Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Upcoming Greyhawk Campaign

click to embiggen

It looks like the Nightwick campaign is slowly drawing to a close.  One of my players who used to DM for the group I'm currently in has expressed interest in co-DMing a Greyhawk campaign, and I'm happy to oblige.  The above map is a microscale (six miles to a small hex) version of the area around Greyhawk city itself.  It's likely that for the foreseeable future the campaign won't leave those environs.

We've decided to split up campaign responsibilities.  I'll be making a a version of Castle Greyhawk using a combination of new things and unused Nightwick Abbey stuff.  My fellow DM will more or less be running adventures in the wilderness around the city.  We're free to switch that if need be, but I think the division will help us to better organize things.

At the end of each session I hope to be able to ascertain what the group plans on doing for the next session.  That way we can decide who needs to get ready for next time.

Nightwick Abbey isn't permanently shelved, but I do look forward to this project as both a needed change of pace and a chance to be a player (sometimes).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How is the Advanced Adventures line?

I'm still looking for some dungeon modules to slap down on my Dark Country map.  I was wondering how Expeditious Retreat's Advanced Adventures line for Osric measured up to other modules.  Are they any good?  Are any of them particularly interesting or awesome?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 24

We had the full retinue of players so the party consisted of...

Yim "Falcon the Killer" Yimsley -- Neutral Mysterious ranger who may or may not have come to the Dark Country to claim a long-lost birthright
Agnes the Average -- an unassuming female fighter who wants to make something of herself
Scrottie McBallsworthy -- scion of a tanning family who managed to put him in the apprenticeship of a wizard
Rory LeDouche -- brother of the now deceased Roger LeDouche of the LeDouche family of Averoigne
Beauregard E. Beauregard (Beb) -- Reckless paladin of the Order of the Hart who disapproves of the tyrannical rule of the Bishop

The town was very busy when play began.  It was a rather pleasant day at the beginning of the Festival of the Holy Fool (April 1st), and Agnes and Falcon took the opportunity to gather rumors from the Medusa's Head and the Woodsmen's Lodge respectively.  They heard a few rather sinister things about Halfdan the Black and the Old Graveyard, as well as a few rumors about the Abbey itself.  Falcon seemed intrigued by the graveyard because Agnes reported she heard treasure lay in vaults and tunnels beneath it and he heard that vampires filled the graves.  They decided this was a good time to go grave robbing.

While out preparing for this, Falcon found that a small number of villagers were throwing rocks at his mite hireling.  Scrottie, who ostensibly was the mite's master due to the fact that he was able to communicate with the creature, joined in with them.  Falcon, offended, threatened the villagers with bodily harm and scattered them to the winds.  This is when Beb met up with them.

Beb had attempted to go check in with Roderick, the curate of the local chapel, but had been stopped by a number of Badder's Boys.  Badder's Boys are a mercenary company in the service of the Bishop of Lichegate that had been sent with Lord Eckhard to help quell the people of Nightwick.  Since Beb had stopped a few of them in their attempt to molest a pagan couple in the last session, they were out for blood.  Luckily Beb was able to slay one early on and chase the rest off, but not before maiming one he recognized from the misadventure with the aforementioned pagans.  He was then free to enter the chapel, which he found in a considerably nicer state than it was before he donated much of his gold to them.  Roderick informed him that he was no longer being pelted with rocks by the peasants -- though one of the players asserted they were simply too busy with the mite.  Taking this as a good sign, Beb left to join his fellows.

During the two violent segments, Agnes was busy watching a Frogling dancer with a janglely hat prance around at the festival.  Eventually she wandered out to meet Falcon and the others with equipment she had purchased for grave robbing.  They left the village walls and wandered through the overgrown mess that was once the graveyard that serviced the then larger town of Nightwick.  Digging up one of the graves, they found the corpse of a young woman who was fairly well preserved but not supernaturally so.  Realizing their error, Falcon staked her heart, cut off her head, and otherwise performed the rituals necessary to destroy a "vampire."  A group of villagers had gathered to watch them in their strange task, and when it was completed Falcon informed them that they had slain a "vampire" and they could all sleep safely.  Rejoicing, the peasants returned to village proper.

