Newsletter #3

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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.

Do you have questions for Defy Danger? Please email us here and we will answer them in future Proclamations.
 DDSkull_White_Small

DEFY DANGER ABROAD

This month, we highlight a controversial new roleplaying game product, Maze of the Blue Medusa.
First and foremost, this is a very creative work. It’s an adventure that pushes boundaries and twists things into something different than the standard. It makes players uncomfortable – and that’s a good thing. We cannot, in good conscious, let this one slip by without giving it a nod and a clap. It’s a work of art in the truest sense, and Defy Danger believes that RPG design should strive to be an art form.
I also cannot ignore the elephant in the room. One of the authors has said and done some very questionable things in the online community. If you’re not familiar, do yourself a favor and do not dig into it and live happily in ignorance. If you do know about this, we ask that you swallow the bile and give Maze of the Blue Medusa a shot based on its technical and artistic merit.

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

While many puzzles are encapsulated in a single chamber, another type of classic gaming puzzle relies on assembling clues and items from multiple locations. These often involve backtracking to a previously encountered obstacle. In video game design, this usually manifests as ‘gating’; wherein the player’s avatar is confined to a small portion of the level, can usually see into the restricted portions, and are later given access when certain criteria have been met. This month’s puzzle expounds upon that idea with an example suitable for any fantasy tabletop role playing game.
Room 7. Courtyard

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).

Color_star-en_(tertiary_names).svg

  • 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).

RUMORS

Rumors are a great way to spur imagination. They must always portray evocative images, yet be vague enough in application to fit into any game. Rumors are never completely reliable, often tempting adventurers into dangerous situations by promising lies and half-truths.
  • 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

Last month, we were treated to another winning entry by Anthony ‘All-I-Do-Is-Win-Win-Win’ Franchini, taking the Doomstone and making it larger than life in the form of a celestial object:
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 months design challenge is a Defy Danger madlib, of sorts. We will give you the outline of a roleplaying scene / dungeon chamber. Fill in the blanks and provide all missing details by leaving a Comment below.

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.

Leave a narrative description in the Comments below, adding any supporting game mechanics (from any roleplaying game of your choice) to emphasize and reinforce your design. The most innovative, shocking, or thought-provoking entry will be featured next month as a paragon of game design.
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One thought on “Newsletter #3

    bflat said:
    July 13, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    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).

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