The Alexandrian

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Go to Part 1

Banksy - Mona Rocket Lisa

Another resolution convention which GMs habitually fall into without really consciously thinking about it is the belief that every action needs to be resolved in a single check.

This is not universally true, of course. Combat is an obvious counterexample. And, indeed, it’s often intuitively understood that actions taken in the physical realm should be broken down into discrete steps: You can’t walk through a locked door until you figure out how to open it. If you want to shoot a rocket launcher from a sniper perch at the top of a cliff, you first have to climb the cliff.

These techniques, however, can be fruitfully applied in a much wider capacity. When we fail to recognize that, we end up robbing our gaming experiences of the depth they could possess. And, in some cases, we end up struggling with action resolutions which should be relatively straightforward to adjudicate.

MULTI-STEP ACTION RESOLUTION

Before we delve into how a multi-step resolution can be designed by the GM, let’s first consider a few ways in which multi-step resolutions can organically arise during play.

The first, and perhaps most straightforward method, is an incomplete declaration of method. To take one of our earlier examples, a player declares that they want to climb to the top of a cliff. That action is resolved. Then they declare that they want to shoot someone from the sniper perch at the top of the cliff. In this case, the player’s intention was always to take their shot from the sniper’s perch, but they broke that intention down into separate chunks. There is an instinctual understanding that X has to happen before Y.

Second, a multi-step resolution can also be the result of a partial success or failure: Your intention is to get to the other side of the chasm, but your Jump check was a partial failure and you ended up clinging to the ledge on the far side. Now you’ll have to take another action in order to complete the intention.

The take-away here is that resolutions which are potentially multi-step can be of a variable length and, in some cases, will even collapse down into a single step. (To invert the example, you might think that someone would need to leap across the crevasse, grab the edge, and then haul themselves up. But then they roll an extraordinary success and that multi-step resolution conflates down to a single leap that carries them all the way across.

Finally, there’s action economy. Multi-step action resolutions often crop up in combat, for example, because there’s a hard limit to how much you can accomplish on any given turn: “I will go here this round so that I can go over there next time.”

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Decoy in the Throne RoomLooking at these organic examples, we see that they tend to break down into a pattern of X then Y then Z – i.e., X needs to happen before Y can happen. This is similar to the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The landing party needs to successfully make a hyperspace approach to the planet before they can deactivate the shields, and they need to deactivate the shields before the Resistance can attack with their X-Wings.

But another option is for multiple requirements to be met before you can attempt a subsequent action – X, Y, and Z all need to be accomplished before you can do A. This is, roughly speaking, what happens at the end of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: Amidala needs to capture the Viceroy, the Jedi need to defeat Darth Maul, and Anakin needs to destroy the droid control ship before the Trade Federation can be forced to negotiate a new treaty.

The other thing to notice is that this can become very fractal: It takes X, Y, and Z to accomplish your goal, but accomplishing X means doing A, B, and C first.

THE PATH OF MEANINGFUL CHOICES

Now, let’s turn our attention away from multi-step resolutions that emerge organically and instead look at how the GM can deliberately choose to resolve an action through multiple steps. When should you do it? Why are you doing it? How many steps do you break the action into?

One way of looking at this is what the Angry DM refers to as a visible benchmark: When you’ve completed one step of the multi-step resolution process, there should be a clear benchmark representing progress towards the goal. For example, imagine a generic scenario in which a PC is picking the lock on a door and the GM decides to resolve it as a sequence of three Lockpicking checks. After the first check has been completed, the GM says, “Do you want to continue picking the lock?”

That’s nonsense. Why is the GM asking that question? It’s meaningless. And you can imagine similarly meaningless interactions: “You’ve convinced him a little more.” “You’ve driven a couple more blocks towards your appointment, do you want to keep driving?” “You continue following the tracks.”

If we look back at our organic examples, we can see how they naturally include visible benchmarks: Once you’ve climbed the cliff, you’re no longer at the bottom of the cliff. After your leap across the chasm comes up short, you are now clinging to the opposite side (giving you different options than you had before). If you attack someone in combat the question could easily be, “Do you want to keep attacking him?” but if you succeed on the attack then you’ve dealt them damage and if your attack failed then you’ve afforded them an additional opportunity to attack you.

