so that only 25% of the page numbers actually align with the topics? Sorted by page number so looking anything up involves starting at the top and working your way down.


Malefic Map


There's a beautiful, full-color, high rez map of the hidden gardens, crystal trees, grottos, glimmering pools, with twist and turns- but its really just one long hallway stacked on top of itself like an intestinal diagram. Nothing out side of the "rooms" (which are just circular areas) are labeled because you can't really do anything with them (e.g. the colored pools are just that).


I think we can definitely combine these - so a giant, 100+ page handout. Its longer than the adventure,

Lets say its formatted for neither US Letter OR A4 size, but could be easily mistaken for either. And if you print it in the wrong format important information is lost.

Full colour - hi rez. Full family and legendary history of everything. Vital hidden clue.


Foul Font


Print the whole thing in red ink on gray paper, in Fraktur font.




THE AWFUL AESTHETIC





Terrible Text Tone



  • "Uh, hey guys" rambling convesational gamer dad text
  • Daidacticly autistic hyperdense voice
  • LORE DUMPS



Fraternizing tone, something like "You surely know, oh gentle reader..."
Old memes or slang in writing.
introduce new, 'cool' words to address the readers or the process of play ("Playzzers" for simplest example); rename DM into something long and difficult to pronounce (Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence, for the quick example) and never use any abbreviation, only the full title, in the text.


ONLY BEIGE OR VIRID PUKE


The only aesthetic tones in the adventure can be the most beige as fuck 5E-bait multiply-photocopied fantasy archetypes OR 'fuck you' low level but atavistic edgelord foultext - IT SUBVERTS YOUR EXPECTATIONS

"The Wizard Bocht Techt rises before you through a pillar of silvery smoke, silvery because it springs from the fountains of the feywild where Boch Techt learned this spell from his Elfen Maiden betrothed before the sad tragedy which seperated them in the Brown Eons many Oolthars (an orcish measure of time) ago. Techt is truly a hoary and sad figure with a long grey beard a tall conical cap upon which stars are ebroidered with a floppy brim. His robes are of the most midnight blue and flow around him like clothes hanging off an old man. They are also embroidered with mysteroius sigils of cryptic design [DC 15 Lore check to realise these sigils are in the language of the Eld Castle folk]. He wears fabulous but worn turkish slippers as if he came recently from his smokey study and smokes a DOUBLE BARRLED pile carved from old oak in the shape of a Griffons Claw (in memory of his defeat of such a beast during the Adventure of the Sleeping Ape), twin curls of silvery smoke as slivery as his sigils and his silver beard wind up from the griffin-clawed pipe his face smiles in a winsome yet also sad way as if weighted down by his many years of thinking about stuff but he has a mischevous gleam in his clever eye and carries a staff with a COCK ON IT BECAUSE THIS WIZARD FFFUUUUUUCCCCKS

"Greetings Adventurers" chuckles Bocht Techt, "hast though come to test mine maze?"

The wyzard wynks saucily.

"Or art thou down to fuck?"


POINTLESSLY RE-NAMED BUT STILL BEIGE AS FUCK MONSTERS!!


Orcs and goblins? No, this castle has Skri'therzm and Mocron-Reiru, which are a race of brutish, chaotic humanoids and race of shorter, brutish, chaotic humanoids. And the skeletons are called "darkbone haunters".

Yes! Glark is no longer a Goblin but a Mocron-Reiru!

'Darkbone Hunters' is too perfect - this wins Bocht Techts most flavourful award.






THE INANE INFORMATION DESIGN






BAD BOXED TEXT has to be an absolute must on every page


this is a big deal - Jason Cordova is trying to bring this stuff back and ONLY I IN MY LONELY GENIUS stand in his way

someone has to destroy boxed text forever and that someone is me

so, every major element has to have readaloud boxed text and that text has to introduce every element with its deep historical and thematic meaning FIRST, and at LENGTH, with any useful elements last, and also totally hidden in the huge block of spoken text

"This abyssal chamber was not included on the original plans for Backstory Castle due to the Time God Oct spilling a cuppa Hot Joe onto the plans during his meaningful tussle with the Sorcerer Bocht Techt during the Ovulation Wars of the Nightmare Age, a period forgotten by all. Nevertheless the architect Moongold, (lover of the Elf Queen Hyacinth) used meaningful magic to uncover the room plans during a Sorrowing Moon. The light of that moon impregnated the structure of the ten by ten room giving it a deep and sorrowful cast, something unknown to its current goblin occupant (absent on a d6 roll of 1+) as the sorcery has leeched away over the eons leaving only stone which holds up the ivory plinth on which the goblin sleeps. The plinth was stolen and is missing, leaving no trace and the goblin is out searching for it. The theives of the plinth used a mind eating magic to disguise its theft and any attempt to scry its location leads to instant level drain. This room has doors which lead both in and out."

hmm, what else is terrible?


