Sunday, December 28, 2014

PHOS going to Arisia

I'm going to run my first proper convention game this year at Arisia.  Exciting stuff.  I'll be running a straight dungeon crawl experience from the Perilous Halls of Sorrow where success is going to be determined by if the party survives and, if so, how much loot they manage to pull out of the place.

Simple stuff, but for a 4-hour time slot I think just what is needed.  Of course, I'm not sure how a somewhat "open-ended" is going to play at a convention game.  The goal is simple - escape with your lives through grinding dungeon insanity, but are players going to want more plot?  Will anyone appreciate the fact that I'll be using each adventuring group foray into the Underworld and taking ontes on what they do, loot, and so on?  Probably not, but who cares, right?  I'll just make some old school dungeon fun for everyone.

Here is my checklist
1) pre-generated characters, like 4 sets of 20 of them
2) simplified dungeon maps and notes (notes on maps rather than a key)
3) wet erase mat + markers, combat clicker
4) tons of dice - I'm going to order a pound of chessex dice
5) minis ... nothing too nice, but something for the board
6) Karma/Honor ships
7) name placards - so people can write Joe the Fighter
8) contingency plan for a TPK  ...

I just thought of number 8.  This is a serious possibility and something I should consider.  I'm also thinking of coming up with some vague plot-related reason for being in the dungeon other than "SHIT, DUDES!  A DUNGEON!  Let's Go!"  But back to the list ...

9) cheat sheet on loot, equipment quality, and other stuff
10) quick reference cards for clerics and mages
10a) a deck of random spells for wizards to draw from?  maybe by lineage?

What else?  Ideas?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Updates

The Perilous Halls of Endless Sorrow Update
The grand expression of my many years as a GM in one fuck-off huge mega-dungeon (giga-dungeon?) that is mostly mapped and quite heavily populated.  This is wrapping up many of the previous mega-dungeons that I've written and combining them through flimsy storylines.  Right now, though, I've got a set of levels that I'm working on to present and run at Arisa this year, if they accept my GM submission.  Even if they don't, I'm going to start bringing it into the world as a living place affected by any who dare to delve.  I'm adding some basics to a wiki and going to let players add whatever they want - kind of a word of mouth rumor mill for the place: PHOES.

I've run one session in the new dungeon levels and it was pretty rad - I'll need to adjust things slightly for the travelling game and the Conventions if I continue to run this, but it is definitely fun.  I didn't blog the report because, in short, I'm lazy.  There were some nasty traps, wicked monsters, and sweet loot.  Good enough for now.

The Aldsburg Chronicles Update
We finished up the Guest GM's awesome plague thread.  Three session of blood, fire, turmoil, and far too many descriptions of vomit and boils.  It was a good time - Hemlock was killed, the nameless Orc Shaman was killed, numerous members of the Red Shield were laid to waste.  Sadly my halfling fighter bit the dust, but it was GLORIOUS!  I had the opportunity to save my character, but it would have brought him into low honor or dishonor and I decided that simply wasn't an option.  Death Before Dishonor!  OK - enough exclamation points.

I'm getting ready to ramp up the next sessions of the Aldsburg Chronicles.  Going to introduce some new levels of Lions Tooth Tower and a new Tower.  Slowly grow the super city and introduce some adjacent wilderness.  Like seriously old school ... I may have the maps as a GM, but all the player's know is that the city is built and carved out of the mountain they are on.  Per player request some wilderness activity may ensue ... or perhaps dungeon wilderness.  A forest inside the Underworld?  Ravenwhatnow?  They should be more careful what they ask for.

As thr house rules pile up we are moving parallel to Hackmaster.  SO much so that I'm writing everything down in a single document that will, with enough time and energy, become a separate set of rules.  While initially a supliment for HM, it is taking on a life of it's own.  I've decided to call it BXDH (BX in honor of Basic / Expert D&D; DH for Dungeon Hack).  It isn't even close to being ready to be shared, but when it is more complete, I'll make it available.  Lots of the rules show up where and there on this blog :)

Happy Holidays
Whatever you celebrate (including nothing) may those days be pleasant.  My RPGs are over for the year and I do declare it a magnificent year.  I'm looking forward to 2015 when I attempt to share the Gigadungeon PHOES with the world.  I've talked about a write-up and kickstarter for ages and it definitely is not ready for that, but it is close.  More playtesting is needed.  Let the good times roll.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Ratlords of Durn Olgek

The lost and forgotten kingdom of Durn Olgek lies buried beneath a thousand lies.  It never existed in this world but burst forth from the Underworld spreading a miasma and plague into the lands of unsuspecting neighbors.  When the great hero Yerlgur Dravin took it upon himself to destroy the heart of Durn Oglek he was hoisted upon shoulders of many who went before him.  When he struck down the living heart of the place and it collapsed, Durn Oglek was no more.

Of course, the story does not end there, else it would be the usual tale of adventure, violence and glory.  When Durn Oglek collapsed, it left many small pockets of the Foul Place separated and writhing in their own despair.  Over the centuries, most fell apart in decadence and corruption or were set upon and devoured by greater aspects of the Underworld.

One set of survivors, though, were invaded and infected by the ratkin.  Great mutated rat-things that were completely hollowed by the Patchwork moved their way in and became joined with the aberrant hosts of Durn Oglek.  These new rat-men have grown slowly in power - expanding a kingdom of brutal sacrifice and terrible ritual.

The Ratlords are the high priets of the strange cabal.  A collection of ratmen, wererat, giant intelligent rat-things, and worst of all, men who have let the underworld into themselves follow the lead of the Ratlords and pay homage to the great beasts which have poured forth from the Patchwork.

  1. Where the Underworld meets the warrens of Aldsburg there are entrances to the Ratlord Domains.
  2. Certain groups have made alliances with the Ratlords and feed them victims for sacrifice and conversion.
  3. Necromancy is common among the ratfolk - they serve their Ratlords in both life and death
  4. The Kingdom Under the World uses the Underworld to create sprawling warrens under all centers of civilization.
  5. Without recruitment, the ratfolk cannot prosper (they do not breed)
  6. Under Aldsburg, the ratkin worship a great idol of a patchwork godling - the Horned Rat Durn. It is said that the Ratlords control their minions by use of the idol's golden horns.

Critters of the Ratlord's Demense
  • Giant Rats: the size of small dogs, lots of teeth and strange bone/horn growths
  • Enormous Rats: the size of ponies, often with strange abilities
  • Plague Goblin: half rat, half small humanoid, all vomit and puss and disease
  • Ratmen: anthropomorphic ratfolk, foot soldiers of the Ratlords, poison blades common
  • Men of the Rat: humans that have bound themselves in service - stylized red rat tattoo identifies them, they will likely become infected and turned into ratmen
  • Eternal Guard: animated ratman skeletons with glaives and plenty of hate for the living
  • Plague Hound: also known as "shovelheads", creatures of the patchwork kingdom that are vicious preadtors and tend to implant eggs via scorpion-like ovipositor
  • Wererat: terrible shape changing agents of chaos and woe.  they fight both above and below, but tend to have short lives as the chaos and darkness of the underworld break their minds.

Other Notes
We had a great session 2 weeks ago that I haven't posted about yet...I'll try to get to that soon.  I'm also preparing for the final sessions of the Worldgod Campaign (7 years, baby!).  Mostly in painting and building mode.  I cold run it right now, but all of the visual props make it more fun - also - I get to finally use the scroll saw this weekend.  KICK ASS!  I'll take a ton of photos.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Community Crowdsourced Sandbox

I'm involved in this: https:  Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting.  I'm quite excited as there is some good energy so far.  Also, Tenkar's blog is top notch if you don't already follow it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Defining "OSR"

I'll admit that first I barely pay attention to the whole OSR argument.  The internet is full of people that like to argue and fight and mistake their opinions for thoughts.  The fact that a community came into being about playing awesome games and then some folks are pissing and moaning that it is being "Taken Over" and talking trash and generally being jerks makes me sad.

OSR is whatever you want it to be.  I run a HackMaster 5e game and while the rule set is definitely not "old school" the way we play is.  Therefore I run an OSR game.  Do you disagree with me?  I don't care.  At all. 

Everyone can just do whatever they want and play however they want and argue whatever they want.  In the end, I'm going to continue to run my game the way I like and the way my players like.  I honestly don't give a flying fig about what qualifies as OSR gaming.  What I do care about is that people are making tons of cool stuff and letting their creativity and imagination drive the fun. 

If you want to define OSR go for it but be aware that you are probably limiting yourself. 

"... oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage." --Maude

Monday, October 6, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chropnicles [A3]

...wherein the plague comes to Aldsburg and the party becomes terribly lost in the Undercity...

