Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Campaign Idea: The Borderlands

EDIT:  If you're one of my players please do not click the links to the free megadungeon or Yaqqothl Grimoire.  They contain spoilers.

I've been thinking about it a bit more, and I've come up with this model for the next campaign.
  • The rules set for the beginning is Mentzer Basic and only Mentzer Basic.  Once the characters get to level 4 I'll bring in bits from the RC.
  • I'll start with B2: Keep on the Borderlands because it appears that none of my players are familiar with it, and though I have some problems with it it's kind of a rite of passage.
  • I'm going to fill in the Cave of the Unknown with the free megadungeon from the Yaqqothl Grimoire.  I'm still working on the second level -- I spilled coffee all over my map.  You should see it on the blog once I get a cleaned up version.
  • The keep itself is fed by a town that's fairly nearby.  I'll develop it as necessary for the campaign.
  • The land beyond the keep, i.e. the Borderlands, is a wild and untamed region.  It terminates in the realms of Chaos which are just as off the map as the Realm of Man.
  • The goal of the campaign is to explore the Borderlands and eventually set up your own baronies in it.  This will not be easy.
  • The "Evil Chaos" mentioned in B2 will get a more suitable name and have an active cult among the savages in the Borderlands.
  • Everything else will be developed on an as needed basis.
I might work up a rough map of the rest of the borderlands and post it here in a bit.  I'm not 100% sure this is what I'm going with, but it looks fun to me.

This is dumb, stupid, and pointless.

Bit of non-gaming news: they've decided to get rid of the Oxford comma.  There are not words for how angry I am over this ridiculously silly thing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Possible Campaigns

Heres some game ideas from the email I just sent my players.  It's copied verbatim so it may include explanations of things that are obvious to regular readers or which don't make any sense out of the context of the email.  Still, it shouldn't be too hard to follow.

  • Keep on the Borderlands using only the Basic set.  Once you guys get to level 4 we'll bring in the Rules Cyclopedia and see where it goes from there.  I'll build the setting as we go.
  • Same as above but use The Lost City instead of Keep on the Borderlands.
  • An LL/AEC/AD&D game set in the City State of the Invincible Overlord in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.  I'm very familiar with this setting and ran my longest previous campaign using it.  It's an old favorite of mine.
  • An LL/AEC/AD&D game set in the World of Greyhawk.  I've been doing a series of blog posts on how I'd run Greyhawk already and I might as well try it out.
  • Theres also Ruins & Ronin which is kinda like Oriental Adventures except for Swords & Wizardry (which is really similar to Labyrinth Lord).  It's pretty neat and I've run a few sessions of it.
  • I have a setting that uses OD&D called the Underworld which I discussed a bit before.  It's basically designed to be every Ray Harryhausen movie shoved together inside the Hollow Earth.  You'd probably start off in Ilion which is a pseudo-Greek city in the jungle.
  • Finally theres Uz, which I also discussed earlier.  It also uses OD&D.
Still not sure what we're going to do yet, and NWA isn't dead forever.  There might be avenues I haven't listed above, but that's quite a few to pick from.  Updates as they develop.

Nightwick Abbey Session 20

Well today's session was... eventful.

We had the whole party except for Slimey today, and we picked up where we left off last time with the party exploring the second level of the dungeon.

While trying to find a way back to the surface they encountered this fellow:

As soon as he spied Roger Le Douche he made himself invisible and made his mephit servant attack the party.  The smoke mephit turned out to be an annoying but not particularly deadly opponent and they soon slew it.  During the fight the frogling had heard the wizard flee down a nearby corridor and after it was over he attacked them with a darkness spell.  This was dispelled by the staff of Shazam's light power, and battle was renewed.  The wizard himself was rather squishy and was unable to put up much of a fight.

However, he had signaled for a number of his henchmen to come to his aid and they only now arrived.  They were dressed like vikings mixed with leatherface.  The berserkers first attempted to weaken their opponents with missiles, but the staff of Shazam again came to the rescue and a fireball spell destroyed the whole lot.  Badly bloodied, the group returned to the surface.