Rancid Room Keys



we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right? Each room in the dungeon should take up four to five pages in the book. The room keys need to be hyper detailed to the point that they become useless as keys.

Also, why not key 25% of the rooms in pseudo-hexadecimal.

Room 9A2E. Mocron-Reiru living quarters.
7 beds.
→ bed 1. Not made.
→ → old blanket.
→ → → red, made of torn cotton.
→ → → → tear in left hand corner.
→ bed 2. Made, not well though, as if the goblin-reiru was in a hurry to make it. Probably had about 2 minutes to make the bed, with a deviation allowance of 45 seconds.
→ → blanket of blue, cotton. Pillow is straw stuffed into a bag.
→ → → straw bag was made 6 months ago by the farmer Gusa'gel'del'tonathon. The More-Reigru stole the bag from the farmer while he was milking a cow named [cow #1, page xx]
→ Bed 6. Not a bed, actually a chest.
→ → made of water logged wood.
→ → → wood was soaked 2 days ago, swollen.
→ → → → hinges made of steel. lock clasp made of iron. Chest weighs 12 lbs and 40 grams when lifted.
→ → → → → inside is 8 kg of gold.


"we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right?"
Ok, but consider, what if we didn't have room keys at all?

But alright, assuming room keys:
-Rooms missing a key entirely. It's not even 31. Tenth Kitchen, just Tenth Kitchen. (Yes we need a lot of kitchens, all similar and described in exquisite detail)
-Map keys referring to nonexistent rooms, obviously
-Skip a number, or a few. There is no room 52 on the map or in the entire adventure.
-There should be at least three different versions of room 51, all contradictory. (Was contradictory DM text mentioned already? A room needs to have a lich in it, and no lich in it at the same time.)

A few other ideas:
-NPC descriptions and NPC stats need to be at least 100 pages apart.
-This cannot use a gold or silver standard. It needs to have an electrum standard (a fact never mentioned anywhere), and a very elaborate money conversion system, with e.g. bronze coins worth 1/7th electrum. They're not referred as electrum or bronze of course, but with made-up names like "Third Dynasty grucats" and "sifs".
-Rename stats and classes for no reasons.
-Use a mix of multiple measurements. Feet and meters, lbs and kg and stones and slots.
-Somewhere in the dungeon there should be a portal to a whole world the DM must improvise out of thin air. What's the Grobulon Dimension? Fuck if I know, but it leads there. Or maybe a portal to literally anywhere. Take your setting's planet's map (you have a painfully detailed world map, right?) and roll coordinates at random! Oh, and 1d1000 years back in the past. Hope you have a detailed setting timeline.
-A magic item that mind controls the characters to railroad them into following The Plot.
-The big baddies use odiously powerful magic items (or tantalizing, really interesting items used in horrendously boring ways), which explicitly don't work (or outright disintegrate) if PCs use them, justified with obscure bullshit backstory reasons (if at all).
-OOOOH I FORGOT. Very important: the adventure needs a NPC that hires the party, then inevitably betrays them.
-(Also lots of traitorous monsters, and doppelgangers, so your players become paranoid forever.)



Every detail of any room has a separate DC to notice any particular detail, and a further DC to a history or knowledge check to determine in universe connections. Despite ostensibly a beginner dungeon, the challenge of the checks seem to have been calculated to be impossible for all but a maxxed-out optimised build level 20 character.

