Thursday, September 30, 2010

Men and Magic of Nightwick Abbey

I have a few minutes to spare and I thought I would use this space to outline what kinds of characters I will be allowing in the upcoming voice chat game.


I'm including more human classes than the basic three.  I'll provide a little bit of the flavor and mechanical changes below, but expect to see more substantive posts on each one in the coming days.

Cleric -- I discussed the framework for clerics in an earlier post.  As stated there, lawful Clerics may only heal, while Chaotic cleric can cast reversible spells and still heal.  Clerics will receive a number of bonus spells based on their Wisdom score.

Fighting-Man -- There isn't much you can add to the Fighter flavor rise.  It represents both the civilized fighting men who have converted, and the pagan barbarians.  I'm using "follow through" from Ruins & Ronin instead of the Fighter's normal ability because I like it better.  I believe I read somewhere that that rule originated with Dave Arneson, but I don't know the veracity of that statement.

Magic-User -- Magic-Users in the World must usually hide their practices.  While there is nothing inherently evil about their art, the Church frowns upon such activities unless they are used for the glory of God.  However, the fear of Magic-Users saves them more often than it harms them.  Who would want to piss off someone who can turn you into a toad?  I'm using the Holmes rules for scrolls, and Magic-Users will gain a bonus number of spells per day based on their Intelligence.  They will also be allowed to use crossbows.  Magic-Missle always hits.

Thief -- Thieves are found throughout the urban areas of the World.  They do not for "guilds" nearly as often as people think they do, but criminal gangs are fairly common.  I'm using a version of the Thief class whose abilities are based on S&W's saving throw mechanic.  Anyone can sneak, but the Thief's abilities are supernormal.  They do not have the ability to find traps, and one anyone can disarm a trap with a clever explanation, the Thief can just do it mechanically.

Druid --  I discussed Druids a bit in the above post.  My main goal with the Druid is to remove the hippy association and return them to their rightful place: burning men in wicker cages.  They will receive bonus spells based on their Wisdom score.

Paladin -- I'm using the version of the Paladin outlined by James of Grognardia.  The only difference for me will be that the Paladin's of my campaign are sponsored by the Church and believe in God.  It is possible I will develop an Anti-Paladin class.

Ranger -- Again, I'm looking to Grognardia for inspiration; however, I'll be reducing the amount of HP James allowed his Rangers.  For the purposes of my setting, Rangers are scions of civilization who chose to live in the wilderness in order that they might preempt attack from the forces of Chaos.  The prime requisite for the Ranger will most likely be Constitution.

Witch -- Witches are the wise people of pagan villages.  They know the proper sacrifices necessary to appease the Old Gods, and how to heal the sick.  This is a completely homebrewed class, and I may not include it.  If I do, it will replace the Druid.  It uses a combination of Magic-User and Druid spells from a special list.  It also gains the ability to shift into a small animal, decided on at character creation.  They will most likely gain bonus spells from Charisma, because I am a fan of using all of the ability scores if possible.

Healer -- The Healer fills largely the same niche as the Witch, and therefore I will not include both.  If I decide to include the Druid, then I will include the Healer to provide a pagan alternative to the Cleric for healing.  This class is available on the Mythmere Games website.


In the original Nightwick campaign I did not allow demihuman character types.  Pressure from the wife, and one of my inspirational sources have compelled me to do otherwise this time.  I'm going to use the LBBs method of saying that demihumans are limited to different classes rather than doing a race-as-class setup.  There is one glaring exception below.

Dwarves -- Greedy, drunken little people who hate goblins.  I'll be posting more on their relationship with goblins later.  For now they can only level up as a Fighting-Man.  I'll probably let them advance as far as name-level so that a PC can become a King Under the Mountain.  I think it is important to note that if someone made a movie of Nightwick Abbey that the Dwarves would be played by little people instead of a CGIed John Rhys-Davies.

Halflings -- Despite my love of the Hobbit, Halflings in my campaign are going to represent something more akin to a Leprechaun, i.e. a small woodland sprite.  They may only advance to third level as a Fighting-Man but may advance fully as a Thief.  Perhaps, as Scott of Huge Ruined Pile points out, it is better to call the Gnomes.

Elves -- Elves are ephemeral and terrifying creatures of the woods.  I hinted at that a little in an earlier post. Elves will be a class unto themselves.  I'm using the typical Fighting-Man/Magic user at once setup.  I may switch out their Magic-User spell list for a Druid one.