Once there they recruited two new hirelings, Richard and Athelgar, and spent a few days resting to regain their hit points.  They eventually returned to the abbey.  The party decided to make a return trip to the talking tomb they had found several sessions earlier, but en route they were ambushed by a number of fire drakes.  The little basters managed to kill the entire party in two rounds with their breath attack, and Nightwick Abbey was silent.

We then talked about what we may or may not do in the future, and as of yet we haven't decided what the group will be doing.  I may continue to run the abbey with new characters or we may move on to something else.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cool Games Resource

Did anyone else know about this?  I found it when looking up information on the board game Barbarian Prince to see about using its map in D&D.  It seems to all be legal, which is good.  I might turn one of those maps into the basis of a campaign project.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Folio Project: The Great Kingdom

Even in those kingdoms who never saw occupation by the Aerdians, the Great Kingdom occupies much of the legendry and myths of the nobility.  To them it represents the shining ideals of civilization and what a just king should truly be.  Of course this varies wildly from country to country, and the image of them in the Shield Lands is different from the image of them in the Yeomanry but both are exceedingly positive.  The truth of the history of the Great Kingdom is actually little known, despite the claims of some scholars.  Today it is more the province of bard's songs than scholarly works.

Still there is a general sense of the thrust of Aerdian history.  Once they were noble and just.  They rescued the land from the barbarism of the Flanae and erected a civilization in stone atop it.  This is even the belief in those countries that are predominately Flan in character.  The nobility in these regions often have fictive genealogies that "reveal" that they are truly the descendants of this or that Overking.  Cynically, what is truly important about the Great Kingdom is its precedent.  It gives voice to the ambitions of greedy kings on their sullen thrones.

Most tales say that the kingdom began its terrible descent into decadence with the reign of Vennax of Nalks, also known as Vennax the Mad.  His reign saw the construction of Stonehell -- that terrible prison which lies on the border between the Bandit Kingdoms and the Shield Lands -- and the constructions of the squat temples to the great toad demon that served as his seal.  He was known for his capricious nature and bizarre perversions, which are far to dark to retell here.

The Kin of Nalks still hold the title of Overking.  Ivid V is a fitting heir to his ancient ancestor.  While the power of Aerdy has waned in recent decades, Ivid is unfortunately not shackled with the weakness of his forefathers.  While mercenaries have traditionally served in the armies of the Great Kingdom since the beginning of the downfall, Ivid has forced more peasants into imperial levies and made more nobles regain the practice of arms.  He wants Vennax's empire once again.  Still the hold of the mercenaries will not be something easily shaken.  They have considerable clout with many of the Aerdian nobles and clerics.  If they're going to go they will not do it without a fight.

Noble dress for Aerdians is quite exquisite.  They wear beautifully crafted golden and silver jewelry that is often imported from the holds of the finest craftsdwarfs.  They favor dark and vivid colors in dress, particularly greens, oranges, blacks and reds.  Only those of the house of Nalks are allowed to wear the deep, royal purple that so many associate with Aerdy.  Oddly, while this color is associated with even the just kings who once may have ruled, it was actually introduced by one of Vennax's strange decrees.  Most Flanae, and even other Oredians, find modern Aerdy clothing and habits to be a symbol of their decadence and effeminacy.

The architecture of the Great Kingdom is usually very large.  It's often domed and always columned and arched.  They usually decorate these with mosaics of precious stones or frescoes in gaudy colors.  This of course ignores the buildings and clothing of the peasants which are the thatched huts and colored linen one is likely to find anywhere in the Flanaess.  They putter about their fields and hide in their homes when the nobles go by just as one might expect them to do in Furyondy or Urnst.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Poll

Was wondering what you guys thought of the various bullet point lists I've been doing recently, so I made a poll.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Star Trek Races for Labyrinth Lord

When I originally discussed using Trek aliens in Aklyrell  I meant something similar to Jeff Rients's hobgoblins from Cinder.  However, Jeff mentioned that it would be cool to have racial classes for various Trek species, and I couldn't agree more.  Here they are.

I'm not entirely comfortable with their xp charts as some of them have abilities that are wildly different from the other racial classes.  Still, I think they work out alright.

