Thursday, 21 June 2018

Announcements: A Playtest! A Guild!

tl;dr: play my game here, help me make it here.

***

GRAVEROBBERS
is a gothic fantasy heistcrawl RPG, with a feather-light ruleset inspired by the OSR.

Things I've written about it on this blog can be found here.

The Current State of the Game

Some folks have been expressing an interest, so I figured I might as well put the rules up, such as they are. You can get what I'm calling the Player Starter Sheet right here in a lil google doc.

The Player Starter Sheet has everything a player needs to know to make a character and play the game. As a GM, all you need to do is:

a) prepare a situation (a heist)
b) decide when to call for rolls (bearing in mind how the rules work)

I feel like anyone who's GM'd an OSR game before can do this competently enough.

The Future of the Game

I'd like to eventually release a finalised ruleset, in a document along with GM advice, at least one starter adventure, various example hacks for the game, and a few of the most pertinent posts from this blog, rewritten to be relevant to Graverobbers specifically.

Any updates to the rules, additional content, and previews on a final product will be shared through the Graverobber's Guild.

art by Nicoletta Migaldi

The Graverobber's Guild

I'm setting up a Patreon, intended to:

- Support the making of Graverobbers and other games I'm working on
- Direct access to all updates on those games, and a direct channel to me for your feedback
- Serve as a kind of tip jar for folks who like this blog
- Develop a community, so you can talk to each other and me about ideas
- Provide me with a direct line to the folks who most want to support me, so I can give you stuff

The Guild can be found right here. The only pledge level is $1USD per month.

This is not a payment for a service - it is an optional way for you to help me if you are able to and want to. I hope you will consider sending a little bit of spare change my way if you like what I do :)

PS: If you don't want to commit to a dollar a month, you can give a one-off donation by spending an amount of your choice on any of the products on my Gumroad online store.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Bastard Magic

I've written before about how I like practical magic in RPGs. Magical effects that feel real, occult, that affect things within the game world rather than the mechanics. Spells made of words, not bonus numbers and damage dice. Magic that feels like magic.

With that in mind, here is a new magic system of 30 spells that I'm calling Bastard Magic.

art by Eleanor Bergmann
I wrote it as a magic option for my own game, but it's completely system neutral and fits into any fantasy RPG.

Each of the 30 spells comes with a full description that works as a guide for the GM, the player and the characters within the game. Each spell also comes with suggestions on how to begin thinking about using magic creatively.

You can download it for free right here.

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Postbox in the Woods (An Adventure)


Every child in the village knew the legends of Taro-Taro. Half human and half spirit, a boy born of a peach pit that hatched on a mountaintop, he was a hero who bridged our world and the spirit world. When there was trouble with mischievous ghosts, or the forest gods grew angry, Taro-Taro performed feats of cunning and strength to restore harmony.

There was a shrine to Taro-Taro, long ago, in what is now the Old Town Forest. Priests tended the holy ground, and there was a sacred wooden box containing the wishes of children, scrawled on paper leaves. For Taro-Taro had sworn an oath to answer any honest request by the pure of heart.

However, the oath of a spirit is binding, and Taro-Taro soon began to grow weary. Every child is pure of heart, and their prayers came in great number at each festival and blessed day. While many were impossible requests or fell outside the hero’s purview, he still found himself forced by his own word to deal with every spiritual problem the locals had, no matter how inconsequential.

Before long, Taro-Taro had had enough. In a tantrum, he grew a forest around the postbox overnight, enveloping the old town and forcing the villagers to leave. They settled the new town by the forest’s edge, cursing Taro-Taro. The once lauded hero, now left in peace, rested within the trunk of an old tree, paying the monkey god twelve gold coins to guard him as he slept.


The Adventure

The players are travellers from a nearby town, which is suffering under a spirit’s curse. They hear the old legend and travel to Old Town Forest to try and find Taro-Taro’s mailbox, and get the legendary spirit-boy to help them.

If a message is written down and posted inside the box, Taro-Taro appears, bleary eyed. He begrudgingly agrees to do what he is asked, on the condition that the players smash the postbox to pieces.

Rumours

1: Taro-Taro is dead.
2:
Hide your swords from the wooden priests! They hate the glint of coin, too. Offends them.
3:
If you find the old monkey statue, give it a gold offering. The spirits might leave you be.
4:
Oh, you’re going into the forest? Sweet… Could you get me some of those mushrooms?
5:
Some have gone wandering those woods, never to return. Maybe the monkey god cursed ‘em.
6:
The forest is magic… It feels. Don’t hurt it. In fact, don’t hurt anything in there. It’ll get angry.

