Saturday, November 3, 2012

Heroes of Weaverham: An Update

A quickly-summarized update on how the campaign is going:

After traveling to Larm, the party discovered that the idol that they were searching lay in an abandoned fort two day's journey into the swamp. When they reached the fort, they discovered the remnants of another party -- since the party reacts to new encounters with a single strategy of unfettered violence, the situation deteriorated into the two mages from each party standing in a field full of slept adventurers. The wizards came to an agreement, woke everybody up and then planned their excursion into the fort, which was full of endlessly-regenerating undead. The other party's mage was here to research this phenomenon and his guess was that the idol had something to do with it. The combined parties managed to avoid both the major dangers and riches of the fort and ran out with the idol, with a handshake agreement on letting the other mage study the idol once it had been returned to its resting place.

Said resting place turned out to be in another part of the swamp known locally as the Poison Lands, where even the water and earth would be deadly if consumed. Heading back to Larm first, there was an interesting interlude where the thief was kidnapped by the local noble, Lady Orchid, who had it in for the party. A partially-botched rescue attempt ensued and the party got away with only the loss of a few retainers and the health of the thief's urethra. (Hint: if a torturer is asking you to guess where he's going to put a red-hot needle, saying "up your dick" is only going to give him ideas.)

Once the group was back in the bog, they were of course double-crossed by the other mage, who used his sleep spell to KO all of the party except for the elf and the thief. With the elf near death, he agreed to let the other wizard take the idol and he ran off into the bog, pursued by the thief and the now-awake cleric. He then decided to use Sleep again in order to make good his escape. He had multiple casts of it because I've adopted the DCC spell system for use with Labyrinth Lord. He then rolled a one and fell into a coma. The party thoughtfully cut his throat before he drowned.

Replacing the idol was actually quite easily done, once the part figured out how to traverse the sunken temple that they were headed to -- again, there were dangers and riches galore; the players felt that get in/get out was the wisest course of action. Heading back to Larm, they decided to take out Lady Orchid once and for all, leading to an incredibly bloody home invasion adventure which concluded with the party deciding that the Lady must have escaped through the magical mirror that they found in her bedroom and headed off to try and figure out just exactly how it worked...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

20 Questions Tiiiiiiiiime

  1. Ability scores generation method? - 3D6 in order. If you get the required stats, you can then be a demihuman. If you don't, you're a human and you can move the stats around as much as you want.
  2. How are death and dying handled? - If you hit 0 hitpoints, you die. I have been thinking about introducing a rule where you get an additional Save vs. Death to see if you go into a coma or something like that.
  3. What about raising the dead? - Extremely high level clerics may do this for a truly outrageous amount of money or if the party agrees to do something very dangerous for the church. You'd have to find access to one of these clerics though.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled? - Either one of the retainers is promoted or you roll up a first level character. There's almost always somebody hanging around that's worth being "promoted" though.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? - Group. Somehow it adds an extra bit of flair to combat because when I ask the party to roll, everybody rushes to be the one to roll it or briefly argues about who has had the best luck at it recently.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? - Roll a 20, it's a critical hit. Either the damage gets multiplied or something extremely advantageous happens (generally if somebody rolls low on their damage, rather than multiplying it, they'll disarm/temporarily blind/hamstring the opponent). Rolling a 1 is a critical miss and generally leads to people dropping their swords, breaking their arrow strings, etc.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? - Everybody wearing armor is assumed to have a helmet of some kind.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? - Oh my yes. If you roll a 4 or below, you get to roll another attack against your fellow party member.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? - It is generally advised that the party have a Plan A, Plan B and probably a Plan C for every encounter. Discretion is the better part of valor. So yeah, you're gonna have to run a bunch.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? - I'd like to say yes; I typically will go to some lengths to avoid stocking them, so in practice, no.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? - Yes. Hasn't happened yet, although there's been one close call with a poison needle.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? - Resources are tracked fairly rigorously, encumbrance hardly at all. I've basically said "don't do anything outrageous or I'll get really picky about it" and that seems to have done the job in terms of everybody keeping things reasonable. There's a fair amount of hiring of retainers and they've bought donkeys and carts as well without needing to do a full accounting of everything in everybody's pack, which is good.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? - It has to happen between sessions. There's no training involved. Clerics automatically gain spells going up levels, mages don't.
  14. What do I get experience for? - Surviving/doing well with encounters, 1:1 for money and non-magical items looted. Oh, and we use Jeff's Carousing System.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? - If the player says they search an area, there's a description. If they don't, there's dice rolling.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? - Retainers are very much encouraged, although they do tend to lose morale when openly referred to as "meatshields". Morale is I roll 2D6 and make stuff up based on my reading of the situation when I feel it's appropriate.
  17. How do I identify magic items? - Detect magic is a good starting point, allowing you to "read auras". More specific information requires more intense study/use of special rituals.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? - No and mostly no. You can buy stuff like "love potions" and other alchemical nightmares with the caveat that they tend to be made by people who sample their own wares on a regular basis.
  19. Can I create magic items? - In theory. We'll find out when we get there. I'll know when that is.
  20. What about splitting the party? - It's your funeral. It does mean that I get to physically separate the players by making them go into different rooms and then run between them as they try and figure out what's going on. This can be really fun.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Falling Dominoes of World Design

One of the major features in Weaverham is the road West. The discovery of the route west through the mountains was one of the defining features of the town. When I came up with this distinctive feature, there wasn't really anything on the other end of that route, it just existed as a point of interest. Now, the players haven't questioned this; however, it's not something that could stand for long. So the Walled City of Mirandir came into being as something Worth Going To, in this case, a strange city with a lot of wealth and access to exotic stuff, justifying the existence of trade caravans.

Then, there was another issue. Considering that there was a medium-sized city on a major river flowing west just a few days march south of Weaverham, why was that route through the mountains so important, especially considering that it was only open during the non-winter months? Why wouldn't merchants just jump in their boats, sail down the river, then cut north back up the coast to Mirandir?

The answer clearly was that there was something bad in the way, something terrifying enough that only the extremely foolhardy would risk sailing that route. Now, that something could be on the coast itself because the current state of sailing in the Weaverham campaign is such that few people have the technology or the cojones to sail out of sight of land.

Originally, the answer was: pirates. An established camp of them preying on water traffic -- everybody likes a pirate city and that would certainly "work" within the established world. That doesn't really have the "oomph" to it that I'd like, especially if we were talking about something that had been around for generations.

Add in another bit of world background, the Hyperborean ruins scattered around, roughly equivalent to those left behind by the Afternoon Cultures in M. John Harrison's Viriconium series. In this case then, there is a port/castle complex on the north lip of the river entrance, mostly destroyed; however, some towers and halls still remain and in them dwell a clan of mutated pirates, warped by their surroundings and granted power due to their possession of what they refer to as a "firelance", a cannon mounted in one of the towers and capable of splitting ships in half from miles away.


- Since few, if any, ships dare to sail past their hideout, the pirates make their bones by raiding Mirandir and the shipping going into the river mouth (the south part of the river delta being outside of the range of the firelance). They strike quickly and then retreat.

- The mutating effects of the ruins have the effect, aside from making the pirates gruesome in appearance, of rendering the inhabitants sterile. The pirates then rely on increasing their numbers through abductions, either through their shipping raids or attacks on nearby settlements. For obvious reasons, children are preferred targets, although young males work well too.

- It's probable that the pirates have some way of dredging stuff off the ocean floor. Maybe some kind of Hyperborean submersible. Maybe some of the mutants have gills. Maybe they have a deal with some undersea dwellers who give them a cut of the detritus that showers onto them from above. Lots of possibilities.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Heroes of Weaverham, cont.

Our Heroes continued north from the bandit encounter and the next day found a large gathering of nobles and men-at-arms camped around a small tower-and-bailey castle. The servants collecting water and washing clothing in the nearby stream were happy to inform the party that the group, about a hundred strong, were holding a tournament to decide who was worthy to lead the small army into battle against the brigands of the woods, who apparently had a large hideout and numbered twice as many as the men in this camp. The party decided to continue north to Stavros with their caravan.

After successfully seeing the caravan to the Trade Syndicate warehouse, the party took a few days to procure goods and then leave Nyxa, the girl who was ravished by the goat-beast, with the priestesses of  the local church of Tittivila. It was decided that the group would head back to Weaverham with the goal of getting the fourth stone skull that they knew to be in the possession of the sheriff and then see what happened when all the skulls were placed on the pedestals in the goblin caves west of town. The journey south involved repeated encounters with a group of savage men living in the woods who made hit-and-run attacks over multiple days. One of the wizard's hirelings was killed and a near-TPK loomed at one point; however, clever use of a light spell and the net they'd carried out of the goblin cave turned the tide enough for the party to escape mainly unscathed.

