Category Archives: Adventure Sketch
Adventure idea: A community of unusually short-tailed, round-headed ratfolk (an ethnicity called ‘voles’ by other local races) who live in borrows (boroughs?) outside a major city have begun to be assaulted and driven out of local markets by rougher citizens of the city. The settlers accuse the ratfolk of theft, and desecration of several shrines within the city, saying the ratfolk move through the city’s sewers and drains, and have even been seen trying to get at children asleep in their homes.
The ratfolk proclaim their innocence, and point out they warned the city’s leaders weeks ago that wererats had been spotted in the thick brush of a nearby woods. The ratfolk believe the wererats have infected some city dwellers. The city government thinks the ratfolk are making false claims about wererats to protect some ratfolk hooligans, and thus aren’t taking it seriously.
Thus the ratfolk need help, because the wererats (who do indeed walk among them, including a few wererat ratfolk who only have a modest appearance change in hybrid form) are a demon cult who wish to summon agents of their demonic patron, a scavenger lord who spreads disease and uses vrocks as his agents. The wererats have summoned one vrock already, and want two more so they can do a dance of ruin beneath the city streets! So, the rastfolk want to hire some outsiders (the PCs) to fairly investigate.
The players must separate fact from fiction, deal with hunting down were rats both in the city sewers and hiding in plain site among the ratfllk, and ultimately deal with the apocalyptic whereat demon cult’s plans.
The name of the adventure?
“Vrock and Vole”
And now, at least for a moment, a change of pace.
When you are the storyteller, you get to decide what the story is.
Inspired by WWII slang, here’s an idea for a WWII pulp heroes team.
The German Ubermensch and the ‘31s (results of Japan’s Unit 731) had the Allies on the run by mid-1943. While espionage efforts managed to bring back some of the super-science being used to create those soldiers, results were nearly always incomplete. The US felt an invasion of the home country was inevitable, and grew desperate. Experiments had to be carried out, dangerous human experiments, but it was considered unacceptable to risk fighting men (even minority fighting men) that were desperately needed on the front.
Thus, women were asked to volunteer to be injected with unknown agents, exposed to strange radiations, and fed experimental chemicals. Most survived, but the overall casualty rate was still higher than a typical combat unit. In time, the knowledge gained helped turn the tide of war. But before that, many of the woman with the most exceptional test reactions were sent to fight on the front lines, despite the bias against their gender. Anecdotally, this was a result of the First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt, being told by a general that the United States would not send women to the front lines no matter how dire the desperation, and her calmly replying by asking he he felt the Nazi’s would miantain that policy once they took over.
Thus the first Special Troopers section was born, as the decorated unit of “Rosie’s Rebels.”
BAM—A seven-foot amazon of a woman and a marine, BAM was able to bounce attacks from small arms off her skin and throw a jeep, or even tip over a tank. While the “BAM Process” was one of the eventually successes of the experimental programs, no soldier given the “perfected” version was as strong or tough as BAM herself.
Cast-Iron—Already a brilliant engineer, Cast-Iron created a personal heavy combat armor during her downtime between sessions of experimental injections. Unfortunately she was so much smarter than anyone else that no one could understand how she built it, maintained it, or kept it running. In the end, only Cast-Iron ever used her infantry armor suit.
Eight Ball—People who meant Eight Ball harm always came to bad ends. No one was ever sure if this was a ’31-induced power, or if she was just naturally lucky, or if it was a string of amazing coincidences.
Gibson—Gibson could hear, and somehow send by thought, radio waves. She was also a spectacular tactician and soldier. While the official military account claimed her military prowess was a result of the same radiation that gave her radiopathy, history suggests she was simply overlocked for her combat and leadership qualities until she had a power. Leader of Rosie’s Rebels until the end of the war.
Gold Star—Despite dying during experimentation, Gold Star showed up for duty the next day. Though she seemed no more resilient to damage than a typical 38-year-old mother of three, her body and belongings always disappeared within a few hours, and she would wander in by the next day, along with her gear. Also a rated marksman and sniper.
Heat Wave—The recipient of a unique ability that was never duplicated in further experiments, Heat Wave caused flammable fuel near her to not be expended when it created fire (even to run an engine). Early on she simply had a neverending flamethrower and extended the range of any vehicle she sat over the fuel tank of, but near the end of the war her ability to produce combustion without expending mass was used to also give her a personal flight platform.