The Map

Cut out the crossword from a free newspaper. This is your map of Old Town Forest.

White squares are natural paths, littered with occasional undergrowth and rubble. Black squares are “walls” formed of the crumbled buildings of the old town, overgrown with dense foliage.

The central square is where the old shrine is, and within it the mailbox.

Encounters

Roll 1d4 on the table below each time the players enter a crossword square with a number in it.
Whenever an encounter ends in violence or wanton destruction of the forest, increase the die rolled for the next encounter (1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10).

1: Butterflies.
2:
1d4 deer.
3:
A wild boar, angry.
4:
Wooden priests. Make hollow knocking noises. Love quiet, hate metal.
5:
A cursed monkey-man. Tells lies to get someone close enough to bite. The bitten grow tails.
6:
A monkey who has found a cloak of invisibility. Harmless but annoying.
7:
1d4 savage, sharp-toothed apes.
8:
Animated sap monsters, dripping from the trees.
9:
Monkey mages. Mischievous. Can cast spells to cause deafness, blindness or muteness.
10:
An animus of the forest, shambling piles of dirt and plant matter. Angry.

Features

Roll a die that encompasses as many of the numbers on the crossword squares as possible (probably a d20). Cross out the number you roll, and put a symbol in that square instead.

The symbol corresponds to one of the following features. Keep rolling until you’ve added all four.

1: A small, stagnant pond.
2:
A stone totem of a fat monkey. Put a gold coin in its mouth and primates won’t bother you here.
3:
Mushrooms grow here that cause a happy, light-headed haze when eaten. Monkeys love them.
4:
A termite mound, the remains of its last victim cleaned to the bone. Best to find another route.

Remnants

If the players search the ruined and overgrown buildings of the old town, they find:

1: Insects living in the dark corners.
2:
1d4 copper coins.
3:
A doll. There is an old man in the village who will recognise it from his youth.
4:
A beehive.
5:
Mushrooms growing from a dank patch of filth.
6:
A child’s letter, intended for the postbox at the shrine. It asks Taro-Taro for a baby brother.
7:
An old lucky charm, whittled into the shape of a monkey.
8:
A gold coin.

Old Magic

If the bodies of a boar, deer and butterfly are offered upon a desecrated shrine, a powerful demon will appear to offer magic in exchange for gold. He can grant one person a spell that lets them exhale a cold and mighty wind, and teach the secret commands that all mountain birds heed.

The players learn of this ritual later in their adventures, and recall the broken shrine to Taro-Taro, deep in the forest they visited all those weeks ago.

Friday, 1 June 2018

The Graverobber's Guide to Gardening


I like magic to be made of actual words, rather than a set of mechanics, numbers or bonuses to this or that.

One of the many reasons for this preference is that players can read a spell description both in and out of character. The magic exists within the fiction of the world, rather than as a little meta note on a character sheet ("1d6 damage, 60ft range", that kind of thing).

Same with magic items. There are a bunch of strange plants in my world, so here's a guide to those that might be useful for the players to know about.

It's written as an in-universe artefact that players could buy in a shop, or find in a greenhouse. Also serves the added bonus of getting across worldbuilding info in a gameable context - the only way that worldbuilding ever really matters.

I'm always adding to it, so feel free to do the same.

***

THE GRAVEROBBER'S GUIDE TO GARDENING

by Pirro, amateur gardener and retired graverobber

ITEMS & TOOLS

pot golems
Little round chaps made of clay, these are handy for adventurers to plant things in. They follow you around, and protect whatever’s growing in them.

sunstone
Casts a tiny bit of light that seems to work just like sunlight. Handy for growing in dungeons or catacombs.

tajirian staff
A sanctified butterfly net. Bugs caught within it become loyal, insofar as a bug can hold allegiance, until it is next used.

wise man’s glass
Sunlight, shone through this little magnifying glass, turns to moonlight, and vice versa. Might be good for growing certain faerie plants.

