Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Horror in the Megadungeon

Today is Halloween, so I figured I’d celebrate by posting about horror in the megadungeon. As I may or may not have mentioned, the megadungeon is starting to get a serious dose of horror elements, and lately I’ve been contemplating how they fit in with the tenants I originally laid out when I talked about how I run Dungeon Fantasy. So with that in mind, I’m going to talk about the various things that I look for in good horror and see if they support or run up against what I look for in a good Dungeon Fantasy game.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Divine Template

At this point, we’ve spent a good bit of time talking about what gods are like, how they are worshipped, what they can do, and how all of that is handled with game mechanics, so today, we will wrap things up by assembling all of that into a template for individual gods. This probably won’t be the wordiest post, since most of the template is fairly self-explanatory, especially if you have DF Clerics. Still, I’ll go bit by bit with brief descriptions, just in case it isn’t as clear as I think it is.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dividing the Universe

So far, we have talked a lot about gods, what they can do, why the do what they do, how people treat gods, etc., but we haven’t addressed which gods exist near the Trollenmere. So let’s finally get down to brass tacks. Today, I’ll start off by dividing reality into a bunch of aspects and then assign them to deities. Of course, I’ll do this with lots of longwinded reasoning, and I’ll probably meander as usual, too. So buckle up; we’re making gods.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Divine Magic in Starfall

Today, we will talk a little bit about the mechanics of divine magic, holy powers, and so forth. I know I said last time, we would be jumping into developing a pantheon and template for gods, but without the mechanics first, we don’t know what information we even need to write down. So first is first; we nail down the mechanics that will go into clerics, holy warriors, dungeon saints, favored souls, paladins, druids, or whatever else you want to call holy people who do supernatural stuff.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Mapping Progress Report

I've finished mapping another dungeon entrance down three levels, and I've noticed that I'm not doing as much with set pieces as I really would like. I feel like each area should probably have that one memorable location that players will talk about and reference again and again, but I just really haven't been designing with that in mind.

I think what I will do is see if any such areas emerge while stocking, and if not, add some in during Pass #2. I have purposely left a lot of empty space around my dungeon for that very reason, in fact. Now I am glad I did.

Of course this does beg the question: What should a set piece be? Obviously, it should be unique and memorable. Just another 10-by-10 room won't do. But that doesn't mean it needs to be a giant, cavernous room, either. It could be a maze of claustrophobic tunnels in which the PCs are forced to fight ratmen on their own turf, or maybe it's the tops of a series of pillars sprouting from a bottomless pit.

I think the main thing is that it is different from the rest of the area and not encountered before this point in the dungeon. Sure, pillars through the bottomless pit of mist might exist somewhere else as a level unto itself, but here is the first time you see it. These are the bottomless pit pillars, and that level is "the one like the bottomless pit pillars" - not the other way around.

Still, I don't think I'll reuse set pieces as a basis for entire levels too often. Anything can be overdone, and frankly, it's better if the unique areas stay unique. Also, I'm starting to think there will be an area with pillars thrusting out of a bottomless pit filled with mist. Go figure.

So, what sort of set pieces have you used in your dungeons? What is your favorite published one?

Friday, October 19, 2018


A small, hot-tempered pony useful for war, and sometimes riding. Mares lack Combat Reflexes and Bad Temper (15), and make good riding ponies. Jennets weigh about 730 pounds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Gods and Religion in Alnwich

We talked a long time ago about spirits in Starfall, but today, I’m going to zoom in on Alnwich and focus on the gods recognized and worshipped locally. It is worth reiterating some of that information here to help obliterate some common RPG tropes that simply Do Not Apply, namely that pantheism is the equivalent of a collection of monotheisms.

Monday, October 15, 2018

An Approach to Encounter Tables

I have begun work on the encounter tables I will need for this game, chiefly with the wilderness tables, since players will see those first and interact with them the most often. And as usual, starting to work on a thing for the megadungeon - which I am starting to realize is in desperate need of a proper name - has led me to start asking questions about the thing I need. So today, I will try to talk a little bit about encounter tables, where they excel, where they fall short, and what I plan on doing for mine.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


The equine-equivalent to a tank, these massive warhorses are notorious for being cranky. They will often only obey one rider or groom, and are more than content to bite and kick those they’re not familiar with – on or off the battlefield. These rare creatures are a sign of wealth and power among the elite of society and their retainers. Destriers weigh about 1,840 pounds.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Languages in Dungeon Fantasy and Starfall

I have been mapping a lot lately, and despite adding hundreds of rooms to my maps, it feels like I’m not getting anywhere. I guess that’s because this is a megadungeon, and not just a regular dungeon. So I decided to give myself a morale boost and tackle some seemingly simple things from my To Do list. That was going well until I ran up against one note that read, “List and Describe Languages”.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big issue. After all, there’s Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Gnomish, etc., right? But this isn’t Dungeons & Dragons and it isn’t bog-standard Dungeon Fantasy, either. Nope, it’s Starfall, and that seems to mean work. Not that I’m complaining, but seriously, I thought making a list of languages would be simple. So why isn’t it?

