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Friday, October 18, 2019

Wandering Monster: Lumberjack Wolves

The forest really does need more custom beast threats.

Lumberjack Wolf (Aggressive Arboreal Predatory Beast)
2 to 12; 1+2 Dice, Light Armor, Move 12/6 leap/3 burrow, 1+2 dice Damage, ambush, treefelling

Pack predators with uncanny tree climbing and leaping abilities and a unnatural taste for wood. Instead of canine teeth, they have enlarged front teeth resembling beavers. Lumberjack wolves can climb trees to hide in the leaves, much like Drop-Wolves. If they ambush prey from above, it doubles their surprise chances (3+ on 1d6, instead of 5+) and does an extra 1d6 damage on the initial attack, if successful.

However, the lumberjack wolf’s preferred attack is to use deadfalls, They can chew through wood with their massive teeth, even burrow through wooden walls, With the element of surprise, they can drop logs and branches from above, doing 3d6 damage (half that on a successful save.) If they do not surprise their prey, the trap is easily avoided, but may cause other problems: blocking escape routes, destroying campsites.

If seriously threatened, a lumberjack wolf can leap into the trees to escape, jumping from treetop to treetop at Move 6 speed.

Lumberjack wolves and timber wolves are mutual enemies.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

RDG 2.0: Substructures and Superstructures

Continuing my thoughts on random dungeon algorithms: the first three steps on my list deal with nested structures. To explain this better, let’s start with a typical substructure generated on Step 2 and filled in on Step 3. This would be a network of intersecting tunnels. In earlier posts, I suggested using letters (“leximorphs”) to define the tunnel structure. I think this is possible as a computer algorithm, but it would be tricky. You’d have to define a two-dimensional array, where each array location is a list of one or more connections.

But a simpler algorithm might be better. Assume there are six main hypothetical tunnels in a structure:
  • three aligned more-or-less North-South (left, center, right;)
  • three aligned more-or-less East-West (top, middle, bottom.)
hypothetical tunnel structure

This defines nine hypothetical four-way intersections. Rolling for each direction at every intersection would mean 36 rolls, a tedious task for a human… but nothing for a computer. Roll 2d6 on the following chart, keeping track of doubles:

2d6 This Direction Leads to a…
2 blocked or collapsed tunnel
3-4 door to tunnel (or room if double 2s rolled)
5-7 wall (secret door on double 3s, roll again)
8 tunnel continues (or room on double 4s)
9-12 stairs down (ladder on 5+ on 1d6) roll again
change direction to “up” on double 5s or 6s

Two of the results – secret doors and stairs/ladder – require a reroll to see where they lead. Stairs/ladder also require a 1d6 roll to determine which kind, with stairs being more likely.

Because of the way we start with a grid of interconnecting tunnels, there are loops built into the dungeon structure. The rolls close off some directions, but some areas of the dungeon will still have loops, allowing multiple routes to reach the same area. When we get to room generation, room exits can generate additional tunnels as well, which can further complicate the structure. This is good. This is a Jaquayed dungeon structure.

Now let’s back up to Step 1. We roll for structure here, too. This is more like a superstructure. It’s basically the same process, except the tunnels are assumed to be longer, and each “room” is actually a substructure, its own network of 36 potential intersections, with a tunnel from the superstructure connecting to one of the outside intersections. If Step 2 generates a dungeon, Step 1 generates a dungeon of dungeons. A megadungeon, if you will. The loops built into the superstructure will enable multiple routes to specific dungeons – call them sublevels, or dungeon nodes. If a route through a particular dungeon seems too dangerous, it may be possible for adventurers to get around the danger via one or more other dungeons.

And it gets more complicated, once we start talking about themes and room clusters. But I better reserve that for another post.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

RDG: Thoughts on Computer-Generated Sublevels

Alex Schroeder let me know in a comment on yesterday’s random dungeon post that he’s looking for additional dungeon generation algorithms for Text Mapper. The method I described in that post was really aimed at being simple and easy to remember for humans. What would I do if I were exploiting computer power instead? What does Text Mapper actually need?

