Jul 15, 2017

Feuerberg: Base, Face, and Summit

The majority of the Feuerberg campaign takes place on, in and between, two mountains which are approximately the height of Mount Everest in our world. Altitude is therefore a recurrent concern. I want some simple rules to cover dealing with it that won't turn into a lot of minutiae.

The key information to know for these rules is that the campaign area is split into three altitude regions: the base of the two mountains, their faces, and their summits. And one can be either unacclimatised or acclimatised to each region.

The Base

The base is anything below about 4km in vertical height from sea level. That's the town of Hoch, the valley between the mountains, and about the first 2km onto either mountain (you start about 2km up already). All PCs begin acclimatised to this height, and do not lose their acclimatisation to it.

The Faces of the Mountains

The faces are the portions of either mountain between 4km and 8km vertical height from sea level. This is a true montane environment, and the altitude at which people begin to run the risk of fatal complications. All PCs begin unacclimatised to it.

While they are unacclimatised, they must make a saving throw at the end of each day that they have engaged in strenuous activity. Failure means they lose 1d4 HP and cannot regain hit points, as hypoxia and altitude sickness rip up their metabolism. Days spent resting do not require one to make a saving throw.

Characters who have acclimatised to the face stay acclimatised so long as they don't descend below the face. There are no negative consequences once one has acclimatised.

The Summits of the Mountains

The summit is anything above 8km in vertical height from sea level. Feuerberg gets close to 9km high, even with the top of it shorn away, and its summit area is about 3km in diameter. Himmelberg is about 8.5km high, with a much smaller summit of only 1km diameter. In real life, we call these places "death zones", and they lack enough oxygen to sustain human life for more than a few hours.

Regardless of how acclimatised or unacclimatised one is, one cannot digest food, can't sleep, and must make a saving throw every hour or lose 1d4 HP while in the death zone.

Unacclimatised characters on the summit must also make a separate saving throw every hour or begin dying when they're in the summit. It takes 1d6 turns to die, through a combination of hypoxia, cerebral edema, pulmonary edema, and cold.

Acclimatised characters don't have to make the saving throw to avoid dying. Character stay acclimatised to the summit only so long as they don't descend from the summit.

Acclimatising

So being unacclimatised is pretty bad. You probably want your PC to acclimatise to the altitude they're going to. Here are some methods for doing so.

1) Magic

Any spell that provides you with breathable air of some sort (e.g. a spell for travelling underwater or the void) will provide you with suitable air to count as acclimatised for as long as it lasts. Magic items that provide similar capabilities will also work, as do weird mutations and magical powers you get from mystery cults. If the magic lapses or the item ceases function, you count as unacclimatised and start suffering the consequences within 1 turn.

2) Camping and waiting

The most accessible method. You camp in a hex adjacent to the region you want to become acclimatised (i.e. on a base hex adjacent to the face to become acclimatised for the face, on a face hex adjacent to the summit for the summit, etc.). For the face, you camp for two weeks, for the summit, a month. At the end of that time, you roll a saving throw and if you succeed, you are now acclimatised until you next descend the mountain. You can repeat the period of waiting and camping as many times as one wants, in case not everyone passes the first time, but once acclimatised, you don't need to roll a saving throw again. You get random encounters while you camp, so you're going to either want a fortified camp or to find ways around having to do this.

3) Eating weird stuff

At the start of the Feuerberg campaign, you can't buy anything that will let you acclimatise more easily or rapidly. But, there are several options that you can go hunt down on the mountain itself to make acclimatisation either easier or faster. These are the ones that are openly known, though few have ever seen or used them.

Fresh Yeti Spleen - A yeti's spleen can be split between 1d4 people. It grants acclimatisation to the altitudes of the faces for 1d4 days for each person who eats it. The yeti strenuously object to this practice (-4 to positive reaction rolls), can smell spleen-eaters from far away, and do their best to make life difficult.

Blue Coca - A blue-green plant that grows wild in montane climates, where its fragrance is precious to minor air elementals, who drape themselves in smells the way mortals do clothes. A small amount is cultivated as a recreational drug by the Xarxeans, though they don't make it available to humans. Chewing quids regularly (for at least a week straight, 8 hours a day) before an expedition means it will only take a day to become acclimatised to the face, and three days for the summit. You can't heal naturally (only from medical care) while chewing blue coca.

