May 28, 2013

Necrocarcerus: Twenty Questions

Jeff Rients has his well-known twenty questions about settings. Here are the answers for Necrocarcerus. Get your dice ready.

What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Your cleric receives their power from the Creator of Necrocarcerus. There is no formal training or initiation, just a decision made during incarnation by the Guardians.There is a limited amount of power to give to clerics so all clerics advance at higher levels like druids do, jockeying and dueling for who gets it. All clerics served one of the Irrelevant Gods in life, a curious coincidence no doubt.

1: Vra-Krakorn, He Who Consumes the Works of Mankind
2: XO
3: The Oozing Mind-Lords of Braemon
4: Yahweh
5: Juggernaut Prime
6: The Sky Beasts
7: Bruntil and Brunthul, the Eternal Lovers
8: The Lady of the White Way
9: The Eternal Emperor of Peace
10: Yog-Sothoth
11: The Big Fire
12: Narkex, Lord of the Mad
13: Orgz, the Death Boar of Kymon
14: Tiger Oman
15: Amalektharna, Mother of Mercy
16: The Infinite Gear Sun
17: The God of Gates
18: The First Weaver
19: Papa Kul
20: The Green Lord and Lady

Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

A variety of venues, from the Bizarre Bazaar in the Terminal Terminal at the very centre of Necrocarcerus to souks of maggot-hide in the Furylands, offer adventuring equipment. The nearest vendor is:

1: A dilapidated alleyway booth run by a foul-mouthed mutant and his homunculi staff
2: A traveling caravan of punctilious ritual mutes parked nearby while they refuel their mounts
3: A penthouse warehouse staffed by wheedling golem-vendors and accessible only by stairs
4: The Guardians, goddamnit
5: A union-shop back at the train station
6: Unfortunate Abe, roaming peddler and legend in his own time.

Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

1: A blue Guardian is nearby and might be willing to make it.
2: A blue Guardian is nearby but is a member of the Theosadists and might be willing to make you into it.
3: An armoursmith Lyth hasn't kidnapped yet is quietly plying their trade in a remote location.
4: Get yourself to Freedom and buy it retail from a slave-smith.
5: A mendicant drunk with the power of dream-crafting is snooze-smithing in a nearby alley after a bad jag.
6: The Oozes, for a price.

Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

On any given day:
1-2: Thazul conquered three worlds before he was killed, and still runs them from Necrocarcerus, but he doesn't care much for domestic politics. He'll help you out if you want to muck up the living worlds, especially if you want to kill the various holy warrior projectors sent from the living worlds on last-ditch attempts to destroy him. 

3-4: Lyth went rogue from the Program in year one, and he's one of the few people to have an area of Necrocarcerus named after him. He's been waging war with the Guardians for the past 9997 years, and he'll at least give his blessing to any mad scheme he thinks will screw things up. His capital is Freedom.

5-6: Some other jerk

Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

The drunks at the nearest claim:
1: Ernthr, who slew an entire temple of Theosadist Guardians and who has been sentenced to dangle off the side of Necrocarcerus for the rest of the Program for the crime. The anchor-point of her chain is in Fa Hua, where it is a popular tourist destination guarded by golems.

2: Poxamundus, a projector imprisoned by Thazul in the Black Tree. They say he has fists that disintegrate anything they touch, and that he knows the secret of immunity to all weapons. Thazul uses him as a living ornament in the Bone Gardens.

3: Zhuge Liang, who lives on the highest mountain in Necrocarcerus and knows every martial art of the living worlds. He has to be bribed to part with his wisdom by the gift of a real, living bonsai, completely illegal under the Program.

4: Nbamba Spider-Rider, who rides one of the Perfected Spiders into battle. She is famous for holding the ford at the recent Battle of the Styx against ten companies of warriors. Currently working as a mercenary for Mkele the Lash-master, an undead warlord out in the Furylands.

Who is the richest person in the land?