The number of playable races in Starfall is precisely one – humans. So all of those nifty racial languages don’t mean squat to PCs. Also, the megadungeon is about as far from other kingdoms as anyone can get. So if I list all of these languages that the players will likely never encounter, it’s a waste for them to even buy proficiency in them. So why bother with them? That got me to thinking . . .

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What Can I Buy In Town?

I just wrapped up going through the various equipment lists and picking out what is as basic gear and what is a special order. I was going to go by broad categories, but as I looked through them, there was a lot that didn't quite fit, so that meant pouring over lists of gear. Good times. In the end, I did get the catalogs I need. What's on them, you ask? Well, that's a bit much to just list out here (and would be really boring to read), so I'm going skip that. Instead, I'll talk a little bit about purchasing gear in Alnwich.

Buying Gear

Alnwich isn't some Podunk, but but it isn't huge, either. With a population of around 2,500 people, everybody knows everyone in town by sight, if not by name, and word travels fast. The people there don't really go on adventures, since merely surviving is so difficult, but their primary industry is venturing into the Wilderlands for pelts and furs. What all of this means is that available goods are typical of a village that subsists on farming and fishing, but also has a lot of cold-weather camping and survival gear available.

Players who want to buy goods will have to roll 3d against a preset number, modified by Alnwich's current Search modifier. At start of play with a population of ~2,500 people, that modifier will be -1, but hopefully that will change as the game progresses. The base target numbers will also shift, but that will be market-driven, not size-driven.

On a success, a suitable item is ready for purchase right now. On a failure, it can be specially ordered. Special orders must take 1d+1 weeks to arrive, cost 20% extra, and must be paid for up front. On a critical failure, double the time it takes to arrive and increase cost by 100% instead of just 20%.

Basic Goods: 15 or less.
Basic Concoctions: Always.
Special Orders: Never.
Special Concoctions: Never.
Basic Weapons: 15 or less; subtract 10% of Cost Factor from this roll.
Basic Armor: 9 or less; subtract 10% of Cost Factor from this roll.
Order Magic Items: Never.

As GM, I will reserve the right to arbitrarily decide some items are simply not available ever. These will all be items I have not explicitly included on my lists of gear and will be addressed on a case by case basis. If an item is simply not available, the player can certainly try again in 1d+1 weeks, but that doesn't mean my answer will change.

New Characters

Now that I've addressed how existing characters can get gear, what about new ones? I don't want to be a dick and make people roll to get their hands on stuff at character generation, so I'll just make everything on my lists available, excluding magic items, weapons, armor, etc. If you want to buy a balanced, very fine, ornate +3, orchicalm, two-handed sword, go for it. You're paying for it somehow, anyway. Maybe you don't have armor, or maybe you just spent a lot of points on cash. Either way, I'm not going to say no at this point.

Now once play begins, you have to roll and all of the rules kick in. So really, players are probably encouraged to buy big ticket items during creation so they don't have issues getting them later. Of course, since they can always special order anything, that might not be a huge concern. Personally, I'd recommend players gear up for suitability over buying that superduper shiny MacGuffin they really, really really want. The money will come, if you live long enough.

Evolving Alnwich

The last thing I want to mention is that I don't intend for Alnwich to be a static place. Its population will change based on what the players do. Its economy will evolve as they haul back and spend loot locally. And I'm going to need rules for all of this. I'm currently looking into how Adventure Conqueror King does settlements for inspiration, and I'll try to write up a proper length bit on that when I work out what I'm going to do. In the meantime, I'm still looking for ideas, inspiration, and suggestions.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Guilds of Alnwich: The Royal Mercantile Syndicate

The Royal Mercantile Syndicate

Rank: Merchant Rank 0-5.
In Charge: Non-adventurers similar to agents and innkeepers.
In the Ranks: As above, with some fighters (barbarians, knights, guards, scouts, and swashbucklers) for security.
On the Payroll: Commonly, agents, laborers, native guides, sages, servants, but virtually anyone except assassins, ninjas, and thieves are possible.
Influencing the AR: Merchant.