Retread—A veteran of the nursing corps during the Great War, Retread could temporarily access the memories and skills of the recently deceased… including Gold Star.
Sky Scout—Could inexplicable see her position from roughly 100 to 1,000 feet up if she closed her eyes. Also a pacifist Seventh Day Adventist and Rosie’s Rebels unofficial chaplain.
In 1863, the Lost Continent of Mu rises from the Pacific Ocean, taking up a vast section of what was once open water. Despite being submerged for millennia and being covered in numerous ruins, some of its native white Nacaal people still exist in a degenerate form. Rather than the source of ancient wisdom and the origin of people from the Aztecs to the Egyptians, the Nacaal are revealed to have been traders and culture thieves, who spread ideas they encountered among one people to far-off partners while claiming original authorship.
With the Civil War raging, America is barely able to send any expeditions to Mu, though some naval forces are sent. The Second Mexican Empire, established by France and supported by Roman Catholic clergy, is suffering its own fighting and lacks the will or resource to make more than token expeditions into Mu. Other great powers, including much of Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia have great interest in a new continent, but are hard-pressed to gain access needed to explore it.
Some nations make immediate pushes into the new land. Japanese Emperor Kōmei and the Shogonate, locked in a power struggle over the fate of Japan and its dealings with the west, both send expeditions immediately, both public and secret, to secure this new land that vastly reduces their fishing territories. The British Empire, especially elements with ties and resources in Australia, also rush to declare the new land terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”). Peru, economically dependent on guano exports that cannot last forever, also makes a major push to colonize Mu, followed quickly (though less successfully) by Chile.
New resources discovered on the continent include the liquid metal “vril,” which can expand the mind of some people (suggested to be most likely to work on those with bloodlines dating back to the people who traded with, and were betrayed by, the original Nacaal), gravity-neutralizing cavorite, and the industrially-crucial vulcanium, which has the highest tensile strength of any known metal, despite a relatively low compressive strength and typical shear strength. Control of the “New East” is seen as crucial for any nation or company. The Singer Corporation is the first of a few enormous multinational companies to take a huge gamble to invest in this newest world, and the technology it could lead to.
The year is now 1868. Less than 1/5th of Mu has been thoroughly explored. Explorers from japan and Australia have established significant stronghold, but begin to question if they want to continue to take orders from their homelands. The United States, in a desperate bid to catch up in the race for Mu, pays the way of thousands of potential explorers, settlers, miners, and ranchers to sail from nearly any American port to New Houston, the only major US city on Mu, as long as they swear to support a US claim to any lands they settle. Samurai, cowboys, drovers, explorers, inventors, vaqueros, theosophists, spies, settlers, and traders all flock to a nearly lawless land, where any may develop odd powers from exposure to vril, or just pick up expert skills in an attempt to survive in…
The Wild, Wild East.
Samurai. Sixguns. Steam. Psychics. Adventure.
- “SPOOKED” When the randomly-selected patsy of a deep cover spy mission turns out to have an honest-to-magic necromancer as a sister, spies and ghosts face off in a world that runs from honeypots to ceramic urns and pits undercover against undead.
- “BLACK SPOT” For centuries the Order of the Black Spot have been hunting and killing pirates, working outside of government and outside the law. Now the King, Queen, and Jack of Spades, the royal family ruling the order, have mysteriously turned to the FBI to give information about bringing down both the remaining pirate organizations of the world, and their own Order.
- “CRIME AND CHAOS” When the government becomes the problem, who can the people turn to? A mastermind thief, greedy con, addicted stage magician, reformed pacifist ex-assassin, gray hat hacker, and disillusioned counterfeiter form the ultimate crime league, with their only targets the corrupted forces who now control law and order.
- “PLAN Z” Dozens of corporations and more than a few terrorist groups have access to a weaponized virus that creates undead, and the governments of the world are endlessly dealing with breakouts and pandemics in a desperate bid to prevent the zombie apocalypse. When a zone is too hot for any human to be sent in, the trained, international, experimental squad of soldiers who are immune carries to the zombie virus are sent in as Plan Z.
