September 28, 2009

"Persistent World" Roguelikes

I really like persistent elements in roguelikes, because they give a feeling that each game is bigger than just the character and the randomly generated level.

Nethack has "bones files", where if you die on a non-special dungeon level, there is a chance that the level is saved along with your dead body, your stuff, a ghost and a tombstone telling how you died. On an active server like, you can expect to find two or three former dead adventurers during a game. Crawl does something similar, spawning badass ghosts of former adventurers as you explore the levels. Especially in Nethack, these "bones" liven up the (admittedly) rather plain dungeon levels.

You Only Live Once has a different take. You start as a small kid who's exploring the woods near his village. He finds a dungeon, goes down it, and has to fight monsters. Then he dies.

And then you get to play as the kid's (adult) neighbour, who's looking for mushrooms for his wife. Next up is the first kid's mother, who finds her kid eventually. And it goes on like that. I suppose you run out of villagers eventually - I only played through once and won as the village elder.

Dwarf Fortress takes that same concept much further. When you start the game, you have to generate a world with a few hundred years of history (or download a pre-gen). Then you generate an adventurer in that world and talk to people who have relatives and history stretching back through time. Some of them will send you on quests to kill beasts who they have legitimate grievances with, because the world generation simulated the beast's pillaging of the local countryside and all the fights it fought. Nuts.

What I'd love to see is something as expansive as Dwarf Fortress with the interaction from Nethack. Not a cooperative MMO like Wurm Online, but the Dwarf Fortress Clone would run on a server (like the Nethack and Crawl servers do) with a shared world, and finished games would be integrated into the history of the world. That could be interesting.

Something for the "someday" files. I'm satisfied with Nethack for now.

September 21, 2009

Converting White Plume Mountain, Part 2: Examining The Branches

As I said in Part 1, White Plume Mountain has three branches, each ending with a room containing one of the three major artifacts of the dungeon - Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor. Let's see what each branch consists of.

As the party enters the dugeon, they reach a four-way intersection with a gynosphinx, and Walls of Force blocking the other three ways - the three branches. Answer a riddle correctly and the gynosphinx will disable the walls, letting the party pass. After this, the three branches begin. Numbers below refer to the map:

The Whelm/Ctenmiir branch holds:
3: A patch of green slime. Probably drains some HP from party members before being cleared out.
4: A room with nine glass spheres. Each holds a key, one of the keys are needed to get out of the room. Potentially three (easy) encounters and a bunch of treasure. This room is technically optional.
5: Five flesh golems, each with a number. Say the right number or get in a fight with them. The fight is nearly assumed unless the players have heard the riddle before. The conversion should probably use at least two kinds of construct to make for a fun fight - flesh golems are Elite Brutes which looks like a grind.
6: A turnstile while only lets people further into the dungeon. Needs destroying to get back out.
7: A bridge of separate platforms over two regularly-spewing geysers. Skill challenge-ish.
8: Ctenmiir. Boss Fight, duhn duhn duhn duuuuuhn! Give the guy some Vampire Spawn buddies.

A total of four "encounters", potentially a few more in the optional room, and a slight chance of just three if the party avoids fighting the flesh golems. Decent setup, Ctenmiir can be made pretty nasty.

The turnstile is just silly, the 3.5 conversion put a mimic (disguised as a portcullis) in its stead. I like silly, though.

The Wave/Crab branch holds:
9: A pit, which is actually the entrance to the Indoctrination Center of Keraptis (the real BBEG of White Plume Mountain). Glossed over in the original module, just a pit in the 3.5 conversion.
10: Kelpie pool. The kelpies have a lair with treasure.
11-13: Spinning corridoor covered in oil. The NPC:s Burket and Snarla will set fire to the oil as the PC:s pass and then fight them. Technically optional, but Burket and Snarla could join the fights in 10 or 17 in some circumstances.
17: An underwater room. A fragile forcefield keeps the water out of this zone, which contains Wave and its giant crab guardian.

