I purchased Unknown primarily because of the goblin and kobold crunch; both races feature prominently in my Tran campaign, so I’ve done a lot of work creating feats and trying to balance them. I wanted to see how things changed between the Unknown and MM versions, and determine if I the feats I’d written were made obsolete/incompatible.
Also, frankly, I just fucking missed buying DnD books. I haven’t actually played in months–which is a primary reason for the stagnation of this blog, since I ostensibly launched it with a focus on tabletop gaming–after the incredibly long-running online game I played at Myth-Weavers heartbreakingly gave up its noble ghost. I was in a few other games at the same time, but losing a character I rolled about two weeks after 4th Edition dropped cut me to the quick.
Now, of course, the old hankerings are coming back (and strong) so I’m hopeful this summer includes some rolling of dice. Assuming I manage to stop playing Diablo III, natch.
Anypants, the crunch in Unknown is alright…the nature of books lately has a lot more plot and background than I ever have any use for, since I hate to take that material from elsewhere instead of developing it on my own. However, it also saw the return of the random dungeon table, and my lovely soon-to-be-wife rolled me up a dungeon (with a hushed whisper, at one point, of “Am I playing Dungeons and Dragons? Is that why you aren’t making any sudden movements?”).
Rollwise, we got the following:
- 6/18 for dungeon creator, with Kobolds selected.
- 4/9 for type, selecting Crypt. This is where I started to get a little excited, because I could easily see kobolds crafting a massive funerary chamber for a fallen dragon.
- 9 for location, resulting in Mountain. Bog-standard, but it works.
- 9/4 for purpose, with Desperation selected. This is when I really got into the concept, because suddenly the Crypt becomes a Tomb, possibly for something that wasn’t dead when it was buried…or maybe was dead, without that having any noticeable effect.
- 8/12/1 for defenses, resulting in Guard Posts, Mazelike Corridors, and Abnormal Construction Material. Stacey asked if she could choose the material, and when I said yes she proudly submitted chocolate Jello pudding.
That’d be hard to swing. However, a crypt where significant elements are constructed from black puddings (or brown or gray or a new strain) is suddenly very interesting…where the trap is simply that parts of the hallway are, perhaps, puddings paralyzed by a thick coating of crushed minerals and awakened when someone walks over them, breaks the crusted surface, and exposes the pudding to air.
- 16/4 for weaknesses, resulting in Simple to Navigate and Inhabitants Distracted by Festival or Ceremony. I like the idea of a festival over a ritual, especially after getting the inhabitants that Stacey rolled. A beer- and blood-soaked orgy creates an interesting scenario for the party to fall into. Drug-addled guards and drunken wizards can be played light-heartedly or deadly serious, either way spicing up the overall experience.
- I had Stacey select 1-6 twice for the motifs and strange effects, with the second selection being subtracted from six. This resulted in:
- Anything eaten tastes like a specific food (twice!).
- Echoing screams of slain adventurers.
- Diagrams of constellations.
- Footsteps echo too many times (this is a very interesting motif, non?).
And for the effects:
- Rooms built into the side of a single vertical shaft.
- Some or all of the dungeon is a living creature.
Again, the second result there fits great with the strange building material/pudding connection. Perhaps the slime is developing a sort of communal intelligence, or starting to join together somewhere in the heart of the mountain.
For population, the following results cropped up:
- 8/4 for lord, selecting Duergar.
- 11 for his quirk, making him insane–so instantly I’m thinking about Derror and how one might intermingle their madness with the 4e interpretation of Duergar as fiends.
- 6/6/20 for inhabitants, resulting in Duergar and Yuan-Ti. Rolls of 18/9 for quirks result in Facistic (which I did not realize was a word) Duergar and Rebellious Yuan-Ti. I’d probably mingle a bit of fiendish blood into the Yuan-Ti…or maybe even something demonic, tying them into a Marilith bloodline. That helps to explain both the quirks and suggest some of the interrelationship between the two forces. Maybe the Duergar are sacrificing the Yuan-Ti at the festival, or perhaps even drawing them forth at the festival–unprepared for their refusal to obey.
- 7/1/9 for monsters, resulting in Elementals, Ankhegs, and Mimics. An interesting group of creatures, particularly the idea of a Mimic infestation. This and the Elementals suggests tying things into the planes, so perhaps there’s a Far Realm connection animating elements of the dungeon.
Tying that back into the original purpose of the dungeon as a tomb of desperation, I could see a powerful creature—kobold now, instead of dragon?—whose Far Realm worship got out of control. She’s entombed now, but after centuries the consequences of her rituals have weakened the walls between worlds. The same ease of planar converse which attracted the Duergar is also acting on the walls of the place, bringing it to life even as it does the same to items held within. Players exploring the dungeon thus find themselves at the intersection of three different forces: the devils, the demons, and whatever else is crawling its way through.
Obvs, now I really want to run a game. Again.
It’s good to be back.