PLANTS & FUNGI

boatleaf
These huge plants grow from the silt in still water. Their leaves float atop the surface and are huge and hardy enough to carry a person’s weight.

brambleroot tree
Its thorny roots lie close to the surface, animating to snare those who step over them unwillingly. Called the “flamingo tree” because of how its white leaves turn red after it feeds.

crabshell mushrooms
The cap of this fungus is round, flat and hard. Good for a makeshift shield.

follybrush
A riverside flower whose thick pollen stains the skin like dye. Traditionally used in makeup and facepaint, these days only really seen during the three Festivals of Masks.

fuillement
The pale elves of the northern woods make traditional clothing from the leaves of this plant.

gant’s root
This fiery and bitter root, when chewed, is said to allow the user to speak with spirits of the dead. Some legends vary and state that it simply keeps vengeful dead at bay, its strong flavour stopping them from sucking one’s soul out through the mouth. Either way, popular at Spirits’ March.

laddervine
Grows a foot a day, straight up a wall or surface. Climbing it is as easy as walking up stairs.

lockseed
A plant whose flower contains a key matching the lock its seed was planted in. The little plant normally takes a week to flower.

meatweed
The leaves are thick with a fleshy substance that fills them like gel fills aloe. Can be dried and made into jerky.

paddlescum
Rank in taste but nutritious, it grows like mould on stagnant water. The principle diet of trollspawn before they grow legs and emerge from their birthing ponds.

shaking vine
These dry and brittle weeds susurrate at the presence of certain magics, such as things turned invisible.

shufflers
Carnivorous plants that wander around on their roots, searching out small creatures to digest in their acidic, mouth-like flowers. Grow them, with caution, for their roots as a potion ingredient.

sweetheart plums
Woodland elves brew a wine from these fruits that functions a little like a love potion.

lumions
The unplanted bulb emits a glow, too faint to notice in daylight but such that it can be seen in pitch black darkness. (I am attempting to grow a variant that casts light like a candle flame.)

wall anemone
A strange and fibrous plant that grows in canyons. What appears to be its flower is in fact a fleshy, poisonous appendage.

wayflower
Called tournescalier by the elves, its plucked flower swivels around when held, always pointing to the nearest staircase. The flower dies and withers one hour after being picked.

PESTS & MONSTERS

bug ghosts
I don’t believe in them, but the old gnome who runs the supply shop in Last Chance sprinkles his vegetable patch with holy water every new moon, and his cabbages are flawless.

corpse bees
A grim but necessary part of gardening in dungeons. They brew crimson honey in ribcage hives. Supposedly if you can stomach it, it has healing properties.

pixie moths
The powder scales from their wings can cause everything from itchiness to drowsiness to hallucinations. Lead them away with the glint of gold instead of a flame.

tantalian slugs
They secrete a goo that increases the sensations of pain and touch. Supposedly a party piece at elven orgies. Keep the greedy beggars out of your plants with a little salt on the soil.

MYTHS & LEGENDS

almaidalance
Most legends don’t specify the myriad flowers that bloom wherever Alda, Lady of Spring, walks upon the ground. The few legends that do mention one that has never been found in reality; a white hibiscus whose petals are fine as glass. Could it really be a fiction?

divine pomme
An apple with skin like alabaster and flesh like pure gold. The dish that the great hero Kyros served to the ocean spirit Selene in the old legend that inspired the modern Sellenic Games, held biannually in Meriscella. In the modern trial, champions must bring the finest dish they can to a great feast at the end of the Games’ second week. (Once someone tried to claim they had actually found the apple, I think? It was an illusion or something.)

faerie
Not so much a legend any more as we know it’s real, but the world of the fey contains innumerable plants still not discovered! If I were still in the graverobbing business I’d happily lose myself in that place… though I suppose that’s the trick.

sweetbeard
An old dryad, the only male one and said to be the kindly king of all their kind. The sap from his luxuriant beard bolstered heroes’ strength in old tales. One of the principle servants of Cairen, Prince of Autumn, just like Selene is for Alda.

the world tree
Supposedly far beyond the eastern steppes, an enormous tree holds up the sky. Travelling rabbitfolk tell of roots like hills, and branches so big that entire forests grow on them.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Does An OSR Game Need Dedicated Combat Rules?

I'll segue into today's topic with an update on the status of the game I'm working on. It's kind of what prompted the question in the title - that and some recent conversation on the social platforms.

I was also working on a separate ruleset beforehand, for a heist game. There were various iterations, and I was largely happy with it, but it was more of a pet project than the Fantasy Heartbreaker. Then I started running a new campaign, and... well, I don't remember my thinking exactly, but the fantasy game has been absorbed into that heist game.

I mean, a dungeon crawl is just a heist anyway, we all know this. This is simply a ruleset that leans into certain aspects of the dungeon crawl over others, with a particular implied setting, all of which add up to make a more "heist"-themed game that still plays in the OSR style. I'm very proud of it so far, and I expect you'll be hearing more about it soon enough.

***

The heist game as it existed before the fantasy stuff got absorbed into it had no specific combat rules. Combat was a governed by a roll, like other things, and that was fine. It worked for the genre and tone of that system.