Cyclops -- This is only a possible one.  Cyclops would be largely based on the character from Krull.  They possess a strange and mystical society focused around contemplation of death.  Regardless of whether or not they are allowed as PCs, they have a long and secreted history in the campaign world.  They may advance as Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Druids.

Froglings -- A possible replacement of Halflings.  I originally was going to include them but I think they might break the setting's dark tone.  I will not include both them and Halflings.  They are drunken, raucous, and adventurous little frog-men.  They're based on the song Froggy Went A Courtin', the Wind and the Willows, and an odd pun about beer and hoppes.  They're culture would be largely based on the Netherlands.  I'm an odd bird.


There you have it.  Sorry about the length.  Comments are always appreciated.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


My work and classes are heating up a bit.  I should be able to begin posting once again by Friday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just How Big is a Campaign Dungeon?

-- Potential Players better stay the hell away from this post --

I've started work stocking Nightwick Abbey and I'm a bit worried that the maps are two small.  I've cribbed them entirely from Paratime design because my graduate school life style affords me little time to draw bigass maps.  I'm going to distort all of them in various places, opening levels up more, adding a few more stairs, that sort of thing.

Here are the maps that serve as the basis first three levels.

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Do ya'll think it's too small?  I'm a bit worried that anything bigger might take too much time to stock.


Edit: Here is the source for the maps  The owner has them up for free so I hope it is ok for me to post them.

EDIT: I removed the maps because even though I increased their size and heavily edited them, the layouts here could have provided potential players with information.

The White Lady

Farmers, loggers, and others who ply their trade in the rural and wilderness areas around Lichgate often speak in hushed tones of the White Lady.  Some say she is an Old God who still wonders the World looking for men to devour.  Others claim she is the ghost of a long dead barbarian queen, slain by her own tribe for practicing foul magic.  Even more claim she is simply an especially long lived Elf who makes the Hexenwald her home.  All agree that she is both fair and malign, wondrous to behold and dangerous to see, beautiful and spiteful.

She is, if legends are to be believed, attended by a host of orcs who are both her lovers and worshipers.  They are said to follow her word as though it was law, which everyone knows is impossible due to orcs’ chaotic nature. They live for her, die for her, and kill for her.  She is their world and they have no other goal than her diabolic happiness.

Many tales claim that she is a skilled enchantress, able to bewitch men into following her into the deepest part of the wood.  Many ignorant peasants believe that she then uses a wicked spell to turn such unfortunates into members of the half-bestial orc race.  Others claim she simply kills them, or forces them to commit suicide, for her own enjoyment. 

Strangely, few tales describe her meetings with women.  The few sources which do exist claim that she takes young girls into her apprenticeship, turning them into foul witches or, worse yet, elves.

Most folk will not enter the Hexenwald after the sun has set, for it is then that the spirits of the otherworld are allowed purchase on our reality.  Still, sometimes the need arises for a peasant to do so.  They are seldom seen again.

To scholars and city-folk, this is just so much superstitious nonsense.  Why would God allow such a being to exist?  Clearly it is simply the deranged fantasy of some ignorant pagan.  Still, even they are loathe to enter the woods at night, at least not without a prayer written on a scroll in their pocket and a cross around their throat.

This is largely based on Perchta as well as her association with the Krampus and other traditional Alpine demons.

The First, or rather Second, Descent

I hope to be starting a voice chat game with a few of my old gaming buddies pretty soon.  In all likelihood this will involve them plumbing the rather dangerous depths of Nightwick Abbey and exploring its environs.  This means that I'll have to start codifying some of the PC related material, and certain system related minutiae.  Expect to see future posts which not only detail the setting a bit more, but which describe how races, classes, and other such things function in my system and in the setting.

I'm going to let my players decide if I should use Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry.  I imagine they'll pick the later because of it's modernisms.  If so, I'm going to start with the White Box version and build on that as much as possible.

For those of you who were excited about this blog because of my promised attempt to find a new group for an old system, fear not.  My wife, who is an avid tabletop player as well, has encouraged me to seek out a face to face group as well.  Once I have the face to face one, sadly time constraints will most likely mean that the chat game must end.  Such is the way of things.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Odd Piece of Inspiration

I'm a tremendous fan of Rankin-Bass's production of the Hobbit.  I saw it when I was very young, and it still impacts the way I view fantasy today.  