Grey Mantaka - A psychedelic drug of unknown origin, though rumours claim a particular monolith high on Himmelberg oozes the stuff on nights of the new moon. Grey Mantaka acclimatises you to both the face and summit immediately upon taking it, for 1d6 days each. You must also make a saving throw or hallucinate wildly. This means you fail all saving throws to disbelieve illusions, suffer a -2 on attack rolls, and concentrating on anything for more than a minute or so requires a roll of 5+.

Other drugs and concoctions are rumoured to exist, but knowledge of their existence must be sought out in play.

Jul 12, 2017

Radiant Quests and Restocking

Another method of restocking dungeons is to use an idea from video games: radiant quests. I'm normally leery about the idea that one can simply port an idea over without much adaptation from one medium to another, but I think this is one of the rare exceptions. Once again, the idea is that restocking should be simpler than stocking a dungeon in the first place.

A radiant quest is one where there is a basic template for a task ("Go assassinate..." or "Go retrieve..."), and the game uses some mechanism to assign the object of that quest and the location it takes place randomly. In video games, radiant quests tend to be used to push the players to new areas (giving them a reward for exploring), but I think they work equally well for restocking areas of the dungeon they've already explored and cleared.

What you need is a bunch of generic tasks, a list of enemy forces and objects, a list of NPCs, a list of locations, and a list of rewards. I recommend starting with small lists for each one (d4 or d6 options) and expanding as new NPCs and new areas come up.

A sample generic task might run:

1) Retrieve something
2) Assassinate someone
3) Bring something/someone
4) Clear out somewhere

You pick one, or roll a d4 to determine what the basic structure is. Then you roll for the object or NPC from your lists of such to determine who they're supposed to rescue or assassinate or steal or set in place, etc. The list of enemy forces tells you what's guarding them. And finally, you roll from your list of sub-sections of the dungeon that the PCs have explored to determine where they're going to have to get to. Then roll to find out what their reward is.

This is all fairly simple. You can grab lists of enemy forces and treasure hoards from Red Tide, since this tends to be the most complicated part, or you can just come up with your own. You can even abstract this process if you have a bunch of mini-modules, and just randomly roll to determine where each module intrudes into the dungeon (perhaps with an earthquake or interdimensional portal opening to provide the explanation for the change).

The main things to vary are the task, the object of the task, and the location. Cycling through and recycling these in their various combinations can provide a fairly large amount of gameplay without much work (you can reuse forces and objects, and depending on how you handle it, this could either be lightly comic or build to a larger plot, as say, a particular magical artifact keeps on being stolen and returned to the dungeon in random locations, leading to the question of why it's so valuable and important).

May 31, 2017

Feuerberg: Traveling the Mountain

The surface of Feuerberg is irregular, mostly sloped, but occasionally breaking into great cliffs and chasms that rise and plunge dramatically. While much of the base is able to be walked or scrambled up, albeit slowly, the top halves of Feuerberg and Himmelberg are open almost exclusively to those who can drag themselves up steep cliff-faces.

Climbing the world's largest mountains happens at the scale of overland travel. Rather than focusing on every ledge and chimney, travel is abstracted across a hex grid where the hexes have a diameter of 1km, and it takes approximately 1 hour to traverse a hex (mostly due to changes in vertical height and stopping to rest so the party isn't too exhausted to fight). Because of the reduced scale, instead of the full overland travel procedure, a cut-down version is used.

For each hex on the mountainside, the caller must make three choices.

1) Are they looking for paths, or are they pressing overland?

By spending an hour and rolling 6+ on 1d6 the party finds a path, which is generated in an ordinary way. PCs can follow the path, which requires them to follow it as it meanders, or they can depart from it and lose its benefits to travel in another direction.

2) Stealthy or. Straightforward

Traversing a hex stealthily increases the chance of getting lost. While traversing the hex, the caller rolls 1d6. On a result of 3-, the party is lost and they fail to exit the hex. While travelling a path, the party is lost only on a result of 1.

Traversing it in a straightforward way increases the chance of random encounters. While traversing the hex, the guard rolls for a random encounter. On a path, the party can reroll one of the d6s.

3) Safety or Speed

Traversing a hex safely increases the time it takes. It takes 1d6+1 hours to traverse a hex safely. On a path, it takes 1d4 hours.

Traversing a hex speedily increases the risk of an accident. Everyone makes a saving throw. On a failure, they either destroy one item in their possession or they take 3d6 points of damage (PC's choice). On a path, they get +4 to their saves.