"The room has a stone flagged floor coloured dark grey (DC 15 perception to notice floor) laid out in the pattern of the sacred circles of Glarenthil (DC 30 arcana check to recognise this), it is a different stone from the walls (DC 20, Dwarf characters who took the stonemason background from appendix C may add 3 to their check) showing that the floor was added later and belies the history told to the characters by the hidden scroll from room 1_C (DC 17 intelligence check to make this connection). A rusted chandelier swings from the ceiling (DC 35 perception to notice chandelier), the trap on the chandelier (8d6 lightning damage, dexterity save 20 for half) will immediately be triggered unless the chandelier is noticed, and power word to disarm it is spoken (DC 25 Arcana Check to recognise the trap is disarmed by a code word DC 40 History (Backstory Castle) needed to recognise the disarm word is the name of the Elf Queen Hyacinth). Across the room is a bookcase (DC 18 Perception to notice bookcase) filled with dusty tomes (DC 20 arcana check to notice that there is nothing of value in the books which contain 19 cp worth of paper each). Glathnark the Mocron-Reiru Assassin is hiding behind the bookcase (looking behind the bookcase and succeeding in a dc 50 spot check will reveal the assassin) and will spring out and assassinate (Death attack auto hit, crit on 3+) the last in marching order if the characters pass through the room to the door on the other side (DC 15 perception to notice other door)."



Tortuous Tables


Tables are;

Boring; result one = One Orc. Result Two = Two Orcs. Result Three = Three Orcs

To be properly boring tables have to have a lot of the same *kind* of thing in them, differeing only in absract numbering and in no other way;

So;

result A - "Fifteen Leather-Clad Orcs accompanied to two goblin scouts. The Orcs are loyal to the Orc Boss Gark and are searching the halls for intruders."

Result B - "twelve goblins accompanied by five ferocious orcs clad in leather armour. The Goblins are loyal to the Goblin Boss Gloob, who serves the Orc Boss Gark faithfully out of fear. The Orcs serve Gark directly and think themselves better than the Goblins. All are armed with random weapons. Damage - by weapon."


Tables must be split over multiple spreads, either extended laterally with columns going partially onto the next spread, or vertically with rows going onto the next spread, or BOTH!

Tables must be extremely recursive, that is, to complete the roll of any particualr result, you must have to roll on another table, in a different part of the book, which also requires you to roll on ANOTHER table.

The more immedaiately necessary the result is the more recursive the table must be. And even better, some tables have multiple PATHS of recursion - to complete them you have to go to two differnt places in the book and reassemble the results!

So, result B, "twelve goblins accompanied by five ferocious orcs clad in leather armour. The Goblins are loyal to the Goblin Boss Gloob, who serves the Orc Boss Gark failthfully out of fear. The Orcs serve Gark directly and think themselves better than the Goblins*. All are armed with random weapons*. Damage - by weapon."

*See - Orc Motivation Table
*See - Random Weapon table pages 302 to 305 [Obviously this is satire, in the real adventure, no page numbers would be mentioned, you would just have to flip until you find stuff


Vague, Undifferentiated and Uninventive Content


Table results have to be totally uninventive, nothing you couldn't have come up with yourself, and they must be vague enough that they bring no solid diagetically concepts to mind. They should be useless for immediate purposes, badly wieghted so they produce incoherent results over long-term play, and also be very boring to read as a matter of game prep.

An example of Vague Results below

ORC MOTIVATIONS; (two column)

This Orc feels;
1 Angry
2 Wrathful
3 Raging
4 Frustrated
5 Aggressive
6 Hateful
7 Like fighting
8 In a Dark Mood

About
1 Resources
2 Starvation
3 Greed
4 lack of food
5 The Orc is hungry
6 The orc is frustrated
7 The Orc wants something
8 What it doesn't have


That's all I got right now. Feel free to do my work for me add your own ideas below, or in a blog post of your own, in the popular longrunning gygaxian democracy experiment - The Mystery of Backstory Castle!


Half of the tables' results are some form of "dm choice" or "pick other two". Especially the most important treasures are not defined.



Mind-Crushing Monster Stats!


I realise this is much too late, but an addition that would do wonders is if all the monster boxes vary by rule editions too. Darkbone Haunters are 3rd edition d&d, mocron-reiru are written with OD&D notation, each monster has an AC value, but you don't know if it's ascending ac or descending, some monsters use Target20 and some use THAC0 to attack. Some monsters have attack matrices (but not the same monsters that have OD&D notation).






THE APOCALYPTIC ADVENTURE DESIGN!





Nasty Nerfs!


The only thing that is easy to find is a full page near the front of the adventure explaining all of the spells which are NOT ALLOWED in the dungeon. "Techt has enchanted the area so that teleporting instead does 2d8/2 damage to the caster. Techt has enchanted the area so that divination give incorrect information most of the time."