I had notions of bringing over mechanics from the fantasy ruleset to keep things in line with what I thought of as OSR - things like initiative, attack rolls, AC.

The core mechanic of the heist game is very different from d20+mod, and I had a lot of fun trying to adapt those classic concepts in new ways, thinking up new mechanics that delivered the same effects. But as I refined the game, playtested, drafted and redrafted, all those mechanics fell by the wayside.

In the latest iteration, the one I'm using to run stuff, combat is just a roll again. There are as many combat rules as there are rules for stealth, lockpicking or scaling a clock tower in the dead of night with a grappling hook. That is to say: describe what you want to do, and then the GM tells you to make a roll.

My designer brain, reared on 5e and now enamoured of the many DIY takes on traditional combat systems, keeps throwing up ideas on adding tactics, damage types, weapon categories. But nothing works as well for this system as the single roll.

***

My next thought, then, was "is this still OSR?". I know from Troika! that the old-school mechanics OSR games draw inspiration from don't have to be from D&D, and I know from Maze Rats that you can change the core mechanic until it's not recognisably D&D at all and still be considered OSR.

But no combat rules? Surely this was blasphemy? Was I turning my face from the DIY community entirely, and embracing some new, dark wilderness of game design, alone?

I mean... no. I don't think so.

***

One of the most persistent myths about the old-school style is that it's a numbers-first, tactical combat based, hack-and-slash style of gameplay. It's not. The game is lethal, and if you wish to avoid the many varieties of grisly demise on offer, you need to think creatively, avoiding and subverting combat scenarios rather than engaging in them.

But you knew that, you're smart. We all on the same page? Good.

So, then, quoth the as-yet-unaware, why do OSR systems have so many combat rules? As opposed to, say, rules for feeling things, or exploration? If the game is about things other than combat, why isn't that reflected in its ruleset?

Again, we know the answer: because the way OSR play engages with the rules is fundamentally different from most other schools of RPG design. Your character sheet is a list of the few limitations imposed on you, not a list of your awesome powers and skill trees. In something like Pathfinder, say, the character sheet represents all the cool stuff you can do. In an OSR system, the cool stuff you can do is everything else. OSR play is what's not written - what's written is there to ground the situation and make things difficult.

***

So, then, the if the purpose of the combat rules in an OSR system is to enforce lethality, the question we started off with remains. Does an OSR game need dedicated combat rules?

No. I don't think so.

What it needs is lethality rules - rules that ensure that when things go wrong, there are drastic and often fatal consequences. Rules that encourage the OSR playstyle - player ingenuity and calculated risk-taking - by providing a box the player is forced to think outside of.

The reason, then, that these lethality rules have been presented as combat rules since the days of yore is, obviously, partly because the hobby evolved out of wargaming. But if that was the only reason, they would have been replaced over the decades as RPGs moved further and further from their wargaming roots.

The main reasons, I think, are a combination of genre conventions and player agency. We expect the knight to have a sword, and know how to use it, while the wizard shoots fireballs from her trusty staff. Those are the special skills the characters offer, and since we can't roleplay physical danger at the table like we can social situations or intellectual puzzles, we need to have at least some idea of whether or not they will work in a given instance.

This ties heavily in to player agency. When your back's against the wall and combat's the only option, you want to know exactly what it is you can do - even if it is likely a fatal endeavour.

Combat rules do three things, then: enforce lethality, support the expected tone and setting of the system, and allow players options to fall back on when "standard play" (what I call just, like, talking), fails them. These are all Good Things. Combat rules are good.

***

So why was I having such a hard time grafting them on to my own system? Why did every attempt feel so inelegant? It is an OSR game, I still believe that. The playstyle is exactly the same. I eventually realised I'd just achieved that playstyle in a different way.

My game has its own rules to enforce lethality that aren't tied to damage. I'll likely detail them another time, or they'll be available to read once some form of playtest doc or rulebook comes out. But basically, rolls are inherently dangerous. Every one is a gamble with your character's fate, in one way or another, and with each failure you risk slipping closer and closer to death. The structure of lethality is very much enforced, even without standard HP mechanics or damage rolls.

As for supporting the expected tone and setting? Well, those are different in this game. It's not a gonzo Conan-esque dungeon crawl, it's kept too much of the heist flavour for that. I still run dungeon crawls in it, but the setup and tone are different enough that players don't expect their characters to necessarily be able to wield a sword, or use magic. In fact, character creation makes it very apparent how unlikely it is that either of those skills will be available. It's in a different genre, ish.

