Onward: un film OSR

Ve l’avevo promesso ed eccoci con la recensione di Onward. Io non punto a fare tante recensioni di film o cose che non siano GDR qua dentro, ma questa volta tocca aprire una sezione recensioni, perché Onward merita un sacco, dal mio punto di vista, sia come tributo che come spunti di design.

Poi, niente, volevo parlarvene anche perché quando lo guardavo mi dicevo “cazzo, ma questo lo posso fare con Cascine Abbandonate & Cultisti!” e quindi sento il bisogno di pavoneggiarmi un po’.

Ci metto giusto due parole per dire che l’animazione è fatta davvero bene e i personaggi sono estremamente interessanti, ma il resto della recensione la buttiamo su quello che piace a noi: gli aspetti da GDR che possiamo riciclare.

Se invece siete interessati a controllare di aver azzeccato tutti i riferimenti al nostro hobby, qualcun altro ha già fatto il lavoro di elencarli e spiegarli.

Adventure design

E’ molto lineare (o, meglio, lo è per le scelte dei personaggi, ma ci torniamo dopo), ma molto ben costruita. Innanzitutto, ha un obiettivo ben definito (ottenere la Gemma Fenice o recuperare i due avventurieri - a seconda del party) e tutti i membri del party ce l’hanno sempre chiaro in testa. Questo è positivo, e si vede anche nel film, perché aiuta a prendere le decisioni.

In secondo luogo, gli antagonisti sono variegati e bellissimi. C’è il mostro violento, che va neutralizzato sfruttandone il punto debole, perché troppo forte per un confronto diretto (il drago), ci sono quelli semplicemente pazzi, che possono essere affrontati direttamente o evitati con la diplomazia (i pixie) e poi ci sono quelli animati da buone intenzioni ma che sabotano il party e che quindi bisogna raggirare o neutralizzare sfruttando l’ambiente (i poliziotti). E poi c’è il gelatinoso cubo, usato magistralmente.

Strettamente intrecciata a questo, c’è il fatto che è completa dal punto di vista dei tipi di sfida, dando ad ogni approccio l’occasione di brillare:
1. La diplomazia, con la Manticora (PG/PNG bellissimo, che porta il trope dell’avventuriero in pensione ad un altro livello, visto che lei si è ritirata pure dal suo lavoro di avventuriera in pensione).
2. L’esplorazione, con le vaste pianure e la montagna da seguire.
3. La gestione delle risorse (la benzina) e i rischi che comporta deviare per fare resupply (i pixie)
4. Il problem solving, sia sfruttando la magia in contesto di non combattimento, sia sfruttando risorse più mondane (Gwendolin)

Dungeon Design

E’ estremamente banale: un corridoio, una stanza circolare, una sorpresa. Non mi sento davvero di raccomandarvi di disegnare un dungeon in questo modo, tuttavia, nella sua semplicità, è veramente completo e interessante. Ci sarebbe anche la parte prima (grotta e acqua), ma è, per quanto esteticamente bellissima, troppo semplice per meritare un’analisi.

Partiamo dal corridoio: innanzitutto è pieno di trappole, ognuna relativamente semplice. La cosa interessante è come le trappole interagiscono tra loro. Le asce e le freccie sono minacciose, è vero, ma sarebbero facilmente evitabili (o, almeno, si potrebbe evitare di innescarle), se non fosse che, alle calcagna degli avventurieri, avanza un gelatinoso cubo, pronto a digerirli. La stessa cosa vale per la fossa con gli spuntoni. E’ lì, aperta e pronta a inghiottire gli avventurieri, ma potrebbe essere evitata con un po’ di creatività (o con un bell’incantesimo di levitazione e vaffanculo), ma c’è il gelatinoso cubo (avete notato quanto mi piace come suona sbagliato?) alle calcagna dei personaggi e non c’è tempo per pensare.

Il trucco, qua, è far interagire mostri e trappole (o trappole e trappole o mostri e mostri). Non è necessario che ogni singola minaccia sia letale per gli avventurieri, se queste interagiscono tra loro nel modo corretto (ad esempio, mostri che spingono gli avventurieri contro le trappole o trappole che tagliano vie di fuga). Se fate le cose fatte bene, poi, questa interazione si può rivoltare a vantaggio dei giocatori, per risolvere i problemi in modo pacifico (ad esempio, buttando un cubo gelatinoso dentro una fossa per liberarsene).

La seconda trappola, invece, è brillante nel suo essere una “trappola al contrario”. C’è l’ovvia mattonella sospetta e, altrettanto ovviamente, non va toccata. Peccato che la mattonella serva a disinnescare la trappola. Una trappola inversa, ogni tanto, fa un sacco bene per tenere alta l’attenzione del party e rendere più originale il dungeon.

Monster Design

Quel drago. Quel drago è bellissimo, non c’è altro da dire. E’ un tipo di incontro che adoro, perché sfrutta l’ambiente (anzi, è letteralmente assemblato usando l’ambiente attorno), ha una vaga nota comica (la faccia della mascotte) ed è davvero difficile da battere. C’è l’ovvio Macguffin per farlo fuori (la spada della Manticora). Se volete un’idea di come fare a creare mostri del genere, vi consiglio di tutto cuore questo bellissimo (e vecchissimo) post di Sage La Torra (uno degli autori di Dungeon World): A 16 HP dragon.

Chiunque abbia fatto quel mostro ha chiaramente letto quel post. Alla fine quel drago potrebbe non arrivare a 10 HP, ma non è importante perché è difficile da colpire, minaccioso e, chiaramente, una forza della natura. Questo, signori, è un incontro memorabile.