The party then set out marching order and set out down the old path to the demon weed choked ruins of Nightwick Abbey.  On the way, Falcon collected a bit since he heard from one of the woodsmen that smoking it would cause one to have strange visions (read: get high).  They made there way to the section of the dungeon where they had previously encountered the group of mites that had given them their current non-human member.  Once there, a large number of mites appeared in the passages behind them.  They sent their mite to negotiate.  He made various gestures at them that seemed to indicate to the two members of the party who understand the mite's strange language that the mite was very unhappy with their treatment of him.

The mites then fled, taking the party's mite retainer with them.  Angered, Falcon shot two arrows into their numbers, killing two.  One of these was the former retainer.  They then continued to explore the nearby chambers.  They were particularly interested in the hall  that the mite who gave them their treasure last session had gone down to find the small purse.  At the end of the hall, which was a dead-end passage, they found a small room containing a strange, gooey substance.  Agnes threw a bit of one of her rations into the goup, at which point a small half-formed head emerged to attempt to bite at it.  This head vaguely resembled the combination of old man and rat that one finds in the faces of the mites.

Their first instinct was to throw flaming oil at it.  This tends to be their solution to most problems.  However, they found that whatever the goop ways, it wasn't flammable.  They then experimented with putting various items in the goop.  Most  were simply rejected by the occasionally undulating mass, but when the placed a small pebble in, it became a mite's finger before being absorbed by the rest of the goop.

At that point they had been dilly dallying long enough for me to roll for a random monster encounter.  Shortly thereafter they heard a sound reminiscent of a cartoon ghost. "OOoooOOoooOOOOOOOOooo."  A sheet phantom dropped from the ceiling on top of Falcon, and then chaos ensued.  By the end of the fight, Falcon (who had at various times freed himself from the creature with the aid of his friends) had its burning carcass on top of his head.

This was their cue to leave, but before going they snagged the two mite corpses from earlier.  Falcon intended to render their fat into candle wax; however, once back in the village he found that mites are primarily filled with a goop similar to that they saw in the chamber and bits of rock and sand.  They expressed some dismay that they had not purchased fireworks from the Froglings, but I'm not really sure where they got the idea that Froglings would have fireworks to begin with.

Overall it was a fun session.  Village stuff takes up an increasingly larger portion of the session each time, which I think might be bothering at least one player, but he seemed to enjoy himself despite that.

Next week, I hope to have one of my players (my wife) write up a session report in order to mix the format up a bit.

Wilderlands Revision

After reading James Mishler's excellent comment on yesterday's post, I decided to go through the settlement listings and see how many towns one finds when one assumes the stated population is only able bodied men.  Here are the results:

Campaign Map 2
Towns (pop > 1,500): 13
Cities (pop > 10,000): 0
Largest Populated Settlement: Antil (4,688)

Campaign Map 3
Towns (pop > 1,500): 8
Cities (pop > 10,000): 1
Largest Populated Settlement: Tarsh (14,240)

Campaign Map 4
Towns (pop > 1,500): 9
Cities (pop > 10,000): 1
Largest Populated Settlement: Tarantis (24,000)

Campaign Map 5
Towns (pop > 1,500): 9
Cities (pop > 10,000): 0
Largest Populated Settlement: Valon (6,760)

Campaign Map 1
Towns (pop > 1,500): 18
Cities (pop > 10,000): 2
Largest Populated Settlement: The City State (80,000)

I may be off by one or two towns in each entry, but they're more or less accurate.  This paints a very different picture than the one I described yesterday.  I'll be meditating on these new figures' implications and the possibility of using the Wilderlands as a Hyborian Age analogue for a bit longer.  I also may just ignore these very reasonable things and start with the assumption that the Wilderlands are a post-apocalyptic nightmarescape.

Which ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wilderlands Population Sizes and Their Implications

Due to the recently released movie, I decided to read a few of Howard's original Conan stories.  While I was flipping through my copy of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, my wife caught a glimpse of the map of the Hyborian Age overlaid on top of Europe and North Africa.  She asked me if Conan inhabited "the real world." I couldn't think of a better way to put in than Howard did, so I read her the Nemedian Chronicles fragment  from the beginning of "the Phoenix on the Sword."