Weather and specific terrain types can alter this further, making certain days and places particularly good for stealth, etc.

May 28, 2017

Into the Depths of Feuerberg

I'm going to be running a campaign in Feuerberg (the dragon volcano megadungeon) on Saturdays from 11am EST to 3pmish EST. If you're interested in joining, let me know.

Into the Depths Single Page Rules Summary
Into the Depths Character Sheet created by Beloch Shrike of Papers and Pencils
Into the Depths of Feuerberg (the setting guide)

The shops and gear are on the last two pages of the document, but I'm putting them up in this post so that people can refer to them more easily. Only new pieces of gear with mechanical effects have descriptions. If it says something like "4+" that means "on a result of 4 or higher when rolling 1d6".

(I'm probably going to write an entire post about the pocketwatch item and time-keeping in games at some point; and another about Grunewald's Almanac)

Vendors in Hoch
(Prices in silver unless otherwise noted)
Shops will buy rare, unusual and interesting items related to their wares.

The Dragon’s Claw – run by Gunther Kant

Ammunition
Small Barrel of Corned Gunpowder – Explodes for 3d6 damage in 5m diameter (gold)
Dagger (small)
Custom-Made Obsidian __________ - Allows hitting incorporeal undead and spirits
Flintlock Carbine (ranged)
Full Brigandine Suit (medium armour)
Halberd (great)
Sabre (melee)
Shield
Spear (great)
Leather Jack (light armour)
Reinforced Field Plate Panoply (heavy armour) (gold)
Repair Kit – Repair weapons and armour on a 4+
War-Axe (melee)
Zweihander (great)

Church of the Hidden God – run by Yazdan Burjani (gold)

Copyist’s Kit – Allows accurate copying of documents
Fatwas Against ________ - Scrolls of protection
Healing Grievous Wounds
Holy Symbol – stun nearby undead for 1d4 rounds on a 5+
Regeneration of Lost Parts
Removal of Curses
Shriving of Sins
Vials of Holy Water

Can initiate someone as a priest of the Hidden God (10,000 sp)

The Golden Sun Coffee House – run by Madame Kularka (gold)

Excellent Booze
Excellent Coffee
Excellent Tea
Fortune Read
Introduction to Esteemed Personage
Hot Tip

The Hall of Zagros – run by Ranit Anuniat

Antitoxin
Backpack
Bandages
Bedroll
Caltrops
Cartographic and Surveying Equipment
Chalk
Climbing Equipment – Climb surfaces on a 4+
Cold Weather Clothing – +4 on saves vs. exposure to cold
Crowbar – Break open doors and chests on a 4+
Firestarter
Flare – Blinds all within 5m radius for 1d6 rounds unless they save
Hammer and Chisel – Allows carving, breaking and driving things into rock
Iron Rations
Iron Spikes
Lantern
Protective Gloves – Protects hands from acid, poison, heat, etc. Cannot do tasks requiring fine motor coordination while wearing them.
Sack
Saw
Shovel
Tent
Tongs
Torch
Whistle

The Hangs – run by Greta Verstirwung (copper)

Bullshit Story
Fried Noodles
Godawful Beer
Stolen Goods
Terrible Whiskey
Warm Beds – Recover 2d8 HP / day of rest

The Hausenner Ranch – run Friedrich Haussenner, Esq.

Bag of Flour
Block of Wax
Butchering Kit – Allows harvesting of monster organs, trophies, etc.
Butter
Chicken
Dangerous Animals Tamed (gold)
Donkey (mount)
Riding Horse (mount)
Fresh Sausages
Gallon of Milk (copper)
Milk Cow (gold)
Mutton

Olonwe’s Bazaar of Wonders – run by Olonwe

Cartographic and Surveying Tools
Compass
Document Case – Protects documents against exposure to fire and water
Fiddle – Can calm beasts, demons, and undead
Fine Tools
Current Edition of Grunewald’s Northern Almanack – Answers questions about flora, fauna, geography, seasons, and astronomical phenomena in Feuerberg on a 4+.
Heliotrope
Lock & Key
Mirror – Reflects gaze attacks back on a 5+
Periscope – Allows looking around corners while remaining concealed
Pocketwatch – Allows accurate tracking of time
Songbox – Plays music
Telescope – 10x vision of far objects

Sebastus Wright, Magus (gold)