What About Session A2?
Good question - I didn't get around to writing about it because it wasn't a great session.  I was hung over and and ran a mediocre (at best) game.  The adventurers were hired (by default of debt) to deliver a package.  After dealing with a seedy den of drugs and corruption they took the package which they eventually determined was the boxed head of Albonia to the Steel Tower (where wizards dwell).  She begged and pleaded but they left her there for whatever nefarious purposes were at hand.  Not much in the way ad adventure, but it set a really dark tone.  Seriously Dark.  Also, the adventurers got outside of Lions Tooth Tower, which was a treat.

Playing Not Running
The idea of the Aldsburg Campaign was to be able to hand off the GM seat from time to time.  B ran his first session for us and it was a grinder.  It was definitely fun to play and I didn't overrun everyone else, which I was through conscious effort.  I've mentioned this before - switching sides of the screen can be tough and I'm not the best at it.  However, with a little self awareness I think it worked out great.

New Blood
A new character (mine) arrived in town: Dirk the Halfling fighter, former gladiatorial slave and paranoid liar.  Through a series of unfortunate/awesome events he killed one of his guard captors and hid in his corpse only to escape later before the gnarly funerary rites started.  Fleeing for his life, Dirk ended up in the Iron Streets of Lions Tooth Tower with his cousin Cheyanne.  Her work at the Orphanarium got Dirk in contact with Mirk who introduced him to the party.  In the mean time, Dirk is a beholden to the Red Shields (a local gang) who are protecting him from the slavers who are looking for him (he only escaped via murder 3 weeks ago).  The Red Shields have contracted him to assassinate Franky One Eye, a fence for the Magnolia Street Runners.

The Setup
There have been more and more people gone missing.  Far more than usual.  Especially Halfling.  Trudy, a friend of Dirk's cousin Cheyanne bursts into the Murder of Crows tavern and tells Dirk she has been missing for days.  Dirk didn't know this because he has been trying to keep clear of her to avoid troubles.

The gang - Fredrick the warrior, Boreas a Winter Mage, and Alois a cleric of the Unfettered Raven, make their way to Cheyanne's house.  Of course, along the way, they notice that more folks are sick.  People look tired and have huge black bags under their eyes.  Then the bell starts ringing and the sound og the great gate being closed is heard echoing through the warren.  "THE PLAGUE!  THE ORCS HAVE BROUGHT THE PLAAGUE!" is being shouted from the rooftops.

Of course the only evidence of orcs were brought back in session A1 in the form of an orc head.  And now having a bit of fame and recognition in the streets, jerks are pointing as us and blaming the party.  Fools.

After a search of Cheyanne's house we found some clues that lead us to a grate that opened to the Undercity.  Uhg.  Luckily at the same time we also eyeballed a Red Shield that I knew named Timothy.  He was strutting so I said hi, bought some drinks at the Green Dragon, and got a bit of info from him.  Apparently, he said, there is a cure.  I was suspicious for sure.

Back with the gang we went looking for Cheyanne down in the sewers.  Nasty stuff.  Punched an old sewer dwelling man in nuts and got info on where to go.  Right, left, right, hop some sewage, and eventually we came to a rough hewn passage.  Great.  After avoiding some traps (which let us know we were on the right path), we fought these horrid underworld beasts - giant long-tailed ratrabbits.  Dirk now has a fine collection of fuzzy tails.

More exploration and eventually we head even farther down.  No idea where we are, but that orc got his ass kicked when he attacked.  Then we ended up fighting some huge rotlord cleric bastard orc while we were on boats crossing some sort of resevoir.  While he escaped after wizarding us we cleaned up the plague dumping ground.  Unholy altar smashed, loot gathered, and off and found some more terrible stuff.  A note from the Red Shields and someone named Hemlock.  This is all bad.  Cheyanne is lost, but at least the plague is done for. 

Thoughts Running A Shared World
Giving up the GM chair is tough enough, but running a shared world is complicated.  Figuring out how to not step on each other's toes for when we lay out threads for future adventures is going to be a challenge, especially without knowing what the other GMs are up to (and we don't want to know - that makes it fun).  Future adventures are going to include some more dungeon crawling and at least some level of gang warfare.  Hell of a thing we've got going here.  I hope it continues to be great for everyone.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Unrelated Awesome

I just ran across this web comic.  I normally don't give a fig for web comics, but this is brilliant.  My Monday morning is already in shambles because of reading it.

I found out about it because I'm supporting the Goblin Quest Kickstarter.  You should get in on this - it looks outstanding.

Pass it on.

Also, I'm re-reading all the classic HPLovecraft.  My game is going to get seriously dark.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [A1] which the players create new PCs as a group and decide the Undercity is bad news...

Rebooting Aldsburg
While there were some good moments in the new campaign one of the things that kept coming up was party in-fighting about the morality of actions.  In my heavy metal gritty pulp adventure setting this is really really boring for me to run and, honestly, taking away from the tone of badass adventurers looking for lost treasure, causing social mayhem, and generally being "adventury".  So while we were grilling before the game on Sunday, I proposed that we shelf the existing characters (low level anyway) and as a group come up with a new party.  There was a bit of grumbling, but everyone agreed.  Phew.

Group Party and Character Creation
What our game looked like except we had more beer and were louder.
Image from
While we were enjoying excellent food grilled by J. and a fantastic tomato feta basil salad made by my kick-ass wife I asked the players to figure out what kind of party they would like.  Don't worry about character classes or what they want to play specifically, but what kind of game they want to have - starting with the tone and style of party.  A lot of italics there, but I also stressed that this is going to help drive the overall game experience for these guys.  After some false starts, they got into it.  Way into it.  My only guidelines were that I don't want to run a game for evil characters (I don't find that particularly fun) and they need to work within the existing Aldsburg Campaign.

The group decided they were going to be some "underworld businessmen"A little smuggling, some light racketeering, perhaps offer a bit of protection to a group of working ladies of the "seamstress guild", adventuring for profit, maybe some simple mercenary work.  The group is definitely not evil (a bit morally ambiguous and that is fine) and has some specific types of activities that they get into.

Everyone then proceeded to roll dice and create characters.

As the character were made, I started asking players about other player's characters.  Everyone got to declare a "Damn True Fact" about someone else.  E for example declared that J's character (Alois) was unable to not purchase fruit when he come across it - the guy just loves fruit.  B declared the M's character was stolen from his real parents who later killed his "adoptive" parents but then abandoned him because he was already "raised broken".   It was fantastic.  I made notes as we went and handed out some small bonuses based on what the players said about the other characters - small bumps to skills, that sort of thing.  We also set up the relationships this way.  It was pretty awesome.  And, most importantly, in the end we had a cohesive party.

HackMaster is a tough game and I have no problems letting PCs get in way over their heads and die off.  When new characters come on board,  they are going to come into an established group of characters and the player can work within that framework.  This should smooth things out and make the game move along at a good clip.

Also the four players ended up making a party that contains 1 cleric, 1 fighter, 1 mage, and 1 thief.  Gawds Bless the Old School.

Player Generated Rumors!
One thing I've been wanting to do for a while (and started this campaign) was to have players generate rumors about what is going on and base adventures on that.  A lot more of me winging it, which is tough, but I love it.  More importantly, though, it brings in more thoughts and plots and we now have 5 people (4 players and 1 GM) generating things afoot in the city rather than just me.  In the end these are rumors and may have nothing to do with the truth, but it gets things moving.

Players have the ability to go on the type of adventure they want and everyone is more into it.  And and and it makes the city feel more alive and dynamic, which is fucking great.  If you want to read them check out my previous post.

A Brief Adventure to find Loot
It turns out that investigating an abandoned bakery that is haunted and no one has ever returned from and finding piles of gold and jewels is beyond tempting to a bunch of adventurers.  Top Notch.

The post is getting long, so a few highlights.

  • Someone fell through a rotting floor.
  • Everyone went through the hole.
  • They found a temple to the dark daemon-god Axterlix (an aspect of the most fearsome and vile Demogorgon).
  • A worshiper (identified later as Larissa, companion of the adventurer mage Titus Crow) was found speared to the wall.
  • After some puttering two monstrous beast men were encountered and fought.  Apparently they are "orcs".
  • Secret door, stairs into the undercity.
  • Fought some weird skeletons attached to wires and metal rods that went into the ceiling.
  • Some wandering revealed a portcullis the party could not open.
  • More orcs on the way and seeing the skeletons being rebuilt (and it was getting real-life late) the party bailed.
Good session - I really liked the way the group character building went.  Also, the rumors the players are coming up with are kicking ass!  Sweet Zombie Jesus I love it when a campaign comes together.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rumors from Aldsburg

These are generated from the players in my group from the game on September 7, 2014.  I'm writing them up and just adding a bit of detail where appropriate, but all credit goes to the players!

(1) In the shantytown outside of the tower there is a particular hovel (looks like all the others) that is offering up high end drugs.  I heard that some nobles are even wandering down to slum a bit and partake in these rare treats.  Sounds like a prime target for some robbery.

(2) The Red Shield mercenaries have been taking over territory from the Magnolia Street Runners.  The interesting part is that Cid, one of the leaders of the MSR Council, is apparently thinking about defecting and might need some protection.  Could be very lucrative.

