A Dungeons and Dragons Documentary

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Wereweasel
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Post by Wereweasel » Thu Dec 07, 2006 12:03 am

THOTH,


Your campaigns sound as if they are full of remarkable details and have a level of authenticity rarely found together -in equal measure.

Admittedly, technical detailing of crypts, ruins and exotic locales is the one area I could truly enhance my DMing most noticably.

With having notable (or formal) exposure to anthopology, might I ask for a bit of advise on reference material?

Essentially I would to know of any useful texts that would provide insight, including minute details of crypts/ruins etc.

For example:

Does dust collect in sealed crypts? When, what type of insects may be found? Decay, how long do skeletal, wood, metal, various provisions and leather/fabric items last in various environs etc.

For me, having a reference point for these questions would be of considerable interest to me and would enhance my games significantly.


BTW,

In addition, if there is reference material of this sort in any edition of the AD&D books (or another gaming system), I would really appreciate a tip on any of those as well.

Thanks.

Steve

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jackattack
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Post by jackattack » Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:20 am

You may find that detailing crypts is a tricky business. My archaeology elective used tombstones as an example of how differing influences occur at differing times -- over a hundred or so years, there were three distinct trends in headstones in America alone. I suspect you will find that time, region, culture, and environment/weather are all factors in how crypts are constructed, decorated, and naturally aged.

What do you mean by dust?

Household dust is comprised of very fine fibers from clothing and carpets and pets, dead skin cells, pollen, and minute particles of biological matter. If your crypt has nothing exposed but stonework, then there will be (at most) a fine layer of dust; if the crypt has lots of tapestries, and bodies lying exposed on stone tablets, then there will probably be quite a lot of dust. If the crypt is hermetically sealed (no insects, plants, molds, or bacteria to speak of) then there won't be a lot of dust; if it is home to a thriving ecosystem, then plenty of dust (and decay, and droppings).

Dust can also be particles of dirt, sand, and stone. If the crypt is well-constructed (no gaps or breaks to the outside, stable structurally and geologically) there won't be much dust; if the crypt has holes to the outside, or settling and tremors causing debris to shake loose from the ceiling, there will be lots of dust. Dry (desert) environments are notorious for dust -- it gets EVERYWHERE! Construction will also be a factor here. The thicker the walls (more layers of stonework) and the fewer seams, the less dust will likely settle. A crypt carved into solid granite will have little dust, a crypt made of sandstone blocks will have more.

For insects and basics of human decay, try:
http://www.kathyreichs.com/entomology.htm
http://users.skynet.be/lilith/english/deathtodust.html
http://members.tripod.com/csi-playingwi ... cience.htm
These were found in a ten-minute search at AskJeeves.

However, I have found that letting the story drive the effects often makes for better play than letting the effects drive the story.

(My starfleet captain died because I couldn't flash-freeze him (for later revival) in the vacuum of space -- heat dispersal is actually very difficult in vacuum, you see, and it was more important to keep things realistic than it was to allow my character to live.)

If you want the body to be perfectly preserved, then put a spell on it. If you want your characters to have to look around to find an item or an inscription, then put a thick layer of dust on everything. If you want to have the players roll saving throws against nausea, make the dead body stink. If you want to foreshadow the giant beetles that live two levels down, populate the first level with lots of regular beetles. If you want the characters to contract a long-dormant disease or other infection, put lots of mold and dust and wet scum all over the crypt. And so on.

One nod to realism I will make, however, is this: mechanical traps in ancient tombs don't reset themselves -- unless somebody comes in to reset them, they go off once and that's it. If you want a trap that goes off every time someone walks by, either stack the traps (multiple instances of the same trap to create "charges") or come up with some reason that the trap resets itself (a tension spring that was wound up before the tomb was sealed, flowing water operating gears that move all of the pieces back into position, whatever).
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Wereweasel
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Post by Wereweasel » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:16 pm

jackattack,

This information will make a notable improvement in the descriptive quality and subtle delivery throughout my game.

And yes, I will follow up on the links as well.

Many thanks.

