PROCLAMATION – Anonymity
Anonymity breeds bad behavior. When we play tabletop games, our aim is to have a gaming experience that brings us closer to our friends and, in the end, forge an emotional connection. Online games and large-scale gaming conventions both add on a layer of anonymity that is a detriment to the quality of games, tabletop or otherwise, and an obstacle to this emotional connection.
Over the past few decades, as computerized technology and casual usage of the internet has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, this truism has become more and more self-evident. We have been joking about this aspect of gaming culture for years (https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19).
It’s tempting, awful tempting, to take the quick and easy route of gaming; the path of least resistance, the lazy route, and the bare minimum. It’s hard to maintain friendships, to plan games around people’s schedules, to make new friends when others must depart, to negotiate with the non-gamers in our households over what night it’s alright to bring everyone over for beer, chips, and dice. But when we don’t put in this effort and instead settle for a quick and easy online game, a barrier to human interaction is added into the equation. For many, the argument is that online is the only way they can game. That some gaming is better than none. Defy Danger demands the best, and does not accept these excuses.
Anonymity is also the downside to typical large gaming conventions. When you’re in a pool of tens of thousands of gamers together; there’s no incentive to act well, and no detriment to acting poorly. Odds are that you will never see any of the people at any given gaming table ever again. Players are free to behave badly with little or no repercussions – you’ll never be called out on your misdeeds later. Players also have little or nothing to gain from good behavior – you’ll never get a warm invite to a future game from any of these random strangers. Defy Danger demands the best, and does not accept these excuses.
Defy Danger is different by only designing for face-to-face adventures and purposefully limiting the number of attendees at our events. During the long-weekend events, every player may not get to be in a game with every other player; but we all share food, drink, and unwinding time together. At a Defy Danger event, you can’t hide from the results of your actions, nor can those results escape you. A person behaving poorly must face the social ramifications of any disrespect they show immediately, but will also reap the rewards of camaraderie through shared experience and the bonds of friendship.
No one has infinite time to play this great hobby. So, take a moment and ask yourself how you want to spend what time you do have – with an ocean of forgettable players cloaked in anonymity, or with a select band of friends and those soon to be.
DEFY DANGER ABROAD
Of all people, Chris Hardwick is doing it right with Force Grey: Giant Hunters.
These recorded D&D sessions are done well. The Dungeon Master here, Matt Mercer, doesn’t pull punches at all, to the point where major player characters are killed. The DM is a voice actor by trade, so he does voices and acts out all the characters, but he doesn’t overdo it. They’re here to play a game, not listen to a fairy tale. He doesn’t monologue with each character. He provides curt, to the point descriptions, some banter if the players keep talking, and then moves the plot along.
The vast majority of recorded D&D games, whether it’s text, video, or audio-only, are boring garbage. Even the ones with poplar celebrities and industry leaders are unimaginative wastes of time. Give FG:GH a chance.
PUZZLE – Seven Demon Skulls
This puzzle is designed to reward those players who have dedicated themselves to learning the forgotten lore from the dawn of Dungeons & Dragons.
You come upon a thin cold iron rod driven into the ground, raising up to the height of a man. Etchings along the rod split it into six sections. At the bottom section, a small skull of a vulture-demon has been impaled. Laying on the ground nearby are five other skulls, each with a small puncture hole in the top: a large skull of a demonic hound, a large demonic skull with great spiraling horns, a large skull with the features of a demonic boar, a small skull of a demonic frog, and a small skull of a demonic elf.
The skulls belong to the following demon types, in the order described:
- Vrock (Type I)
- Glabrezu (Type III)
- Balor (Type VI)
- Nalfeshnee (Type IV)
- Hezrou (Type II)
- Marilith (Type V)
An easy skill check identifies the names of the demons that once owned the skulls and that the Balor is a Type VI demon.
A hard skill check also identifies that the Vrock is a Type I demon.
When all six skulls are impaled on the cold iron rod in the correct order (Vrock – Hezrou – Glabrezu – Nalfeshnee – Marilith – Balor), the skulls and rod sink into an opening in the ground which then raises up to reveal the God-Slayer Bolt-Action Nailgun.
When all six skulls are impaled on the cold iron rod in an incorrect order, a wraith-hand chain lightning spell is triggered, arcing out from the rod and attacking each dungeoneer to deal lightning damage as well as imposing negative energy drain.
SOLUTION: The skulls must be impaled on the cold iron rod in the order of their Demon Type, starting with the Vrock (Type I) and ending with the Balor (Type VI), as per D&D supplement Eldritch Wizardry (1976).