(3) Some adventurer named Henderson has been hanging about at the Red Spot yammering about exploring the Undercity by an entrance on Dexter Street.  He said he saw some small green freaks that were wielding blades of steel.  Actual Steel!  Steel weapons are worth a pretty penny and, perhaps more-so, would be an awesome status symbol.

(4) Old Brighound sais that Clarissa's Praetoria were cracking down on the religious types in Wormwood Scrub.  Wouldn't matter too much but a mutual mate of Brighound and me got roughed up and I sort of owe him a favor.  Also, what the hell doesn't Clariss's guard care about the fanatics in Wormwood?

(5) Murders most foul!  One thing for sure is that there have been more murders recently - and weird ones at that.  People waking up next to their dead husband or parents finding all of their children with their throats cut.  Some folks say that Footpads of Kane (Kane being a dark god of Murder) are aligned with the freaking ratmen in the Undercity.  This is bad.

(6) Found scrawled in many places around the city written by many hands: "Death is Coming".  That is freaky if it isn't just a damn prank.

(7) Over in the Tumbledowns someone has been bum rushing the itinerants - busting in on them in the middle of the night, beating them, dragging them into the street, shitting and pissing on them, and stealing what little they have.  Who would do that?  We could make some good contacts if we helped out, I'm sure.

(8) Abandoned/Haunted Bakery - haunted, none have returned.  Gold and jewels.  Hella Yea!  Like 20 years ago there was a free halfling family living there and then one night the wife took an axe and went all bloodbath murder-hobo on her wife and two kids!  Even after she was hung they say that the ghosts of her husband and kids still attack any who enter.  Also, they were rich as hell - hence the gold and jewels.  Rich pissed off ghosts.

(9) There have been some nasty rumors that a cult worshiping one of the Old Gods and is trying to summon demons to do their bidding.  Fucking wizards are no good!  We can't let some demons start causing trouble in our town.  Hell No!  We should find this cult and kick their asses and smash their stuff and take all of their loot.  You know - for the good of Lions Teeth Tower and All of Aldsburg.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Enemies of Man: The Chain Roach [EoM_5]

First up, the original idea is from this awesome blog.  Something really struck me about how absolutely horrible these things would be.  I thought I'd HackMaster it up a bit because damn right the Chain Roach is going to show up in Eradu (likely deep in the Undercity of Aldsburg or possibly rampage in the streets of the Aldsburg Warrens.  Who even knows anymore!).

The Chain Roach [Hacked]
When roaches are swarming over the corpse of some fallen being slick with the oiled resedue of magic (a gobbet of quivering flesh from the Patchwork or that 5th level mage you loved so much) there is the occasional shard of shadow for the Patchwork that binds the things together.

They grow immense (for roaches at least) and are connected to each other ass-to-mouth in descending size.  They slither along like centipedes but their true nature is much more foul.
image stolen from some blog
where it was uncredited
HP: 10+4d6
Size: Small / 20#
Tenacity: Fearless
Intelligence: non
Fatigue: n/a
Move: walk 15/run 25
Save: P+5 M+0 D+2

Init: -2
Speed: 10
Atk: +5
Damage: disgust & disease
Def: +0
DR: 4 (10 Crushing)

Number Appearing: 1-6
Chance in Lair: 0%
Frequency: Rare
Alignment: Non
Vision: poor
Awareness: vibration
Habitat:  filthy underground
Diet: every damn thing
Ogranization: Swarm
Climate: all but arctic

Yield: Nothing
XP: 67
A successful "attack" by a roach chain means the damnable thing has climbed onto you searching for whatever morsels it can find.  Character must make a saving throw vs Poison (vs d20p+max chain roach HP) or be frozen with disgust.

An attempt every 5 seconds can be made to throw the thing off with a successful Feat of Strength (vs d20p + (max roach HP/5)).  Any physical attacks against a roach chain climbing on someone will hit the character 50% of the time (no matter if the chain roach is hit or not, including attacks from the character being climbed on).  A character can make an unarmed attack (-4 to hit) to grab it giving them a +5 to their FoS to rip the damn thing off.

Worse than all that, the things are diseased. Roll 1d6 to determine what kind.

1-3: Black Rash
4-5: Flesh Rot
6: Plague

Starting with the first second a character is crawled on and every 10 second thereafter they are exposed to whatever nasty bug the nasty bugs are carrying.  There is a (max roach HP)% chance of being exposed - use the specific disease for communicability and severity rolls. 

They live in underground filth.  Sewers, dungeon, that sort of thing.  Rumors that some swamps have them is unverified, but we wou;dn't be surprised.  Giant Roach Chain?  Nasty. 

These are creatures of the Underworld.  They eat and grow until they die.  Rumors of Scarf Roaches double the size (20+8d6 HP) that have strange scraps of metal as part of their weirdness have been reported as well.  These fuckers actually do damage 1d3 per hit ignoring DR.  Each wound increases the chance of disease exposure by 10%.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Session Report: The Worldgod Campaign [Island of Storms]

...wherein a great plot is revealed and the party chooses their fate...

The Party
Yurg - violent thief with a penchant for poison and vulgarity
Black Wilder - a low level thief making his way toward greatness
Wolfgang - a Cleric of the Insurgent One finding himself through battle
Darvik Who Is Tarlon - A mage reveling in his power and fighting corruption
Kyle - a stalwart warrior/thief struggling with leadership and Chen (his bow)

The Setup
It had been quite some time since the group had gotten together to play, so a quick recap.

The party was on a mission to kill the World God (who would eventually destroy the world and likely everything in the cosmos since it was a huge space demon that was trapped in the center of their world and strange minions of evil had been trying to free it plus there were some Beholders From Space, known as the Greyjax, that were also causing some problems).  They were following a previously undiscovered prophecy that they must travel in the footsteps of their previous lives to defeat this wickedness - first stop the Island of Storms to kill the Great Storm Serpent Aloo who, as fate would have it, was already slain by their previous lives.

After having landed and dealt with catpeople ghosts, wereboar samurai, a torrential never ending storm, a water elemental, and an army of undead (who now stand scattered around the forest waiting for someone to enter) the party found an old Legion of the Phoenix camp and settled in for the night.  The map indicating that the cave led to where they wanted to go.

As they camped a something, a gigantic spider by all accounts, whispered taunts and offered deals to everyone on watch.  Through conversation it was discovered that the creature worshiped Claire.  The story of Claire is an entire other blog post, but briefly: old party member, spider mage, was in love with Tarlon, suffered many backlash aberrations, was stoned by a basilisk and left behind, later to be found lost, has tormented the party for YEARS.

The sun has risen, the storm has stirred up, and the party is ready for spider mayhem.  The players are suitably nervous.

Adventure Highlights
After avoiding a log trap and a pit (100' down, spikes in an unknown depth of water with something living in it) the party stood in a large cave and encountered the first of the Spider Cult Goblins. The little bugger was painted black and white and had gemstones attached to his head to look more like a spider.  He becked the adventurers forward saying "peace" and "she calls".

 Of course it was an ambush.  The party laid waste to the goblins in short order because, well, they are a 9th level party and there were only a few goblins (4 melee, 3 with bows).  Of course the problem was the fact that everythign the goblins had was covered in some crazy debilitating poison. 

After taking a few captives and exploring a bit more the party came across a huge barrier built into the caves.  Heading back to where their captives were they found them being devoured by huge terrier-sized spiders.  Battle ensued and exploration of the other tunnel.

The adventurers came across a chamber with 6 of these huge spiders guarding what appeared to be a gigantic egg sack filled with hundreds of these huge spiders (some help from a special item let them in on the specifics).  It was decided to burn this shit to the ground.  Darvik pulled out his wand of Zeus and let loose with a huge chain lighting wide bolt at full strength.  The results were dramatic.

While the initial group of gigantic spiders was killed in a single stroke of the wand the huge egg sack split open spilling hundreds of the eight-legged horrors into the chamber.  While the egg sack did burst into flames there was still a tsunami of giant spiders rushing the party.  The battle was terrifying and if it weren't for Darvik and his wand it was likely going to go poorly.  Standing amidst a chamber full of smoking spider corpses the party made various faces of disgust and walked away back to the barrier.  Having luck with the wand it was then used to demolish the huge barrier as well.  Best magic item ever.

After making the previously encountered goblin their bitch (the thing was terrified of the adventuring party and no amount of religious fervor was going to change that) it led them to the temple where they worshiped Claire.

A huge statue to Claire was carved from the very rock itself and a moment later the party was engaged in a heated battle with two spider-headed trolls.  It could have gone otherwise, but hell - who doesn't want to kill trolls!  As the battle raged on the enormous pony-sized spider that had been taunting them the night before made an appearance and started ... wait for it ... casting spells!  It was ON!

