Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Metamorphic Cistern (and Pb dungeon rules)

After the Phrydian empire fell to the Conquest, its citizens began to transmogrify into Birdfolk. In this hidden laboratory, Dr. Xyn tried and failed to find a way to reverse that transmogrification. WARNING: I designed this dungeon so that almost every room has the potential to cause permanent bodily change to the heroes, so if that's not your jam, this dungeon won't be your vibe.

AVIOMORPHOSIS. The transformation into Birdfolk has three stages. In stage 1, feathers grow intermittently across the body, though a painful plucking can mitigate the effect. In stage 2, feathers irreversibly cover the entire body, and a beak structure begins to form. In stage 3, the transformation is total, and the new Birdfolk loses all memory of their past life.

PHRYDIAN CAIRN. A vertical shaft is hidden by the ritualistically-stacked ruins of an old Phrydian academy building.

  • The shaft opens right above the pool in the middle of the CISTERN CHAMBER.
  • Three Birdfolk (Hangnail, Need-To-Piss) patrol the area; their leader (Stubbed-Toe) carries a whip that animates when covered in blood.

CISTERN CHAMBER.* A deep pool sits in the middle of this domed, pillared atrium, lined with doors.

  • Every round spent in the contaminated water, roll TNCT against aviomorphosis. At the bottom, resting atop a wad of sloughed-off feathers, is the key to the RESCALE CHAMBER.
  • Two of the six doors are locked, the rest are variously open and stuck: the GRAFTING LATTICE (key on Deuce’s belt) and the RESCALE CHAMBER (key at the bottom of the pool). Each door is labeled in Phrydian.

MOSAIC PANOPTICON. Three humanoid silhouettes swim within this room’s tiled walls. A quivering lump with too many wings and eyes sits in the room’s center.

  • The biblically-accurate loaf (Please Don’t Kill Me) comes from the second dimension, unwittingly serving as a living gateway between planes and turning the walls into connection points between the 2 and 3d. If anyone gets close to it, it lets out a concussive scream.
  • The tile silhouettes (Airita, Zettul, Thomicron) are Phrygian prisoners. They try to pull anyone in reach into the 2d, out of the hopes that the allies of someone pulled in knows how to reverse the process.

MIRROR HALL. Against the walls are three mirrors.

  • One mirror reflects what happened 10 minutes in the past.
  • One mirror contains inverted versions of the heroes, trying to convince them to break the glass so they can escape and replace their counterparts.
  • One mirror is normal, but on its back is carved a map of the surrounding area, complete with other Phrydian now-ruins not marked elsewhere.

INVERSION MATRIX.* Two glass tubes, covered in runes, are connected to a lever in the middle of the room. A small monkey sits, chewing on the rotting corpse of a Birdfolk.

  • Pulling the lever swaps souls between the glass tubes.
  • The monkey (Jericho) has the Birdfolk’s soul; she killed her monkey-souled body for food after she was subject to the first successful use of the matrix.

SERVITOR STATUARY. Three lifelike statues of human-hawk hybrids stand, one of which holds an amethyst orb.

  • Anyone that nakedly touches the Orb of Calcification turns to marble. If more than 3 creatures would be simultaneously petrified, the first to be petrified reverts.
  • Each statue is a petrified Hawkfolk, one of Dr. Xyn’s old servants (Prime, Deuce, Bronze). They each have one vial of aviomorphosis suppressant that works for [WEIRD] hours, the last of their kind. Deuce holds the GRAFTING LATTICE key.

GRAFTING LATTICE. A wicked-looking steel chair, complete with restraints, is haphazardly strapped to an empty cage.

  • If you put an animal in the cage and sit in the chair, there’s an agonizing flash; you beneficially mutate into a hybrid, but the animal is killed.

RESCALE CHAMBER.* A runic circle on the middle of the floor mirrors a dial on the wall. Resized bric-a-brac litters the available floor.

  • Turning the dial proportionally changes the size of whatever’s put in the circle.
  • Among the resized paraphernalia is a dollhouse-sized castle, a ribcage-sized cut ruby, and X.

*If table rhythm dictates, roll for random encounter as part of room stocking, ignoring a result of 1.


1 A SOUR, OLD WORLD WIND BLOWS. Roll TNCT against aviomorphosis.


3 VINCENZO HAUPASKETTI. This chauvinistic Saccharinian falsely fancies himself a hypercompotent, famous tomb robber.

4 ESCAPED MOSAIC. Having found the INVERSION MATRIX, this prisoner (Veducius) is trying to get back to the MOSAIC PANOPTICON in order to share his discovery.