Requirements: 12 STR, 9 CON
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: d8
Maximum Level: 10
Saves: as Fighter, but see below
Attack Table: as Fighter

Andorians are members of a warrior race from beyond the stars.  Scholars and mad wizards claim that once they were allies with the Vulcanians and Humans.  Together they built a prospering empire in the heavens.  Today that is all shattered.  Andorians constantly war with other races or serve as mercenaries.  They are honorable, but they are also brash and enjoy the thrill of combat.

Andorians have a heightened metabolism that causes them to heal 1d6 hitpoints per day regardless of whether or not they were able to rest.  In cold weather climates Andorians heal 1 hp per round in a manner similar to  a Troll. The blue skinned humanoids also gain a save against level drain, and may roll 2d20 taking the highe result against Ghoul paralysis.  This metabolism also has a negative effect, as Andorians always roll two saves vs. Poison taking the lower result.

Andorians are trained from birth in the ways of the warrior.  As such they may use any weapon or armor except helmets.  Their antennae prevent human helmets from fitting them and an Andorian will never shame his family by covering them.

An Andorian's antennae greatly increase their perception.  They can find secret doors on a 1-2 on a 1d6 and can hear noise as a Thief of equal level.  If a natural 20 is rolled in an attack against an Andorian it means that one of the antennae has been severed.  The Andorian must roll a save vs. Petrify or Paralysis or fall unconscious for 3d6 turns.  An Andorian takes a -1 penalty on all attack rolls as well as any other rolls the Labyrinth Lord believes would be affected by balance for a period of 24 hours.  The antenna will regrow in 1d12 days, though this may be halved by a cure light wounds spell.

Reaching 9th Level:  When an Andorian reaches 9th level they may build a stronghold in the wilderness.  When they do so they effectively create a new warrior clan, attracting disaffected Andorians looking for glory and honor.  The Andorian character acts as their leader and may also hire members of other races to perform non-combat tasks.

Andorian Advancement Table

Requirements: STR 17, CON 15, INT 13
Prime Requisite: STR, INT
Hit Dice: d8
Maximum Level: 12
Alignment Restriction: Vulcans are always Lawful
Saves: as Dwarf
Attack Table: as Fighter

Vulcans are pointed eared demihumans who follow a philosophy based around logic.  They are strikingly similar to Elves, whom they call Romulans, but do possess mental and physical powers which differ from that race.

A Vulcan character may perform a nerve pinch on any demihuman or humanoid opponent they can touch.  To do so they must make a to hit roll.  If successful the opponent immediately falls unconscious as if struck by the sleep spell.  Vulcans also posses astounding mental abilities.  A Vulcan may attempt to read minds as per the ESP spell at will. 

Vulcan physiology is very different from that of humans.  They are immune to most diseases that can be contracted by humans, though there are diseases that affect Vulcans.  The nature of these diseases, and the decision of whether or not they are dangerous to humans, is up to the individual Labyrinth Lord.

Vulcans are astute scholars of the natural world.  A Vulcan character may concoct potions in the same manner as an Alchemist if given a lab.

Vulcans may wear any armor and use any weapon or shield; however, they must have at least one hand free to use their mental abilities or nerve pinch.

Reaching 9th Level:  At 9th Level a Vulcan may establish an Academy of Logic.  This academy attracts like minded Vulcans to engage in philosophical and scientific study.  Since Vulcans are capable fighters they may also be rallied to defend the academy if it is ever in danger.

Advancment Table
748,801/10/+3hp only
1,497,601/11/+6hp only
2,995,200/12/+12hp only

Requirements: STR 18, CON 15
Prime Requisite: CON
Hit Dice: d10
Maximum Level: 8
Saves: as Dwarf
Attack Table: as Fighter

Gorns are intelligent, humanoid reptiles with compound eyes and wicked claws.  While they may appear similar to lizardfolk to a layman, they are far more intelligent and tend to inhabit dryer areas.  Gorns are immense when compared to humans, standing almost as tall as a Bugbear.  Their size allows them to carry more weight than a human (treat as one encumbrance category lower than a human carrying equal weight) and increases the damage of any weapon they use by one die type.