As Black Wilder learned first hand that a troll doesn't die just because you cut his head off a wall of ice appeared separating Darvik from the rest of the group.  The battle raged on as much was revealed.  Claire still loved Darvik who is Tarlon and asked her to come away with him.  She had seen the face of the World God and he had shown her things.  Claire had set all these things in motion by traveling the gates back and forward in time to lay clues and paths to bring them here just so she could be with Tarlon.  If he would show his loyalty by helping her destroy his companions they could travel to another cosmos - abandon this one to the Xinthian and rule entire worlds together.  She pulled him into her weird spider arms and wanted to seal the deal with a kiss.

Important: This was a huge culmination of years of role playing.  B had to make a choice that could end the campaign once and for all with a massive TPK which would have been epic. This exact offer with a known NPC for exactly what the character wanted more than anything was a Hard Choice (HM is agame of hard choices).  As I chatted with B in the secret meeting I told him that we would rejoin the group and he would get to describe the scene.  Even I didn't know which way he would choose.

As the battle raged on the giant spell casting spider an army of skeletons, and two badass trolls were beating the hell out of the adventurers.  Yurg was flying around with his magic ring and stabbing folks, Kyle waded in and was doing his best to protect and slaughter, even Wolfgang was using his hammer with great effectiveness ... but everyhting stopped as the ice wall fell.

Tarlon, embraced in the numerous legs of Claire leaned in and kissed her deeply.  There was an audible gasp from the other players.  As the freaky make-out session continued the mage pulled his wand of Zeus and, point blank, blew a hole into the spider mage who loved him...

The battle petered out after that and it was a mop-up.  Yurg had managed to coup de grace Claire and was flying around with her severed head.  Darvik was shouting that "Evil will never triumph!" and the rest of the party was trying to take care of monster-based business. There was a LOT of fire.

With the battle ended, the party moved deeper into the temple and discovered the Gate that Claire had told Darvik of.  After much debate to go to the City of Portals, Midian, or the Machine Core itself they chose to move directly into confrontation with the worldgod itself.  The Gate Key vibrating and demanding action, it was placed and the gate began to open ...

Summary & GM Notes
Well ... that could not have gone better!  Everyone had a blast including me.  There was danger and choices that decided the fate of campaign and awesome fighting and the return and vanquishing of a villain who has plagued the party for years (about 5 years of real life).  Having a game like this reminds me why I love this hobby.  The party is off to the Machine Core to try and deal with the World God.  They still aren't entirely sure what they are going to do or how they are going to do it, but it should be excellent.

I need to get painting and get the minis ready for these games.  While I'm damn happy to be bringing this epic campaign to a close, I already know I'm going to miss these characters and the setting.  The Aldsburg campaign is fun and going to be the go-to for some time, but I think this campaign will be the crown jewel of my gaming career ... at least until I come up with another idea this fun (and have the ability to pull it off).

Damn that was a great session!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mage Lineages in Eradu

I've let mages pick a specific totem to define their personality and use as a metaphor for creating new spells.  I'm trying out a new idea to keep things a bit more focused - lineage.  Within each lineage are a number of totems.  For example, Winter Mages learn from a lineage of the northmen and their totems and possible aberrations are similar.

Mage is the class, Lineage (four examples below) is the sub-class, and a Totem is the specialization. Totems and Aberrations are examples but surely not the extend of options.  Notes give a general feel for the mage and the quote hopefully seals the tonal deal.  Mechanically all of the mages work the same - this is entirely for flavor and role playing.

Totems: Ice, Snow, Wind, Rain, Storms, Lightning, Wolf, Bear

Aberrations: snow white hair, crystalline or blue skin, limbs made of ice, lightning issues from their mouth when they speak, they are always damp, hair and clothes being blown by an mysterious wind, radiate extreme cold, very susceptible to heat

Notes: The Winter mage is born of solitude and personal struggle.  Most discover their abilities during a time of intense isolation (either physical or mental).  The Winter mage holds most others in disdain and feels no allegiance to others of his ilk.

Quote: "When the razor snow rakes your skin and the wrath of Odin's lightning strikes your soul you may then know what a single thought of mine feels like."
image by devburmak (used without permission)

Totems: Fire, Stone, Steam, Lava, Cogs of the Earth, Serpent, Badger

Aberrations: bright red and orange hair, rough hewn skin, always in a haze of steam, everything touched begins to smoulder, teeth are stones, weep pebbles, limbs replaced with cogs and lever mechanisms, glowing eyes

Notes: Initiation rites of the Promythen Mage are harsh, some would say brutal, most would say strange and cruel.  There is a master & apprentice relationship that usually ends with the master's death.  The Promythean Mage takes no guff from anyone.

Quote: "Step across the line, milkback.  Please step across the line and show your pathetic friends that you aren't a kitten.  Come on over here and play with me."
image by jujusaurus (used without permission)

Totems: light, the sun, birds, open sky, celestial mechanics, astrology

Aberrations: moving tattoos, glowing skin, eyes are pinpoints of light, sprout wings, small objects orbit around head, eyes and mouth always wide open, always building or disassembling things, inability to articulate, obsessed with future events.

Notes: The Skyward are strange and esoteric mages.  They are seriously deficient when it comes to social interaction except with others of their kind.  They have gained insight into things that are so far beyond the comprehension of mortal man they simply don't think like the rest of folks any longer.

Quote: "I understand that the most recent 0.05e quantael shift within the aesthereal plane may have disturbed your interlaced cog contsruct, so I don't blame you for being so stupid."

image found on some blog, no credit given

Totems: fog, moon, starlight, dusk, night, quiet, bat, feline, darkness

Aberrations: flesh is cloudy, can only whisper, shadows engulf face, shadows flee from caster, cat eyes, bat teeth, aversion to daylight, eyes are tiny stars, breath is a black cloud

Notes:While not evil, Dusk Mages tend to walk on the darker side of humanity.  Often silent or, when they do speak, barely audible, the Dusk Mage keep to themselves.  Rumor has it there are elaborate temples where the Dusk Mage revels rival the most boisterous of Ilkori pirate celebrations.  But this is likely just a rumor.

Quote: "Shhh.  Quiet now.  Try not to struggle."

image found on some blog, no credit given

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T4] which the GM decides that he needs to get things organized...

The actual adventure the was shaping up was, once again, derailed by morality arguments among characters.  ARG!  This game was 2 weeks ago and I'm just getting around to posting because while all of my players professed fun, it was not a game I enjoyed running.

This weekend we are playing the Worldgod Campaign but next Aldsburg Chronicles game I may reboot - new characters created as a group, redefine the tone as gritty but evil characters not being tolerated, and I'm even thinking of regnining in what had previously been a free-and-open magic style.

I think that I opened things up too quickly - a bit of solid direction and everyone making characters together as a party will help create a solid group of characters that play well together.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T3]

In which the party beheads an NPC, breaks up, reunites, and gets their asses beat.

The Party
Salty the Glaive
Grady (called Brook) the Fighter
Falin the Thief (halfling merchant-slave-escaped slave)
and eventually Brother Flint, Cleric of the Wyrd

Adventure Time: What do Murder Hobos get up to?
With all new characters (and 2 new players) I asked for what rumors and adventures the group new about.  When identification of a witch to behead her (more on that in a moment) came up, it seemed that Grady was definitely in the wrong group.  Salty informed the group of the following:

If you cut the head off a witch as she speaks the only truth she knows then sleep with the head, it will whisper secrets of legend and treasure to you.

Well ... that was too metal not to be true, so it simply had to be true.  But how to identify a witch?  Easy (again from Salty):
  1. She be a female
  2. She be comely
  3. She trade in the dark arts (or claims no to)
Once that ridiculous pile of qualifiers was played for laughs (while we grilled) and after much discussion, the party went to see Albonia, an NPC fortune teller known to the party.  She should know about some witches.

They run into some hoity-toity type on the way out of Albonia's place and end up not really interacting with him much other than some threats and internal bickering.  "Leave yer coin!" "Take your coin and go", and etc.  The party was not gellin'.

Long story short, Salty decides Albonia is DEFINITELY a witch and tries to cut off her head.  Grady intervenes and get glaived for some massive damage.  As Albonia begins to cast a spell Salty charges.  As Albonia begins to pull fire from her mouth and throw it on the about to be incinerated 1st level character he decides to tackle her instead.  Some awesome dice later and Albonia is unconscious and burned up, Albonia's house is a bit charred, Salty is unconscious and fried, Grady is in some trouble, and Falin, who has been skulking about, looted a bit and saved everyone.

Grady promptly stomped off to tattle to whatever authorities he could find while Salty removed the Albonia's head.  Brother Flint (same player, better suited character for the party) showed up for his weekly "meeting of spiritual guidance meeting" with Albonia.  He dealt with the near-arson definite-murder pretty well.

That night Salty sleeps with the head.  There was a gruseome interaction between Salty the not-so-bright fighter and a severed head that was cursing his name, vomiting and leaking black goo on everything while rambling semi-incoherent secrets.  In the end, he got some things that the rest of the party translated into an adventure!