- “GOTHIC JUSTICE” When Lady Penanggalan went to sleep in 1800, she expected her monstrous partners to wake her in a century, as agreed. Now it’s 2017, and she’s discovered not only did the other Gothic Scions betray her, most have turned to run organized crime. She is pissed, and ready to work with human law if that’s what it takes to gain her revenge. But the most powerful of those scions, the dreaded Akephaloi or “Headless Man” knows more about Lady Pen’s sleep and why her allies betrayed her than she could ever guess.
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The Setup is a one- or two-sentence “high concept” for an RPG campaign or similar background.
This one is for a Supers world.
At 11:59:59 EST, it happened. Not at every prison, but at most of them, worldwide. Perfect spheres of bizarre energy of unknown composition, unknown source, and unknown event. Each circle was between a few hundred and a few thousand feet in diameter. It became known as the Drama.
The Drama infused people, and in rarer cases animals and objects, with spectacular (and random) powers. There are more than 2 million adult inmates in the US alone, and less than 500,000 correctional officers. In the blink of an eye more than half the people in prisons had powers… and criminals outnumbered people trying to maintain order four to one.
The chaos was instant.
No one knows exactly how many people gained powers. It wasn’t every incarcerated prisoner, guard, and administrator, but it was many of them. And sine the Drama created spheres, some few folks who simply had reason to be near prisons were also impacted. Tens of thousands of children in detention centers. Scores of lawyers with need to be with a client late at night, as well as a few law enforcement officers, witnesses to at least one execution, and at least one bus full of student athletes coming back from a late-night basketball game decided in overtime were driving by a county jail and got caught in the Drama.
All told, estimates were that 2,000,000 people, give or take, suddenly gained extraordinary abilities, 60% of them hardened criminals.
Roughly half gained some knack at or close to peak human performance, regardless of their previous physical or mental condition. Geriatric prisoners became as swift, or as fast, as Olympic athletes. Correctional officers of causal intellect became geniuses. Hardened criminals became philosopher poets. Secretaries became world class martial artist. In most cases people were affected directly, but in a few cases the power was imbued into something else. The wild dogs who later formed the Pound Pack gained human intellect. Sgt. Damian Hammer’s riot shield became nearly indestructible. The Folsom state prison’s computer network became the world’s first strong AI. But these were rare exceptions.
This level of power was quickly dubbed “one inmate” worth of Drama power, and that got shortened to 1M within a day of memes and 24 hour news cycles. But while half the subjects of the Drama got 1M, some got more. Roughly half as many 1M recipients were 2M–gaining either two forms of peak human ability, or one thing with twice the potency of the greatest human. Gangbangers able to lift 2,000 pounds, con men able to speak more than 100 languages fluently, assistant wardens able to run at 50 mph. These people from the Big House, were eventually called Big Housers more than they are called anything else.
The distribution of power followed the same rough linear pattern, one additional “inmate” worth of power being given to a group as as big. Half as many recipients who got 2M were 3Ms, and half as many 3Ms were 4Ms who had quadruple the ability of the best humans. Though the numbers were approximate, that means the distribution continued until about 1,875 Big Housers in the US alone were 10Ms.
A 1M might gain a punch with 1,000 pounds of peak force. A 3M could hit as hard as a handgun bullet. A 10M hit as hard as an antitank round. And at about the 10M level, powers stopped being limited to things explained by science.
Flight. Telepathy. Telekenesis. Teleportation. Eye beams. Fire breath. Sonic screams. A 15m Big Houser might be “limited” to running at 375 mph and making 1,200 punches in 60 seconds… or he might have the power to turn lead into gold, or perfectly predict the next 15 seconds, or be able to regenerate a lost limb. Estimates place between 2,000 and 3,000 Big Housers in the US at 10M and higher, with a believed upper limit of 20M, but it’s extremely difficult to categorize such people. Red Hand, the crazed killer who can create a virus that causes insanity and stigmata, might be a 10M with a single inexplicable power–or he might be a 15M given his cunning, durability, charisma, and rumored ability to switch bodies. Slammer is just strong and hard to hurt, but is he 14 times peak human performance, or 18 times?
It’s been two years. More than 20% of the original Drama recipients are dead. Only roughly 10% have successfully been captured and incarcerated. Another 10-15% work for various governmental agencies, or actively work to protect the world against the rest.