Dose of Paralysis Poison – Save or be paralysed for 1d6 turns
False Air Capsule – Don’t need to breath for 2d6 hours
Ghost-Blinding Flares – Save or blinds incorporeal undead for 2d4 rounds
Ghost-Translating Skull – Allows one conversation with a dead person
Hekaphage Talisman – Allows reroll of one failed saving throw vs. magical effect
Lens of Decipherment – Translates one document into High Krovian
Oracular Incense – Augury for one question when burnt
Plasmic Key – Opens one non-magical lock
Spider Eye – Comes to life for 2d6 rounds and explores at MV 3
Soul-Trapping Canopic Jar – Incorporeal undead or spirit must save or be trapped within
Vial of Acid

Can initiate someone into the Silver-Veined Sodality for 10,000sp

Town Hall – run by the Burgher Council (gold)

Business License
Citizenship (platinum)
Confusing, Frustrating and Punitive Taxes
Freehold Land Grant – Necessary to establish a permanent home base
Licensed Advocate

Additional special vendors are available upon completion of certain quests.

May 10, 2017

Credit Where Credit's Due

It turns out Talysman over at Nine and Thirty Kingdoms came up with the idea of using reaction rolls for weather first. (I wrote this blog post recently with the same idea). It was probably cryptomnesia since I discovered it while reviewing a random collection of links to OSR house rules (I think it was this thread on rpg.net) in a forum. In general, I think using reaction rolls for random events is a solid idea, one I'll probably be implementing more to handle other random situations requiring a range of possible outcomes (instead of the relatively binary outcome of a saving throw). I like how it makes the charisma attribute more useful (and restores its sense of being favoured by the divine).

Apr 27, 2017

Feuerberg: The Abandoned Dig Adventure Site

1 hex = 1 km side to side

This is a map of the area immediately surrounding Hoch, including a small portion of the north-eastern slope of Feuerberg (Feuerberg and Himmelberg together cover about 714 km^2, about a tenth of the total ground area of the sub-range they belong to, which is comparable to Mahadur Himchal, the subrange that Everest belongs to). The blue post-its are above-ground sites, the purple post-it notes are sites with access to the subsurface of Feuerberg, the yellow post-its are terrain that poses a simple challenge, while the orange post-it means dangerous terrain that is non-trivial to cross. The below adventure site is statted up for Into the Depths.

THE ABANDONED DIG (HEX 16:20)

One of the first areas PCs are likely to be interested in is the abandoned dig site. A few years ago, an archaeomancer led an expedition to this spot, seeking to unearth an ancient prehuman temple. No one has heard from them since. The dig site itself is frequently used as a staging area by goat men for their raids. This batch seems to particularly like kidnapping people and sacrificing them at the full moon.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL THESE GOAT MEN? (1d6 or just pick a bunch)

1) They kidnapped someone you care about. If you want them back, better go get them before the next full moon.
2) They're blocking trade from the kingdom on the far side of the mountains. If you wipe them out and prevent more from taking over the site, all prices in Hoch will come down 10% and the baron will owe you a big enough favour to let you out of jail for free once.
3) The ghost of the archaeomancer, Jumara Thayne, needs you to recover the brain from her corpse and then burn it in a fancy ceremony so she can regain her memories and power. She'll cast one spell for free per month in gratitude.
4) Someone said there's a dangerous and mysterious prehuman monolith out there that will give you awesome powers if you sacrifice people (like goat men) to it.
5) The goat men ate the last missionary the Church of the Hidden God sent out. Yazdan Burjani, the local priest, has issued a fatwa against them, and will totally shrive your many sins in exchange for a little divinely-sanctioned murder. (PCs can change their alignment to Good/Lawful no matter how bad they've been previously)
6) The Cult of Vorkallian needs a pile of goat man hearts for what are no doubt uninteresting and wholly legitimate reasons. They're paying 20 sp (gp in systems on the gold standard) for each fresh heart (less than a day old).

GETTING THERE

It's about four kilometres due west of town. Once you hit the lower slope of Feuerberg, there are coniferous thickets and rocky outcroppings scattered across an incline that takes you up about two hundred metres, past the sealed entrance to the salt mine full of restless undead and along a deer path. You know you're in the right area when you can feel your skin begin to crawl. During the day, the smoke from the goat men's campfires is visible once PCs enter the hex.