EXPERT-LEVEL CHALLENGE: The cold iron rod starts without any skulls impaled upon it. The Vrock skull lay on the ground beside the others.
MASTER-LEVEL CHALLENGE: In addition, the puzzle takes place during a brutal combat challenge with unending swarms summoned from the fiery depths of Hell. Solving the puzzle is the only way to stop their incursions.
Need More Demons?: Go check out Brandon Reinert’s amazing portfolio at chasingneutrinos.tumblr.com
- The Stone of Truth is hidden away in the Hall of Philosophers and can only be acquired by divulging the true name of the Blessed Fire Djinn.
- Transgalactic outlaws wish to enlist an “inside man” to help steal an Argent Matrix from the Tissue Vaults of Croan-Dhenni and slip past their robotic Cyber-Inspectors.
- The weeping portal in the Gallery of Dead Kings leads to a vault containing the vorpal khopesh.
DESIGN CHALLENGE WINNER
A new champion approaches!
Brendan Flattery had this to say from last month’s design challenge, crafting a classic logic and deduction puzzle and wrapping it up it a description of terror:
The metagame is activated upon drinking from the chalice. When a player does so, three translucent images, faintly glowing with oscillating blue and red lights, will appear in the air above the altar:
- A Sword, gleaming so brightly with the spectral light that it illuminates the entire room. Its hilt and crossguard are made of a severed demonic hand.
- A Throne, of an ancient curule shape, backless and with a curving seat shaped from the stone of a long fallen meteor.
- A skull, plain and cleaned of all flesh, though with lights shining from its eyes that pierce you with a knowing gaze.
The eyes of the cadaver will then open, and it will speak in a hushed, raspy tone: “choose thine aspect in a game of chance, though it matters little what choice thou makest. Throne commands Sword; Sword smashes Skull; Skull outwits Throne. Win and the secrets if this dungeon are yours; lose and the denizens of this place will know you inside and out.”
The corpse’s eyes then close and it speaks no further.
Place a card corresponding to each image on the table face up and have a player take one. Take the remaining two, and shuffle them. Have the player take one of these at random, and reveal to all.
Resolve the metagame as per a rock/paper/scissors balanced mechanic, though with one option removed by the player to avoid stalemates. When the player makes a choice, the corresponding spectral image will disappear, and the other two will begin circle each other, getting closer and more rapid until they merge into one image (the random card) with a bright purple flash.
If the player wins, they will get the boon outlined below. Otherwise, the bane curses them until removed or death.
Boon: the dregs of wine at the bottom of the chalice will begin to shine with a bright bluish white light that also courses through the veins of the player who drank. S/he gains the moniker of Haruspex, and the ability to read auguries from the entrails of the elven corpse. The player can either gain 2 new rumor cards, or may ask a yes/no question about the area once every 24 hours, so long as the elven corpse is preserved and intact. S/he also gains the ability to grant disadvantage to any one attack in the next 24 hours, even after seeing the results of the triggering attack.
Bane: the dregs of wine at the bottom of the chalice will begin to shine with a dark purple light. Simultaneously, the same light can be seen coursing through the veins of the player.
From now on all creatures in the dungeon will have advantage on attack rolls against this player, and will target him/her mercilessly until death. S/he will also have disadvantage on all attack rolls for 24 hours (reveal the natures of this bane only when they become pertinent).
Demogorgon stalks the halls of the deepest level of your dungeon, terrorizing all dungeoneers. It springs to attack!
Based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset, describe one or more unfair, overpowered, game-breaking special attacks or other abilities that Demogorgon uses, using game mechanics to reinforce your theme and narrative.
PROCLAMATION: New Blood, Fresh Meat
Your RPG campaign is dying. This is a truism that affects us all. Some of us get lucky, our games die slowly. Some of us face the despair of a flaring out campaign that melts away in the blink of an eye.
The people in your RPG games are living, breathing human beings. As such, each of them experiences life while you’re not playing games together. They change – careers, family, education, dreams, and just which games they find enjoyable. People move away, people get busy, people find new interests. With these changes, these people will eventually fall out of your game and leave. If you don’t take command and put in the work, one day you too will find yourself with an empty table.