RPGaDay 2020 - Sfumatura

Le Sfumature sono creature pericolose. Sono elementali minori, che rappresentano alcuni degli impulsi del loro colore. Hanno tutte l’aspetto di una creatura antropomorfa e un po’ sfocata, di una tinta leggermente slavata del loro colore originario. E’ difficile trattare con loro, perché rappresentano degli impulsi primari, ma in compenso, se soddisfatte, sono raramente aggressive.

Sfumatura di rosso

Danno come una spada lunga, armatura come scaglie, morale alto.
Impulso: scatenare violenza, distruggere, bruciare.

Si tratta delle Sfumature più aggressive e difficili da soddisfare senza combattere, perché cercano la violenza e il combattimento. Si trovano facilmente nei luoghi dove si sono compiuti crimini violenti, specie se molto caldi. Odiano e temono il freddo e hanno un forte rispetto per il coraggio. I loro danni sono sempre danni da fuoco.

Sfumatura di bianco

Danno come una spada lunga, armatura come cotta di maglia, morale alto.
Impulso: riparare i torti, guarire, riportare l’ordine.

Spesso queste Sfumature vengono scambiate per fantasmi, per il loro colore lattiginoso e la loro abitudine a dare la caccia agli spergiuri. Assieme alle Sfumature blu, sono le più comunicative e fanno ricorso alla violenza solo se non ottengono in altro modo quello che vogliono. Possono diventare ottime alleate di personaggi Legali, a patto che questi non devino mai dal loro percorso. Una volta al giorno possono curare qualcuno o riparare un oggetto per 1d6 HP. Appaiono dove c’è più bisogno di loro.

Sfumatura di blu

Danno come un pugnale, armatura come cuoio, morale basso.
Impulso: scoprire, conoscere, esplorare.

Sono le Sfumature più facili da gestire, perché vogliono semplicemente essere lasciate a sè stesse. Bloccarne il passaggio spesso provoca attacchi violenti, ma non sono davvero combattive. Appaiono soprattutto in luoghi inesplorati o dimenticati e molti avventurieri considerano vederne una come un buon segno, perché vuol dire che stanno andando in una nuova direzione. Considerano un gesto cortese lasciarle andare avanti per prime. Ognuna di loro può insegnare un nuovo incantesimo di livello 1d4 a un incantatore arcano.

Sfumatura di verde

Danno come spada corta, armatura come cuoio, morale basso.
Impulso: crescere, riportare alla natura.

Sono le uniche Sfumature a muoversi in gruppo e si possono trovare in branchi da 2d4. Odiano la civiltà e tutto ciò che mette in pericolo le loro amate foreste e spesso attaccano taglialegna e bracconieri. Minacciare o danneggiare animali e piante in loro presenza è garanzia di un attacco. Ogni giorno, ognuna di loro è in grado di distruggere 1d4 metri cubi di costruzioni artificiali, riportando la terra allo stato originale.

Sfumature di nero

Danno come pugnale, armatura come cuoio, morale alto.
Impulso: corrompere, uccidere, scoraggiare.

Sono le più infestanti tra le Sfumature. Odiano particolarmente le Sfumature di bianco, ma non si fanno scrupolo a sabotare il lavoro anche delle altre. Si trovano in luoghi dove la morte ha avuto una presenza molto forte e spesso si circondano di non morti deboli, su cui esercitano un controllo flebile. Sono difficili da appagare in modi non cruenti, ma tendono ad apprezzare i sacrifici. Si trovano spesso nei luoghi di grandi battaglie e non sono rari i culti di paesani che le appagano sacrificando piccoli animali. Ogni giorno, possono dare 1d6 ordini semplici a scheletri o zombie.

RPGaDay 2020 - Foreste

Andiamo ancora un po’ a singhiozzo, dopo i tributi su Telegram torniamo sul blog per un lunghissimo rant sulle foreste. Perché io adoro il concetto di foresta, ma nel 90% dei casi l’implementazione fa schifo. Sono poco più che scenette bucoliche. Oggi invece vi smazzate un po’ di foreste interessanti della narrativa e come riportarne le parti interessanti nei vostri giochi.

La Foresta di Sherwood

Sarà che ho passato la mia infanzia a vedere film su Robin Hood, dal cartone Disney a Robin Hood, un uomo in calzamaglia, ma io ho un debole per la Foresta di Sherwood. Ed è un luogo interessantissimo dove portare un gruppo di PG. Le due caratteristiche che la rendono interessante sono:

  1. E’ vicina alla civiltà, ma fuori dalla sua portata
  2. E’ un rifugio

E sono due cose bellissime da sfruttare, sia che vogliate trasformarlo nella base dei vostri PG (e qua viene quasi un reverse-OSR: lo scopo non è più strappare le ricchezze dalle terre selvagge e riportarle alla civiltà, ma strapparle dalla civiltà e portarle nelle terre selvagge), sia che vogliate popolarla di PNG e trasformarla in una situazione diplomatica. Il setup originale di Sherwood si presta molto bene a questo secondo scopo, se ci pensate: ci sono due gruppi (con le loro relative strutture di potere) che si contendono il controllo della Foresta. Quale situazione migliore per buttarci dentro un gruppo di avventurieri?

