This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Thought Experiment Part 1

Part 1:
When I work on a project be it a whole game,  a setting, or even an adventure I like to have images around for inspiration.
About a month ago I started a folder on my computer I just called "cool images." Into this folder I would save images from the net that I thought were interesting or evocative. I follow a lot of art collections and groups on G+. I have a slight obsession with  large scale street art for it's scope, and small scale street art for it's energy and immediacy. I also have  strange love for  70's pulp novel covers and science fiction illustrations. I soon found  my folder filling up with  images from those influences among others.

I also noticed that while thinking about my games I browsed and saved some interesting pictures.

Here is the  premise I have been going with for the  past few weeks.

While I'm thinking about working on a game I will  occasionally which is my habit anyway  pour through google image search for inspiration, The  pictures that really catch my eye will go into the folder.

At the end of the  week I'll go through each picture and write down details that I like. One world  details like "spacesuit", "nebula", "mecha", and so on.

The visual elements which keep recurring im going to try and work them into a game.
There might be some useful software around that uses user generated meta tags to sort and order images, I'll have to go looking.

Here's my dilemma, now that I have thought of this whole thing when I look at an image my brain is going to say  "I want that in a game!" and I'll drop that image in the folder. That's not what I want. I want to look at an image and think "whow that's evocative and  interesting," on the images own merit. I don't want to pick  images that simply confirm my gaming prejudices.

The only way I can think of combatting this self inflicted confirmation bias is time. If I do this over a long enough period my sample size will eventually level itself. I don't always think about games after all. (surprise.) and given enough time I will be browsing pictures without gaming in my head.

Be on the lookout for part 2 of this experiment sometime early in the new year.

Yup that's the stuff.
Al Williamson

Monday, November 7, 2016

Twelve ways AAIE is different from D&D. Playtest feedback.

I wrote a game called AAIE. It was recently run at a Con by one of my friends and one piece of feedback he received was, "I think it should be more like D&D."
I Believe in all feedback is good feedback, but that was just a bit errr .... vague. In the name of transparency and good faith I give you, this post.

Things in AAIE that are not like D&D which I don't plan to fix.
(Everything else is totally up for debate.)
(If ever asked "how is AAIE different from D&D?" 
ROLL D12 on the chart below)

  1. If D&D lets you play Erol Flynn in "The adventures of Robin Hood" then AAIE lets you play Lou Costello from "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein."
  2. The Magic system in AAIE is not based on pre written spells as it is in D&D. There is also a chance your character will grow a third useless arm out of his or her back or go insane if they cast too much. So there's that.
  3. Most times you expect your character in D&D to survive more than one encounter, in AAIE that's not a given. It's natural suggestion, just ask Darwin the Dwarf. (Hint: He's dead)
  4. AAIE is written for one shots. D&D is generally written to be episodic, or campaign based. Now I have written on this very blog how I think one shots are the worst way to play RPG's. I took some shots for that at the time. So Why did I write a game that is basically designed for  one shots? I don't know, I'm still a bit confused about that myself.
  5. Related to the above, the  town  survives beyond the one shot. The town grows and improves while the graveyard fills with fallen heroes. So the game isn't just a one shot if the group is always building the setting through the town.... Or is it.. or .. Oh never mind.
  6. Only crazy people roll 3d6 right down the line for their D&D characters. (Guffaw, Guffaw, Harumph curmudgeon ...... grognard, I say Harumph and no more!) In AAIE every bit of the characters is randomly generated, from stats, to race, their class, their skills, weapons, right down to the reasons they adventure. The only things left up to the  player is the  character's sex and name. So make the best you can out of what you get.
  7. When you run out of resolve your character can either fall down in a quivering heap unwilling to carry on or just die. They usually just die, because getting gnawed to death by a swarm of hungry rats will do that to you. In D&D you get death saves and stuff, I mean depending on what edition is being played it's easier kill Bruce Willis in "Die Hard" than it is to off a D&D character.
  8. In D&D critical failures are bad, Critical fails are cause for some alarm, or at least a bit of humor. In AAIE critical failures are usually deadly. Sometimes instant death type deadly. Thank goodness they are rare.
  9. In D&D players add bonuses to their attacks and roll against a difficulty set by the DM. In AAIE  the GM subtracts the  character attribute from a standard difficulty to create the target number. I don't know, strange distinction right? 
  10. D&D has a book called the "Monster Manual" where you find all the creepies. AAIE has a random monster generator which helps the GM come up with their own creepies.
  11. D&D is concerned with sweeping tales of high fantasy heroics. AAIE is concerned with whether or not a character can  kill a three headed fungal leech with a rolling pin, or perhaps a dead chicken.
  12. In D&D you roll 1d20 to resolve most tasks. In AAIE you roll 3d20 and generally resolve nothing.

There you have it. Now the reader has all the information he or she will ever need if  cornered and coerced into a conversation about a game very few people have ever heard of. I suggest the bookmarking of this page for easy access in case of emergency.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Things I Do and Don't do when I GM / DM

Sorry for not posting all that much this month. It has been a busy  period for me outside the confines of gaming.