Souless Subsystems!



In the adventure, or maybe a hangout, add a few new rule subsystem that emulate/simulate something in very minute and unnecessary details (such as mass breathing or camp-building, for example), and then insist that these rules variations are mandatory for this adventure, so players will have to learn and master them. Add one or two places in the adventure where these rules are absolutely essential for the victory, and then never bring them up ever again so at the end players will waste time learning and memorizing them.
Subsystems, of course, are either very bland or exceptionally intertwined or both.


Trash Traps!


The logic of traps and how they interact with the investigation of the imagined world is actually surprisingly subtle, with each version of doctrine having a different interaction with the players and DM and reaching its own meta-stasis over continued play - which actually makes forming a truly, exactly, nightmarishly BAD trap quite a complex equation

lets see what we can consider

Inconsistency - not only must the methodology of the traps be inconsistent *within the diagesis* i.e. it must make no sense when considering the structure of the imagined world

but it must also be inconstant as a matter of design

Types of Traps

the gygaxian tomb of horrors trap - something designed specifically for *adventureres* and to fuck over people who do stuff like D&D players, like HA HA HA YOU THOUGHT AHEAD YOU TWATS!!

the naturalistic vietcong trap - something designed in-world in exactly the way taht an in world agent would make it for in-world reasons - genuinely very hard to find and genuinely potentially deadly but since it follows the logic of that reality, something that can be learnt and ultimately accounted for

the chris mcdowall trap - potentially dangerous but always signalled in some form. The trap as 'problem' primarily, its danger only serving to force investigation and thought, a potential killer but not truly designed to kill

the storygames trap - a trap which is actually an 'event', like a bottle episode of a tv series set in a dungeon. potentially somewhat dangerous but primarily created to prompt complex DRAMA - I hope you wrote an EXTENSIVE BACKSTORY because now you will be reading it out at length to each other.

the NUMBERS trap - like that guy, I forget his name but he makes everything numbers? The torchbearer guy. This trap reduces one particular rules factor on your character sheet by a SPECIFIC NUMEBR oh fuck I hope you don't have to calibrate the equations in the excel sheet you are using to work out who the fuck you are!!

the "dick or dog" Raggi Trap - the trap which puts the pcs and the players into a dirtbag-spiderman style MORAL QUANDRY - do you release the RAPE VAMPIRE? or RAPE the MEAT BUYER? well you have to do ONE OR OTHE OTHER  or the WORLD WILL END!! BECAUSE OF YOU! ITS YOUR OWN FAULT FOR GOING ON AN ADVENTURE YOU FOOOOOOLS


Troubling Trap warnings and Stupid Expectation Setting


There have to be warnings about what kinds of trap you will be facing in Backstory Castle, and those warnings have to be (long and boring and readaloud boxed text of course) and probably also in riddle form, but they also have to be just useful enough that its worth listening to them - they will actially predict something about the traps.

And then they will fail totally because soemthing utterly incoherent will happen and none of it will make any sense.




Moronic Mono-Motivated Monsters


Only Orcs, Goblins, Skelingtons and RAPE ENGINES exist in Backstory Castle and there are sure as fuck no warnings about the last one.

And there are lots of Orcs and Goblins and Skeletons.

And the Goblins sure as fuck don't do anything interesting.

No monster in Backstory Castle wants anything except to stop you going through its room and they all wait in their rooms doing nothing but waiting until you arrive. No monster has any relation with any other. The Goblins have no tricks.

They do have backstory though. Individual and in-depth backstories.




Awful Encounters


Untill they aren't.

Half of the place has careful encounter balance to ensure there's no actual risk of permanent player consequences (the horror!), and then the other half is full of "fuck you, you die instantly with no countermeasure" challenges, and there's no way to tell which is which amidst all the complex backstory and wording.


Many encounters have notes about adjusting the "difficulty", like "if you think your player are steamrolling the dungeon you can add 1d6 goblins in room 2B and 3d6 Mocron-Reiru in room XII"

No matter what the players are doing, no matter how innocuous the situation is, randomly stop and ask them to detail their actions and locations exactly like they're about to be ambushed.
Sometimes they are. Sometimes it's a really bad trap. Sometimes you just let out a sigh and say "ok, let's move on". There is no pattern.
Also, combat is officially played out on a grid but the DM must ignore the grid and run it as theater of the mind without telling players. Or vice versa. Lots of "how long are your arms" questions and wankery involving what exactly a flail does to a shield in 1400's Brittany, France.


