Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wots All This Then

Having two posts in a row being like "I'm back!", three years apart, is ah, not such a good look.

Thankfully, when you get down to it, it doesn't really matter.

The campaign mentioned in the last post has been going since shortly after it was made, with the party around 5th level -- the cleric is a level behind after their original character fell prey to a pair of carrion crawlers that the party badly underestimated (turns out getting paralyzed is pretty bad). Their most major accomplishment to date is clearing the Eld off of the Misty Isles, a series of highly amusing sessions, the apex of which being the party strafing the island surface in an Eld bubblecar, piloted by a barbarian granny and the gunner being a gorilla (the polymorphed druid).

I'm also running a separate game for the kids in the social group, the kids themselves being one nine-year-old and two seven-year-olds, with the adults helping out by rotating through playing two characters between them, providing some amount of direction and grounding when appropriate. Because I'm extremely good at being appropriate, the party is a bunch of criminals who are working with a group that's basically a gang with delusions of grandeur. So far they've escaped jail, got lost in some sewers, robbed a caravan, strong-armed a gambling establishment into giving them a cut, and robbed a tomb -- the latter has turned into a full-on dungeon delve after the cemetery watch discovered how they got in and resealed the tomb under the theory that the undead known to lurk deeb in the catacombs will take care of the graverobber problem without the guards putting themselves in danger. They've discovered an underground river with an impassable waterfall in one direction and an underground lake with at least one observed predator in the other, so they're going to try and go deeper...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back in the Saddle

I haven't posted here in a while because I haven't been DMing for a while -- we added a friend of a friend to our gaming group and aside from being an awesome guy, he really wanted to run, which was fine with everybody else. So we've been doing a D&D 3.5 campaign based on the original Planescape boxed set setting, which has been pretty great. I've enjoyed the experience of being a player quite a bit, although my current character incarnation can't speak (I'm controlling a shield guardian), so that's put a bit of a damper on the experience in the sense that I spend a fair amount of each session gesticulating (I don't really have facial expressions either).

However, he's going to be out of town during the month of October, so I've got a specific timeframe to light a fire under my ass in terms of the doodles that I've been making and the half-baked ideas that I've been rolling around in the DMing part of my brain.

As a good example of how that portion of my brain works, I've got a lot more worked out in terms of the cosmology of the world than the immediate environment in which the player will start. Big Picture: Dying Earth-style world, being a cube-shaped planet, which, thanks to a discussion in the comments of another blog, will still have a spherical atmosphere, meaning that each face of the cube will have a habitable circle, surrounded by icy void (also meaning that all outside borders of the world will be arctic-style ice floes/sheets, which is pretty cool). Because I'm a nerd, the land masses on each face will correspond to pips on a regular six-sided die. The PCs are going to start on the 1-pip face.

The "pip" is actually a halo, a ring of land surrounding an inner ocean, accessible only on the western side of the ring, which is a massive archipelago. It used to be a solid mass of land until some sort of cataclysm, thousands of years in the past, annihilated the center of it, creating the inner sea and throwing up a circular mountain range that separates the outer portion of the ring from the inner. The civilization that was destroyed in this event was a Hyperborean/Morning Culture super-advanced magic-using culture -- the ruins they left behind in the now-civilized portion of the word (i.e. the outer portion of the ring) have been completely pored over/cleaned out/destroyed, meaning the only places that they still exist are in very inaccessible areas OR inside the mountains; however, everything inside the mountains is Weird and Dangerous to the point where nobody lives there and is accessed only by foolhardy treasure-hunters (obviously very The Zone from Roadside Picnic as well as a bunch of other sources).

There's a second layer of destroyed cultures in that the north portion of the ring (where the PCs will start) was where a large Empire flourished until about a 100 years ago, when it also was mostly destroyed in some sort of magical event that blasted flat the mountain range to the south, creating a new Weird Zone that split the empire in half (Red and Pleasant Land is now inside this zone, as well as a bunch of other stuff). The PCs start on the east side of this, on the old frontier of the Empire, dominated by mostly-wilderness, one large free city (Vornheim) and the frontier of a burgeoning Empire to the east (largest city there being Marlinko). The Black Isle is roughly north. The painting that allows access to the Maze of the Blue Medusa is in Vornheim.