The 5- and 7-room dungeon algorithms are already pretty good for mini-dungeons. One thing I noted, though, is that it rarely creates a Jaquayed dungeon, as Jason Alexander describes. The structure is almost always linear with maybe one or two dead-end branches, although I did get two 7-room dungeons with internal loops after several reloads. And since they are mini-dungeons, there’s an obvious underrepresented dungeon type: megadungeons, or at least sprawling underworlds. I did do a couple old posts about random dungeon generators and non-linear dungeon generation, although I think they are unusable for a computer algorithm in their current state. Still, there’s the seed of a couple ideas for new additions to Text Mapper: an underworld wilderness map, a ruined underworld city generator, and a themed dungeon sublevel generator used as part of the underworld city generator or by itself to generate a mid-sized dungeon.

Here are some hypothetical steps we could take for the third and most important generator:

  1. Start at the Top. Randomly select a theme and basic tunnel structure that includes loops and nodes.
  2. Each Node is a Substructure. Generate a more specific theme within a node and its own tunnel structure with loops and subnodes in the same way as Step 1.
  3. Each SubNode is Either a Room or a Room Cluster. Theme determines which (Mazes tend to be more tunnels and isolated rooms, Tombs are like Mazes but with tunnels connecting room clusters, Ruins have more room clusters, and Fortified Areas have shorter, fewer tunnels.)
  4. Generate a Room Shape and Exits.
  5. Select Room Theme. For example, Storeroom, Torture Chamber, Kitchen. Specific theme from Step 2 determines list of room themes to select from. Room Theme specifies general room contents, including containers present.
  6. Add Room Occupant, if any. Determine if occupant starts in a hidden state and what the trigger is (vermin can emerge from crates if disturbed. Spirits can be summoned by touching a holy/cursed object.)
  7. Add Container Contents, including possible treasure.
  8. Add Secrets, including secret exits or containers.
  9. Repeat Steps 4 to 6 for Each Room until SubNode is complete.
  10. Repeat Step 3 and following steps for next SubNode until all SubNodes in the Node are finished.
  11. Repeat Step 2 and following steps for the next Node until all Nodes are finished.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

d6-Only Random Maps

I've talked about random map tricks before, but I'm not sure if I've done anything restricted to d6 rolls, kept as simple as possible (no dice map/drop dice techniques, easily memorizable so that you don't need to consult a table...)

You've already seen one such trick in the Generic Tower and Dungeon Expander semi-random dungeons. In a long corridor like the one in the pic, roll 3d6 for each side of the corridor and keep only one die out of every set of doubles or triples. The remaining dice, in order, are what's behind the door, using a simple d6 "table" expressed as a map. (I've modified the room order for this example by making a result of 5 = the Tunnel and result 6 = the Staircase.) Optionally, at the end of the corridor, roll 2d6 and use one die result if you roll doubles, otherwise leave it as a dead end.

The next trick would be to apply this to room exits as well. Roll 4d6 for a room, only keeping one die from each set of doubles, triples, or quads. Results 1 through 4 are doors in each of the four walls. Result 5 is a ladder in the middle of the room (I used a trap symbol, because I couldn't find a better option in Gridmapper.) Result 6 is a staircase. Roll another d6: on 5+, the ladder or stairs go up, otherwise they go down.

But these two tricks work best when used on a "seed map" of tunnels, using Trick 1 in each section of tunnel, followed by Trick 2 to find the second exit in any room discovered. So Trick 3 is to roll 2d6 multiple times to find the direction of several tunnel segments. The first die indicates the tunnel starts at the map edge indicated or in the center of the map. The second die indicates where the tunnel heads. Results 1 through 4 are one of the compass directions. Results 5 and 6 are the center of the map, again indicating a ladder or staircase. The tunnel segments are all a standard length, say 240 paces (60 feet,) after which it may extend as indicated in Trick 1. Don't discard doubles for this roll: instead, doubles indicate a U-turn for results 1 through 4, or a landing stage between two ladders or staircases. (This is what the short "L" segments represent on the map.)

