Thursday, March 7, 2019

Three Miniposts

My muse is a fickle one. An idea will possess me for a brief and brilliant moment, then vanish. Drafts will languish untouched for months and when i finally return the excitement that once possessed me has passed.

Here's some of that brain-detritus: unfinished, incomplete, fragmentary.

Playing Around with World States

You know how Zelda has the Dark World? It's like that. Take your map and add a new plane on top of it as a new layer. If there's a city in that spot, there's still a city there now, but it's changed according to whatever plane the adventurers find themselves on. If there's a mountain there, there will continue to be a mountain there.

It's a sort of hyper-dense Planescape, expanding deeper instead of outwards. Your map can be far smaller than it would be normally but contain more content. You can have fun with portals. Puzzles can cross worlds. You can get more material put of prepping one map and just adding variants. String together modules.

Binding of Isaac: OSRbirth Double Plus Platinum God Edition

It had to happen eventually. I've sunk too many hours into these games to avoid it. And thanks to Nick over at Papers & Pencils and his Legend of Zelda ruleset, it may now come to fruition, even in this unfinished state.

If the stars could not possibly get more aligned, there's a multiplayer Binding of Isaac card game out there that has mechanics that can be hacked into the aforementioned Zelda rules, plus the rules and all the cards are just listed on the official site.

1 heart = 2 HP
  • Soul hearts cannot be replenished. When they are gone, they're gone.
  • Black hearts are like soul hearts, but upon depletion do 2 damage to every enemy in the room.
  • Bone hearts have 3 HP each. After taking a 3rd point of damage (if it has not been restored), it shatters and is permanently lost. 
  • Isaac - 3 hearts - The D6 (reroll an item)
  • Maggie - 4 hearts - Yum Heart (gain 2 HP)
  • Cain - 2 hearts - Lucky Foot (1 point of luck)
  • Judas - 1 heart - Book of Belial (+1 damage to attacks in this room)
  • Eve - 2 hearts - Whore of Babylon (gain +1 damage when at 2 HP or less)
  • Samson - 3 HP - Bloody Lust (gain +1 damage after killing 5 enemies and taking no damage)
  • ??? - 3 soul hearts - Poop (hide behind it for 1 armor)
  • Azazel - 3 black hearts - Flight, short brimstone (gain +1 damage / turn of charging)
  • Lazarus - 3/1 hearts - Resurrects with 1 heart after death, leaving 1 damage blood trail.
  • Eden - Random, up to 3 of any combination - 2 random items
  • The Lost - 0 - Flight, spectral, Holy Mantle (negates 1 attack / room)
  • Lilith - 1 heart, 2 black hearts - Incubus (Familiar), Cambion Conception (gain new familiar each 15 points of damage)
  • Keeper - 2 coins (1HP each) - Wooden nickel (gain 1 penny)
  • Apollyon - 2 hearts - Void (permanently trade item for stat boost)
  • The Forgotten - 2 bone hearts / 1 soul heart - Physical form has club only. Spectral has tears.

Religion As Alignment

Some time ago now, I caught an NPR segment (or was it a completely unrelated podcast? I honestly don't know) that broke down religion into five core questions.
  • How am I here? (The cosmological question)
  • Why am I here? (The existential question)
  • Why do bad things happen? (The problem of evil)
  • How do I know right from wrong? (The morality question)
  • What happens when I die? (The afterlife question)
You can see the random tables practically generating themselves.

The answers to those questions becomes alignment. It's social alignment, it's cultural alignment, it's political alignment, it's incredibly important when dealing with the relationships between large groups of people. If you are dealing with people, you can't escape it: atheism doesn't mean that religion disappears, it just means that the answers to the questions come from different sources.

So the religious alignment chart ends up turning into a nifty little spreadsheet (James Young over at Ten Foot Polemic already did something like this years ago) where you can easily see what the general relationship is between two religions. To whit, I say there are four relationships:
  • Peaceable
  • Neutral
  • Dislike and Distrust
  • Open Hostility
But religions themselves have alignment of their own. I shouldn't have to go into detail on all the issues with defining gods (and their followers) as objectively lawful or good or chaotic or evil, but the idea of using a short hand to determine where a religion sits shouldn't necessarily be thrown out with the bathwater. It just needs a little edit.This part is helpful for people who are running 5e for folks who have yet to come out of the shallow end of the pool, I suppose.

The Law / Chaos axis is replaced by one representing organization, hierarchy, and orthodoxy.

The Good / Evil axis is replaced by one representing a religion's social acceptance.

So a religion previously labeled as "Lawful Good" now becomes "high organization, high acceptance". It might be awful as hell, but this alignment chart doesn't care about that.

Both of these factors can change according to where and when the religion in question is situated.


  1. Must...reduce...draft backlog...

  2. Fuckin A there just had to be five questions didn’t there. It’s getting a random generator.

    Like the mythic underworld, I just don’t get the preoccupation with alignment. Is it just because it’s something Gygax did?

    1. To the best of my understanding, it started with Moorcock and his Law/Chaos shenanigans. Not too bad to start out with. Then as D&D grows bigger and comes into building its own identity Gary throws in the second axis and everything goes bonkers. By the time of 3rd edition it's just the Thing That D&D does, and we have fully fallen into the cycle of bad fantasy just copying motifs without thought.

    2. I think the preoccupation with alignment is rooted in love of cosmic goods and evils. Demons and devils and angels and such. When you accept that the spectrum exists, it begs questions about where you, and your neighbor, and your neighbor's dog fall on the spectrum.

      It also helps keep the game simple. Nobody has to think about the morality of killing orcs if they live in a world where orcs are literally cosmically aligned with evil.

      Mind you, I don't use alignments myself, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so beyond 'it's something Gygax did.'

  3. I've been trying to do layered planes, but I'm having trouble justifying them. Like: if I write a city, and then a mirror city, I could just place both next to each other. This would populate my map quicker, making it a more reasonable use of prep time.

    So for it to seem worthwhile, it has to introduce something that couldn't otherwise be done. For example puzzles that require moving between layers, like in day of the tentacle. But here, my imagination runs dry. Any ideas for cross-planar puzzles?

  4. One of these days I oughta play Binding of Issac so I can get all these references people make between it and oldschool Zelda.