(Yoon-suin is to the south-east, along with some other stuff, including my own city-state-dungeon, The City Infinite, which actually exists in three separate spots in this world; that's another story entirely.)

So, basically, it's a bunch of adventure leads that leverage, heavily, a bunch of existing content that is both really really good and more importantly, already in existence, because I've found that having a Real Job and Two Small Kids means that you really have to be realistic about how much time/energy you're really going to have to come up with this stuff and it turns out that it's very freeing to allow yourself to build large tapestries and then allow people who are good at this stuff to provide you with mass to fill things in.

To get down to brass tacks, I'm going to have to sketch out a beginning town, which will be relatively small, at the border of a large wood that lies between the plains where Vornheim sits and then an ex-Imperial port town on the coast that exists as a trade node between whatever ships make it along the coast from the west and east and then the Black Isle to the north. First stab at the macguffin for getting things rolling is a strange earthquake that hit the forest a couple of weeks ago -- a scholar/noble/important person had sent his people from Vornheim to investigate the source of the earthquake/what it might have potentially uncovered and they have not returned/disappeared. The important personage is now reduced to sending money/a plea to the local burgher to hire whoever they can scrape up to try and figure out what happened to the original group.

System: 5e, with some tweaks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Death and Dismemberment

I have what would probably be regarded as a very lenient methodology in terms of handling death and gross disfigurement for an OSR game; however, it is one that lends a fair bit of flavor the game in terms of producing grizzled murderhobos. Originally, I planned to use Chris' Death and Dismemberment table from Hill Cantons and then, uh, I managed to not be able to find in the heat of a session and instead wound up winging it. Rather than backtrack, I decided to formalize what happened when I winged it, and this is what I got:

- Rolling on the Death and Dismemberment table happens if you drop to 0 HP or below.

- If you go to negative HP, you lose 1HP per round until you're healed/medically treated.

- If you reach negative HP equal to your CON score, you roll a Saving Throw vs. Death -- if you fail, you die, if you save, you live another round.

Death and Dismemberment! (With apologies to Chris Kutalik)

Firstly, where did you take that hit? Use the back cover on Vornheim, with the player rolling a die to determine where they were smote.

Secondly, how bad was it? For this, we use the Critical Hit Chart on p.340 of Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st Edition. Take the number of HP below 0, divide by 3, then add 1. That's the column that you're rolling on on said chart.

So for example, Hankella the barbarian takes a huge shot from a lizardman's spear and drops to -9HP. Luckily, the party's cleric is standing right there and gets off a good enough heal that she stabilizes that very same round. The player rolls on the Vornheim chart and gets right arm. The DM then rolls d100 on the 4th column of the WFRPG Critical Hit Chart (9HP below zero/3 = 3, plus 1 = 4). The roll is a 57, which is a 15 on the chart -- the shoulder joint is destroyed and a bone splinter severs an artery, killing the character almost immediately from shock and blood loss -- even if the heal repaired the artery, it's too late. Had the DM rolled a 10 or less, Hankella would only have suffered a dislocated shoulder, rendering that arm useless until popped back in.

One thing I really like about this system is that there's lots of results that cripple the player without killing them, creating a situation where you have a gimpy wizard who can't run that well after nearly getting his hip taken off with a giant scimitar, or the fighter who takes a die-step negative on all bow damage rolls because he has a nagging rotator cuff injury from that run-in with some gnolls. Still not entirely sure how to handle possibly healing these sorts of things -- that would require a refactor of how healing magic works, which is still very vague as of now.

Monday, April 7, 2014

From the Depths, it Rises

Well, I've just about managed to avoid having not updated for an entire year, a real accomplishment, that.