How many tunnel segments you need to create a seed map is mostly a matter of taste, but I'd say three would be a decent start.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Decode Arcana, Scrolls, and Learning Spells

Sebastian DM had some questions in a comment on yesterday’s Liber Zero Magic Class pamphlet. The answers are related and worth some discussion, so I’m answering in a full post.
I have two questions. First, Why require time and cost to learn spells if Decode Arcana will do it free and instantly? It is a first level spell so I would guess a player would learn it fast. And second, how come a MU must learn a spell before they can utilize it from a scroll? Did you figure they would want to learn it first anyway?
Before I get started, let me make clear, for anyone who didn’t know, that the Decode Arcana spell is meant to replace Read Magic. A lot of my previous posts on Read Magic went into the thinking behind the spell.

Originally, Read Magic seems to have been a gatekeeper for using scrolls and magic items. There weren’t a lot of predefined details about the way spellbooks and learning spells worked in early games, so its only real effect was to restrict how many scrolls found in a dungeon could be used immediately. It’s limited to the number of Read Magic spells memorized.

Decode Arcana inherits this function. The way I’m imagining the spell working: a magician finds a scroll, which is written in some ancient wizard’s uniquely personal magical code. The magician doesn’t have time to decode the symbols, so they use Decode Arcana to immediately decode it. They now know what the scroll says and can use it.

That’s pretty much identical to the way most GMs use Read Magic. It’s just a different backstory of how it works.

What I changed, though, was: magicians can automatically recognize and use scrolls for spells they already know. Decode Arcana isn’t necessary. Limiting scroll use to spells the magician already knows sounds like a limitation, but it is actually a boost to ability: instead of a 1st Level Magician only being able to use one scroll max, assuming they’ve prepared Decode Arcana, they can use any scrolls of known spells they find, plus one scroll of an unknown spell per Decode Arcana spell used. Once Decode Arcana is cast to learn an unknown spell, that spell is known and the magician never needs to cast Decode Arcana to read a scroll with that spell on it.

This is a very complicated way to explain what’s ultimately a simplification.

That basically answers the second question. But why require time and cost to learn spells, if Decode Arcana does it for free? The magician might not know Decode Arcana. Without the spell, they will need to take the slow, costly way of learning new spells. But on the other hand, they aren’t completely locked out of learning new spells or even using scrolls, just because they don’t know Decode Arcana. They always have a way around it. However, they have a strong incentive to find and learn Decode Arcana as quickly as possible.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Liber Zero Magic Class Reference Sheet (PDF)

It’s Liber Zero reference sheet time again! Finally, I finished the pamphlet for the Magic Class. In other words, magic-users. The hold-up, really, was that any pamphlet meant to help beginning players create a magic-using character would necessarily have to include a short list of beginning spells, but I haven’t necessarily settled on how I want spells to work. I haven’t done much for the LZ build-a-spell system.

As it turned out, there was no room for even one-line spell descriptions, so I just needed a small table of spell names. The one included are tentative and might change. The basic naming schema is that Verb+Noun names tend to be reserved for spells that improve or add abilities, while Modifier+Noun is for spells that modify other things, and Noun+Prep+Noun usually has a spell’s form in the first noun slot (Circle, for example, creates a circular effect.) I need to work this out in more detail, however.

The part most people will find interesting is the inclusion of Alchemists and Witches as variant classes. If you use another OD&D-compatible spell list while waiting for the Liber Zero version, you should be able to start playing these now.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wandering Monster: Ash Cloud Wight

In the Cryptic Catacombs pamphlet I released on Monday, I added unique new undead to two specific rooms. For Hallowe’en season, I decided to do full write-ups of both here on the blog. I did the Ghostly Wight already. Now it’s time for the Ash Cloud Wight.