Their strange eyes give them infravision 60ft and help them to see irregularities in passages or caverns.  This means they can spot secret doors, subtle slopes, or other anomalies on a 1-2 on 1d6.  Their tough hide affords them some amount of protection, equivalent to leather armor.  This does not stack with any armor they may wear since a weapon capable of penetrating plate or mail can also penetrate their skin.

Gorns are cold blooded and therefore take a -1 penalty to all actions in cold environments.  They also do not appear clearly to creatures who use infravision to see, surprising on such monsters on a 1-3 on 1d6.  Oddly enough, this does not affect other Gorns.

Gorns are trained in the use of all weapons and armor.

Gorn Advancment Table

Unfocused Thoughts on City States of Arklyrell

Jeff Rients, who I imagine needs know introduction, recently commented on the suitability of City States of Arklyrell as a campaign map.  One of the commenters, rorschachhamster, suggested that the setting could be in the twilight zone of a tidally locked planet in order to explain why there is so little space between the frozen north and the desert in the south.  This fired my imagination pretty much instantaneously so heres some notes on how I'd use the setting.
  • The "clear" hexes are brown, so I'd imagine they're more like Mediterranean shrubland than what I typically mean by "clear" on my maps.  That gives me kind of a Ray Harryhausen Sinbad vibe, so let's run with that.
  • I've also been watching a lot of original Trek, so I imagine that the habitable zone of the planet looks like this:
  • Since it's already tidally locked lets just say that Aklyrell is the name the inhabitants give Gliese 581 g.
  • It's unlikely that humanoid life would develop on such a planet, so maybe the inhabitants are the descendants of Earth colonists in the far distant future.  The colony probably got cut off in a style similar to Tekumel, but maybe without getting ripped out of the universe.
  • That means some of the dungeons might have ray guns.  Let's make those phasers.  In fact, let's make some of the races and monsters descendants of Federation aliens.  I wouldn't really stress it, but it'd be there.
  • The cold side of the planet would probably be called the Night Lands.  Don't know what I'd call the hot side yet.
  • I'd probably use Labyrinth Lord or BECMI for the rules with some AD&D monsters.
  • Elves can see in the dark because they come from the Nightlands.   How they exist in the extreme cold is a mystery to humans.
  • Even if I use BECMI the setting will be covered in Morlocks.
  • I'll probably use the Monster Manual II's system for random encounters over BECMI or Labyrinth Lords.  When you have that many forests in such a small area it's important that you make sure they feel different and encounter tables are a good way to do it.
  • Theres probably some non-Sinbad looking barbarians running around.  They look like this: 

  • I won't add any other settlements.  All of the humans live in fortified citadels that look like Mycenae in order to keep out the monsters (including the Rocs!).
  • I would add some monster lairs though to compliment the bigger multilevel dungeons.
  • The hexes would probably be 10 miles across, with a party able to cross three clear ones in a day.
Thats it for now.  If I think of anything else I might post it.

Blogger Question

Anybody else having trouble getting blogger to post pictures?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 18 and 1/2

I say 18 and 1/2 instead of 19 because we didn't get to play very long.  A freak storm blew through East Tennessee and caused a large amount of damage so we quit early to go see about the damages.  I will note that a tree barely missed our car, and took out the power lines in front of the house where we have D&D.  I have a policy to make sure I can run D&D when the power goes out, but the level of destruction was enough to distract everyone from the game and send them home during a lull in the storm.

The whole gang was there and we picked up exactly where we left off at session 18, the second level of the dungeon.  Slimey the thief failed to spot a pit trap, which sent him and the Frogling, Jop, tumbling into it.  Luckily for Jop, his Frogling abilities negated the falling damage, and Slimey only took a measly one point.  Jop then bounded out of the pit and snatched the rope away from Ffraid.  He threatened to leave Slimey in the pit unless Slimey ignored the debt Jop owed him from a botched carousing roll a few weeks back.  However, the Frogling eventually relented and allowed Slimey up without any deal.

However, at that time a terrible shape appeared from behind the party.  The thing was round, and covered in strange eye stalks.  I refused to let a player help me find the mini so that I might surprise them with it's appearance.  Once I had placed it down the party began to panic.  They one initiative and those that were still on the side of the pit it was on attempted to leap across.  Except for Roger le Douche.  His player had more or less guessed that a Beholder is unlikely to show up on the third level of a dungeon, and this was probably a more bizarre and less threatening creature.

