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Ape and Monkey

I hate apes and monkeys, they creep me out. I'm not sure why, but I don't find them cute or funny. I find them oddly disturbing....

Monday, January 23, 2017

Utilizing Insects.

Giant insects are a D&D  stand by. It's hard to find a dungeon that doesn't at least have a few giant beetles spewing toxic fluids around. Admittedly they are one of my own favorite go to monsters.

One thing I think has been slightly overlooked of the the years are the myriad of  real hunting and defensive mechanisms insects employ. If by  making any old insect "giant" it becomes that much more dangerous why not  extrapolate some of their more exotic abilities into the realm of fantasy as well. Now I'm not crazy enough to think I can write about even a small percentage of insects  in this format. Instead I'm going to try and  hit on some of my favorites.

Wasps and Hornets:
I love wasps. Few things interest me more than all the different ways they have found to survive. Aerial hunters extraordinaire it seems that these gals have evolved hundreds of ways to attack and  kill prey.

One thing to think about is wasps are in many cases ambush predators, waiting around in areas where they know prey will be  and striking with surprise. Generally an ambushing wasp will find a perch or a hidden place to hover and wait for prey. For example the  Vespa Bicolor Hornet will sit on pile of  dung waiting for flies it to attract flies. Once the fly get close sounge the  honest strikes snatching them up.

Using that as a template and moving it into the  fantasy realm I could imagine  a breed of  giant paper wasps that use man made mines as shelter. The wasps are golden grey color with a splash of red on their foreheads. Their wings are silky black in color. Their bodies long, with powerful pincers, and  thick legs. The wasps abdomens are almost round, striped black and dull grey-gold. Overall they are about the size of a large dog.

Their  nests are made of digested wood pulp  held together with wasp secretions and mud from the cave floors. The  nests are large, housing 1d12 adult wasps, gray, usually built in dark places, and can easily go unnoticed.
The wasps are attracted to gold. When gold is unearthed or stored in an area, a single wasp will fly to the location and land in the darkest corner of the  room. When  living creatures are around the wasp will wait until one is quite close (Moderate difficulty to detect the wasp) then fly out attacking the target from behind usually aiming at the neck.  If the wasp kill a target they will immediately begin excising hunks of flesh and flying them back to the nest. The wasp will bite twice a round  until A: The target dies. B: The  wasp is reduced to 1/2 hit points at which point it will try to escape.
This type of wasp only stings if cornered or if defending the nest. IN these situations wasps will buzz a target and attempt to jab with it's barb like stinger. The sting does light damage but causes searing pain. The target must make a constitution save. or lose 1d6+4 strength for 5 rounds from the debilitating pain.

Spider hunting Wasps are another interesting take:
     They are a classification of wasps that contains over 200 species which  hunt, and paralyze spiders. Known broadly as spider wasps, they drag the spiders back to their nests and  lay eggs on their paralyzed victims. The larvae once hatched eat spider alive. Horror movie level  insect on arachnid violence.
Ohh god, why did I ever look this up?

Again extrapolating things to the D&D  fantasy level... Giant spiders are a D&D stand by. If there are giant spiders why not giant angry ass wasps that eat them?
A giant-spider wasps nest would be a massively disturbing thing to  run into. Scores of  paralyzed spiders being slowly eaten by giant grubs. Beyond the horrid visual however it's not particularly threatening to your players.

So lets switch it up. How  about the grub uses the giant spider to ACTIVELY feed? The grub latches onto the spider and through chemicals or hunger the arachnid  goes into a hunting frenzy. Feeling no pain and knowing no fear the berserk grub infested spider falls on prey and  attacks until the  target is dead and the spider can feed, giving more  nutrients to the parasitic grub.  Furthermore these grub controlled spiders can  hibernate within the thin mud walls of a nest, waiting to burst fourth when warm blooded prey wonders close enough. Nothing says , "RUN!" like a desiccated  mindlessly attacking giant spider which moves like a stiff marionette.

Another hook for a mid level adventure might involve solitaire "spider " wasps that have adapted to attack other prey. Sheep disappearing with out a trace, or  town guards going missing  with just their helmets left behind could  be a nice set up for a short adventure.

Some Beetle Defenses:

     Blister beetles are cool little buggers when disturbed they secrete a yellow oily substance that not oily burns flesh but is also highly poisonous. So a giant version of this  critter might leave puddles of the juice in it's wake once disturbed. So if there are a bunch of them in a room and a party lumbers in  they could all scurry away  leaving  wide trails of  corrosive poison in their wake effectively making the area where the party is walking much harder to navigate.  A monster that can be used to  complicate the  environment rather than attacking the party directly. Larger beetles mean stronger secretion so any objects that come into contact with the juice should also require a saving throw. Much like a rust monster the parties equipment could be at risk as well as the party members themselves.

The  Bombardier beetle is well known for the nasty, hot, chemical spray  that gives the  beetle it's name. I even found a "giant" version stated out for D20 games.
Out there on the interwebs there is a heated (pun ) argument about whether or not the humble Bombardier beetle should be the poster bug for intelligent design. Some folks say that this bug could never have evolved such a finely tuned chemical defense because precursor beetles would have blown themselves up before the mechanism could have fully evolved. Or else those precursor bugs would have been overly burdened with useless chemical crap in their abdomens, and again never would have survived evolution.
Fine. I'll let more educated people argue about design vs evolution, for my uses they had me at "If it exploded inside, it would blow any Bombardier Beetle to smithereens."

What I would like to see is a queen beetle whose male drones explode if threatened. The party stumbles on  the egg chamber of the beetles burrow and the drones charge exploding one after another in plumes of  superheated hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide. Leaving the  Unlucky party caught in what is effectively a cloudkill spell that has the  duration of 1 minute per beetle. These beetles lay their eggs in damp places, the  eggs if collected by hardy adventurers could be used to start camp  fires , or blow up kobolds.

I will not be sharing any of these pictures  because I regret seeing them in the first place.
I don't suggest it, but you want search "Human Botfly" And see for yourself. Don't blame me for it though.

The  interesting part of this  for  me is that the  fly captures mosquito, attaches their egg to the  mosquito, the egg hatches on the mosquito and  use the mosquito bite as an entry point on some poor person. The  larva then feeds on the  person and develops under their skin, causing a large bump and  all kinds of hideousness.
The fly uses the mosquito as a vector to infect another animal.... (Crazy)
Now I think  giant grub being  inserted into an adventurer by a giant mosquito is cool, but it has been done I'm sure. What about using  other things as unsuspecting vectors?

For example A breed of  spider that lays small web sacks on the ends of mettle objects. If the  spider gets lucky it has found a sword or spear. If it's VERY lucky it's eggs will get stabbed into some unfortunate host where they will grow into  spiderlings and  cause all kinds of  organ failure in a month or so. This kind of thing would have tells. Like a festering wound, swelling, or actual visible spider-lings under the victims skin. A priest could cure disease, a ranger could  identify the  problem, a druid may  be able to use magic or herbalism to cure the poor soul. That character will likely never sleep again.

Another thought for this secondary vector idea is an insect that uses this process to control other
 animals. A Huge water bug that uses expelled Co2 to attract mosquitoes (always the mosquitoes right?) and coats them with chemicals, which make the next mammal they bite become incredibly thirsty.  The thirsty animal seeks water, where the  water bug lies in wait where it will  ambush the victim. Characters could get a save vs the thirst,  where if they pass it they would know something is not right that the thirst is  terrible and far too sudden.

These are just some  quick ideas from some cursory searches about insects and how they hunt, reproduce, and defend themselves.

