2019/06/19

OSR: Magical Murder Mansion Megapost

I wrote a funhouse dungeon. You can buy it in print and in PDF form here.
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/276115/Magical-Murder-Mansion

Why?

I wanted to try writing a dungeon full of traps and unusual encounters, in the style of classic funhouse dungeons like Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, and Tegel Manor. 

Some of the traps in classic funhouse dungeons seem like jokes designed for the module’s author and the GM to share, with the poor players left frustrated and baffled. I’ve tried to make Magical Murder Mansion entertaining for everyone; even the deathtraps and surprises should get an joyful “oh no, I can’t believe we walked into that one” from the players. The GM knows it’s a trap. The players know it’s a trap. But someone’s got to open that door.

Magical Murder Mansion isn't revolutionary and it's not designed to be. It's just a solid, playtested, fun, cleanly laid out, and tightly edited dungeon designed for immediate use.

Art

Frenden did the art and it's excellent. From the tasseled fez of the Auburn Bulk to the grin on Hubert Nibsley's smug face to the screaming hordes of ravenous Veggie-Mites, Frenden did an excellent job in capturing the mansion's flavour and tone.

Layout

David Shugars, once again, stepped in to polish the layout and make the PDF do all those lovely fancy hyperlinked things. All page references are linked, all layers optimized, all... other things I don't completely understand done to make the PDF product as convenient to use as possible.

Editing

Shane Liebling helped find what felt like hundreds of spelling errors and suboptimal phrases. He also ran a playtest of the module.
Print Copy
Oh yes, way back in this post, Brian Ashford and Chris Wilson provided
the prompts for the Corpulent Callowfex and the Tooth Fairies.


Reviews

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Final Notes

Backers at the $5 level or above level on Patreon get PDF copies of this book and all future books for free. If you read this module I'd like to hear about it! Feel free to post links to play reports or reviews in the comments below.

2019/06/14

OSR: 1d100 Burgher Grievances

In a pointcrawl or hexcrawl with cities in towns, you will run into a surprising number of burghers. They all have problems. Most of them aren't problems the PCs can solve.

The table can be used with a d100 roll, or a d10 roll on a particular topic, or (and this is my personal favourite), by picking an entry and rambling on and on and on, listing subsequent entries, looping, and changing the subject until the players beg you to stop. Burghers will often call in friends and neighbors to verify complaints, add detail, or offer complaints of their own.

Burghers will reveal their troubles to anyone they think might help.

If you want to see how the peasants feel, check out this table. Baronial complaints can be found on this table.

Rocío Espín Piñar

1d100 Burgher Grievances

These are dark times.
1 Bandits roam the hills, robbing and killing.
2 Mercenary armies circle our town like vultures.
3 Ancient compacts are ignored.
4 Our town is surrounded by diabolical rivals.
5 Monks stab abbots; nuns abandon their vows.
6 Men fight for gold instead of glory.
7 On the road, every bastard with a castle charges a toll.
8 In town, a new tax is invented every day.
9 The sons of shoemakers become tyrants.
10 Angels cover their eyes when they look upon the world.

I lead a troubled life.
11 Moneylenders plague me.
12 My head aches from doing sums and figures.
13 I spilt a whole pot of new ink last week. 
14 These candles smoke and splutter.
15 My dog shit in my new boots.
16 The cat produces new kits every week.
17 The chickens will not lay if a cloud passes over the sun.
18 Worms eat the timbers of my house.
19 Rain leaks through my roof.
20 And mice run through my hair at night.

And my family!
21 Obedience and fidelity! The young laugh at those virtues.
22 Will my daughter be dishonoured by a soldier or a student?
23 My son sleeps from dawn until dusk and drinks all night.
24 This new generation loves only soft and expensive things.
25 They fear hard work.
26 They love fatuous poetry.
27 My relatives eat like hogs whenever they visit.
28 When I visit them, they serve only bread and water.
29 I am constantly asked to find work for unworthy nephews.
30 Or husbands for cross-eyed and bow-legged nieces.