Reason for returning: After the Weaverham Campaign ground to a halt with my weekend group (for various reasons, best explored in an update devoted to such), I spent a long period of time without DMing, which left me without much to say, which was both good and bad. Then some folks at work started talking about playing a game and after a fair bit of time where it became clear that nobody else was going to do it, I offered to run a quick-and-dirty D&D campaign, a half-dozen folks declared interest (unfortunately none of the 80 billion people who wanted to do Shadowrun, of all things either wanted to run it or were interested in my offer to try and do a bastardized D&D-mechanics version of it) and away we went.

I say 'D&D', really, what it wound up being is a strange mash-up of: Lamentations of the Flame Princess + Labyrinth Lord + Dungeon Crawl Classics + WFRPG + Vornheim.

Here's the basics of character creation:

You're all humans!

Stats are 3D6, rearrange how you wish

There are four classes: Clerics, Fighters, Mages, Specialists

Specialists are basically lifted completely from LoftP. Similar to that system, nobody except Fighters make any gains in combat skills -- Fighters gain a stat I call Prowess that is equal to their level. Every round they can distribute their Prowess to To-Hit, To-Damage or Armor Class however they see fit. Mages and Clerics cast spells similar to how DCC handles it -- they roll a d20, add their level and INT bonus and match it against a Difficulty equal to 10 + Power Level of the Spell + Extenuating Circumstances.

If your roll is greater than the Difficulty, you cast it successfully. If it’s 5 greater than the Difficulty, the spell is more powerful, if it’s 10 greater than the Difficulty, really good stuff happens. If the spell is equal to the Difficulty, the spell is cast, only the results are...warped, that is, if you're a Mage. For Clerics, it just works. If it’s up to 4 less than the Difficulty, the spell just fails. If the spell is below the Difficulty by 5 or more, the spell fails and you may not cast it again until you regain the spell, either studying it for an hour equal to spell power (Mage) or by taking an hour to repent (Cleric). If you roll 10 less than the Difficulty or roll a 1, bad shit happens in the form of Demonic Corruption (Mage) or being Rebuked by your god (Cleric) -- although this does not happen for Power Level 0 Spells, which are Detect Magic, Light and Read Magic for Mages and Cure Wounds and Turn Undead for Clerics.

Clerics are automatically followers of the Sun Lord, unless you have a great argument otherwise.

There are no restrictions in terms of what Power Level spell you can cast, except that doing so at lower levels can be extremely dangerous because of the possibility of Corruption (since Clerics have their spells granted by their god, this naturally prevents them from accessing the higher-level Cleric spells).

Mages get to choose one Power Level One spell that they can start with for sure, then get two more random ones. Any other spells, you gotta find.

There are no armor/weapon restrictions for any of the classes, although there are Armor Class penalties for Light (-1), Medium (-2) and Heavy (-3) armor for casting Mage spells or for certain Specialist skills. 

Every character had something they did before they became an adventurer. You find out what it was by rolling for a Basic Profession from the 1ed WFRPG book, giving you all the skills from that Profession, translated as best I can for a D&D-esque clone. So far, this has worked out pretty well.

Everybody gets 3D6x10 gold. 

That's pretty much the entirety of the rules, really.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Tyrant of Raxxe

Raxxe is a heavily populated kingdom, some distance west along the coast from the City Infinite and bordering the Hundred Houses on the east and Crowkeep on the west. The towns here are almost all remnants of the fallen Western Empire and the same could be said of its governance, although it is an inversion of the classical Imperial structure, with the Tyrant holding the strings of the vestigial Senate, which has now become a replacement for the landed gentry seen in the other post-Imperial kingdoms.

The Tyrant rules with an iron, well, brass fist, with loads and loads of gruesome public executions, most of which involved broiling to death in giant brass animals, to the point where it's generally safer to be part of the army than it is to be a regular citizen. Raxxe is continually at war with Crowkeep -- the large marshy area between the kingdoms, despite being excellent farming country, is almost entirely populated with bandits and those destitute and desperate enough to live in a haunted zone of ancient battlefields and deserted fortifications, through which both armies will periodically venture before various bloody clashes force both sides back.