Reaching Weaverham safely, a successful Charm Person from Brains resulted in the sheriff happily handing over the skull and when placed upon the pedastal, the group found a secret entrance into a long-forgotten Duvan'ku hideout. Brief exploration led to a few traps being successfully triggered from distance by the thief and while the party avoided touching the various unsettling objects within, they did find a secret door in the chapel that revealed a relative mother lode of treasure in the form of tithed silver coins. Deciding to get out while the getting was good, the party returned to Weaverham and promptly caroused with their newfound wealth. Only one major mishap occurred (Olin got a pretty cool looking tattoo) as Forest Woodtwig was compelled to go on a quest by his gods, Dogar and Kazon.

(A reminder: Forest Woodtwig is an Elf that was raised by Orcs who told him they were Elves and then taught him a falsified version of Elvish culture as a joke. Part of this apparently was teaching him to worship nonexistent terrible gods. We decided that what he thinks are Dogar and Kazon is actually Tsathogga.)

The quest in question is to go down to the swamps south of Larm (itself 3 days south of Weaverham), recover a frog idol and return it to its proper place. The journey south involved a couple of encounters with hostile orcs in which one of Brains' followers died again, now making him 4/4 for deaths of hired infantrymen. He's already paying double rates for hirelings in Weaverham and he's likely to get outright refusals soon.

Arriving in Larm, the party again hit the local merchants and searched around for a good base of operations. Carousing again (our sessions wind up being pretty short and there was plenty of discussion before decamping for Larm) led to Forest insulting Lady Orchid, one of the town's nobles and a mysterious figure from the exotic West. While Forest went into hiding, the remaining party members took part in the local Rat Festival, in which armed men compete to see how many swamp rats they can kill. The party wound up being 2 rats short of the eventual winners, which they accepted as a decent result considering their lack of knowledge of the surrounding terrain. As the last session ended, the rest of the party was preparing to meet Forest at the Gallow Middens outside of town before setting out in search of the frog idol.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Hyperliving

Right now the Heroes of Weaverham are exploring a small Duvan'ku crypt/dungeon hidden in the back of a larger cave complex. It's situated about 4 days of travel away from where Death Frost Doom is set and I was envisioning it as some sort of hidey-hole for the Death Cultists away from their main base -- so the question is: why this particular cave/area in particular? Is there something special in here?

Fortuitously, Zak S.was doing a RPG Magic 8 ball routine on G+ this week and I was able to ask him what one of the mysteries hidden away in this crypt was. His answer was as follows:


My interpretation of this answer was that the Hyperliving are beings that have been extended into a higher plane of sensory input and experience, with a corresponding intensity of mental processes. Or, to put it another way, remember when you were 13 and things happened that made you really really angry or sad and how your body would do weird wooshing warm spells/chills/fuzzy bits and it was just INTENSE*? Well, multiply that shit by like, x1000. And add to that the self-knowledge that you've got a lifespan about as long as the replicants from Blade Runner.

So there you have the hyperliving, a bunch of over-excited, extremely emotional, basically manic nihilists, who predominately live for sensory experiences. You know, like feeling the wind on your face. Or the still-quivering warm flesh of the recently slain on your face. Either or.

So were the Duvan'ku creating these guys? I didn't think so, it doesn't really seem to be their style, they're a bit too grimdark and the hyperliving have a definite Viriconium vibe to me, so instead I think they're products of the long-lost Hyperborean civilization, whose eons-old existence has mostly been wiped away (either by their own collapse or by other hands) except for odd remnants found in the more remote and inaccessible parts of the world.

One of which is here, specifically, a strange room obviously not of Duvan'ku construction, either in terms of construction or materials, containing a half-dozen stasis chambers -- bodies suspended within multi-faceted prismatic columns. Several of them have been opened or are at least empty. Could that possibly be related to the adjacent room, the one with all the aging torture equipment and scattered bones?


* - Maybe this was just me, dunno.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Using Dungeon Crawl Classix Magic Sword Generator and also Some Rambling

I haven't bothered up typing a session report yet; we did manage to play a game using a Dungeon Crawl Classix-style magic system in our Labyrinth Lord campaign and it worked out pretty well. The elf decided not to opt in; the cleric and the magic-user did though and they did alright, the cleric in particular rolling a natural 20 on a Lay on Hands roll and off-the-cuff I decided that doing so when healing a minor shrapnel wound would cause an unrelated bonus of granting the cleric a D&D Type Five "advantage" mechanic for the next d6 turns because her god was so hyped with her.

(This works better than you might think it would because the cleric's god is Abtu, the capricious monkey god of luck. He is typically represented in one of two aspects, the first, the Warrior, is vaguely analogous to the Monkey King,  in the second, the Trickster, he is a normal-sized monkey wearing a fez and smoking a cigar. While keeping watch on a recent journey, the elf whittled the cleric a small totem of Abtu as the Trickster in which he is furiously masturbating.)

Anyway, so I decided to use the magic sword generation table to create some treasure in the dungeon that my party is currently exploring -- a small catacomb/temple of Duvan'ku* hidden away in a larger cavern complex in the mountains west of Weaverham.

Here's what it came up with (all fluff by me, base mechanics from the DCC generation table).

The Magistrate's Nail:
Longsword +1 (+2 damage against Men), Int 8, communicates through Basic Urges, purpose is to uphold Law, can Locate Object x2/day
A blade of antique design (a sage or an especially well-educated swordsmith could identify the style as that of the Eastern Empire, although not those used by the Imperial army), The Nail is an investigator's weapon, forged in order to bring criminals to bay, including aiding in the gathering of evidence. It is dedicated to bringing the Guilty to light and if wielded by a Chaotic individual, it will act capriciously, putting the wielder at a Disadvantage at the most inopportune times as well as attempting to take advantage of situations where the blade might be lost by the wielder. Any Chaotic individual taking the blade up will feel nauseous and uncomfortable so long as they hold it. If the blade is naked when a crime is taken place, the Nail will urge the wielder to strike down whoever is committing the crime. If the Nail is being used to commit a crime, it must make a save versus Death as a first-level fighter or shatter.

* - As an aside, as much as I love Death Frost Doom, I'm going to give Death Love Doom a miss. I'm generally fine with extreme content; however, I give anything that involves children in that vein a wide berth. This wouldn't have been the case before I became a parent; now that I have, I'm utterly incapable of approaching this sort of material rationally, it just sets off an incredibly impressive series of emotional chain reactions that just make me angry and sad. This is not to say that people shouldn't buy the module. They should! And I hope they have some great game sessions with it. It's just a case where you have to be able to say This Isn't For Me, And That's Fine**.

** - This goes double for some of my players, who are not only parents; they also work with local child abuse organizations and have had to become involved with some truly hellish real-world situations; I don't think sitting down and playing through fantastic scenarios involving horrible things happening to children is exactly what they're looking for on their days off.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Adapting the DCC Magic System to Labyrinth Lord

After getting the main Dugeon Crawl Classics rulebook in the mail earlier this week and reading it before I go to bed, I had two thoughts about the magic system:

1) This is pretty neat.
2) This is actually pretty similar to what's been suggested for Type 5 D&D cantrips, which I have previously derided in casual conversation.

The reconciliation between these two is a matter of the proposed Type 5 cantrips and the DCC magic system having the same basic philosophy and slightly different implementations -- the key here is that while both systems allow for repeated casting of spells over the course of the day, there is more risk to the DCC system, where even if Magic Missile always hits, you still have to roll to be able to cast it, with the possibility of wiping out your capacity to cast Magic Missile for the rest of the day.

(Obviously D&D Next is still in the playtesting phase and it's quite possible that they'll move to something similar to the DCC implementation.)

So, I've been thinking about making spell-casting in my Labyrinth Lord campaign more like DCC spell-casting. Because of the differences between the systems, a straight transfer of the mechanics won't work. Here's what I've come up with as a compromise:

Casting a spell involves rolling a d20 + either your Int bonus (magic-user, elf) or your Wis bonus (cleric).