Two encounters, possibly three. Go nuts with the difficulty of the two mandatory ones, or give Snarla a key to the doors (14 on the map, not locked in the original) to room 17, so she has to be fought too.

The Quesnef/Blackrazor branch holds:
18: A pit. Whee.
19: A corridor which heats metal. The intent is that heavily armored characters disrobe, so that the ghouls in room 20 can attack a severely weakened group. Cold based spells can nullify the effect for a short while.
21: Frictionless room. The pits marked A have poisoned spikes, and an unsecured person will fall in. Flight spells do not work. Hrm.
22: A magically suspended river floats in a loop entering room 22 and 23. It can be ridden using the kayaks in room 22, to 23 where Sir Bluto Sans Pite and his henchmen wait.
26: The classic inverted pyramid room. Four levels, four monster encounters.
27: Quesnef the Ogre Mage's room, with Blackrazor. Interestingly, the 3.5 conversion gives the option of him simply accompanying the party out of White Plume mountain (which breaks the curse that makes him stay inside).

Whoa, eight encounters, not counting the first pit. Would take some good tactics, but you get Blackrazor (distant cousin of Stormbringer) if you succeed. I might want to combine two of the inverted pyramid levels into one balanced encounter - fighting the scorpions on the second step while the sea lions on the third harass you sounds fun. Of course, Quesnef is a great opportunity for a foe that can be talked down, giving opportunities to cut the fighting down to an even saner amount.

September 14, 2009

Converting White Plume Mountain, Part 1: What Level Is Appropriate?

White Plume Mountain strikes me as a good choice of an old-school module to convert to D&D4. It's effectively three separate chains of encounters, from which you choose very early in the dungeon. Should mesh well with 4E's style of adventure.

(There's a 3.5 conversion here, by the way.)

First part is to figure out what level it should be aimed at. My hunch is "somewhere at high heroic level", but a more exact way would be to look up the monsters in the adventure and see where they land at in their 4E versions. So let's go:

Existing monsters:
Black Pudding (L8, Monster Manual 2)
Bugbear (L5-6, MM1 and 2)
Gargoyle (L9, MM1)
Ogre (L8, 11, MM1)
Wight (L9, 12, MM1)
Green Slime (L4, MM2, maybe best handled as a hazard)
Flesh Golem (L12, MM1)
Ctenmiir (L13, Open Grave)
Ghoul (L5-13, pretty much every book)
Giant Crayfish (L4, RPGA adventure Village of Hommlet)
Manticore (L10, MM1)
Efreeti (L22-28, MM1)

Close enough
Gynosphinx (Sphinx L16, MM1)
Air elemental (Air archon L16, both from Manual of the Planes)
Giant Scorpion (Hellstinger Scorpion L13)
Quesnef the Ogre Mage (Oni L7-14)

Need converting
Invisible Stalker
Giant Crab
Sea Lion

Bluto Sans Pite (and henchmen)

(Level ranges have been cut after the fact, reducing them to levels actually relevant to the result. Ghouls and wights, for example, exist at a much wider level range.)

Putting the adventure at level 11 would make most encounters work, with some level-changing. (The first five existing monsters are random encounters, so it's okay if those are a little easy.) It also makes most of the classic encounters (Ctenmiir, for example) work nearly as written. Still, many of the enemies need friends to make for interesting encounters (Ctenmiir, again.)

September 12, 2009

Canabalt - My Latest Drug

Damn, I've been playing this for too long now.

Canabalt is a very simple game. You press X or C to start the game. Your protagonist starts running in a corridor in some office skyscraper. Then he bursts out through the window at the end and starts running on rooftops (and occasionally through skyscrapers). Press X or C to jump, or the little guy will fall to his death.