But about half the Big Housers are still out there, committing crimes.
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Monday Bad Idea
Monday Bad Ideas are periodic, and not fully fleshed out. because, you know, they’re bad ideas.
A gelatinous ghoul is a rare from of ooze undead that generally occurs when some object an undead is connected to and which allows it to reform after destruction (sometimes the phylactery of a weak rich, or an object tied to a ghost’s reason for existence) is consumed by a gelatinous cube, but not destroyed, When the undead’s essence reforms around the object, the necromantic energies infuse the square ooze, creating a hybrid mix of gel and corpse.
Gelatinous ghouls generally look like a skull or severed head floating in a cube of transparent snot, though sometimes only a single hand or a glowing green tibia is sign of the deathly influence. Gelatinous ghouls have all the powers and immunities of both the ooze and the undead, and any ability that affects only one or the other has only a 50% chance of affecting it.
On the other hand they lack appendages, and are generally pretty ticked off (though a few ex-lich gelatinous ghouls are telekinetic, and describe the new state as “surprisingly comfy”).
If I Haven’t Scared You Off Yet:
This began life as flavor text for a feat called “Fairy Doctor,” an idea from my longest-running fantasy d20 campaign.
It… got out of control.
And I STILL need to write the feat…
Cyble ran one thick finger down her archlute’s top string, listening intensely to the soft brushing sound. She needed to ensure every string was taught and tuned, to ensure none failed in the confrontation with the sirenwraith shortly after dawn. On the other hand she also needed to be quiet since her companions were all sleeping, and she also didn’t want any of them failing in the morning.
It was, perhaps, then understandable that she didn’t notice the winged mote of light sneaking up from the far side of the campfire, despite the fact she was on watch. Her party members knew she could get distracted by her work even in the middle of the night, and thus rarely gave her watch duty. But this time she was the only spellcaster who hadn’t expended any spells, and she had assured them she was too focused to sleep.
Even so, they had left Stumper, Hawkin Green’s faithful hornhound companion, to keep watch with her. Stumper had, of course, seen the winged mote. Had even sniffed it once. Stumper had then laid his head back down.
So when the mote suddenly hissed “Psssssssst!” in Cyble’s ear, her reaction was reasonable. A bit rough on her archlute, but it had thin mithral reinforcement for just such rough uses.
The mote was slapped to the ground, where it stopped glowing and held up two tiny arms in a gesture of surrender.
“Mighty doctor, stay they wrath! I am but a simple fey, come to beg they aid! For I have ails, and…”
“Oh for FU..” Cyble choked off her own voice just as she began to shout. She glanced around the campsite, but the other adventurers really were too tired to be woken by her near-outburst. Grim Gelda stirred, but settled back into her patchwork skin sleeping roll.
Cyble fixed her gaze on the “simple fey,” a sprig-sprite no more than three inches tall, with the dewdrop leaf attire of a minor noble.
“Listen you little shi… shifty annoyance! This is not the time for that “fairy doctor” stuff. I have real issues to deal with!” She managed to put some of her lung’s impressive power into the rebuke, despite keeping it quiet and focused on the intruder.
The sprig seemed unphased. “But you ARE the fairy doctor! You save Reseld Queen from the morosity that claimed her! Not for seven generations..”
Cyble cut him off with a sharp wave of her hand. “Reseld was just depressed, and I sang a song to cheer her up. That’s it! If I’d know she wasn’t actually a bunny…”
“The Bunny Queen!” the sprig interjected proudly.
“Shut up! My point is I am not some mystic doctor of fairy ills. I just cheered up one fairy, one, and she couldn’t keep her yap shut about it!”
The spring nodded enthusiastically. “Indeed, one song and our beloved Majesty of the Cotton-Tail was back to her cavorting self! And then you saved the Lady of Dawn’s Gold…”
“She was broke, it all,” Cyble interrupted.” I gave her one gold coin.”
“And the Prince of Berries…”
“He was choking. I hit him. It’s not my fault he spit out that seed and survived.”
“…AND the entire Dewdrop Brigade!”
Cyble paused. “Okay, they had devil chills. But it was Grimmy who cured them.”
The sprig’s smile literally glowed. “You found them, assessed their ills, and found the cure in another mortal! You are a fairy doctor!”
“If I diagnose your problem, will you leave me alone?”