Results go as follows:

1 - Spell has a Catastrophic Failure, is lost for day
2-5 - Spell Fails, is lost for day
6-9 - Spell Fails
10-15 - Spell Success
16-19 - Excellent Spell Success, caster can increase one aspect of the spell (i.e. choose one from does one more die-step of damage/healing, increased range, increased area of effect, more difficult to save against, etc.)
20 - Amazing Spell Success, select three from the above list or describe something aaaaaaaawesome

One thing that I've been thinking about is having healing/laying on of hands exempt from the "lost for the day" stipulation, under the theory that just having a chance of the spell failing is enough of a risk, plus the possibility of a Catastrophic Failure (which would almost certainly be deity disapproval) and having it lost would lead to too much "well we retreat and wait" activity. Although this makes me worried about the Cleric becoming too medic-ized, really, I don't think it can be worse than the shotgun-spell approach. I think it'll help with magic-users and elves as well, since now they won't be one-shot Sleep merchants and if they do lose Sleep, they'll be more likely to continue, just being more flexible with their other spells.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Heroes of Weaverham, Parts 5 and 6

It was decided that the best way to deal with the problem of the town sheriff apparently owning the skull that the party was after was to have Hankella, the female warrior with a Tom Selleck mustache, attempt to seduce him. To aid her in this endeavor, she purchased a love potion from the local shady apothecary. Upon arriving for dinner, she began discussing how she had been involved in wiping out a local nest of bandits while he showed her his old adventuring trophies. Remembering that she had brought a bottle of fine wine, she excused herself to pour them both a glass, slipping the love potion into his. Afterward, she regretted not pilfering the skull (which was sitting on a wooden pedestal in his study) while everybody was distracted with his projectile vomiting and getting him into bed (it must have been a bad reaction to the wine).

This episode unnerved the party so much regarding retrieving the skull that they decided to head out of town for a bit, finally deciding on hiring themselves out as caravan escorts, again contracted through Drask of the Trade Syndicate and his caravan master, Greta.

They set forth as follows:

  • Hankella, heart-broken and hirsute warrior
  • Brains, a suspicious (in both senses) magic-user, along with his hired help - Olga, Shield-maiden; Ursula, Bow-maiden; and Werner, Carrier-boy and Party-insulter 
  • Forest Woodtwig, an elf, who, unbeknownst to the other party members, has actually been raised by orcs wearing pointy ears who, for their own amusement, gave Forest erroneous information regarding what it means to be an elf, which would explain why he talks about cannibalism so much
  • Olin, who is quite happy that both the elf and the magic-user can both cast sleep - for slitting the throats of sleeping people is Totally His Thing

On their way North, they survived a nighttime attack by starving wolves, were warned about a castle by a prickish knight, stayed at said castle anyway and had a fine time, including talking with the court mage (one of four people in the whole place) who seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with the so-called "cursed mountain" to the East and was willing to pay good coin for anything unearthed from the ancient death-cult headquarters on said mountain (they might have to check that out on the way back, the party said). On their way out they ran into some pilgrims of the Sun God, heading south for some sort of festival.

A day's travel north from the castle and things got interesting. First of all, they were attacked by a small group of giant rattlesnakes. Second of all, Olga died. Third of all, Hankella should have died, except that when she appeared to be on the brink of death from rattlesnake venom, Forest remembered that he had that mysterious necklace from the goblin shaman and put it on her. Which seemed to put her into some sort of coma, which is better than dead. A horse and rider were sent back towards the Sun God pilgrims and returned that night with a priest capable of removing the poison from Hankella's body, although he was visibly disturbed by the necklace. Forest and Olin volunteered to escort the priest back to his group and the latter, perhaps unwisely, attempted to backstab the priest (as he explained, the 200gp "donation" for removing the poison meant that he had at least 200 gold on him). He was held personed for his troubles and then summarily cursed such that he cannot attack Lawful creatures until he properly atones (Forest assured the priest that there would be additional punishments for the "brigand in our midst" -- a handy bit of quick thinking given an earlier conversation upon his arrival).

(Hankella was at this point made into the thrall of a vampire who had made the necklace out of a portion of his life-essence -- he needs somebody's help to unseal his tomb, which is contained within the Halls of the Red Queen.)

Continuing North, the party came across a small village. Invited to dinner at the headman's house, they discovered that there was some tension between the villagers, a young cleric named Desmond who was earning his apprenticeship in the area and the Sun God pilgrims that had just passed through town. Before things came to a head, a distraught villager broke into the hall wailing that an evil spirit had come out of the woods and taken his daughter. Quickly downing a "strength draught" offered to them by the headman (only Hankella and Brains actually drank it, with the others feigning to do so), the party picked up their weapons and headed into the moonlit woods.

Hearing a scream from an upcoming clearing, the party burst into it to the horrible sight of a twisted half-goat, half-man creature coupling with the kidnapped girl. Engaging the creature in combat, the party was then also ambushed from behind by a group of the headman's guards, seemingly intent on taking the party alive. A quick Sleep spell dealt with the treacherous villagers; unfortunately, disaster then struck as the demon spirit delivered a crunching headbutt that folded Hankella's torso in half and the party was stunned as she fell dead to the ground and the creature rushed off into the night.

After dispatching the fallen villagers (and discovering that the hooded figure in the rear of the group was the girl's father), the party tracked the goal spirit to its lair in the ancient ruins on the other side of the clearing. A choice use of the Big d30 by Olin on a damage roll left the goat-being dead in a phantasmagorical display based on the doctor's account from The Great God Pan and the party could relax for approximately 5 seconds before releasing that the floor of the chamber in which this creature had fled was almost entirely covered in silver coins.

A clinking dash through the woods later, the party rejoined the caravan and got the hell out of dodge. The next day, a group of 20-strong brigands would have been very happy to see all the silver they would have taken possession of if both spellcasters hadn't re-memorized sleep, leaving all except 3 highwaymen asleep (well, before their throats were cut, at least) at the side of the road. The party is now only a day-and-a-half from their destination and we take our leave from them as they debate trying to track down the brigand's presumed lair.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Heroes of Weaverham, Parts 3 and 4

I'm switching the session report up from the "narrator" style to running over the fourth wall and backing over it a few times with a backhoe because 1. I'm not sure how long I'd be able to keep it up and 2. the reports would have become increasingly cryptic/short on content as the party spends extended sections of time outside of town.

The group:

  • Beefcake Piledriver, charismatic dwarf (earlier I identified this character as "Beefsteak Piledriver", my mistake, as "Beefcake" is correct)
  • Forest Woodtwig, elf with Buddy Holly glasses
  • Olin, who delights in attacking the helpless
  • Hankella, hirsute warrior and Brazz, her hireling who is beginning to think that he should have included some terms on harassment in his contract

After some discussion and hitting up of bars, the party decided to head out to the ogre cave, where they'd previously discovered that the cave continued past the initial chamber; however, they also discovered that it was dark and that while they had plenty of torches, they didn't actually have anything to light the torches with.

This time, they remembered to bring some flint and steel and upon heading deeper into the cave, they discovered a large flat rock that uncovered the "backdoor" to The Goblin Hideout. After heading down into the hideout, they openly assaulted the goblins in the kitchen and when the noise brought shouts from goblins elsewhere in the complex, the party had the dwarf reply in Goblin to try and put them off. This wound up with the dwarf antagonizing the other goblins, leading to another melee at the top of the ledge above the mushroom cavern. The party killed these goblins without taking much damage, although a couple goblins ran away, now in the knowledge that there were intruders in the cave.

The party reacted to this by going down to the mushroom cavern and investigating the hanging cage. An extended argument on what to do with the myconid followed, only interrupted by an ambush led by the goblin shaman, who had some nasty spells that required only a successful touch attack. After killing Brazz, the goblins started rolling terribly, with only the dwarf suffering significant wounds and the shaman failing completely to touch any PCs. Again, a handful of goblins fled once it was clear the battle was turning against them. The party celebrated by having Hankella sample some of the local fungi, resulting in her falling unconscious.

And so ended the third session.

The fourth session picked up with the party trying to remember the basic layout of the caverns and exactly what had happened. They decided to free the myconid using the key that they found on the shaman and were rewarded with the myconid presenting them with three healing (1d4+1) chunks of mushroom. Hankella regained conciousness soon after and hearing snarling and growling to the north, they moved to investigate, finding the wargs barricaded in a room. Noting their apparent hunger, the party hid random bits of mushroom inside random bits of goblin, which they then flung into the room until the wargs ate the right combination of mushrooms to render them unconscious, at which the party entered and slew them.

After investigating the equipment in the "foyer" room, the party returned to the mushroom cavern with the goal of hunting down the remaining goblins (the amount of equipment indicated that there were more of them than they had killed before). Heading down to the shaman's room (the shaman and one of his bodyguards having been killed already) the party discovered the scroll cases, took the scrolls without even glancing at them, threw all the small stones into the pool, tried to plumb its depths with a rope and debated having the dwarf swim down it before grumbling about the lack of treasure and preparing to return to the unexplored areas off the foyer.

Upon leaving the bodyguard's room, they were ambushed by the remaining 5 goblins, including one of the bodyguards. The goblins tried to use a net and failed, although Beefcake was reduced to near-death by a mighty blow from the bodyguard. Hankella then threw the net back at them with spectacular results, taking out three of the goblins in a single attack. The bodyguard was quickly felled and the remaining goblin attempted to flee before being cut down from the shadows by Olin, who had sneaked past the melee in order to coup de grace the goblins stuck in the net.