Occasionally, the Tyrant will lead his troops personally. While wearing his ornate and spike-encrusted brass battle regalia, his 8' tall figure is easily identifiable from a great distance -- the demonic powers residing within the suit protect him from normal attacks, as well as amplifying his commands across the battlefield. Eventually his thirst for carnage will overextend the Raxxian lines and a retreat will be forced, with the Tyrant delivering invective to those around him.

Like the neighboring Hundred Houses, political intrigue runs high in Raxxe, with multiple factions constantly jostling with each other, with plenty of double- and triple-crossing and nobody ever really sure who is controlling whom. Many of these factions are involved with revolutionary activities, both in terms of supporting and subverting the multitude of young radicals wishing to overthrow the Tyrant.

Such efforts have been successful in the past; however, after brief periods of chaos, a new Tyrant has always emerged to take control. This is because the Tyrant is a physical vessel for demonic possession. The demon in question is named Alfadgabor, who has power over those who dwell in the Tyrant's palace due to the dungeon beneath the palace being a glyph of his name. If someone were to map the dungeon and knew enough magic/about demons to read the glyph, they would summon Alfadgabor:

6 HD
AC: 5
Att: 30' radius sonic attack for 2-12 + disrupts spells cast after attack is made unless caster makes save vs. Spells,  bite x5 (see below)

Alfadgabor is a toriodal (doughnut) mass of flesh with four arms and four legs that moves by rolling along the ground -- he has five heads, each double-tongued and drooling acid (1D6 continuing each round thereafter unless cleaned off (takes a round)) as well as his "True" face, a one-eyed foul visage placed directly on his doughnut of flesh -- if this face is blinded or otherwise damaged, Alfadgabor will stop moving and just howl every round -- enough damage done directly to the face (10+) will destroy this avatar.

Defeating the avatar will break the possession of the Tyrant, which will likely result in the splintering of Raxxe into something similar to the Hundred Houses, where various nobles/rich families/tranding guilds each hold regional control, although it is possible that the Senate will hold itself together and prop up a new Tyrant.

(Demon courtesy of Zak's Demonic Attribute Table)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Aborted Pimp-My-Stronghold entry converted to Blawg Post

[The following was found in a strange metal cylinder, washed up just off the coast outside Stavros, these writings/drawings are of an unknown age, although their relative robustness indicates a fairly recent origin]
Find herein a small account of the travels and travails of the Most Venerable Sage Ibn Tal Ibn-Salgrem of the House of the Most-Accumulated, as well as some scratchings that purport to be cartography by the same hand.
My abbreviated tale shall begin as our ship, the war-galley Three-Eyed Slattern of the City Infinite, turned east toward the ancient Western city of Larm. Our guide, onboarded at Crowkeep, was upset at the distance our ship kept from the shore, as he would prefer us to practically scrape our hull on any offshore rocks might exist than to be too far from the coast. The captain, although sympathetic to the fellow's nervous condition, opted to remain at a standard distance from the shore and it was because of this that the lookout was able to spot quite a sight, that of two ships bound together to our north, one a dark and suspicious ship that could only be pirates, the other being a tall merchant caravel of the Western Isles.

Upon sighting the ship being towed away, the captain gave the order to give chase, which alarmed our guide greatly, to the point where he had to be restrained and taken below decks, such was the intensity of his disapproval. His force of feeling was illuminated when a great lance of red light, traveling at a speed faster than any arrow, came from the northern horizon and with one blow split our craft from stem to stern. As though waiting for this very thing to occur, launches full of of pirates appeared on top of the wreckage and those of us who believed ourselves to be fortunate to have survived (oh how wrong we were) were scooped aboard. It was here that I began to realize the horrors that were to come, for these pirates were not men. Or at least they were no longer men, for each of them was horribly distended, each a flesh-made sin against the gods. Some had holes where flesh should be, some had too much of one thing, others, not enough. They gibbered and leered at us, such as they could, as they secured us with manacles and ropes and took us aboard their ship.
We sailed north, the disabled merchant ship still in tow, until we came to the northern sweep of the great bay. Once we were an hour out from the shore, a great tower dominated the skyline, skinny and dark and somehow ominous, it stood solitary and with a malicious air. It was with a growing sense of depression that I realized that this was our destination. As we drew closer, the style of the architecture, even from a great distance, indicated that this was a relic of times past, of the people of whom we know very little aside from their strange magics, those who we sages call Hyperboreans, amongst other names. Also, my initial assessment was incorrect, for there were a significant amount of other structures coming out of the sea around the tower, most of them being wrecked walls and spires, although there was a smaller, squatter tower that was still usable, for a launch set off from it and skillfully boarded the towed merchant-ship and began maneuvering it through the submerged ruins. We were taken from the main ship, which was anchored not far off from the smaller tower, and loaded aboard smaller ships, which carried us toward the main edifice...