Coming back to our meaningless examples, we can also add visible benchmarks to them: For example, you might model picking the lock on a door as requiring three checks in order to determine how long it takes them to get the door open, measuring that against either a hard deadline (there’s a guard coming around the corner) or a fluid one (combat is raging around them and every extra round it takes them to open the door is another round their comrades have to hold off the orcs).

The vast majority of the time, these benchmarks should be visible to the characters, but there may be some instances – like the approaching guard – where the benchmark is meaningful in the game world without the characters (or possibly even the players) being aware of why.

In fact, we can probably generalize this concept of “visible benchmark” to “meaningful consequence”: Each step of a multi-step resolution should have a meaningful consequence. (And it should preferably be meaningful whether the resolution of that step is a success or a failure, for the same reason that this is the gatekeeper for single-step action resolution. And this often means returning to our familiar friend, the meaningful choice.

In other words, if you look at the totality of an action resolution and you break it apart at each moment in which there is either a meaningful choice or a meaningful consequence… those end up being the individual steps of the multi-step resolution.

VECTORS

Another way of looking at multi-step action resolution is what Technoir refers to as vectors. To paraphrase from the game, you have a clear vector to your objective when:

  • The player’s description of the action is feasible.
  • There is a clear path for the action. There are no obstacles the character must surmount first.
  • The objective is a logical consequence of the action described.

Technoir - Jeremy KellerA vector is, in short, another name for a method, but imbued with the conceptual idea of a straight line: Look at where the vector is being aimed. If it can’t hit what it’s being aimed at (because there’s an obstacle in the way), then you’ll first need to identify a vector which will put you into a position where you can hit what you’re aiming for.

This process can be almost absurdly obvious when you apply the thinking to a physical objective. For example:

  • You want to go into a room, but the door is shut.
  • You want to open the door, but the door is locked.
  • You want to pick the lock.

LOCK → DOOR → ROOM

But once you understand the basic concept of vectors, the same logic can be fruitfully applied to more abstract situations. They’re great for modeling social encounters, for example:

  • You want to convince the rep from LVC (Lunar Venture Capitalists) to fund your zero-point energy generator, but you need to convince him it’s profitable.
  • You want to convince him it’s profitable, but you need to convince him it works first.
  • You want to use your scientific presentation to show him it works, but he’s busy and is brushing you off.
  • You want to fast talk him into listening to you.

FAST TALK → PRESENTATION → PROFIT → FUNDING

And although these examples have their vectors drawn backwards from the goal (I want to take my shot at X, where can I see X from?), it can be equally useful to draw vectors from the opposite direction (particularly for GMs designing a multi-step resolution). Take a research test to discover information on the Serpent Crowns of Valusia for example:

  • A web search doesn’t reveal much, but does tell you that there may be more information in H.L. Menckel’s Beneath the Waves: Arcane Archaeology of the Mediterranean, a rare volume.
  • Additional research at the local college library indicates that the only known copy of the book was recently purchased at auction by Johnny Marcone.
  • A networking test reveals that Marcone frequents the Velvet Room.
  • A seduction roll gets you past the bouncers at the front door.

And so forth.

HOT-SWAPPING VECTORS

One of the major conceptual advantages of this approach is that you can easily hot-swap vectors: Instead of picking the lock, you can seduce the concierge to give you the key. Or pickpocket the master key off the bellhop. Or break the door down.

SEDUCE → DOOR → ROOM

PICKPOCKET → DOOR → ROOM

BREAK → DOOR → ROOM

Alternatively, instead of going through the door, you could climb through the window. Or break through the wall. Or teleport inside.

Of course, this also works great with non-physical vectors: You can get the LVC rep to talk to you by fast talking him. Impressing him with your past accomplishments. Seducing him. Using a display of your zero-point energy device to amaze him.

I find this concept of “hot-swapping” incredibly useful: It allows the GM to construct a framework for resolving complex, multi-step sequences without constraining the options of the players. It keeps your adjudication flexible and loose, allowing player creativity to flow through the structure.

Correctly interpreted, it also shows that the distinction between “organic” multi-step actions and GM determined multi-step actions is, in many ways, a purely arbitrary one. The “organic” examples are simply those where the GM and/or the players instinctively see the vectors involved, whereas the “determined” actions are simply those where they need to think about it. Over time, and with practice, more and more of these interactions are likely to become instinctual and second nature.