Based on the last quarterly reports filed with the Necrocarcerus Stock Exchange:

1-2: Yoxal, a ritual mute who runs a vast construction enterprise through sign language. She'll hire PCs to clear out areas of monsters and other inconveniences so she can make a mint rebuilding them.

3-4: Jose Cavanez, one of the Underlords and a notorious slaver. His money has been made capturing Citizens for the Oozes and the Theosadists to experiment on. He's always recruiting Citizens without moral qualms to help.

5-6: Friendly Baled, the public face of the shadowy cartel that runs the Tavern of Dessicated Drunks. He caters to an exclusive and demanding clientele with peculiar needs, and is willing to hire those who might be able to supply them. 

Where can we go to get some magical healing?


1: An unorthodox naturopathic alchemist will dose you with potions, often the ones you want.
2: The Fire Keepers have a hospital nearby. You can recognise it by the big fire outside.
3: A passing Projector mercenary band has a pet cleric of the Irrelevant Gods with them.
4: The Guardians are healing Citizens at the nearest incarnation temple, if you trust them.
5: A vorticist surgeon has not yet been run out of the local area by an angry mob.
6: A sniveling urchin will sell you a map to a nearby magic pool that purportedly cures all wounds.

Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

1: An obstreperous skeletal merchant will sell you cure-alls at an inflated price.
2: The Unghosts of Thazul, if you will fight a genocidal war against the living on one of Thazul's worlds.
3: The Ophidian Order of XO, in the Hive Towers of Grolanth, will help you out in exchange for a quest.
4: A loathsome bard of middling talent provides a clue in a dreadful and over-long song.
5: A Shu scientist claims to have the cure for what ails you in his peculiar-looking observatory.
6: The Guardians, just this once.

Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

1: The Sodality of Delight are a collaboration between the living and citizens from the world of Shu based out of the Pagoda of Accumulated Wisdom in Rancerburg. The Guardians want them shut down, but they have a printing press, so their spell-prints are the standard in Necrocarcerus. Membership is open to anyone of good character, which keeps it exclusive and small.

2: The Jailers run a guild of war wizards called the Association of Useful Citizens for the Defense of the Necrocarcerus Program (AUC-DNP). The AUC (of which DNP is a branch) are widely hated, because they are given preferential treatment and the Guardians use them to handle most of the messy stuff that comes up while running an inscrutable theocracy. Enlistment queues can be found throughout the Jail.

3: The Dark Cabal of Shadow Ravens are a group of younger Citizen-wizards devoted to magical experimentation, mainly about how to get out of Necrocarcerus. They move around, but the fashionable place this year is a nameless terminal in the central Wastes that floats above a lava field. Membership can be obtained simply by complaining loudly enough about the name of the group.

4: The Dead Seers are a group of adventuring wizards who gather together once a year to share tall tales, the results of their research, and many drinks with one another. The wizard who can boast the most wins the acclaim of their fellows and becomes the master of the order until the next year.

Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

1: Comfortably employed at the Ineffable Nomoplex downtown
2: Arguing with their peers at the Obsidian Dream Pyramids in the Shalx Ghetto
3: Imprisoned in a camp in the Ooze Salient
4: Meditating atop a pillar in the Abandoned Quarter
5: Being chased down the streets by an angry mob
6: Enslaved in a mine outside Freedom
7: Drunk in the Bizarre Bazaar
8: Praying in the Halls of Redemption
9: Lecturing the ignorant at the Unwritten Library of Ontimbolo
10: Trying to gamble their way out of the Tavern of Dessicated Drunks
11: Bickering with customer service at a train station
12: Working for AUC, the bastard

Where can I hire mercenaries?

1: From those passing slavers.
2: From that mutated warband camping nearby.
3: From the vat-gardens of a vorticist surgeon.
4: Downtown at the Bizarre Bazaar
5: The locals are game.
6: Just ask at the nearest train station.