And though I cannot prove it...
31 The pork we get today is not as good as it once was.
32 My neighbors plot robberies.
33 Our parish priest keeps a dozen lovers.
34 The old woman three houses down is a witch.
35 Foreign spies infiltrate our government.
36 Heretics host midnight debauches.
37 Traitors to our town put slow poison in the wells.
38 Diabolical fiends sabotage our public buildings.
39 New laws are made to benefit only those who rule.
40 These are the last days of the world. 

Plague!
41 Is it here? Have you seen it? Tell me! 
42 The plague carried off two of my brothers.
43 Last time it struck, the dead lay unburied for a week.
44 The summer fevers are terrible here.
45 Chills strike every winter.
46 Bad air causes disease, but who can afford perfume?
47 I have blood let once a fortnight during the summer.
48 Doctors hunger for gold like a leech hungers for blood.
49 We are being punished for our sins.
50 Well, not my sins obviously. The sins of the world.

Famine!
51 Bread prices are stable.
52 But the loaves get smaller every year.
53 Soldiers steal crops from the fields.
54 Peasants can glean grain. It's the burghers that starve.
55 Peasants should eat grass or thorns!
56 A curse on all fat-bellied grasping peasants.
57 Three times three curses on lying grain merchants.
58 Ten thousand curses on those who hoard grain.
59 Other cities will not sell us grain during a famine.
60 Though of course we will not sell to them. The bastards.

War!
61 Every new war means a new tax.
62 Paid soldiers move from town to town like locusts.
63 They spread disease.
64 They spread violence and disorder.
65 The knights of the old tales are like a forgotten dream.
66 Our militia captains are afraid of thunder.
67 Our cannons are as crooked as an old man's fingers.
68 Our gunpowder burns like damp straw.
69 Our pikes snap like reeds.
70 And for this, we are taxed and taxed again!

The town is on the brink of disaster...
71 Noble families feud openly in the streets.
72 The rulers are surrounded by fawning advisors.
73 They cannot make clear and wise decisions.
74 Instead, they dither and bicker.
75 They forget civic duty and seek personal glory.
76 Beggars appear in swarms.
77 Those who cannot find work turn to thievery.
78 Executions will not deter them.
79 We should use torture more frequently, with hot iron pincers.
80 Or roll thieves through the street in a barrel stuck with nails.

My work?
81 I am overworked and exhausted.
82 I barely make enough to pay my expenses.
83 Those higher in the guild do no work at all.
84 Those lower in the guild plot to throw me out.
85 My peers despise me for my honesty.
86 Our festivals are not as grand as they once were.
87 Our processions are mocked or forgotten.
88 New places are given to the sons of idle men.
89 While good craftsmen are fined, despised, and exiled.
90 But the alternative is unthinkable.

Nothing is as it seems.
91 Salt is mixed with sand.
92 Flour is mixed with chalk and sawdust.
93 Rotten fish is sold as fresh.
94 Dung is sold as pepper.
95 Lead passes for gold.
96 Pot-metal passes for lead.
97 Knights are worse than bandits.
98 Kings act like jesters.
99 Emperors fight like children.
100 But I suppose things could be worse.

2019/06/13

OSR: Horrible Burgher NPC Generator

Burghers are town-folk; members of the third estate who live and work in towns or cities. Some are richer than any lord. Some are more wretched than any rural peasant. Medieval urban centres were deathtraps. Mortality rates far exceeded birth rates.* Higher wages, greater security, and a greater availability of goods and luxuries drew new arrivals into cities.
*Infant mortality and plagues were the main contributing factors. If you made it to 20 in a city, you were nearly as likely as someone in the country to make it to 50.