This might be of use to someone. It might not.
What will follow is just a raw list of  things I do  and don't when running games. The list will be in no particular order I'll just list things as I think of them.  This post in no way represents what I think the reader should be doing. This is a collection of things that work for me. there are no miracle "tips or tricks" in the post below, just seeds for thought or discussion.
  • I try to avoid the cliches as much as possible, while still skirting them. 
  • If I do drift into the  land of cliches I try to always use "this ..and" to make things more interesting.  The person the party just rescued turning out to be a prince is a cliche. That same person being a prince and also the master of thieves guild, is more interesting. (If still a bit cliche.)
  • Live at the table I don't use a GM's screen. I like to roll in the open that way the players know that I'm not fickle, dice are fickle. This carries over to Roll 20. I can hide my rolls on roll20, I just don't.
  • On a related Note many times I will roll randomly to determine who in the party a monster attacks.
  • Oldest advice in the book: If a rules dispute comes up I solve it  right then and there with an agreement lookup the correct "by the word of the rules" answer after the game. Once the game is over and the  question can be sorted out the group can decide how  the situation  will be handled moving forward. I try not to waste valuable game time arguing the finer points. 
  • I Ask everyone to know their spells, have spell cards, or some other way of referencing their spells. I just hate stopping to look up spells. I have found the D&D wiki's out there on the web are handy for  quickly  looking up a spell while playing online. I keep one open  in a tab while playing on Roll20. Roll20 also offers features that integrate 5th edition and  a ton of 5th edition reference pages right on their sight.
  • I try to be clear about the tone of the game I want to run from the very start. Sometimes this  works better than other times.
  • I don't use maps unless the situation calls for tactical level thinking and character positioning. Maps slow things down. In fact other than campaign level, topographic maps I have developed a strong aversion to the classic dungeon crawl style maps. Not very "old school" of me but there it is.
  • When a player passes an ability check I often ask "how did you do it?" What the player says next gives me a ton of  material to work with.
  • If I'm playing  5th edition I rarely use the passive investigation and passive perception rules as written. If an enemy is trailing the  party I will have that enemy roll against the highest passive perception in the group.  The same goes for traps and hidden objects. The players will often  go places I don't expect so I will roll a difficulty to detect an item on the spot. I usually use (10+ 1d10 and a reasonable modifier) based on the environment the characters are in  players are in. For example the traps in a thieves guild warehouse might be  10 + (1d10 +5) difficulty to  detect. While the coin purse hidden in casually in a farmer's kitchen might be a flat 10 + 1d10 to  accidentally notice. Why? Because I rarely have a solid number for "stealth" for every encounter. I also don't want to look up or keep a list of base difficulties to detect and or notice things. Again it's about spending the time engaging the players, not the rules.
  • Yes. I try to engage the players more than the rules.. I think I just typed that, but it bears saying again. In fact I could have saved us all some time by using that as the title of the post. I think it's what put me off to 4th edition as a player. I always felt like I was engaging the rule book more than the DM. Not crapping on 4thEd, there's a lot of good design in that game, just not for my style of game.
  • If a player lands the killing blow, I usually say, "ok how do you kill it?" Many great moments have come from that question.
  • I feel combat should be quick. To this end I have steadily reduced the hit points of my more common monsters over the years so that one critical strike, two good hits, or three average hits will do in the vast majority of them. When the party runs up on an enemy that has a sizable  pool of hit points it should feel special. The main bodyguard they fought in a thieves guild recently was obviously a totally different beast than the thugs they had dispatched earlier. The  party knew it right away and started to get worried when he didn't go down quickly.
  • I don't adjust the monsters for  party level. I pretty much know what lives where. If the party fought orcs in the frozen mountains at level four, when they return at level fifteen there will still be orcs in those mountains. The orcs will not have mysteriously morphed into stone giants and  ogres just to reach an arbitrary challenge rating. *
  • I love random elements ( Just look at this blog), I often use random elements to help stoke my ideas during prep. I almost never use random charts during play. (Barring the occasional random encounter chart)
  • I try to use as much from last game as I can in the next game. Meaning I like to  repeat as many small details as I can, so that the world feels persistent.
  • I like to name NPC's.. lots of them. It has become a joke at the table honestly.. "The sloop has a crew? Oh now Mark needs to think of twentyfive names." Random fantasy name generators are my friend. Once an NPC has a name a personality follows and the  world seems richer for the small effort.
  • I keep notes on player NPC interactions. That ship's crew above, if a player is rude to the crew you bet I will write it down and remember it the next time that player is trying to give orders during a stormy gale.
  • I have a reputation for never giving out magic items. It's part of the story, but honestly the reputation is well earned.