Bosco Atro

Un classico del fantasy, che ho visto rifare male centinaia e centinaia di volte. Il punto è che Bosco Atro non è una foresta, ma un dungeon con gli alberi. Dovete progettarlo allo stesso modo. L’acqua che fa perdere la memoria è un’idea affascinante, ma non è la cosa più interessante da giocare, secondo me. La cosa davvero interessante sono gli abitanti:

  • Da una parte abbiamo delle creature mosse praticamente solo dalla fame. Il fatto che non siano nemmeno mammiferi aggiunge ancora più inquietudine, rendendoli una minaccia organizzata, sì, ma incomprensibile e con cui non si può ragionare.
  • Dall’altra ci sono degli ottimi Elfi: eterei (soprattutto se confrontati con personaggi terra-terra come i Nani o Bilbo), potenti, misteriosi e quasi incomprensibili nei loro motivi, perché hanno una logica aliena.

Ovviamente le due fazioni si odiano e nessuna vuole particolarmente bene ai PG. Se poi giocate con gli allineamenti classici dell’OSR, Legge vs Chaos, questo Bosco è un luogo perfetto per mettere in scena un po’ di drama tra creature del Chaos. E magari mettere un po’ di pepe sui personaggi Legali - sempre che non brillino nel loro giusto odio per le creature del Chaos.

La Foresta Proibita

Harry Potter mi sta sul cazzo quasi quanto la Rowling, ma non importa, perché almeno la foresta l’ha imbroccata. La Foresta Proibita è un buon mix di Bosco Atro (mostri orribili, genericamente malvagia) e Sherwood (rifugio, fuori dalla portata della civiltà - per quanto si possano definire civili gli inglesi, ça va sans dire). Ci si nascondono creature spaventose, come i ragni o Voldemort, ma fa anche da rifugio ai protagonisti nei momenti difficili. Soprattutto, la cosa interessante, è che si evolve e cambia ruolo.

Poi basta, mi sono rotto i coglioni. Andate avanti da soli

RPGaDay 2020 - Vision

Al contrario dei primi tre post (beginning, change e thread), che erano abbastanza leggeri da stare solo su telegram, questa volta facciamo qualcosa di più articolato.

Vision

Personalmente non sono un fan delle visioni nei giochi. Mi piacciono le sessioni oniriche (soprattutto in giochi come Changeling, dove i sogni sono molto importanti), ma le visioni mi suonano sempre come un momento troppo poco interattivo per essere davvero interessante in un gioco di ruolo. In compenso i personaggi (anche PNG) caratterizzati da visioni del futuro possono essere interessanti, sia per dare colore che per dare informazioni, quindi ecco un po’ di tabelle casuali per creare dei visionari interessanti.

1d8 sostanze che danno visioni

  1. La muta di un serpente divino
  2. Occhi di drago
  3. Schegge del Chaos primigeno
  4. Capelli di Fata
  5. La nebbia dell’Oltremondo
  6. Cervello di magia-dipendente
  7. Guano di fenice
  8. Pelo della Grande Gatta al centro dell’Universo

1d10 veggenti, oracoli e visionari

  1. Un ladro che usa le visioni per organizzare i propri colpi.
  2. Un sacerdote che si fa guidare dal suo dio.
  3. Un antico lich che guarda il futuro per superare la noia del presente (che ha già visto).
  4. Un grande inventore, che si affida alle visioni del futuro per progettare le proprie opere.
  5. Il Gran Vizir, considerato da tutti un abilissimo politico.
  6. Un assassino, assolutamente imprendibile.
  7. Uno zombie che ha mangiato qualcosa di particolarmente magico e ora borbotta il futuro. Ha un suo culto.
  8. Il fabbro del villaggio, amante di una Fata.
  9. Un vecchio alchimista, che non sa di vedere il futuro.
  10. Un drago antico, terrore dei suoi simili.

1d6 spunti per avventure basati su visioni del futuro

  1. Qualcuno tenterà di fermare la fine del mondo, causandola. Vanno fermati.
  2. Un mercante sta diventando enormemente ricco, i suoi concorrenti vogliono rubargli il suo segreto.
  3. L’oracolo ha sbagliato e non era mai successo prima. Bisogna rettificare.
  4. Gira voce che si sia formato un culto attorno a un vecchio zombie, ma l’Inquisizione non è ancora riuscita a trovare le prove.
  5. Una Fata svegliatasi completamente pelata vuole vendetta
  6. Un profeta sbaglia tutte le previsioni negative, ma sta indovinando tutte quelle positive. Ha previsto che alcuni membri del party moriranno e altri si arrichiranno enormemente.

Folktale Undead

This is one of those posts that have been bouncing around my head for at least one year, but I finally think I have all the pieces I needed. I jump from a style of play to another, but I keep returning to some kind of weird folk cocktail. The main ingredients of this cocktail are:

  • J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit (and, while I don’t like Peter Jackson’s movies, this scene from his Hobbit trilogy)
  • Neil Gaiman’s books, especially Stardust and The Graveyard Book
  • European folklore
  • A bunch of black metal/ambient/dungeon synth artists, such as Summoning or Caladan Brood

As you can guess, I don’ aim to a 100% historical representation of folk myths, but more to a “folk-ish” feeling, with a sprinkle of gothic fairy tale in it. In this, Undead have been a pain in the ass for quite some time. I love the concept and feel like they should play a major role in my aesthetics but all the executions I’ve found felt like lacking.

