Friday, February 25, 2011

An Old Play Report

This is a play report from the first time I ever ran the Underworld (then called the Lost Lands).  It used a system created from scratch by me and two of the players.  I've since lost the notes on the system, and it wasn't much to my liking.  It was my attempt to make a system that conformed to the "Quick Primer for Old School Gaming," but that would still appeal to my more new school players.  I found the compromise unacceptable, and would now use OD&D to run it.

The following provides very little commentary on the system, or how I prepped for this session.  It's from over two years ago and was used on my campaign wiki to help players who weren't present get up to speed.  For those of you interested in how I plan for sessions or things of that nature, sadly there is little in this post for you.  Still it does provide, I think, a good model for what the Underworld is like.


It was noon on the first day of the Festival of the Python when the thieves first met in the square. Mundi and Acantha, two sorcerers in the thrall of lord Ajaxos, had asked Illoannes to bring with him some men adept in the separating of items from their owners. This he did in the form of two Khemian thieves he had caught stealing in the markets earlier that very week. These men were named Hamid and Habbab.

Together the thieves made their way into the Plaza of Pleasures. Travelers thronged the streets and choked the vast parks and monuments which littered that section of the city. Through a rouse devised by Illoannes, the party gained entrance into the sewers where Ajaxos had said the bones he required lay. The sewers of Ilion are made from the catacombs which served the city in the years before the Oligarchs.

They slipped in unseen but soon found that the dank bone-yard was filled with patrolling guards and fouler denizens. These they slew through wit and brawn.

Coming upon a guard room, Illoanes showed his characteristic cleverness again as he not only managed to slip by the guards, but convince them to reveal the location of the Tomb of Orontes!

In the tomb itself they found a massive sarcophagus ringed by an equally massive, black pool. Using quite a bit of ingenuity the party was able to lift off the lid of the sarcophagus and use it as bridge to cross the ink dark pool. Acantha and Habbab remained on the far side while the rest of the party moved toward the great burial place of Ilion’s first and only king. They found him adorned in a set of opulent gold armor in the fashion of the men of Ilion, only with a death mask of blue jade and set of strange, silvery grieves.

They had little time to ponder these though. As soon as they had placed the bones of the old king into a sack acquired for that purpose, the lid-made-bridge flew into the air with great force and landed in front of the entrance to a small side passage.

Up from the pool it came wriggling and heaving. It was great and terrible in size. So great in fact that its bulk shoved Acantha into the chamber from which the thieves had entered. It’s face, if it had a face, was a mass of terrible feelers like that of an octopus. Each feeler was well near the length of a trireme, and covered in a hundred-odd hideous, cackling mouths. Its backside was simple a pallid sack of immense proportions covered here and there with oily blisters. The creature wrapped one of its tentacles around Hamid, who quickly cut it off. The two sorcerer’s put their minds to work in an attempt to banish the beast to the nightmarish Abyss from whence it came. Habbab alternated between attempting to remove the lid from the entrance to the side passage – in order that he might facilitate an escape – and feathering the beast with arrows. Indeed it was one of these arrows which finally felled the creature.

The beast collapsed in a great heap and as quick as the mind could process dissolved into a viscous, green fluid. This fluid sank back into the black pool from which the beast had issued. The thieves then made quick work in getting back to the street.

They found that night was fast approaching, and the sun flickered as it does before extinguishing each night in the Lost Lands. The sorcerers and Illoannes made their way to the house of Ajaxos, while Hamid sold the death mask of the First King to the last open street vendor before darkness covered the city of Ilion.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 7

I'm breaking my temporary blog silence to give you a recap of last night's session.  I normally wouldn't have, but this one was rather special.  We had two new characters so the current roster of the "Adventure Capitalists" -- as they have termed themselves -- reads...

Ffraid -- A Cleric/Druid in training
Slimey -- The recently deceased Slick's younger cousin whose come looking for revenge
H'oak -- Magic-User par excellence whose favorite spell is Dancing Lights
Big Bad Barley Brownbeard the Beer-breathed, Brothel-baron of Baxley Barrow -- a Dwarf known for darkening the lower halves of the doorways of many a lady of the evening
and Ma'ongo -- A fighter so stupid he was unable to free himself from his private inn room to join the others on their adventures (his player was absent)

On a rather snow day in Nightwick Village, the party attempted to recruit some hired help.  This they did only after some effort, gaining two men at arms with rather pitiful equipment and stats.  Few were willing to sign on with the company due to the death toll of their recent excursions into the benighted halls of Nightwick Abbey. They were relatively happy with this, and also purchased supplies from a Frogling whose mood was dulled due to the inclement weather.