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

1: Yes, right here, Citizen.
2: Yup, next station up the line.
3: Yeah, that warlord's lands over there.
4: Yeah, a couple hour's journey in the direction you're headed.
5: Yeah, just look for the line up at the inspection checkpoint.
6: No, at least, not these days.
7: No, but I wish there were.
8: Not since those bandits showed up to besiege the place.
9: Not unless you piss the locals off.
10: Nah.

Which way to the nearest tavern?

1: At the next train station.
2: In that ruined building over there.
3: Through that grove of occasionally man-eating trees.
4: Aboard that airship.
5: Atop that building.
6: Under that street-side awning.
7: You see all those people laying in the street? That way.
8: Just follow the blood.
9: Outside that incarnation temple in the distance.
10: In the middle of all those tents.

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Everyone is concerned about:

1: The Gliding Iron Golem of the Hill of Avian-Induced Suffering.
2: Modoc, a shadow dragon projecting into Necrocarcerus, in the Shalx Ghetto.
3: The Braemonian Oozes in the Furylands.
4: The Sighing Horror, currently devouring cultists in the Kingdoms of the Saved.
5: Vra-Krakorn, He Who Consumes the Works of Man, and his cultists.
6: The Crawling Skull, out in the Far Lands.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Recruiters are offering positions to deal with:

1: Teletroopers from the Forgotten Devils have occupied the Holy Ylim in the Kingdoms of the Saved while the rest of their forces invade overland from the rim. The Highly Implicate Father has sent mentalist friars out to forcibly convert an army to liberate the Ylim before the infidels can consolidate.

2: AUC is looking for a few good Citizens willing to sneak deep into the Ooze Salient and close the portal the Braemonian Oozes are bringing their flying fortresses through. In the mean time, the struggle to liberate Citizens from ooze-camps progresses trench by sloppy trench.

3: Grinnel the Jocund, Tyrant of Newhome, has been denounced in the Spire's Council of Forty Two when a motorcycle courier was captured bearing invasion plans. Now, the Council is openly discussing an alliance with the air-reaver Bloodfist for a punitive expedition to put the arrogant Newhomers in their place.

4: Go-Husai, a warlord in the Furylands, has been caught using undead soldiers in his army. The Guardians are demanding he submit to their justice, but he scorns them from behind the cannons festooning his impenetrable Concrete Pagoda.

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

The best matches are:

1: Atop high-wires strung between the Hive Towers of Grolanth.
2: Waist-deep in the Styx, against the mad killers of the Furylands.
3: Against undead experiments in Freedom.
4: For rich patrons on open-aired train cars specially built for the purpose.
5: Deep in the Petrified Forest at a secret location passed by word of mouth between professionals
6: In front of the howling crowds at stadiums in the Edgehells.

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

1: The Mordathite Revanchists are the remnants of the ruling family of a petty empire and their retainers who were overthrown in a revolution. They are trying to create a copy of the empire they once had, and are not too picky about the means by which they do so. The Mordathites keep a number of pet necromancers on hand, and are busy trying to overthrow most of the governments in the Rail Lands.

2: The Underlords are a vicious bunch devoted to exploiting the suffering of their fellow Citizens for their own profit. There's at least one Underlord in almost every city in the Jail, and they are Necrocarcerus' equivalent of an organised crime ring. Slavery, nepenthe theft, and necromancy are their bread-and-butter, but the Underlords claim to be a mutual protection society and occasionally fund semi-legitimate initiatives to win favour in their communities.

3: The Association of Useful Citizens - Apocalypse Protection Association (AUC-APA) is a little-known division of AUC operating downtown. They are devoted to ensuring that the Necrocarcerus Program ends on schedule, no matter what. To uphold the spirit of the Program, they ignore its letter, and are busy concocting several "contingencies" to destroy Necrocarcerus in case the Codex of Cataclysm can't be found in time.