The sprig nodded so hard his antennae slapped back and forth from his face to the back of his head. The noise was so ridiculous, Cyble could not help but smile.:
“Fine, but make it quick. And quiet! What’s wrong?”
His expression fell.
“I am small.”
Cyble gave the expression her acting maestro had called “deadpan.” The sprig got the message.
“Of course to you I must always seem small. But my heart, it is smaller. It struggles to meet the inside of my chest with each beat. Food has lost its taste. Flowers are no longer sweet to smell. I cannot match my shadow’s gait. In ways I was once enormous, I have shrunk into a shell.”
Cyble’s expression softened. She scooped the spring up, and set it on the apron covering her ample lap.
“Have you lost anyone close to you recently?”
The sprig shook its head, though large dewdrop tears formed at the corners of its now-huge eyes.
Cyble thought. “Pining after a girl?”
Another head-shake. This was going to be some weird fairy-problem, Cyble realized.
“When did this first begin?”
The sprig’s voice quavered. “Ten nights ago, as the first star sparkled. I looked at it, and wonder who else saw it. A hawk cried out. A child began to cry. And my heart sank, and I have been small ever since.”
“A child?” Cyble latched onto the one element that seemed un-fairy. “What child?”
The sprig shrugged. “I was near a town. Rocks-over-water, or some such.”
The sprig nodded. “Near an old farm. There was a child within, one old enough to care for itself, but seasons and seasons away from playing adult. It cried.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
Again, a shrug. “It’s mortal. It’ll play at being adult, be adult, learn to make cakes, gain a sliver of wisdom, and die.”
Cyble was trained to read as much into tone of voice as much as the words they spoke. And the sprig’s voice held a slight quaver, which deepened as it spoke.
She knew fairies had extreme emotions, and often it was a bad idea to let them interact with other races. The slightest insult could begin a lifelong grudge, and saving one could result in having them hunt you down for help for years afterwards. But if handled carefully, a fairy could be a real boon to a crying child.
“So, clearly the child saw, and wished on the same star.” She spoke slowly, making it up as she went along, but the sprig nodded again, and wiped a tear from its face.
“And,” she continued, “the child must have made a wish. Children do that. But the wish didn’t come true, and that made it cry. Children’s wishes” she added hurriedly “can’t always be granted. Sometimes it’s impossible, and sometimes it’s just a bad idea. But a sad child wishing on a star… you must have gotten star-worry.”
“Star-worry?” The sprig seemed confused. “I’ve never heard of it.”
I imagine not, Cyble thought. I just made it up.
“Star-worry happens when a star wants to help someone, but it can’t. Someone else looking at the star. Someone like, say, a brave and wise fairy, gets infected with the worry. That’s why you got small. The worries of a star are pressing you down.”
The sprig shook. “I am doomed!”
Cyble smiled. “Not necessarily. The star is worried about the child who wished on it. All you need to do is make sure the child is all right, not starving, not being beaten, and the star will stop worrying about it. Then you can stop being small. BUT!”
The sprig leaned in, its ears actually getting slightly bigger.
“You MUST be careful. Mortal children aren’t fey. You can’t just bathe her in gold or grant her a wish. Like a caterpillar struggling to escape a cocoon to be a butterfly, if you remove all the obstacles in her life, she won’t grow strong enough to survive. But if you add to her woes, she may never escape her childhood at all.”
“But… but… “ The sprig nearly wailed. “Then what can I DO!?”
“Your kind garden, yes?”
The sprig drew itself up to its full, miniscule, height. “We grow the sweetest berries, the brightest flowers, and the hardest stumps!”
Cyble nodded. “Good. That takes care, patience, and time. That’s what the child needs. You don’t know yet if the child is a berry or a stump. You can’t know how much rain or sun it needs. But if threatened by fire or blight, that you can assist with. When the child is no longer at too great a risk, the star’s worry will lift, and then so will yours. Can you do that? With subtly, and care?”
The sprig, to its credit, tilted its head and clearly thought hard. Ten long seconds passed. Then it nodded, once.
“You have found my ail, and given me the course for cure. I’ll go to Rocks-Over-Water, find the sad child, and gentle shepherd it through any grave threat. I am saved!”