The phrases "glittering cities" and "shining kingdoms" made me pine for a more Sword & Sorcery (or Sword & Sandal) take on fantasy than the one found in the Dark Country.*  Since I'd also fairly recently gotten a hold of the pdf version of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, and given my fondness for the setting, I decided to look into turning the original product into my own private version of a D&D-ized Hyborian Age.

One thing that immediately struck me was the fact that the sections on settlements were titled "Villages."  Not "Villages, Towns, and Cities" or "Settlements."  "Villages."  Looking at the list of population sizes, it isn't difficult to see why.

Here is a list of the number of settlements with a population over 1,500 (the lowest size possible for a "town" in the Greyhawk folio) and the settlement with the highest population for each map detailed in the Judges Guild version of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Campaign Map Two
Settlements greater than 1,500:  None
Largest Settlement: Antil (1,172)

Campaign Map Three
Settlements greater than 1,500: 1
Largest Settlement: Tarsh (3,560)

Campaign Map Four
Settlements greater than 1,500: 1
Largest Settlement: Tarantis (6,000)

Campaign Map Five
Settlements greater than 1,500: 1
Largest Settlement: Valon (1,690)

Campaign Map One
Settlements greater than 1,500: 5
Largest Settlement: the City State (20,000)

When one considers the fact that Bob Bledsaw's version may have been three times as large, one begins to realize just how sparsely populated the Wilderlands is.  Sure the City State qualifies as a city per the Greyhawk Folio rules, but it is the only settlement in the entirety of the product that does.  Warwik comes close, but falls just short of the 10,000 mark.  The City State is literally the City State.  This is clearly not a land of "glittering cities" and "shining kingdoms."

I'm not entirely sure how this matches up with the 3.5 version by Necromancer Games that I used to run my old Wilderlands campaign.  The format makes it much more difficult to conduct this exercise, but I don't remember being particularly taken aback by how few people there were in the setting.  The Necromancer version of the CSIO I have handy informs me that their version of the City State has a total population of 80,000 with 20,000 able bodied citizens.  Perhaps this would account for the low numbers, but no such explanation is given in the original product itself.  At least, none is given that I can easily find.

So what do the Wilderlands look like?  The first thing that came to my mind was Korgoth of Barbaria.  It's a brutal, barbaric age born out of the apocalypse of our own Earth.  The Wilderlands clearly has elements of this.  How else would one be able to find the wreck of a nuclear submarine in a setting where the largest population center was roughly the size of Hattiesburg, Mississippi?

Then I remembered the version of the Nemedian Chronicles from the Arnold movie.  No mention of "shining kingdoms" appears in it.  Milius's version of Conan's world is one where everyone is a barbarian.  King Osric certainly isn't the decadent sort of person I'd associate with Howard's portrayal of the Hyborian Age.  Thulsa Doom is initially a reaver himself before becoming the leader of a cult.  The landscape is arid and the settlements are filthy.  This image fits the above statistics rather well, I think.

It might be difficult to imagine PCs treading the jeweled thrones of this world under their sandalled feet, but their is definitely a place for PC rulers in such a setting.  Since the population numbers are so small, I would think it would be far easier to form confederations of towns against the larger settlements like Warwik and Antil.  Battles are mere skirmishes by the standards of many other settings, but this means that the PCs can have a considerably larger role in such events.  Who knows, after years of play perhaps the litany of characters that have inhabited the setting might make their own "shining kingdoms."

I may have not found my perfect Hyborian Age style setting for D&D, but I do have a much clearer image of the Wilderlands in my mind than I did before this exercise.

* One should not take this post as meaning I'm going to drop the Dark Country.  The Nightwick campaign is still chugging along nicely, and a play report for last night's session should go up fairly soon.