They then returned to the abbey, only to be ambushed by Hobgoblins at the dungeon's entrance.  Though they took no casualties, the fighting was fierce enough that it forced our band of ne'er-do-wells to return to the village for some R&R.  Before this, Barley Brownbeard took a number of the hobgoblins jutting teeth in order that he might make a necklace.  When they had regained their full hit points, thanks to Ffraid's magics, they returned to the abbey with renewed determination.

This time they elected not to enter Wodewick the Wrathful Wight's territory but instead to clear out the room with the zombie mural painters.  They found that they had moved their post to the adjacent room, and that their numbers had been rekindled.  Fierce fighting broke out, but in the end the party was victorious.  Barley Brownbeard continued to whack the corpses with his ax after their apparent death since they had nearly ended his life.  The preceded to explore the section beyond, finding that it was dominated by twisting hallways.  

Eventually they found a chamber that contained a zombie-like creature (a coffer corpse for those of you with a copy of the FF).  Ffraid used the magic sword they had picked up a few sessions ago to lop of the creatures head, which caused a terryfing scream to issue from it's gaping neck wound.  A green flash of light then ascended into the ceiling and the creature was no more.

The party the set about searching the chamber, but little did they know the strange scream had attracted a number of Mites.  H'oak attempted to use his Dancing Lights to frighten the creatures, but they seemed unimpressed.  Feeling overwhelmed, the party fled through a door they had not yet opened only to find that it ended in a room with no exits.  They nailed the door shut and managed to get a few hours of rest (though not enough for the Cleric and Magic-User to regain their spells).  

During this time, Slimey was able to find a secret door along one of the walls.  It opened into a small, enclosed treasure chamber, much to the party's dismay.  While the gold was surely enough to cause some of them to increase a level (including the newly recruited Slimey), the lack of an exit meant that they were still at the mercy of the Mites.  However, Barley proved to be invaluable.  He noticed a strange piece of construction that turned out to be yet another secret door.  This lead to a passage that brought them back to a section they had already mapped.  They then ran as fast as they could to the exit.

Upon reaching the surface, they found a group of deer-headed orcs rummaging through the surface ruins.  The party was able to intimidate them into fleeing.  Thus they were able to return to the village with their largest hall yet.  Ma'ongo will not be happy.

I've started using quite a bit from the AEC for Labyrinth Lord, and I must say I like it.  I'm still not sure what to do about Druids, but Ffraid's player (who also happens to be my wife) prefers the Rules Cyclopedia method so for now we're sticking to that.  I'm still using race as class, as one can see with Barley Brownbeard.  I've been thinking off and on about developing AEC races for Dark Country Gnomes, Changelings, and Froglings, but I haven't had the time yet.

This was the first session in which any of the characters leveled and also the first session to include none of the characters who were in the first outings into Nightwick Abbey.  I'm not sure what to make of that.

Finally, this session saw the first d30 roll at our table.  H'oak's player (who gave it to me in the first place) decided to use it to roll initiative against the orcs at the end of the session.  I've decided the party as a whole can only roll the die once so that the prospect of rolling it adds a bit of tension at the table.  So far I think it's worked out.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No Posting Until March 1st and a Link

I'm getting really busy and it doesn't look like it will let up before my birthday (March 1st) so I'm going to have to drop out of blogging for a bit.  I should resume my regularly scheduled bullshitting after that though.

On an unrelated note, heres a hilariously complex Wandering Harlot Table.  Enjoy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cattle Raiding

Todays post over at Hill Cantons contains a link to the quite awesome PenDragon Pass.  Of particular interest to me is the Cattle Raiding System which is absolutely awesome.  Anyone well versed in pre-modern societies will know that cattle raiding is a fairly common practice among the elites in most of them.  I had planned on trying to figure out a way to represent cattle raids for Zenopolis and the Underworld, and adapting these rules doesn't seem like a bad place to start.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Questions about Ancient D&D

I'm sort of at a sticking point with the Underworld.  On the one hand I want it to be Swords & Sorcery with dinosaur-riders, and on the other hand I'd like it to have a flavor more resembling 500 BCE instead of the 15th century CE.  I've also been rereading the old 3.X supplement Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia and now I'm really jonesing for a similar sort of campaign, but I don't have the mental fortittude to use 3.X again in the near future. 