GOAT MEN

The goat men have all been driven violently insane by a phenomenon they refer to as "the purple light" which seems to involve great and terrible revelations of incoherent character. They wield slings (1d6), crude spears (2H; 1d10) and sharpened pieces of rebar (1d8). They don't use their horns in combat (that would be undignified). HD 1+1 AT 1 weapon (+0) AC 13 MV 9 MR 6 There are 1d4 patrols in groups of 1d4+1 roaming around the dig site at any given time.



The abandoned dig site. The green things are thickets of conifers.

KEY TO THE ABANDONED DIG

1. The crumbled ruins of shrines built by intelligent saurids from before the age of man have been dug out carefully, then left to rot in the sun and rain for several years. A heavily-weathered, armless statue of a dinosaur wearing fancy robes stands on a pedestal. Ehkt, a goat man, is clacking pebbles together while muttering about the purple light and its demands. If questioned, he claims to be talking to the ghost living in the statue (there is no ghost), which is teaching him how to resist the purple light's revelations. He is visibily swollen with tumours, and the other goat men hate him.

2. A deep pit, clearly the last site of activity before the dig was abandoned and now a dump. At the bottom of the pit is a half-buried fossilised dinosaur skeleton that appears to be posed in meditation and is covered by the weathered and rotting bodies of the victims of the goat men (three dozen). All lack skulls. Phehth, a goat man, sneaks here to nibble on the corpses when the others aren't looking. Sometimes he hides amongst them, pretending to be one.

Rooting through the charnel pit reveals 146 silver pieces and 67 copper pieces; a gummy vial of poison (half-drunk); a ruby worth 159 silver pieces in the stomach of one of the corpses; a rotted and blood-soaked book that if repaired magically is revealed to be a spellbook with 3 spells; a rotted and blood-soaked book that if repaired magically is a guide to fine cookery worth 32 silver pieces; the arms of the statue at location 1, which grip a tablet showing a coded map to the cave of ancient art in hex 16:22; several armloads of damp and rotting wood, and a mixture of broken and rusted tools. There is a 1 in 6 chance of contracting an unpleasant rash (-1 to hit, MV and Armour Mod.) every turn spent rooting through the bodies. Each person-turn spent searching recovers one item from the above list (roll 1d8).

3. A statue of three interwined and spire-like tentacles emerging from a stone surface carved to look like a wave pool. The stone is white marble, with faint purple veins in the rock. It looks much newer than anything else here. The goat men stack the skulls of the people they kill here (Jumara Thayne's is here, recognisable through the spell-swelled brain-pan of an archaeomancer). The statue is the source of the skin-crawling feeling. Touching it ages you 1d100 years (save for half), and is not necessary to remove the skulls.

4. The goat men's campsite. Two tents, a bonfire with something unwholesome roasting on a spit, and a lot of blankets strewn about. One tent holds the liquor and food. The other holds Gragh, the leader of this band of goat men [HD 3+3 AT 1 sledgehammer (+2 1d8) AC 15 MV 6 MR 9] and his three wives / bodyguards, Blech, Blegh and Blagh (MR 9). Gragh and his wives are having a grand time lording it over the other goat men and have no larger plans than pleasing the purple light with sacrifices obtained through raiding caravans and kidnapping travelers. If it seems like it'd be less trouble, they'll trade prisoners for new sacrifices to replace them.

There are another dozen goat men here at any time, drunk, bored, or agitated by private crises induced by the purple light. There are eight barrels of liquor, each worth 22 sp if hauled back to civilisation and their origins concealed. The food is a collection of delicacies (salt fish stuffed with chopped peanuts, mostly) from the kingdom across the mountains, unsaleable due to rough handling but still quite hearty and in significant portions (47 rations worth, all spoiled by the end of the week). Prisoners will be tied up here, in between the rings of blankets and the campfire itself.

5. A guard tower. Three goat men are on guard here at all times with slings and torches. Waght, the goat woman who takes guard duty the most frequently, is actually sane and uninfected by the purple light, but pretends so the others don't suss her out. She is willing to sell out the rest for the chance to escape, but only if approached alone. She often pretends to "go scouting" in the woods by herself. The guard tower has a small collection of well-loved books (Waght's), mostly well-thumbed travelogues, worth about 15 sp total.