Edit: Missed two towns on Campaign Map 1.  They were on the next page.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Urbanization and the Dark Country

The Dark Country is a highly urbanized are.  In fact, it has a higher concentration of towns than one would find in the Western counties.  One should not, however, assume that since a population is "urbanized" that it is also sophisticated.  While the Dark Country has its share of merchants and scholars, most of the inhabitants of a town are likely to be woodsmen and rangers.  These men and women spend most of their time in the production of the forest products that are sent down the Great River into the Center Sea.  They will live countless hours of their lives in the brooding forests and murky swamps that permeate the Dark Country, but the safety provided by a towns walls is an important part of their daily lives.

The towns of the Dark Country primarily exist to defend against the slathering beasts that wait in the forests and mountains to gobble up good folk.  The Dark Country, as its name suggests, is a perilous land filled with foul monsters and black-hearted warlocks.  The proper pastoral life practiced in the West is all but impossible in the shadow of the Bald Mountains.  The Westerners who "settled" the land -- or stole it depending on who one asks -- quickly discovered that life without a wall was nearly impossible.

The early walled villages that eventually formed the Six Cities initially also provided much needed staging points for the Sword Brothers and their fellow militant orders.  In that time, unwalled villages were somewhat common among the various pagan tribes that had lived their since the collapse of the Empire.  The monsters did not stir so much then, and Nightwick Abbey had not yet been erected to terrorize the land and its peoples.  Today only one unwalled village is known to the Western settlers: Hommlet, and even it is in close enough proximity to Lichegate that if a crisis were to arise the small population could uproot and flee to that town.

All of this is not to say that the people of the Dark Country do not farm.  While much of their produce comes from trade with the West and Zenopolis, it is not enough for the Six Cities and the baronies and diocese under their control to sustain themselves without threat of famine.  It does, however, mean that farming must take place around tightly packed village walls.  This allows the farmers to leave the village during the day and return at night so that they are not carted off by goblins or some fouler thing.  When these families do live outside the walls, it is always in tightly packed tenements that hug the fortifications of the village or town.  From there they may barter with the guards for entrance into the village or city proper when some enemy host appears, if they have the coin.


The roots of this post may be found in both this earlier discussion and the original Wilderlands of High Fantasy.  While reading through the old JG product recently, I became struck by just how few urban centers there were.  In the Wilderlands, civilization only exists in enclaves of two or three hundred people separated by vast swathes of howling wilderness.*  This isn't exactly what I wanted from the Dark Country.

This model, misshapen and half-formed as it is, comes from my most likely distorted impression of medieval Russia from my Russian History class I took as an undergrad.  Apparently Rus society was highly urbanized partly because the climate was ill suited for farming and partly because the parts that were suited for farming were filled with raiders.  Russia's economy was largely based on the trade of forest products and human chattle.  The Rus cities were, if I remember correctly and it is possible I don't, also larger than their Western counterparts.

Whether or not the above is true, I thought it made a good model for the Dark Country.  I then added a dab of colonialism.  Hopefully the result is somewhat coherent.

I should note that I know significantly less about current pagan settlements than I do about Western ones.  For some reason when writing these things and thinking about my campaign setting I always do so from the perspective of the Westerners.  Oddly, my players have, until very recently, by and large chosen to play pagans.  If they would like to tell me about the various pagan societies, I'd be glad to hear about them.

* I hope to do a full post about the implications of these small populations on the Wilderlands setting in a future post, but don't hold your breath.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Merit Badges

You can find the proper means of interpreting them here.  I should note that the Scary and Disturbing Content ones probably need an asterisk by them since, for the most part I run a fairly silly game.  I've been known to go a bit overboard on monster descriptions sometimes though.

Edit: Forgot two

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jon Hodgson is a cool guy

I was reading a thread on RPG where some people were making a character for the One Ring system to try it out.  Then about two thirds of the way down this page Hodgson posts a drawing of the character.  He then offers to draw a number of them based on the thread.

You know... cause he can.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Much Farmland is Enough Farmland?

click to embiggen

Above is a recent iteration of my Dark Country map.  The green hexes represent the area cultivated by the nearby settlements.  Each hex is 6 miles across (to match the B/X movement rates).  I decided on the amount of farmland in a completely arbitrary manner, but it largely came from the fact that my earlier attempts (using 10 mile hexes) were a bit too big.  Here the farming production has doubled but the size of a hex is smaller.   I also spitballed a bit based on Rob Conley's figures.