So I was wondering if any of my fellow bloggers have ever run or currently run a campaign based on the cultures of Antiquity instead of Late Medieval Europe.  I'm particularly interested if they were based on Ancient Greece and the Levant, but I don't mind things about other ancient peoples.

What version of D&D did you use?  How did you handle the different classes?  How did you handle the different races?  Did you change the types of monsters the players fought?  Did you use dungeons? Did you have a hexmap?  What did you do with the equipment list?

Other comments are fine too.

I'll still be offline mostly for the coming days, but I'll try to check up on replies and things.

Light Posting

I'm going to be pretty busy for the next few days, but hopefully I can get back to posting regularly sometime next week.

Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Monster from Nightwick Abbey

My players are obviously encouraged not to read this entry.  I was going to wait till it showed up in play, but I've grown impatient so here it is a tad early.

The Piteous Worm
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 3 [16] <18>
Hit Dice: 4+5
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d8
Save: F5
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
XP: 290

The Piteous Worm, for there is only one, is a creature greatly feared by any who seek to wrest treasure from the dungeons beneath Nightwick Abbey.  The few educated men and women who have encountered it, assuming they are not maddened by their experience, believe the creature to be the result of failed magical experimentation.  The exact nature of this experimentation is not precisely known.

The piteous Worm appears as a 10' long caterpillar like creature.  It glows with an eerie green light from within it's body and illuminates the area around it as though it was a magical weapon.  This luminance reveals the interior structure of the creature.  Each of it's segments contains what appears to be a human ribcage, such that their are ten of these strung along it's spine.  Its head, though outwardly that of a caterpillar, appears to be fashioned around a human skull, and its feet are a litany of human hands.

The creature constantly screams as though in agony.  Because of this and the light it casts, it never gains surprise.  Any hirelings or monsters who hear its characteristic wail must immediately make a Morale Check or flee in the opposite direction.  The Piteous Worm's body is extremely hot, and any person striking it must Save vs. Paralysis or watch their weapon melt upon contact with it's skin.  Any weapon dissolved in this way deals no damage to the creature.  Magic weapons are immune to this effect.  Any creature standing within melee range of the Piteous Worm takes an automatic 1d4 points of damage from the immense heat it gives off, and the creature can project this as an intense beam originating from it's head.  This beam requires a roll to hit, but the victim must Save vs. Death or perish instantly.  Reports claim the Piteous Worm may only use this once per day, but few have been around it long enough to make sure.  If the Piteous Worm uses this power, it cannot deal automatic damage for 3d6 rounds, though its internal heat is still enough to melt nonmagical weapons.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos: Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy Review

Realms of Crawling Chaos: Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy (hereafter ROCC) is a short supplement produced by Goblinoid Games for Labyrinth Lord.  This is a capsule review of the 66 page pdf version.

The explicit goal of ROCC is to create a framework for dark fantasy games with a Lovecraftian flare.  It relies primarily on Lovecraft's work to do this, but also includes some material from Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith's respective works.  The book begins with a discussion of the themes and elements present in such a campaign.  This is by far the weakest part of the book.  The discussion of Science in this section seems a bit out of place.  While it obviously is a major part of Lovecraft's theme, it is rather alien to Labyrinth Lord and the kind of games it seeks to emulate.  

Still these are minor quibbles.  Despite the errors and some of the strangeness in this section, I still found it very inspiring.  It provides a framework for Lovecraftian campaigns quite different than the one I was expecting.  While many of the insights are not new to me, the way that Proctor and Curtis wed these ideas to Medieval Fantasy creates a new sort of genre.  Well, that might be a bit extreme, but it is certainly unlike previous attempts at Lovecraftian D&D such as Carcosa.  Reading it, I get the image of villagers huddled in their homes, afraid of the terrors that lurk in the darkness outside.  I imagine foolhardy warriors and wizards who brave ancient ruins for terrifying artifacts.  In short, it makes me want to run a game, and that is the best one can expect from a product such as this.

Next the book introduces new character races.  These are rather gonzo, but their inclusion is not unwanted.  My favorite by far is the Sea Blood, which turns the Deep One into a playable race.  Stats are provided for both AD&D style races and race as class builds.  This section ends with a discussion of what classes are appropriate for a ROCC game.  Some of the text is contradictory, such as whether or not Magic-Users may be allowed in certain campaign types.  It is also strange that this should be found in a chapter titled "Character Races," but that is probably a nit pick.