This nihilistic ending can still be avoided. If you truly want to enjoy this hobby for all it’s worth, if you want to spend your free time interacting with real people making real connections over a fictional game world, you need to get your ass in gear. This is so hard for so many of us. This is a social hobby that so often attracts those struggling with their own social skills. But to keep healthy your own game, and the greater RPG scene as a whole, all of us need to be actively working on bringing new players into our games. We need to host MeetUps, attend local conventions, reach out to players in other groups, and seek out ways to brings new ideas into our games. This is a hobby fueled by creativity and wonder – we should never content ourselves with seeing the same people all the time. We need to suffer through the boring GMs, the awful players, and everyone else we disagree with so that we each can make a connection with the people we do share interests and style with. We’re all gold miners panning for one shiny flake out of the muck, each and every day. We’ve got to be foolish, romantic optimists. If you’ve got a full crew of people coming to your games on the regular, that’s great, but don’t get too comfy. Run some one-shots for people you haven’t seen in awhile. Ask around and see if you can’t introduce new players to the hobby for their first ever role playing game. Have a bloated list of gamer friends to call on and always look to the horizon for more.
DEFY DANGER ABROAD
Infinite broken night. Milky alien moons. Wavering demons of gold. Held in this jail of immortal threats are three perfect sisters…
Maze of the Blue Medusa is a dungeon. Maze of the Blue Medusa is art. Maze of the Blue Medusa works with your favorite fantasy tabletop RPG.
Lethal gardens, soul-rending art galleries, infernal machines—Maze of the Blue Medusa reads like the poetic nightmare of civilizations rotted to time, and plays like a puzzle-box built from risk and weird spectacle.
PUZZLE: Court of the Rainbow Portal
DM’s Note: The solution to this puzzle is presented elsewhere, in three other rooms located elsewhere in the adventure (Rooms 2, 10, and 16).
FEATURES OF THE AREA
- This area is a long, wide-open courtyard. Dark clouds rumble overhead, blotting the sun.
- The waist-high crumbled ruins of an ancient stone keep stand in the courtyard. Planks of rotten wooden stairs hang limply off the side of the low walls.
- In the center of the yard is a tall, monolithic pillar made of shiny, untarnished silver.
- A maggot-ridden corpse lies at the base of the pillar. The body has been chewed up and turned inside-out, leaving a pile of viscera and bone.
- Upon each of the four sides of the pillar is a thin oval outlined in welded black iron finger bones.
- At the top of the north side of the pillar is a small brass plaque with writing in an obscure language. It reads, “The magenta path offers safety”.
UPON FURTHER INVESTIGATION
- If any of the gems from Rooms 2, 10, and/or 16 are placed within the eye sockets of their associated black iron skulls, one of the thin oval outlines on the south, east or west side of the pillar is ignited with bright light corresponding to color of the gem, forming a gateway. The outline on the north side of the pillar also forms a gateway, though its color is the resultant combination of the other three portals combined (see color chart below).
- The puzzle solution is magenta: two red and one blue.
- A combination of three differently colored portals (red, blue, and yellow) creates a final fourth portal that is dull gray in color.
- Objects put into any portal that is not magenta are sucked in and then regurgitated as if torn inside out. Hands or other body parts put into the portal offer a saving throw to pull back in time, with a failure indicating that the portal has sucked in the entire creature, killing them instantly.
- A creature passing through the magenta portal emerges safely into the next area and with an additional reward; an opal-encrusted bracelet that grants its bearer resistance to fire and lightning damage.
Rooms 2, 10, and 16.
DM’s Note: These rooms provide the solution to a multi-step puzzle encountered elsewhere in the adventure, perhaps on a different floor entirely. The players are meant to backtrack to Room 7 to solve the puzzle.
This description is common to each of these three rooms, an unrelated addition to its other hazards or elements.
FEATURES OF THE AREA
- In this area lies a black iron skull, its jaw missing.
- An iron patch has been crudely drilled over its left eye socket.
- Elsewhere in the room is a delicate jewelry box lined with crimson velvet. Inside sit three large gemstones: blue sapphire, yellow topaz, and red ruby.
UPON FURTHER INVESTIGATION
- If a gemstone is placed in an empty eye socket of the black iron skull, one of the south (Room 2), east (Room 10), or west (Room 16) oval portals on the silver pillar of Room 7 ignites with that gem’s color. The northern portal’s color is a resultant color combining the other three.
- Once placed in the eye socket of a black iron skull, the gemstones seal in and require a difficult test of strength to remove.
EXPERT LEVEL CHALLENGE: Change the needed color and all references from ‘magenta‘ to ‘vermilion‘ (red, red, yellow).
- The archfey bride of the Fallen Worm-Kings offers a difficult choice between two tempting offers. Neither can be trusted.
- Dodongo the Ever-Living can be pulled into the mortal realm by the radioactive shrapnel from an exploded soulsphere nailbomb.