BREAKING VECTORS

In general, a vector should terminate at the point from which the next vector is being launched (i.e., the point at which the action changes direction). If you finish resolving a vector and the next vector is pointing in the exact same direction, you’re generally left with one of those meaningless questions we talked about earlier. (“Do you want to keep picking the lock?”)

Partial successes and failures, however, can often be expressed as broken vectors: You were running towards point X, but you slipped and you fell. Or something blindsided you. Or you smashed into an invisible wall (or other obstacle you were unaware of). In some cases, these broken vectors will create obstacles which will force the creation of new vectors to route around them, but in many cases they’ll be transitory delays after which the character can point themselves back in their original direction.

For example, let’s go back to that locked room:

LOCK → DOOR → ROOM

On a partial success, the character picks the lock to the door but is spotted by a security guard. This inserts a new vector, after which they resume their original trajectory:

LOCK → FAST TALK GUARD → DOOR → ROOM

Broken vectors can also be found in situations of endurance. For example, if a character is trying to hold a door shut while a werewolf pounds on it from the other side, they can end up with a vector that looks like this:

HOLD DOOR → HOLD DOOR → HOLD DOOR → HOLD DOOR

Probably repeating the same check over and over again from one round to the next while their friends desperately try to figure out an escape route.

You can see a similar pattern in what I refer to as operatic actions for purely idiosyncratic reasons (because I perceive a pattern in opera music where emotional crescendos are achieved through a series of cyclical builds in the power of the music). I also see this pattern a lot in anime or manga, where a character has to build up power over time and the longer they can sustain that build the more effective the result. (A more mundane example might be convincing members of the jury.)

However, now that we’ve talked about how to break an action resolution down into multiple parts, let’s do the exact opposite…

Go to Part 8

GM Screen @ The Alexandrian

The use of a GM screen can be a surprisingly contentious subject in the running of a roleplaying game. The critics consider them superfluous at best or intrinsically damaging to the dynamic of the game (due to inducing issues of trust and social separation) at worst. But I, personally, find them valuable more often than not, and I’d like to share my thoughts on how they can be used to best effect.

First, I don’t like the older style of portrait-oriented screens. Their height does, in my opinion, create an unnatural barrier between the GM and the players. They feel like a giant wall, cutting off the natural expression of body language.

Landscape-oriented screens, on the other hand, don’t have that problem. As the GM, I can see everything that’s happening on the table and the players can freely see my body language. As long as you’re playing with a table surface, there’s no meaningful disadvantage to the use of the screen and, in my experience, there are two significant advantages.

SIGHT LINE OBSTRUCTION

The most basic function of the screen is to block the player’s line of sight to my notes and maps. This is important to me not because I think my players are horrible cheaters who are trying to peek at my notes; it’s because I consider it a common courtesy. If I’m inviting people over to watch a movie, I don’t hang a poster with spoilers for the movie next to the TV screen and ask them to avert their eyes from it.

The same principle applies here. In fact, rather than inhibiting a personal connection between me and the players, I often find that a landscape screen enhances it: When you don’t obstruct your maps and such, players will often avert their eyes from your end of the table in order to avoid glancing at them.

VERTICAL REFERENCE

I’m a pretty huge of advocate of being able to simultaneously display multiple pieces of information in order to facilitate rapid referencing and cross-referencing while running the game. (This is also why I don’t like running games from a laptop: The search functionality can be useful, but being able to only look at one page of information at a time while GMing is like trying to run a marathon with your legs tied behind your back.)

Therefore, being able to position reference material in a vertical place (so that it doesn’t take up surface space) is, in my opinion, insanely useful. In addition, positioning persistent reference material for the system and/or game world on the screen creates a consistent spatial familiarity that makes referencing that material faster and more efficient. (Instead of figuring out where the cheat sheet packet is currently lying on the table, picking it up, and flipping through it, I instead know that I can reach out to my right, flip up a piece of paper, and look directly at the skill difficulty guidelines. After just a couple of sessions, I basically don’t even have to think about it any more. It becomes autonomic.)