What is there to eat around here?

There's a stall selling:

1: Big bowls of blood.
2: Thick-sliced petrified bread smeared with headcheese.
3: Rat roti (hot).
4: Guardian-made nutri-slop (also available in logs).
5: Styxian calamari, battered and fried.
6: Rice & miso.
7: Vermin kebab.
8: A delicious guck better eaten than inquired into.
9: Lizard on a stick.
10: Roast goat-like.
11: Awful falafel.
12: Tapeworm pie.
13: Ale-marinated monster shank.
14: Nutritive vapours.
15: Osso oozo.
16: Tacos del muerte.
17: Penne carbonara.
18: Sky-eel steaks.
19: Ghost peppers.
20: Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

1: The Codex of Cataclysm
2: The Zahir
3: The Clever Chariot of Abdel-Rahman
4: The Brazen Head
5: The Bow of Burning Gold
6: The Aleph
7: The Staff of Impossibility
8: The Golden Snake Coat
9: The Pocket Labyrinth
10: The Tarnhelm
11: The Stele of Impeccable Perspicacity
12: The Scrolls of Vard

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

1: Terrorising villagers in the Rail Lands.
2: Concluding an unholy alliance with an undead warlord.
3: Ruling over a forgotten kingdom in the Far Lands.
4: Searching for a long-lost treasure in the Abandoned Quarter.
5: Imprisoned in a maze of death-traps to prevent it escaping.
6: Ensconced at the top of a nearby ruined tower.

May 20, 2013

A Procedure for Wandering Monsters

Foreboding is a difficult emotion to evoke, but amplifies the enjoyment of having wandering monsters in adventure games. This is a procedure for using them in old school D&D. I used a variant of this procedure in Emern, but this is the cleaned up version.

Example of a wandering monster table using monsters from Necrocarcerus.

You will need
A wandering monster table organised into rows and columns as above.
A blank table with the same number of rows and columns as above.
3d6, with one die distinct from the other two.


Designate one PC as "the guard" or "on watch" who will roll. Whenever a random encounter is rolled for, they pick up the 3d6 and roll it. The distinct die determines the column, telling you what they encounter, while the other 2d6 tell you which monster it comes from. The guard should fill out the grid as entries are rolled.

Each of the top six columns has a different effect:

1 - Monster - The party encounters the monster(s). Roll surprise and opening distance.
2 - Lair - The party discovers a lair of monsters. Roll surprise and opening distance. If the PCs surprise the monsters and the monsters do not surprise the PCs, the lair is empty.
3 - Spoor - Monsters are nearby. -3 on the distinct die's next roll (count rolls less than 1 as 1).
4 - Tracks - The monster has passed this way recently. Characters who can track can follow this to hunt the monster. If they choose too, roll the distinct die and subtract 2 from its result (count rolls less than 1 as 1). Or, characters may choose to divert away from the tracks and add 2 to their next roll of the distinct die.
5 - Traces - Traces can be used to identify monsters.
6 - Traces - Traces can be used to identify monsters.

Notes on Designing Tables

These are regional tables, obviously, and you can certainly have more than 11 entries organised around a bell curve. The important part of this method is really the columns and the possibility of more than a binary outcome for the roll.

This does mean that just under 33% of all random encounter rolls will result in the possibility of encounter a monster. If you wish to reduce this, switch to a d8 or d10 and add more Spoor, Track and Trace columns.


Each monster should have two distinct traces. Repetition is fine, but whenever possible, repeat the entries in different columns rather than the same column, unless the purpose is to confound the PCs. If your game has a  skill governing knowledge of monsters, consider allowing the PCs to roll it to identify some possible candidate monsters who would leave these traces. If you don't play with such a skill, consider making the traces such that together, they provide a relatively clear and narrow list of candidates. When I used this in Emern, one of the entries was giant shock lizards, so the PCs encountered lizard scales and clawprints all over the place, with the shock power remaining a surprise to be discovered in the actual encounter.