Still, I'm very unsure about the level of settlement in the Dark Country.  It's supposed to be a Pagan Wilderness, and it relies primarily on trade and forest products rather than agriculture (the large amount of precipitation makes it poor farming land), but compared to Blackmoor or the Wilderlands settlements are sparse.  Granted one can assume that hamlets and thorps dot the little green hexes, but for the most part theres only a small concentration of "cities" (they'd be towns in any other D&D setting) and walled villages.  Right now -- unless I miscounted -- there are only 17 villages and towns on this whole map.  Is that too low?

FLAILSNAILS Conventions for Nightwick Abbey

As a signatory of the FLAILSNAILS Conventions I have decided to put up a very rough and somewhat preliminary conversion guide for the current incarnation of the rules used in the Nightwick Campaign.  For now I'm assuming one is coming over from a version of TSR D&D, but I'm open to other options.
  • Character Abilities: PCs will use ability score adjustments from Labyrinth Lord.  These bonuses do not cover any activities not covered in the core book.
  • Races: the Nightwick Campaign currently uses a Race as Class system.  Your character becomes the racial class available in the Dark Country that is closest to your character's race.  Elves and Half Elven characters always become Changelings, while Halflings and Hobbits grow beards, develop an intense desire to make shoes, and generally become Gnomes.  Others shall be decided on a case by case basis.
  • Classes: The following classes are available in the Nightwick Campaign: Assassins, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Magic-Users, Paladins, Rangers, and Thieves.  All classes operate as explained in the Advanced Edition Compendium for Labyrinth Lord.  Fighters are the exception and gain Multiple Attacks as per Swords & Wizardry.  Racial classes include Changelings, Dwarves, Froglings, and Gnomes, but see races (above) for handling non-human characters.  In the event that you're converting an Illusionist you may pick whether your character is a Magic-User or a Changeling.
  • Rules Cyclopedia Special Case: Lawful Fighters being brought in from the Rules Cyclopedia may choose to be Paladins for the duration of the game.  Neutral Clerics from the RC may enter play as Druids.
  • Hit Dice:  All characters roll all of their hit die as if they were making a new character at whatever level their character currently is.  Use the Advanced HD option from the AEC.   Do not reroll 1s.
  • Secondary Skills: Each Character begins with 1 secondary skill from the AEC.  This is rolled randomly.
  • Alignment:  Each character is either Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic.  The vast majority of imported characters will be Neutral (meaning they are polytheists and not dicks).  Chaotic characters will only be those who actively worship the various Demons that exist in the Nightwick Campaign.  Lawful characters must worship the God of Law, and it is suggested that in previous games the character worshiped a Lawful or Lawful Good deity such as Heironeous or St. Cuthbert.
  • Character Languages:  Languages operate as they do in LotFP:WFRP.  Treat the character as if they have never encountered a language other than Common or their racial language before.
  • Age:  Character age as though the character is brand new in the Nightwick Campaign as per the AEC. However, if the character suffered any aging affects in previous games, these still apply.
  • Multi-Classing: For simplicity's sake, multi-classed characters entering the Nightwick Campaign must pick which class they really are.
  • Equipment:  The character begins with any equipment they had in the previous adventure (or its closest AEC equivalent).  However, they lose all of their gold coins upon entering the Nightwick Campaign (Dark Country taxes are rough).  The character may begin with 3d8 gp in order to buy some equipment they think they may need for the adventure, but that option is for sissies.
  • Spells:  Spells function as they do in the AEC.  Incoming Magic-Users begin play with a number of spells in their spellbook equal to the number of spells they can cast per day unless they are level 1.  If they are level 1 they begin with two first level spells and one second level spell.  In addition they also begin play with Read Magic.  They cannot cast anymore than they could under standard LL rules.  These spells are rolled for randomly by the judge (if  he has enough time) or the player (if he doesn't).  Changelings use the illusionist spell list.
That should just about cover it.  It'd be unlikely that these rules would be used at the actual table, since my group meets at one of my players' homes; however, they would definitely be in effect if I ever offered to run Nightwick Abbey for Constantcon.