- Sykes Corporation Corpse Handlers suspect that their rivals are employing a new Synth-Brain design that secretly violates prohibitions against animation of the living.
DESIGN CHALLENGE: ALTAR of the ELVEN CADAVER
The DOOMSTONE is in fact a comet, a future apocalypse, transversing the sky with an ever decaying orbit. Soon, it will enter the atmosphere, igniting it afire and burning this world and all its inhabitants. … the Council of Celestial Centurians believes that we only have 9 cycles left before the gravity of our planet draws the DOOMSTONE to its final destination.
This chamber contains a low altar, atop which is a skull-chalice filled with dark wine. A preserved elven cadaver lies at the foot of the altar, its body cut open and innards exposed.
This chamber tempts the adventurers with a dangerous, but lucrative, metagame of chance. If things go poorly for them, unleash a danger further in the dungeon.
Describe the metagame, what great boon is gained from a good result, and what danger is unleashed from a bad result.
Quality control is the beating heart of the Defy Danger experience. As a multi-day tabletop gaming event, Defy Danger is often compared to the typical game conventions like GenCon, Origins, or a variety of more local events. The true difference here is that Defy Danger bucks against the standard, defies expectations, and re-invents this kind of event by strict quality control.
The typical gaming convention model is the ‘big tent’. Every effort is made to accommodate as many people as possible. It’s a business model and designed to generate maximum profits or maximum attendance. If your goal is simply to be surrounded by a mob of humanity, this works great. That’s not really what we are interested in.
Defy Danger seeks to provide a limited group of gamers with the best gaming possible. The organizers on each event carefully curate the list of attendees to only those people who can bring high energy, a willingness to engage the game each and every session, a positive attitude, and an overabundance of creativity. No scrubs. No wallflowers. No duds. No assholes. No bitter grognards. By weeding out people who do not share our tastes, we are able to play games with tables full of people who enhance our gaming experience.
Similarly, the games offered at a Defy Danger event are purposefully limited. Each game must embody the ideal of terror – a mixture of fear, excitement, apprehension, panic, and awe. Canned adventures put out by the big name companies in an effort to please crowds are simply not allowed. We would rather close the doors and go home than waste our time and be bored with a mediocre experience.
That statement speaks to a greater ideal that Defy Danger embodies. It is not enough simply to have a passing interest in the same hobby. That does not make us brothers and sisters; that does not make us friends. We all must go above and beyond and be the best gamers possible. The game master doesn’t owe any player anything. We all must contribute to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. And you know what, not everyone who plays tabletop games has the kind of passion and dedication to do that. Defy Danger is unrepentant in saying that those kinds of people can stay home, we’ll take the elite few who can stand up to these expectations.
DEFY DANGER ABROAD
Epic adventures deserve epic rewards. This 19-page PDF contains 100 unique treasure cards for use with the Dungeon World RPG. The Khopesh of Extinction allows its wielder to wipe entire races from existence. The Sands of Time Reverse can undo a single fatal mistake. The Jade Devil Mask summons diabolical traps. In the spirit of Dungeon World, each of these treasures is designed to propel the narrative forward. They work great in one-shot adventures; they work great in ongoing campaigns.
Each treasure features one of 20 original illustrations by artist Brandon Reinert.
PUZZLE: ALL TOO REAL
Every trap has two parts to it: bait & hammer. The bait of every trap is the delicious prize that tantalizes players into action. It is the incentive by which players bring your traps’ unfortunate series of events down upon their own character’s heads. The hammer, in contrast, is the pain that is brought when the trap is triggered. A trap with no means of detriment or harm is simply a giveaway, while a trap with no potential reward or benefit is simply an uninteresting punishment.
This month’s Puzzle delves into this idea and breaks the fourth wall. One of the hallmarks of a great puzzle is forcing the players to think laterally. This month, we go that route by bringing the puzzle itself into real-life and the actions of the real people at your gaming table with a series of practical challenges. All example game mechanics effects are listed for Dungeons & Dragons (5E). Put in the Comments below what game system you would prefer to use instead and what examples mechanics you would use.
1. Stickers on Cans
Host the night’s game at your place, where you will be well-prepared ahead of time, or bring canned drinks for everyone. Earlier that day, subtly mark the bottom of a few of the cans with stickers and try to keep that out of view for awhile. Some stickers will indicate a harmful condition, while others indicate a benefit. When a player knocks back a can to take a drink, keep an eye on what sticker is now shown on the bottom of the can. When players drink from a marked can, their in-game characters receive a predetermined curse or boon.