The party then discovered the skull/pedestal room, where the thief made his Dex check upon attempting to remove one of the skulls and avoided the poison needle trap. More careful investigation ensued, until one of the party members remembered that there were a number of skulls worked into the walls on the way down to the shaman's room. They figured that one or both of the stone skulls might be among those and since I hadn't decided on a place for the second skull, I decided that this was an excellent piece of logic on their part and they thus found the dwarf skull in the shaman's corridor, although they were still missing the skull (which they correctly guessed should be an elf skull).

Trying to force the final pedestal with use of clay molded into the depression and applying force did nothing, so the party decided to take the other three skulls and go back to town. The half-day of travel went uneventfully and a night out carousing and questioning resulted in the discovery that some folks remember seeing a stone skull in the trophy collection of the town sheriff, dating back to his adventuring days. The fourth session then came to a close, with the party discussing how best to progress.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Goblin's Hideout, using Dyson's Drewer's Cave

Just over half a day's hike west up Gullifurd's Path there was an ogre living in a cave. He's not anymore because a group of adventurers (see: Heroes of Weaverham, Part One) killed him. At the back of the ogre's cave was a separate chamber with a large mostly flat rock. Moving the rock to the side (you would need 8-10 strong men to lift it) reveals a small circular hole with a slight breeze coming through it. Going through it leads to the cave complex that is the subject of today's post.

The map is a Dyson Map, Drewer's Cave to be specific. I've made some slight modifications to it that are easily noted on the image below as they are crudely and garishly drawn on in Paint. There are also numbers for the various points of interest in the caves.

Living in this cave complex is a small goblin warband, consisting of a dozen or so rabble-types, a gigantic cook, three wargs and a mysterious and mentally unstable shaman. As an adventure, it shouldn't last longer than a session (it will take our group two, we have incredibly short sessions though due to the time pressures of most of us having kids) and is doable by a group of first-level adventurers. I ran it in Labyrinth Lord and any references to level, HD, spells, etc. should be understood as being from that system.

1. This is where the previously-blocked up entrance from the ogre's cave leads. There's a lashed-together ladder lying on the floor here as well as an impressive collection of junk and rotting bits, as the goblins have been using this area as a trash pile after the ogre blocked off the hole in the ceiling. Any rogue trying to move silently will hake a slight penalty because of the rubble unless they take extra time (quarter movement) to move carefully. Any other class will invariably make a crashing noise unless they also deliberately take extra time to move through the area.

2. Thankfully, the odds are good that the goblins in this next area will not notice any noise (minus on their checks/saves) because they are busy cooking/screaming at each other. There are three goblins here, the gigantic cook (double HD) and his two assistants. They are busy trying to subdue a half-injured deer that is crammed into a giant cauldron. This is a goblin delicacy and as such requires great attention and care, as well as throwing cooking implements, swearing, etc. Surrounding the goblins and the cauldron are various food stores, rotting meat, barrels, etc.

3. This area is about 15' lower than areas 1 and 2 and is accessed by a circular path running along the north side of the chamber. Players in area 1 with low-light/darkvision can see that there's a bolted chain hanging from the ceiling here. The main floor of the chamber is taken up with a number of mushrooms, ranging from regular size to quite big (12' tall and 8' across). Players can jump from the ledge onto the large mushrooms with a successful Dex check. The chain supports a small cylindrical cage in which sits a despondent myconid. There are several obvious chunks taken out of the mushroom man, who does not respond to interaction. The cage is locked. If the myconid is freed, it will start wandering through the mushroom farm, tending to it. If released by the players and they are injured, the myconid will take 1d4+2 rounds of puttering in the mushrooms and then return with several chunks of mushroom that will heal 1d4+1 HP when consumed. Unless the myconid was closely observed while doing this, the players will have no idea which mushrooms these pieces were harvested from. If noise is made in this area (combat, for instance, or breaking apart the cage to get it open) the goblins in Areas 6 and 7 will be alerted and snarling sounds will be heard from Area 4.

4. There is a small corridor leaving Area 3 from the north, which slowly heads upward. On the right side of this passage there is a branch that moves more sharply uphill and terminates in a crudely-constructed wooden barricade. The barricade has a hole at goblin-eye height and a door that is barred on this side. If sufficient noise has been made nearby, loud snarling will be heard from behind the barricade, otherwise players will hear loud breathing as from a large animal as well as low growling. Behind the barricade is a small chamber where three wargs live. They're extremely aggressive and won't obey anybody other than the shaman, others who open the door (including goblins) will be quickly attacked. This area will smell strongly of the warg waste products and their natural musk.

5. This is a staging area, with some weapons (mostly spears) and other equipment (goblin cloaks, riding equipment for the wargs, etc.) lining the walls. A passage here goes for however long a distance makes sense in the immediate setting before terminating in a rock wall. Persistent searching or a decent roll will result in the discovery of a well-worn and greasy rock knob on the right wall that when rotated, causes the wall to slide open to reveal the forest outside. There is a similar knob on the other side and the door will automatically close a minute after it's opened.

6. The main group of goblins live here, so naturally this area is pretty whiffy. 8 of them are here now and they'll be joined by the cook and his assistants after the main meal is served. There's a common area in the main chamber and then bedrolls set up on the back. At any given time the goblins are usually gambling or fighting (or both) so there tends to be a lot of ambient noise coming from this area. If they hear noise coming from Area 3 they will send 2-3 goblins to check it out. They won't come out as a group until the shaman and his bodyguards rouse them to move. The goblins have a small amount of coin that they gamble with.

7. Two large goblins (double HD) who are the henchmen for the shaman live here. Shuzz and Bazzfazz will run down to get the shaman at the first sign of serious trouble. Regular goblins aren't allowed here and will have their ears boxed and then forcibly ejected for their trouble. The main goblin treasure is here -- about 1000sp worth of assorted coins, mainly copper and silver of various mints, obviously taken from travelers.

8. Heading down from Area 7 is a curling passage (passing under Area 6) decorated with a number of skulls of various humanoid races. The skulls are set into the walls to appear to be staring at anybody walking down the passage. If the players are moving slowly and listening intently, they can hear the sound of water dipping. At the bottom of this passage is a small chamber where the goblin shaman lives (I statted him as a 3HD goblin with the spells of a 2nd level cleric). If roused by his bodyguards, he will come up and lead the group of goblins against the intruders. He will have at least one offensive spell ready to cast and will use a staff in combat. Aside from the bones of small rodents and other charms, he's also carrying the key for the cage in Area 3 and is wearing a strange necklace that will show up as magical if Detect Magic is cast.

His stuff is strewn around a pool into which water is dripping from a small stalactite. The pool is extremely cold and the sides are very steep -- in fact, any amount of prodding and observation will reveal that there is no noticeable bottom to it. Careful searching of the shaman's gear will reveal several metal tubes, piles of small stones (small enough to fit into the tubes) and various sheets of rolled-up parchment, each of which has several crudely scratched questions in Goblin followed by extremely neat writing (although odd, in some undefinable way) in the same language. I'd recommend putting in some mystical/esoteric nature to the questions relative to your overall setting and goblin cosmology in specific as well as questions and responses about a nearby structure of interest to the questioner. In the Weaverham campaign, the notes mainly detail several strange and macabre rituals as well as the whereabouts of a place the questioner calls "The Halls of Bloodletting". All of the scrolls are completely filled with this odd correspondence.

If the players stick around the pool or go back and check it later, a metal tube will float to the surface of the pool about two days later. There will be a single question on the scroll, asking "Who rules the Halls of Bloodletting?" and the simple response of "I do not know". The air in the tube will have a somewhat fishy, queasy smell to it that is unlike anything any of the characters have smelled before. (In my campaign, the responder is an aboleth whose far-underground compound connects to this pool.)

9. Branching off from Area 5 is a narrow passage that slants sharply downward. Noticeably colder than the rest of the caves, it also shows much less signs of passage. It terminates in a well-worked square room with four 4' tall pedestals arranged in a diamond formation around the center of the room. There are no other obvious exists.

Two of the pedestals (N and E) have stone skulls on them, N being a human skull and E being a halfling skull. The other two pedestals have a 2" rhomboid depression on their tops. If either of the two skulls are lifted from their pedestals (nothing happens if the character attempts to rotate or press the skull down), four poison needles will come out of the pedestals at 2' high and in the four cardinal directions. If the character moving the skull was next to the pedestal, have them make Dex check to see if they were standing in the wrong spot/can jump back in time. If hit, the player must make a Save vs. Poison or die. The survivors, if any, can see that each of the two stone skulls has a corresponding rhomboid nodule on the bottom that allows the skulls to seat themselves on the appropriate pedestals (i.e. they will not fit on pedestals other than the one they were removed from). Replacing a skull on a pedestal does not trigger the trap.