The sprig began to glow again, and its wings hummed as it flew up to Cyble’s right pinky finger, which it took in both hands and shook vigorously.
“Thank you, THANK you, good fairy doctor. I shall spread word of your wisdom far an… ummmph!”
Cyble was sure not to squeeze to hard, but she kept her grip on the fey firm.
“Tell. NO. One. Clear?”
Slightly blue in the face, the sprig nodded.
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The proposed (and definitely never happening) Analemma Tower would make an awesome set up for any number of campaigns using Anachronistic Adventures or Starfinder. Here are some campaign ideas for a mobile city-sized building hanging down from an asteroid.
All Along the Watchtower: The U.N of 2075 can’t operate out of any one nation or building anymore. Diplomacy, military intervention, and trade all work better from mobile city-towers hanging from asteroids.
Ark V: After the Quantum Genegineering Wars, the ground level of the world became uninhabitable. At the small scale, mutant Morlocks and hunter-killer drones are contant random threats. At the large scale, the doomsday weapon biotank Kaiju are drawn to any major stationary power source.
There are still survivors scrabbling to survive in a ruined world, and super-science and relics to be dug out of cities overrun by horrors. but the only way to get to them is to wait for a period of low threat, then jump down from the roaming bastion of science and civilization that is Ark V, our last, best hope for survival.
High Ground: The evil supergenius Tex Tanner could have engaged in countless battles to overthrow nations, establish shadow governments, and defeat heroes like Anthem Lass and the Gargoyle. Instead he created one overwhelming show of his scientific brilliance and endless resources, the mobile space-anchored archaeology known as High Ground. From there he runs TannerCorp, literally above the laws of other nations.
Is he done now that he’s made his point, or is High Ground just step one/ As as an archaeology under his exclusive control, why is he hiring street-level heroes to police his private fiefdom?
The Sword of D.A.M.O.C.L.E.S: Aliens have conquered Earth for Earth’s own good. Mostly humanity is left to its own devices, but certain activities and experiments are forbidden. The Department of Alien-Mandated Oversight, Committee of Law Enforcement Systems are mostly humans, though a few alien races also work within it, and makes sure forbidden actions are not attempted. DAMOCLES operates out of the Sword, a hanging alien watchtower that orbits the Earth in a variable pattern to allow maximum command support of hot spots.
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I’ve never been particularly happy with the term “DieselPunk,” because it often seems to be missing any “punk.” You perfectly well CAN add the punk philosophy to a superscience 1920s-1950s setting, but most people who make a run at it don’t seem to. Mostly, they are just doing flavors of pulp.
Now, I like pulp. A lot. I have mostly squared that circle by calling my own setting Diesel Pulp, which I feel helps convey more of what I am going for. But I have always wondered what a real effort to inject punk into a diesel-driven superscience setting would look like. And, personally, I think it would be more interesting to look to the movements of the era, and inject a big dose of Dada into a diesel-drvien superscience setting.
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So here is the idea:
Dungeon speed runs as a team sport, on roller skates. “Roller Dungeon Team T-Shirts” optional, but the Absalom Abyssals Woman’s Speed Destruction Team is my favorite.
EVERYONE is on roller skates. Heroes, monsters, gelatinous cubes… everyone.
Every PC must have half their levels in barbarian, brawler, cavalier, fighter, investigator, kineticist, monk, ninja, rogue, or slayer.
For these mandatory class levels, you get +4 skill points per level, and the Skating skill. Also, any class that has Ride replaces it with Skating.
Skating works like Ride, but your “mount” is a pair of skates that take your space. Anything you could do on a mount, you can instead do on skates. All skates have a 30 foot move rate and, like a mount, if you control your skates without taking an action, you get a full action.
Skates are never battle-trained mounts, unless you would get a mount as a class feature like cavaliers).
All dungeons should be 2 CR lower than the APL *your spellcaster assistance has been limited after all, and you are making speed runs).
You only get full XP and treasure for a combat or trap encounter if you finish it in 5 rounds or less. For every round more than that, you lose 25% of your XP and treasure. An encounter begins when you become aware of it, so scouting eats into your time. If you complete an encounter in less than 4 rounds, you get a 10% treasure bonus for each round less time you take.
It’s assumed you have an audience, so Performance combat is an option.
Combine with DungeonBall! or X-Crawl as desired.
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