The main purpose of tracks is to help the PCs determine where the monster is without seeing them directly. Footprints on the ground or crushed vegetation are classics, but I also like to use distant recurring sounds. I like to salt the tracks entries with a few blanks or "None" entries for monsters that are untrackable, which creates foreboding. However, I would encourage you not to simply make every incorporeal, flying, etc. monster untrackable. The Flying Oozes leave chemtrails from their jetpacks, for example.

If you increase the number of columns, consider secretly rolling 1d6 whenever tracks are rolled. 1-3, the PCs mistake the direction the tracks are going, and when they think they are veering away, they are actually closing in on the monster, and vice versa.


My favourite kinds of spoor are abandoned lairs, camps, prey or victims. I normally count spoor as relatively fresh, but you may wish to roll 1d6, with 1-3 meaning it is fresh (and therefore provides -1 to the next roll), and 4-6 meaning it is old (+1 to the next roll). Spoor is also a good entry if you want to introduce clues or other details about the world or story, since it is a trace of the monster stopping for a brief period. Spoor can also involve minor trap / non-combat encounters - the table above has the Mendicant Parasites leaving gibbering madmen in their wake who the PCs can try to interrogate.


Lairs should not automatically result in encounters, but they should require immediate action or decision to avoid having an encounter, whether to seek cover, run away, etc. if the PCs don't want to fight or clear it. Use the No. in Lair entry to determine how many monsters should be encountered. This is also where most monsters will store their treasure, as opposed to sitting in the purses or stomachs of monsters randomly wandering around.

Depending on the monster, I sometimes allow PCs who destroy or eliminate the lair to remove or blank the entry on the wandering monster table, allowing them to partially clear the area. Future rolls of that entry do not produce random encounters. This creates a different feel between monsters who are singular, recurrent entries (there is only one Pustulent Dragon in the region) or precarious invaders, and ones who are swarms or hordes or endemic to the area.


The actual monster, obviously.

May 16, 2013

Getting Places in Necrocarcerus

There are many ways to get around Necrocarcerus. Whenever the PCs need to get somewhere, roll 2d6 to determine who can get them there. This does not exhaust the possible modes of transport used in Necrocarcerus, it is simply the list of means willing to accept the typical adventuring band as passengers.

2 - No One. Trains are blocked or not due for many days, guides unavailable, The PCs must journey overland to reach their destination using their own resources.

3 - Horde of Pilgrims. A motley band of 2d6 x 100 mendicants and religious fanatics are traveling there by foot, usually along roads. PCs eat for free, the pilgrims will guard them while they sleep. 2-in-6 chance that a cleric with 2d6 levels is attached to the group. They will expect a sizable donation of money or a taxing service somewhere along the journey (always the least convenient time). The pilgrims move at a base rate 1 hex / 10 km per day.

4 - Mounted Knaves. 1d6 x 10 bandits and / or mercenaries mounted on horse-like creatures are willing to guide the PCs to the location in exchange for financial compensation. 50 obols per hex (10km) per person is a standard rate. Haggling over the price is possible, but it simply increases the base 2-in-6 chance that they will betray the PCs to 5-in-6. If required, they will rent horse-like mounts to the PCs for a mere additional 50 obols per day per person. The knaves travel at a base rate of 4 hexes / 40 km per day.

5 - Private Portal Porter. Paid guide to the nearest portal for a mere 200 obols per person. Will not go through portal. Roll 1d6. 1-2 it goes where it's supposed to, dumping the PCs 1d6 km from their location in less than a minute. 3-4 it gets close. 1d6 x 10 km from target destination. 5-6 Portal goes somewhere else entirely. Porter is not always aware of this.

6 - Capitalist Caravaneers. 2d6 wagons and owner-operators. Always in a rush somewhere else. Will hire PCs for 10 obols per person per day to protect them from danger. Prorated refunds expected for nonperformance. Don't hassle the camp followers, even if they hassle you first. Move at a base rate of 3 hexes / 30km per day.