Turgid Treasures! 


What about treasures? There ought to be just enough gold to make it feel like someone is making fun of you. 1d6 electrum pieces (electrum because it's a pain to manage) in a trapped chest?
A chest in every room with the same trap and the same reward perhaps?

I am reluctant to allow any meaningful treasures but I will accept - random piles of copper coins five meters deep. Half of the coins are actually a 3/4 copper/electrum mix (so you have to calculate the precise value. They have been painted to look like the copper coins which they are mixed in with. They have also been enchanted to explode if examined. The coins are also cursed.



Empty Rooms!


Room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after room after BOOM CAMOFLAUGED RAPE ENGINE -

"I gotcha!" Chuckels Bocht Techt emerging from a hidden hole, "now thou are porke'd fore sure, unless thou answerest my mine riddles three!"


Evil Encumbrance!


What's the most fun part of dungeons? Tracking encumbrance. So this book will have it covered. It should go above and beyond and require the player to track their calorie intake, fatigue and hydration because all those things will impact how much they can carry.

Not sure how to track it? There will be maths equations the player has to use to track what their encumbrance level is. Half the rules are in the main book with the remaining rules in a supplement. The importance of tracking encumbrance is inconsistently linked to how some traps function. Progress is impossible without the excruciatingly detailed encumbrance rules.




YOU LIVE YOU DIE YOU LIVE AGAIN!




There is no escape from Backstory Castle! He he heeee

the Wizard Bocht Techt made a sorcery on it so that if you die in the Readaloud Maze you come back to life in a random place in the maze - just like Doom and the year 2020AD; the only way out is through!


Specifically detailed ending script, maybe with multiple options. But they're shitty, like a video game "which of these three levers do you pull" ending.

A long-winded and overly detailed explanation of What Happens Next that expects you to build your entire campaign around this dungeon. Intricate details about the plans of the various NPCs that leave no room for player interaction. The adventure railroads the GM.

Similarly long-winded "where to place this dungeon" section that covers where, exactly, down to the hex or grid coordinate, where you are SUPPOSED to place this dungeon in fifteen different published settings including specific NPCs who have But Thou Must'ed the PCs into entering the dungeon. Absolutely no advice on integrating it with a homebrew setting.

54 comments:

  1. There is a 128 page handout with full color pages so it prints horribly. It contains a long rambling history of the locality, with multiple generations of unmemorable characters who have ruled for generations. Make sure you spot the clue on page 37!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or even better: Blank areas on the pages are filled with black.

      Delete
  2. I expect there would be a novella's worth of flavor text about Goblin Boss Gloob's early life and how he came to serve Orc Boss Gark. So that when the climactic battle finally comes, we can see the fruition of this tale as Gloob stealthily fucks off while the PCs carve away Gark's 12hp.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There's a puzzle trap that would really work much better in a video game (and may in fact be stolen directly from one) with only one possible solution.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More details please - exactly which video game procedures are going to be most agonising to simulate in D&D.

      Delete
    2. Traps where the exact numeric coordinates matter. DM describes a 60' x 120' wall of inextinguishable fire, for example, and a secret, unknown spot that can be passed through safely. If they're trying to jump through, or if they're testing the wall by, say, throwing stones, PCs have to state the exact location: ex: the top left corner, 12' to the left and 83' up. They must keep doing this until they find the right spot (it's 43' to the left and 101' up).

      Delete
    3. The puzzle should be 3-dimensional, pieces should have to be rotated along each axis. Each piece should be far too heavy to move at all, a lone character can't move them in any way, but with a second character it's suddenly fine. Another should involve opening a floodgate or pipe and directing the flowing water. There's no apparent indication of which way the water will flow until you turn it on. No channels, no slopes, only arrow signs on the ceiling that the characters don't see unless they specifically say they look at the ceiling. Once turned on, the water floods the room quickly. The only drain is part of the last puzzle, if they drain the room, they have to do both puzzles over.