The rules continue with new magical spells.  ROCC introduces the concept of Formulae, which require ingredients to work their magical effects.  I'm a tremendous fan of this idea; however, I found the execution lacking in some places.  There are very few formulae and those that are present are rather bland.  A few stand out as being excellent, but I think the book could have benefited from more and more flavorful formulae.  The list of regular spells has some good entries, but much like formulae most aren't terribly exciting.  

The monster section is excellence.  I was happy to see such obscure entries as Bokrug, the Water Lizard from "The Doom that Came to Sarnath."  I may wonder how useful they are to someone who already has D&D stats for Lovecraft's various entities, but to me they are a welcome addition.  

The section on artifacts is also good.  I especially like the Great Race Ray gun, since I'm generally a fan of Science Fantasy.  Granted I could simply use the technology rules from Mutant Future, but it was nice to see it nonetheless.

The rules for Psionics are a mixed bag.  They're easy to understand, but there are few powers provided.  I especially find the lack of a enthrall or dominate power to be saddening, since I wanted to add it to my Hypnotoad writeup.  I also was frustrated by the lack of rules for Psionic characters, but understand why they were not included.  One could easily make a Psionic class if one has access to Mutant Future.

The four appendices are all excellent.  My personal favorites are the rules for Eldritch Tomes (which will undoubtedly end up in Nightwick Abbey) and Random Artifacts.  I'm not entirely sure why these were appendices, but I'm very happy they are present.  The literary sources entry is very interesting, and breaks down where each item in the rules came from on a story by story basis.

The art in this product is excellent.  I find the pictures to be very evocative of the kind of campaign ROCC can engender, and it also has a consistent feel.  Many RPG products have a very disjointed art presentation, but Goblinoid Games seems especially good at making sure their art has a tone and feel that is consistent throughout.  

On the whole I'd say Realms of Crawling Chaos is a good sourcebook.  I am a bit disappointed with it in some places, but at $5 for the pdf, it's very difficult not to recommend it.

I give Realms of Crawling Chaos: Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More on Retainers

I've posted some quotes relating to retainers from the Mentzer Red Box and Keep on the Borderlands in the comments of James M's post.  I thought I'd deal with some from the AD&D PHB here.  I'm most interested in hirelings since thats what the majority of my players have used.

"At any time a character may attempt to hire various different sorts of workers, servants, or guards."  Well that pretty explicitly does not place any restrictions on the recruitment of hirelings.  "Note that the number of hirelings is in no way limited by charisma...."  That provides even less of a barrier than B/X and BECMI's undifferentiated "retainers."

The most interesting part, to me, comes from the Successful Adventures section.  "Once an objective has been established, consider how well the party playing will suit the needs which it has engendered....  Will it be necessary to find mercenary non-player characters or hire men-at-arms in order to give the party the necessary muscle?"  This quote makes it sound like the use of hirelings is at best a conditional state.  If the party has a particularly tough monster it wants to go after in the dungeon, then you bring some mooks along.  Otherwise you might have a linkboy or two, but if you're not specifically going into no man's land you're not going to be bringing a small warband with you.

Not sure what all this means to the greater conversation yet, but it's something to chew on.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Poll Added

In honor of the interesting debate I hope this post at Grognardia will start, I've added a new poll related to hirelings.

Vote for the person not for the party.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your Newest Hireling...

1d30  Hireling Complications
1 -- is fleeing an angry spouse
2 -- is an outlaw and is being actively hunted
3 -- is a member of a sinister cult
4 -- is a coward
5 -- has "mommy issues"
6 -- is a kleptomaniac
7 -- is suicidal
8 -- is a womanizer
9 -- is a compulsive liar
10 -- is afraid of the dark
11 -- is a drunkard
12 -- is a compulsive gambler
13 -- hates the sight of blood
14 -- disapproves of drunkenness
15 -- is highly superstitious
16 -- is lazy
17 -- is perverted
18 -- has heretical beliefs
19 -- hates elves
20 -- hates dwarves
21 -- hates halflings
22 -- is a hypochondriac
23 -- doesn't know when to shut up
24 -- is a spy for a rival party
25 -- is fanatically religious
26 -- doesn't approve of gambling
27 -- is paranoid
28 -- has expensive tastes
29 -- wants a full share
30 -- is slow to get things

A Most Esteemed Order

Thanks to one of my players, Chris Creel of The Polyhedral Dicebag, I am now a member of the Order of the d30.

Let the rejoicing begin!