7 - Public Transit. The train system is extensive and popular, and the safest way to travel. The transit system is a major employer for the newly dead, and maintained by the Guardians. Tickets may be purchased at any rail station for 10 obols per person per day of travel. Barring the occasional strike / labour stoppage, trains travel at a base rate of 7 hexes / 70km per day. Weapons must be stowed in storage lockers until the end of the trip. 2d6 passenger cars per train, plus another 2d6 cargo cars, an engine and a caboose.

8 - Styxian Fishing Boat. Goes anywhere there is water, and a few places there isn't. Typically crewed by tactiturn and gaunt figures with a penchant for ominous robes and chain smoking / smoking chains. 10 obols per hex / 10 km travelled. Moves at a base rate of 5 hexes / 50 km per day on water.

9 - Chartered Air Sloop. 2d6 air pirates for crew. Cargo is almost certainly illicit or plundered. Unwelcome in all civilised places, though common enough there nonetheless. They cost a flat 10,000 obols upfront to charter for a single trip lasting no more than 3 days, and will fly anywhere at a base rate of 120 hexes / 1,200 km per day unimpeded or slowed by terrain. Attacks by other air pirates and Perfected Spiders are known hazards. Will wait for returning parties for a mere 2,500 obols per day.

10 - Debt-ridden Demonic Draisine. Two imps will pedal the PCs along any rail line they please, though they take no responsibility for collisions with conventional trains using the same lines. The imps demand their weight in unusual organs per day (payment upfront) and have a base movement rate of 8 hexes / 80 km per day. They travel only along rail lines and constantly attempt to renegotiate their rates, pleading penury.

11 - Stomach-Howdah. The specially prepared stomach of a giant earthworm fitted out for luxury travellers and operated by a trained earthworm handler. Stewards, fine foods, rare wines, all the comforts of the living world for merely 500 obols per person per day. There will be 2d6 other passengers, plus their sycophants and personal servants. 1-in-6 chance a mysterious murder happens while aboard. The worm moves underground at a base rate of 4 hexes / 40 km per day, unimpeded or slowed by terrain.

12 - Convenient Nearby Portal. A conveniently accessible, nearby portal that is publicly known can be activated to transport the PCs to within 1d6 km of their target destination in less than a minute. 2-in-6 chance the portal is two-way.

May 10, 2013

Random Door Generation System

The generator requires 2d6, with the dice being different colours or otherwise clearly distinguished (I will refer to them as "light" and "dark"). The generator can be used either prior to play or during play. Using it will give you jerky, irregular corridors and directions more akin to a cave or labyrinth rather than the apartment floor plan style of conventional dungeons. This is intentional.


Roll 2d6

The direction the "1" on the light die is facing is the direction of the corridor the door is blocking (including up or down).
The direction the "1" on the dark die is facing is the direction to the trigger for the door.

If both dice come up even, the door is unlocked.
If one die comes up even and the other odd, then the door is locked.
If both dice come up odd, the door is stuck.
If the total of the die roll is 7, the door is trapped.
If you roll doubles, the door is already opened (it may be stuck open).

This does mean all upwards-pointing doors will be either stuck or locked but never unlocked, and all downwards facing doors will either be unlocked or locked, but never stuck. I also use it so that the orientation of the door follows the orientation of the die, so if it's oriented in a diamond shape instead of a square, the door is also set in a diamond shape instead of a square.

May 7, 2013

Necrocarcerus Rail Map

Completed my map for Necrocarcerus using AutoRealm. The brown lines are the rail lines, the big labels are regions, the small labels are sections of the macro-urban terrain inhabited enough to be cities demographically (there are many unmarked "towns" and "villages"). Click for the big version (it's pretty big). For scale, this map covers about as much area as Australia.