Luckily for me the party was too panicky to hear him, and so after he missed with his crossbow, Pillsen used the first charge from Shazam's Staff of Power.  His lightning bolt popped the creature like a balloon and covered the hallway they had come down with strange, phosphorescent spores.  They decided not to leave just yet, and so continued exploring the second level.

At one point they discovered a room filled with crates of rotting grain that smelled vaguely of alcohol.  Slimey decided to light the crates aflame in the hopes that the smoke might lead them to an exit that doesn't involve spores.  At this point we became aware of the torrential downpour and more or less called it a night.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Corrected Ilion Map

click to embiggen

Here is a slightly edited version of my earlier map.  Il Male of The Yaqqothl Grimoire pointed out that it was weird that the numbers were on the bottoms of the hexes, which prompted me to look at my old Wilderlands maps.  I've changed them to be more in accordance with tradition.

Which brings me to a couple of weird things about hexographer.  I don't really like the default numbering system, which starts at 0 on both ends and has a weird dot in the middle.  Also, for some reason some of the coastlines keep disappearing when I mess with the hex types, so I've tried to add them back in this version.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New Map

click to embiggen

"New" might not be the most appropriate word since I designed the first draft of this one while on my Might & Magic kick.  Still, I have repurposed it to serve as a map of the area surrounding Ilion.  I'm still not entirely happy with it, but thought I'd let you guys have a look at it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A complaint about DCC

I was reminded of my earlier maxim by blog reader and professional artist Fred Dailey.  In thinking about it, I realized I did not get to draw little headshots of the three characters I rolled to test out char gen in DCC.  I call foul.

Yes there is a "notes" section, but it's just not the same.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 18

The whole of the Adventure Capitalists were present for this last session and as such we had...

Roger Le Douche, 2nd level Paladin
Pillsen, 2nd level Magic User 
Jop, 2nd level Frogling
Ffraid, 3rd level Cleric (of the Old Gods)
and Slimey, 3rd level Thief

The session began with Slimey and the gang meeting with Halfdan the Black, resident wizard who lives just outside of Nightwick Village.  Slimey had heard that Halfdan had a hatred for the Bishop of Lichegate and wanted to share his recent antics with him.  Halfdan was rather aghast that all of these feats had been performed by one man, as the bishop and his men believed them to be committed by a veritable gaggle of satanists, or so Halfdan's sources said.  Halfdan offered to identify the bishop's ring, though he admitted it would take some time.  Still he gave Slimey a huge discount due to the terror Slimey had wrought on Lichegate.

It seems that Halfdan originally operated out of Lichegate itself, but the bishop drove him away due to his need to exhume corpses.  Halfdan assured the party this was just to get a better understanding of the body, but the party seemed unconvinced.  While Roger was off on other business, Slimey decided that he would begin a campaign to make the bishop more terrified than ever.  After some debate with the other pagan PCs, and many Life of Brian references, the Slimey decided to spread the acronym PLF (Pagan Liberation Front) on anything he could.  Of course this was not a "movement" yet as it only consisted of one man.

I say it only consisted of one man because even the other pagan PCs seemed to abhor the idea of getting involved in politics.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this in future sessions.

At this point those who were discontent with the idea went to join Roger, who was near a gathering in the village commons.  Apparently Lord Echard had been called back to Lichegate to route out the vile pagans who were harassing the good bishop.  His departure was met with nonchalant-ness by the party; however, Slimey, who was now done with his meeting with Halfdan concocted a plan.

He tricked Lord Eckhard into believing that his horse needed to be shod, and offered to do it himself.  Using slight of hand he made it appear that his lie was the truth, and took the horse to the dumbest blacksmith in town.  After teaching the smith two letters (P and L, he already knew F), he had the smith make a PLF mark on the shoes so that it would be left along the muddy road everywhere Lord Eckhard went.  He explained to the smith that it was for Paladin Lord Fitzgerald, which he seemed to buy.