Adventure Time Part II: Plans and Actions and Violence
Translating the mad rumblings of a severed head (now incidentally pickled in brine) the party determines that the Magnolia Street Runners have some connection with "the ratmen" of the undercity who worship a great idol with horns of gold that can be used to control the ratmen.  Sounds like more treasure than one man can handle - thank the gods there are a party of adventurers.

Brother Flint gets Salty anointed into the Undying Shrine (and picks up a sweet bonus from Father Finch who runs the place).

There is much observation and spying and clever shenanigans which end with Salty being hired by the MSR to gurd a shipment (of human garbage).  After the following and investigation the party finds a pit the humans are dumped into.  Some exploration finds them un the undercity/underworld.  A pair of skeletal ratmen are controlled by Brother Flint's powers (after a vicious stabbing) and someone/something shoots a crossbow into Salty's back.  There is also the discovery of a trap door in a cellar that when opened reveals two middle aged men (now dead, guts spilled all over the damn place).

One of them died right before the classic Hackmaster cry of: "I WASTE HIM WITH MY CROSSBOW!"  It was a thing of beauty.  The teen-age girl they were arguing with screams, they close the trap door.  Finding little on the gents other than pit stink and red ink tattos of a stylized rat head, the severely wounded party decides to get the hell out of deathtown and back to the surface.

Adventure over, a good time was had by all (except "Goody Goody Grady").

Lessons Learned & GM Notes
1. I trust my players to make characters from a mechanics standpoint, but characters should be made as part of a group activity.  I this the session would have had a better flow if we didn't have the party conflict (although it wouldn't have been as bloody & fire infused).

2. I need a way to encourage the "improv" and "player agency" aspects of how I want to run this campaign.  Any suggestions?

3. I should have some additional material ready to go.  I'm going to start each session with 3 rumors AFTER I hear what the PC rumors are.  Oh yea - I'm going to have each player begin the session with a possible adventure rumor they create and reward it with Karma if it is badass.  No award for "the merchant's daughter has been kidnapped" but definitely an award for "Sally fourtoes, known to have been sleeping with at least 3 guys here on the Iron streets and possibly with a hat from the Guildhall, went missing after she got into a gnarly verbal brawl in the Low Market with Ketty Fells who everyone knows is has witchy powers.  Some say that lump on her back is actually her twin!"

4. Tracking all of this is getting tough.  The wiki should help, but I need to encourage players to get in there as well.  Time to have a computer ready at the game table.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Blog Lag & The Railroad for Awesomeness

I love the summer, but it has a negative impact on gaming and blogging because I'm always doing other stuff.  The Worldgod campaign is moving along and hopefully this next Sunday will be the last session (or likely the 2nd to last) of the Island of Storms hopefully leading to the Final Chapter (assuming the players decide that way). 

This brings up the question of Player Agency vs. GM Fiat.  In the end, regardless of other arguments, a good GM can lay down some GM Fiat that completely ignores Player Agency without anyone complaining about being sent off to ride the D&D Railroad.  The game needs to be fun and, in this case, needs to come to conclusion.  We've been playing the Worldgod Campaign for 7 years and are ready to move on, but not without and the Epic End of Days so richly promised by the overall story that has been uncovered.

There is a level of metagaming involved here.  The players KNOW they are playing a game.  The players also KNOW that they want to wrap this up to move on to the next thing.  The players KNOW they want to the campaign to end like a badass tiger made of lightning ridden by Odin shooting radiation out of every hole and battling a double unicorn hatedemon.  Or whatever.  Point being, the campaign has gone on too far to simply let a TPK or a series of bad decisions derail the entire thing.

So now a campaign that was sandboxy and do-your-own-thing has a few adventures left that could end in failure, but even the failure needs ot be epic.

As a GM I think I can pull this off without the players feeling cheated and still letting them do what they want their characters to do.  My biggest concern is that I can't and the longest campaign I've ever pulled off will die with a whimper and not a bang.

Now ... if the party can get through the tunnels inhabited by demon spider that taunts them and worships their previous party member (an evil spider witch) then figure out how to slay a legendary dragon that is already clearly dead then they can decide to move to final confrontation, let it all go, destroy the world, battle the insurgents in Sigil, or whatever.  Point being, only one last adventure after this.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T2]

The Party
Titus the Wizard
Brother Lars

The Adventure in Brief
As we only had 2 players we ran a flashback scenario to when Titus and Brother Lars met for the first time.  Brother Lars was fleeing from some gang members and Titus attempted to rescue the outnumbered cleric. They were captured then had to escape a terrible situation in the Aldsburg Undercity.

Details Most Grim
Brother Lars had been chased from his home in the Magnolis Street Stack.  The Magnolia Street Runners, a gang that held sway over the neighborhood, found his religious inclinations to The Wyrd and the The Cathedral of All Pervasive Darkness heretical and, more than anything else, bad for business.  After getting in a few licks with his mighty flail, he fled with four members of the gang shouting invectives and waving about their stout clubs demanding he submit to justice.

Running nearly blindly through the Iron Streets Brother Lars found himself at a dead end near a dubious location - the abandoned bakery on the corner was known to be haunted and likely a portal to the Underworld.  As the four gangers taunted and engaged Brother Lars in combat, Titus, who had taken up residence in the "haunted" bakery (and ensured the rumors continued to circulate) didn't like what he saw and ran to Brother Lars' aid.

The battle was brutal.  As Titus let the Patchwork Kingdom use his body as a conduit to cast spells that he had rarely used before things went wrong.  Parts of buildings exploded and showered debris on the battle.  Brother Lars was tackled to the ground and one of the gang members climbed and dove from the second story.  Gang members were knocked down as thresholds of pain were exceeded, but there were too many.  Brother Lars took an opportunity and escaped through a wind of the haunted bakery and ran around but too late as three of the Magnolia Street Runners had kicked and clubbed Titus well into unconsciousness.  A moment later a luck club strike sent Brother Lars reeling.

... darkness ... vague figures ... excruciating pain ... something was crawling on ... OMG!

Titus sat in the corner of the cell, one arm hung limp and was clearly broken, his mouth had been sewn shut with a leather cord, and his good arm was tied to his legs.  Brother Lars found himself bound hand and foot and lying on the ground, his face pressed against the cold damp wall.  There was the faintest of candle light flickering from under the door to their cell and the stink of human waste (and worse).

After hearing some voices from the other side of the door that were unidentifiable but definitely not human the characters tried in vain to free themselves from their bonds.  That is where the terrible noise started.  There was a slaughter of some sort and something large and terrible.  Then it smashed thorough their door, the multi-layered gears and polished bronze plates glistening with blood.  The thing paused and "looked" at the adventurers for a moment with gems attached to thin articulated stalks, then crashed through the wall into some tunnels that flowed with thick fluid refuse. 

Cutting the ropes leather thong with sharp shards of stone, the adventurers took stock.  They were stripped naked and covered in fresh deep cuts in strange patterns.  Titus identified them as ritualistic and began to fret that the sewage would infect them.  The two limped carefully into the room and looked over the gruesome sight.  An unknown number of ratmen had been gutted and shredded and one lay in the corner on fire.  The party grabbed some shards of metal wrapped with cloth (daggers they supposed) and began to search for a way out.  They were beaten and bruised and severely wounded ... combat would ill suit them.

After some exploration they found a chamber that once held something large imprisoned with both chains and ritual magic - the bronze creature they supposed.  Titus expounded on his theory the thing was a Bronze Warrior of Shun Kai while Brother Lars prayed to his dark god Baphomet for guidance.  After discovering a secret door and a torchlit passage they saw two forms that, after Brother Lars attempted to beg and reason for help turned out to be animated skeletons of the ratmet armed with halberds.  Brother Lars stood defiantly and commanded them to stop, shed their battle robes and hand over the pole arms.  it worked ... they adventurer's kept moving.

After avoiding death from a well-placed crossbow trap, the party founds some stairs leading down deeper into the depths.  On this side of a portcullis was a bell - the crank on the other side.  The susurrus of numerous non-human voices and demonic shadows could be seen ... they decided that this way was certain death and clambered back up the stairs.

After looting the crossbow from the trap (which was being set by some sort of automated skeletal spider minion) they entered a door previously unseen and came face to face with a raging savage.  It was dressed in leather hides of various creatures (including some obviously human skins) and wielding a massive hunk of jagged metal.  With amazing luck and some clever prowess, the savage was defeated ... the adventurers barely clinging to their lives.

After some additional investigation and a harrowing climb over rusted and unsteady pipes that adventurers made it to a grate that opened into an alley behind Wetlove Lane and the Burning Biscits brothel.  Ezekiel, owner of the fine establishment, charged them a few ducs as a tax for using his grate and alley.  The two had escaped certain death and a lifelong friendship was formed.

The GM's Favorite Bits
The best bit of the evening was when both of the players were keenly nervous about their characters' survival.  One got up and was pacing, the other throwing out ideas so fast that it was difficult to keep up.  It was dire but they made it through.  I was perfectly willing to TPK them in a "flashback" and they knew it.  Best part was that this was only the second session with these characters.  What a session!  That defined why two strangers would band together.  Classic stressful situation bringing companionship.  Loved it.