Nightwick Abbey Session 6

Session six began where the previous one left off: the party had sixteen Mites standing between them and the only known exit to the dungeon.  The resulting battle was fierce and involved quite a bit of flaming oil, but sadly both the Magic User Cornwell and his bodyguard Oderic were slain in the fighting.  After the Mites were dispatched,   Slick placed as many as he could fit on Oderic's spear and planted it in the ground as a warning "to other wandering monsters."

Back in town, they discovered that the price of goods had risen significantly due to the end of the fair and the coming snow.  This did little to distress the party as they had plenty of coin to spend on restocking their oil supply.  They rested for a little under a week and afterwards set out to replace their numbers.

They found a Magic User named H'oak (for the significance of the ' see last session, if you're wondering about Hoak, see the Ultimate Warrior).  They gave him Cornwell's spellbook in exchange for future services, and with that the new party headed out to the dungeon.

This time they elected to return to the crypts where the skeletons had previously repulsed them.  Here they found several of the skeletons still occupied the area.  This battle, much like the previous one, was long and saw the death of Keelyn the Changeling.  Eventually the party was triumphant and began to check the sarcophagi for treasures.

In the first one they opened, they found the body of their recently deceased Cleric Wodewick.  He had risen as a Wight and set about attacking them.  Slick was slain nearly instantly by the creature's level drain attack, but the others were able to escape thanks to Ffraid's ability to turn undead.

This rather short but calamitous session ended here as two of the players needed to roll up characters and it was nearing the time we usually stop.  The player's lamented the fact that this effectively put a halt on their leveling process as now only one character with previous experience is alive.  Due to our short session time (about 3 hours) the pace of advancement has been significantly slowed.  I may try to work out a compromise, but considering what they've actually done I'm rather happy with where they were at before half the party died.

I will now admit to being a rat bastard.  My players made a joke about anything being buried near the abbey turning into a wight.  They should learn not to do this while I'm listening, especially after they just interred a man in the dungeon itself.

Edit:  I'm not sure how I forgot to mention this, but during the encounter with the skeletons we established that they screech like the ones in Jason and the Argonauts.  The players then asked if they could understand what they were saying, and I let them roll a 1d6 a la Raggi's game to see if they knew the language.  The wizard H'oak is now able to speak and understand Skeleton Screeches.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Zenopolis Design Specs

In keeping with that Jeff Rients's maxim about designing your own stuff rather than buying it,  I have decided to list the reasons I was intrigued by Heroes in the first place.  Hopefully this will help guide me in continuing my recently begun work on Zenopolis (or Once Upon a Time in the Mediterranean).  These are in no particular order, and some will overlap.
  • A historical but fictionalized setting
  • Rules/Guidelines for climbing the social ladder through wit and violence
  • Rules/Guidelines for crime and punishment
  • Cattle Raids
  • Other kinds of raids
  • pseudo-Medieval Economics
  • Domain management
  • Once you get to a position, it's hard to stay there
  • Permanent, and gruesome, injuries
That's probably not all of them, but those are what I thought would be in the game.  So regardless of how Heroes handles them, Zenopolis needs to handle them in a way that appeals to me.

More on this project as it develops.

Another Campaign/Game Idea

This post is inspired by my discovery of the British old school rpg Heroes.  Heroes, for those who don't know, is a more or less historical game set in the "Dark Ages."  The game gives its specific start date as 950.  From what I understand, characters come into a city in the Eastern Mediterranean as mercenaries and ride to riches or ruin, wenching and whoring along the way.  It sort of sounds like Warhammer before Warhammer, and that's alright by me.

I'll never see a copy of the thing.  It was printed by a hobbyist in England in 1979 and it's about as rare states' side  as you might expect given that background.  To paraphrase gamer par exellence Jeff Rients, since I can't find the post to quote it: if you want an rpg product, make a list of the reasons why and then make something that does those same things yourself.

I like grit and grime as much as anybody, and the idea of playing rogues and skullduggers in the Middle Ages isn't just right up my alley, it is my alley.  So heres more or less the premise: you're a party of scumbags, looters, and preachers who wind up in the declining Byzantine outpost of Zenopolis.  Zenopolis lies on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean that is being fought over by numerous factions both real and fictional.  Your goal is to more or less play them for what they're worth in an attempt to pay for your rock n' roll lifestyle.

To start with I'd use the S&W White Box, but I'd hopefully add so much to it that it eventually turns into its own game.  That seems to be the way most early rpgs were developed and my fevered imagination has romanticized the process enough that I want to try it.