Boccaccio, Des cas de nobles hommes et femmes (French version of De Casibus), France c. 1470

1d100 First Name Profession Guild? Demeanour
1 Richard Alchemist
Devout
2 Richard Apothecary
Devout
3 Charles Architect G Devout
4 Charles Banker G Devout
5 Louis Bookbinder G Devout
6 Louis Bureaucrat
Devout
7 Robert Chirurgeon
Devout
8 Robert Clock-maker G Devout
9 William Engineer G Devout
10 William Falconer
Devout
11 John Goldsmith G Stoic
12 John Herbalist
Stoic
13 John Illustrator
Stoic
14 Claude Land-merchant G Stoic
15 Thomas Lawyer
Stoic
16 Adam Poet
Stoic
17 Jean Sea-merchant G Stoic
18 Hugh Spice-merchant G Stoic
19 Joseph Storyteller
Stoic
20 Michael Tax Collector
Stoic
21 Raymond Armourer  G Ruthless
22 Roland Astrologer
Ruthless
23 Matthew Bag-maker G Ruthless
24 Gilles Baker G Ruthless
25 George Barber-Surgeon
Ruthless
26 Greggory Basket-maker G Ruthless
27 Edmund Belt-maker G Pragmatic
28 Phillip Blacksmith G Pragmatic
29 Geoffrey Brewer G Pragmatic
30 Henry Bridle-maker G Pragmatic
31 Gadifer Bronze-caster G Hopeless
32 Oliver Broom-maker G Hopeless
33 Stephen Butcher G Hopeless
34 Andrew Carder G Hopeless
35 Huguet Carpenter G Hopeless
36 Francis Cartwright G Hopeless
37 Peter Chandler G Hopeless
38 James Cheese-maker G Hopeless
39 Gilbert Clerk
Hopeless
40 Arthur Cobbler G Hopeless
41 Jules Cook
Lazy
42 Andre Cooper G Lazy
43 Jerome Copyist
Lazy
44 Guy Debt Collector
Lazy
45 Jacob Dyer G Lazy
46 Isaac Embroiderer
Gluttonous
47 Mark Farrier G Lustful
48 Nicholas Felt-maker G Greedy
49 Victor Fishmonger
Prideful
50 Roman Fletcher G Slothful
51 Alice Furbisher G Wrathful
52 Alice Furrier G Envious
53 Joan Gambler
Incompetent
54 Joan Glassmaker G Blasphemous
55 Agnes Glove-maker G Petty
56 Agnes Goatherd
Ambitious
57 Margery Gongfarmer  G Ambitious
58 Margery Gravedigger
Ambitious
59 Isabel Hat-maker
Ambitious
60 Isabel Inn-keeper G Ambitious
61 Mary Jailer
Ignorant
62 Mary Jeweler G Ignorant
63 Mary Leatherworker G Ignorant
64 Mary Locksmith
Ignorant
65 Margaret Mason G Ignorant
66 Emma Mercer G Diseased
67 Juliana Miller G Diseased
68 Christine Minstrel G Diseased
69 Katherine Miracle Play Actor G Diseased
70 Beatrice Needlemaker G Diseased
71 Elizabeth Lead Servant
Skeptical
72 Ellen Ointment-maker
Skeptical
73 Mary Pack Handler G Skeptical
74 Amice Painter G Skeptical
75 Sibilla Parchment-maker G Skeptical
76 Cecily Pewterer
Frantic
77 Sara Plasterer G Frantic
78 Avice Porter G Frantic
79 Isolda Potter G Frantic
80 Lucy Poultry-keeper
Frantic
81 Mariota Rat Catcher
Frantic
82 Ann Rope-maker G Frantic
83 Annabel Salter G Frantic
84 Anastasia Scullion
Frantic
85 Avelina Sculptor G Frantic
86 Letitia Servant (Domestic)
Surly
87 Agatha Servant (Military)
Surly
88 Eustacia Shipwright G Surly
89 Sabrina Siege Engineer
Surly
90 Susanna Stonecutter G Surly
91 Andrea Swineherd
Surly
92 Anna Tailor G Surly
93 Bianca Tanner G Surly
94 Colette Thatcher G Surly
95 Flo Toll-keeper
Surly
96 Lucia Weaponsmith  G Rebellious
97 Goody Weaver G Rebellious
98 Charity Woodcarver G Rebellious
99 Faith Woodcutter G Rebellious
100 Hope Woolwinder G Rebellious

Generally, membership in a guild was limited to men, but every system has an exception, and the sources sometimes show guildmaster's wives giving wise advice, interfering, supporting, or occasionally wreaking havoc.