Here I will cut short my tale, as my paper and ink is limited and I would write for eons on the first horrible hours in that tower. Instead I will endeavor to detail the overall situation in which I now find myself and hope to be extricated from, as well as such particulars of my daily existence that I find relevant.
The pre-eminent aspect of these ruins is the tower and the pre-eminent aspect of the tower is the "firelance" that sits at the top of it, for this is the device that destroyed our ship and allows these pirates to avoid the steel hand of justice and maintain their hideous hold on the surrounding environs. I have only seen it from a distance, its bulk however is great and I have seen various depictions of it in my time in the tower. These depictions indicate a device not unlike a spyglass, allowing the operator of the firelance to target any ship so long as it appears on this side of the horizon and given the height of the tower, that horizon is a great distance away. A single shot of this great ballista-like device is enough to shatter the largest ship completely.
However, the great power of the firelance comes with a secret -- it requires ammunition, and that ammunition is limited. The main driving force of the pirates, far moreso than their disrupting of shipping, is finding the "fire-tubes" that are used to power the firelance. The total number of remaining fire-tubes is a closely guarded secret; it must be small indeed for the nervousness and fear of the pirate leadership is palpable and is additionally easily inferred from the weight that they place on activities that center around gathering more of these tubes, the main number of which have been found in exploratory missions in the warren that lies beneath the tower.

This is the second major aspect of the tower, the constructions that lie beneath the water and indeed, I believe beneath the earth itself, the Hyperborean warrens of chambers and corridors, a small section of which have been mapped and made relatively safe by the pirates who mainly remain in the body of the tower itself, the rest a labyrinth of ooze, creatures that have grown from the ooze and assorted horrors...and treasures left behind by the Hyperboreans. For the pirates, the greatest of these treasures are the fire-tubes and parties of the brigands, who risk great harm and do not return more often than not, are sent into the dank tunnels to search out further stores of the things. I have only been there once myself and ventured a few rooms from the great stair that descends from the tower before thankfully returning.
As for the main body of the tower, it is full of chambers that have been converted into squalid living quarters for the debauched crimes against the gods that are the pirate band. The largest chamber contains a great tub of the ooze that is found in the rooms below. This ooze is used to "convert" prisoners who are found suitable for induction into the ranks of the pirates. Those that survive...change in both form and personality. The rest of us are kept according to our purposes, some of which are too horrible to speak. Luckily, the most erudite of the pirates recognized some of my tattoos and quickly surmised that I was not lacking in knowledge of the occult and as such, I have been pressed into service in trying to decipher various documents that have been found deep inside the roots of the tower. I do my best to subvert this activity; I confess that my squeamishness in terms of pain and desire for something other than fish entrails for food means that they do get some good work from me.