After all this, the party headed back into the abbey, much to the relief of those players who didn't wish to get involved in the political arena.  They debated whether or not they should go tangle with the Wight that had been created from their fallen comrade several sessions back, since they now had a staff of power, but Roger's player believed that none of it's offensive capabilities would have any affect on the creature.

After some hints from me, they realized that they had little hope of ever "clearing out" the first level and since they were beginning to outpace the challenges it posed they should head down to the second.  The felt that first they should go and see if the zombie painters whom they had given paint in an earlier session had actually painted anything.   Unfortunately their route was blocked by a number of shadows, six to be exact.  Five of them appeared to be the current party, but one looked like the long dead Mo'ongo who had fallen into the Swamp along with his magical sword.

They decided to beat feet rather than fight them, since Jop's player assured them they didn't want to close into melee and they have ranged magical weapons.  He also assured Ffraid's player that her turn undead ability would not work on these strange figments created by the Abbey.  They through torches down at a choke point to discourage the shadows from following, which seemed to work.

Eventually they found the stairs they were looking for and began exploring the initial corridors of the 2nd level.   They seemed to expect monsters around every corner, but found none.  We had to wrap it up just as they had explored the initial area due to the late hour.

This was an interesting session.  For the first time DMing for this group I saw the oft talked about problem of monster memorization.  While one of the players had earlier questioned how a monster worked, he was far more familiar with 3e and was therefore incorrect.  Now, the players did not test any of their theories in the game, so they could be wrong, but one of them knew what was going on because he had used the creature in his own LL game recently.  I must admit that this makes me wonder if I should run Uz or the Underworld for these guys just to make everything a bit less clear cut.

While we did decide that we'll pick up immediately where we left off next time, the week after that or so I'm going to be running a DCC playtest to see how it goes.  One of my players is very interested in the game, and I want to put her through her paces myself.  I'll probably be using the Village of Hommlet and still have it be set in the Dark Country, but we'll see how that plays out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Heraldry From the Dark Country

The following  shields were made with made with Inkwell Ideas Coat of Arms Design Studio.  I'm not sure if there is a way to add the helmets on top in the free version, so these lack them.  I used some information from Fleur-de-lis Design to come up with them.  I recognize that the meanings of heraldic symbols are hotly debated and are likely all rubbish anyway.  Still I'm more interested in medievalism than medieval with the Nightwick Setting.

There are obviously more that need to be made, but these are the ones which the PCs in my campaign might be aware of at this point.

The Sword Brothers shield is the most derivative and really only exists as a seprate entity because I couldn't find a version of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword's that looked good on my blog.
I'm not sure if a reeve would technically have a coat of arms, but heres one anyway.  The crosses in the chief represent the fact that the village was originally owned by the Sword Brothers while the black represents sadness at their turn towards darkness.  The bat apparently represents awareness of the powers of evil and chaos, which is appropriate for people who live on the mouth of Hell.

Technically, there is no current Reeve of Nightwick because the last one was executed for his inability to control the peasants (read: keep the PCs from pissing off the bishop).  Lord Eckhard is the de facto governor but uses neither the title nor the shield (see below).
The Bishopric of Lichegate's shield has much in common with the Reeve of Nightwicks, and for many of the same reasons.  The cross in the upper left represents the Sword Brothers, while the one on the right represents the new bishopric.  The black is again sadness caused by the war, and the white castle is the town itself.  The bishop's men will almost always wear a red livery with a white cross on it, unless they serve one of his vassal's that possesses their own device.
The blue represents Eckhard's loyalty to the Bishop, while the red represents his appointment as commander of the whole of the Bishop's host.  The bear is more or less there because Lord Eckhard would be played by Brian Blessed if this was a movie.

Lord Eckhard standing next to the Duke of Averoigne

That picture reminds me, I need to squeeze in someone who would be played by Ian Holm.  I love Ian Holm.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Dark Country?

I'm sure many of you have noticed that there has been a considerable slowdown in Dark Country and Nightwick Abbey related posts that aren't play reports.  The reason for this is quite simple: I've described it already.  Obviously there are things I haven't thought of yet, but my players haven't encountered them yet either so I haven't had a reason to develop them.