  • Part of the above. I loath magic items that have no part in the story. The A-typical ring of protection +1 still represents a wizard working to create an item that makes the wearer either directly harder to hit due to magical intervention, or grants the ability to ignore glancing strikes during battle. (Those hits that would have beat the AC if it were not for the +1.) Further more that effect is constant and permanent. Any item that takes that much energy to create should have a story behind it.
  • I like to add story hooks, and opportunities that have nothing to do with the present story arc. For example, the players took a job last game delivering a wagon load of furs. 
  • I don't ask players to buy any source material for games. If they want to get player's handbooks and all that jazz it's up to them. Those books are expensive.
  • This goes against all logic, but here it goes. I have no issue porting my game into other systems. If the players want to try something new I have no problem with it. While bouncing around systems is not my first or best choise, in the end though I would rather learn some new dice rules over re-building a world I have been running for years. 
  • I don't do crap with encumbrance. I use the sniff test, if it smells like too much stuff to carry then I say something.
  • Sometimes I skip initiative in favor of tell players the order based on the situation. Sometimes logic just dictates that one group has the drop on the other, Han shot first, and sneak attacks happen. 
  • If there is a powerful monster around I like to leave bread crumbs around for the  players so that they don't just stumble on it and die. I can't imagine something like an owlbear could live in an area for very long without leaving some signs of it's presence.
  • I forget attacks of opportunity all the time. My bad, I cut my teeth playing AD&D there were no AoO. The players kindly remind me when they are due one.
  • I  try not to direct players towards thier goals. I don't spoon feed the players , here is where you should go next kind of things. Though the players I game with right now are extremely good at picking a task and sticking to it. They are free to run off and do whatever, and if they don't investigate the path to the resolution of thier goals, those goals simply wait.
  • On the point of waiting, I hope nobody thinks that while those goals wit the bad guys are just sitting on thier thumbs.. no way.. I always have an arc of plans for the bad guys. I think it might be what I spend the most time planning  for my games. Those bad guys are always putting things in motion while the players aren't looking. Those plans bear fruit, or fail or change  in the background until the players actually bump up against them.
  • I don't conform treasure to the characters. This One time **, a dwarf with a missing hand found a magical 2 handed sword... just say'n.
  • I have been running my games in this same world for a long time. I try to tie as much of what's going on in the game now back to  what happened back then as I can. I think (hope) it injects the game with a certain feeling of history. Like when strider saves the hobbits at round top. Ole JRR knew what round top was before it was a ruined circle of stone on a hilltop, and he alludes to it. I hope to project that same feeling when for example the players explore a ruined city that a party of players years before them was around to witness become a ruin. I don't think it always works, but when it does, it's good.
  • I always let natural 20's count for double damage on attacks. All those extra "threat rolls" seem extraneous to me.
  • When I remember to I write down the  players saves and armor classes so I don't have to keep asking.
  • I don't drink more than one beer (give or take) when I GM. Sounds like sound logic right? I have messed that one up a couple of times over the years and the game suffers greatly.
  • When I run a game if the players find something they can't read the only option they have is  finding someone who can read it  or getting to a library and making a check to see if they can translate it. Naturally if the players have a spell that helps with the translation, all the better.
  • In fact I give many bonuses for  investigations done in libraries in my game. In turn  Libraries are rare and only the largest cities have them. I like to  imagine the cultural impact a place like the Royal Library of Alexandria might have had on a city, a kingdom, or a people.***
  • I have tried to break the bad habit of keeping track of how many hit points characters have. I shouldn't care. It's like a referee asking the  scorekeeper how many fouls Lebron James has before making a call. I still goof this up sometimes.
  • I encourage players to have clearly defined end games for thier characters. As in  they should know what it would take to get eh characters to stop adventuring. Lets face it, adventuring is a tough way to make a living.
  • I make resurection very hard to get. I think resurrection spells and the like are game breakers. I could write a whole blog post on that.
  • Some of the old school monsters, like rot grubs and some other quick death, insta kill kind of creeps are just not that much fun at all. I don't use them. Unpopular decision I know.
  • My game features mostly humans. I like the other races to stand out more. 
  • Sometimes when a player rolls a 1 on dammage I let them re-roll, Just because rolling  1's stinks.
  • When a player has had a streak of bad rolls I like to go back to them, get them rolling again. I look at it like a good  shooter in the NBA. Statistically if they have missed a few they are bound to make one (ok, not always). I love when a player has had a few bad rolls then nails  roll during a big moment..
Ok I think that's it for now. I will think of other things and perhaps revisit this post idea one day.
As usual I hope there is something that passes as useful in this pile. If there is not please accept my apology.