The Wiki That Goes With The Blog
Check out the wiki for the campaign:
It isn't pretty (yet) and will be populated with details from both myself and the players.  Eventually, as new players com on board they can add to the history and legends of Aldsburg.  Let the new campaign reign!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T1]


We spent the first part of the session making characters for the new campaign (which we'll be playing when everyone is not prepared or ready for the last chapter of the Worldgod campaign).  A few notes:

  • Only human are allowed
  • Wizards are much feared and considered extremely dangerous
    • decide if you are hedge or from the Tower of Art
  • Clerics can be of any god bu use the base class mechanics of Hope or Light
    • specifics can be swapped out - control undead instead of turn
  • "Social skills" should be ignored - we'll tackle that through role playing
    • this generally applies to most skills
  • "Non-adventuring" skills should also be ignored
    • crafty type skills can be purchased as a talent at 3xBP cost for the skill
  • Ignore priors & particulars - they don't add anything 
    • make up your details
What we ended up with was awesomesauce.
  • Brother Flint: Cleric of The Wyrd (god of Death) [player took his character sheet home so i can't recall all his details]
  • Brother Lars: Cleric of The Wyrd (god of Death); member of the All Purvasive Church of Everlasting Darkness (cult dedicated to Baphomet)
  • Titus: Informally trained wizard who has embraced the Underworld and has some serious social interaction issues

Narrative & Player Driven

I wanted to try something new with this campaign - specifically making it more narrative and player driven.  Not just a sandbox that I build and let the players interact with, but more of a shared environment.  Answers to questions I ask the players become fact and the players are encouraged to add details to the setting and the world as they go.  My job as GM is to keep things in line with the vision I set and help keep things organized.

It took a bit for the players to get into it, but then it was nonstop.  To track all of the details, any new NPC, location, group, anything gets a new index card.  Players are just as responsible for getting things written down as the GM is.  Eventually I'll take over the cards and start adding secret details.

So in addition to the excellent characters, we defined the Iron Streets neighborhood in the Lion's Teeth Tower that the party lives in, some of the nearby neighborhoods and the players created their own conflicts to engage with and began driving to what is going to be some sort of religious expedition to found a new temple to The Wryd (who have an avatar that is a Red Knight) while combating the "insidious influences) of the CHurch of the Eternal Flame who tend to the poor and probably have some sort of Dark Grimiore that gives them wicked powers from demons or they are guarding it from others - or maybe they'll go check out the tomb that Titus has a map to.

Charts and Tables

I took quite a bit of inspiration from the Vornheim book by Zak S.  It is one of the best RPG products I've seen in ages.  Between that and some seriously dark and gritty flair from the Necromunda games we've been playing and a handful of amazing bits and peices garnered from the internets the Aldsburg Chronicles started with a BANG.  The random tables plus telling everyone that I was going to be GMing ON THE FLY created an incredible dynamic.  If you haven't tried this before holy shit go do it.

The Rules

I immediately realized that I need to trim down the Hackmaster rules even more.  I LOVE so much of them, but then they get excessively fiddly.  I want a combination of HM5e and BECM ... and I think I can do it.  I want to the mechanics to support fast and easy play.  I want the encumbrance system to keep things under control without worrying about that much damn book keeping.  Everyone at the game seemed OK with this choice and I don't think it will be a problem.

The Roadshow

After the game I was discussing with one of the players that we need some new players.  Nothing wrong with the existing players, but more folks to really get this campaign rocking and rolling.  I think I'm prepared enough to do a couple of "showcase" games with one or two of my usual players to "get things going" and show the style of game.  Perhaps some of the local game shops (Toys-N-Things in Danvers, Pandemonium in Cambridge, others?) and maybe even GM at a Con.  I've always been terrified of Cons for some reason - I think having a friendly face would make all the difference.

So What Actually Happened?

Oh yea ...
The clerics are going to try and start a new temple in the neighboring district of Smokey Hills (of which they know little).  Brother Flint god some "action" and had his fortune told ... something about a murder in a garden and that he would be swallowed in his sleep.  Brother Lars and Titus went down a paranoid delusional rabbit hole and murdered a (mostly) innocent family that Brother Lars thought to be conspiritors that were attempting mind control.  It was intense.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

D&D 5e

They've announced some release dates (I think) and the new covers.  Personally I don't care as I'm a Hackmaster boy these days (although many RPGs have something worthwhile).  Lots of love the cover hate the cover nonsense - I really could care less.  However, this is an excellent alternate cover set.  Well done.  Very Olde Schoole.

Some folks ask why D&D 5e is a big deal.  It isn't.  It is just another iteration of rules.  It won't bring old schoolers back into the fold, 3.5 kids will likely remain where they are and 4e people who spent the cash will be hesitant to drop another $200, and fanboys will declare it the BEST THING EVER.

I'll download and peruse when they are available (SCANDAL!) but likely never play and almost definitely never buy.  Heck - these days I'm only buying indie RPG products (d30 sandbox companion and kickstarter location cards for example).  I haven't even bought anything from Kenzerco because I'm frankly unimpressed. 

What do other people think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lore of the Land: Al'Kadarir

The dark yellow sands shift slowly and shimmer red in the setting sun.  The soft cornered remains of once grand temples dot the landscape near what is left of this oasis.  Figures in flowing crimson robes stand silent with their curved silver blades atop iron shafts watching from just out of sight - these are the guard of Lurac-Lunhan, Lord of the Oasis and King of the Al'Kadarir.

The specifics are difficult to pinpoint because, frankly, it is in the middle of the most gigantic crazy desert ever.  The Ptocnik is massive in scale and things like distance or time quickly become irrelevant.  With that in mind, Al'Kadarir is generally thought to be on the northern end of things - traveling west one can see great mountains and eventually to the north as well - the northwest seems clear indicating a likely (but unverified) passage in the Parched Steppe.

Sights & Sounds
  • The dark sand whispering in the endless wind
  • The echo of a far-off stone falling from one of the great columns of red stone
  • Shattered remains of long abandoned settlements
  • The base and outline of a series of small pyramid now worn down and rubble
  • The quickly fading tracks of travellers moving toward the great oasis
  • Flashes of red cloth and the sound of a strange bird whistle and chirp
  • Winged beasts circling the high peaks of the Basalt Obelisk
  • The sounds of a terrible and tremendous battle mixed with the echos of a hundred men shouting and cheering
  • The rumble of something passing deep under the sand
  • Bones of a giant bleached and cracked
  • An area of absolute desolation - the reminder that something powerful stalks this region
  • Laughter and the roar of an open market once Al'Kadarir is found
  • The slow jangle of a caravan of merchants making their way to or from the oasis along secret routes
  • The chanting of the enslaved wizards that cause the merchants to fade into the sands, carried along by the clacking bones of a thousand dead warriors
  • The smell of spice is always on the wind...

Other Notes
The Lord of the Oasis delegates most of the day-to-day tasks to his crimson minions, but takes a special interest in those that are from far-off lands.  He does not believe in the underworld or the portals and is often inclined to believe them spies of strange and enraged gods.

The crimson guard are constantly battling a huge group of bandits that have settled a few days away in a strange place.  It is rumored that two cursed heroes representing divine light and malign darkness battle for eternity in the crater of a fallen star.  This pat has attracted the bandits who throw prisoners into the fray to get slaughtered as collateral damage.  They also raid any caravans they can get close to.

Something big lives off to the southeast and has either just settled in or woken up.  No one is sure what it is, but the few who have seen it and survived are gibbering fools - drooling from slack jaws and unable to speak from tongues bitten off in terror.  The few that manage to get something coherent out shout about eyes within eyes upon wheels entombed in fire.  "He is Risen!" they shout.  Obviously some sort of religious fervor to explain a terrible beast.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Underworld Bestiary: Orcs of the Black Fortress


Orc is a general term for all manner of beastmen.  There are generally humanoid body parts right until you get to the head which has some terrible bestial features from a jutting muzzle to a full ferocious animal head.  Within any given band of orc one can find any handful of weird heads, strange weapons, and cobbled armor.

The orc of the Black Fortress, however, are all very similar.  They stand about a head taller than a man and are wider from both girth and muscle.  Their skin ranged from drab olive to a forest green - their eyes are yellow and sickly.  Unlike many other beastfolk tribes, they all share characteristics of a boarlike nature - porcine snouts, tusks, and thick black bristled manes.