And finally, options to fall back on. The numbers on the sheet, the stuff outside of talking, planning, or using your surroundings or inventory in interesting ways. Those three things are the vast majority of any session, but what happens when those options fail? Combat mechanics sort that out by giving everyone some kind of mechanical sway on the deadly situation, however slight. Characters in my game still have mechanical abilities, but not everyone has an attack bonus. They'll be good in other ways - hiding from a monster, sneaking past it, running away.

Don't get me wrong - they can attack. Limiting player agency is maybe the biggest no-no for me in game design. They're just probably not going to be good at it. Making them good enough at a bunch of other stuff, and making that stuff more relevant, is an acceptable substitute, I've found.

***

So, to answer the question.

tl;dr: No.

I figured out that:

1. Lethality mechanics don't need to be distinctly combat-focused as long as failure can still lead to death and disaster.

2. Players won't miss dedicated combat rules if the setting and style make it clear that combat is unlikely to be relevant.

3. As long as the players have something to roll for when the shit hits the fan, they're happy, even if it's not a classic attack roll vs AC.

***

The only thing remaining, then, is compatibility with other OSR/DIY stuff, and I don't think the game's lacking anything by not basing itself on the standard model. The main point of conversion between systems is monster stat blocks, and since there aren't any combat rules, the game doesn't need 'em. You could absolutely run something like Maze of the Blue Medusa in this system, no problem.

Well, that's me all rambled out. Exciting things to come, stay tuned.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

On Mermaids, Hashtag Mermay

So a bunch of artists on Twitter (and, I presume, your social media platform of choice) are doing a thing. It's been a thing for a few years now I think? Anyway, in the month of May, they draw mermaids.

I found all the art in this post from artists I follow and by searching the hashtag. Check em out and hire em for stuff.

Mermaids are also great for fantasy games. Here's the how and why.

Soundtrack for this post.

art by @pkyrachu
There are two types of mermaid; not in historical mythology, just in current fantasy art and media, as observed by me.

The first type is the classic, storybook - even, Disney - mermaid. Top half pretty naked lady or, less commonly, man, and bottom half big ol' fish. (Side note: as far as we can tell, mermen predate mermaids. Huh.)

The second type incorporates the fishiness throughout. Blue scale-like skin, fin-ears, kelp hair, even barracuda teeth or, god forbid, gills.

Before we get into things, it would be remiss of me to not mention the fantastic Kiel Chenier's upcoming Weird on the Waves pirate setting kit, in which mermaids are a playable race. He's teased the variants: top half fish, or left half fish, or one where the fish bits are all inside. Can't wait for that.

(I guess I'll tag him here so people can find his stuff? I still have zero idea how or why Google Plus is a thing, but I think this'll do it? +KielChenier )

Let's talk about the first one first.

art by @anamericanghost

These mermaids are perfect for your fantasy game. If you describe a skeleton floating blobbily in a square mass, that one player who's read the monster manual or been playing for 30 years is gonna go "Oh! It's a gelatinous cube!", to dumbfounded expressions from the rest of your group.

If you describe a naked woman coming out of the water, her lower half hidden beneath the waves, everyone's gonna be thinking the same thing. And when you describe her long, elegant tail flipping lazily in and out of the water, everyone's gonna be on the same page. Everyone knows what mermaids are. They share a prized place with dragons and unicorns as being seeped into the cultural consciousness of not just modern western civilisation, but pretty much the whole dang planet.

But while dragons are for killing, or avoiding, or maybe talking to but then at some point killing, and unicorns are for... I dunno, riding? Unicorns are boring. Anyway, these "type one" mermaids send out a pretty clear signal, unlike almost every other fantasy monster, that you can just talk to them. For us running our OSR games, this is a godsend. Yeah, it's a monster on a random encounter, but this monster is... nice. She's smiling, she's happy to help. Anyone's first port of call is going to be at least attempting communication.

And from there, mermaids can open up your world in other ways. Half of her's up here, sure, but half of here is very much from... down there. What you get is instant worldbuilding, the implication that at the very least there's a coral castle or a sunken fortress or a clan of merrily singing fishladies on a rock somewhere nearby.

An interaction with a monster that everyone instantly understands, that encourages communication and that, even in passing, fleshes out your world? As far as OSR play goes, that's a fucking win.

And sure, maybe they drown sailors for fun, that bit's up to you.

art by @andrewkmar
The "type two" mermaids then. The monsters.