I'm sure there's an untold number of cool things waiting out there for us when we start digging.
I thing the real take away here is that if you hear something interesting about the natural world, let nature do some of the  work for you. Stretch the concept in your head until it is something that belongs in a fantasy setting. Ideas based even loosely in the real world will ring a bit more true, a bit less strange , so that the real fantastic or strange stuff will stand out that much more.

Thanks for reading ,

(Is that a giant carpenter bee in the side of your ship?)

Spider wasp:

Insect size:

Painful wasp stings...Why you don't ant to get stung by a tarantula hawk? Like you had to ask?

Fucking NOPE..Just No...Some people ...man...
Bombardier beetle
Wikipedia has a list of D&D monsters .... Who knew? Is The giant tick really the grand daddy o fall D&D insects?
Fuck botflys seriously , I'm never going near the equator.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

1d12 Things the Goblins are launching from their slings.

The goblin slingers have quietly emerged from the briers on the far side of the  field. The party, distracted by the writhing wall of spear wielding goblins in front, have not seen the new group, Positioned off to their left flank and slightly to their rear, the  goblins start loading their slings. Each slinger takes aim and hurls their payload at an unsuspecting adventurer before quickly retreating back into the thorny undergrowth.

Roll for sling payload...
  1. Bag of stinging ants: Characters in a three foot area must make a constitution save or succumb to the  pain of ant stings. Resulting in a penalty (disadvantage for 5th ed) on all rolls until the  character takes a round to clear the ants.
  2. Imp: The imp lands among the party screams "For the  resistance" then back stabs a random party member with a poison dagger. 
    1. Poison paralyses
    2. poison sleeps
    3. poison causes  victim to lash out at all nearby targets friend or foe.
    4. poison does extra necrotic damage
    5. Poison causes vomiting and the character must pass a con save each round to act.
  3. Smoke bombs: Causes vision reduction, smells like sulfur. Other goblins will retreat from the smoke. The smoke is used to attract a larger ally who will see the  smoke from a distance.
    1. Ogre hiding nearby
    2. A local minor demon who hires goblins and sometimes eats adventures.
    3. A young dragon circling overhead
    4. A smoke elemental
    5. A Nearby, much larger goblin  force, complete with goblin bag pipers.
    6. A treant who thinks the smoke s from irresponsibly managed camp fires.
  4. Blobs of molten lead. FUN.
  5. Large mud wasp nests. The slingers wear net outfits, because these nasty wasps will plant eggs in any thing they sting the  resulting larva will slowly  do damage over time before erupting from the  host as a fresh new wasp in about a weak.
  6. Small thin clay pots filled with very pure grain alcohol, Followed next round by hot coals.
  7. Mushrooms that explode into clouds of spores. Breathing the  spores cause choking exactly as a "Stinking Cloud" spell effect.
  8. Small glass jars containing Rot Grubs.
  9. Pixies in  wicker cages. They are good creatures, however once released they will be the  most annoying companions ever. Chattering, giggling, playing pranks, casting fairy fire on every thing, Little winged balls of chaos.
  10. Digger Grubs: These short, fat, stubby grubs hit the  ground and instinctively dig into the earth. The goblins throw them in great numbers and while they don't directly do any harm The overall effect is to make the  ground under the  targets feet soft and unstable. The  Targets will have to make Dexterity checks or stumble about. 
  11. Pheromones: This will attract the aggressive or amorus attention of wild beasts from a great distance.
    1. Bears
    2. Wolves
    3. Weasels
    4. Rats
    5. Orcs
    6. Giant Beatles
  12. Sling stones coated in a indelible ink that marks characters wounds with a bright blue tattoo like dye. The dye marks the characters as goblin foes and  until magically removed will incite the ire of any green skin or  green skin ally encountered.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Some Great RPG links that are not really RPG links.

I would like to share some links and  a few other things that have been giving me inspiration lately.
Just some of the things I have read on the web to riff ideas off of.
I read a lot of strange things out on the Internet while working on game  ideas... why not share the madness.

Here is a an excellent  decaying architecture Flickr account.

here are some links to geological maps from around the country.
USGS map view map data base for you geological types.

Why New York?  cause I live here.
New York sate Geological survey site.

Sort of an RPG link nice looking dice.
Artisan Dice

I find this subject super interesting.
Prehistoric mining , which is a good read in it's own right , has a great reference section.
Trade routes between Asia and Europe in antiquity,  from the met

Maps of mines:
real mine maps form Pennsylvanian, it's honestly kind of mind blowing
A ton more of that kind of thing, mine maps from all over The United States.
Ancient mines in grease
Ancient mines and trenches ...Great pictures here,

Erowids documenting the  relationship between plants humans and psychoactive... great resource if you have a druid in the party,

Great surveys of Egyptian tombs. It's like free 3D RPG maps.
Theban Mapping Project.

Masks of the  world, you can find an idea for  a shaman, a monster, a magic item, it's all so visually amazing a GM can't help but find something usable.
Masks of the World

Human population distribution through time. Just how sparse should your 100 AD campaign be?
The interactive map is the  best part of this.
This one is also good
Spatial History Project

some ruins:
Maps of Mayan ruins

Historic England / uk:
Historic England books and images.
A great PDF about medieval English settlements.
How can anyone resist a website named "Old Maps UK"
Keys to the past town info...and more.

arms and Armour
A vast Pintrest on the subject
Art institute of Chicago's collection.
Armor and arms  club Gets right to the point. Offers brief reviews of many books on the subject.
Nicely illustrated PDF on the subject 

Aliens and stuff.
A deep dive into I'm not even sure what.
Because conspiracy theories make great fodder for RPG's

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thoughts and questions on starting setting development.

I have to be honest, and if not here where?
I'm not sure if it's the winter weather, or the holidays. It might be age or it might be frustration over work. I don't know what it is but I have honestly had no interest in running  RPG's in the past two months. I suppose the players in the game I run deserve a better explanation than that one, but I don't have a better reason to offer.

In an effort to get my mojo back I started scribbling in one of my notebooks about a setting. The only rule I gave myself  starting out was "no D&D Fantasy."

A bit on process:
I play video games with my  friends on weeknights. I watch TV with my wife.. I stream videos to my  computer.. It's a lot of empty time. All the while I keep a composition note book, one of those old style black and white jobs on my desk. While nothing else is going on I scribble in any and every game related idea I have. That's my process, as simple as that. when I need something for a game I  open up the  note book and  look for  an idea that fits the bill.

Recently my note-book scribbles have been about settings. starting at first with  D&D flavored with paranormal mystery . Kind of  Ghost adventure-ers.
Then when I decided the mid evil style fantasy isn't the  space I wanted to be in right now I started chopping away at modern myths.

My first question, why  would  "other beings" want to be around us (humanity)?
As a species we do  create a great deal of chaos, a great deal of  psychological static as it were. Rile humans up and we throw off all kinds of frantic energy. Suppose that some  "others" come here because of all that chaotic emotional back ground noise humans generate. What if those "others" come here just to stir up  bad things to create more of that back ground energy, suppose they feed on it.

My second question, why would characters interact with these creatures?
The quick answer is because they can. The characters possess some kind of energy intrinsic to them that allows them to detect and combat these, others.
Perhaps that energy  is what makes the characters exceptional in their normal lives as well. Just a bit more athletic than their peers, or a bit smarter. Talented people, who are in truth channeling dimensional energy with out knowing it. In my head I'm thinking of  characters found in fighting games suddenly dropped into the supermarket. These people stand out, and  are sought by various organisations looking to  stop, combat, exploit, or study  this inter-dimensional phenomenon.