Ash Cloud Wight (Hateful Intangible Undead Cloud)
1 to 3; 3+2 Dice, Heavy Armor, Move 9/18, 1+3 dice Damage, cloud form, life drain, undead immunities

An Ash Cloud Wight is the hate-filled undead creature that remains after human beings or certain powerful undead are incinerated alive. Ash Cloud Wights are not ethereal They are swirling whirlwinds of ash and dust that smell of smoke and burning flesh. They can fly short distances, but rarely do so outdoors.

The touch of an Ash Cloud Wight drains one level, exactly as for an ordinary Wight, and leaves a red mark resembling a mild burn. Those engulfed by the wight are choked by the ash. A save vs. poison reduces this to half damage.

Because of its intangible form, an Ash Cloud Wight is harder to hit than ordinary walking corpses. It also takes half damage from ordinary weapons and attacks, but full damage from silver and magic weapons.

Because it has been killed once by fire and still retains a fiery nature, it is immune to fire. However, it takes 1d6 damage per minute from rain or other precipitation and half that from a strong wind. It cannot fly under those weather conditions.

An Ash Cloud Wight has the standard undead immunities to sleep and charm, has no need for food, water, or air, and flees the sunlight. A bucket of water can do 1 point of damage on a successful hit and prevent it from flying for 1d6 rounds.

Ash Cloud Wights have the same treasure as other Wights, but never have scrolls or potions and have 2d6 additional gems.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Wandering Monster: Ghostly Wight

In the Cryptic Catacombs pamphlet I released on Monday, I added unique new undead to two specific rooms. But of course, a pamphlet dungeon is a very tight space, and so my room key just says “use the same stats as this monster, but change one stat.” But they deserve more detail! Especially during Hallowe’en!
So here’s a more detailed write-up of the first new undead: the Ghostly Wight!

Ghostly Wight (Hateful Ghostly Undead Humanoid)
1 to 3; 3+2 Dice, Heavy Armor, Move 9, 1+3 dice Damage, ethereal, life drain, undead immunities

A Ghostly Wight is a hate-filled spirit, similar to but weaker than a specter. Ghostly Wights are what’s left over after a moderately strong corporeal undead has rotted away to dust, but is still bound to a location, usually by a divine curse. They are frequently bound to altars or sacred spots as guardian spirits.

Ghostly Wights are partially ethereal and can pass through solid matter, but cannot turn invisible. Their wispy forms are still difficult to see, giving them an advantage on surprise (double surprise chance, or roll twice and take the best result.) They are unable to fly as a Specter does, but can leap twice as far as a human being and do not take damage from a fall.

The chilling touch of a Ghostly Wight drains one level, exactly as for an ordinary Wight. Because of its ghostly form, a Ghostly Wight is harder to hit than ordinary walking corpses. It also takes half damage from ordinary weapons and attacks, but full damage from silver and magic weapons. It has the standard undead immunities to sleep and charm, has no need for food, water, or air, and flees the sunlight.

Ghostly Wights have the same treasure as other Wights, but with an extra 1 to 3 magic scrolls.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Cryptic Catacombs Dungeon Expander Pamphlet PDF

Another pamphlet in the 9 and 30 Dungeon Expanders series is up! And this time, it’s spooky!

Cryptic Catacombs is an undead-themed dungeon expansion. It’s compatible with my other Dungeon Expanders, the generic towers in my tower series, or … well, anything, really. Connect this to any staircase or ladder and use this to start an instant dungeon or expand an existing one. Oh, and although the main monster encounter list has only four undead typed, I slipped in two new bonus undead.

I avoided doing a crypt-themed pamphlet (although I did slip in one generic crypt in the first expander) because I wanted to push myself out of the obvious zone. But now it’s October, and in the generous spirit of Hallowe’en, I just had to do some undead. The style has changed a little (used SketchUp to create the base levels, instead of starting in InkScape.)