*This one sounded "preachy" that was not my intention. I have always been puzzed by where were all these dragons and  giants hiding when the players were lower level?
** At bard Camp..
*** With all that said one of my players burnt a library to the ground ...........................

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Adventures in the Canopy (System Neutral)

Known as the mega forests of  Cul Tur in my game world. Just East of the second dwarven  stronghold, nestled between the  mountains and the coast. Once home to loosely united Rakasta tribes, now just shadowy jungles left unexplored. No one has ever gone there in game, I doubt anyone will.

I guess it's safe to blog about my thoughts on one of the least talked about biomes in fantasy RPG's.

Lets Jungle....

The Forest Canopy:
When it comes to  real life biodiversity  the Jungle canopies are some of the most biodiverse places on earth. Keeping this in mind, it's easy to extrapolate that in a magical fantasy setting the canopy perched high above the floor of a jungle could be home to just about anything.

Native vs Non-Naitve:
One recurring theme in this blog will be that of native Jungle dwellers Vs visiting  travelers. The Native populations will have EVERY ADVANTAGE in this territory with the possible exception of technology. Most native societies in jungle terrain subsist via hunting and gathering. Everything they need the jungle provides. The technologies that helps other societies produce more things with fewer resources are just not necessary.
It would be easy for a party to think native people are somehow not as intelligent or capable as they are. That would be a fatal mistake.  The  Native populations in jungles are masters of their environment, they have to be. As such they do not suffer most if any of the penalties listed in this document. They hear better in the jungle, move faster, and see farther than visitors. They know what to eat and how. They know what's poison and what's not. A native population will use all of these advantages to help or hinder a party based on how the party interacts with them. It would be wise for a party to  approach the people living in the jungle with respect and  as possible allies. Anything else should be taken by the GM as a good reason to make the characters time in the jungle that much more difficult.

Native weapons:
Like I said the forest provides. Natives will used the  things they have learned living in the forest to their advantage when crafting weapons.

  • Blow guns are fast to aim and when treated with  poison from native creatures (famously poison dart frogs) lethal.  An effective range of 30 to 40 yards is a good place to start if you game does not have rules for blowguns.
  • Spears: Used to spear fish, sometimes poisoned for monkey hunting, rarely thrown.
  • Short Bows: Some tribes use very  compact bows made from wood, vines, and hide. These small bows are perfect for maneuvering in the clutter of a rain forest and in the hands of an expert are not hindered by the foliage in any way.   These bows can be treated as normal short bows for game purposes. Arrows are often light and poisoned.
  • Cudgels knives and clubs. Most simple weapons are well within the  capabilities of Jungle native, usually created from wood, or other natural materials. Some are ceremonial while some are reserved for wars with other tribes. Often good fighting weapons are not great hunting weapons.
  • Armor: Natives in a rainforest will rarely wear armor. Instead relying on their deep knowledge of the  terrain, surprise and mobility to protect them.
  • The use of poison is part of  jungle hunting culture. An art passed down  through generations. The climate of the jungle makes lighter ranged weapons advantageous Poison is a part of hunting  that ensures game kills by compensating for lighter ammunition. There is no morality about using poison in the jungle. Poison is how food is attained while expending the least amount of resources. Native warriors will not have any inclination to not use poison on an aggressor. Players beware.

Just some quick hitters here: The average temperature of a rain forest is about 77° Fahrenheit but can
range up to 100 degrees during the day and drop back down to 50 Degrees at night. The annual precipitation of a rain forest is greater than 50 to 260 inches per year. During the rainy season as much as 4 inches can fall in a day of steady  unrelenting rain. Furthermore even more precipitation comes from the forest's own evaporation. The heat, daily rain, and condensation makes the rain-forest extremely wet and oppressively humid.

What does this mean for a party of adventurers? Trying to traverse this terrain in full armor of any beyond studded leather is pretty much suicidal. Metal items such as weapons and armor will suffer and need to be meticulously maintained. Chain mail and plate mail will stiffen quickly, within days of entering a rain forest. Blades will dull, over time even leather will begin to rot right off a character.
Armor and weapons can be protected vial oiling to keep away the moisture. This will have to be done daily.  Magical means of preservation are also a good choice if your game allows for it.
Magical weapons and armor should be allowed more time before any degradation occurs. If the DM wants to have the climate effect enchanted weapons I think saves vs the elements that get progressively more difficult as time goes on are a good way to go. Nature will have it's way even with enchanted items if given enough time.

Storms when they strike can be sudden and violent. Lighting strikes and falling limbs make it very wise for characters to find shelter as soon as they can.
If the GM determines a severe storm blows in. Any characters caught in the trees or outside on the forest floor must check each turn  to see if they are hit or at least threatened by blowing or falling debris. As a reminder heavy branches will and do fall, and from great heights. I feel these checks should  be cumulative, meaning the longer the character is exposed the better a chance something will fall on them.

Use the chart below to determine things that befall the characters when left exposed to a bad storm.

  • 1- 25 Loose debris, the character must spend a round dealing with getting the wind blow debris off of them.
  • 26 - 50 Small branch, the character must make a low difficulty check to keep their footing. 
  • 51 -65 Branch, the character gets whacked by a falling or blowing branch taking light damage.
  • 66 -73 Bigger branch: The character gets hit doing moderate damage and  losing their footing. there is a 15% chance the branch pins the character.
  • 74 -84 Vine fall: A group of vines have fallen on the character or party, they are effectively entangled. the  group might sustained light damage , if the  vines or  from high enough up.
  • 85-93 large branch: This falls at the character, give them a roll to avoid it for half damage otherwise they should take heavy damage, have a 40% chance to be pinned.
  • 94 - 97 Tree fall: A large tree uproots and falls. Hopefully not the one you are standing in. This is a big deal basically encompassing the whole chart in one roll. All hell breaks loose. Characters should save for half damage or  take a huge hit. Characters will be caught up and entangled 90% o f the time by the  mass of branches and vines that come down with the tree.
  • 98-100 Lightning strike: Lightning strikes a tree near the characters. They take electrical damage based on the system being used. There is a 10% chance a fire starts on the ground among the forest floor litter.
Small rain storms, and even longer soaking rains happen daily in a rain forest. Not every storm has to be violent. The Gm should mention rain at least once a day to remind player exactly how wet and oppressively humid their surroundings are.