5 FAILED EXPERIMENT. What even is that thing? Hungry, that’s for damn sure.

6 WHAT REMAINS OF DR. XYN. Once, Dr. Xyn was a genius arcanoengineer. Now, the madness of failure to stop the aviomorphosis of his civilization and repeated exposure to mutagens have turned him into a lumbering, weeping amalgam of animal parts.


The Cistern is my excuse to post what really matters, which is these two glorified bullets that are just a rephrasing and cleaning-up of my thoughts in the Reactive Random Encounters post linked above:

UNDERTAKING. Anything that takes more than a couple of minutes is an UNDERTAKING. In the middle of an UNDERTAKING, roll for a RANDOM ENCOUNTER (a d12 if the UNDERTAKING will take less than an hour, otherwise a d6, guaranteeing interruption). At the end of an UNDERTAKING, disposable light (like torches) extinguish, and replenishing light (like lanterns) check USAGE.

LICKING WOUNDS. Spend a half hour's UNDERTAKING performing basic first aid to replenish [WEIRD] SOMA. (This is your short rest analogue; a good night's sleep in a warm bed replenishes all SOMA.)

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Pb NEW AGE: background table revised

 Just documenting the process as it unfolds. My new format, and the general levelling-up of the table, was inspired by this post. My deepest gratitude to CatDragon, who went through the whole of the original BACKGROUNDS table and gave me guidance as to what worked and what didn't; I hope I did his critique justice. Apologies for the formatting. For what it's worth, it looks quite sexy in a google doc.