Why  doesn't the military  just gun these "others" back into where ever the fuck they come from?
So I'm thinking the  intrinsic energy  of the characters is the only  way to banish these otherworldly beings. Further more the energy is not transferable , in other words the characters need to make contact with their mysterious foe with either their hands or something held  directly in their hands. In effect we get back to  beating things up with fists, sticks and swords, which is where I want to be.

I made this bullet point list  earlier, shared it with some folks and just kind of left it out there.

Setting idea (Brief)
  • Modern Fantasy, a day from now setting.
  • Some people are exceptional.
  • These people have and are sensitive to a dimensional energy.
  • The energy manifests as the character being talented in their field, but once it is harnessed can be used for more “magical” type effects.
  • This sensitivity causes these people to know when they’re around a pocket dimension, a dimensional being or in an area where the boundaries between dimensions are thin.
    • In resent years our reality has brushed up against a reality whose beings feed off the psychic energy created by humans in stressful of chaotic situations.
    • The dimensional sometimes slip into our world to sow chaos and gain strength form the ensuing emotional energy created.
  • Characters are exceptional humans with the energy that can not only detect dimensional but also banish them.
  • There is an organization dedicated to studying these dimensional events and finding people with the innate talent to help.
  • The characters will be burdened with finding banishing and correcting the work of dimensional beings looking to seed chaos throughout our world.
  • The innate energy in these characters can only be transferred through touch or via objects held by the character, so the only way to defeat a dimensional into get up close and personal.
  • Guns can hurt them physically, but only energy can banish then. Unless a character can somehow imbibe a bullet with their own energy they will never be abler to defeat a dimensional with modern fire arms…….. (finger nail clippings in a shotgun shell perhaps?)
  • The locations are lost lonely abandon places. Closed hospitals, forgotten subway stations, abandon factories. Places a dimensional can roam without being seen until they find a host.
  • Adventures are urban dungeon crawls on the edge of a dark dimension, finding dimensionals, beating them up. mastering the characters innate energy and gathering up alien artifacts.. saving the world from multidimensional chaos and entropy. (RPG stuff, you know)
So now for the question part.
Does this suck 100% or only 75% ?
What system would you use to run something like this in? (my first impulse is to write one, but I 'm not sure I want to get that deep)
What would you add ? (So I can blatantly  steal ideas from people brighter than I am.)

Thanks for reading

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Adventurers between times. (the beginning)

Not for nothing but I haven't run a game since 11/12/16  or so. Being an adult gamer, with work and holidays and all that have meant that our group has just not been available for  around a month. Chances are I'm not going to get another game in for quite a while still. I know what the real life players are doing, I wonder what I should be letting the characters do.

This post is going to touch on things that deserve posts of tier own... Like  talking about  supplementing the hp system with  wounds and recruiting  ship crews. Fact is many  of these subsystems can be found on other blogs. At some point I may revisit this post and flesh out some of the concepts touched on. IN other words this post should be part of a greater series of posts but I'm not sure it will be. At the very least I hope to inspire some ideas for anyone reading, so that they might fill in the blanks in what ever why they see fit.

In our D&D game the characters just solved a literal murder mystery, for cash. The need for cash was brought about by having a 25 person ship's crew to pay every month and a deck  cannon to buy. A couple quick money making side quests were in order, and were arranged. Now that's over and the group has not chosen a path to follow just yet, what are they doing in town?

I would like to have a system for this lost "between" time.

My thought is to give each player 1 action per week of down time, per character.

The amount of down time is to be set each time a game ends with the  logical expectation of the the characters just chilling out for a few days before setting off again. If the expectation is that the next game will pick up chronologically right where the last left off, then none of this is relevant.

Recovery: Each action spent recovering will heal a minor wound.  Moderate wounds take  3 actions. Major wounds are up to the DM/GM. In my game I have no issue at all breaking a character's rib (Or whatever) and making them take penalties that last beyond D&D's panacea, "Long rest." Spending time recovering  mitigates that issue.  Recovering characters are doing just that, nothing else.

Shopping: A character looking for a particular item or quality of item my roll vs that items rarity  once per action spent. The Gm can set item rarity as they see fit for the area the characters are in , but generally common items are 5 or better on a d20. and the difficulty scales up from there. Use this only for items that are not  automatically available, for example  any one can find a blanket in most normal towns. If the  player says they want to find a mink lined blanket  while  holding over in a desert town , then the chances are far lower.  Furthermore some towns just won't have some things. A small town might not have an armorer so finding a suit of mail that can be fitted to a character is just impossible. If there is no one to make an item or import an item feel free to disallow the item.

  • Common item roll 5 or better
  • Hard to find  roll 10 or better
  • Rare item roll 14 or better
  • Common magical item for your setting  15 or better
  • Rare magical item 18 or better.
  • DM might allow modification to this roll based on connections in the city, bartering skill? Intimidation perhaps? Thief characters should be allowed to use skill or proficiency bonuses where other classes might not. Thieves should be better at finding rare things in a urban environment.
  • Keep in mind that some things will just not be available in some places.

Recruitment: Each point spent recruiting henchmen and henchwomen will improve the chance of finding hire quality hirelings. Anyone who has ever been in the position where they do hiring will know that the longer a person looks, the  more applications a person pours over, the better the candidates will be. What the term "quality" means will vary depending on how common the required skill type is in an area, what the players are looking for, and what the players need done.
Finding  people to carry stuff is generally pretty easy. Finding a skilled porter who can not only carry a load, but know what to pack for a trip and help manage the other porters is a lot more difficult. For example the players in my game were recruiting sailors. They left the  job to an experienced sailor they had already hired.. smart move. He recruited almost a full crew but time was short so he got a few bad apples. The next stop was at a very large port city. He began recruiting to fill the final spots on the ship's crew. So far the quality of available sailors has been higher. The only thing which had changed was the presence of a larger pool of sailors to draw from. In other words recruitment quality is based on depth of expertise in an area and time spent. Rolling this over to hiring men at arms to go delving into dangerous places with. A large city perhaps one with a standing garrison of troops will yield better results than a farming village.
In my game the very best hireling fighter a player can hope to find is around 5th level. Those folks don't fall off trees, it will take time (Multiple actions) to get the word out. It will take time for a hireling of greater level to drop whatever it is they are doing and seek out the party. If the party just walks into an inn as yells "Who is up for an expedition!" they might find a few strong arms, but those arms will be attached to 0 level brains. Worse yet the lower level a hireling is the  less tested they are in a fight the more likely they would be to loose morale, break, and flee.
I could and should write a whole  post about NPC recruitment. I have written a few posts about the various problems characters can have with hirelings (Found Under henchman rules, here.)
For this post it is suffice to say  players can spend an action in their down time to  go looking for hired hands, the  more time they spend the  better hired hands they will find.

Roll a die based on the amount of action spent recruiting and the rareity of the  skill set or hireling type sought. All results are subject to what ever game you happen to be running.

Actions spent Low rarity semi rare Med rarity rare very rare
1 1d4 0 0 0 0
2 1d6 1d4 0 0 0
3 1d8 1d6 1d4 0 0
4 1d10 1d8 1d6 1d4 0
5 1d12 1d10 1d8 1d6 1d4
0. This type of hirelings unavailable in this area.
1. low quality almost un-employable many flaws, unreliable, drunkard, liar ect. -1d4 on some attribute or important skill.
2 to 3. Low quality due to a utter lack of experience, cowardice, poor morale -2 on some relevant skill or attribute.
4 to 5. Low quality due to overconfidence, mixed with inexperience. -1 on some  relevant skill or ability.
6 to 7. Average quality hireling following all standard follower rules. Reliability and personality may still be in question.
8 to 9. Average quality  follower with a +1 to some skill or attribute. 
9 to 10. Above average follower with an extra level of experience and a good attitude. Grant a +2 on some ability, attribute or skill. Low level clerics or wizards may only be hired on rolls of 9 or better.
11. A exceptional hire. Skilled, or very experienced. Good morale, and  loyalty to an employer. Either these things are true or you have hired a person with rare skills, such as a competent (d&D level 3) cleric or wizard. + 1d4 to a relevant ability or skill.
12. You have found the perfect fit for what you need. Split a bonus of +5 among skills and abilities relevant to the  parties needs. hirelings up to level 5 may be hired with a recruiting roll this high.