Sources

This post is the unholy child of a bunch of posts/tweets/games I’ve found in the past years. I’m going to post them in the chronological order I’ve read them, because it was only once I’ve read the last one something clicked and I felt like I had the right inspiration for this post:

  1. The Pious Undead of Medieval Europe
  2. A Twitter thread on level drain, especially the idea that you can cure the level drain by killing the undead which cursed you.
  3. OSR, Entropic Undead - Or, The Physics of Evil and Undead are Pockets of Stopped Time, which were posted in this thread in the OSR Pit forum.
  4. The game Thousand Year Old Vampire, which I’m currently playing solo.
  5. You are doing Undead Wrong, which is the post which made everything click.

I’ve always thought that each undead should be unique. Maybe the mindless ones could be a little less unique, but I dislike the feeling I get, either as a player or as a DM, when somebody can just point out things like “it’s a vampire, we already took two down” or “it’s a ghoul, use fire”. You can have groups or categories for undead with common traits, but each one of them should be able to stand on their own.

The first question you need to ask yourself when creating an undead horror is: what brought it back from the grave? This is going to define at least part of your world and can be an useful clue (if learned or guessed) for the players in order to defeat the creatures.

d8 Origin
1 A curse
2 Unfinished business
3 The will of a powerful sorcerer
4 An higher calling
5 An unspeakable sin
6 The deceased’s strong willpower
7 Another Undead
8 A pact with an evil god or powerful demon

The second, extremely important question, is does it feed on something? If yes, what?

d8 Dietary needs
1 No need for feeding
2 No need for feeding
3 Flesh
4 Blood
5 Specific parts of the body (brain, liver…)
6 Souls
7 Emotions
8 Magical energy

The third question should help you define the creature’s behavior: what does it want?

d12 Motivations
1 Feeding
2 Obey its master
3 Freedom from its master
5 Complete a task
6 Revenge
7 Return to the livings’ fold
8 Rest
9 A domain of its own
10 A quiet place
11 Justice
12 Roll twice

The fourth question is something the players would want to know but not learn from experience: what power(s) does it have? The more powerful the undead, the more times you will want to roll on this table.

d20 Power
1 Spread the curse
2 Drain life force
3 Paralyze
4 Mind control
5 Flight
6 Shapeshifting
7 Dark magic
8 Regeneration
9 Control lesser undead
10 Gaseous form
11 Spread illnesses
12 Flesh sculpting
13 Supernatural speed
14 Supernatural strength
15 Immunity to some source of damage
16 Aura of terror / terrifying gaze
17 Invisibility
18 Foresight
19 Mind reading
20 Possession

The last question is another one the players would like to know in advance: what are its vulnerabilities? Again, you can roll more than once if you feel like it fits your theme

d30 Vulnerability
1 Silver
2 Gold
3 Wood
4 Holy ground
5 The cry of a newborn child
6 Virgin’s blood
7 Holy water
8 Sunlight
9 The cockcrow
10 Crow’s feathers
11 Running water
12 The last blood spilled by an aged warrior
13 A maiden’s beard
14 Moonlight
15 Fire
16 Smoke
17 Dirt from their own grave
18 Salt
19 Seaweed
20 Stone weapons
21 The destruction of a relic
22 Dust from a specific person’s grave
23 Swan blood
24 A magical herb
25 A toad’s breath
26 A specific kind of bread
28 Horseshoes
29 Holy symbols
30 The voice of a loved one

Emergency casting

I’ve found an extremely interesting post on emergency casting, which is a nice idea for making spellcaster more flexible and adding a new dungeon activity, but after reading it a couple of times, I’ve started to think that I might I have done it in a different way.

Emergency casting is the procedure of casting a spell which the spellcaster knows, but hasn’t prepared in the most recent long rest. To cast a non-prepared spell, the spellcaster must:

  1. Be able to cast that spell (so, appropriate level and so on)
  2. Have the spell written in their own spellbook or on another spellbook on which they have cast Read Magic
  3. Have an appropriate spell slot available

Ingredients

If the spell has ingredients or material components, the spellcaster must already have them. For each missing ingredient, there is 1 in 6 chance of finding a suitable replacement in the room. Increase the chance by 1 if the room is well-furnished or to 3 in 6 if the room is a magical lab. Searching a room takes 1 round. Another option is searching slayin mosters for suitable body parts (2 chances in 6). Searching a monster takes 1 round.

Casting time

This is the part in which I agree less with the original post, because I don’t like the guessing game. Casting time is determined as follows:

  1. base casting time is 1d6 * spell level dungeon rounds
  2. casting time can be reduced by using more spell slots: a slot of the same level reduces the casting time by 1 round, a slot of a bigger level reduces the casting time by 1 + the level difference (so 2 rounds for level + 1, 3 rounds for level + 2 and so on), to reduce the casting time by 1 round using lower level slots requires 1 slot + 1 per level difference (so 2 slots for level -1, 3 slots for level -2 and so on).
  3. The caster can decide to add 2 rounds to the casting time in order to have more control on the spell, add 1 to the effect roll, or to take a -1 on the effect roll in order to reduce the casting time by 2 rounds

Once the spell is started, it cannot be interrupted, otherwise it will misfire (see below). Make the normal wandering monsters rolls (or whatever rolls you usually make in a dungeon when time is passing). This usually means that the room should be fortified and the rest of the party should be ready to defend the caster. Taking damage, using weapons or casting another spell count as interruptions.

In case of interruptions, the spell is cast at the exact moment of the interruption itself.

Spell effect

Roll 1d6 on a misfire or 2d6 on a successfull casting.