I'm aware that, outside of a few surface level trappings, the influence on Tolkien on D&D is debatable, but whenever I think of wizards I think of John Huston, and whenever I think of goblins I think of those fat gray things.

I've always liked the art style.  It's dark and whimsical at the same time.  I shall be trying desperately to bring that across in my portrayal of the Nightwick setting.

Other, more usual, influences (CAS, Leiber, etc.) will be present, but I haven't seen anyone tackling this old thing.  Maybe it's because I'm the only one who likes it.

OK, What's Up with Clerics?

Unlike a few other Old School DMs I've seen, I like the Cleric as a class.  A fighting, smiting holy-man fits very well with the Nightwick setting, so this post isn't about that.

Why do they take the least amount of experience to level?

They can fight, and cast spells.  This makes them, essentially, the most powerful class.  Wassup with that?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

De Natura Loci

The Church's scholars are unsure why certain places become infested with ghosts and devils.  Perhaps the sins of men draw them in, or perhaps there are simply places which are more attuned to chaos.  Whatever the truth, certain places throughout the World possess a sinister consciousness.  It is said that there are mountains that  no sane man has returned from, woods that ensorcell loggers to end their own lives, and lakes which call fisherman to drown themselves in their crystalline depths.

Such places need not be natural.  Mansions exist which are still haunted by the foul deeds of their former owners.  In lost towns devoid of animal life grow obscenely fecund plants.  Ghostly lights flit hither and thither about the sites of fierce battles or terrible massacres.  Many have met their deaths plying their trade in the shadow of an accursed castle.

For whatever reason, such places seem to call out to those slavering fiends men label monsters.  Such places even seem to breed them.  The walls themselves drip blood which congeals in the floor to form savage creatures.  The fruit of strange trees in deep woods possess slavering maws.

These places are often rich in treasure.  The black acts which brought upon such a curse usually also center around vast amounts of wealth.  Brave adventurers often try to free golden crosses from the now corrupt altars of ruined temples, but few live to tell the tale.

Since the emphasis of the game is on exploration, I wanted to stress the unusualness of the various locations my players would be exploring.  To that end I decided that the dungeons, and primeval forests, and what have you in my setting are at least a tad sapient.  This was largely to give an explanation of why doors slam shut the way they do, or how darkness works as per the LBBs.

The other thing this kind of set up allows me to do is give monsters a more nonsensical ecological framework.

Friday, September 24, 2010

God, gods, and devils

I wanted to discuss the religions of the Nightwick Abbey campaign... so here we are.  From a setting perspective, I wanted religions which would both allow me to engage with some of the historicity of the Middle Ages, and feel like Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne cycle.  This is really the first time I've decided to buck D&D's pseudo-traditional polytheistic assumption for something more closely resembling Medieval religion (as viewed through a lens of Gothic horror).

Another design goal was to have one religion for each alignment.  For my campaign I'm using the traditional Law/Neutral/Chaos split.  The religions have also been designed, largely, to incorporate the Druid in a way that takes out some of their hippy-dippy-high school Wicca-nature-happy-fun-time bullshit.  As such I, obviously, need three religions.  They are detailed below.

The Great Church represents the forces of Law.  It is essentially Christianity with all references to Jesus removed.  They're monotheistic, headed (loosely) by a pope, have holy orders of various sorts, and like to evangelize.  The Church ordains women as well as men, making it at least a tad different from the Latin Church of the Middle Ages.  Their symbol is either going to be a cross, or a vaguely cross-shaped star burst used to indicate the sun.  Nightwick Abbey was dedicated to God before it fell into darkness.  All non-evil Clerics are members of the Church.  This is not to say that the Church is solely a good institution.  Pastors may be just as easily tempted as their flock, and the servants of the dark ones have infiltrated deeply into the Church's infrastructure.

The Old Gods were the only gods worshiped in the campaign area before the Church arrived.  There are many, especially outside of the towns, who still conduct the ancient rites to pay homage to the Old Gods.  The Old Gods are not worshiped, so much as placated.  They represent natural forces and demand various types of sacrifice, including human sacrifice, in order to spare the realms of humankind.  They are, however, capricious and have been known to aid heroes as well as hinder them.  The mysterious Druids are their priests and priestesses.  It is unlikely that I will ever detail specific Old Gods for anything other than a quick description.  They are always worshiped together, and the peasants who still take grain to their altars simply call them "the gods."