Characters who have investigation , research, arcana or other academic skills can spend time (actions)researching the  parties surroundings and upcoming missions.
A gm can play this as they see fit. I use it as an opportunity to  provide details and adventure hooks for the surrounding areas. Players who roll well for these research actions gain more detail characters who  roll badly. 
For example if the party wizard says he wants to research the surrounding area, and rolls badly I might say "There have been magicians who operated in the area over the years, though as of late there is no great mystical presence."
where as if she roll  well I might say, "Your research tells you there was once a foundry in the nearby  valley that was used to produce weapons. It is said a mage ran the  foundry and  experimented creating  magical  armaments there. The foundry has been abandoned for  many year but the remains of its foundations can still be seen."
one roll yields some general information, the other yields a possible place to explore.

I would allow different classes to research different types of information:

Cleric Religious history , legends
Druid Nearby locations of natural wonder
Monk Word on the street, concerns of common folk
Paladin Tactical lay of the land
Ranger Rumors and news of the country side local monsters
Thief Trade info, underworld rumors
Warrior Ancient military lore battle locations
Wizard Magical history of the area

As you can see giving players the opportunity to  do things between games has a lot of possibilities.
Beyond what I sketched out here I was thinking, Construction tasks for building strong holds. Trade tasks for off loading all of that crap characters find in dungeons. And Social tasks which are location based for each town the characters land in. In my mind when a  group of level 7 characters roll into town and stay for a week, the local nobles are all going to clamor to be the  first to invite them to dine. Players could spend between game actions fulfilling these social obligations (and hopefully gaining info and connections from them) with out having to role play every diner party.

And so on and so forth.

I am sure other DM's out there have done similar things, and used similar systems to get there. Naturally I would love to  read about  those other systems.

As always thank you for reading.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wanted: The active but lesser known RPG Blogs

Here is a question thrown out to the  internet void.

Set up:
I know there are many great RPG blogs out there. A quick Glance at the Dyver's blog "Great blog roll call" from a couple years back will prove that point.
Like many others I have a small blog roll on this blog right over on the left margin. I use other people's blog rolls all the time to find interesting things to read.
One thing I have noticed however is that most of the blog rolls I see look pretty similar to each other.  The same blogs listed over and over. I understand that blogs show up on blog rolls because they are quality, have followings, good reputations, and have earned enough admiration to warrant a blog owners desire to track it's blogs posts. While I enjoy those same blogs, I think I have seen enough  links to Tenkar's Tavern to last me a life time. (Heck, I have one to!)

Here is my question:
Have any of you stumbled on recently started, or very low follower blogs that are kicking out content, but are have not made it into the general community yet?

Those are the blogs I want on my blog roll.
Considering I run a low follower blog myself I want to read and help promote other new or lesser known blogs.

If that's you , or you know of a blog like that let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Here have a hairless cat...Feels like a warm peach...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

State of the Dust Pan 2016 into 2017 edition.

Well here we are 2017.
A constant in RPG blogging that has always amazed is the longevity of other blogs.

This blog had a down year post wise..
My 2017 post count was in the 40's

Down from in the 70's the year before..

Which for the record was down from over 100 the  year before that..

On the  plus side I  broke 100000 page views (As of this writing sitting at 100,158.)
A big thank you to all of the humans who has actually viewed the blog. Which is a debatable thing considering 12k of the views are from the web crawler linked to the Russian equivalent of Google.

The post with the most views from 2016 was "Packing it all away" Which was about how what we play in our formative years can shape what we are comfortable with well beyond that. I was surprised it received as many views as it did.

I think my favorite post of 2016 was "Adventures in the Canopy" A system neutral post about  the myriad of ways characters can die in a jungle. It was may favorite because it was useful and I put a fair amount of effort into it.

MY least popular post of 2016 was, "A quick hitter : Things A Gm can learn from Pro wrestling." This  gem neted all of 60 views.. so I think I will stay away from that subject for a while. I just re read it. It's not a bad post. It's not great either so I guess it deserves this  lowest of the year status.

I feel I put out some good posts this year with less obvious "fluff."  With that said my post count was far lower than it should be  If I expect to have a "successful Blog." (whatever that is.)
When I did this year end round up last year I named the post (Not dead it just smells that way)

Games and where I'm at in the hobby:
In that blog I wrote about  my D&D game being on Hiatus. It has kind of gone back to that same state again. I think it has more to do with everyone being busy this time of year than any other factor. Having the  holidays on weekends this year really mucked things up.
For the record we played about  five times in the past year. The Party continues to  re-energize ley lines and generally cause chaos wherever they roam. Wilhelm the dwarf ended his story and has gone off to find a path in life. The town of Holbek has been left in the rearview for now, as the party has gone from city to city flowing the ley lines.

World Wide Wrestling ended and we never went back to it. It's a fun game finding time to play has been difficult. I received the second book  "International Incident" but have not used the material yet.

Chris is still running stars without numbers just not as often, due to all those scheduling issues listed above. I have missed so many games not I honestly have no idea where we are at. It's unfair to Chris because I know he puts alot into it but that's also just how the cookie crumbled.

We did not kill Krampus this year, which in 2016 seemed fitting.

Current video games:
Unpopular opinion here, I tried Overwatch for a month or two and hated it.
Another unpopular opinion, as a non Star Wars Fan, I really enjoy star wars Battlefront.


This game will get some more attention in the coming months, some sprucing up and  another read through. I guess one of the guys is planning on running a table of it at Gen Con.. Thats awesome. Though I otherwise done with it as a project, having it run at Gen con is motivation enough for me to make it better..

I have  no other projects on the table right now, and am not planning on starting any.

This  Blog:
I don't know, completely up in the  air.

Thanks For Reading.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

though lost eyes, re-discovering a game from my past.

Back when I was in Jr high school I wrote a "RPG" about pro wrestling, which I creatively titled "The wrestling game." I don't remember exactly when. I know it was before High school, before being able to drive, and all the distractions that come from that sort of thing.

We would get together at one of our homes and play D&D, Car wars, Star fleet battles, or whatever was on deck. Since we were relying on rides from others, we would never all arrived at the same time. So I wrote the wrestling game to fill those minutes before the group had fully convened. We played it a few times. I think we enjoyed it. I guess that's when I got the game design bug. I realized I could makes something my friends and I could share and enjoy.

Since then I have always held a soft spot for pro wrestling games. Not that there have been a ton of them, but there have been a few.
Here's a quick list of some of the Wrestling games I've read through in the years since I wrote my own.

  • Squared Circle
  • WWE's Know your role RPG 
  • World wide wrestling:  This happens to be my favorite, due to the authors approach. I have taken heat for that here on the blog before, my opinion is unchanged.
  • Superstar pro wrestling: More of a board game. I have never played the physical game but have had a chance to read the  rules in PDF format. I have fooled around with the Computer version.
  • There was a game named "Ring Master" which used a percentile based system to simulate matches but I simply can't find it a Any more.
  • The WWF adventure game  This is another I never got to play only read.
  • I also did some e-feds and ran my own E-feds on a couple of occasions.
I have tried to keep my ear to the ground in a search for wrestling RPG games. I have even updated my original ideas over the years. Having written a few drafts of  wrestling games with varying degrees of success.