Aside from revising the overland map constantly, I haven't really added all that much since session 1.  The party has yet to descend to the second level of the dungeon and much of the first level remains unexplored.  Hell, I added several sections to the first level because I was worried it was too small but they have yet to go beyond the bounds of the original map.

I've stopped doing Monster Monday posts because the monsters I'm using have either already been described or are close enough to their implementation in D&D to make it pointless.  This is also partly why I haven't discussed doing some kind of download or product related to the setting.  It's too reliant on AD&D and Labyrinth Lord and you guys all have access to those books already.

What I'm ultimately saying is that I haven't lost interest in the Dark Country and replaced it with side projects. It's still my baby and theres a reason I haven't started running a campaign of something else.  It's not going away, but I do need some more time to get the creative juices flowing again and to let my players bump into things I haven't described in Dark Country terms yet.

My Favorite Thing About Old School Games

Some of you may have noticed that I almost never refer to a non-D&D game as "old school," or rather that I only use the term Old School as an adjective for the type of D&D I play.  It's rare nowadays that I play a non-D&D rpg and when I do they are almost always one that is in print.  I look at most rpgs as just rpgs, and only need the OS signifier to note that when I say D&D I don't mean 3.x or 4e.

However, I've recently had the chance to look over Traveller and I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't something different about the way it's set up that makes it similar to OSD&D but different from World of Darkness or even Call of Cthulhu.  OSD&D and Traveller and a number of other "old school" games contain a large number of tables for determining the nature of the milieu the PCs will be adventuring in.  More modern rpgs tend to assume that the setting and encounters are either lovingly crafted by the GM or spoon fed to you by the publisher.

Personally I absolutely adore random tables in general but go particularly gaga over encounter tables.  In my creative, but at admittedly stunted, mind these tables act as the physics of the universe I'm presenting.  Of course I customize them, bend them, and even flat out ignore them but I'd definitely rather have them than not have them.  It's even better when, like the tables in the Monster Manual II, the author illustrates how to customize the table to fit the particular milieu the GM is running.  That's just goddamn delicious.

Traveller of course has tables for generating is subsectors, stats for individual planets, and random encounters.  In that way I find it almost superior to D&D.  While it's unlikely that it will ever replace D&D in this sword & sorcery lover's heart, I do wish D&D possessed tables for making hex maps and such.  I would add one to my still exceedingly hypothetical Uz supplement, but I'm too dependent on the Welsh Piper's wonderful system.

This has become my biggest "fear" for the DCC RPG.*  The beta version of the rules states several times that it assumes the "judge" is capable of stocking dungeons and determining what monsters live where.  Personally, I miss the tables.  Sure they results are often goofy -- such as the owl from the last session of Nightwick Abbey -- but they provide a sense of phantasmagoric verisimilitude that is utterly lacking without them.  I dearly hope they add some, because without them I have little reason not to just continue playing AD&D.

I want to make it clear that this is not the only qualification something should have to be considered "old school," and I definitely don't require it for me to enjoy the game.  For example CoC is one of my favorite games of all time.  However, I do more or less require it for any game I run as a campaign.  It provides the laws of the campaign's reality and I greatly enjoy that.  If I end up creating a product or free download you can bet it'll have a number of such tables in it.

*I put fear in sarcasm quotes because at worst it means that I just won't purchase it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unfocused Thoughts on the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Beta Rules

  • I absolutely love the art.  Even the worst pieces in it are completely bearable.
  • Speaking of art, they leave Trampier off of the list of influential artists. Not. Cool.  Trampier is the man.  Interestingly enough they include an homage to his famous full page illustration in the treasure section of the Monster Manual.  That's my favorite piece of D&D art ever.
  • I was scared shitless when I read "skills," but they're more or less just ability checks.  It's sorta similar to C&C.  Sorta.
  • I find it weird that it has a general mechanic but also has percentile skills for thieves.
  • The example Wizard's patron is an evil frog demon?  That's what I'm fucking talking about.
  • I wish there were a few more monsters in the play test document, but it doesn't look to difficult to spitball.
  • I really really hope the final product has rules for random encounters and dungeon stocking.  Thats one of my favorite things about OSD&D (and might deserve a post on it's own).
  • Right now there is no guidelines for xp, so I wonder how treasure is going to factor into that or if it will at all.
  • The spell tables and crit charts remind me of Warhammer.  This is a good thing.
  • I think the tone is a bit too authoritarian.  Can't the judge decide if he or she wants players to roll 4d6 and drop low?
  • The setting assumptions are a tiny bit thicker than I would have liked.  I wish the god examples were more explicitly examples rather than just the gods that are in the game.
  • That said, the relationship between the gods and the old ones is cool.  I'll probably steal that.
  • Luck is cool, and I really like the birth omens thing. 
  • I sorta wish they had split race and class, but I can deal.
Note: this is only my thoughts after an initial skimming.  One of my players expressed some interest in it last session so I may run a few sessions to put it through it's paces and to take a break from NWA, but we'll see. This should not be considered a review.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 17