In the Southeast corner of the room, there is a very well-hidden secret door that leads to stairs heading downward into the headquarters of an ancient assassin cult...the door is extremely strong and will require multiple hours of digging with a good pick to break through. The only way to open it is to find the other two stone skulls (elf and dwarf) that go on the other pedestals. Who knows where those might be though.

Strange Necklace

This necklace is a extremely strong piece of semi-petrified vine on which has been strung the skulls of seven rats along with other small bones and some interesting rocks. Once per day, it can be used by the wearer to cast ESP. If continually worn and starting the first night the necklace is worn, the wearer will begin to have progressively stronger and more disturbing nightmares in which the wearer is a guest in a well-appointed room, conversing with a somewhat dapper man, who repeatedly works the motif of "come visit me" into conversation. At first, these conversations will only be remembered as somewhat strange. Then, the nightmares will evolve into the man asking the wearer extremely odd questions about ethics, then casually showing the wearer that a drawer in the room contains a still-bleeding arm, etc. If attempting to remove the necklace after they have had at least one nightmare, the wearer must make a Save vs. Death. If they succeed, they take the necklace off. If they fail, they will find that shortly after taking the necklace off that it has reappeared. Any further saves have a cumulative -1 for each previous failure. As the nightmares progress, the character will become more and more obsessed with finding the man in the dream, to the point of after a month of dreams, the character will be -1 to all rolls unless they are actively pursuing meeting the man. 

If attempting to sell the necklace, the "natural worth" is 1,700gp.

(Take this wherever works best for you as a GM. The main thrust of this is that somewhere in your game world is a powerful evil that wants to be let out of wherever it might be and it will use this necklace to try and get somebody to find them.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Undercity Design Contest Entry: All Pigs Must Die

I done did an Undercity level for this here Undercity Design Contest.


Once there was a wicked city ruled by a wicked priesthood. So wicked, they disgusted even the god they worshiped (gods work in mysterious ways), who turned the priests into vile pigmen. Except this didn't turn the people against them and they seemed to enjoy it. So the god flattened the city with meteors and the city was buried in its own rubble.

There are some factions that survived the leveling of the city and live on in their underground ruined cityscape -- a semi-Lich, the Shadow Senate, the Pig-priests and the Praetorians, plus two new additions: a giant ant colony and a horror from beyond.

The Factions/Where they Live

Ant Colony - A bunch of giant ants have moved in, creating a colony that radiates out roughly from the undercity's center, with tunnels running everywhere. The ants survive by eating a symbiotic white fungus that they farm in various rooms -- close investigation of live or dead ants will reveal a white blob of fungus at the back of the head. The fungus is actually an extra-dimension hivemind that has come here to stop Shggu'thupt (see below), although things haven't gone exactly as planned...

Pig Cathedral -- The pig priests have managed to protect/rebuild the main cathedral, in which they engage in unholy acts, many of which produce Pig-Flesh Abominations, genetic cul-de-sacs who are used as guards if they are vaguely bipedal/can grasp a weapon and submitted to various immoral depredations if they aren't/can't. Basically it's like a Bosch painting in here. The pig priests are pretty much hostile to all other factions without really caring about them either.

The Senate - A group of 100 shadows convenes here to discuss the legislative matters of the Senate. They view the ants as the currently rightful citizens of the city and thus will act to protect them if necessary. Since the Senate is restricted to 100 members, they will not fully drain anybody until one or more of their number has been dissipated.

Warlock's Compound - A wizard who threw up a protective shield when the city was destroyed, he now uses a small army of constructs, elementals and summoned beings to search for the last few remaining ingredients for the philter that will allow himself to turn into a lich. He's been pre-gaming with some life-extension potions, so he's pretty mummied-out. Has systematically blocked off tunnels and passages to his compound except for a convoluted and trapped route running from the Shadow Senate and a magically-charged area where anybody who enters has their intelligence reduced to 1 until they leave. Doesn't bother the ants any, there's any number of really dumb folks wandering around in there though.

The Coliseum - The leader of the Praetorian Guard, now a Death Knight, has collected an army of corporeal undead based around the remains of the old coliseum. He plots to overthrow both the Pig Priests and the Shadow Senate. Somewhat limited by inability to get past control undead of the former and the difficulty of damaging the latter.

Icy Cavern - Here lives Shggu'thupt the Frozen, a humanoid figure who appears relatively normal except for the a) eight tentacles surrounding a small hole that might be called a mouth b) the multiple bits of him that are constructed out of some sort of eldritch machinery and c) his white, frost-covered skin. His gaze acts as a cold ray, he can breathe acidic spores onto anybody within 10' of him and he causes constant Fear and Insanity, as well as Confusion for 1d4 rounds. He sits here consuming the minds of anybody brought to him by his insane band of inbred cultists, who roam the undercity looking for potential brain victims. Once he's consumed enough sanity, he will open a portal for his true form to enter this plane, creating a new age of terror and extremely cold temperatures.

(Horror from beyond generated using Zak's completely awesome Demonic Attribute Table)

What Did You Find

This table/progression of rolls is for if the explorers run into something while travelling between the major points of interest. You could make it an entry on the Wandering Monsters table or make another mechanic for it entirely

  1. A Pig Fane
  2. A Dead Pocket
  3. Safe Zone
  4. Trap!
  5. Vertical Connect
  6. Ant Room
Pig Fane

Not all the pig priests toe the party line and this little group of them are an outlaw sect practicing Apostate Pig Worship. 1-3 Pig Priests, 4-6 Pig-Flesh Abominations, assorted goodies.

Dead Pockets

A bunch of undead were hanging out here, just having a good ol' time. Now they are ready to try and eat you. Mostly skeletons, sometimes ghouls. Will have some sort of treasure, although not much.

Safe Zone

Lucky you, you just stumbled across a piece of architecture that's out-of-the-way and easily defensible, maybe a room with a door that still closes or a pocket of space in the rubble that can be squeezed into that nobody's found before. You can safely rest here for as long as needed.


Somebody's set up a trap here -- let's see who set it:

1-2. Pig Priests
3-5. Horror Cultists
6. The Warlock

If it's the Pig Priests, it's 33-33-33 whether the trap was set up to immobilize, maim or kill. It's how they get their jollies. The Cultists and the Warlock only set out to immobilize so that those trapped can be retrieved and then either a) have their souls fed to something that should not be or b) interrogated regarding the possible location of certain magical fluids and unguents, with the possibility of being paid/brainwashed into retrieving them.

Vertical Connection

1-2 Up
3-4 Down
5-6 Both

1 Stairs/Ramp
2 Sheer shaft
3 Big hole with climbable rubble
4 Ant tunnel

Ant Room

1. Hatchery
2. Junk room -- The ants lump stuff that they can't tunnel through in rooms, handy for you that this is often metal stuffs or very tough containers. Treasure type XX if you're playing Labyrinth Lord. Workers come in every once in a while.
3. Garden room -- Will contain random item producing continual light and a whole bunch of plants growing here, mainly vines. Probably other insects (giant centipedes, scorpions) or soldiers to defend the light source.
4. Fungus room -- Blobby white fungus growth with organic matter stuck in it. Workers going in and out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Walled City of Mirandir

One of the major features of the town of Weaverham is the statue of Gullifurd, a famous explorer. He is depicted pointing west, his finger demarcating the location of Gullifurd's Path, a hard-packed dirt road that rises into the Smoky Spine mountain range to the west of town. The question is then: Where exactly does Gullifurd's Path go? Why is it so important?

The answer to the first question is a bit easier to answer. After the Path moves up and then across the great peaks of the Smoky Spine, it runs south and west to the mouth of the Antrash River, named after Gullifurd's second-in-command. Here lies the fabled walled city of Mirandir, home of the Olans, a mysterious people who built the city and have lived there for generations.

Actually, there are really two towns -- Mirandir itself and the town of Pemelo. Pemelo is a fishing/farming community of about 3000 people, blessed with a deep harbor that easily accommodates the various trade vessels moving up and down the coast. The Pemeolese, like everybody else, are not allowed within Mirandir, the closest they come is leaving a weekly "gift" of foodstuffs in return for the Olan warriors that patrol Pemelo and the surrounding areas. The only Pemeloese who carry weapons are the crew of The Blue Lady, a medium-size caravel that patrols the harbor and the surrounding seas, keeping the area clear of pirates as the Olans, despite having lived on the coast for centuries, have never quite developed an interest in seafaring.