 Recently one of my friends found (A physical copy?) of that old wrestling game from so many years ago. It got me thinking. I have kept a digital copy of the original game since I bought my first pc back in 1993.  I  laboriously transcribed it from the paper copy and saved it as updated file types as I have gotten new technology ever since. It has been sitting on my portable hard drive, with a last opened date of 8/10/2003.

Yesterday I opened it.

As you all know and I am not shy about saying I'm not a good writer. I have no idea what year I last typed up that old wrestling game, but I was a hell of a lot worse back then. To make matters worse I must have opened the original rich text file in MS Word 97, then just saved it. So the  formatting is all buggy. There's not a single line of text longer than seventy characters. The font is  hideous. Funniest to me is that this old document is rather vaingloriously labeled "version 4.5." I have no memory of ever tracking versions of the game, or why I would have.

 I spent a few hours on it this morning. I started going through and correcting the obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes. I worked on fixing some of the formatting.  It's a big pile to dig through.

So what can I learn from my old game design that could help my current gaming?
First of all if it were someone else's work and I read it with my current perspective I would say it's not a role-playing game. It's more like an attempt at genre emulation based on wrestling video games.  There is hardly any attention given to "backstage politics" or the relationships between the wrestlers. The game is about creating a character and beating up other characters.
I must have been reading TSR's "Top Secret" at the time  because the game features attributes with secondary-attributes calculated using those attributes. I would need a calculator to make a character. There is a great deal of fiddly stuff going on.

There's not a lot of fat in the game, everything is directed towards simulating matches. So two players could fight it out and pretty much know the game will deliver a fair match. There is no padding to force a dramatic or "good" wrestling match. A dominant character would smash a weak character given average die rolls. Which is a good emulation of wrestling at the time when the game was written. At that time a viewer would see mostly  "squash matches" with lesser talent getting killed by established stars week after week.

Finally the game was written before the internet, Or at least it was written when the internet was still mostly BBS boards. The  whole game is  devoid of "smart-mark" insider wrestling lingo and "it's still real to me" jokes.

Wrestling was never"real to me." The very first time I ever watched IWCCW wrestling from Texas, with my told me straight out. "It's not real. If they really did that to each other some one would be dead, and they would all be in jail." 
I always knew it was fake but when I wrote that first wrestling game I had no idea how it worked, or how a wrestling promotion functioned behind the curtain. The game reflects that. I didn't know wrestling, I knew matches. The game only does matches. There's absolutely no irony in the game. There is no sense of, "this is a wrestling game and I'm writing it to show you  how smart I am about wrestling." That smarkishness is so prevalent in today's internet culture.

The game simply exists the way  the matches in Nintendo's "pro wrestling" existed. Floating in their own singular bubbles removed from the real world, entrenched in their own reality. A reality where big guys have advantages because the WWE of that era (one could argue still) favored size over pretty much everything else.  And whether or not you can lift your opponent might be the  thing that wins or loses the match for you.

With the internet, wrestling lingo is everywhere, the internal workings so of the publicly traded WWE are written about all over the place. That influence is unavoidable. The world wide wrestling RPG has a section and essays on wrestling and culture. My most recent efforts toward writing a wrestling game focused on the matches being the engine that powers a promotion, competing with other promotions for talent and  resources. The matches are almost secondary to the  wider pro-wrestling  business.  This represents a sea-change in perspective from the time I wrote the original to now. A recognition that my mental focus has as one would expect changed over time. The old game is a wide eyed kid is watching the matches and asking how do these athletes succeed? The new game is looking at it as a business and asking how do all these parts come together to make a successful product?

I guess the big lesson to be had is when working on a project, game adventure what ever. Recognize the effect a persons perspective has on the project focus. Realize that perspective on any given subject might not be 100% under a persons control. The amount of information available, and the amount ambient noise about a subject a person might have absorbed over time can significantly  influence the  focus of a project and the end result. This is true even if the  person working on the project does not intend it to. Games and game designs are o some extent like anything else products of their time, and environment.

So is that old wrestling game of mine any good?
I don't know.
I don't think so, to be honest.

On the other side is original Car wars any good? Is Red Box D&D any good? 
I don't know. Depends who you ask.
Are they fun? Absolutely. I love car wars even if it does take 4 hours to simulate 4 seconds of combat. Red box D&D was my first D&D and of course I love it for that. I know there are people out there who think Red Box D&D is the  ONLY D&D worth playing. I'm sure there is someone who feels Chain-mail was the best game ever written and can see no reason to play any tabletop game written after 1971. Each to their own. As long as a good time is being had, who cares?

Like those other older games it's pure, kind of like a car wars for wrestling. That's what surprised me. I like the  purity of the  whole thing even if the end result is not what I would  look to do today.

Make a character and fight. How could I ever complain about that?

Thanks for reading .

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Random NPC appearance, features, oddities, habits, perhaps some strangeness.

This post is just for fun. Use it at your own risk.

Modern, post apocalypse, undercity dwelling, odd ball NPC's

Chart 1:
NPC is 1d6:
1-2 Male
3-4 Female
5-6 Given their present state and manner of dress it's impossible to tell.

Chart: 2 Stature
Roll 1d6: on a roll of 1 to 4 the person is of average stature on a roll of 5 or 6 roll on the chart below.
  1. Person is hunched over, drags a leg when they walk. Hard to tell a true height.
  2. Person is extremely tall, over 6 foot 5 inches, thin as a rail.
  3. Person is  very small. just about  4 foot tall.
  4. Person Morbidly obese.
  5. Person is of average height and very muscular.
  6. Strikingly statuesque and hansom.
  7. This person is below average in height  and heavy set, wears large platform shoes for a bit of extra lift.
  8. This person is tall well over 6 foot and heavy set, a human wall.
  9. This person wears super baggy clothing that dragon on the floor behind them, impossible to gage height or weight.
  10. This person is small and frail.
Chart 3:  Hair
Roll 1d6 
0-1 Brown OR generally dark
2 Blonde
3 Black
4 Red or Auburn.
5 Grey
6 Roll on the 3a chart below.

Chart 3a Hair Cont: (Use chart above to determine natural hair color if you in this case roll 1d6-1)