Visibility and Senses:
Leaves, massive tree trunks, branches, vines, all make it easier to hide. Furthermore there is a lot of background noise in a jungle setting. Checks to perceive threats are far more difficult for non native characters. Once above the ground in the canopy a character is lucky to see beyond their own tree and into the next 30 to  50 foot visibility at best. If the characters go higher to get above the canopy they will only see a sea of green below them stretching for miles. Good to see a tower or massive tree the party is looking for but not so good for finding that monkey that just stole their scroll case.

Ranged attacks again for non native shooters, should be heavily modified to account for the clutter of limbs and leaves the  character is trying to shoot through.
A smart party might offset some of these problems by gaining a height advantage on an opponent. There are ample opportunities to go upward when the  situation calls for it. Shooting down on your target will offset some of the negative modifiers.

 The ground level  will be surprisingly devoid of apparent food, dark, punishingly humid and eerily quiet. For the  most part the  massive trees catch 90% of the sun, most of the rain, and keep the forest floor covered in a constant litter of  sound dampening leaves. The thick undergrowth of vines and stalk plants make ground travel difficult and slow.
Traveling on the forest floor at least keeps the party safe from falling out of a tree but it's best to  bring plenty of rations you can trust, or at least a knowledgeable guide.

  • A ranger Could make a moderately difficult check to know that this kind of forest will not offer good good chances to hunt large game. A guide or ranger can keep you alive via forage.
  • Foraging is at a disadvantage and or a high difficulty for those attempting it. Things are strange here, there are many dangerous plants and animals not found anywhere else.
  • Any fruit or plant eaten will have a chance to be poisonous. In the jungle everything gets eaten by something. Plants and animals have evolved unique, varied, and surprising natural defenses. In short everything is trying to kill you before you have the chance to eat it.
  • A knowledge check by a ranger or Druid can locate small sources of potable freshwater. Pitcher plants, wet moss, the undersides of large leaves, hollow stalks and some wet root balls are all options for fresh water. This check is to find safe fresh water, not just any old water.
  • Larger sources of water such as pools and streams, even rivers are also plentiful, and obvious. These also draw other animals, and are known by locals.  
  • Party members would be wise to  be wary of  water in the open, as it is likely to carry parasites. In this environment stick to boiling everything. ("purify food and water" can save a D&D style party!)
  • Making headway will be slow as the group will often have to chop their way through the underbrush. If characters are using their normal weapons to do this the GM should apply penalties to any character who does not  take time to maintain their weapons at the end of a day. (this compounds the damage the wet environment will do.)
  • A Druids magical abilities would be very useful in this environment.
Strenuous work, such as combat, hauling heavy loads, and even just walking if armored can cause great fatigue in the humid and wet conditions.

(One version of D&D lists Fatigue as: A fatigued character can neither run nor charge and takes a "-2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity. Doing anything that would normally cause fatigue causes the fatigued character to become exhausted"
and Exhausted as:
"An exhausted character moves at half speed and takes a –6 penalty to Strength and Dexterity. After 1 hour of complete rest, an exhausted character becomes fatigued.")
I don't think this way of handling things is all that bad.

 After every hour of  working in the  heat and humidity of the jungle have players make a check for their character with penalties applied for medium or heavy armor. If the check fails the character becomes fatigued. On the next check a fatigued player becomes exhausted, and if an exhausted character fails the check the character passes out cold.
Resting for an hour will bring a character from exhausted to fatigued and a fatigue character back to  normal.

If on a march in normal terrain the characters could cover 25 miles along a good road on a good day. In the  rain forest the same party might (Might) make 12 miles in the same day.  Bushwhacking is hard work and the  characters will have to take frequent rests. (see above)
Unless there are trails cut for the party horses are useless, mules are better but not by much.
considering we are talking about fantasy games there may be some magical native species that can act as beasts of burden. Examples might be giant lizards which can climb the trees, large bats, or whatever the GM can dream up.

Moving in the trees is another matter.
I wrote a post about falling a while back:
Things get more interesting in the  canopy high above the forest floor. The understory layer up through the canopy are worlds of damp  mists, foliage and predation. 

The  continuous layer of  dense foliage formed by adjacent tree tops is known as the canopy. This area  starts around 100 ft up and runs as high as 150 ft or for our uses 200 ft into the air. What makes the  canopy  interesting  for  adventuring parties is the overwhelming biodiversity of the place. Animals and plants adapted to living in the trees and nowhere else make the canopy a treasure trove of rare spell components and medicinal resources. 
Travel in the canopy is  dangerous. First things first, the characters are high above the ground. Add to that the unsteadiness of branches, the  inability to see, and an ever changing surface underfoot, falling becomes a very real threat.

Moving within a tree is one thing. If a character climbs a tree and is reasonably careful while in the tree a game master may not need to ask for any checks. For example a character who  ropes off once he or she is in the trees and  states that they are taking  care when moving about should get the benefit of the doubt from the GM. The player who says "I'm gonna climb the tree and grab the orange fruit," without any expressed thought about safety should be asked to make checks.
Moving from tree to tree should always require checks. Running, jumping, or otherwise moving with haste or recklessness should be rewarded with harder checks.