Under the sea is weird. We know this. There are things down there that are more otherworldly than any sci fi movie's alien imaginings. These mermaids generally do a crappy-to-passable job of translating that otherness, but there's certainly untapped potential in the depths.

The problem here is, that if you want to go weird, there are better options than mermaids. The recognisable factor that makes the type-ones work so well puts you at a disadvantage here. It's like Cthulu: once a cosmic nightmare, vast and potent beyond our primate understanding, now a plushie you can get on a million Etsy stores, and the mascot for every other nerd-culture card game Kickstarter.

What these mermaids do best is in translating as animals, as beasts. I haven't played The Witcher III, but I've watched my girlfriend play it enough to know it's pretty great, and very Dungeons and Dragons. I once saw her rowing a little boat around the game's Viking-world analogue, when sirens attacked. I think that's what they're called in the game; in any case, sirens and mermaids have been conflated into mostly the same thing since forever.

These were no seashell bra-clad maidens, nor were they deep sea aliens. These were proper monsters. They were big, like sharks, and they tore into the boat as much as they did lovably gruff protagonist Geralt (I call him Jerry). We weren't knights on a quest, hearing the perilous siren's call, and we hadn't stumbled into anyone's non-euclidean eldritch domain. They were predators, and we were in their territory.

They weren't unknowable creatures from depths hitherto untravelled, or beautiful yet deadly temptresses. There are talking monsters in the Witcher, and fairytale stuff, but these just kinda... screamed. It was awesome. Sure they were vaguely human shaped, but the uncanny valley didn't even factor into it.

That's how you make type two mermaids work. Wait until the players are splashing around Amity Beach, and then let em loose. I'm not generally a fan of the whole "this monster is just an animal in its ecosystem, here's how it functions biologically" vibe, but as with my previous foray into trolls, sometimes it just works.

art by @hairytentacles
So there you go, some thoughts on mermaids. I think they're often overlooked, but worth your time.

They also feature in the setting of my current home game, and I'm trying to collate my notes into something playable so that I can share it. I'll likely slap on some art and a hexmap and call it a module. Stay tuned for news on when and how you can get it, probably in a couple of months.

There's a whole lot more than mermaids going on in my little setting, and you could certainly run a campaign without bumping into one. All I'll say is that I've managed to work both the "type one" and "type two" mermaids in there, and it's working very nicely.

It's pretty simple actually. Freshwater and saltwater.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Hell on the Moon (Part Two)

Part One can be found here.

***

The Dungeon

The dungeon is what people call the strange underground construction in the next crater over from the diner. It takes about an hour to reach on foot, and half as long by hoverbike.

What nobody remembers is that the dungeon was once a starship, called the Méliès, which crash landed into the surface years ago. The ship was crewed by moon elf priests who sook to travel the cosmos fighting demons.

However on one mission, demons took over the ship. The priests tried to make it back home to get help, but by the time they reached the moon it was clear the demons were too powerful and would pose a danger to the empire. They sealed the demons in the top half of the ship and sacrificed themselves by crash landing it into an empty crater.

The Méliès, upside down, is almost completely buried in moon rock. At the end waits the demon lord, who has turned the cockpit into his throne room. Lower down the ship, or rather, further up the dungeon, the plants that the priests grew in their living quarters have overtaken the space and turned it into an indoor jungle, where more demons roam.

The engine room, at the top of the dungeon, is sealed off from the lower sections, and native moon creatures have made it their home. What was once the ship’s exhaust is now an entrance, poking out just above the lunar surface.

The Nest

The lower half of the ship, now the upper half of the dungeon, has been taken over by moon bugs.

The engine room, maintenance corridors and storage are all overgrown with nests made from the goo they excrete. It hardens, covering surfaces and forming new, organic platforms and pathways among the plain metal interior.

At the bottom of this area are two different hatches leading down to the next section, both locked from this side. They open to anyone with an Engineer’s Pass.

Nest Material

The calcified mess that coats everything will burn easily, giving off a low, steady purplish light and noxious fumes for up to an hour. The fire doesn’t spread though.

The Bugs

The eggs are fist-sized and gross. The larvae are helpless and squeal if disturbed. The bugs are parasites, and will latch onto things to kill and then take control of them.
The old crew of the Méliès stagger around, skeletons dressed in priest robes and armour, piloted by the bugs on their skulls. They still carry blessed swords and 1d4 moon coins each, as well as Engineer’s Passes which can lock and unlock the doors between this section and the next.