The most immediate hurtle I see is character types.  I'm not entirely sure that magic would exist in this setting (since it's a fictional island in a real sea), so I'm unlikely to allow Magic-Users and Clerics as starting characters.  I'd still need a way to differentiate unwashed ne're-do-wells from one another.  While I'm usually of the opinion that D&D has enough character differentiation, it definitely doesn't if you remove two of the three classes.  I may implement a RC style general skills system, or come up with something new altogether.  Who knows?

The working title is Once Upon a Time in the Mediterranean, though that may change with the wind.  I'll post any updates on the project here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh. Yeah. The Superbowl.

Since my beloved Saints are out of the running, I must quote Michael J. Nelson.


Dungeon Stocking

Somewhat inspired by this post at The Lands of Ara, and somewhat inspired by the fact that I'm currently stocking some levels of Nightwick Abbey, I've decided to spend a bit of time talking about how I go about creating the various levels of my campaign dungeon.

The first thing I do is slap together geomophs in a pattern that roughly fills up a 6 to 1" sheet of graph paper.  This usually takes about 20 geomorphs laid out in a rectangle (5x4).  I make sure to get them from varied sources, but I prefer the ones that make their geomorphs available in pdf form.  If possible I prefer to do things by hand with pencil and paper and cut out geomorphs as opposed to computers.  As I copy them, I fix dead ends, cap the ends, and otherwise change the layout to make more sense as a cohesive level.

Here is a now outdated map of the second level.  I made this one using MS Paint, and it fits a full 8 to 1" piece of graph paper, and therefore is considerably smaller than my current dungeon plans.

click to embiggen

Then I set about stocking the thing.  I estimate that a dungeon of that size is roughly 100 rooms (it's sometimes more and sometimes less) and use the LL percentages for dungeon stocking to figure out what the rooms should contain.  I tend to fill in the "specials" first, but if I don't have any in mind I usually start with groups of monsters.

To do this, I use the "Dungeon Random Monster Level Determination Matrix" found on page 174 of the DMG.  I then roll on the appropriate chart in the Fiend Folio to determine what monster inhabits a room.  I reroll any results make since for the individual level until I get one that does make some semblance of sense.  I use the Fiend Folio charts to determine the number of monsters, raising the die number as appropriate for deeper levels.

I take the results down in short form on a piece of paper.  Then I go about placing traps of various sorts and the treasures associated with otherwise empty rooms.  After I've come up with all the possible monsters, treasures, traps, etc.  I place them in whatever rooms on my map seem appropriate.

Last, I come up with a random encounter chart for the dungeon level.  To do this I take the Random Monster Level Matrix and associated 6 different monsters with each result.  So if a random encounter shows up, you roll 1d20 to determine its level and then 1d6 to determine the individual monster.  Occasionally I'll associate an especially unique monster with a random encounter instead of the an individual room.  If the monster is slain, its result is replaced with a more common dungeon foe.

So that's more or less how I stock.  I occasionally use the RC or the Mentzer Red Box as well, though I tend to stick the DMG, FF, and LL.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Creatures Inspired by Futurama

No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6 [13] <15>
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1 (bite, slam)
Damage: 1d4/1d8
Save: F4
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 135

Hypnotoads are subterranean amphibians that reach roughly 3' in height.  They are omnivorous creatures, but prefer large insects and small mammals to other food sources.  Despite their disgusting eating habits and toad-like mannerisms, they are highly intelligent.

They are most known for their ability to enthrall opponents.  Any creature gazing upon a Hypnotoad must make a Save vs. Spells at a -2 penalty.  If they fail, they become the Hypnotoad's mindless slave.  This slave gets an additional save every exploration turn, but three consecutive failures cause the effect to become permanent.  They will spend the rest of their days searching about the dungeon or wilderness for grubs to feed to their batrachian masters.

When encountered in their lair, each Hypnotoad is accompanied by 2d4 attendants.  These attendants are humans, demi-humans, or humanoids of 2 HD or less.  They are permanently enthralled by the Hypnotoad and will lay down their lives for it.

Poisonous Froad
No. Enc.: 0 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5 [14] <16>
Hit Dice: 8+4
Attacks: 1 (Slam or Tongue)
Damage: 2d8 or Paralysis
Save: F9
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: None
XP:  1620

Poisonous Froads are massive amphibians roughly the size of an elephant.  They roam the swamps and jungles of the world seeking whatever living things they can devour.  Froads will avoid creatures larger than a Bugbear because they are unable to swallow them.