1d10 Guild Troubles
1 Supplies of a vital material or resource are running low.
2 The treasurer absconded with the guild's savings.
3 Feud with a rival guild is nearing a bloody climax.
4 Desperate drive to recruit new members.
5 Preparations for an annual procession paralyze guild.
6 Factions within the guild fight for power and control.
7 Disaster cripples both guild members and guild finances.
8 Guild has earned the wrath of local rulers.
9 Rival town seeks to undermine and bankrupt guild.
10 The lower ranks of the guild are in open revolt.
Bible Historiée, France c. 1250

Quotes

Concentration of wealth was moving upward in the 14th century and enlarging the proportion of the poor, while the catastrophes of the century reduced large numbers to misery and want. The poor had remained manageable as long as their minimum subsistence could be maintained by charity, but the situation changed when urban populations were swelled by the flotsam of war and plague and infused by a new aggressiveness in the plague’s wake.

As the masters became richer, the workers sank to the level of day labor, with little prospect of advancement. Membership in the guilds was shut off to the ordinary journeyman and reserved under complicated requirements and fees for sons and relatives of the master class. In many trades, work was farmed out to workers in their homes, often at lower wages to their wives and children, whose employment was forbidden in the guilds. Obligatory religious holidays, which numbered 120 to 150 a year, kept earnings down. Although forbidden to strike and, in some towns, to assemble, workers formed associations of their own to press for higher wages. They had their own dues and treasuries and connections across frontiers through which jobs and lodgings could be secured for members, and which doubtless served as channels of agitation.


[...]

They worked at fixed wages, often below subsistence level, for sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and their wages might be withheld to cover waste or damage to raw materials. The alliance of the Church with the great was plain enough in a bishop’s pastoral letter declaring that spinners could be excommunicated for wasting their wool. Workers could be flogged or imprisoned or suffer removal from the list of employables or have a hand cut off for resistance to employers. Agitators for the right to organize could be hung, and in 1345 ten wool-carders had been put to death on this charge.

-A Distant Mirror, Tuchman



Naturally the merchants, whose rise preceded the coming of industries to Siena, lead the way in the formation of a general society planned to protect their common interests... But the crafts were not slow to follow suit, and presently the masons, carpenters, inn-keepers, barbers, butchers, millers, and other classes of workmen and artisans were organized as arti, with the usual apparatus of constitution, officers, regulations, prohibitions, and fines... Among many excellent regulations which concerned themselves with obtaining for the consumer a full measure and an honest product, were to be found others which, by paralyzing the free activities of the workers, must have caused grave harm. Thus the statues of the wool guild required that only one pieces of cloth be woven at a time, that it be neither longer nor shorter than a certain standard, and that only native wool be put on the looms; and all guilds alike pursued a selfishly exclusive policy, imposing a heavy tax on all candidates for admission, and positively forbidding the exercise of their respective occupation to all but guild members in good standing. Add minute regulations regarding the hours and quantity of labour and the observation of so many church festivals that about one hundred and thirty days of the calendar year were devoted to enforced rest, and we get some idea of the mischievousness of that spirit of over-regulation which characterized both the guilds and the government.


[...]
The proletariat of [the wool] industry, concentrated largely in the quarter of Ovile, numbered several thousands. In the recurrent periods of industrial depression or in time of high bread prices, their condition must have been terrible. That they organized in 1371 and sought redress by violence proves that they were growing desperate; decimated for their pains by a cowardly massacre... they and other workingmen of a too independent leaning were expelled, to the number of four thousand, from the city. This almost ludicrous act of party fury may be taken to mark the end in Siena of capitalistic production on a large scale.

-Siena, Ferdinand Schevill


Other Useful Tables

Horrible Peasant NPC Generator  
1d100 Peasant Grievances  
Horrible Baron NPC Generator
1d100 Baronial Grievances
If you want a more refined sort of person, from a different age, try the Dickensian NPC Generator. If not, try the Table of Camp Followers.