  1. Mohawk large,  multi colored.
  2. Massive long dreadlocks.
  3. Long hair woven through with  cables and rubber tubes.
  4. Head shaved bald, but hair drawn on  with  markers
  5. large very colorful mane of hair. 
  6. Tight Afro with circles shaved shaved into it.
  7. Tight afro with complex designs shaved into the side.
  8. Extremely tall High top fade.
  9. No hair, Feathers.
  10. Faux-Hawk
  11. Long hair down to the person's ankles.
  12. A HUGE afro.
  13. Many tiny braids that stick out all over the place
  14.  A beehive hair do that contains actual bees.
  15.  Just a disheveled rats nest.
  16. The  worst combover you have ever seen.
  17. Spiked Mohawk
  18. Head covered in tattoos.
  19. Normal hair-doo with a nasty scar running across their head.
  20. Who the hell knows they always wear that damn hat (roll on hart 3b no seriously I have a hat chart..
Chart 3b Yeah hats why not. (d20)
  1. A very tall top hat.
  2. A multi color bowler
  3. A pirate hat with a dead pigeon stapled to it.
  4. A straw hat.
  5. One of those hats that can hold cans of beer..
  6. A bright red ascot cap
  7. A beanie with a rather large and sharp looking propeller on top.
  8. A coonskin cap  that may or may not be raccoon.
  9. Wears a dunce cap with the  word "Estúpido" brightly emblazoned across it.
  10. A blue fez
  11. A bright yellow hard hat.
  12. A fantastically oversized blue knit cap.
  13. A white phrygian cap
  14. A massive sombrero. The bring  has several hundred fire crackers taped to it.
  15. A trucker cap with and obscene saying on the front panel.
  16. A furry russian Ushanka. On Closer inspection there is a large microphone buried in the fur.
  17. A very large brightly colored turban.
  18. A felt Trilby
  19. A pill box hat that is in fact filled with  various pills.
  20. A living animal wrapped around their head (D6) 1. Snake 2. large ferret or weasel 3 a living raccoon 4. a pile of living rodents 5, a rarge turtle 6.a large vulture in a bird's nest strapped on their head
Chart 4: At first glance this stands out...(D20)
  1.  Carries a drill with a frayed cord, sometimes stops to make “whirring” drill noises with their mouth.
  2.  Once broke their neck and it never healed right, now they walk around with this messed up crooked neck.
  3. Carries a bible or similar religious text, Loudly and randomly quotes out of it often.The quotes are never in context.
  4.  Has shaved one half of their head and apparently attempted self-Trepanning. Their brain can clearly be seen through a one inch square hole cut in their skull which is covered with clear plastic wrap.
  5. Has a huge swollen left eye. Looks like they got hit with a bat. If asked , thinks  there is  a small pixie living under their eye-lid
  6. Everywhere they go they carry a desiccated corpse rolled in a blanket over their shoulders.
  7. They wear a long trench coat with a multitude of dead rats sewn onto the inside. You smell the rats long before you see them.
  8. They collect lost keys and carry several hundred random door, car, and padlock keys all over their person. They jingle loudly when they move.
  9. Wears a bandoleer full of baby food jars, each jar contains a different liquid.
  10. Carries a pistol which has badly bent barrel. Claims it once belonged to a famous gunfighter.  
  11. Dresses like a scarecrow, complete with  rotting  pumpkin mask.
  12. Wears a child's xylophone around their neck. Hammers on it  absently when not engaged in conversation.
  13. Person  never wears a shirt and is extremely hairy.
  14. This person has a glorious beard that hangs down to their midriff. It is well combed, well tended, and a local legend.
  15. Person has OCD their clothing is immaculate and they stop to lint roll it ever few minutes, 6 passes over each arm, each leg, and the chest.
  16. Person is wearing olives on  all of their fingers.
  17. Person carries a paperboy style satchel filled with rusty circular saw blades.. 
  18. Is wearing a hooded white dress covered in eyeless white masks. 
  19. Has one arm amputated just above the elbow, has ties several chains to the remaining section fo arm.
  20. Is wearing a completely leather suit, leather vest, leather pants, everything thing shiny black leather.
Upon furhter investigation, this person:
  1. Claims to be A finder of nibs. This person is always searching for “Nibs”, while never defining what exactly a “nib” is.
  2. Asks often "do you think it's going to rain today?" as if they are desperate to know. Asks even if it's raining.
  3. Tells obvious lies wiht almost every statement.
  4. Has a fake eye, the has tiny engraved letters which read.. (1d6) 1 "If you can read this your're close enough to kill." 2. "Acme Eye works" 3. " Tell how my breath is" 4 "Acme Laser eye [tm], Caution, do not stare directly into Acme Laser eye." 5, "Hell hath no Rage" 5 "Ohh Oedipus Wrecks!" 
  5. calls all men Jeffy, and all women Beth.
  6. Greets every one like they are the oldest of Friends.
  7. Has horrible body odor, It's like a cross between garlic, sweat, and bad life choices.
  8. is intoxicated...
  9. knows a lot of things.. very interesting secret things... Are they making it all up?
  10. only wants to talk about insects.
  11.  is being followed around by a bodyguard and a three person film crew.
  12. Has a joke for pretty much every topic of conversation.
  13. Will try to sell you. (1d6) 1. Tiny broken bits of electronics 2.The deed to their share of a lost mine somewhere to the west, 3. A rancid sandwich 4.Organs 5. A book that they claim is banned in  twelve countries. 6. Drugs, all kinds of drugs.
  14. Is searching for their lost child.
  15. Paints revolutionary graffiti, has cans in a bag, paint on their hands and a black mask in their hood.. The real deal.. willing to  die before they stop painting anti government images. Jail is not an option. 
  16. Is a great connoisseur of wine, carries an empty bottle of their favorite vintage, claims to be from France.
  17. Is a professional independent wrestler. Drinks a shit-ton (that,s metric) of protein
  18. Claims to be a rich professional. Has a drug issue, has woman issues, has honesty issues, just plain has issues, loves to talk  about his problems.
  19. Leaves no room fro other peoples opinions.
  20. Over complicated every issue discussed, analyzes things to oblivion loves to talk...
I might continue this at some point... but this is enough for now.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Happy New Year: The Dustpan year in Review.

Here we are on the doorstep of 2016:
Let's talk about what went on in the old dustpan this year.

  • Only  75 posts this year, way down from 2014. (132)
  • I did some  rearranging on the  blog:
    • Added meta tags to every post so that old post should be dredged forward more easily.
    • Dropped the game art page.
    • Added the game resource page as a holder for all the flotsam I have posted.
    • Made room for a swank banner by Charles Akins.
    • I think My favorite 2015 post just might be "D20 NPC's from Pandelver"
    • My most viewed post was "Add flavor to your 5th ed Combat"
At the start of 2015 I was working on expanding AAIE and had put up a play-test pdf of the basic game for download. As imperfect as that PDF is, and contrary to the fact I think it gained me nothing, I am still glad I put it out into the world.

I can see the end of the road. I know that eventually I will write my last blog post. Play or run my "last game" of D&D. I will buy my last video game. Nothing lasts forever and nothing should. I love the people I game with but have found it increasingly  difficult to engage with the games. I can't totally put my finger on why. Lack of consistency concerning when and what I'm running is part of it, real life being busy is another.

This year I pruned then segregated my RPG connections on google plus into their own circle for which I eliminated all alerts. I left almost every RPG group I was a member of on G+ or facebook. I haven't posted anything from here, or shared a blog post from here outside of the automatic G+ Public share that blogger hoists on everyone in several months. I have for all intents and purposes removed myself from the greater RPG community.*

For the  record nothing negative happened to directly trigger my step back. Outside of some easily  handled or ignored snarky replies here on the blog. Nothing negative was directed towards me at all. I do read other blogs. I do read twitter. I do follow the industry news. I get to see negativity when it crops up publicly. What little I see is enough to make me not want any part of it.

What does that mean  for this blog?
Without pushing the blog like I was, and without the potential of a "product" ever materializing the readership fell back to 2013 levels.
I'm ok with that. I haven't Earned any new readers this year. A successful blog on any subject needs to be promoted, needs to be regularly updated, and those updates need to be quality posts. In 2015 I haven't done any of those things. A successful blog is work, and I have not put in the work, the equation is as simple as that.

Onto Next year:
I'm back to posting and thinking about the  AAIE game again.
Funny story about that:
Jens D. of the Disoriented Ranger blog has taken a liking to the AAIE game I wrote last year. Just when I thought AAIE was dead and buried, Jens wrote me and asked if he could embark on making massive improvements to the layout and presentation of the PDF.  This is great, because the original PDF is a dumpster fire that needs all the help it can get.
I told him very honestly that he is, "Taking on the work I was too lazy or too unskilled to do myself."