The Others

In one corner of one corridor is a slight spatial shimmer, detectable to anyone with magic. Astral somethings leak through on occasion (1d20):

1: Like a huge fat wheel made of flesh, with eyes in a pattern on either side. Could pull a cart if you stuck a rope through the mucus-lined hole in its centre.
2: Tall and gangling, there is no way to understand its language. Politely dismissive, it leaves.
3: Little yellow goblin-shaped crystal people. They eat anything intricate or complicated.
4: A teeny tiny spaceship full of little chaps, pootling through the air real slow like.
5:
Noises like someone’s scraping two galaxies together.
6:
Moon maidens. Not this moon. Like jellyfish or scraps of cloth in the wind or dancing women.
7:
A big, severed hand, the wound cauterised.
8:
Like a head with arms. If it bites you with its circular mouth it dies, and your skin turns purple.
9:
Two-dimensional and pastel coloured, they disappear instantly when looked at sideways.
10:
Like phytoplankton under a microscope, but hand-sized. They make music when touched.
11:
A moon rock. Not this moon, though.
12:
Part of a buckle for the equestrian gear certain celestials use to ride storms.
13:
Green slime.
14:
Bricks. Part of a tiefling’s stone spaceship.
15:
An odd tool, presumably for repairing some otherworldly machine.
16:
An engraved hammer. Summons lightning, or it would if there were clouds on the moon.
17:
A big, severed hand, the wound adorned with a golden and jewelled cap. Mobile.
18:
A coating of glittery dust. Causes skin to become pearlescent, and invisible in starlight.
19:
A hat that projects the wearer’s surface-level thoughts as sound. Hard to remove once worn.
20:
Tall, tentacle-faced, eats brains. You know the ones.

The Hideout

One side room is sealed off, with no signs of the bugs having ever entered. A wasted skeleton in priest robes has the Demon Key around its neck and 3 moon coins. On the wall is scratched: LORD PROTECT ME.

The Jungle

What was once the living quarters of the Méliès is now a demon-ridden jungle. Locked hatches separate it from the engine room above, and a single central hatch leads to the cockpit below, where the demon lord resides. The whole space is under the effect of an antimagic field, put in place by the priests to keep the demons at bay.

Wandering Encounters (1d8):

1: Greater Demon.
2-3: 1d4 Lesser Demons.
4: An imp.
5: 1d4 imps.
6: 1d4 Lesser Demons with imps.
7: A wandering Shuffler.
8: Two Greater Demons, too concerned with their own business to notice the players.

Remnants

A few things remain of the ship’s previous occupants. When searching a room, or the stash looted by a demon, you find (1d10):

1: A holy symbol.
2: Old priest robes, matching those worn by the skeletons in the nest.
3: A smooth gemstone, the colour of another world’s sky.
4: A diary detailing proper care and caution of one of the plants found on the ship (roll 1d4 below for a plant).
5: 1d4 moon coins.
6: A manual for the ship’s communications array, in the cockpit.
7: A love note.
8: A spell book containing a cleric spell.
9: A dagger made of meteorite.
10:
Medicine for a condition only moon elves suffer. Turns human skin red, permanently.

Plants

The crew of the Méliès grew plants in their living quarters to brighten up the place. Since their death, the emergency lighting and water systems have allowed the house plants to thrive, turning the space into an indoor jungle. Vines cover the walls, mangroves take root in the bathrooms, and palm trees grow upside down, planted in what used to be the floor.
Some plants may prove more interesting. (1d4):

1: Star Anemones. These fleshy flower-like creatures grow out of walls. They grab at passers-by and grip them tight, slowly dissolving pieces of them.
2: Laddervine. When tugged, it retracts, pulling anyone holding it upwards.
3: Shuffler. Mobile carnivorous plants that use a mess of roots to pull themselves around and grab food to put into their sticky, mouth-like flowers.
4: Meatleaf. Wide and rubbery leaves, filled with a jelly that vaguely resembles fish steak. Can be cooked, dried and cured into jerky. The smell of the raw jelly is appetising to simple, carnivorous beasts.

Imps

Little fat red-skinned idiots with wings, they zip around and can disappear in a puff of acrid smoke. Would never deign to question the rule of their superiors, but despise serving them. Everything they do, they do out of fear of punishment.