My typical table arrangement when GMing is:

  • A customizable, landscape GM screen with four panels of information.
  • 2-3 pieces of paper displayed behind the screen.
  • One or more TV trays to my left side, which I use to hold my rulebooks and also display 4-6 additional sheets of information (which often includes one or more rulebooks flipped open to the appropriate page reference).

Without the GM screen, my quick reference material not only becomes less efficient, it also begins encroaching into the space I use for other reference material. This becomes a cascading problem, as useful resources get bumped out of circulation. With less information at my fingertips, it becomes more difficult to run complicated, interconnected scenarios.

MAKING THE SCREEN

GM Screen @ The Alexandrian

As useful as the reference material on a GM screen can be, the sad reality is that most published GM screens feature a lot of non-essential information while not including material that would actually be useful when running the game. As a result, I use a modular, customizable landscape (like the ones you can buy here or here).

IMAGES: Buying the PDF version of an official landscape screen is often a good way to stock the player-facing side of your screen. But in an era of Google Image Search, the whole world of art and photography is your playground.

Personally, I tend to avoid trying to find single mural-style images that will go across the entire breadth of the screen. Finding multiple images to make up a polyptych is easier, and it also gives you the opportunity to highlight multiple facets of the game / world / campaign. I also recommend finding images that depict things the PCs could theoretically see, rather than images of main characters who aren’t the PCs doing awesome things. (It’s more immersive and suggestive of the game world that way, while allowing the table to remain focused on the narrative you’re creating instead of some other narrative that’s being depicted.)

(In the past I’ve also played with stocking the player-facing side of the screen with player-relevant reference material. But I’ve found that reading the material at any meaningful distance is usually difficult and, for players (who usually juggle less reference material), it’s easier to just use cheat sheet packets. Your mileage may vary.)

REFERENCE MATERIAL: I design System Cheat Sheets for many of the RPGs I run, particularly those featuring complicated mechanics. These reference sheets can then be conveniently slid into the modular screen.

A major conceptual breakthrough for me was the Hackmaster GameMaster’s Shield, which included flip-up panels:

Hackmaster GameMaster's Shield - KenzerCo

Copying this same technique, I now use reverse-duplex printing to create sheets that I can tape together and flip up to reveal additional information behind them. This allows me to easily put 12 landscape-formatted sheets within easy reach. (And there’s no reason I couldn’t expand that to a third layer of information to give me 20 sheets, although I haven’t actually found a game so complicated that I would need to do that yet.)

Wizards of the Coast has finally made the PDFs for OD&D available again! For those unfamiliar with the evolution of D&D throughout the years, check out A Nomenclature of D&D Editions. (Which is somewhat out of date at this juncture, but should more than suffice for the current topic.)

If you’re a newer reader here at the Alexandrian, you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. The short version is that exploring the strange nuances of OD&D proved to be an incredibly insightful journey for me, most notably culminating in my understanding of the importance of an Open Gaming Table for roleplaying games. I wrote a number of short articles here at the Alexandrian about my reactions, and if you’d be interested in visiting (or revisiting) those thoughts here are some quick links to explore:

Reactions to OD&D
The Ur-Game
Thinking About Morale
OD&D in the Caverns of Thracia
Ranged Combat
Prime Requisites
The Scope of the Game
OD&D Character Sheets
Gygaxian Rulebooks
Experience Points
Encounter Probability
Size Does Matter?
Turns, Rounds, and Segments… Oh My!
Bachelor Party OD&D
(Re-)Running the Megadungeon
The Intemperate Jungle
My Favorite Character Sheet
Keep on the Borderlands – Factions in the Dungeon
Treasures Maps & The Unknown: Goals in the Megadungeon
Wandering Adventures
Interesting Facts About the Blood Shield Bandits
Untested: Reserve Items
Vampires as Lycanthropes
Untested: At Death’s Door
The Ruined Temple of Illhan
The Subtle Shifts in Play
Turn Undead in Blackmoor

You might also find these interesting:

Gary Gygax’s House Rules for OD&D
Justin’s House Rules for OD&D

The Tomb of Horrors - Gary GygaxJohn Wick has written an article describing the Tomb of Horrors as the Worst Adventure of All Times. Personally, I disagree. Although back in 1999 I wrote a review of the Tomb which was critical of its many flaws and shortcomings (particularly by modern standards), even then I wrote that the module tantalized me “because it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do”. My interest in the module eventually culminated in 2005 when I wrote a 3.5 adaptation which sought to make the module more usable by presenting it in a format easier for DMs to use (while also clearing up some of the design flaws). The result has been a really great one-shot scenario that has provided nearly a dozen different groups with some incredibly memorable experiences.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, and if John Wick considers it to be the “Worst Adventure of All Times”, that’s certainly a thing he’s allowed to think. I can’t object to that.

