Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Review from Arisia

So I ran a couple of games at a gaming convention.  Definitely an experience in which I learned quite a bit.  First up, next time I need to have a tighter description to catch people's interest.  The first game was mediocre at best.  Two folks showed up and neither were into the style and tone, so it was a bit of a struggle.  I'm going to chalk that up as a learning experience.

The second game was a blast!  Still only 2 players (3 characters total) but I ended up with a hard core role player (he took the racist flaw seriously and wouldn't stop calling the dwarf character untermensch) and a great gamist player who got into his characters.

They explored the mudhole of Royston Vasey a bit and ended up in the PHOS against their will (surprise!).  They threw out some great rumors to infuse into the dungeon and got to it.  Exploration, combat, fleeing, looting, screwing about with things that obviously where far too dangerous to be screwing around with.  in the end, they discovered the portal to the Necromancer's Mansion (on a micro-dimension extruded from the Patchwork) and spent most of the rest of the session running from hordes or skeletons and barrow-wights.  It was grand.  In the end they escaped through another portal (to the famed city of Malabrae far far far from home) and one of them walked away with a cloak of stiched human skin that allowed them to become invisible at the cost of a bit of their soul.

The players had some great comments and praise and one of them has joined my regular gaming group.  Hoo-Rah!

The Con itself seemed well organized and folks were friendly.  I don't think I'm much of a Con guy, but I'd run again with some slightly different prep.  Also, I got to play OGRE!  I got my ass kicked by a 12-year-old.  It was awesome.

Session Report: Aldsburg Chronicles [A6]

... wherein two fresh adventurers find that certain doom is certain ...

The Characters
Ludwig - warpriest of Sigmar, a bit uptight but honorable
Pendergast - a dusk mage, mask-wearing black-eyed freaky freak

The Adventure
Only 2 of my 5 players could make Sunday and I'd lost one of the character sheets so it was time for new characters.  Both folks were cool with this (one needed a new character anyway).  After months of not getting together and prep for the Con game I was a bit disorganized.

Tracking rumors of brigands who had taken shelter near the village of Bortund after looting some valuable wizard treasure, the party set off.  They arrived in the small mining camp (a dozen huts, some sort of bunkhouse/alehouse/company store, and up on a hill a fine mansion) they headed straight for the alehouse.

After some brief questions with Rowan the house boss they get some insight from Corc the madam.  They get a little insight that there is a cave that wasn't there a year ago.  After some carousing with the miners they find out that Mr. Olaf is probably skimming quite a bit off the top of the mine profits.  Pendegast saw a few gents leaving after Ludwig mentioned the bandits.  A quick spy mission showed them heading to the Cave That Should Not Be!

Without giving away all of the juicy details, the party got jumped by weird bandits that didn't seem quite right, found the statue of a freaking insect god that was covered in fresh blood (that gave off a weird aura), and a room with, among other things, a giant-sized sarcophogus that, once fucked with, was splashing ocean water into the room and something huge and otherworldly inside that definitely wanted out.  Then Pendergast took a critical arrow to the hand that nearly caused him to bleed out (but definitely drop the torch).  Ludwig quickly lit another torch but whatever shot the arrow had fled.

Both adventurers nearly dead they decided that the warning that this place was certain doom was true and they decided to get the hell out before things went really wrong.  Back in town they slept in their bunks.  In the morning, Corc asked them to leave (they bled all over everything), they gave an inspiring speech to the ladies and children (all the men were in the mines), and Mr. Olaf took them in under the agreement they would clear the cave (which he was concerned about) of the evil (which he was also concerned about).  His bodyguard, Budro, helped with some healing.  The party's henchman, Ray, has to sleep on the floor.

Next session will hopefully have some additional characters because danger is, apparently, dangerous.

New Ideas

Normally when creating a dungeon adventure one of the first steps is drawing a map.  I've spent quite some time creating a set of random dungeon stocking tables (for Tablesmith) that I use to flesh things out.  Sometimes the table results don't fit the map, which isn't surprising - random tables are random after all.  But then it struck me ...

