Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minimalist Setting: Timeline Example

So, riffing off my last post, and comments by Stuart over at his Strange Magic blog, here’s an example of something that’s not a rule, but is probably useful to include.  The following is a timeline for my Doom & Tea Parties game:

Pre-history 
79,881: First Lizardfolk Empire 
81,756: Coming of the elves. 
91,772: First War Against the Monsters: gods vs. offspring of the Tiamat, allied with Lizardfolk.  More a massive hunt than an actual war. 
92,119: Tiamat sues for peace to save her children, Land of the Monsters carved off from the rest of the world to serve as preserve for her children. 
Lizardfolk refuse to turn away from titans and worship the gods exclusively.  Gods turn their backs on Lizardfolk and their empire goes into decline. 
98,674-116,540: War of the Elders as titans and gods go to war.  Lizardfolk try to stay out of the fray, but their empire is shattered anyway. 
Tiamat secretly breeds the orcs into being, other monsters. 
116,540-116,620: Second War Against the Monsters as orcs, other monsters strike out, invade.  Monsters finally rebuffed as their hordes scatter to pillage and plunder.  What started as a war turns into a hunt as gods, some titans organize resistance.

Tiamat, furious at the slaughter of her children, secretly breeds the nagpa.

119,982: Rise of the Elven Empire.  While the gods actively oppose the elves, they fail to build an alliance against them.  With strong support of key titans and wizardry, elves build a strong empire.

126,196: Third War Against the Monsters: led by nagpa, the monsters strike out to create their own empire.  The gods at first sit it out, and things go poorly for the elves.  Nagpa carve out their own empire, but it falls when the elves join in alliance with the lizardfolk.

126,281: After nearly a century of warfare, the Nagpa Empire collapses.  Enraged, the Tiamat strikes directly at the elven cities, shattering many of them and destroying their empire.  The gods and titans, terrified that the powers the Tiamat is unleashing might either slay or free Earth, join against her and imprison her in the Red Moon
126,356: Coming of the gnomes, who claim they seek to heal the land. 
126,372: Rise of the Second Lizardfolk Empire
126,491: Coming of the Necromancer – creates an alliance of human tribes in the far north, raid and plunder the northern portions of the Lizardfolk Empire.

126,505: Coming of the Ice, as the world begins to cool.  Most blame the Necromancer for this.

126,766: Necromancer slain by elven and lizardfolk heroes.  Alliance of human tribes collapses.   
Ice begins to retreat. 
The gods begin to court the humans, turn their backs on the recalcitrant lizardfolk. 
126,902 to 126,915: Time of the Great Plague
126,800 to 126,984: Second Lizardfolk Empire goes into decline.  Led by the gods, the humans begin to build a loose network of allied city-states.  Skirmishes between the fey and humans frequent. <= Present day.

So yeah, something like forty-seven thousand years in two pages.  The entirety of American history could fit inside many of these lines.  Not much here.  In fact, the last significant event, the Time of the Great Plague, was so long ago (69 years) that no human character is likely to remember it.  And this is the first time I think any of my players have actually seen this, so for them, this is a peek behind the curtain.

So what good is this timeline?  It basically serves one purpose, and one purpose only: it tells me who made the dungeons, and the treasures and magic items found therein.  That being the case, there’s absolutely no need for me to go into great detail on this, and little need for the players to see this (though they’ve been told the basic outline during in-game conversations). 

If I decide I need a magic orc-slaying sword, it most likely came from one of the Wars Against the Monsters.  If I really need the name of a great hero who did amazing things with said sword, that’s easy enough to drop in without too much excitement.  Otherwise, it’s probably not worth my time to delve into that much detail.  I’m not going to remember the guy’s name, or why he fought or how he died.  And if I’m not going to remember, why should I expect my players to remember?