2d6 Effect Detailed explanation
0 Fireworks 1d4 other spells, from the caster’s slot are cast at the same time, each one on extremely random target
1 Extremely random target Select a random target for the spell. If the target in unsuitable (like a living creature for a repair spell), adapt the effects
2-3 Random target Select a suitable random target for the spell
4-5 Fizzle The spell slot are spent, but nothing happens
6-8 Normal The spell is cast normally
9-10 Powerful Increase dice size by one or duration by 1 round or range by 1 increment or target by 1
11-12 Fantastic As powerful, but pick two
13 Syncretic spellcasting The caster can choose another spell up to the cast spell level and have it cast at the same time, without losing the spell slot

Emergency rituals

If the caster does not have an appropriate spell slot available or cannot cast the spell (but still has it written in grimoire), they can attempt an “emergency ritual”, the procedure it the same but the casting time is expressed in exploration rounds instead of dungeon rounds (yes, it might take days for an emergency ritual, and the caster must find a way to stay awake for the whole time - dozing off is an interruption).

Build a Witch challenge

Since this post is short, I’m making it bilingual: English above and Italian below.

English

I’ve found this challenge on Twitter and Instagram, in which you ask people to describe a witch (whom you are going to draw) in 7 comments. I like the idea, but I cannot draw, so I’ve decided to change it in challenge to create gameable NPCs or encounters. So, publish/link this somewhere where people can comment and every comment has to answer a different question, in order:

  1. What kind of witch she is?
  2. What’s her name?
  3. What kind of wand does she use?
  4. What’s in her cauldron?
  5. What kind of familiar she has?
  6. Where does she live?
  7. What does she look like?

After that, use those answers as inspiration to build this random tables:

  • 1d8 things the witch is doing when the PCs meet her
  • 1d6 potions the witch can sell to the PCs or 1d6 adventure hooks about the witch
  • 1d6 rumors on the witch
  • 1d4 spells known only to the witch

Italiano

Su Twitter e Instagram sta girando da un po’ questa bella challenge: build a witch, in cui con sette commenti ci si prende l’ispirazione per disegnare una strega. Siccome non so disegnare, ho deciso di provare a trasformarla in una challenge a costruire un PNG/incontro che sia sfruttabile in gioco. Quindi, ripubblicatelo da qualche parte dove la gente possa commentare e ogni commentatore deve rispondere a una di queste domande (in ordine, quindi il primo commento risponde alla domanda 1, il secondo alla 2 e via così):

  1. Che tipo di strega è?
  2. Come si chiama?
  3. Che bacchetta ha?
  4. Cosa c’è nel calderone?
  5. Che famiglio ha?
  6. Dove vive?
  7. Che aspetto ha?

Dopodiché, dovete usare questi spunti per definire queste tabelle casuali:

  • 1d8 attività che sta svolgendo quando i PG la incontrano
  • 1d6 pozioni che può vendere ai PG oppure 1d6 spunti per avventure che la riguardano
  • 1d6 voci su di lei
  • 1d4 incantesimi che conosce solo lei

Gygax 75 challenge: week two

While last week was more challenging than I expected, this one was pretty easy. In fact, the most difficult part was to find a suitable way to draw my map. In the end, I went for Inkarnate, but I’m not 100% satisfied. Maybe I’ll change tool with the next weeks.

Most of the tasks were about adding features to the map, so we have:

  • A big city on the lake, still nameless, but in my mind is mostyl human and halfling
  • Two smaller settlements: a village and a small fortress; again, I’ve kept those nameless, but I imagine them politically tied to the city
  • A dungeon entrance: the ruins south-east of the keep. Working on the dungeon is next week’s task, so at the moment is just a ruin.
  • A major terrain feature: the lake, with its rivers and the swamp at the south
  • A misterious site to explore: there is an abandoned tower in the southern swamp; rumors say it was built by a wizard, before her magic addiction drove her mad.

Now for the extra credit: I can’t stain a digital map (no, I will not try to pour coffee on Inkarnate’s servers), but I can make a random encounters table.

2d6 Creature Notes
2 Magic Addict Will try to bargain for magical items/knowledge. If the party has nothing for him, he will just cast a random spell on them and run away
3 Duellist Can be hired or challenged, but only if promised a worthy opponent
4 Bandits 1d12+2 Will try to rob the PCs or seek help running away from pursuing soldiers
5 Goblins 1d6 Will attack only if there are more of them than PCs
6 Noble With 1d4 clerks and 1d10+1 soldiers in retinue
7 Herdsmen 1d4 with 2d6 beasts in tow
8 Soldiers 1d12+2 will try to get a bribe from the PCs, with force if they think they can get away with it
9 Wyverns 1d4 one chance in 6 they are hungry
10 Chaos Cultists 1d6 two chances in 6 they have kidnapped somebody to sacrifice, otherwise they will try to kidnap a PC or hireling
11 Undead Lord With 1d6 undeads as a retinue. Five chances in 6 to be masquerading as a Noble and their retinue
12 Bounty Hunter Will not stop in his chase, but might hire some additional help or pay for informations

Gygax 75 challenge: week one

So, last week Shane Ward started an interesting thread in the Pit, posting a reorganization of an article written in 1975 by Gary Gygax himself. The PDF splits Gygax’s steps on creating a setting in a challenge, with a part of the world to be prepared each week. I started 7 days ago and this is my first week.

The first week is about working on a concept and preparing the sources.

