Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Magic Item: The Abacus of Xallim

Lamentations of the Flame Princess points out that, in a world where magic items can be made, not all of them will be made to benefit the adventuring professions. Since upwards of 99% of people won't fall into that category, in fact, it seems like most magic items will not have direct applicability to exploration or combat. I do like the idea, however, of something that might be pressed into adventuring service with a little cleverness, so I came up with the following:

The Abacus of Xallim.

Looks something like this, but more awesome.

It is widely believed that the wizard Xallim bound the spirit of an obsessive savant into the abacus. Some say he bound it into the very wood of the frame, while others speculate its powers have something to do with the strange engraving on the side: an imp, viewed through a four-paneled window, handing a fruit of some sort to a small, flightless bird. Regardless, it appears as a well-made example of its type, capable of counting up to 9,999,999,999. Four red beads on a rod running perpendicular to the rest, on the top of the frame, count the number of daily charges it has left to use. These slide up and cannot be pulled down until the charges reset.

To operate the abacus, the user must say, in any language known to mortal men, the following: "The task has come to you, servant of Xallim, to tally and report the number of [X] that lies [or stands, etc.] before you." Then, placing fingers on the bead, the user will feel an urge to slide the beads back and forth for a frantic period of 10 - 15 seconds. Doing so will reveal the number. If secrecy is desired, the command may be whispered, but it still must be physically uttered.

Without expending any charges, it can instantly size up the number of objects of a type in plain sight.

For one charge, it can discern between real and fake, or pure and adulterated, coins, by counting how many apparent and real numbers of an item are under consideration. The beads will flip back and forth between the two tallies; although it may confuse the outside observer, the user will be able to read the values instantaneously.

For two charges, the abacus can determine if any hidden/secret doors or traps (and how many) exist within viewing range.

By using up all remaining charges for the day, it can determine, as the answer to a yes-or-no question, if an item is magical or legendary. A count of 1 means yes, 0 means no.

While all of the daily charges are exhausted, even the chargeless function ceases. It still works as a regular abacus, however.

There is a 3% chance per use that the user will become afflicted with the compulsion to remain obsessively clean and orderly, which would preclude most adventuring activities. This effect will remain until someone casts a Remove Curse on the user.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Dens of Iniquity

I've been on a map craze lately, spending hours designing and refining them. I don't even have scenarios planned out for them yet, I just want to be able to pull something out at a moment's notice, if need be, and say "yeah, that's the map of the kobolds' lair". To that end, I've been looking at various ways of coming up with layouts quickly. Failing that, I hope at least to come up with cool looking floor plans.

Although there are excellent random dungeon generators out there, and I've gleaned inspiration from them from time to time, I wanted something where my own sensibilities would guide me. Slower, yes, but at this time that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

The first thing I wanted to do was create a set of lairs: small, self-contained mini-levels that I could drop into a hill in the countryside or on the side of a mountain somewhere, where a small-to-medium sized clan of humanoids dwell. And the idea hit me to use small enclosures where humanoids dwell as my inspiration.

Behold, the House-to-Map-inator!

hand drawn house map
The house where a certain self-important blogger grew up.
(The second story is smaller than it should be. Sorry.)
Now converted to a general-purpose humanoid lair.
All I did, in case it isn't obvious, was take the rooms and their basic spatial relationships, stretched them out with a few corridors, and threw in a few extras like secret doors and trap doors. I changed things liberally, while staying true to the basic idea of the layout: the second floor now simply extends from the first, I removed a bedroom, and I added more connecting hallways where it seemed to make sense. The basement, rather than being reached by a stairwell, now can be found under a trapdoor in room 5.

Although I know very little about real-world architecture (unlike this guy), it's not hard to see how existing structures can be plundered for inspiration. It works well for houses, and I've got a few of those drawn up. But since I don't have instant recall of real-world monumental structures, I still needed to come up with a system that worked for bigger dungeons; more on that the next time.