When a Character is moving through  the canopy tree to tree.
  • Make a Check to see if the characters moved from  tree to tree successfully, apply modifiers for care  or  recklessness shown by the  character.
    • Passed: Good! The character has jumped to the next tree!. 
    • Failed:  Opps.. Roll 1d10.
      • 1-5 the character stumbles and falls to the next tree taking a small amount of damage. If the player chooses to continue moving without taking a moment (round turn however your game measures time) to gather themselves then they will take a negative penalty on their next movement roll. These negative penalties are cumulative each time a player fails a roll and decides the character should keep moving. The penalties are reset if the character does nothing but gather themselves for one round or turn.
      • 5-8 Minor fall: The character falls and lands on a lower branch! He or she takes moderate damage. and receives a penalty to any further movement unless the character stops to gather themselves.
      • 9-10 Full fall!: The character plummets to the forest floor taking full falling damage. This stops movement and just may stop any other biological functions the  character might have been trying to maintain.
Using D&D as an example Spells like   "Freedom of Movement", "Long Strider", "Find the Path", Transport Via Plants", and  definitely the druids "Tree Stride" are very valuable in this terrain. (Or whatever the equivalent spells would be in your system of choice)

Using a small rope and a crossbow to fire a small leed line into a tree, then using that leed line to pull up the parties studier climbing ropes is one of the best non-magical methods for getting ropes in trees. However it's not as easy as it sounds, the shot will be difficult and the character might need to make a few attempts before success.  Once the characters have a rope getting into the trees is a matter of brute strength. Most games represent a period before harnesses and  ratcheted foot ascenders climbing gear. Characters will be  pulling themselves up a rope and slipping it around their feet for support, not easy. If they are lucky the characters might know how to make a Prusik knot to assist in the climb (perhaps a ranger? or a survival skill check  depending on your system.)
Climbing could be a series of tests up to one per 10 feet as decided by the GM considering  situation and conditions.  With each failed check having a worse result for the character. A bit like the  D&D5th-Ed Death saves. 
  • First check failed the  character is tired, and slows down. 
  • Second failed check the character starts to slip back, losing grip and stability.
  • Third failed check the character falls from whatever height they had achieved.
The first two failures are an invitation to slow down and rest. A character could grab a limb and sit, put a spike in the tree and stand or otherwise figure a way to rest. resting  resets the failed checks, but also invites the GM to roll on a random encounter chart, or have the bad guys catch up. Time is a resource after all.
Hastily made harnesses and ropes tied off to limbs will mitigate falling damage. Though  falling, crashing through tree limbs and swinging like a screaming pendulum into a  nine foot thick tree trunk should not be without it's consequences.
Not to sound like a broken record but all this climbing business is old hat to the natives living in the jungle. They  will be just plain better at it even if a character hits their skill checks and has some form of training (Athletics, Acrobatics, so on.)
Medium or heavy armors are major hindrance when climbing. The extra weight is just not desirable when hoisting ones self into the air. A GM could ask for more checks from armored climbers or make their checks more difficult.

Free Climbing is the act of climbing  a tall tree without the  benefit of ropes. This works the same as rope climbing only the character does not get a chance to rest unless they find a feature in the tree which can support their weight. Free climbing is very dangerous and over armored or over encumbered characters shouldn't even think of trying it.

Rappelling is no easier:
Rappelling should work very much like climbing only  a characters dexterity or equivalent should be used rather than strength. A character can  mitigate some of the  risk by preparing to rappel properly.
If the player takes the time to  declare his or her character is finding a good tree to rope off to and can make a skill roll to set up an effective rappelling system. A ranger or guide would know how to set up for rappelling and  have a fair shot at doing it correctly.  If a character tries to set up a rappelling rig very quickly or thoughtlessly the GM can  give them negative modifiers to the characters checks on the way down.
Failed rappelling rolls Roll below 1d6
  1. Item of clothing stuck in the rig, the character is stuck swinging in the breeze some  distance from the ground. Make a check to repair.
  2. Rope slips! character drops  a bit but is otherwise OK. IF the character gets this result again re-roll.
  3. Frayed rope! The rope is starting to fray here ever it is tied off. If this is rolled a second time roll again.
  4. Rope snagged: All progress halts, the rope will need to be cleared. Make a check to repair.
  5. Rope breaks! the character falls unless they are roped off or have figured out another safety method.
  6. Rope really slips! Character falls quite a ways and the rig gets tangled. Character on the rig is stuck the rig is to far gone to repair from mid rappel.
Bridges and structures:
Native peoples may have built structures in the canopy. Bridges, rope swings, zip lines are all possibilities.
These structures are difficult to build, dangerous to maintain and take up a great deal of time that a jungle dwelling  person might  better spend gathering food, or hunting. As such these structures are never over built.

A well equipped party traipsing over a wicker bridge may make a GM want to  roll checks for the  integrity of the structure.

Thief and rogue types can  go ahead of a party checking the structure. Use normal find traps protocols for a  Thief looking for structurally weak areas. If the  party has a dwarf that is skilled in building, more the better.
Breaks in canopy bridge should have some fore warning. Cracking noise, shaking of the structure, and planks plummeting to the ground. Those kind of tips might let a wise party know to  slow down or to travel one at a time.
Naturally when a party is taking it safe and are strung out one at a time over a long bridge 200 feet in the air, that's the perfect time to attack them.