      Delete
  4. Id suggest moving even further into the depths of meta-contrition: perverse layout decisions, pictures with text encroaching their borders, broken links, nested indicies scattered throughout the text, random font switch 60% through, all printed/laid out horizontally in tabloid/broadhsheet format

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's a beautiful, full-color, high rez map of the hidden gardens, crystal trees, grottos, glimmering pools, with twist and turns- but its really just one long hallway stacked on top of itself like an intestinal diagram. Nothing out side of the "rooms" (which are just circular areas) are labeled because you can't really do anything with them (e.g. the colored pools are just that).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Half of the place has careful encounter balance to ensure there's no actual risk of permanent player consequences (the horror!), and then the other half is full of "fuck you, you die instantly with no countermeasure" challenges, and there's no way to tell which is which amidst all the complex backstory and wording.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like I covered some of this but its still a good comment and 'encounter balance' is an important concept to add and then ignore.

      Delete
  7. Orcs and goblins? No, this castle has Skri'therzm and Mocron-Reiru, which are a race of brutish, chaotic humanoids and race of shorter, brutish, chaotic humanoids. And the skeletons are called "darkbone haunters".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good. Added to the post.

      Delete
    2. Every last one of them is named, using virtually indistinguishable naming conventions. Think "most popular baby names in Ohio circa 1990" vs "most popular baby names in Ohio circa 2000" Their stats and descriptions are listed once, in the middle. Every other reference is by given name only.

      Delete
  8. Half of the tables' results are some form of "dm choice" or "pick other two". Especially the most important treasures are not defined.
    (actually this is something that ToSK does in the end)

    Many encounters have notes about adjusting the "difficulty", like "if you think your player are steamrolling the dungeon you can add 1d6 goblins in room 2B and 3d6 Mocron-Reiru in room XII"

    ReplyDelete
  9. What about an index? Misspeled of course, and sourced from an earlier draft so that only 25% of the page numbers actually align with the topics? Sorted by page number so looking anything up involves starting at the top and working your way down.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Fraternizing tone, something like "You surely know, oh gentle reader..."
    Old memes or slang in writing.
    introduce new, 'cool' words to address the readers or the process of play ("Playzzers" for simplest example); rename DM into something long and difficult to pronounce (Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence, for the quick example) and never use any abbreviation, only the full title, in the text.

    In the adventure, or maybe a hangout, add a few new rule subsystem that emulate/simulate something in very minute and unnecessary details (such as mass breathing or camp-building, for example), and then insist that these rules variations are mandatory for this adventure, so players will have to learn and master them. Add one or two places in the adventure where these rules are absolutely essential for the victory, and then never bring them up ever again so at the end players will waste time learning and memorizing them.
    Subsystems, of course, are either very bland or exceptionally intertwined or both.

    ReplyDelete
  11. we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right? Each room in the dungeon should take up four to five pages in the book. The room keys need to be hyper detailed to the point that they become useless as keys.

    Also, why not key 25% of the rooms in pseudo-hexadecimal.

    Room 9A2E. Mocron-Reiru living quarters.
    7 beds.
    → bed 1. Not made.
    → → old blanket.
    → → → red, made of torn cotton.
    → → → → tear in left hand corner.
    → bed 2. Made, not well though, as if the goblin-reiru was in a hurry to make it. Probably had about 2 minutes to make the bed, with a deviation allowance of 45 seconds.
    → → blanket of blue, cotton. Pillow is straw stuffed into a bag.
    → → → straw bag was made 6 months ago by the farmer Gusa'gel'del'tonathon. The More-Reigru stole the bag from the farmer while he was milking a cow named [cow #1, page xx]
    → Bed 6. Not a bed, actually a chest.
    → → made of water logged wood.
    → → → wood was soaked 2 days ago, swollen.
    → → → → hinges made of steel. lock clasp made of iron. Chest weighs 12 lbs and 40 grams when lifted.
    → → → → → inside is 8 kg of gold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only part I disagree with is there being actual gold in the chest.

      Delete
  12. The only thing that is easy to find is a full page near the front of the adventure explaining all of the spells which are NOT ALLOWED in the dungeon. "Techt has enchanted the area so that teleporting instead does 2d8/2 damage to the caster. Techt has enchanted the area so that divination give incorrect information most of the time."

    ReplyDelete
  13. Print the whole thing in red ink on gray paper, in Fraktur font.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Specifically detailed ending script, maybe with multiple options. But they're shitty, like a video game "which of these three levers do you pull" ending.