But you know what you’re NOT entitled to? Your own facts.

So what I do object to is the fact that Wick’s article is filled with the most ridiculous lies about the Tomb of Horrors.

SPOILERS FOR THE TOMB OF HORRORS

My players picked the entrance with the long corridor rather than the two other entrances which are instant kills.

No they’re not. Lots of things in the Tomb that will instantly kill you, these two things explicitly are not that.

The devil’s face has an open mouth just big enough for someone to fit inside. The booklet told me to say that.

It does not tell you say that.

Told me to encourage players to climb in.

Bullshit. In fact, the module tells you to do exactly the opposite. It tells the DM specifically NOT to give helpful hints or mislead players into taking certain courses of action.

The actual text from the adventure:

The mouth of the green devil’s face is the equivalent of a fixed sphere of annihilation. Anyone who passes through the devil’s mouth appears to simply vanish into the darkness but they are completely destroyed with no chance to resist.

That is not actual text from the adventure. I actually made a point of going through every version of the Tomb of Horrors that I own (and I’m pretty sure I own all of them) to make sure that Wick hadn’t just accidentally grabbed a quote from the wrong version of the adventure. This text doesn’t appear in any of them. As far as I (or Google) can tell, Wick just made this up out of whole cloth.

(This is also where I went from scratching my head about Wick getting his facts wrong to deciding that I was going to write this exposé. Because there’s no way that you just accidentally make up an imaginary quote. That signals that you’re deliberately lying.)

If we walk down that corridor and try to open one of the two doors, a stone wall drops down, trapping us in. The walls then collapse on us, crushing us.

The fact that the stone wall doesn’t drop down but instead comes in from the side of the passage is a largely inconsequential inaccuracy. But the entire second sentence is a lie.

I didn’t tell them about the secret passage at the bottom of the pit at the very beginning that allows you to skip a third of the dungeon because it isn’t a trap, but it’s there anyway, and you should find it and save yourself the trouble of trudging through a third of this worthless, piece of shit adventure.

Taking that secret passage doesn’t “skip a third of the dungeon”. It actually leads you into a dangerous combat and then a series of painful traps before dumping you out in the exact same location that you’ll end up if you puzzle out the correct exit from that room.

If you do finish the adventure, to prove the whole thing is nothing more than a way for a sadistic prick to get his jollies off, as a final “FU” from Gary, the treasure in the lich’s tomb is cursed.

Sort of true, but not really. While the final treasure does include three cursed weapons, the vast majority of the treasure is not cursed.

After repeatedly telling bafflingly unnecessary lies about what the text of the module actually says, Wick then tells us a couple of stories about his experiences with the module: The first is about how he ran the module for friends in grade school, one of them beat him up for killing them, and then they ostracized him for an entire year. The second is about how he joined a convention game of the scenario many decades later, watched the other players kill themselves, and then had his character take their stuff, leave the dungeon, and retire on the proceeds from selling it.

Those stories could be true. Unlike all the bizarre lies he chooses to tell about easily verifiable facts, I have no way of fact-checking his personal anecdotes.

But you know what?

I don’t believe him.

Go to Part 1

LABORATORY #24: WHITE DRAGON CASSANDRA

Lost Laboratories of Arn - Map Courtesy of Dyson Logos

This area is inhabited by the white wyrm Cassandra. She betrayed the Arn, but a sorcerer named Sargas stole her blue key, stranding her here. She will be instantly enraged by anyone with a Sorcerous Brand of Arn, but might be willing to negotiate with others if they can release her. She knows the entire blue network of teleportals.

AREA A – CAVERN OF ICE: All of the caverns are coated in ice. This is where Cassandra primarily lairs (75%). She will crawl up the icy walls, skittering here and there with seemingly impossible speed.

AREA B – CASSANDRA’S HORDE: Cassandra is here 25% of the time.