Fighting in the canopy:
Each game system is going to apply its own penalties for  fighting in strange environments. For fighting high in the canopy I would use your systems  penalties for unsteady footing, and limited vision just to start. Keep in mind that  any creature or person native to the  rainforest is going to understand verticality, and take advantage of higher ground whenever possible. Imagine if you will a paladin cowering under her shield as enraged apes rain coconuts down on her form 150 feet up.

Ranged weapons while limited due to cover, can be superior in a canopy fight due to the difficulties involved in closing with and engaging  enemies physically. Again, native creatures will be able to disengage and retreat more effectively than non native warriors will be able to advance through the  canopy. Wise players will try to force or lure enemies to the  ground where the  fight is more on the  characters terms. This may or may not be easy to do, as rappelling from trees is as dangerous as climbing them.

The mosquitoes are inescapable, and some fo them carry disease.
While I think it would be harsh to give a player character Malaria, I do think it could make a nice story hook to have to find a cure for some NPC's horrid case of Dengue fever.
It would be fair to make a character make a check once every three days to avoid a tropical fever or a mild disentairy. I am not suggesting that Fair Fillred the Paladin should shit himself to death in some god forsaken jungle, that's a terrible way to loose a character.
What I will suggest is that any  character who fails the check should pick up the  "Fatigued" state until they are cured or can rest for  three days. Making them fatigued will make them get exhausted quicker, and will generally be  a pain in the player's ass.
I also suggest that for every player that gets ill due to a failed check , an NPC or retainer should get severely ill, or even die. Just so the player realize disease is serious business.

Another consideration for any character wearing boots, or god forbid armor all the time is "Trench foot" or Immersion foot. Caused by wet foot conditions and bad hygiene, this little marvel can cause gangrene and  loss of a foot if let go.

I would  say that when the  players have a rest and  start a camp fire the GM  should ask if they are  taking off boots and Armour. If they constantly say no, then each day they have 10% +2 percent chance of developing Immersion foot and or a horrid fungal infection of the feet. This will half their daily movement, and if let go will start to drain "Health" at a slow rate each day. (based on your  chosen game)
The Idea here is that players should be aware of their environment and after a few hints be willing to shed armor and dry off tier covered parts. It's not to punish the players but to drive home that the jungle is not  their normal stomping grounds. Helpful natives will offer sandals, or even directly tell the characters of the danger of never taking off their clothing in the jungle.
Again magical healing and good guides will help tremendously.

As always  If your game of choice has good rules for disease, use them.

One major reason a party might enter a rain forest is gather and locate materials for spells and potions. The  Rain forests have been called earths pharmacy  for their diversity of mostly undiscovered medicinal plants. A wizard or apothecary might pay premium rates for  plants gathered from such a hostile locale. For example the Cinchona Tree is used to make quinine, a cure for malaria, treating stomach problems, stimulating the appetite as well as treating blood disorders, leg cramps, and varicose veins. This is just one such example out of Thousands of real life examples. As a Gm build off what's real and extrapolate it.
The oils of the  Annatto Tree can be used to make a natural sunscreen, but in the hands of  Blodot the wizard it can be used to make a potion which renders an individual invisible while in the sunlight, and incorporeal in the moonlight.

Simple exploration: The party is hired to explore this new land "discovered" by a local sovereign. An expedition must be organized and executed.

Finding the explorers: Remember that expedition from before... Well they never came back.. so go track them down.

Lost city found: Anything can remain hidden for a long time in the jungle, a lost city has been found and your group thinks it is a great idea to  try to gt to it before any one else. Unfortunately there is a rival group of explorers with the same idea!

Encounter ideas:
I don't  use "giant" insects all that often in my game however, the hot humid oxygen rich environment of the canopy is exactly where I would start dropping them, and in  great numbers. The canopy being one of the very few in game areas I think would provide both the food and conditions suitable for large insects colonies.

Some  Plants and insects have developed symbiotic relationships, where as a species of  beetle or bee is the only species that pollinates a particular tree, or distributes a tree's seeds. In return the insect benefits from the tree as a source of shelter, protection, or nourishment.
Play this up as a GM.
For example:
  • There are large thousand year old, 70–80 meter tall emergent trees that tower over even the  general canopy. Some specimens are as big around as a small house with  circumferences topping 90 feet. These trees have an upper canopy  made of  thick broad leaves.
  • These trees are a form of beech nut tree. The seeds of these trees is prised by apothecaries, native people, and magicians as a medicine and a spell component. 
  • Unfortunately the seeds are locked away in large highly poisonous fruit high in the trees upper branches. Eating the fruit can be deadly, causing  pain, blistering, swelling of the esophagus and eventual asphyxiation. Just don't.
  • The  primary transporter of these seeds are giant leafcutting beetles
  • These insects can be as as large as a goat. The maintain nests made of cut leaves high in the  trees foliage. The insects feed on the highly poisonous fruit pulp of the trees and leave behind the hard seeds. 
  • The fruit of the tree is poisonous, and because it's the only thing the insects eat they have in turn become poisonous. their mandibles can inflict a poison bite that is difficult to resist and causes blistering and discomfort along with some damage..
Having a 60 foot around 45 meter tall tree tip over is another good use of the large canopy producing trees. Such a tree could be hollowed out by any manner of creature. Used as a shelter by native humans, carved out by giant termites, home to  a large trap door spider, or a colony of smaller dangerous insects. One thing is for certain in the damp gloomy forest floor region even a large stump would be temporary given the variety of fungi and molds that can develop. No matter what the size of the tree it would rot and be reclaimed by the forest relatively quickly.