    A long-winded and overly detailed explanation of What Happens Next that expects you to build your entire campaign around this dungeon. Intricate details about the plans of the various NPCs that leave no room for player interaction. The adventure railroads the GM.

    Similarly long-winded "where to place this dungeon" section that covers where, exactly, down to the hex or grid coordinate, where you are SUPPOSED to place this dungeon in fifteen different published settings including specific NPCs who have But Thou Must'ed the PCs into entering the dungeon. Absolutely no advice on integrating it with a homebrew setting.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What about treasures? There ought to be just enough gold to make it feel like someone is making fun of you. 1d6 electrum pieces (electrum because it's a pain to manage) in a trapped chest?
    A chest in every room with the same trap and the same reward perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  16. No matter what the players are doing, no matter how innocuous the situation is, randomly stop and ask them to detail their actions and locations exactly like they're about to be ambushed.
    Sometimes they are. Sometimes it's a really bad trap. Sometimes you just let out a sigh and say "ok, let's move on". There is no pattern.
    Also, combat is officially played out on a grid but the DM must ignore the grid and run it as theater of the mind without telling players. Or vice versa. Lots of "how long are your arms" questions and wankery involving what exactly a flail does to a shield in 1400's Brittany, France.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is nothing wrong with the flail/sheild conversation, that is just the joy of D&D. They rest is good.

      Delete
  17. A long hallway full of complex traps that each do like 1d4 damage, and it takes like 2 hours to get through it. At the end of the hallway is a chest with 1d20 silver pieces and a long love letter with shitty poetry and no context; you'll never find out who the writer or recipient actually were, but the DM definitely has to read it out loud like he's doing his first Shakespear production. This hallway should take at least half a game session.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The maze is already essentially one long hallway but this comment was in good spirit.

      Delete
  18. "we're going to need room keys after the read aloud text, right?"
    Ok, but consider, what if we didn't have room keys at all?

    But alright, assuming room keys:
    -Rooms missing a key entirely. It's not even 31. Tenth Kitchen, just Tenth Kitchen. (Yes we need a lot of kitchens, all similar and described in exquisite detail)
    -Map keys referring to nonexistent rooms, obviously
    -Skip a number, or a few. There is no room 52 on the map or in the entire adventure.
    -There should be at least three different versions of room 51, all contradictory. (Was contradictory DM text mentioned already? A room needs to have a lich in it, and no lich in it at the same time.)

    A few other ideas:
    -NPC descriptions and NPC stats need to be at least 100 pages apart.
    -This cannot use a gold or silver standard. It needs to have an electrum standard (a fact never mentioned anywhere), and a very elaborate money conversion system, with e.g. bronze coins worth 1/7th electrum. They're not referred as electrum or bronze of course, but with made-up names like "Third Dynasty grucats" and "sifs".
    -Rename stats and classes for no reasons.
    -Use a mix of multiple measurements. Feet and meters, lbs and kg and stones and slots.
    -Somewhere in the dungeon there should be a portal to a whole world the DM must improvise out of thin air. What's the Grobulon Dimension? Fuck if I know, but it leads there. Or maybe a portal to literally anywhere. Take your setting's planet's map (you have a painfully detailed world map, right?) and roll coordinates at random! Oh, and 1d1000 years back in the past. Hope you have a detailed setting timeline.
    -A magic item that mind controls the characters to railroad them into following The Plot.
    -The big baddies use odiously powerful magic items (or tantalizing, really interesting items used in horrendously boring ways), which explicitly don't work (or outright disintegrate) if PCs use them, justified with obscure bullshit backstory reasons (if at all).
    -OOOOH I FORGOT. Very important: the adventure needs a NPC that hires the party, then inevitably betrays them.
    -(Also lots of traitorous monsters, and doppelgangers, so your players become paranoid forever.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't believe I missed out the quest-giver who betrays you. Shame on me.

      Delete
  19. Every detail of any room has a separate DC to notice any particular detail, and a further DC to a history or knowledge check to determine in universe connections. Despite ostensibly a beginner dungeon, the challenge of the checks seem to have been calculated to be impossible for all but a maxxed-out optimised build level 20 character.