Meanwhile, giant robots patrol in the background, fighter planes zoom past right behind you and occasionally, a missile crashes ahead of you - necessitating a jump to avoid being vaporized. There is no explicit story, but the implied one is rather obvious - WWIII has started, and you've decided to run out of the city as fast as you can.

One button. And I've been playing this for over a week now. I can consistently get over 2000 meters as long as a window doesn't brutally stop me before that.

Canabalt is awesome and will eat all your free time. You have been warned.

September 11, 2009

Moathouse Maps, Or: So I'm Running Village of Hommlet

So I'm running Village of Hommlet as a PbP game on RPGnet. I must be mad. Reports coming later when we actually get some play in.

Anyway, a player pointed out some awesome conversions of the original Moathouse maps. They look much better than my scans from the 4E module, and since they're made in a tile-based program (Dundjinni), they should work much better with the grid in MapTool.

More later.

September 07, 2009

Sudoku Dungeons, Courtesy of Greywulf

Greywulf wrote an interesting article about generating dungeons from Sudoku sheets, so I figured I'd make a dungeon from that system. (The article is here.)

First I need a Sudoku sheet. Google to the rescue! Google finds! That was easy.

I picked an "Evil" Sudoku in order not to clutter the dungeon with too many features. There was a marked decrease in numbers between that and "Easy" (the page's default). Funny thing - an Evil sheet probably tends to give an Evil dungeon, as most doors will be hidden. Less encounters, though.

The rest is just about following the directions in Greywulf's post.

First we get a rather plain setup with large rooms surrounding a central secret room in a spiral-ish pattern (single doors are secret, double doors are plainly visible). Decent architecture! Clearly some evil mastermind is hiding in the central room.

In fact, there aren't many foes in this dungeon. Just a double encounter (overleveled + normal) in the top left room, and the aforementioned mastermind (normal encounter) in the central hideout. If I were doing this seriously, I'd probably move one encounter to another of the big rooms. The perils of too hard Sudoku sheets...

Next is Features. (I'm doing NPC/puzzle last.) According to Greywulf's table, there're rotten bodies in the lower left room (right where the PC:s enter, yay), and a barricade in the top right. I'd definitely move the monsters into the room with the barricade if I was doing this for real.

Traps next. The top left and bottom right rooms have traps. I figure the monsters in the top left room would put alarms on both doors, and the mastermind has probably trapped the visible door into the lower right room because nobody uses that room (or at least not that door - it could be a storage room intended to be reached from the central room).

Treasure is second to last. Well yeah. In D&D4 terms, treasure parcel 2 is in the central hideout, and if the PC:s rifle through the storeroom to the lower right, they'll find parcels 5 and 9. Greywulf suggests using either treasure parcel numbers, or saying that "higher is better". Funny, because the treasure parcels with low numbers are worth more (powerful magic items, as opposed to regular gold coins). Ergo, treasure parcel 2 is pretty yummy.

Finally NPC:s/puzzles. The top right and bottom left room has some. Definitely captives in the top right one, whether there are monsters there or not. The bottom room is harder - maybe the PC:s can perform some forensics on the piles of dead bodies to figure out what awaits them further inside the complex. Or maybe there's a huge symbol shaped like the map - it would look arcane, but after two or three rooms, smart players might figure out that it's a map (and start looking for a way to the center).

The result might need some tweaking, but this is how it turned out, after adding some furniture to the rooms. The bottom left serves as garbage disposal - the monsters in the other rooms eat a lot of meat and need to put the bones somewhere. The top left is elite quarters - spacey and with heating. The top right is an old mausoleum - coffins and whatnot has been layered along the walls and serves as a barricade where it crosses the doors. the lower right room is a storage room, and there is good reason to assume that was its original purpose. The inhabitants never enter through the trapped door (with a pit behind it).

The central room is the laboratory, library and sleeping room of a cunning wizard. He will escape through one of the four secret doors if he is gravely threatened.

That worked out okay. Might need an easier Sudoku if I try again.