And  most of why I want this at all is to help me decide what the dungeons look like, or why they have this or that sort of treasure in them.  They are cheats, starting points, and outlines I can flesh out to make a place sensible in my own head, and hopefully to the players as well.  With this, I can build Zakian random tables of treasure, or architectural features, or things like that

Random Fortress of the Elven Empire Constructed During the Third War Against the Monsters (roll 2d10) to be Used with Geomorphs

2) Alchemical Lab: The walls are lined with counters topped with marble or lead.  If this part of the complex has not been looted, it will still contain 1d3 x 1,000 gp worth of alchemical equipment (though most will be delicate glassware that won’t survive usual dungeon delving; every combat will destroy 10d10 gp worth of any such equipment being carried by the PCs and their henchmen).  There’s also a 1-in-6 chance that the room contains 1d4 random potions, plus 0-4 (1d6 -2) fertility potions potent enough to overcome whatever birth control a character might be using for up to a week’s time, while also healing 2d12 points of damage when drunk and curing any non-magical disease.


3-4) Room with Well: well is (roll d6):
1: dry
2-3: still serviceable, though minerals heavily flavor the water
4: the lair of a monster
5: poisoned (save vs. poison or suffer stomach cramps and a -1 to all dice rolls for 1 day)
6: magical, and any who drink from it (roll d4)
                                1-3: can see in the dark as an elf for 24 hours
                                4: turn into a frog.


5-6) Guardroom: with working portcullis (50% chance it’s down, combined strength score of 40 or greater needed to lift it).


7) Council Chamber:  with magically shaped stone furniture.  Every round spent searching this room has a 1-in-12 chance of turning up an adamantium key that will open one of the doors, chests, or locked gates of this place.


8) Torture Chamber and Prison Cells: for holding prisoners, though all that’s held in them now will be bones.  A trap door in the floor will open to a sheer, 18’ shaft that drops into an oubliette.  There’s a 1-in-4 chance that it holds a random undead with the usual treasure associated with it.


9-10) Officers Office: the furniture has long since rotted to a pile of mold and dust, unless more recent residents have replaced it.  If the players search for secret doors and find one, they’ll discover a loose stone in the wall or floor that hides an adamantium key that will open one of the adamantium doors in this place.  Only one such key will exist in any office, and if the first round of attempts fails, then there is no key hidden in this particular office.


11) Habitat Warren: collection of rooms (cluster of 2 to 6) primarily used to house refugees, but might also be military barracks.


12) Dining Hall: with one adjoining room being a kitchen.  The chimney has a 50% chance of not having collapsed.  Gnomes, elves, and similarly small or slight creatures can use it to climb to the surface.


13-14) Granary: has a dozen wells sunk into the earth in which grain was stored.  Each well currently contains (roll d6):
         1-3: nothing.  The grain was eaten in the distant past.
4: well-preserved grain, but the lid is enchanted.  Any non-elf who touches it takes 2d4 points of electrical damage.
5: full of yellow mold!
6: full of grain that has fermented.  Anyone drinking the thick brew will enjoy a one-hour boost of any random stat to 18, but will also behave as if under the effects of a confusion spell, to be rerolled every 15 minutes.


15 )Armoury: the door to this room will be adamantium, will require 300 points of damage before it can be battered in, with a superior lock.  If it remains unopened (1-in-8 if this part of the complex has been inhabited or looted) it will contain carefully preserved weapons of bronze (2d12 swords, spears, and daggers, plus 2d12 long bows and 2d100 arrows), 1d6 suits of elf-sized chain mail, 1d6 elf-sized bronze helmets, plus uniforms.  There’s a 1-in-20 chance of their being 1d4 orichalcum swords (treat as silvered for purposes of harming lycanthropes and others that require special, non-magical weapons to harm them) and 1d6 rowan shields (can be “shattered” to prevent one spell that specifically targets the wielder).  There’s a 1-in-100 chance of there being an elvish cloak among the uniforms.


16-17) Killing Ground: this room has arrow-loops on both sides and murder holes above.  If humanoids have come to inhabit this place, they’ve almost certainly set up guards here to attack intruders.  If the alarm has been raised, they’ll probably have boiling oil set to dump through the murder holes. 