Step 1: Get/create a notebook

I’m writing on whatever I find out and then I’ll wrap everything here, so this is done. If you want to take a look at my “notebook” you can find it here:

Step 2: Develop your pitch

  • Magic is unpolite, and so is adventuring. Nobody with an halfway decent education would ever allow themselves to be dragged in some crazy and deadly trip outside the borders of civilization. Walls, social structures and armed guards stand between the good, law abiding citizens and whatever madness might crawl from the Wyrdlands. (1,4,6)
  • Obviously, the Wyrdlands are inhabited by beasts and superstitious savages. Expanding the civilized areas should be very easy. It’s a pity that most of the dwellers of the Wyrdlans think that civilization harbours weak fops, who would be easy meat. A small incident is all that takes for the Wyrd to spill in the life of civilized people or for the Law to extend its steely grip over the wyrdpeople. (1,3,4)
  • The past has a long arm. You cannot hide what you were, no matter how long you run or how much money you got: when you least expect it, your past will find you. (2,5)
  • The world is old. Ancient, in fact. A lot of things happened and many of them left traces on the world nobody really remembers or can comprehend. (1,4).

Step 3: Gather your sources of inspiration

  1. Dracula
  2. The Count of Montecristo
  3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  4. The Hobbit (especially the beginning and the end)
  5. They call me Trinity
  6. Magicpunk

Extra credits: Moodboard

I suck at creating moodboards but I really feel that I’m going to need one for this project. So, here we go.

Also, I know that a soundtrack is not exactly a part of a moodboard, but whatever. I’ve got this song stuck in my head from day 0 of this project, so it’s getting linked here.







So…I think that’s all for this week. See you in seven days with part two, the surrounding area

What do you eat during an adventure? Part I - In the Dungeon

So, first of all, this is my first post in English in a long time, and English is not my first language, so I’ll start by telling every English-speaker out there that I’m really sorry for what I’m about to do to their language. Please note that most of my blog is (and will be) in Italian, only the post tagged as english will be in English.

Now, I’ve spent quite some time cooking since the lockdown begin and have been thinking about a post on trail/dungeon rations in a long while, but never got to it. Since the question have been asked on the OSR Discord server, I’ve decided to start working on this post in a language that might allow me to share it back where the discussion began.

Sources

Aside from my own experience cooking (and camping) I’ve used a couple of sources for reference and inspiration:

  1. This beautiful post on trail rations which has been around since 2017 and makes my mouth water every time
  2. What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank, by Krista D. Ball. While it’s mostly aimed at writers, it also contains useful tips for roleplayers
  3. A lot of Wikipedia articles. I will link them when they are most relevant.
  4. Nutrition Science and Food Standards for Military Operations, from NATO.
  5. The beautiful Townsends Youtube channel (warning: do not open on an empty stomach!); while it focuses on 18th century cooking, there are a couple of videos on camp cooking, soldier cooking and so on. I will link the relevant videos in the different sections.

Foreword

Now, this is not going to be a very long foreword, but I think it’s better to come out clean: my knowledge of the culinary art is geographically limited. While I’ve got a good knowledge of Italian food and a bit more than average knowledge of European and Mediterranean food, most of the other traditions are stranger to me. I’ve obviously eaten in other restaurants but I’m not naive enough to assume that those restaurants weren’t serving watered-down versions of the original recipes, more fitting with the tastes of their patrons (if you don’t believe me, just do what I call “the doner test”: everytime you travel to a different nations, eat a doner).

So, if you think this work could be improved by adding some references to other cultures’ tradition (which is probably true, since I’m taking in account just a small part of this world), feel free to write your own addition (I’d be pleased if you linked this post back, but whatever).

In no way, whatsoever, you should base your real life diet on this post. Fuck, even military MRE, which are far better thought than anything I’ve written below, are not supposed to be eaten for more than 30 days in a row, doing more than a couple of snacks based on this post is most likely to play hell with your bowels and your blood values

Something, something…calories

I will try to evaluate how much a single serving of this is going to weigth, basically describing how much you must carry to get enough calories for a day of adventuring. I’ve no idea about how much calories you actually need for crawling around in a dungeon, but I’ll just trust that the NATO dietary experts knew what they were doing when they assumed that in combat operations soldiers require about 4900 kcal per day (to put this in to perspective, an average man doing an office job requires about 2300-2500 kcal/day - so yes, your heroes are going to eat a lot). If you want to see how a modern-day combat ration looks like, take a look to the MRE rations.

In order to make the bookkeeping at least a little bit easier, I’ve decided to split rations into portions of roughly 1000 kcals each, so every 5 portions you get a full-day ration. Portions should be consumed during rests, but there are a bunch of the following foods which might be eaten while walking. While diving straight for the most weight-effective ration would help your character stay fed without wasting too much backpack space, differentiating between portions will probably give you more flexibility (and better bargaining power with monsters).

A note on weight conversion

As many RPG translators have done before me, I’ve decided to assume that a pound is 500g, instead of 453.592. This will make calculations a bit easier and the whole post more readable, but, my dear uncivilized readers, keep in mind that I’m adding a 10% tax on your characters’ carrying capacity. You might consider it a tax on sticking to a nonsensical measurement system.