Steve

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Post by THOTH » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:18 pm

Steve - your actually confusing Archeology and Anthropology...while I have a degree (and much interest & knowledge) in the latter - I am a hobbyist in the former but sadly I'm not much of a crypt expert per se. I have travelled and vissited (and studied) some archeological sites pretty extensively - but its hit or miss. I've been to a great many Mayan ruins, Greek and other (Roman, Hitite, Lycian, Armenian, Uraturan etc) ruins in Anatolia, Roman ruins in Italy, France & Germany, and also a great deal of various American Indian stuff (4 corners area - Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon other stuff) in the Southwest etc. I've tried to incorporate a great deal of this as well as other aspects of my studies of ancient civilizations - not only architecture but culture & beliefs (all fit within a rather twisted interpretation of Morcock's multiverse with perhaps some Amberish overtones to (levels of) reality (and god stuff0 as well...all still a massive (lifes) work in progress...when i find time for it...(like when I'm relaxing at the beach on vacation or such). And while I do a good job of simulation (& artistic creation) I don't think that I quite get to the level you might be implying or attempting to achieve yourself (in regards to your interest in making tombs as realistic as possible)...and my only real expertise concerning dust is in watching it accumulate on wine bottles in my cellar!

Oh and jack - good point regarding mechanical traps (that I tend to follow in my campaign)...however don't forget MAGIC! lol With such practically anything is possible eh?

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Post by pfworks » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:09 am

This reminds me of something in one of my campaigns once. I had some blocks in one room that had to be transported to another room for something or other. The intervening room was full of water. The blocks were to be made of sodium. As I sat down to calculate how much sodium would do how much damage, I thought to myself "Heck, this is a fantasy world!". I renamed the blocks to explodium and chose my own damge based on the character levels I was running through.

Wereweasel
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Post by Wereweasel » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:39 am


Steve - your actually confusing Archeology and Anthropology...

Hehe,

I think the reference to Indiana Jones, a severe case of tunnel-vision and some wishful thinking on my part got the better of me that time! :D


As for the level of realism - I am only really trying to include some additional, descriptive "specifics" -including any phoemonema that would allow me to enhance the descriptions and atmosphere within my campaign settings with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

That being said, my intention (as far as gaming is concerned) is just to improve upon my provision and delivery of information as a DM. The style of game I run (as mentioned previously) plays into my strengths and will not change.


BTW,

I recently finished a epic series of (8 or 9) historical fiction books that I stumbled onto accidentally. They are by Jack Whyte and it is the "Dream of Eagles" series. I COULDN'T PUT THESE DOWN! I suggest this series as I felt it really "breathed life" into a period of time (spanning four generations) that was rich in details, involved a wide range of cultures and locations/settings and how they all interacted throughout the time of the Roman withdrawl from Britain. I think you may really appreciate this series.

Steve

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Post by pfworks » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:02 am

Check out the "Archer" series by Bernard Cornwell. Also, very, very good.

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jackattack
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Post by jackattack » Fri Dec 08, 2006 9:21 am


Oh and jack - good point regarding mechanical traps (that I tend to follow in my campaign)...however don't forget MAGIC! lol With such practically anything is possible eh?

That's why I said "mechanical" -- the rules system I play under now makes distinctions between magical and mechanical devices, and actually requires two different skill sets to detect and manipulate either -- I'd hate to think how it would handle a mechanical trap with magical aspects, like resetting itself once sprung!

While magic can do anything, engineering can't -- perpetual motion is impossible, and energy expended cannot be recovered. In a low-magic or historical setting, traps have to be mechanical (or chemical), and therefor follow the rules of physics and engineering. At least, closely enough that your rules-lawyers don't waste twenty minutes insisting that something couldn't possibly happen.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Regarding the water/sodium trap, a possible variation on that theme is phosphorus and oil. Phosphorus burns on contact with air, but air is required for combustion, so lack of air prevents burning -- which is a roundabout way of explaining that phosphorous can be submerged in a flammable substance without igniting. So if a container full of oil, with bits of phosphorus at the bottom, is drained, it will ignite when the level drops low enough to expose the phosphorus.

Fill a room about a foot deep (or more) with oil (or water, with a layer of oil floating on top), and put a lever or valve or trigger in the middle of the room that will open drains in the floor. When the phosphorous on the floor is exposed, it will ignite the oil and fill the room with fire. (If you use the water-with-oil option, a neat way to get around the trap is to have some kind of water-breathing magic available (potions found early in the adventure, or a set of single-use medallions in a chest), and burn off the layer of oil while the party sits safely underwater.)
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Post by jkratzer » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:32 pm


This reminds me of something in one of my campaigns once. I had some blocks in one room that had to be transported to another room for something or other. The intervening room was full of water. The blocks were to be made of sodium. As I sat down to calculate how much sodium would do how much damage, I thought to myself "Heck, this is a fantasy world!". I renamed the blocks to explodium and chose my own damge based on the character levels I was running through.

Okay, pf, so how DID they get the blocks next door? Now you got ME wondering!

Jim

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Post by yack » Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:04 pm

Wow that was a pretty cool vid... will check them all out once I find the time..thanks for sharing that.

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