    "The room has a stone flagged floor coloured dark grey (DC 15 perception to notice floor) laid out in the pattern of the sacred circles of Glarenthil (DC 30 arcana check to recognise this), it is a different stone from the walls (DC 20, Dwarf characters who took the stonemason background from appendix C may add 3 to their check) showing that the floor was added later and belies the history told to the characters by the hidden scroll from room 1_C (DC 17 intelligence check to make this connection). A rusted chandelier swings from the ceiling (DC 35 perception to notice chandelier), the trap on the chandelier (8d6 lightning damage, dexterity save 20 for half) will immediately be triggered unless the chandelier is noticed, and power word to disarm it is spoken (DC 25 Arcana Check to recognise the trap is disarmed by a code word DC 40 History (Backstory Castle) needed to recognise the disarm word is the name of the Elf Queen Hyacinth). Across the room is a bookcase (DC 18 Perception to notice bookcase) filled with dusty tomes (DC 20 arcana check to notice that there is nothing of value in the books which contain 19 cp worth of paper each). Glathnark the Mocron-Reiru Assassin is hiding behind the bookcase (looking behind the bookcase and succeeding in a dc 50 spot check will reveal the assassin) and will spring out and assassinate (Death attack auto hit, crit on 3+) the last in marching order if the characters pass through the room to the door on the other side (DC 15 perception to notice other door)."

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dormitories for the Mocron-Reiru, each with its own detailed list of furniture and possessions that draw very little distinction between the den of brutish chaotic humanoids and a 20th century barracks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not bad but I feel like you could do better. You are in exalted company here..

      Delete
  21. Don't forget a streamlined guide at the end to help the GM run it that is way too streamlined to be of any use and mostly just refers you to the box text.

    4. Room of Goblin involved in scheme (see full scheme section)
    5. Room with trapped treasure (see page XX)

    Note it actually says XX, it was never find/replaced at the end.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Design: use only monospaced fonts which imitate old typewriter horribly so the whole text looks like a huge receipt.

    Escort missions: escort the helpless, defenseless, whining NPC with most grating manners from the one end of the dungeon to another. Monsters always target NPC first; NPC runs away or tries to fall into all traps at the first opportunity. World literally ends if NPC isn't escorted properly.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I would like to recommend that crucial rules text should be interrupted by weirdly specific rebuttals of arguments that appear to have been passionately divisive but whose content must mostly be inferred from the rebuttal. The actual rules content can be gleaned from a careful reading of the diatribe. Invariably this only impacts rules that are needed infrequently enough they won't simply be memorized, complex enough that writing a cheat sheet would involve essentially rewriting entire paragraphs, but impactful enough that simply ignoring them would genuinely diminish the experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The He-Man & The Masters of the Universe board game had its rules in comic book form, without an index or some kind of summary. I can't remember how many pages it was, but somewhere around 20? Is that something we could use, too?

      Delete
    2. I actually kinda like that idea, at least for He-Man.

      Delete
  24. What's the most fun part of dungeons? Tracking encumbrance. So this book will have it covered. It should go above and beyond and require the player to track their calorie intake, fatigue and hydration because all those things will impact how much they can carry.

    Not sure how to track it? There will be maths equations the player has to use to track what their encumbrance level is. Half the rules are in the main book with the remaining rules in a supplement. The importance of tracking encumbrance is inconsistently linked to how some traps function. Progress is impossible without the excruciatingly detailed encumbrance rules.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I realise this is much too late, but an addition that would do wonders is if all the monster boxes vary by rule editions too. Darkbone Haunters are 3rd edition d&d, mocron-reiru are written with OD&D notation, each monster has an AC value, but you don't know if it's ascending ac or descending, some monsters use Target20 and some use THAC0 to attack. Some monsters have attack matrices (but not the same monsters that have OD&D notation).

    ReplyDelete
  26. This has become horrible. The sort of thing one might come across in a second-hand bookstore (a second-hand game store would know better than to accept it in trade) and would come back to every month or so just to flip through the pages in a sort of dumbfounded awe, wondering how the hell such a thing was published.

    And finding it in a second-hand bookstore only ensures that parts of it are missing, but perhaps adds the possibility of the previous owner's frantic margin notes trying to make sense of it all.

    I might even buy this under those circumstances, if the price wasn't too high, just as a freakish curiosity, like one might be tempted to buy a Jenny Hanniver or one of those Aztec cups where you spill the drink unless you drink through the part shaped like a penis.

    ReplyDelete