For the PCs

While dungeons are death traps in so many different ways, not enough people take into account the two horrible twins that dwelve in all of them: thirst and starvation. They probably claimed the life of more adventurers than goblins. First of all, inside a dungeon, you cannot forage. Maybe some mushrooms and such still grow but are really sure that making a soup of something that has been eating undead overlords of evil is really a good idea? Exactly. Same as for water: even if you manage to find water, you have no guarantee that it will be safe to drink. Sure, you have seen that goblin drink from the stream and it’s still alive enough to try to stab you but goblins are also known for spiking their drinks with rat poison…

Generally speaking, if the dungeon is filled by something with common dietary needs, you might find their food and water stashes. Always remember to check them before eating and drinking: nobody knows what those kobolds can digest. So, when planning your expedition to a dungeon, the safest assumption to make is that you won’t find anything edible or drinkable once you crossed the door. You have to bring with you enough food and water to survive.

Another thing that you should consider, is that in a closed space filled with monsters which might or might have you as their main course, cooking can be extremely dangerous. You should be able to eat whatever you brought with you with little to no fire. Also, cooking anything might consume your precious water reserve (on the other hand, boiling water will allow you to make it safe to drink even if you found it in the dungeon).

So, what’s a good dungeon ration composed of?

Pemmican

Pemmican is basically the mother of every protein bar ever conceived and the wet dream of doomsday preppers all over the world. It’s a mixture of animal fat, ground, dry beef (or whatever meat) and, if you want, berries and dried food. It played a key role in the sunstenance of the indigenous people of North America for centuries, basically saved every European expedition from starvation, was employed by the Italian general Nobile in his arctic expedition in 1928 and the U.S.A. send huge quantities of it to Italy after WWII, to keep off starvation. The most common recipe originated in Canada (the word “pemmican” itself comes from the Cree language, another name, wasnà comes from the Lakota language), while in the current U.S.A, the Lakota and Dakota nations used to make it without meat, mixing toasted cornmeal, animal fat, fruit and sugar.

There have been occurrences of people eating pemmican over a decade old, but I don’t think it can last that much inside the backpack of an adventurer.

A portion of pemmican weights about 200g (0.4 pounds), so a full ration will be about 1kg (2 pounds).

The Townsends Youtube channel has six episodes (collected in a handy playlist on pemmican), I haven’t watched all of it, but if you are curious you can learn there how to cook it in your home or how your characters might cook it before leaving for the adventure.

Goetta

Goetta is a kind of poor-man’s sausage, imported in America from Germany. It’s original purpose was to stretch out a portion of meat (pork, in this case) over more than one meal, by “diluting” it with ground cereals and adding some spices for flavour. Contrary to Pemmican, you have to cook it and it doesn’t last that long, but it probably tastes better (and you can just add some bread to it).

In this case, you have to stop and cook the goetta to eat (but you could cook it all in the morning and eat it cold during the day).

A portion of goetta weights about 300g (0.6 pounds), so a full ration will be about 1.5kg (3 pounds).

Ciccioli

Ciccioli or, as my grandfather called them grepiuli (singular la grepiula, plural li grepiuli), are the fat leftovers of the pork, pressed and then fried in more fat. In my personal opinion, they are the best tasting food in this world. While I advise against substaining only on those (because they fat content is probably going to stop your heart far before any goblin could), they are a good way to quickly boost your character’s calories intake. They also are a great addition to other rations, if anything else because they improve the taste. In fact, this is how they are traditionally eaten, if you aren’t a glutton like me.

A portion of ciccioli weights about 200g (0.4 pounds), so a full ration is about 1kg (2 pounds).

The best way to eat them in a dungeon is probably to have them baked inside something else, like cakes or focaccia, or to use them to boost the calories intake of another meal. A single portion of focaccia with ciccioli (or, as my grandfather would say, gnocco coi grepiuli) weights about 260g (0.5 pounds).

Hardtack

A staple of traveling and military food since Roman times, hardtack lasts long and is a good place on which put anything you can think of (like the cappon magro, if you really have that much time to spend cooking in a dungeon). It’s also pretty easy to acquire, since it’s highly probable that any village near the wildlands would bake it in some form for the hunters and rangers.

A portion of hardtack weight about 240g (0.5 pounds), so a full ration will be about 1.2kg (2.5 pounds).

Here is a Townsends’ video on hardtack.

Cheese

Dry, aged cheese can last for a long while and provide the characters with a lot of calories. Plus, it is perfect to eat in combination with other things. There are many kind of cheese, with different nutritional properties, basically everywhere in the world (with some exceptions: our French cousins seem genetically unable to produce real cheese and are stuck with that funny parody - maybe it’s related to their inability to produce good wine?). I’ve decided to model the cheese after Parmigiano Reggiano, both because I like it and it’s exactly the kind of cheese I would want to bring with me when going on a long travel.

A portion of cheese weights about 250g (0.5 pounds), so a full ration (if you ever think somebody could eat it) will be 1.5kg (2.5 pounds).

Dried Meat

You have probably tasted beef jerky before. In fact, basically all the world has its own tradition of drying meat with some small changes (penmican itself qualifies as dried meat). The fundamental idea is always the same: you remove as much fat as possible from the meat, cure it with some kind of spices and salt and then dry or smoke it. The taste might change, but most of the time the basic idea is the same. While you can keep the stats as basically the same, you can use the following ideas to add more flavor to your world.

A portion of dried meat weights about 240g (0.5 pounds), so a full ration will be about 1.2kg (2.5 pounds).

Bresaola and Slinzega

This are tipical northern-italian dried meats (but are often used as ham). While the preparation is the same, bresaola is made with bigger cuts than slinzega, which results in the latter having a stronger taste than the first. They should, at least, be sliced before eating.

Borts

Borts is a mongolian version of dried meat, which is often cut in small pieces or ground into a powder after being dried. If you consider volume in your packing rules, consider ground borts to occupy 1/3 of the volume of a similar ration. While ground borts is impractical to eat as itself, it can be added to water in order to produce a soup.