This session has a very low turn out, but as long as I can get three players I tend to try to run a game anyway.  We had...

Slimey, master thief
Ffraid, cleric of the old gods
and Jop, ferocious frogling

Slimey suggested that they retrieve the staff of power they had left with the sage back in Lichegate, and Jop and Ffraid agreed.  They called in a favor with Eckhard the Reeve and got two men-at-arms and horses for the five of them and set off down the dangerous winter road.  At about midday the party heard a ghostly baying all around them, and Ffraid was correctly able to identify the approaching creatures as Yeth Hounds.  The party was barely able to give them the slip, and had they not had horses they would have surely been slain.  Just outside of Hommlet they encountered their most horrible creature yet: a herd of reindeer!  They fled, terrified.

They arrived in the village of Hommlet, which lies in the shadow of the city, close to nightfall and decided to rest for the night before continuing onward.  Early the next morning, within the 10 miles between Hommlet and the City, they were attacked by a large pack of wolves.  Luckily, Slimey was able to distract them with a large amount of meat he had purchased from the owner of the Medusa's Head in Nightwick for provisions.

After giving them the slip they arrived at the city, where they were forced to pay a leg tax before entering.  They made their way to Almaric the incontinent's hovel where they conversed with him about the Staff of Power.  It seems that it once belonged to the wizard Shazam, and that the word needed to cast every single spell was in fact Shazam!   Other wizards, such as Vennax the Vainglorious, tended to be a bit more creative with their naming patterns but this was sort of Shazam's calling card.  

The party also presented the sage with Edrick's gilded skull, which greatly unnerved the senile sage.  He said that it would take him a few extra months to research it without having the physical skull to work with, but he preferred it that way.  Slimey was particularly interested to see if there was a way to shut Edrick up, and Almaric said it would be the first thing he looked up.  Slimey also drew an image of the stolen Bishop's wring for the sage, but the sage did not recognize it.  He offered to research it for Slimey, but Slimey decided against this.  He then burned the picture so that no evidence would be left, and the party headed back into the city.

Slimey bought a large bolt of cloth and some black paint and made a sign which read "I still have your ring, asshole!"  Sometime in the night he dressed himself as an old woman and scaled the Cathedral.  Once at the top he set up a system using a candle and bits of twine that would cause the banner to unfurl after he had left the area.  On his way down he was spied by a guard, who asked what the old woman was doing in so dangerous a place.  "She" claimed that she was doing penance before the festival of "Saint Shoulder-pads" which seemed to appease the ignorant guard and Slimey scampered off to find his companions.

It was close to dawn, and the party mounted up and rode hard for Nightwick village.  They paused only to watch the banner unfurl and when a viscous owl flew overhead.  Thus we ended the session with the party getting ready to go see Halfdan the Black, Nightwick's resident wizard in a tower to ask him about the ring and the skull.  Apparently he has a hatred for the Bishop rivaled only by Slimey's.

It was a pretty good session, though admittedly I was a bit easily distracted.  At one point most of us were looking at Slimey's Player's Goya art books which brought both a level of class and a number of pictures of Satan to the table.

Sorry I haven't been posting much recently.  I've been spending some time flipping through Traveller and sleeping a great deal.  I, unfortunately, didn't get to run much over my vacation in Mississippi so I don't have any further notes on Uz.  I'll try to get back to posting more regularly