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.