Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: Gravity Salad

I don't know how well Avalon Hill's version of Runequest ever sold, but their covers of Adventurers doing the traveling bit of the quest sold me hook, line and sinker. Forget the monsters on the shields. The dragon snarling from its pile of gold and booty? Been there, done that; got the +2 bastard sword and mithril-scaled tee-shirt. Forget the Otis scenes of combats full of devastating magic and horrific monster body parts, like tongues and talons. Nope I like the well groomed Saxon-armored female atop a horse, with a donkey tied to it, looking out onto some salt plains with mountains looming in the distance. At that point, my own personal brand of T&T would become about the tasks involved in getting from point A to point B, maybe some would say the torture of it, as well the trials and treasure at the heart of it.

I think about my travels in life, from misadventures to deployments in the Army to now regular vacation trips, and this bears out the truth of my philosophy above. What mostly comes to mind is the little mishaps and obstacles getting there, not so the being there. Traveling one time from eastern Romania to Atlanta, Georgia to meet a friend flying in from Fairbanks, Alaska, the most memorable part of the trip was a ten-seat airport bar counter in Aviano Italy where I ended up staying the night because I got pick-pocketed by a chickpea that I had spurned earlier. Luckily I still had my American Armed Forces ID card and an expired US Passport in my coat pocket, just no money until my grandparents could overnight mail a bank card from my credit union in Texas to the hotel in Atlanta. Luckily I had enough cash in my front pocket, a traveler's trick against pick-pockets, to cover my tab and just had to wait for the flight out at 6:15am. My credit card company would get me a new card by the end of the month at my address in Germany. How exactly was I going to get from the airport in Atlanta to the hotel? Well, it wouldn't be the first time I had to panhandle for subway change. It would actually be the second. Boy, bar stools were not designed for sleeping on but they're better than boarding area benches.

The environment should define the scenario, or sets of scenarios, to help the Delvers get the feel of the place. What's being a desert without sunburn and avoiding scorpions? Ever tramped through a swamp without heat exhaustion and avoiding water moccasins? How about been in a snow storm and  stepped into a puddle of freezing water hidden by the thinnest layer of snow and very thin ice? Never? Okay, how about that time you were headed to the mall and that red minivan cut you off and stole your parking space? You had to park all the over by J.C. Pennys when you were trying to get to the cinema almost a football field away. These are pretty dramatic moments in the advent of our days. They should be for your characters as well.  The resulting ailments, from frostbite for Lumbering Jack in the Birch Lands to Shivering Fever for Confucius Rogue in the jungles of Djung, have made my player groups feel they have really gotten there when they arrived at the entrance of tunnel finally.

The starting point itself can be quite fun. It's not just showing up that makes getting into that remote and unfriendly spot you want to visit. One of the places where a Kopfy tunnel, that's a dungeon to you D&Dheads, differ from the Ken St Andre tunnel is the entrance. Mind you Ken's are great, his dungeons are challenges set by God-Wizards to mere punkass adventurers, so they are floating in the sky, or massive doors carved into the side of mountains with toll collectors waiting in front for entrance. But for there's this little adventure series with a protagonist named "Indiana Jones" a couple of you dear readers might have heard of. One of the hallmarks of this collection of little-known films is the difficulty in finding the treasure, and perils of the tunnels around it, is usually very hard to get to. Mind you all, I was into pulp adventure a decade before Raiders of the Lost Arc was written. So I like this part of any tunnelcrawl to be a task in and of itself. From puzzles as to how to find the entrance, the ever popular sunset or sunrise shooting through a gem onto a map; to my favorite gravity salad.

Gravity Salad is a specialty of mine, so I'd like to go a bit more into it. This concoction is known by anyone who has ever climbed a tree to look for landmarks in a heavily forested area or has ever been spelunking. I not only place entrances to my tunnels on the sides of the walls to a geologic sinkhole, I'll design the whole complex to be a series of gravity challenges that rock-climbers and acrobats won't shrug off. Ever been inside a pyramid? Not many stairs built into the original construction. And my own pyramids are even more fun, and not just hiding gold. They've been turned upside down because of a feud by their builder and the God of Madness. And you guys really should see my Gravity Salad masterpiece, The Loop, it is the actual temple to the God of Madness (Yes his name is Loopo, Ken). Ask Jherri the Great, Alanthea, the Clever, and Garnash, the Singer, about my lovely little side dish. Throw in the weight of gold and your players could very well miss the giant ant coming from the other direction.

As to the subway station in Atlanta? The hotel had free shuttle service from the airport. The subway from the airport though, did help us get to the downtown historic areas.


  1. Love it! Don't you think that a giant cube floating a mile above the earth is a bit of a gravity challenge? Originally, the only way up was via a rope ladder that hung from the top--requiring 100 level 1 Strength saving rolls to climb up. If you fell off, damage depended on how high you got before losing your grip. Of course it could be climbed safely and tediously, but nobody I played with ever figured out the trick. So to get the adventure going I put in an elevator or a hot air balloon to carry the delvers up to the Gristlegrim entrance. :)

    1. I do think that Gristlegrim was my first example of the gravity challenge in my earlier RPG readings. I remember something about the balloon, it might've been on the cover. 100 SRs to get up the rope, now that is adventure that I have to try.

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  3. Another post and another string of grammar errors, small and large. If an actor wants to act shouldn't he take acting classes? If a philosopher wants to philosophize shouldn't he read a book or three? If a short, pudgy guy in Ohio wants to write a blog, shouldn't he at least be familiar with grammar and its usage? Nope, that doesn't stop Kopfy. Okay, I'll cut you some slack. I'll assume your thick, jelly-stained fingers pressed (or failed to press) certain keys as you squatted, inebriated, vast stomach heaving, over the keyboard.

    Two words: Napkins. Proofreader. Get both.

    Nah, better yet. End this silly blog.