  • Coins: 12,880 sp, 4,320 gp, 106 pp
  • Gems/Jewelry: banded agate (10 gp), tourmaline (60 gp), silver pearl (130 gp), violet garnet (430 gp), silver anklet (30 gp), crystal bowl and pitcher (300 each), mithral wind chime (400 gp), silver broach inscribed “Tauros of Minoc” (800 gp), holy vestments of samite bearing the holy symbol of Vehthyl (1,000 gp), golden pendant with ruby (1,700 gp)
  • Items: divine scroll (bull’s strength), arcane scroll (unseen servant, spectral hands), arcane scroll (burning hands, disguise self, minor image), arcane scroll (suggestion, tongues), potion of levitate, potion of resist energy (fire), +1 short sword, wand of magic missiles (5th level caster, 34 charges), +1 frost longsword

AREA C – CASSANDRA’S EGGS: 6 white dragon eggs, worth 2,000 gp each. Bitter cold to the touch.

  • Freezing Zone: All of the small caverns in this area are artificially cold, inflicting 1d6 points of cold damage per round (Fort DC 20 negates).

AREA D – TELEPORTALS:

  • D1: Teleportal to area 23.
  • D2: Teleportal to area 25.
  • D3: Teleportal to area 21.

CASSANDRA – ADULT WHITE DRAGON (CR 10+2*): LE Large Dragon
DETECTION – blindsense 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., low-light vision, Listen +10, Spot +10; Init +0; Aura frightful presence; Languages Common, Draconic, Elven
DEFENSES AC 26 (-1 size, +17 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 26; hp 576 (18d12+72); DR 5/magic; Immune cold, paralysis, sleep; Resist spell 18; Vulnerable fire
ACTIONSSpd 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor); Melee bite +24 (2d6+6), 2 claws +18 (1d8+3), 2 wings +18 (1d6+3), and tail slap +18 (1d8+9); Ranged +17; Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with bite); Base Atk +18, Grapple +28; SA breath weapon, spells; Combat Feats: Blind-Fight, Cleave, Flyby Attack, Hover, Power Attack, Snatch
SQ blindsense 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., frightful presence, icewalking, spell resistance 18
STR 23, DEX 10, CON 19, INT 18, WIS 11, CHA 12
FORT +15, REF +11, WILL +11
FEATS: Alertness, Blind-Fight, Cleave, Flyby Attack, Hover, Power Attack, Snatch, Weapon Focus (bite)
SKILLS: Appraise +9, Bluff +8, Concentration +11, Diplomacy +8, Fly +7, Intimidate +11, Jump +14, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (the planes) +7, Perception +10, Search +9, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +14, Stealth +1

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6)
3/day—fog cloud, gust of wind

Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 1)
1st (4/day, DC 14)—obscuring mist, bless, entropic shield, shield of faith
0th (5/day, DC 13)—create water, detect magic, detect poison, guidance, light

Breath Weapon (Su): 6d6 cold (Reflex DC 23, half damage), recharge in 1d4 rounds

Frightful Presence (Su): 180 ft. radius, 18 HD or less, Will save (DC 20) or shaken for 4d6 rounds

Icewalking (Ex): Like spider climb on icy surfaces.

*Potentate.


LABORATORY #25: THE LESSER TOMB

Swastika-shaped halls (inverted compared to Laboratory #17). The walls are undulated in irregular wave patterns. There is a large sarcophagus of iron at the center of the swastika.

SARCOPHAGUS: Bears the appearance of a man armored in ornate plate with a crystal ball clutched in his hands.

  • Trap: The sarcophagus is filled with burnt othur fumes (Inhaled DC 18, 1 Con drain/3d6 Con), Search DC 16 (pneumatic mucus seal), Disable Device DC 24 (need something to vent the fumes into)
  • Corpse: The corpse wears technomantic animated armor; a high metal collar is plugged into the desiccated corpse’s head.
  • Potion: In the corpse’s hands is a stoppered vial filled with an oily green paste. Anyone who slathers this paste into their eyes and ears will enter a delirious fugue for nine hours, during which time they will commune with the Demon Gods. At the end of this time, they must make a Fortitude save (DC 32) to avoid blindness and deafness and a Will save (DC 25) to avoid insanity.
  • Alchemy/Spellcraft (DC 25): To conclude how the paste is to be applied (based on bio-magical catalysts), but there’s no way to determine what it actually does short of divination.