There are many demons.  They writhe and wait in ink black pools to lure humans to their doom.  They are worshiped by mad and desperate  people who believe that doing so will win them power or glory or fame or sex or other, darker desires.  Demons seek to unmake the world a pull it back into darkness so that they no longer feel the eternal suffering of their existence. The "god" referred to in my previous post is actually a demon.  For the moment I'm assuming it is Orcus, but that may change as the campaign develops.  Anti-Clerics obviously are the worshipers of demons; however, it can often be difficult to tell one from the other. Unlike good Clerics, Anti-Clerics can both heal and harm.  As such, they can masquerade as the righteous and lead many on the road to damnation.

The campaign area is kinda-sorta modeled on the Balkans during the Northern Crusades.  The Great Church has already made quite a few converts, including chieftains and kings, but the fall of Nightwick Abbey to diabolic forces has shaken them.  Many wonder if the worshipers of the Old Gods would have been better off if the Church had never arrived, and argue that the Old Gods are an expression of the same divine force.

In the cities, most people worship God.  A few farmers who come in to trade worship the Old Gods, but they are wary of making this fact known.  Even those who have been converted are usually very confused as to just what the difference between an Old God and a Saint is.  In the country side the Old Gods still hold sway, though the Church is attempting to make headway once again.  Demonists and Satanists hide everywhere, waiting to devour humankind and lead it to damnation.

Edit: Though I would have had a pseudo-Christian main religion anyway,  I should give credit where credit is due and note that I stole the name of the Great Church from Scott, at Huge Ruined Pile, who in turn stole it from B2.  Just so we're clear.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nightwick Abbey

Nightwick Abbey is the setting I developed for my previous Swords & Wizardry game.  It's somewhat modeled on the premise of Old School apologist James Maliszewski's aborted effort to create a community megadungeon.  I took the idea of an abbey built over a font of chaos and tweaked it.

Nightwick Abbey and its accompanying dungeons are labyrinthine and strange in the mythic underworld style.  The Abbey itself was constructed over the grave of a long dead, and thoroughly evil, God.  In digging the dungeons, the templar style warrior-monks encountered the lingering essence of this creature and were compelled to commit savage atrocities in its name.  The order has since been eradicated, but not before leaving a scar on the land.  Ruins of villages they destroyed, temples they both constructed and looted, and fortifications they built lie scattered across the land.  None loom as large or as fearsome as their primary chapter house: Nightwick Abbey.  Its halls are rumored to be infinite, and constantly shifting.  In its deepest belly lies an undead god, waiting to be free.

Other things inhabit the World of Nightwick of course, but I thought I'd establish a sort of rough idea of what I'm talking about before I deal with those topics in detail.  Many, if not most, of my future posts will detail elements of the setting.

Edit: fixed some grammatical errors and weird formatting issues.

Where Dark Things Sleep

Welcome to In Places Deep, a blog about old school D&D by a man who is discovering it for the first time.  I intend to use this space to outline my creative processes as I design, pitch, and run an OSD&D campaign.  I should note that this I am not "experimenting" with the old school.  I've already run Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord and I find that this style of gaming is the one that best meshes with the way my brain works.  The reason I'm starting a new campaign is that I have just moved into a new area, and will have to start a new group from scratch.

On that note I think I need to explain a bit of my background.  I started playing D&D in 2000 with 3rd edition, run by a very frustrated DM who was used to the Rules Cyclopedia.  Later I gathered together my high school friends and future wife and started a game about the time 3.5 arrived on the scene.  Some of my old group loved 3.5.  Most of us (including myself) hated it.  One peculiar influence on me during this period was Kevin Hendryx.  Many of you may know him  as a former  TSR employee, and he was (and is) a close family friend.  Our discussions about D&D turned my thoughts to games like Castles & Crusades, and settings such as the Wilderlands.

I should also note that I am an (aspiring) historian.  I tend to throw myself into the history of any activity I engage in and I soon found myself eating up the early history of the Hobby.  My last year in my home town I started a (fairly brief) Swords & Wizardry game, whose setting I wish to expand and use in my new location.

Thats enough about me.  I'll be posting a kind of summary of the setting later today.