A cursed drink forces a the character to make a DC 13 Constitution Saving Throw, dealing 10 poison damage on a failed save.
EXPERT LEVEL CHALLENGE: A failed save deals 25 poison damage.
MASTER LEVEL CHALLENGE: A failed save kills the character outright.
However, drinking from a beneficial beverage can heal a character of all hit point damage, grant advantage on attack rolls for 10 minutes, or replenish up to three expended spells.
2. The Box That Was Broken
Before anyone shows up for your game session, warn your players that “Those who avoid the common path will be spared, while those who seek an alternative will be rewarded“.
Carefully slide a folded note under the flap on the top of a box of snacks (Cheez-itz or what have you). The note should read “Rat takes the cheese – you are polymorphed!” When the top of the box is opened, have that player read it. Their character must make DC 13 Constitution Saving Throw. Failing the save changes the character for the next 10 minutes into a Tiny rodent of their choice. (See Rat, PHB p. 309, for additional statistics)
EXPERT LEVEL CHALLENGE: A failed save lasts the rest of the session.
MASTER LEVEL CHALLENGE: A failed save results in a permanent transformation.
You must also, however, carefully slide a folded note under the flap on the bottom of the box of snacks. The note should read “The spectral hand steals that which is guarded!” When the top of the box is opened, have that player read it. For the rest of the game session, their character’s left hand and arm can become ethereal at will, allowing them to grab and manipulate objects through solid material. The player may also choose to make anything grabbed in such a way ethereal as well.
3. Find Familiar
Before the game starts or players arrive, place three small notes inside the collar of a nearby pet, each of which reads “Loyalty – Bonded For Life to the One True Master“. The first player to read such a note is treated as if their character cast the spell Find Familiar (PHB p. 240).
The next player to read such a note summons a pack of 2d4 Wolves (MM p.311) in the closest unoccupied space to their character. The wolves are hostile and immediately attack.
- Sacrificing a loved one upon the dreaded Doomstone (see Design Challenge below) will bar the Hellfire Sphinx from this plane.
- Solving the Transdimensional Demonic Hypercube will unlock the Seventh Seal of the Vault of Torment.
- The Sunsteel Blade is imprisoned within a secret chamber below the Keep of Despair.
DESIGN CHALLENGE: DOOMSTONE
What mind-blowing, over-the-top gonzo horrors does the Doomstone inflict upon your hapless world?Are you Dungeon Master enough to show these punks how it’s done?
DEFY. DANGER. RELEASED.
- a proclamation of tips, tricks, guidelines, and answered questions to help you elevate the games that you run
- a fiendishly devised puzzle to both tease your brain and give you a quick, go-to challenge for your next tabletop RPG session
- a design challenge granting you the chance to test your game designer mettle against the greater DEFY DANGER community.
- a collection of three evocative rumors to plant the seeds of your next over-the-top expedition
DEFY DANGER MONTHLY NEWSLETTER #1
The logo is black & white to represent the clarity of our vision and the uncompromising stance we take. We do not make or play games that attempt to appeal to everyone. We crave a different experience. We will only create tabletop gaming content that strictly adheres to our vision of quality.
- inspire creativity and fresh ideas in the tabletop gaming world
- elicit strong emotional connections in face-to-face gaming by subjecting players to shared terror
- present intellectually challenging scenarios to promote lateral thinking and a sense of true accomplishment
PUZZLE: SERPENT’S FEAST
“I am impressed at your success in reaching this chamber. However, I am starved and must be sated by something special. See to it that I am satisfied or you yourself shall serve as my delicious dessert.”
DESIGN CHALLENGE: AMULET OF THE SERPENT-LORD
- The broken Necrolith can be repaired with the Mithril Gear and used as a devastating weapon.
- The divine oracle, Myrris, is invisible in the natural world and can only be seen by viewing her reflection.
- Mecha-Hitler has an advanced ray shield and can only be affected by slow-moving ballistics. Beware the slow blade and for the love of god, KILL HITLER!
We’re pleased to share that the printed softcover edition of CRUSH the REBELLION is now available for purchase.
Grab your copy today!
Greetings Rebellion Crushers!
We’ve been working hard this month to bring you some print-on-demand products for CRUSH the REBELLION via DriveThruRPG.
We’re excited to share that printed cards are now available for purchase!
To make these even more exciting, we’ve redesigned the backs of cards, and added some of Brandon Reinert’s wicked hand-drawn art from inside the rule book.
Here’s a little sneak peek:
Stay tuned for a printed rule book with agent sheets included!