Poisionous Froads first attack potential meals with their tongue.  This tongue is covered in a contact poison.  The creature must Save vs. Poison or be paralyzed for 3d6 rounds.  Unlike Ghoul Paralysis, Elves are not immune to this effect.  The Froad will make another tongue attack within the next round after paralyzing an opponent.  The creature is then swallowed and takes 1d8 points of damage each round until removed from the Froad's gullet.

Despite their size, Froads are amazingly adept at hiding in their swampy environments.  Unless outside a swamp or a jungle, Poisonous Froad's surprise opponents on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6.

The meat of a Poisonous Froad is inedible.  Any humans, demihumans, or humanoids who attempt to eat one must make a Save vs. Poison at a -4 penalty.  Failure causes immediate death, and success causes the victim to suffer paralysis for 1d6 hours.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Actual Play, Nightwick Abbey, the Underworld, and Gamer ADD

Warning: this one rambles a bit, but it's the synthesis of lots of ideas that have been whooshing around in my head recently and I needed to get them out.

Recent posts over at Grognardia have got me thinking about how awesome it is to see a campaign setting develop through actual play.  I've seen this first hand with a Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign I ran off and on for a large part of my undergraduate career.  By the end of it our gaming group created and defined a slew of new cultures, reinterpreted existing ones, had characters who achieved apotheosis, established new dynasties in certain city states, and even saw the destruction of the CSIO due to a giant robot.  These served as the basis for a very short term 4e game I ran, but it fizzled out largely due to my frustration with that system.  Still, my version of the Wilderlands is wildly divergent from "canon" and 99.9% of that divergence came about as a result of the needs of actual play.

This shouldn't be that strange to anyone whose played any RPG for an extended period.  Even if one uses an established setting -- as I did -- eventually the group will run into things that aren't cover or are only sparsely covered by the setting material.  Still, one of the most exciting things about RPGs is seeing this kind of transformation of a setting through player action and DM development.

What James M. is talking about though doesn't just include the setting but also the rules.  The above Wilderlands example pretty much used 3.5 (with the spell recharge system from unearthed arcana).  What he is advocating, and he is right in doing so, is the development of house rules, adjoining systems, and supplements from actual play.

Originally I conceived of Nightwick Abbey as such a project.  I'd start with the Swords & Wizardry White Box, build a big dungeon, a nearby, and a really rough sketch of the overall area it existed in.  Then I'd start playing and build out from there.  That changed partially when I started this blog, and then again when I ran into my current group of players.  Now I use Labyrinth Lord with dabbles from Raggi's Game, the Rules Cyclopedia, and an increasing amount of AD&D.  This was largely because the players had already played Labyrinth Lord and were currently playing AD&D, and partially because it's just the way I ended up doing it. I've discussed already the fact that I just like handling the AD&D books and that I like Gygax's prose. Stil, it's more or less by the book D&D, even if which book is a bit contentious.  

The Underworld is a whole different animal.  I'd still largely consider developing it on an ad hoc basis.  Though I'd likely use the White Box for it as well, I may hold out to see what Brave Halfling Publishing's new Delving Deeper looks like.  The main idea though is to use a skeletal version of OSD&D and build out from there.  

I'd like to do this through play.  Unfortunately it's unlikely that I'll run the Underworld in the near future.  I've got a good thing going with my Nightwick Abbey group and I think these sorts of campaigns work best if they're designed for the long haul.  I'd ultimately like to be a one setting/campaign man.  If I ever DM for your group, it's gonna be X-thing-I've-been-working-on-for-years, assuming I ever figure out what that is.

The problem here is that I have one of the worst cases of GADD in recorded history.  The aforementioned Wilderlands campaign has the distinction of being the only game I ever ran that stopped at a logical point.  Even then, another DM had taken over and I was a player for the last few months.  Just this week I've pondered running HarnMaster, Nightwick Abbey again, AD&D set in the Savage Frontier (I always seperate the Paul Jaquays book from the rest of the FR setting.  Bullywugs riding dinosaurs!), Cthulhu Dark Ages, and now I'm sitting here thinking about how cool it would be if I could ever get a handle on the Underworld.

Part of Nightwick Abbey's success has been it's staying power.  I thought of the concept about two years ago in a blinding epiphany that occurred while listening to the Black Sabbath song Black Sabbath while looking at the cover of Supplement II: Blackmoor.  While I've only recently begun to run it regularly, it's been on my mind steadily for several years and no matter how far my mind wanders down the ADD path it always comes back to it.