The Royal Mercantile Syndicate is a region-wide royally sanctioned guild that buys, transports, and sells nearly everything in Northmarch. While it employs its own soldiers, attacks competitors economically and physically, makes threats against the livelihoods of those who cross it, and employ soldiers to back up those threats, it is technically not a mafia. It’s a legal business by decree of the king. Nothing in the Northmarch may legally be bought or sold without an official RMS stamp.

The RMS maintains this stranglehold on commerce in the North by paying taxes to the crown, but with their mastery of finances and legalese, they are able to minimize this greatly and put substantial wealth in those with positions of authority within the syndicate. The leadership is based out of the capital, Dunmore, but a local adjunct oversees the operation from Alnwich. This adjunct has Rank 4 and is currently Lord Thurlow, who regularly hires adventurers to guard caravans, patrol local hinterlands for bandits, and curb smuggling and other illegal activities.

The RMS has several buildings in Alnwich, the largest of which is its trading house on Market Square. It also has several warehouses, a lavish guild hall with rooms for build members and space for meetings and offices, stables, and a barracks for their retained soldiers. All of their buildings are guarded around the clock, which occupies most of the soldiery’s time, and social events are often held in the guild hall to build and maintain relations with the local nobility.

Friday, October 5, 2018


A general purpose pony, like a rouncy, but smaller. These see wide use throughout the countryside and are only surpassed in ubiquity by sumpters. Screwbalds weigh about 670 lbs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Lay of the Land

Today I will give a brief overview of the lands surrounding the Trollenmere, the kingdom in which it is located, and the greater world beyond, as they all currently exist. I doubt this will be their final form, but it is a good start. A glossary of the names and places can be found here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Glossary of Places

What follows is a glossary of places near Alnwich. I will expand and refer to this in future posts so I can being using proper names for geography, locations, and peoples.

Alnwich. A town on the northern coast of the Trollenmere and the primary settlement in the region. It is the seat of Northmarch and westernmost settlement in the northern reaches. It is generally considered the last civilized resting place before entering the Wilderlands.

Arafon. A major river that runs from the Skaldafoll to the Black Sea in the south.

Arnath. The kingdom that controls most of the Planes of Arnath.

Black Sea. A large sea that connects to the ocean in the south.

Dunmire. A large stretch of fens on the southern shore of the Trollenmere. It is nestled within the Dunweald with the Finwold to the south.

Dunmore The capital of Usk and seat of the monarch. It is situated on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Usk and Arafon.

Dunweald. A large boreal forest that stretches from the Skaldafoll to the Planes of Arnath and from the Arafon in the east into the Wilderlands.

Elkshaw. The forest to the east of Alnwich along the road to the headwaters of the Mossbeck.

Finwold. A branch of the Dunweald abutting the southern edge of Dunmire.

Kalwinberg. The southernmost of the mountain in the Skaldafoll.

Kattaholm. A small island off the southern coast of the Trollenmere and location of Seidrborg. It is named for the vast population of cats in the area.

Mossbeck. A northern tributary of the Arafon whose headwaters are a week’s ride east of Alnwich.

Northmarch. A northwestern territory in the kingdom of Usk whose seat is Alnwich and whose lord is Earl Borg.

Planes of Arnath. The cold grasslands where the Riders of Arnath make their nomadic existence.

River Usk. A major tributary to the Arafon that drains snowmelt from a large portion of the Skaldafoll. Its catchment is known as Usklond.

Seidrborg. Abandoned castle and former school of sorcery located on a small islet on the southern coast of the Trollenmere on Kattaholm.

Silverketh. The northernmost branch of the Dunweald that covers the northern coast of the Trollenmere and climbs the lower slopes of Kalwinberg.

Skaldafjoll. A range of mountains known for their pervasive fog. It stretches from Kalwinberg in the south to Vitrdauth, the snowy wastes where far to the north where no man can survive.

Thanras. Ancient city upon which an unfathomable doom fell in times long past. It now lies abandoned on the southern coast of the Trollenmere near Seidrborg.

Trollenmere. A large, crescent-shaped glacial lake with no rivers flowing into or out of it. It wraps along the base of Kalwinberg.

Usk. The kingdom in which Northmarch and, by extent, Alnwich can be found. It spans the catchment for the northern reaches of the Arafon and the River Usk and claims the western Skaldafoll, as well.

Usklond. The catchment of the Rifer Usk. The people of Usklond call themselves Uskings, but outsiders oft as not call them Usklonders or Uskers.

Vitrdauth. The frozen wastes of the Far North beyond any civilization or protecting mountain where nothing survives.

Wilderlands. The lands beyond the edge of civilization.