The stories go that one day ships traveling up the extended empty coast between Struborg and Westmouth saw a large tent encampment on the south side of an unnamed bay frequently used for shelter in storms. The encampment was soon surrounded with a stone wall, now 40' tall on all sides, with only a few towers and minarets poking above it. The Olans, tall, pale and with ritual blue dot tattoos on their upper cheeks and the center of the forehead, crop their hair short, make good use of horses and typically carry chain mail, shields, spears and broad swords. No-one has ever reported seeing an Olan woman, should they exist. Extremely taciturn, Olans are unlikely to communicate much more than the bare necessities and there have been many flashpoints between Mirandir and Pemelo over incidents where Olan warriors could be regarded as treating Pemeloese and travelers with less regard than they might have. This behavior is tolerated as they keep the area clear of bandits and monsters and thus provide a valuable trading post in a largely desolate area -- this is why caravans are keen to head over the Smoky Spine once the passes clear.

The Olans, to get the air of mystery finally out of the way, are in fact named after their god, Olan. Thing is he's dead. Well, he's been blown into pieces. One of which is below Mirandir. See, turns out Olan wasn't exactly the best-liked god and after some higher-plane shenanigans, his actual corporeal body was exploded over the known (and some unknown) planes. His right ring finger landed on the coast west of the Smoky Spine -- some legends still exist of a firey blue meteor that raced across the sky -- and embedded itself deep into the ground.

After tracking it to its eventual landing place, a small sect of the Olans were extra-dimensionally dispatched to set up an encampment to secure the body part and to prepare it for eventual extraction. In one sense they were lucky, in that the finger landed in a wild and forgotten part of the world, and so was unlikely to attract attention from other groups (plus it landed on land, which is always a bonus). However, although Olan's finger is nigh-indestructible, it still split into many parts, not all of which have been found. Considering the high weird-magic potential of a dead god's finger that has plowed through the earth, creating all sorts of odd caverns in its wake, such excavations are somewhat fraught, even with extensive constructions and underground forts added by the Olans. Plus, considering its size (roughly the size of a 4-5 car subway train), building the extra-dimensional portal with which to move Olan back to his own plane has been a bit of a engineering boondoggle. The training needed to reproduce the intricate runic carvings required for the portal is complex enough to explain any amount of ill-temper displayed by those servants of the faithful who get rotated onto guard duty for the local bumpkins.

As for the women, perhaps they keep them secret as they are the main priestesses; or maybe all the followers of Olan are actually sperm taken from his testicles and there are no women; or maybe you'll come up with something good. I know you will.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Is That Mushroom Gonna Do to You?

Mushroom is randomly found in the woods: +0
Mushroom is randomly found in cave: +2
Mushroom is being cultivated by some sort of monster/non-human: +7
Mushroom is part of a fairy ring: +10

Roll a d20 and add a modifier if applicable!

1-4: Agh, ptthghh, Ptui - This mushroom isn't really edible. Either it's too hard to chew (1-2) or it just plain tastes nasty (3-6) with no real other effects.

5-8: Meh - The mushroom is edible without really tasting of anything or any other strange effects. If enough of them are collected, they'll act as rations from a caloric standpoint, although they'll go bad unless dried and persistent reliance on them as a food source will lead to malnutrition (unless you are a goblin).

9: Kind of Tasty Actually - These taste pretty good and will taste even better if cooked in a soup, roasted or spread on toast. A pound of these will sell for 5gp (1-2), 10gp (3-4) or 30gp(6) to any inn/cook with high-end enough customers.

10-13: Poison! - Most of these mushrooms (1-3) will cause the character to vomit up everything in their stomach and expel everything below that, extremely violently, unless they Save vs. Poison (in which case they just yak up the mushroom itself). This will continue until the player makes a Save vs. Poison -- they are allowed one every 12 hours after the incident with a cumulative +1 bonus to the roll. Until the save is made the character is unable to eat and can only imbibe small amounts of clean water. They will be weak and unable to do much more than lie down and groan.

Some (4-5) will do more debilitating damage to your insides. Save vs. Poison -- a success means that you spit out/throw up the mushroom and only take 1D6 temporary damage to your Con. A successful further save, rolled weekly, will regain a single point. If the player fails the save, the damage is permanent and can only be regained through various magical means.

Aaaaaand some'll kill you (6). Save vs. Poison or some important organ gets liquified. If you make it, treat it the same as the moderately poisonous mushrooms.

14-16: Confusion - As per the spell as cast by a 5th level caster.

17-18: Prophetic Visions - The character is becomes a viewer to some sort of important event. Whether it's an invading army, witnessing the summoning of a powerful demon, something abstract and extra-planar, it's extremely vivid and unsettling. The character will have no idea whether it has already happened, is currently happening or is going to happen. The character will be out of it for 3-5 hours, although only the relatively brief vision will be memorable.

19: Magic Mushroom - Randomly pick a first-level magic-user spell, targeting the eater unless it's an offensive spell, in which case the eater knows the spell and has to cast it in the next three rounds. If you're feeling literary, skew the results to Enlarge/Shrink.

20: Spirit Quest - The character, either in their body or in the body of somebody else, finds themselves in another plane of existence. Maybe it's Fairyland, maybe it's Elysium, the Astral Plane, whatever. In any case, they're somewhere else entirely and there's some sort of mystical being chatting at them about what they need to do. Their regular body will appear to be in a coma to the rest of the party, although attempts to communicate with the character's soul/spirit will contact the character in their new existence. The rest of the party will experience the same result if they also eat the same mushrooms.

(If the roll is over 20, there is a 33% chance each that the result is either Prophetic Visions, Magic Mushroom or Spirit Quest. Roll/decide which would be more fun/would fit best with what you've got prepped.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In My Day We Had to Roll Uphill Both Ways

Jeff Rients had today, as usual, a concise and intriguing post, this time about the high HP totals of first-level characters in the ongoing playtest for the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

For the record, I agree with Mr. Rients and the commenter who noted that making 1st level characters fragile can suit both groups who wish to play that way and those who want their heroes to be a little more heroic, who can then have their characters start at a slightly higher level.

In the most recent Labyrinth Lord adventure I've run with my group, they decided to explore the cave that an ogre (that they had slain in a previous adventure) had been living in and discovered that there was a blocked-off entrance not far from the ogre's lair. After clearing the entrance and going in, they discovered a small goblin warband living in the caves, unaware that their old "back door" was now be accessed by a bunch of bloodthirsty adventurers.

I was mildly perturbed that the party, given this advantageous position, reacted to it by not using any elements of surprise or ambush and instead engaged in open combat with some of the goblins and then, after being decently clever with having the dwarf yell in Goblin to other members of the warband, decided to have an argument loud enough that they wound up being ambushed by the other goblins. They did get pretty lucky in that none of them died in the resulting melee before they wiped out the bulk of the goblins (although the only fighter with more than a handful of HP remaining is currently unconscious thanks to deciding to sample some of the goblin's mushroom harvest); however, they could very well have been wiped out or lost multiple party members.

I think the problem here is that none of the players are grognards in the sense that they've mostly played systems that allow players to be fairly basic in their combat tactics and survive, whereas in OD&D, I feel that it's expected that first level characters leverage things as much as they can -- to reference a genre trope, a first-level party should be the natural culmination of the Tucker's Kobolds strategy. Instead of having the goblins flank them from two sides and gain a surprise round to boot, the party should have been able to find a bottleneck, utilize rope, flaming oil, etc. to take out as much of the monsters as possible while taking minimal risks to their own safety, especially considering that they already had the goblins deceived.

So, the question becomes, do I let things continue in this vein and assume that having rolls not go their way will eventually cause them to become more cautious and devious in the future with the specter of death as the motivator? I think so, I just don't know how long it will take or at point it will become the better part of valor to find something that everybody enjoys playing (which is really the goal here*).

* - Which is not to say that I think people aren't enjoying themselves, just that I could see more death-laden adventures becoming quickly frustrating.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ghost Table oooOOOooo

This series of tables were originally going to be used with The Warrens random encounter table, as I wanted to emphasize the both the accretion of large amounts of time and the hostile/unnerving nature of the place.

Section 1 - Interaction w/Ghost(s)

1-2 Unaware
The ghost(s) involved in this haunting are unaware of the activities of the living and in fact cannot be interacted with. Generally they are re-enacting something, either a daily routine or whatever happened before their (probably untimely) demise. Go to Section 2.

3-6 Aware, Communicative
These ghosts are aware of the living, although they cannot interact physically with them. They can communicate with the living, although the method involved varies. Go to Section 3.

7-10 Aware, Interactive
This category covers ghosts who are aware of the living and can interact with them, this can mean attacking them although given how powerful ghosts can be, this is inadvisable if it can be avoided. Go to Section 3.

Section 2 - Unaware Ghosts

How Many?

1-3 Single Entity
The lone unaware entity is typically a soul that's forgotten or hasn't realized that they're dead. They are usually seen going through some sort of daily activity or routine, even if the architecture around them has changed.

4-9 Multiple Entities (2-4)
Multiple ghosts encountered at the same time, reenacting a death of one of the entities -- betrayals, assassinations of important figures and similar situations tend to create these hauntings.