1 ÆTHER-KEELHAULED. Boarding axe, extra eye. You can detach your hands.
2 ÆTHERKIN. Tentacular scepter, vascular robe. You can grow one extra limb.
3 AERODYNE HANDYMAN. Polished harpoon, deflated canvas balloon. Things you touch become light as a feather.
4 ANARCHIC PROPHET. Crystal ball mace, “LIBERATION NOW” banner. You’re telepathic within sight.
5 ANIMATE PAINTER. Bejeweled staff, painter’s kit. Your paintings move on their own.
6 ARMORSMITH. Reshaping hammer, unpaid bill from the EMPIRE. BURN to negate damage you see dealt.
7 ARTIFACT FENCER. Counterfeit foil, forgery kit. You can make convincing fakes at a loss for either resources or time.
8 AUTODIDACT DEMOLITIONIST. 3 magnesium charges, burn mask. You spit rubber cement, and your snaps spark.
9 AUTOMATON. Barbed chain, tinker’s tools. Being nonliving, you don’t need food, water, sleep, or air.
10 BARBER-SURGEON. Blood-rusted razor, leech jar. Those you operate on replenish all SOMA now, but painfully die in [WEIRD] days.
11 BARGE PIRATE. Hook hand, balloon-dinghy. Your travel time is inexplicably halved.
12 BARKEEP. Broken wine bottle, well-respected local tavern. Nobody can hate you on sight.
13 BEAST HUNTER. Saw-toothed claymore, fresh-won trophy. Treat all your weapons as ferrous.
14 BEGGAR. Dirty shiv, empty wood bowl. You are ignored beyond plausibility.
15 BLACKLISTED SCHOOLTEACHER. Splintering yardstick, half-burned textbook. You can read any language at incredible speed.
16 BONE SCULPTOR. Iron chisel, dirty skull. Reshape a fresh corpse to make a loyal homunculus for [WEIRD] minutes.
17 BOOKSELLER. Charming used bookstore, portable press. You can write in High Chemoglyphic.
18 BOUNTY HUNTER. Nasty-looking sickle, necklace of teeth. Taste blood to know its source’s location and thoughts.
19 CANDLEKIN. Flint knife, wax-carving kit. Your touch burns, though you can’t.
20 CIRCUS FREAK. Tightrope-garrote, sparkly costume. If you can fit your hand through it, you can squeeze through it.
21 CLARET SOOTHSAYER. Glyph-marked spear, hallucinogenic incense. Modify your d20 rolls by [WEIRD] by depleting equivalent SOMA.
22 CONSPIRACY THEORIST. Red yarn net, tin helmet. You can smell lies and magic.
23 CONTRABAND SMUGGLER. Collapsible crossbow, false-bottomed chest. You have two robust false identities.
24 CRYSTALKIN. Brass knuckles, bejeweled kaleidoscope. Your flesh reduces incoming damage by 1.
25 CUTPURSE. Rusty shiv, hidden pocket. When you inflict maximum [VIOLENCE], steal something too.
26 DEEP TIME ARCHEOLOGIST. Sturdy shovel, alien skull. You can speak Decomposed Corpse.
27 DIRECTIONLESS CARDINAL. Weathervane mace, wilting miter. Your touch imposes silence.
28 DISPOSABLE MESSENGER. Arsenic capsule, overdue letter. You can see out of your wet blood.
29 DISPOSSESSED FARMER. Sharpened hoe, obstinate sheep. Sing to plants to instantly grow or wilt them.
30 DREAMKIN. Mirror-bladed sword, vial of sleep dust. Your touch induces monosensory hallucinations.
31 ENLIGHTENED MYSTIC. Maypole mace, third eye tattoo. You’re telekinetic.
32 ERSATZ EXECUTIONER. Freshly-cleaned axe, still bloody hood. Treat all your weapons as wolfram.
33 ESCAPED CONVICT. Spoon shiv, cell number tattoo. You can dig without tools just as well.
34 EX-NUN. Bastard sword, a bad habit. No human or BEAST can initiate violence against you.
35 EXORCIST. Bell-headed mace, dog-eared Codex Ironium. BEASTS can’t touch you, or else take [WEIRD] damage.
36 EXOTIC MIXOLOGIST. Kopis, silver shaker. Those who drink your cocktails forget their next [WEIRD] minutes.
37 FABULIST. Cane sword, animate peacock quill. No one can guess when you’re lying.
38 FACTORY MAGGOT. Screwdriver shiv, flat cap. You touch fixes or breaks machines.
39 FAILED MESSIAH. Ankh cudgel, watered-down rosé. You can walk on liquid and up walls.
40 FREELANCE CHIRURGEON. Bonesaw, isopropyl alcohol. ENHANCE [WEIRD] healing.
41 GAMBLER. Mahogany cane, wine-stained deck of cards. You win any game you start.
42 GASTROMANCER. Quartz-headed morningstar, too many crystals. You can mold gems like clay.
43 GIANT SLAYER. Lucky sling, oversized wedding ring. ENHANCE [VIOLENCE] against larger foes and structures.
44 GOURMAND. Dented skillet, aphrodisiac spice. Meals you make with exotic ingredients heal [WEIRD] SOMA.
45 GUTTER JUSTICIAR. Scalping knife, hand of glory. ENHANCE [VIOLENCE] against lawbreakers and animals.
46 HARUSPEX. Runestone club, fake divination permit. A worthy foe’s entrails can answer one binary or trinary question.
47 HEARTTHROB. Wishbone slingshot, vanadium perfume. Everyone capable falls head over heels for you on sight.
48 HERMETIC ALCHEMIST. Runic staff, chemist’s kit. Those who drink your potions turn gaseous for [WEIRD] minutes.
49 HETERODOX CRUSADER. Ankh-pommel blade, pot of sal vitae. You can’t be misguided.
50 HIGHFALUTIN’ DUELIST. Filigreed foil, fashionably-stained kerchief. When you inflict maximum [VIOLENCE], disarm and pin them too.
51 HOUNDKEEPER. Slick whip, well-trained mastiff. You can speak BEAST.