Why don't I create the map after creating the dungeon contents. The map will then be a bit different than I usually make because the contents will help direct what is where.  Treasure hidden in a secret room will create a secret room.  A complex trap will determine the shape, size, and style of room.  Monsters will have better monster lairs.

The second part of this new method is risky, but fits my GM.  Being able to improvise when players go off script is an important GM skill and one that I enjoy tremendously.  So, instead of creating the entire adventure plot before the game begins, using the now-stocked dungeon leave the details a bit loose and let the players get things going.

I've been asking payers for general rumors before the Aldsburg games to feed more into the city vibe, so why not here as well.  The players KNOW they are going into a dungeon, so let everyone drop a few rumors related to the possible dungeon situation and then construct an adventure - on the fly - around the rumors of GM choice.  This obviously relies on the players to have active input.  this won't work for every GM or every group, but I'm going to try it out for a bit.

The above adventure started using this method - at least the second part.  With player-driven rumors plus some great role-playing a plot and subplot quickly came together, monsters were customized, treasure and special things tweaked, and a complete adventure was formed.  These things are organic and letting the whole process be organic seemed like something worth trying.  I'm going to keep on working on this idea and see if the success can be repeated.

As a side note, after the session I went back and rewrote everything in the classic adventure style but based on what was determined at the gaming session.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Preparing for the Con

As previously mentioned I'm running adventures in the Perilous Halls of Sorrow at Arisia 2015 this next weekend.  I'm pretty excited about it, but really don't know what to expect.  I'm quite used to my GM style with my group of players and not sure how it is going to translate to a group of strangers.  So maybe the excitement is actually a bit of nervous.

I created an excel sheet that generates characters for Hackmaster and then tweaks them out to be closer to the BXDH system that I've been working on.  All of the characters are playable, but some are more playable than others, which is definitely metal.  Players are going to the top two characters sheets and can choose between them.  The discarded sheet goes back into the stack.  Some of the characters generated are henchmen (or Shopkeeper by hackMaster standards).  In this case (and they are clearly marked) the player gets the henchman as a loyal follower - an extra body  to bring along on the adventure and feed to terrible monsters and grind up in nasty traps.  Seriously - one shot gaming henchman are fodder ... and the players are going to need it :)

The Rules
I wrote a short script/outline to go over "How to Do Everything" - it quickly covers the details of the character sheet (one page) and the general rules on how to do stuff.  It should take 10 minutes to walk through.  Hopefully I'll also be able to get some tone across while doing the walk through - metal, old school, rulings not rules, and encouraging players to do awesome things for the sake of it.

Player Driven
Even at a con game I still need this inspiration.  While I have a damn lot planned out getting the players involved makes all the difference.  I'll ask what rumors the characters have heard about PHOS or Royston Vasey (I named the mudhole village after League of Gentlemen), and get them into making notes on the index cards.  After that, they can do as they please, but they'll end up in the PHOS one way or the other (it is a con game after all).

Also, characters belong to a n association of some kind - the Iron Brotherhood, Night Watch, that sort of thing.   Other than the mage lineages, I don't have any details on these and will let players imagine and play them as desired.  This might actually link up with the secret missions below.

I'm still focusing the game on exploration, but there needs to be something more clearly defined for a Con game, so I've got a specific but somewhat hidden plot-line for the main dungeon.  But, as this is a portal into the Underworld, the players can change course and go explore other areas - one option they can come across early is an unrelated (but equally horrible) side dungeon temple to a Forgotten God (never a good thing to run across unless you love death and loot).

Secret Missions
I was thinking of adding in some extra secret missions for players to make things a bit more interesting and, honestly, paranoia-style.  Not sure if this is a good idea as there are plenty of other things going on, but for players who aren't all about "Enter the Dungeon?  Fuck Yea!" it might help motivate. 

My home machine shit the bed on Saturday ... maybe the mobo, but not really sure.  I've never seen anything like it.  Luckily I take most of my notes in a notebook and got some 50 character sheets printed out before that happened.  I should be fine.  I'm travelling all this week for work.  SO I'll have time on the flights to do things, but I would really prefer to be home ... and my wife is sick ... and I'm traveling all next week as well.  But enough complaining.