6. A hollow obsidian tetrahedron 3m long on each edge, sticking up out of the ground with 30cm or so still buried. For each 13 points of damage dealt to it within a single hour, one of the faces begins to glow with a constellation of stars. The first face is of an ancient constellation, the second of the contemporary night sky, the third shows a possible future night sky. Once all three are lit, you may ask any one question and receive a truthful answer to it (via a telepathic image). One of the stars in the night sky above you burns out in a flash. The tetrahedron radiates evil palpably within 3m. If the tetrahedron is used 13 times total, all stars, including the sun, will burn out. It has been used four times previously. Erckt, Yurch, Wamch and Gruk, goat men, hang around it, egging one another into giving it an occasional slap and laughing at the lights. The tetrahedron is indestructible by mundane means, but Mad Bill Danger, the trash oracle in the ruined city of hex 8:24, knows how to destroy it.

7. A white marble monolith with purple veins in the stone. It is carved with a spiral pattern descending into a mouth-like vortex at the centre on both sides. The monolith and the ground around it are caked with bloodstains. Yechkt, a priestess of the purple light, meditates here [HD 4+4 AT 1 dagger (+2 1d4) AC 11 MV 12 MR 9]. She can spend an action to animate 1d4+1 bodies at a time from the charnel pit [HD 1+1 AT 1 fist (+0 1d3) AC 15 MV 6 MR 12], summon a 3 HD demonic being to defend her [HD 3 AT 2 (+2 1d6; save or be confused) AC 15 MV 12 MR 10], or shoot deadly bolts of purple light from her eyes (1d6 damage, save or weep helplessly for 1d4 rounds). When not trying to kill you, she is usually inebriated on hallucinogens, ranting about "the Relict" and the purple light. Half the goat men and women here are her children or nieces and nephews, and they will martyr themselves for her (MR 11 so long as she is threatened). She knows how the monolith works, but won't tell you willingly.

When the full moon is in the sky, unwilling sentient beings may be sacrificed to the purple light by slitting their throats and splashing the blood on the monolith. The first death gives the officiant and their allies a +1 to all attacks and damage for 1 day. The third provides 2d8 points of healing within 10m. The fifth lifts the effects of all curses, diseases and maladies (other than its own) from anyone within the same radius.  If someone without wounds, curses, maladies, etc. is within 10m for the fifth and further deaths, they get cancer, though they won't realise it until later (cancer counts as a malady for the next use). The seventh death causes anyone within 10m to save or acquire a mutation, as does the 10th death. The monolith radiates evil divine magic. Anyone who has deciphered the ancient languages of the saurids will notice the spiral pattern is composed of claw-letters repeating a word that roughly means "the hatred of all life".

Apr 23, 2017

Bonus Grubbing in Into the Depths

For new readers, Into the Depths is a one-page D&D-like inspired by Searchers of the Unknown that I wrote over Christmas break. It's compatible with most Swords and Wizardry material. You can download it for free here. I'm going to eventually write a magic supplement for it, but in the mean time I'm using Wonder and Wickedness as the spell system.

Into the Depths uses a fairly simple skill system. Any time you try to do something with a risk of failure and a consequence for failing, you roll a d6 and try to get a result of 5 or higher. If someone helps you, you roll a d8. If you're "Good At" doing the thing in question, you add +2 to your roll. If a group is doing something that they all succeed or fail on together, then they nominate someone to roll on their behalf.

The "5 or higher" is basically a DC (a "difficulty class" from d20) and can be adjusted up or down as you desire. I mostly only adjust it up, while things that make the task easier add bonuses to the PCs' rolls, simply to keep it all as simple addition. Most equipment typically doesn't add bonuses, it either allows you to do things you couldn't otherwise or allows you to avoid having to make rolls by automatically allowing you to succeed (a few pieces allow you reroll a failed roll).

One of the things this system is intended to do is to give the PCs kind of a crappy initial chance to do anything (unless it's an area of core expertise) and so encourage them to grub around for bonuses to their rolls. Here are some of the ways that I let them do so, that you might want to try in turn.

+1 to rolls for:

Taking double the usual time to complete the task
Having a clue, secret, or other inobvious but relevant information
Someone else has done the hardest part of the task
Having a specialised piece of equipment (Specialised equipment should only apply to a small set of predefined situations)
Magical assistance, including blessings
Executing a plausible, well-described plan of action

+1 to the DC for:

Each person past the first two in a group where one person is rolling on behalf of the group
Rushing (1/2 normal time or less)
Crappy equipment
Plans relying on seriously flawed or incorrect assumptions
Magical interference
Difficult environmental conditions

These lists aren't meant to be exhaustive, they're just prompts to get referees and PCs alike thinking about how they can fiddle with the difficulty of any given challenge.