Aside from the main tower, there is the smaller tower that I mention during my initial tale and a similar squat structure that sits just ashore from the main ruins. These are the only other intact structures in these ruins and have a small number of pirates in each at any time. The structure on the shore is manned by the most junior pirates and is regarded as an undesirable assignment as its landlocked nature affords no protection from the monsters and savages that live in the coastal areas. However, the structure is valuable to the pirates as there is a door just beneath it, one that they have been unable to open thus far and does not appear to connect to any of the known complexes. I have been most intrigued about the stories regarding this door as it apparently asks riddles and evades common lines of questioning that have been used to open other portals. I recognize that I would represent too much of a threat at this point to work with it directly as the chance of escape would be too high were I to unlock its secrets (and thus the door itself); however, should their desperation for fire-tubes grow greater, it is quite possible that I will join those on the shore.
The smaller tower, further out to sea, is constantly surrounded by water, even at the lowest of tides. There is a single entrance door, inches above the high-tide mark (the door must be closed during certain synchronicities of the heavens) and the pirates keep a small group of launches tied to the tower at all times and a rope ladder to allow access to the door during low-tide. Nobody lives in the tower full-time, instead, groups of pirates are rotated over time, their duties in the small tower being ready to run out launches when the main ship returns and more prosaically, fishing, as this is still the staple food of most of who live in the tower. The tower does connect to the complexes below, with a single and circuitous route connecting it to the main tower, although this is rarely used for reasons of personal peril in doing so as well as the length of time involved in comparison to simply rowing a launch to the main tower's dry dock.
The tidal range in the ruins is great, exceeding slightly a 30' difference between high and low tides, such that at high tide the waters lap nearly to the edge of the shore building and at low tide expose all except the low side of the main tower. Exceptionally low tides reveal new sections of mud and ruins and the pirates have become more adventurous in terms of sending out prospecting teams to try and find new doors or access to the lower tunnels, with poor results thus far.
My resources are now starting to reach their limits -- I shall be brief, as much as I can! Because of the lance, any major water assault on the ruins would be madness. The lands on the shore are wild and rough enough that any large force would have a very hard time of it making it to the tower and then would have a hard time taking itself. I feel the best course of action, should whoever finds this feel inclined to rescue the prisoners of the tower or to try and claim it for themselves, would be to have a small group carried along the safety of the coast in a small boat and then attempt to infiltrate the tower, either through the smaller tower or if particularly brave and foolhardy, through the main tower itself.

May Abtu smile upon you if you do.

[Ed note: (cruddy) map to follow shortly, another post relating to these pirates]

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Heroes of Weaverham, Part the Whatever

The Heroes of Weaverham are now set up in the reasonably safe and cosmopolitan town of Dolmvay (a nice nod that I took piecemeal from the Labyrinth Lord rulebook), renting an outbuilding from a down-on-his-luck minor noble while trying out their new magical toy, a mirror that sends them to various odd places.

This time the party decided to go through the mirror to the "seaside-smelling place", which turned out to be the island described here and here. Initially, they came through right as the sun was starting to go down. They used the 40 minutes of decent light that they had left to quickly scout out the town and then nipped back through the mirror as night was starting to fall. They decided to then go to sleep and wake up in the dead of night, which they calculated as being early morning through the mirror.

They did so and this time continued scouting out the town. They found the altar and figured out that they could open it; they decided not to in case there were catacombs below. After scouting the jungle and finding the detritus that surrounded the town, they got a little freaked and then decided to check out the beach, eventually hiking all the way around the island -- after a number of hours of hiking, they made it around to the fecund stream that ran out of the hideout described in the second post above. Going up the creek, they got to within a few hundred feet of the cave opening before losing their nerve and going back to the beach. It took about 10 minutes for them to figure out a way to get across the creek without actually touching the water and after getting back to the town, they decided to open the altar.

Upon finding the religious artifacts, they immediately jumped back through the mirror and set about having them appraised, including taking the kris blades to the local weaponsmith and paying him for his professional opinion. I was somewhat surprised by this, especially since they had cast Detect Magic and knew that all of these items were minorly magical; apparently the lure of gold (which will doubtless be spent carousing) is stronger than any potential utility that these items might serve.

It's definitely a trend now with this party, they seem uneasy about entering into dungeon-y type areas or taking on obvious threats while concentrating on grabbing whatever loot they can and then scarpering back to town to spend their ill-gotten gains on debauchery. Considering the mortality rate of their Labyrinth Lord characters compared to the campaigns run in other systems, this kind of reaction shouldn't be too surprising, I guess it's also accentuated by the fact that when they have ventured into dangerous situations, they've managed to avoid most of the richest rewards through bad luck and general trepidation, which would reinforce the desire to be risk-averse.