I very much appreciate Jen's effort. First of all People whose opinions I value have told me the only thing holding AAIE back from being a game others would try and enjoy was the shity presentation. As a creative person that's a tough pill to swallow. I believe it's a correct analysis. Secondly  it's flattering that anyone would take os much time, talent, and interest in one of my projects.

So in 2016 expect to see that project move forward and eventually bear fruit. I'm not sure it will be done in 2016, but it's something I will write about.
Right now that's all I have on the fire as far as projects go.

I will continue to use this blog to promote other things I find on the web that I think are very  interesting or somehow  "gameable" either  via linking  or writing short posts about whatever has caught my attention.

I will continue to only have blogs on my blogroll I actually read.

I'm hoping I will think of something that will bring me back to this with renewed consistency and enthusiasm.

That's it 2015 gone into 2016.
If you are still checking in on this blog, I sincerely Thank you.
Have a very happy and productive new Year.


*Which is a shame because that same RPG / DIY rpg community is something I was pretty excited about trying to be a part of only a year ago.

Friday, December 2, 2016

D&D is Murder...(Crime and Punishment Edition.)

My applogies for the reduced posting frequency . It will likely pick up again after the  US holidays.

Rather this is about the idea of Murder in D&D.
Murder most foul.

The players in our group kill all the time. I mean it's kind of their thing. Still it has been a rare occurrence when they outright murder someone.
in one of our recent games Limura a ranger dropped two sailors in broad daylight. Mind you the sailors were working for "the bad guys" and Limura was covering the back of a fellow party member .. still.
Murder in the streets.

Naturally people screamed women fainted, guards were called. In the end the party had to flee the city as attempts to arrest them intensified. Having a boat that flies helped them greatly in that escape. On the other side of that messengers will have been sent out letting it be known that the persons involved are wanted in the city of Torin, for Murder.  That's an albatross hanging around their necks that will be difficult to cut loose.

Now Murder in D&D is nothing new. A "cult of the Murder-Hobo" has sort of grown up around the hobby. There are plenty of  memes and jokes littered across the internet which illustrate the concept.

What happens to these murderers?
As usual, the  acts of the players in our game  have made me run to the internet and embark on researching another subject I might have never thought to read much about. While I'm no expert in the study of crime and punishment throughout history I have come up with some gamerly ideas. As a point, I'm going to try to focus only on the  parts of this vast subject that are particularly of use in game.

Primary are two concepts.

  1. Ancient Prisons were by in large horrible places.
    1. Unsurprisingly, in many cultures there were (are) stark differences between the conditions a rich  citizen might encounter in a prison, compared to the fate of a more common criminal
  2. Prison itself was not the punishment. Offenders were only held there until some physical punishment could be meted out.
Looking at part 1, The Prisons: 

Accurately covering all of  incarceration's history in a blog is impossible. Some details may make for interesting gaming.

  1. In ancient Greece and latter Rome prison officials were known to turn a blind eye towards a prisoner's escape. Generally an escape of this sort would be into exile.  "I have found my way out of prison but may never set eyes on beautiful Eretria again."
    Often such an escape may involve bribes. Buying one's way out of prison even if  awaiting a death sentence was not that uncommon. 
  2. With the exception of  instances where cash is involved. Prisoners would have little chance convincing the guards of anything.  By the time the  players get dumped in prison  the guards have heard it all. They have been told every sob story, every tall tale, every beggars trick. They have been bribed, threatened, cried to and yelled at. They have been offered every type of promissory bargain, sexual favor, and future payment imaginable. In short the players yammering on to the  guards bout how they "had been framed," is going to mean nothing to a guard.
    And why would a guard help a prisoner? A guard who has a JOB, a paying job for their king or country, that provides food and shelter in a time when perhaps those things are not so easy to come by. A living that likely supports the guards whole family and does not involve the guard dying in a tin mine somewhere. Why would that guard help just another  nameless prisoner?
    Yet it happens.
    My thought would be to give the player -6, "Disadvantage,"  or some other steep penalties (depending on your game of choice) on any  social skill check made involving a guard.
    I would also allow that the player could reduce the penalties if they continually engaged the same guard in an effort to befriend the guard.
    Something like one check per month of incarceration for each successful check the roll penalties are reduced. OR after three successes the prisoner has developed a rapport with the guard. The effort would have to be specific and  focused on winning the ear of a particular guard. Keep in mind it was common practice to move guards around just so long term prisoners don't have a chance to get to know their captors and vice versa. Imagine the frustration of a prisoner that has just gotten the ear of guard, when the guard is rotated to another assignment..
  3. Prisons just like today were expensive to run. If a society is using  incarceration as a punitive measure and not just holding some poor sod until he gets stoned to death, then there has to be a prison. The  expense of  building a secure building, staffing it with wardens, guards, officers, carpenters, clerical staff, grave diggers, and all the rest would be  massive. Not only massive but most likely coming from the coffers of the state, or king, or who ever is making the rules that generate criminals in the first place. With that said it can be assumed that not every town or even small city would have the means to create an actual prison. Smaller towns might have a cell or two, a cellar below the church, a root cellar or ice house, or a tower in the local fort dedicated to holding trouble makers. These buildings would likely be much less secure and not as well manned as a true prison.
  4. Overcrowding / disease: Jails and prisons: Still true today, but especially true in times when medical science had not yet caught onto how illness spreads, prisons are perfect breeding grounds for disease.
    Overcrowding, no understanding of hygiene, no waste removal, vermin, lack of bedding, all compound issue of  disease in an ancient prison. The young and the old are particularly susceptible to disease. In game terms this can be thought of as younger and older characters having a lower "constitution" or your game's equivalent. But even a hail and healthy character would likely get sick if a truly nasty illness should crop up. Disentairy kills and spreads easily in overcrowded unsanitary conditions. Pneumonia is a killer, Diphtheria, a myriad of respiratory infections, stagnant water can lead to Legionnaires disease, the list is endless.
    In Game terms the fetid conditions should start to wear on a character's constitution.
    I Suggest weekly checks that get harder as time goes on. Once the character fails the check have them begin to suffer constitution (or what have you) Loss. Many games have rules for disease and I would enforce them to their  harshest if an affliction is picked up in a prison.
  5. I have a strong opinion, that long term incarceration is not the best way for a character to end their days. The heroic warrior Biff Stonehips Dying of Phenomena and gangrene in some fetid oubliette goes against everything I enjoy in gaming. Your mileage may vary, I mean ole Biff might deserve it.
Part 2: The punishments:
For most of history the above atrocities are avoidable. Most of history no one thought of prison as the punishment, rather prison was simply where a criminal was held until the real punishments could be delivered. This may have sometime to due whit many cultures not seeing any  corrective value in  incarceration. I have a hunch a lot of it also had to do with many cultures did not have the resources or space to hold criminals indefinitely. Likely it was a bit of both. Regardless it was much cheaper to simply kill a prisoner, or punish them physically in hopes that pain will convince them never to commit the same infraction again. Better still for some cultures a prisoner could be sold into slavery at a profit. This option while rightly viewed as an atrocity in the view of  today's culture gets rid of the criminal and makes the municipality some coin at the same time.

Punishments varied wildly deepening on the society and culture in question. A GM will have to make their own calls about what fits their setting.

Again like where a criminal might be held social standing  will play a huge part in punishment. For example Slaves may be  beaten severely, branded, put to labor in a work house, and marked in some way but as property with value they were rarely put to death unless their transgression was particularly severe.