52 HYPNOTIST. Lobotomy ice pick, silver pocket watch. At the end of a conversation, impose a 1-word command.
53 ICONOCLASTIC CARTOGRAPHER. Bladed boomerang, nickel caliper. You can see out of your every footprint.
54 INCENSE HUCKER. Studded thurible, smokescreen incense. You can spit flammable smog.
55 JOURNEYMAN. Tools of the trade, wannabe apprentice. You can perform absolutely any feat of your craft.
56 LANTERNKIN. Poker, lantern head. BEASTS and clerics can’t enter your light.
57 LEGACY GLADIATOR. Trident, gold-threaded net. ENHANCE [VIOLENCE] before spectators or against BEASTS.
58 LIGHTNING-ADDLED. Copper baton, muscle relaxers. Your hands arc with lightning, depleting [WEIRD] SOMA.
59 LUNATIC. Garrote, papier-mâché model of the “moon”. You can always tell what people really mean by what they say.
60 MAROONED WITCH. Charred broom, ex-swab apprentice. You can hover [WEIRD] feet In the air.
61 MASKED ASCETIC. Flagellation whip, snarling iron mask. Your touch causes body-wide numbness.
62 MERCHANT LORD. Bejeweled blade, unfulfilled contract. Secure your specialty wares for dirt cheap.
63 MILITIA LIEUTENANT. Shiny badge, pitchfork-wielding charge. Your improvised weapons aren’t IMPAIRED. 
64 MONKEY WRASSLER. Wrasslin’ net, banana bushel. Once a day, transform into a monkey for [WEIRD] minutes.
65 NECROMANT. Heirloom haruspicy knife, jar of ashes. Only a living creature or annihilation can kill you.
66 ​​OCCULT CHEMIST. Sacrificial dagger, alchemist’s kit. Those who drink your elixirs spit acidic blood for the next [WEIRD] minutes.
67 OLD MONEY ARISTOCRAT. Crumbling manor, disapproving butler. You are insufferably rich.
68 OPERA SINGER. Shattered goblet, expensive bouquet. You can throw your thunderous voice FAR.
69 ORBSEEKER. Sanded-down flail, glass eye. You can destroy orbs to BURN.
70 OUBLIETTE WARDEN. Splintering spear, overfull key ring. Your hands are adhesive and magnetic.
71 OUTLAWED RESEARCHER. Tin-headed compartment cane, heretical journal. ENHANCE [WEIRD] using items.
72 OXYGEN MINER. Sharpened pick, helmet lantern. Nothing can obscure or alter your sight.
73 PERCUSSIVE MECHANIC. Sharp screwdriver, sparse toolbox. Hit something broken; it works for [WEIRD] minutes.
74 PLAGUE DOCTOR. Lance, hook-nosed mask. No one can die in your sight.
75 POXBORN. Infected knife, alms bowl. You’re immune to poison and disease.
76 PUGILIST. Bone knuckle-guards, UNDERMARKET tattoo. You don’t go unconscious until you’re dead.
77 RAIL CONDUCTOR. Bottled lightning, bag of coal. You can’t be surprised.
78 RAVEN TAMER. Feather-shaped stiletto, pet corvid. Once a day, transform into a raven for [WEIRD] minutes.
79 REBEL MENDICANT. Vine-wrapped walking stick, plucky orphan companion. Your touch calms emotions.
80 RETIRED ACADEMIC. Tin pointer, your book no one read. You know absolutely everything about your specialization.
81 RUST ENGINEER. Heavy wrench, broken automaton. Your touch rusts and corrodes.
82 SANCTIONED HERETIC. Zweihändr, apostasy permit. Your touch functions as gold and silver.
83 SENTRY TEMPLAR. Barbed net, ring of keys. Doors you lock can’t be forced open.
84 STARKIN. Astrolabe chakram, bone dice. Your touch freezes, though you can’t.
85 STARVING BARD. Filched darts, road-worn instrument. Anyone who hears you sing must sing along.
86 STEED TAMER. Riding whip, beetle mount. Animals follow your commands.
87 SUPERNAL TRAPPER. Nightmare in a snare, fruit-bearing noose. Drink fresh blood to transform into its source for [WEIRD] minutes.
88 SWASHBUCKLER. Tarnished cutlass, backwards compass. You can’t lose your balance.
89 TASSEOMANCER. Leather switch, antique tea set. Those who drink your tea can’t willingly inflict pain for the next [WEIRD] minutes.
90 THRILL RACER. Riding crop, hefty speeding ticket. Your speed, on foot or otherwise, is doubled.
91 THUNDER PISTOLEER. Jury-rigged gun, cracked goggles. Your weapons spark instead of FUMBLE, depleting [WEIRD] SOMA NEAR.
92 UNDERMARKET MAGNATE. Boot-knife, UNDERMARKET signet. The Undermarket treats you well.
93 UNDREAMT ANTHROPOLOGIST. Climbing pick, hard light crystal. You can duplicate any sound you’ve heard.
94 URBAN VIGILANTE. Tempered shuriken, slick costume. Falls and poison can’t hurt you.
95 URSULIST. Clawed gauntlet, stellar map mandala. Once a day, transform into a bear for [WEIRD] minutes.
96 USURPED BARON. Inherited longsword, obsequious seneschal. You have a hold waiting for your reclamation.
97 VAGABOND. Feathered walking stick, polychromatic pipe. You are forgotten beyond plausibility.
98 WITCH HUNTER. Apotropaic crossbow, gold manacles. Get a free OFFENSIVE against anyone you see use magic.
99 YEABU RANCHER. Cattle prod, obstinate yeabu. You can talk to animals.
100 ZAFFRE ZINCOGRAPHER. Sharpened chisel, half-carved plate. No one willingly stops looking at your prints.

Now to get it to the table. Thanks for reading, and happy gaming.

The Metamorphic Cistern (and Pb dungeon rules)

After the Phrydian empire fell to the Conquest, its citizens began to transmogrify into Birdfolk. In this hidden laboratory, Dr. Xyn tried a...