  • A very large tree has fallen opening up a small swath of the forest to sunlight. 
  • The  downed tree is now covered in a veritable botanical garden of  hollow grasses, vines, flowering plants, and young trees taking advantage of the available sunlight. If you didn't know what the  fallen tree was you might miss it all together.
  • Inside the stump and the remains of the tree termites and burrowing beetles have been hard at work hollowing out the vast fallen tree.
  • The interior of the tree is now a series of hollow chambers. 
  • These chambers have become home to  several  budding green slimes.
  • The locals have cut a hole into the  hollow stump and covered its gaping roof with animal hides. They have used fire to harden the interior of the stump and are excavating the  dead trees vast root system. They are looking for a rare fungal deposits which are used by their shaman to make a hallucinogenic ritual beverage. The roots and the digging have formed a complex multi level cavern.

The  Understory or layer of  foliage from the ground up to the canopy proper is home to a myriad of predators. Not least of which are the great cats. Large cats in a heavily wooded area create their own set of issues for a party.

  • The great cats are stealthy, ambush predators who use the short lines of sight lines the jungle to their advantage.
  • In a fantasy game the great cats will go for surprise every time.
  • Ocelots: Small fast hunters, not likely to attack a human, but  perhaps. An Ocelot might  hit a small character (half-ling, Gnome, Elf) then take off, being able to easily outpace most characters.
  • Panther: Medium sized, Hunts in the trees. Think about that, IN THE TREES. The characters think they are all safe camping up in the  tree limbs.. guess what.... Panther.
  • Tigers: Huge, Nocturnal hunters , almost silent when they stalk prey, can easily kill a man. 
  • Jaguars: The Swiss army knife cat, stealthy, fast and  powerful. Attacks first with a massive bite aimed for it's preys neck. Deadly if a character does not see it coming.
  • As a GM I would give a great cats the equivalent of your games snake attack bonus on their first strike.
  • The pelts and sometimes the teeth of great cats can often fetch a party high prices outside of the jungle.
  • Some tribes may worship great cats, perhaps even one exceptionally large and strong individual cat.
  • Dire versions of  great cats and Saber toothed cats are listed in many games standard monster lists.
Monkeys and Apes:
I made a random monkey generator a while ago.
The  Disoriented Ranger wrote about Apes and a module called Monkey Business not log ago.
Apes and Monkeys move about the canopy with a grace and speed that would make any adventurer jealous if it weren't so scary. Apes and monkeys are naturally smart, add to that the  trappings of a fantasy  game and the  characters could have their most fearsome opposition.

  • Apes will always have advantage in combat while in the trees. They can hang upside down, run up trees, throw things, and jump great distances. Fighting a pack of monkeys in the  canopy is a bad decision for the party.
  • Gibbons: Small fast, travel in packs. They steal stuff and run away.  Mostly harmless unless fought in a pack. In this case use your games swarm rules.
  • Chimpanzees; Strong and agile. They use advanced pack tactics to confuse and isolate characters. Individuals will flank and go for sneak attacks. They are smart enough to target the face , eyes and throats of  characters. Each individual can get multiple attacks per round. Will eat meat.... Will eat characters.
  • Gorillas: Usually peaceful gentile giants, They live in troops of females generally lead by one
    large male. Sometimes younger males will be present in the troop. Troop leaders will defend their territory. Massively strong, they will throw heavy objects, Charge, grapple, swing limbs, had out massive bites with their huge canine teeth and  basically wreak house. They don't attack in and organized way, but their individual bulk and power make them deadly even to mid or high level characters. 
  • Give Gorilla's Fighter or warrior levels. 
  • Unlike monkeys, Gorillas tend to build nests on the ground.
  • Orangutan: the most solitary of the great apes. These long armed apes are more likely to run from adventures than anything else. These can be the wise old men of the forests. If I were going to  create a hedge wizard ape it would be an Orangutan.
  • There are hundreds of small monkey species, most are just an omni-present nuisance in the jungle.
  • Dire, Giant, and primitive variations of apes are possible. Extra intelligent Apes are a great idea.
The preceding blog post represents just the tip of the ice-burg for jungle adventures.
Giant spiders, Cayman, Naga, lizard-men in the rivers, Troglodytes in massive moss caves, Giant snakes, and so many other  creatures could make an appearance.
Though for my money it is the terrain and the environment that provides the greatest challenge. How will your adventures navigate such a foreign dangerous place?

Thank  you for reading...

Here's some stuff I looked at while prepare this piece. There are more ideas lurking there than I used.

Pathfiner info
Medicinal Plants
Climbing the  tallest trees.
Account sort of our history is not grand folks.
Biome info, and here
Six things to know before you hit the rainforest.
disease info
Tropical disease
Blowgun arguments
D&D wiki
cats Run the internet.