Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Shattered Aquifer - Part 2

Part 1 on the Shattered Aquifer can be found here. It's got all the background and the full versions of the tables I talk about in this post.

So... how's can the Shattered Aquifer work in play? How do I use the "What's Happening" and "Encounter/Motivation" tables?

First I roll on the What's Happening table. Then I roll an encounter for each location on the map, and I accept, reject or move that encounter as I like based on what I as DM know about this dungeon and the game so far. Gotta be flexible.

Now, it's critically important to understand that when I say "encounter" I don't mean combat. As the DM combat is absolutely NOT guaranteed. As the author/game designer/whatever I spent a bunch of time writing up basic motivations and desires for all of the intelligent (and many semi-intelligent) creatures that are found on the island. I warmly welcome anyone and everyone to throw away and ignore those motivations and desires, that's ok, just don't read the word "encounter" and immediately think it means "combat". Combat is absolutely a possibility, but it's only one of the myriad of possibilities that exist! Don't limit yourself to your crit build bruh.

Let's peep the map of the Shattered Aquifer of Pythiaria again:
One day there will be a pretty version. Promise.
What are the important pieces of information about this place?
  • Magma fights water here
  • Magma creatures live wherever it's orange, but mostly around points 11 and 9. If you go to those areas I believe you'll run into magma creatures pretty much regardless of what you roll as an encounter. That should temper the way that encounter works.
  • The red squares indicate lava falls. Lava is falling down into the shattered aquifer. If you were to go up the falls there would be more caves and more magma stuffz, but none of that is mapped. Make it up.
  • Water creatures live where it's blue. Point 5 is all submerged, or well, think underground lake.
  • The water area extends off into the unmapped ether in the south and east for ease of water based deus ex machina just like magma's red square falls.
  • Water and Magma fight at Point 3
  • Steam Imps hang out at Point 4 so they can bet on the battles at Point 3
  • Point's 7 and 8 are only split apart to detail out each wall 'cause I thought it was important. I'll only take one encounter roll for that spot.
  • Point 11 has a portal to the plane of magma and a big magma hydra as its guardian
  • I've found that *most* parties of adventurers on Hot Springs Island in the playtesting so far have pretty much always been Water Friends. Makes sense. They're the underdogs throughout the island, and they've got the beautiful ladies on their side.
Before we roll, here's a link to a gallery of all of the creatures that can be encountered in the Shattered Aquifer EXCEPT "Adventurers". You'll have to imagine some of those up for now.

So... let's roll 3d6 and see what kind of emergent gameplay we can get!

What's Happening?
The unborn water elemental cores in the Flooded Nurseries (Point 5) vanished last night.

Location: Encounter - Motivation
Point 1: A magma imp - Laboring/Nesting
Point 2: A magma elemental - Returning Home
Point 3: A Goa - Hiding/Sneaking
Point 4: A water elemental - Ritual
Point 5 - 8 magma imps - setting up an ambush
Point 6 - 10 water imps - Territorial Display
Point 7 - 7 Water elementals and 7 water imps - Patrolling
Point 9 - A Goa - Wounded
Point 10 - A magma elemental - Returning Home
Point 11 - A magma imp - Laboring/Nesting

So that "What's Happening" result is bad for Water. I'd say they're in a panic as use of the word vanished implies that the forces of water (as a whole) don't know what happend or where they went. Now, because I wrote the fluff and know it, there's a comment in the overview for the shattered aquifer that says the water elementals started showing up in the first place 'cause of "conditions of such elemental purity". So maybe Point 5 has been getting corrupted for a while and last night was the breaking point. Or all the water elemental cores could have been stolen. By the forces of magma? By another faction? By adventurers? Or maybe there was some big water boon last night and they didn't vanish as much as they just all "grew up" immediately which has led to confusion and mild panic because the nereids who came on duty to guard the nursery in the morning didn't realize what had happened and you have a game driven by poor communication. Who knows?! You do. Make something up!

Now, all the points were rolled up with 3d6 and some of the results had "roll again for amounts" and I rolled pretty high for those which I think makes things really interesting, especially in light of the "haps". So, going off the knowledge that water's territory is Point 5, and Point 3 is the battlefield it's VERY interesting to me that there are 10 water imps doing a Territorial Display in Point 6 (beyond the front lines), AND there's a gigantic patrol of 7 water elementals and 7 more water imps at Point 7/8. Water's on the advance. They're missing their babies and they're *pissed*.

Looking at my magma rolls, we've got a single magma imp laboring/nesting in the entrance hallway (Point 1) and over by the portal to the plane of magma (Point 11). Then, both of the magma elementals I rolled are "returning home", one being at Point 2 and one at Point 10. Now, returning home could mean that they're coming back to the Shattered Aquifer, OR it could mean that they're returning home to the plane of magma. Water's advancing and it looks like magma is in the process of retreating and rebuilding. There must have been a hell of a battle recently. Did water actually burn their baby cores to achieve a decisive victory? That said, there are also 8 magma imps setting up an ambush at Point 5. Now... Point 5 is submerged so as written this doesn't exactly work, but we could say that they're setting up the ambush on the shore of the underground lake, or the periphery of Point 5. Their location isn't exactly fixed, but then again these guys could also be the responsible party for the disappearance of the water elemental babies. Or they could be using guerilla tactics against water while they know they're in this weird upheaval that's part celebration, part fear, and part aggression.

So, the only other encounters we're left with are a Goa - Hiding/Sneaking at Point 3, a wounded Goa at Point 9, and a single water elemental engaged in a ritual at point 4. Normally the Goa are always going to be alone, and there's part of me that wants to say I should reroll one of them, but maybe I don't need to. The Goa come to this area to fight the big magma hydra at Point 11. The wounded Goa at Point 9 probably fought and ran, or perhaps more heroically, was flung to Point 9 during the battle and its legs are broken and it cannot escape or continue the fight or find the strength to commit suicide as is the way of its people. The Goa at Point 3 probably just arrived and is scoping out the place before it initiates combat with the hydra. This one probably has no idea the other one is here or wounded (and it wouldn't help it if it did know it was there).

This leaves the water elemental engaged in a ritual on the Cloudy Balcony. The water elemental could be performing this ritual to try and get information out of the resident steam imps regarding the disappearance of the water elemental cores last night. Or they could be up there against their will and are being used in a steam imp game of some sort. But then there's also a "what's happening" entry that says "Water is winning the war! THE STEAMING BATTLEFIELD (Point 3) and THE MAGMA PITS (Point 2) are flooded." Since it looks like water has had a decisive victory in the aquifer, maybe this elemental is old and powerful and the ritual it is performing will flood these two areas and lead to the next what's happening. Perhaps the vanished water elemental cores were sacrificed in order to facilitate this ritual of elemental aggression.

The power, and the plot, are yours.


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