10 Tableau (8-18)
This rare situation involves a multitude of ghosts, almost always reenacting a scene of incredible violence or tragedy. The tableau generally appears on the anniversary or at the time of day that the
original event occurred.


1-9 Translucent
The ghost(s) are some level of transparent, usually with a slight glowing effect.

10 Corporeal
The ghost(s) will appear to be fully material, although any attempts to interact with them physically will involve objects/limbs going through them. If somebody puts their limb inside a ghost, they will experience a cold numbness and a feeling of dread. If they persist, they must make a save against Spells/Will Save to avoid being possessed by the ghost in question. The ghost may not initiate contact and must allow the player to withdraw.

Section 3 - Aware Ghosts

How Many?

1. For whatever reason, I feel like these should be solitary encounters. Change if you want!


1-3 Invisible
These ghosts have no physical form, at least not visible. Mayhap they can be seen on the Ethereal Plane.

4-9 Translucent

10 Fully Corporeal
Appears to be a regular person until touched -- rules for possession are the same as above.


1-3 Charades
This ghost can't communicate except for acting things out, pointing at things, etc. If you rolled Invisible above, congratulations, you got yourself a Poltergeist, who will communicate by knocking things over, throwing things at the players, writing creepy messages on walls, etc.

4-10 Speech
Ghost will give dire warnings, spout obscure forecasts, complain about lack of respect, deride fashion choices, etc.


Roll yr standard reaction and/or roleplay out the encounter, here's a little table to make the latter a little easier:

Ghost's Desires

1-5 Revenge
6-7 Deliver a Message (Tell Hossfoss that the family silver is underneath the fireplace)
8-9 Set Things Right (I couldn't do this, now you can do it for me)
10 Insane

Example Ghost: Aware, Interactive Ghost - Translucent, Communicates through Charades, Wants to Set Things Right -- The combination of the latter two aspects should make for an entertaining encounter, especially if the ghost wants to do something sufficiently abstract, like interfere with the succession for a minor title...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Heroes of Weaverham: The Second Venturing

Let it be known that on this most recent Foolsday, a group of honorable and brave adventurers did sign on with Drask of the Trade Syndicate in an effort to ensure that a caravan of leather goods and other sundries reached the trading post in Larm after a spate of recent bandit attacks upon that route South of Weaverham. Let their names be recorded here for posterity:

Forest Woodtwig, of the Aspleaf Woodtwigs
Olin, of the mysterious past and mysterious lack of whatever had just been put down nearby
Brother Dudebro, helping the needy of Weaverham in chilling out and getting a little mellow through the word of Chad
and Hankella, the hairy swordsman from nowhere that anybody's been able to find out yet
                    - as well as her archer/private dancer, Brazz

We all greatly hope that they return to Weaverham victorious and largely unscathed.

In possibly unrelated news, Gazzik the Woodsman reported his hounds baying while travelling South of Hay Bale and leading him to a grisly scene just south of the New Bridge, where a cloud of ravens dispersed, revealing ten naked bodies scattered around the road, each with their throat cut, head smashed in or heart pierced. Such evidence highly suggests the work of rogue wizards or possibly wandering demons loosed upon the wilderness by those who have taken leave of their sanity. Citizens are urged to stay indoors during the night and keep their tithes regular.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Heroes of Weaverham: Being the Recounting of Their First Adventure

The morning rose clear and already a bit too hot on the day that the Heroes of Weaverham sauntered forth with the intention of ridding Gullifurd's Path of the brute that had been disrupting traders and causing no small amount of missing livestock in the neighboring farms.

Counted in their number:

Beefsteak Piledriver, doughty dwarf
Mulch Woodtwig, of the Aspleaf Woodtwigs
Father Guinness, leader of the Braumeister's faithful
the mysterious wizard known only as "Brains", as well as his hired followers:
            - Werner, of strong back and tired feet
            - Nyx, who was sired by a pig
            - and Ursula, a typical Stavrovian in that she is sharp-tongued and skilled with the bow

Our heroes, after traveling some hours and nearing the area that the beast was reported to frequent, decided to deploy Nyx as a "scout", a role that was described to him as consisting of walking 50 feet of everybody else and singing loudly, a role he proved to be born for. Eventually the remains of a destroyed caravan was found and here Mulch took over, his keen elven eyes picking up the tracks of a mighty humanoid, as well as many furrows indicating that some large bulky objects had been dragged along the ground.

Said tracks eventually terminated in a small valley in the foothills, featuring a rock wall and a large opening therein, from which uttered a most effluvious scent, as if of a charnel-house. After some short discussion, it was decided that Nyx should again sing. At this, the brute emerged from the cave, a 10-foot tall yellow hulk of what might described as a man in the most fevered imaginations of a poppy-smoking, lotus-eating wreck, clothed only in a greasy shift of cloth and carrying a great club, banded with iron.

Battle was joined as Nyx and the ogre rushed forth at each other, the remaining Heroes letting loose with arrows or exchanging bets on the ensuing physical combat. Curses were uttered as a single blow of the mighty club crushed Nyx's skull and the beast lurched forward at the group, with Beefsteak now rushing to meet him. Things finally started going well for our Heroes when the giant lost his grip on the club, flinging it deep into the valley and forcing him to rely on his fists. However, the threat was still dire and Father Guinness was forced to reinforce Beefsteak in the wild melee, with the archers still able to pick out their foe above the others due to his great height. A fortuitous laying of hands and ale by Father Guinness saved Beefsteak from being bludgeoned to death and as things appeared to be heading toward an early grave for at least one more of the Heroes, a wild swing of Guinness's mace and a well-aimed shaft from Ursula downed the beast.

Werner, who had wisely taken cover in a neighboring copse during combat, was tasked to dig Nyx's grave while the rest of the group took it upon themselves to investigate the cave. Finding a great pile of bones and rotted flesh, as well as a large cloud of insects, the party was able to further discover several great sacks of coin as well as the fact that no-one had remembered to purchase flint and steel, meaning that further exploration of the cave as it extended further would have to be left for another time.

Instead, the Heroes contented themselves with saying a few words (and pouring some special brew) on Nyx's final resting place before heading back to town bearing their trophy, the still-dripping head of the Bane of Gullifurd's Path. Huzzah!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Getting the Gang Back Together

One of the former members of our gaming group moved to Japan a couple years back, which acted as a breakpoint between various RPG campaigns. While he's generally enjoying himself over across the Pacific, there is a lack of polyhedral dice in his life, so when he noted that he'd be in town for a few days next month, I brought up the idea of playing a game and he, naturally, was receptive to the idea.

Since he doesn't have a character in either of the main campaigns we have (the Fenrecz campaign, in which everybody is still stuck in a ghost-dream-time-loop and a Type 3.5 campaign in which I believe we are in some underground caverns having just caused a major cave-in with the hopeful end result of a giant underground flood wave flushing out a yuan-ti hideout), I decided the best thing to be done was to set up the framework for a troupe-based Labyrinth Lord game.

In preparation for this, I had the other available members of the group sit down and create three characters each, using the following criteria: 3D6 in order; after which, the player can decide, if the player meets the requirements, whether they want to play as a demihuman. Should they either not meet any requirements or the player decides to play a human, then the stats can be rearranged. The theory was that this would 1. make humans more desirable and 2. make demihumans rarer.

The final total, was, for 12 characters: 2 fighters, 1 dwarf, 1 magic-user, 2 elves, 2 thieves, 2 halflings, 2 clerics. So, 7 humans and 5 demi-humans, with a number of the humans qualifying for demihuman status and the player deciding that it would fit better with their character idea to move some of the stats around. The clear biases of the group of players came through in the lack of pure magic-users, who are always poorly represented (in Fenrecz, the only "wizard"-y type is the player who's the DM for the Type 3.5 game, where the player who is the sociopathic halfling thief in Fenrecz is a sociopathic necromancer with an unfortunate habit of having missile weapons hit the donkey carrying his mobile laboratory*). Highest stat was 17 (Int for one of the Elves) and the lowest was 5 (Charisma for one of the Clerics, who also has a 6 Intelligence and whose "high" stats are 12 and 10. His name thus far is Father Lump of the Three-Legged Horse).

I wanted multiple characters per person because I'd like to have a campaign where we have a lot of flexibility in terms of who can show up from week to week. If we have only two people, they can run two of their characters. If people are off investigating the Dungeons of the Red Queen and we have to break off at the end of the session and next week we have a different group of players, they can grab some other characters and go somewhere else. And of course with the general durability of 1st level LL characters (I did make the allowance of maximum HP for level 1), it's always nice to have backups.