For the rich Exile was a popular choice. In both Greece and Rome, stripping a criminal of citizenship and casting them out of civilization could be a worse sentence than death.  Debtors might be branded, or their worldly processions stripped from them.
Player characters who have been arrested would likely fall into this category of  rich prisoner. They very well might be viewed as income opportunities by and judge or  municipality that has them in custody. If the  parties fighter has been arrested for  some infraction, and the  city knows there  are four other people traveling with her. The law enforcement of the city would likely know that the party came to town carrying  exotic weapons and wearing fine armor. They might know about magical possessions, and  perhaps even have heard that they had been buying out the inn every night. It would make sense that some sort of ransom could be negotiated. Leniency for your companion if you do this for us, or pay us this amount of gold. This situation could be an excellent adventurer hook opportunity, particularly if one play has a scheduled conflict and is going to have to miss a game or two.

The  opportunity to exile a whole adventuring party  might be a fun option for the GM , having them shipped to some  exotic coast and just dropped off with no equipment or supplies. This sort of thing could change the face of a campaign from the typical, "Lets go get that McGuffin!" to "how the hell do we survive?"

Having the  Prisoner Player characters sold off to a slave trader is an interesting option from a gaming perspective. The escape, return, and revenge opportunities could make for a campaign all by themselves.

After reading articles around the internet I quickly realized there are as many ways throughout history to torture or kill a prisoner than there were crimes to be tortured over. Again unless Your parties fighter is named Will Wallace I'm not saying torturing a player characters to death is a great way to end a campaign. The links above have some  pretty  good descriptions of ancient punishments tortures and  executions that may serve as threats or sentences that the  characters might endure or avoid. A character that is tortured as a punishment for a crime should  suffer some kind of permanent attribute loss. Charisma loss makes sense for things that mark the character obviously , such as loosing an ear, or being branded. The Charisma penalty should be particularly severe while the character is  active in the  culture where the punishment occurred. A character forever marked as a criminal will affect the characters ability to do business in normal society.

Other tortures could sap strength or dexterity. Horors such as being broken on a wrack or wheel. Intelligence and wisdom could also be affected if the torture is something like solitary confinement, prolonged pain or other psychological cruelty.
I would suggest steep attribute penalties. For D&D style games allowing the character a save after which if successful they loose 1d4, and if they fail the would loose 1d6 of whatever attribute is being targeted.  This sounds steep but remember we are talking about cruelty designed with all of humanities cruel inventiveness to break the target.  This would scar a character for life, and might change the direction of their carer.
Imagine the party fighter accused of murdering some poor innkeeper, convicted in a kangaroo court, and sentenced to torture. The party tried but fails to get the conviction overturned and  even fails at breaking their friend out of jail. The warrior is tortured and next time the party sees him  he' is a shadow of  the  man he once was. Where does the story go next? Perhaps the fighter retires? Perhaps the  player sees magical healing to regain his strength. Perhaps the Fighter found god on the rack and multi-classes to priest form then on? Perhaps the party  seeks revenge perhaps not?
It is a bit of very  heavy handed GMing but  in the right situation this sort of thing could open up many  story telling avenues.

So for now that's all I have on the subject of crime and punishment in D&D.
I suppose the moral of the story is that Player characters committing all sorts of crimes should at some point be threatened with the horrors of ancient punitive measures. Not only will it make the players think twice before they stab some innocent NPC in the face. Having some systems of law enforcement in place creates opportunities for adventures that players will be invested in from the get go. Jail breaks and escapes are a classic adventure trope, exile can lead to adventure, unfair trials and  even harsher punishments create enemies for the  player characters that can last for a whole campaign.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Thanks for reading

A 2D20 list of  execution methods, jazzed up a tiny bit for D&D
(Taken wholly from this Wikipedia source, credit to them.)

2: Crushing by elephant. or other heavy beast such as ogre, War Horse, or Golem 
3: Devouring by animals, as in damnatio ad bestias (i.e., as in the cliché, "being thrown to the lions"), as well as by alligators, crocodiles, piranha and sharks.
4: Stings from scorpions and bites by snakes, spiders, 
5: Tearing apart by horses (e.g., in medieval Europe and Imperial China, with four horses; or "quartering", with four horses, as in The Song of Roland and Child Owlet).
6: Trampling by horses (example: Al-Musta'sim, the last Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad).
7: Back-breaking A Mongolian method of execution that avoided the spilling of blood on the ground
8: Blowing from a gun Tied to the mouth of a cannon, which is then fired. Seems legit.
9: Blood Eagle Cutting the skin of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim's back. Used by the Vikings.
10: Boiling to death, This penalty was carried out using a large cauldron filled with water, oil, tar, tallow, or even molten lead.
11: Breaking wheel Also known as the Catherine wheel, after a saint who was allegedly sentenced to be executed by this method.
12: Buried alive Traditional punishment for Vestal virgins who had broken their vows.
14: Burning Most infamous as a method of execution for heretics and witches. A slower method of applying single pieces of burning wood was used by Native Americans in torturing their captives to death.
15: Cooking, Example Brazen Bull A bull made of brass that the prisoner could be stuffed into, a fire is then lit below the  bull. It could be anything however, a large stew pot stirred by Baba Yaga for example. A huge oven?
16: Crucifixion Roping or nailing to a wooden cross or similar apparatus (such as a tree) and allowing to perish.
17: Crushing By a weight, abruptly or as a slow ordeal.
18: Decapitation Also known as beheading. Has been used at various points in history in many countries in Eurasia. One of the most famous execution methods is execution by guillotine.
19: Disembowelment Often employed as a preliminary stage to the actual execution, e.g. by 20: beheading; an integral part of seppuku (harakiri), which was sometimes used as a form of capital punishment.
21: Drawing and quartering English method of executing those found guilty of high treason.
22: A magical electric chair could be  rigged up in some campaigns... It's gruesome but it could fit a particular game.
23: Falling The victim is thrown off a height or into a hollow
24: Flaying The skin is removed from the body.
25: Garrote Used most commonly in Spain and in former Spanish colonies (e.g. the Philippines), used to strangle or choke someone.
26: Gas Death by asphyxiation or poison gas in a sealed chamber. Again in D&D this could be achieved via alchemy or  magical spells.
27: Gibbeting The act of gibbeting refers to the use of a gallows-type structure from which the victim was usually placed within a cage which is then hung in a public location and the victim left to die to deter other existing or potential criminals.
28: Hanging One of the most common methods of execution, still in use in a number of countries.
29: Immurement The confinement of a person by walling off any exits; since they were usually kept alive through an opening, this was more a form of imprisonment for life than of capital punishment 
30: Impalement
31: Keelhauling European maritime punishment. Tied to the keep of a boat while it is moving through the water.
32: Poisoning Lethal injection. Before modern times, the method of capital punishment of nobles.
33: Pendulum A type of machine with an axe head for a weight that slices closer to the victim's torso over time. (Of disputed historicity. Great for D&D though ...)
34: Scaphism An Ancient Persian method of execution in which the condemned was placed in between two boats, force fed a mixture of honey and milk, and left floating in a stagnant pond. The victim would then suffer from severe diarrhea, which would attract insects that would burrow, nest, and feed on the unfortunate victim. The unfortunate victim would eventually die from septic shock. I mean  honestly WTF?
35: Shooting (with bows in most games, but also slings, cannon, whatever fits your setting)
36: By a single shot (such as the neck shot, often performed on a kneeling prisoner, as in China).
37: Smothering (Asphyxia) Suffocation in ash, or  Clay, or even in snow.. Horrible way to die.
38: Starvation / Dehydration Immurement
39: Stoning The condemned is pummeled by stones thrown by a group of people with the totality of the injuries suffered leading to eventual death.
40: Suffocation

Sources: Some things I read while writing this post.