POWER LEAK: The magicks worked in this hall have been damaged, resulting in a slow arcane power leak. Once per minute, arcane spellcasters must make a Will save (DC 20) or lose a random spell of the highest level they have prepared. Characters with magical equipment must make a similar save or one of their magical items loses +1 or a random ability. It requires a Spot check (DC 24, -1 per failure) to notice what’s happening. (The leak is a temporary draining of magical potential and equipment abilities return at a rate of +1 or one ability every 24 hours.)

TELEPORTALS: Located in each end of the swastika. Non-operational red, two operational blue, and a black.

  • Black Teleportal: No key for this teleportal can be found in the current network. (If it could somehow be activated, it would lead to a different network of laboratories not on the map.)

TECHNOMANTIC ANIMATED ARMOR

Animated armor resembles plate armor, but it is covered in moving iron bars, some gearlike apparatus, and even tough, resilient tubing. All the plates and pieces of the armor share sturdy joints and connections so that, once the wearer has donned the suit, it is more like an outer shell than armor. The wearer must attach her headclamp inside the helmet of the animated armor. Without a headclamp, this armor functions as normal plate armor, except that it weighs more. The devices attached to the armor allow it to move under its own power, as directed by the wearer. Thus, it adds its strength to the wearer’s, granting a +4 enhancement bonus to her Strength score. Further, because the armor can walk and run for the wearer, she can move twice the distance she normally could travel before facing fatigue. It provides an armor bonus of +9, has a maximum maximum Dexterity of +2, an armor check penalty of –2, and an arcane spell failure chance of 40 percent.

Headclamp activation; Craft DC 42; Price 20,000 gp; Weight 80 lbs.

Headclamp: A chaos surgeon inserts this small deviceinto the temple of a living creature, or otherwise near the brain. The living portions of the device instantly heal thesurgical wound, then extend tiny filaments into the host’s brain while keeping a small circular opening available on the outside of the head. Numerous non-intrinsic chaositech devices have tubes or other extensions that attach to this opening and clamp into place. This connection allows a device to receive mental commands or to transfer information directly into the host’s brain. The headclamp has no intrinsic abilities or benefits. A host can have no more than two headclamps. Should someone attack a headclamp cord, it has an Armor Class of 14 + the host’s Dexterity bonus. The DM may also grant the cord any of the host’s dodge, deflection, or other Armor Class modifiers, but not armor bonuses, unless the headclamp is a part of the armor (as with animated armor). The cord has a hardness of 1 and 5 hit points. Headclamp cords are fairly easy to repair (Craft (chaotic technomancy) DC 18), but a device that requires the connection cannot function until the broken cord is repaired. One can pull a cord out of a headclamp with a Strength check (DC 8).

Chaos Surgery DC 22; Procedure Time one hour; Recovery Period one day; Price 10,000


LABORATORY #26: THE THRONE

A broad, circular chamber of dark, silver-grey stone. There are three teleportals around the periphery of the room. On a throne of black stone in the center of the room is draped a mass of purple putrescence.

PURPLE PUTRESCENCE: If approached, the purple putrescence will suddenly rear up, revealing a horribly bloated and deformed face. It wants nothing more than death after long centuries of decayed existence. “Kill me…” (But its body will fight to the death out of pure instinct.)

THRONE:

  • Search (DC 22): The throne can be pushed back, revealing a vertical tunnel of stone with a ladder of mithril. Climbing down the ladder has the effect of a permanent rope trick, emerging onto a stone table in the middle of a stone circle near Oakhill in the Borderlands.
  • Search (DC 28): Compartment on the back of the throne contains a RED KEY and a bejeweled crown (worth 10,000 gp).

PURPLE PUTRESCENCE (CR 11): 137 hp (15d8+70), AC 22, slimy protuberance +20/+20 (2d8+7), Save +14, Ability DC 20
Str 17, Dex 10, Con 22, Int 14, Wis 6, Cha 4
Skills: Knowledge (arcana) +20, Perception +14, Spellcraft +20
DR 10/acid or slashing
Regenerate 20 (vulnerable: cold iron)


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