* - My character in that campaign, Al-Wedjat of the All-Seeing Eye, was intended to be a soothseer-type with the intention of being a Divination specialist. After reading through the PHB and various Type  Three splatbooks, it became apparent that if you want to do divining, you're really better off going with a cleric, which makes no sense to me; however, that's pretty much true of all the specialist wizards in Type Three, which is too bad, because it always seems like a good row to hoe.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rumor Table for Weaverham

Weaverham is a small town nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Spine mountain range. Sitting on the junction of two major trade routes, the North-South Spinal Trail and the East-West Gullifurd's Path, it has a small number of outlying farms and a decent amount of businesses and residences clustered around the crossroads. Any basic goods and services should be expected to be available. Those cooling their heels in any of the bars of Weaverham (The Old Mill (mostly laborers), The Red Queen (landowners, other elites), Weaverham Arms (well-to-do travelers), Grange Hall (travelers who can pay)) will be talking about, aside from other things, certain subjects that might be interesting to potential adventurers in the area.

1. If you journey due north into the deep woods for a day and a half, you will find a small pond that doesn't ice over in winter or dry up in summer. A beautiful nude woman has been seen multiple times in this area, although nobody has been able to talk to or catch her. TRUE
2. The owner of the Weaverham Arms, Stanley Dimsdale, has a series of cells built underneath his Inn where he keeps a stable of youths who fell into his nefarious clutches while travelling alone. FALSE
3. The animals of the surrounding wood have gone mad, led by an insane druid, they desire to destroy the town of Weaverham and consume all the salted fish in the land. They meet to plot underneath the New Bridge north of the town and can be infiltrated with a clever enough disguise. FALSE
4. A group of bandits has been hitting caravans and other unlucky travelers along a stretch of the Spine Trail south of town. TRUE
5. The Red Queen is named after an ancient monarch who earned her name through the various bloodthirsty religious rites inflicted on her unfortunate prisoners before the peasantry arose and burned her keep. The remains of the castle donjon still stand in the forest northwest of the town and supposedly the lower areas have never been explored due to the unnerving feeling that affects all who come near. TRUE
6. A stone idol with a great sacrificial bowl stained with dried blood lies in a small gully southwest of the town. Cultists gather here to sacrifice unfortunates to Demons. FALSE (There is an altar in this area; however, it's been unused for years and the bowl is full of stagnant rain water, which hosts a couple gnarly worm-pupae things)
7. Gullifurd's Path is named after the famed explorer, Gullifurd the Gold, famed for his obsession with finding new sources of the precious metal. Although Gullifurd was the first man to find a route across the Smoky Spine, he returned to the mountains again and again. The last time Gullifurd was ever seen was heading West from Weaverham on the road that bears his name, meaning that his remains and his possessions are most probably somewhere in the mountains. TRUE
8. Father Nireni has a magical mirror in the basement of Old Weaver Kirk that allows you to travel great distances by stepping into it, including inter-dimensionally. His price for using it involves various unnatural acts. He will deny knowledge of this artifact unless you give the secret passphrase. FALSE
9. The inhabitants of neighboring Hay Bale have been acting extremely strangely lately -- visitors to the town recount hearing a horn blast as they approached, followed by all of the buildings being shut and shuttered with the occupants silently staring from within. Domestic animals have also been found wandering free in the woods, clearly disturbed. TRUE
10. Cows have been disappearing from the farms west of town -- one of the farmer's sons reported seeing a giant figure moving through the fields at night. A caravan guard also told a tale of being ambushed by a giant rock-dwelling humanoid not far out of town, headed west on Gullifurd's Path. Sounds like we got an ogre on our hands mmm hmm, mmm hmm. 'M sure the mayor could be convinced to cough up some coin if that problem were to be dealt with, hrmrmm. TRUE

Thursday, March 29, 2012


The Fenrecz Campaign came to be after reading Vornheim and being inspired to try my hand at large-city adventuring, ably assisted by the charts in that marvelous book. Things worked out reasonably well, with the geography (both actual and metaphysical) developing over the course of play sessions, taking my sketched out frameworks and providing some muscle and sinew to fill in the gaps. Some things fell by the wayside that I'd like to work back in at some point (for one, The Warrens as an especially haunted area -- I have the beginnings of a relatively complex Ghost Encounters table that I'd like to get done sometime soon); however, the experience that I've gained from these adventures have made we wonder about starting NPCs in a large city right off the bat.

I say this because one aspect of playing in Fenrecz was that it was really difficult to get the players out of the city -- in fact, I never managed it all, despite numerous hooks that led outside of the city walls. Now, it should be mentioned that this isn't necessarily bad in that if a party really wants to stay entirely within a city the entire time, they should be allowed to in the sense that a true sandbox game goes where player decisions take it and no further. On the other hand, it does lead to one major difficulty, which was that the players were stuck between the city being familiar and alien.

Since the campaign had only ever taken place inside this giant city, it felt unnatural for the players to be newcomers to it, even if that were most of their character backgrounds. This was exacerbated by one of the players asking for a background that would have placed him in the city previously -- so we had a theoretical knowledge imbalance and a practical lack of imbalance that felt like it shouldn't be even as it made logical sense.

Now, I'm sure that a more experienced or more skilled DM could have dealt with this in an elegant fashion. With our group, it wound up making sessions awkward as the players weren't sure to what degree they should be familiar with the city -- the solution, it seems to me, is to start a campaign off in a hamlet or such, a smaller settlement outside of the core cities of the surrounding area. This way, the players can still have a game that centers around a big city -- they just have to make the decision to travel there first. And, in theory, a party would be just as likely to go for dungeon- or wilderness-based adventures, without the draw of a city with conceivably everything they could desire contained within (and, probably just as importantly, full of inns and other "safe" places that are always within easy reach).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Campaign World Thought Experiment

Per noism's post over at his place, I rolled up five random monsters from the Labyrinth Lord game and then envisioned a campaign world where those monsters are the dominant intelligent races.

My building blocks:

Bats, Giant

The game world is a medium-to-small continent running from east to west -- imagine South America from Argentina to Tierra del Fuego rotated 90 degrees clockwise. The vast majority of the land is grasslands/steppes, roamed by the Hobgoblins and their Khans. Nomadic horse-riders with few fixed cities, they drive great herds of lifestock from grazing to grazing land while setting up extensive tent-encampments. When they're not engaging in various wars of succession, they raid...

...the walled and many-domed cities of the gnomes. Naturally magically proficient, the gnomes have used their abilities to create complex stone cities lorded over by the gnomish aristocracy. These small and dense fort-cities, filled with constantly-backstabbing guilds, are mostly located near the coasts of this land, all of the construction being done by golems and other magically-created constructs as well as partially by...

...a slave race of goblins, who also serve as the main agricultural workers for the gnomish cities, with golems as their overseers, and who populate the slum tenements in the cities themselves. There are a small amount of free goblins, both those who live in the cities as adventurers and in scattered wilderness communities, most of which are in remote and inaccessible locations, hidden away from their mounted cousins, although their proximity to the great northern mountain range leads to conflicts with...

...the clans of the wolf-men, whose jarls chafe under the leadership of their King, grown old and infirm. The refocusing on internal politics means that the gnomish cities and hobgoblin tent encampments have been largely free of the raiding parties that swirl down from the craggy peaks like vicious snowstorms. Most wolf-men are hunters. Those wondering what machinations are taking place in the wolf longhouses and hill-forts would be best advised to seek the knowledge of...

...the bat-men, whose great underground settlements are not easily found and whose wizards surpass even the greatest gnomes in knowledge of the secrets of this world, many which lie in the lightless caverns the bat-men frequent. Aside from groups living in the great caves of the northern mountains, there are rockier sections of the grasslands where the bat-men are said to spill forth like a great geyser at twilight from their cave entrances, their scouts scouring the land for anything foolish enough to be seen moving.

So. Hobgoblins = steppe hordes; Gnomes = magic-based nobility; Goblins = slaves/underclass; Wolf-men = Viking/Germanic clans that leave woods full of skeletons hung from the trees; Bat-men = mysterious underground race, nocturnal scourge of large areas, know the most secrets/forbidden knowledge.

I think all of the races should be playable in a red-box race-as-class system, with Gnomes and Bat-men being natural magic-users, Wolf-men and Hobgoblins as fighting men and Goblins fitting into the rogue niche. I'm not entirely happy with Goblins, as they don't fit into either the crazed maniac goblins of the Warhammer universe or the fey/stealin' babies fairy-tale creatures that I generally like to have them as; however, they do work best as the Short, Nasty and Brutish creatures of this world -- also worth noting that there's no "pleasant race" here, the Gnomes are probably the closest; I envision them more as the entitled gentry, interested more in embarrassing their rival at the next society do and creating various golem-like creatures to dominate their slaves -- any playable Gnome would probably be a trader's son or somebody on the lowest possible rung of Gnome society.