So what does that mean for the Underworld?  Obviously I'm not currently running it, and I'm not likely to.  Perhaps I'd be better off devoting my attention solely to Nightwick Abbey.  The thing is, that the Underworld concept is just as recurrent in my brain as Nightwick Abbey is.  It's a bit more hazy and amorphous, but thats largely because it hasn't been set through the rigors of play that the Abbey has.  The Underworld and Nightwick Abbey are permanent fixtures in my daydreams, and it'll be a long time before either of them is swept out.

So what does all this mean?  Well I don't know yet.  Perhaps the level of development I'll do for the Dark Country will make it the out and out winner.  It'll become my Blackmoor/Greyhawk/EPT.  Or maybe the party will wipe and be in the mood for something else.  Bam!  Here comes Underworld.  Maybe I'll start an online Underworld game so that I can be developing towards something.  Who knows?  I sure don't.

A Rallying Cry (Slightly NSFW)

My opponent is a worthy one.  Hopefully this terrible warsong will bolster my troops and cause him to quake with fear.

I'll try to get back to substantive posts shortly.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This Aggression Will Not Stand

It will take more than that to... make me stop posting stupid videos...

Nightwick Abbey Session 5

Last night marked the 5th session of Nightwick Abbey.  Unfortunately we had to skip last week so that I could work on a funding application.  Session 5 more or less made up for that due to it's rather peculiar nature.

The characters were...
Slick, a Pagan Thief
Ffraid, a Pagan Cleric
Wodewick, a Lawful Cleric with a speech impediment
Cornwell, an noncommittal Magic-User
and Keelyn, a Pagan Changeling (starting this session Keelyn and any future Changelings will use the illusionist spell list instead of the Magic-User one)

Much of the session was spent in town.  The fair that started the session before was now in full swing, and the people were celebrating the feast day of Saint Ralph the Liar.  During these festivities, Wodewick was approached by a peasant who informed him that a priest wished to meet him in the Medusa's Head Inn.  Wodewick rounded up the party and headed over to the establishment, where they found a rather uptight priest in an opulent habit.  Father Timothy, for that was the priest's name, explained that he had been sent by the Bishop of Lichgate to keep an eye on Wodewick.

Slick, not liking this fellow, immediately went out to the fair to purchase something a bit odd.  He found a frogling jester who was willing to sell him a quasi-magical (and non-stat affecting) prank kit.  Slick, overjoyed, payed for it immediately and set about terrorizing the priest in every manner he could think of.

The party somehow managed to convince Father Timothy to come with them into the dungeon.  Once inside, they noticed that a passage which had formerly ended in a dead end now continued several yards into the darkness.  Upon investigating they found that the end of this new passage was a secret door that led into a crypt of some sort.  While attempting to pry open one of the tombs,  some creatures assaulted them with arrows from out of the darkness.  Wodewick was sadly slain.

They soon discovered there mystery assailants were Skeletons in strangely antique dress.  They managed to fight them off, and afterwards picked up what treasure they could gather from the crypts and return to town.  Once there, Slick continued to the molest the priest until the holy man resolved to leave the town.  He screamed a curse at all present and swore he would seek recourse with the Bishop.  Some of the party members felt uneasy at this turn of events, but Slick was content with himself.

Once the priest was gone, the peasants rejoiced and began a pagan rite practiced on Ralph the Liars day before it was Ralph the Liars day.  They asked the duridess Ffraid to officiate over the proceedings and she agreed. During the ceremony they sacrificed a young girl to stave off the monsters that come in the winter and to ask for good crops next year.  This was met with quite a bit more levity than I anticipated.

After this they returned to the Abbey with a new party member in tow.  His name was M'ongo (Pronounced Mu *rough breathing noise* ongo) who was dumb as a post but strong as an ox.  They returned to the room containing the strange tapestries and zombies from the previous session.  This time they made easy work of the undead fiends and began to search the library for anything useful.  The noise attracted an obscene number of Mites, and due to time constraints we had to end the session with a cliff hanger.

One thing that I've found interesting is how much the tone of a setting is dependent on the players.  The Nightwick Abbey sessions I've run so far are considerably more light hearted than I would imagine they would be in a vacuum.  Still they've been great fun and I look forward to continuing to run them.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I see your Lucca Turilli and raise you... Christopher Lee!

A response to my attacker.

More Hellmouths

The last one depicts the "Dragon of Hell."  I now have the urge to make the plane of the Abyss contained within an infinitely long dragon.