Monster Lore

  • They aren't wearing black iron armor - their skin is actually made of sheets of overlapping flesh and iron
  • Each black iron weapon is grown from a part of the orc which is why they are all so strange
  • Black Orc are not from the Underworld - they are from elsewhere
  • All other orc are their fetid spawn - they are the father race
  • If one can learn their language, the black orc can be negotiated with
  • The Black Fortress is built around a well leading directly to the Hell of Yuur

Sightings & Encounters

The Orc of the Black Fortress are most often seen in the Vault of Pain looting and enslaving.  They most often travel in small bands and have a distinct leader.  Worst of all, however, is they use some rudimentary tactics.  While it is expected that the average black orc is not much smarter than a toddler, imagine an angry toddler with a 4' black iron sword who doesn't want to take a nap and thinks you ate her cookies.  Don't underestimate them.

Notes on Combat

They are smart - this is the first things to know.  Some are said to travel with an orc wizard.  Rumors of a poison infused into their blades is common but unverified.  One thing for sure, though, is that want to take you prisoner and, if that happens, you won't be seen again.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Session Report: The Perilous Halls [O3]

The Fools

Dirk Pisspot a smelly fellow with a dagger fetish.
Dirk Lovejoy recently returned from being a dungeon phantom.
Thad Kirkwood who happens to be good at picking locks and finding traps.

The Highlights

  • The party encountered a Grue (or possibly The Grue) when crawling about with no lights
  • Lovejoy took a severe wound and didn't fall to his death (thanks to the dwarf bones he picked up earlier)
  • Dirks and Kirks dealt with some terrible gnashing and masticating pits
  • Some grubby mutant children were put down
  • A huge and terrifying door was opened into a Desert Land Unknown
  • Some looting of the ruins uncovered a few treasures
  • There was  LOT of laughing and good times

Demented and Sad, But Social

Sometimes the role playing needs to take a back seat to the social aspect of the game.  After all we are getting together to have fun and if the fun is riffing on some innuendo (IN YOUR ENDO!) for fifteen minutes, so be it!  We only have a 30 minute window to play and while some would argue that the game is most important, I'll argue that fun is and if everyone is having fun, who cares what you are up to.  The Perilous Halls of Sorrow are a seriously fucked up dungeon crawl that sometimes devolves into full grown men snickering at things like we were twelve.  It is demented and awesome.


I love Hackmaster combat at the table, but it is still a little slow online.  I'm going to write up a simple cheat sheet for the guys and any new players.  It seems like a good way to help move things along.  I'll throw a quick skills and doing other stuff and topside activities notes on the other side.  two page mechanics summary.  This, I think, is why so many people dig on the B/X and BECMI and 0e version of D&D - simplicity. 

Underworld Bestiary: Paragons

There are some things that are just ... well ... more than others: beasts of unholy intelligence, terrifying abominations, colossal examples of otherwise huge creatures.  These monsters are thankfully rare, but they are powerful well beyond expectation.  These are the Paragons.

Paragon Encounters
The region inhabited by a paragon usually takes on some of the paragon's form.  The Dungeon reacts to the existence of something it created that has drown well beyond the normal confines.  Some sort of huge weaponized slug mat live in corridors that smoothly spiral.  A cannibal ogre paragon likely stalks a region where the walls are made of bloody bones and the floors stink of putrid bile.  No matter what the environment, though, paragons are far more powerful than their kin.  If the Underworld seems to be changing keep an eye out for a terrible encounter

  • The name of a paragon has power over the creature
  • Paragon's are created from leaks from the Patchwork into the Underworld
  • All paragon's have a secret weakness that can be exploited
  • Most paragons are raised up by the King in Yellow or the Red Witch of Jer
  • The paragons, like adventurers, are pawns in some terrible game between the Yellow and the Red
  • The paragon's themselves are often the most fabulous of treasures - a claw from Kerik the Lord of Berzerks was said to be once sold for nearly $500
Known Paragons
  • Kerik the Lord of Berzerks
    • Seen in the Vault of Pain
    • The essence of rage in the form of an man
  • Shuol Guot of the Many Mouths
    • Known to crawl in the Signs of Madness
    • A gigantic snail created by a Follower of Ktuth
  • Tycho Trollking
    • An underworld troll grown fat by devouring his kin
    • Skin of stone is immune to fire and acid
  • Lop the Rabbit
    • An undead abomination that roams the Tomb of Dust
    • It is said to "heal" wounds by pilfering from corpses in the tombs
  • Zerlwar the Enormous
    • A giant's giant deep in the Machinus
    • He cannot refuse a bet (but is a terrible cheater)
  • Stik & Stak - the Boar Brothers 
    • A pair of underworld boar that have been fused into a single beast
    • If you survive the charge of iron tusks beware the biting tails

Friday, April 25, 2014

Session Report: The Perilous Halls [O2]

The Party
Dirk Woodcock the magnificent warrior.
Dirk Pisspot a new smelly fellow with a dagger fetish.
The other Dirks were unavailable.

Dealing with Missing Players, New Players, and Continuity
New players joining mid-adventure is pretty easy (wave the GM wand and look - you found a companion through whatever plot device is most convenient).  When a player is unable to make a session, that complicates things because it makes things more difficult - do we not play, does some unlucky sucker have to run an unfamiliar character as an NPC, or what?  In some games, continuity is all important.  This, however, is NOT one of those games. 

When a new character joins the party they will automatically sense that the other player characters are probable allies or at least should be trusted enough to adventure with ... for now.  Things can develop as they do as the game progresses.  No bullshit 45 minutes of sniffing butts and introduction by way of role playing.  Let's get on with it!  The fun stuff happens in the game anyway.

When a player is not available, their character fades away into a slack-jawed grey transparent shade that floats around following the active player characters.  Everyone forgets about them almost instantly.  When the player returns to the game, poof - they are back in the action.  This is some heavy handed shit, but think about it - this is a game of dungeon crawling and weirdness and it fixes the annoying 30 minutes of explaining where the character has been and what they missed and so on. 

Adventure Highlights
  • Woodcock pins his silver rose brooch to the bottom of his loin cloth for "more swagger"
  • Promptly renames character Dirk Rosecock
  • Hack through the red-ropes and follow the slime trail
  • Found a dead slugthing and a strange groteqsue stone carved door
  • The party moves into an area with thigh-deep mist
  • There is some grunting - they avoid that
  • The party fights some sort of terrible glob with many legs and arms and "flesh vents"
  • There is some portcullis lifting
  • The party discovers and investigatesa huge weird machine and a giant stone
  • They decide it is a trap and/or trouble and move on
  • There is some TERRIBLE rumbling and lots of noise - the Dirks declare that the Dungeon has Awoken
  • the party frees a dwarf who was imprisoned, they don't speak dwarf
  • the dwarf, wearing only chains wrapped around his arms and legs (dong swinging free) rids in Rosecock's backpack
  • More exploration and two parts of the map connect.
  • Some freak monster is laid to waste and Pisspot finds a weird book and some creeeepy tools
  • More wandering and following the slime trail
  • they find a door that appears to be plastered shut
  • in an area that is seriously pitted out the party finds a chest filled with loot and another dead slug work thing with fleshy weapon pods
  • they are attacked by a gigantic snail-thing that appears to have a half dozen flail heads and courses with blue energy
  • the dwarf attack Pisspot because he did some wizard stuff earlier
  • dwarf gets killed
  • snail thing bludgeons Rosecock to death
  • As his dying action he tosses the brooch to Pisspot and shouts "Never let the Legend of Rosecock fade!!!"  then he dies a lot
  • Pisspot runs away and hides in the room the entire adventure started in last session.
That was hella fun.  Adam lost his pregen but declared it a "good death".  I may have to cancel next week because of work, but am going to try.  Also, the real life Hack is back on AND we've started playing Necromunda.  Game life is Gee Double Oh Good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lore of the Halls

Dungeon Lore
Abilities: Int & Wis          Cost: 5          Universal: Yes
Prerequisites: must be an adventurer          Materials/Tools: none

A skill that is universal among adventurers, but not other folks.  Those with dungeon lore (untrained or otherwise) can feel the underworld around them and have some intrinsic knowledge of it.  The knowledge often seems to appear from thin air - almost as though a collective consciousness is at work.  Dungeon Lore is similar in some ways to Monster Lore (but does not replace it) and is often used as the equivalent of an Underworld Survival skill.  More than anything, though, dungeon lore gives insight into the madness of the underworld, the dungeon, and the Perilous halls of Sorrow.  As one increases in mastery level rumor has it that the character becomes less human and more Hollow.

 Mastery  The Character Can
 Untrained Sense the general presence of an underworld bloom 
 Novice Identify the moment when transitioning from underground to underworld 
 Average Identify underworld entry points upon scrutiny
 Advanced   Automatically identify a Region previously visited
 Expert Automatically identify a Level previously visited
 Master Sense when the Dungeon has become Agitated
 Paragon Identify NPCs of a known level by sight
 Legend Determine the direction of an egress by the patterns of the stonework

 Task Difficulty
 Identify underworld plant or fungus as edible   Average
 Identify the current Region being explored Average
 Identify the current Level being explored  Hard
 Recall a memory about an underworld NPC that has just been met    Hard
 Know a potential weakness of a Boss Monster  Very Hard 
 Know the probably location of an egress or portal of an identified level   Legendary 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Underworld Beastiary: Tunnel Worm


These segmented monstrosities slither the halls and tunnels of the underworld leaving a thick mucus behind them.  They are most often grey or
brown and range in size from 3 to 12 feet in length.  The tunnel worm gives off a scent similar to that of sour milk.