18) Pleasure Dome: hemispherical room piled with pillows of silk and fur that have been enchanted to resist the effects of time.  If this part of the dungeon hasn’t been plundered before, it’ll hold 2d4 x 100 gp worth of furnishings, crystal, drugs, and jewelry lost under the pillows.  There’s also a 1-in-4 chance that the room also contains flowering plants whose perfume induces altered states of consciousness.  For every turn the PCs remain in this room (searching, etc.) they should all roll a save vs. poison.  Each who fail will be stoned for 2d6 turns (-2 to all dice rolls, inhibitions removed, and may become completely obsessed with some simple feature of the dungeon) after which they will sleep for 1d6 hours.  When they awake, they will be ravenously hungry and will need to eat an entire day’s worth of rations or continue to suffer a -1 to all dice rolls.


19) Library: walls are lined with niches and shelves for scrolls and books.  If this room hasn’t been looted, there’s a 25% chance the books have been ensorcelled to prevent decay.  In this case, every turn they spend searching the shelves has a 1-in-20 chance of turning up a spell book containing 2-6 random 1st level spells, 1-3 random 2nd level spells, and 0 to 2 (1d4 -2) random 3rd level spells.  Books will be (roll a d6) written in (1-3) Low Fey, (4-5) High Fey, or more rarely (6) some other, random language.  Typical subjects (roll another d6) are (1-2) magic or alchemical theory, (3) history, (4) erotic poetry (1-in-4 will include pornographic images), (5) using Earth elementals in construction, and (6) military theory.


20) Vault: will also have an adamantium door that will resist up to 350 points of damage before falling.  Inside will be sacks containing 300-600 (1d4 + 2) silver pieces and 100-400 gold pieces.  If the current residents have the keys to this vault, also add in whatever additional wealth in coins and jewelry is appropriate for them.


21) Magical Lab: the floor will be inset with an orichalcum symbol used for summoning or containing magical effects.  Magic spells will not cross into or out of the symbol.  There’s a 1-in-20 chance that the symbol holds (roll a d6) a (1-2) red slaad, (3) blue slaad, (4) invisible green slaad, (5) earth elemental, (6) invisible air elemental.  Any object physically crossing the symbol will break it and free whatever it imprisons. 


22 )Alchemical Lab: The walls are lined with counters topped with marble or lead.  If this part of the complex has not been looted, it will still contain 1d3 x 1,000 gp worth of alchemical equipment (though most will be delicate glassware that won’t survive usual dungeon delving; every combat will destroy 10d10 gp worth of any such equipment being carried by the PCs and their henchmen).  There’s also a 1-in-6 chance that the room contains 1d4 random potions, plus 0-4 (1d6 -2) fertility potions potent enough to overcome whatever birth control a character might be using for up to a week’s time, while also healing 2d12 points of damage when drunk and curing any non-magical disease.

6 comments:

Anthony said...

Oh man, I love your write up for the affects of the pleasure dome's potent plants :D Wake up and eat a whole day's rations, priceless :D

JB said...

Very cool.

Stuart said...

Nice work. I'd much rather read RPG Setting Info in this format when making an adventure than this one. :)

trollsmyth said...

Thanks!

Stuart: I never owned that book, but I understand that it was mostly maps. Or was there something else in there that is less-than-ideal for you?

migellito said...

When writing up a setting, I think the timeline is tied for first place with the map as far as most-used and most important elements. It's always proven that way for me, at least.

Other than those two things all I really want is:
-encounter tables
-city, town and village facts (e.g. how many inns are there, is there an armorer, are there shops or just a gen. store) I bought a setting because THIS is the stuff I don't want to fool with.
-and a few 1/4 page vignettes of life & adventure in the place

Stuart said...

There are lots of maps... but few that are suitable for adventures / dungeons. There's also lots of this garbage.

I don't want garbage, I want sprinkles! ;)