‘nduja

‘nduja sounds like an orcish curse and, when prepared correctly, tastes like one. It’s basically made by taking the poorest cuts of the pork, grinding them and then adding enough peppers and spices to turn everything red and make it last on its own without needing additional preservatives. As you can guess, it’s spicy. Good ‘nduja, when heated, should make eyes water at a couple of rooms of distance. It’s obviously good for seasoning and can be weaponized. Half a pound of ‘nduja (250g) is going to season enough meals to make everybody sick of it. Eating a whole portion should require a saving throw to avoid the dire consequences of eating far too much spicy food.

Cacciatorino

The cacciatorino (literally “small hunter”) is a small Italian salami which used to be carried by hunters as their food during hunts. Sizes can vary, from chains of bite-sized salami to bigger ones which require to be cut before eating, but the basic idea is always the same: a very concentrated food with high nutritional value. Traditionally, you would eat some of this with bread (but you can use hardtack).

A portion of cacciatorino weights about 240g (0.5 pounds), so a full ration will be about 1.2kg (2.5 pounds).

Drinking in the dungeon

Most of the characters (at least the ones planning to be alive for more than two days) bring some kind of water reserve in a dungeon, but water doesn’t last forever and, more important, any source of water found in the dungon must be threated someway in order to make sure it’s drinkable.

Infusions

Boiling water kills a lot of nasty things that might reside in the water, but it consumes fuel and time. While soup is great to eat during a rest, herbal infusions can be prepared before leaving and drunk across the day.

Grog

Adding some alcoholic beverages to water will make it spoil slower and thus give your characters more time to find a fresh water source. In addition to this, it might not kill off ancient curses, but it kills its fair share of bacteria, and improves the taste, so you’ll be at least a little less unhappy while you die of Lich Cholera. The most common beverage for this category is grog, which the english prepared with 4 parts of water for each part of rum (plus lemon juice, spices and so on). If you feel like you haven’t wasted enough time on YouTube for today, here you can see a Townsends’ video on grog.

Obviously, drinking too much grog will get you drunk. That’s not a smart idea inside a dungeon!

Posca

The ancient Romans used to mix water, vinegar and perhaps honey and spices, to get a drink which is refreshing, cannot get you drunk and lasts a bit longer than water, the posca. I didn’t have the courage to taste it, so I will just reference a couple of historical accounts about how shitty it seems to be:

  1. It was considered a great gesture of comradeship for an officer to drink posca like his soldiers. It was something most officers and emperors avoided, to the point the we have ancient historians taking note of the few times when it happened. It’s better to be hated by your own men than to drink posca.
  2. When in John, 19, 28-30 Jesus said he was thirsty, a Roman soldier, out of kindness, decided to share with him his only drink: some posca. While the soldier was just sharing what he had, theologians had spent centuries convinced this was done out of spite because who would want to drink that thing before dying?

If you want to add some fun to potion-making, many ancient doctors used posca as a basis for their healing potions.

Drinking too much posca will probably make you wish you drunk that suspicious water and contracted Mummy’s Intestinal Rot instead.

Wine

Wine is another of those things that get you drunk, which isn’t good, but there are some wines, like Lambrusco which were meant to be drunk by working people.

Now, if you manage to get your hands on a nice bottle of Lambrusco di Sorbara, keep it cool and drink it as it is (or, even, use it to make a nice bevr’in vin) you might wonder “how is it possible that this thing will not make me drunk?”. Thank the vagaries of Italian law for that. I won’t rant on details I don’t remember about that, but original Lambrusco is a lot less alcoholic that anything you can find, in fact, it’s not alcoholic enough to be legally sold as wine (but still too alcoholic to be sold as soft drink - so the producers decided to make it stronger enough to make the cut as wine, since there was no other way for them to sell it). The original gradation is about 1-2%, so it will take some time to get drunk on it.

For the DMs

If you got it here, there is something you might already have sensed: food and drink are a very difficult part of the life in the dungeon. I don’t think there are nice and useful suggestions about how to make the PCs’ lives difficult while dealing with this, but there are some tips that might be useful for dungeon planning.

Monsters need food too

Most living things need to eat and drink in some fashion. Some monsters are defined by what they eat, like Vampires or Mind Flayers, but you can get a lot of information and plot hooks by considering what any kind of monster eats. Answering the following questions will probably help you design plot hooks and rooms in the dungeon:

  1. What do they eat?
  2. Can they preserve it? How long?
  3. How do they get their food? How often?

Maybe the monsters eat something the PCs could eat too, maybe not (do the PCs know or have a way to learn before eating?), but anyway, if the PCs manage to steal, destroy or poison the monsters’ food stash, they’ll get a lot of leverage on them (or maybe the monsters will be more aggressive, or just move out in search of greener pastures).

Monsters can be eaten

Since Delicious in Dungeon / Danjon Meshi came out, a lot of people played with the idea of cooking various monsters. The manga’s wiki collected a list of dishes, if you need some inspiration, but there are, in fact, a ton of posts on the internet about it. This doesn’t even try to be a comprehensive list, but it should be a starting point:

  1. Obviously, there is an high-quality post from Skerples. I wonder why I bother trying to find other sources anymore…
  2. One-page cooking rules for D&D 5, but they are simple enough you could try porting them anywhere.
  3. 100 meals made from moster parts, either to spice up a tavern or suggest some ideas to the players
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