Lesser Demons

By default they look like people with horns – you know, demons. A group of 1d4 has 1d4 of the following extra features between them (1d20):

1: Useless fly wings and big insect eyes. Advantage on Perception.
2: A big crab claw on one oversized arm. 1d10 damage.
3: Craters down its back that expel lazy trails of smoke. 1d4 damage if you breathe near it.
4: Fur that drips something.
5: Big tusked jaws. 1d6 damage.
6: Another arm.
7: Another leg.
8: A scorpion tail. Bonus attack, 1d6 damage.
9: Hands for feet.
10: One big sideways mouth all the way up its torso. 2d4 damage.
11: A snake for genitals. Bonus attack, 1d4 damage.
12: Two heads.
13: Two more arms.
14: Eyes on its butt cheeks.
15: One arm is a tentacle. Double melee range, advantage to grapple.
16: Tiny head. Its bite is unlikely to hit, but turns a limb to stone.
17: Goat legs.
18: Backwards feet.
19: Bat wings.
20: Roll 1d6 twice and put the second one where the first should be (1: head, 2: arm, 3: leg, 4: mouth, 5: eye, 6: ass).

Greater Demons

The henchpersons of the demon lord, they ensure his commands are fulfilled. Each has a lock of some kind affixed to them, a gift from their lord that makes them more useful to him in some way – whether it grants them power or restricts it. Each lock has a keyhole, all of which can be unlocked by the Demon Key.

1: Not quite 10ft tall, strikingly handsome nude male with jet black hair, crimson skin and brunette goat’s legs. He wears a blindfold, a keyhole in the centre.

Six imps accompany him, chained. They act as eyes, telling him truths sprinkled with compliments. If less than three are able to speak to him he is considered blind and will rage helplessly. If the blindfold is taken off he will scramble to find a mirror. If he sees a mortal with his own eyes he begins to age backwards rapidly until he is ash.

2: A little taller than a person, feminine with pink-red skin, wearing only a complex looking chastity belt. The belt has a bestial, toothy mouth with a keyhole in its tongue.

She stuffs imps into the belt’s mouth and it eats their heads. She’d love to get the belt off, truth be told, but the only way she can think of involves someone losing an arm.

3: Huge towering slime-thing, a wretched waste of a being.

Chained up in a dank corner somewhere, he knows all about what’s going on, and most importantly where the Demon Key is that will free him. He keeps this secret from his fellow demons, but will beg strangers to get it for him, promising great reward. Unchained, he will begin to eat and will not stop eating.

4: Tall, humanoid but the proportions are wrong. Its head is encased in a helmet – glowing eyes, keyhole in the back of the skull.

It is inactive, slumped. It will obey the one who inserts the key in its head, moving slowly but with incredible strength.

5: Like a centaur, but the horse part is a demon (too many legs!), and the human part is a construction, a metal and wood automaton in the shape of an elegant woman – four arms, impressive horns and a blank face. There is a keyhole in the navel.

If unlocked, the halves detach. The top half is full of teeth, and can be locked into place on any suitable mount. The resulting creature has the consciousness of the lower half, which dies.

6: Immobile and trapped in a locked chest.

A mess of tentacles and thorns, she quite likes the chest, and wants to fill it with money and treasure.

7: Tall and androgynous, in flowing red robes. The Demon Key opens a lock on the side of their head and the pretty, pallid face comes off.

They will always prefer a different face to the one they have.

8: Little old woman with red skin, white hair and tiny horns.

She made the locks that are on all the others, and will make a new Demon Key for any of them if they ask.

Demon Lord

Corpulent and imposing, the demon lord lounges atop his throne, eating imps and ordering his subordinates around. He’s pretty ok with things just as they are. Wields a powerful demonic flail, and holds a horn that summons hellfire when blown.

In his throne room are several imps, a few lesser demons trying to be entertaining, and the rest of the Méliès crew, long-rotted and impaled on spikes.

The room was once the ship’s cockpit, and a large window now looks out onto solid rock. The ship’s controls are dented and battered. Assuming someone could clear out the dungeon enough to give her space to work, Nadia could repair the ship, reverse it out of the rock. She’ll let you keep it if she likes you.

Notes

-          The challenge in this dungeon does not come from progression being difficult. The only path that’s blocked are the locked doors leading to the jungle and all the skeletons in area 1 have keys. If players want to keep moving, they can, but they’ll miss information and go into the final room severely unprepared. That’s where challenge comes in; finding out what’s going on, who they can side with, and formulating a plan in the midst of all the deadly weirdos.

-          The Reputation quests are a side thing and not meant to be difficult. Make the first one or two incredibly simple – the players simply stumble upon the jukebox part as they do their normal dungeon delving. Then, leave it up to the players. If they want to pursue more errands for Gramps and Nadia, let them, but don’t force it.

-          Obviously, the players could leave the moon before they restore the Méliès, on one of the other passing ships. Have a lil bit of whatever comes after this adventure prepped in case.