Monster Lore

The slime of these creatures is known as "worms' milk" and thought to have many curative properties when drunk or applied to open wounds.  There are underworld cults that worship the worm and protect them with their savage spears and odd traps - the cults drinking copious amounts of the milk to attain visions of the true nature of the Great Worm from which all tunnels worms were born and who lives in the lowest depths, praise unto Her and her Yellow King.

The tunnel worm is believed to primarily feed on fungus and carrion, although they have been known to deliver a rather nasty bite to anyone foolish enough to poke at them.

Sightings & Encounters

At this point there have been no confirmed sightings, although several rumors and stories can surely be found.  Dirk Woodcock, an underworld game-hunter and adventurer is the leading expert on the Tunnel Worm and uses for the "milk".

Some Combat Notes

  • Slow moving, but with hide like leather armor
  • It rarely attacks, preferring to flee from danger by curling to a ball (defense as chain armor)
  • When it does attack it is fairly accurate (hits average guy perhaps 65% of the time) 
  • The damage from the bite and excreted juices are akin to being struck with a longsword.
  • As a last ditch effort to flee the worm can spray it's mucus that acts like a sticky web over a 20' area
  • rumor has it that some worms sport huge fangs, do double damage, and are very aggressive

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Session Report: The Perilous Halls [O1]

The Opening

The Brotherhood of the Dirk had been traveling on that road for what seemed like eternity.  As they left the Plain of Broken Stone they made their way to the village of Cherryvale known, at least according to Dirk Lovejoy (the socially adept and rakish rake of the group) they valued family above all else.  As they approached the gate they could see the smouldering remains of a field and farm in the distance.

The gates were readily opened and the lie about coming to visit their aunt was quickly dismissed as the townsfolk seemed both wary and excited that adventurers had arrived.  Each of the Dirks could feel the presence of a dungeon nearby - their bones ached and seemed to cry out for it.  Now they just needed a little direction.

Father Chayne approached the group and, offering his guidance as the local moral authority and priestly figure, asked them to investigate some unfortunate happening.  ... and so it began ...

The Party

While pregens were provided, the players picked their names.  The party was as follows:

Dirk Woodock - a fighter with a two handed sword, knowledge of monsters, and strong command of language
Dirk Lovejoy - a fighter/thief who was a smooth and snarky and was the only one who actually equipped himself for the dungeon
Dirk Humblejunk - a cleric of the Eternal Lantern who really really likes the ladies

With all three characters named Dirk, the tone for the game was set.  A little ridiculous hilarity would definitely help once things in the dungeon got nasty.  Also, playing online, you just need to go with the flow :)

Adventure Highlights

  • Advantage of the villagers was taken (put it on the bishop's tab)
  • The adventurers were praised and then something terrible happened
  • They awoke in the Underworld ... great ...
  • A secret passage behind a wardrobe that contained a (mostly) broken trap
  • The stink of sour milk ... probably milk from the tunnel worms ... a whole basin of it!
  • Lovejoy stuck his hand in the basin of goo ... nothing found but stick hands
  • They discovered an iron maiden with a dwarf skeleton
  • Fireplace with a ladder down ... and some sort of giant wasp thing
  • Lovejoy threw the metal grate on the wasp thing and wrecked it
  • Humbejunk set the dwarf bones on fire and said a prayer
  • A library filled with mold and soggy papers ... and 2 intact books (one of them magicy)
  • Woodcock claimed a wad of papers that are "important"
  • Lovejoy climbed on a book case which collapsed, revealing a hidden stair
  • down the stairs ... webs and cocoons?  best get the lamp oil because fire fixes all
  • Humblejunk  was attacked by a gigantic spider things
  • Then two more joined the fray
  • A strange wound (possibly casued by Lovejoy's short sword) on Dirk's arm began to wail and moan!
  • The spider creatures are destroyed and wounds are bound
  • looting the cocoons and digging about the webs they find
    • a trail of dried slime from one of the of the room to the other
    • a silver brooch
    • a pouch of copper coins (a bigger deal in HM5e than in D&D)

Thoughts About Running Online

Damn that is tough.  In real life when everyone talks at once the GM can just wave their hand and get on with the game; online less so.  Also, I notice I tend to use my hands and lots of body language while GMing - and that doesn't translate as well over Hangouts.  Lastly, I think I need to take advantage of the technology a bit more ... pictures and such ... I'll look into that.  Any advice folks have I'm happy to listen to.  Overall, though, it was a fun game.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Old Shrine

Cherryvale gets along as best it can.  The village walls are a strong grey bricks hauled from the Plain of Broken Stones and, as legend has it, magically sealed together by Father Chains (said to be an unknowing aspect of the Phoenix Lords).  Not many come through here, but from time to time adventurers wander in along the northern road - usually a bit confused and more often than not telling outrageous lies about from whence they came.

Recently, though, people are frightened.  Something is prowling in the night and scratching at the walls.  Something is sniffing around windows and stealing from sheds.  There are fewer dogs than before and several of the farmers have missing livestock.  Farmer Tinson was drinking in the Bishop's Finger last night and said he saw minions of the Devil cavorting in his field and doing unspeakable things to someone.  Jenny Barlow is missing.

While the sun is bright and high in the sky those few braver souls went out searching and followed some strange markings on the ground.  There in the grove of spade-leafed katsura trees they found tangled in vines and crawling with insects an old shrine to a god best forgotten.

They counted the eight sides and knew that is was once dedicated to the demon lord Balshamroth.  From the shadows came a low grunt and a moment later poor Rudwin was lying on his back - a crimson fountain erupting from his neck.    Del and Jasper turned and ran.  Del heard Jasper scream and fall but didn't look back.  Jasper was pleading for mercy and then pleaded no more.

Del hasn't been out of his house for days now.  His shutters are bolted and nails can be seen sticking out of his door frame.  The Yelwart farm can be seen still smouldering this morning - last night it lit the entire eastern sky as field and barn were turned to ash.

Clark has been saying that something is tunneling under his floor.  He can smell it - like sour milk.

Cherryvale gets along as best it can.  This week is worse than most, but they've seen worse.  The youngest daughter of Blacksmith Ulrich was given to the north road - always an honor to give ones self for the good of the village.  Perhaps her sacrifice will bring the help needed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Streamling Hackmaster 5e Combat for Online Play

A while ago I posted about cinematic combat.  It is very eay to make the new Hackmaster game have an action adventure feel rather than a tactical wargame feel - at least in real life. 

I'm considering running test levels of the Perilous Halls of Sorrow Megadungeon as an online game (probably via some sort of google hangout type business) and have been thinking about how to make the HM combat move faster rather than count each second.

Combat for an online tabletop game needs to be pretty focused or it can take far too long - and long combat is boring and bored players leave or get weird.  And not fun weird, weird like derailing the game just to make something interesting happen.

Changing Mindsets
The first few times I thought about how to streamline the tactical combat, I was removing tactical options.  What this ended up doing was still having a tactical game, just a simpler one.  What I wanted (and what I've talked about previously) was having a more cinematic combat style.  This all comes down to descriptions, judgement calls, and NOT having a battle map.

As soon as a combat map shows up, there are tactical discussions.  Sometimes this is important but other times it is going to bog folks down with too many choices.  If I keep the combat descriptions to descriptions and let the combat develop it will free the players from worrying about "which square" they are on and allow them to declare things "I charge at those orc scum!"  For that matter, stripping out a lot of the tactical rules (like for charging) would simplify things as well.

But wait ... if all (or at least some) of the tactical rules stay in play BEHIND THE GM SCREEN it frees up players to play an action adventure and let the GM determine when a rule is useful or not.I know some folks will grumble about the GM only using rules to his advantage and other such nonsense, but seriously - if you are playing with a good GM they know when to make a judgement call and when not to and that killing your players with obscure rules makes your players grouchy and eventually gone.

What I'm Going to Do
1) I'm only going to give the option for tactical maps when they are absolutely necessary and, more importantly, sketch them out.  They aren't going to be constantly updated with position, but rather quick sketches to show generally what is going on.

2) I'm going to announce the count quickly, players should be tracking their own stuff.  Actions are going to take "a few seconds" or "a long time" rather than a specific number of counts - the character can abandon that activity and do something else or wait it out until the actual count of completion is declared by me.

3) Moving is going to be descriptive and not done on a count by count.  It will take "a few seconds" to get over there.  Attacks will be delayed, and so on.

4) Tactical considerations will be made as a judgement call based on activity and player description, consistent, and generally kept behind the scenes.

5) The dice I think I'm just going to ask people to roll and trust them.  At least until i find or make on online dice roller or somesuch that has the HM dice (penetrating) built in.

6) Remember to have good Megadungeon fun.