It is possible that I might make an online version of the Abbey use a different rules set (either straight up OD&D + Houserules or S&W) in which case I'll post a different set of conversion rules.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

More Dark Country Monsters

Goblin Spider
No. Enc.: 0 (1)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (30' human form)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6+4
Attacks: 1 (bite) or 2 (claws, human form)
Damage: 2d6, poison or 1d8/1d8
Save: F6
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XIX
Level/XP: 9/410+6

Goblin Spiders are horrible shapeshifters that can be found in remote places throughout the World, though they prefer remote wilderness locales.  Each has two forms.  One is that of an enormous, venomous spider and the other is that of a human.

In their spider form they appear as an enormous wolf spider.  Their bite is quite venomous and failure of a Saving Throw causes a hideous death.  The victim becomes paralyzed and dies within 2d6 rounds.  They are also incredibly stealthy, surprising on a 1-3 on 1d6.

In human form they universally appear as wizened crones whose wrinkles are so numerous they appear as spiderwebs crisscrossing her face.  Small spiders will occasionally wriggle in and out of these folds.  In this form they possess a number of magical powers.  Three times per day they may cast the spell charm person, twice per day they may cast web, and once per day they may cast invisibility on themselves.  This invisibility will still be maintained if the Goblin Spider changes into a spider.  Regardless of the form, the Goblin Spider may only be hurt by +1 or better weapons.

They usually lair in isolated cabins, and pretend to be a welcoming old woman simply looking for company.  Most people in the Dark Country are too smart for this tactic and the Goblin Spider is not above simply ambushing them while invisible.

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 2 (claws)
Damage: 1d8/1d8
Save: F4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XXI
Level/XP: 6/90+4

Hoggsbies are a type of undead creature which has stayed in one place so long that it has literally merged with its home.  They normally appear as skeletal or rotting corpses draped in brown rags with sharp, iron claws.  They are always found in a barrow, dungeon or other such locale.  Here they can appear as a piece of furniture, section of wall, pile of rubble or some other dungeon feature.  When a character is unlucky enough to come near one they animate, attacking with their two claws.  They always gain surprise unless the character being attacked is a Ranger or Frogling, in which case they gain surprise on a 1-2 on 1d6.  A Hoggsby cannot be hit except by +1 or greater weapons and possesses undead immunities.


I've attempted to use the AD&D xp system for this entry, but I'm not sure if my math is right.  Otherwise they should be compatible with any sort of OSD&D you wish to use them in.

On the Nature of the Gods

According to the teachings of the Church of Law, there is only one true god: the God of Law.  He -- or rather it for the manifestation of true law does not possess an anthropomorphic form -- rules the prime material plane from far outside of it.  It is said he cannot interfere directly in the World, and the exact reason for this is hotly debated.  Some say that it is not that he is incapable, but rather he refuses to do so out of mercy.  His presence would cause the World to become nothing more than a solid block of matter. Others claim this is nonsense.  Clearly the God of Law values free will and as such he refuses to intervene because doing so would impede on humankind's right to make its own decisions.  Many theologians claim that this too is inaccurate.  Clearly the Prime Material is a place of Chaos, a realm of sin.  The God of Law cannot intervene because its wickedness would destroy his purity.

Still, he can intervene indirectly.  Clerics are the most obvious examples of this, with their magical powers and ability to commune with the higher spirits.  His followers claim that he gives these powers to men and women in order to protect the people of the World from the things that lurk in its dark forests.  Indeed, his Clerics' ability to turn the undead has greatly helped civilization's battle against the darkness.  These are not his only servants, however.  From time to time the God of Law has also sent angels down to the World to impart knowledge, fight in great cosmic battles, or generally to defend humankind from the minions of the Pit.

But then what were the entities that humans worshiped before they found the light of Law? According to the Church, before the creation of the World there was a great war in Heaven.  The God of Law -- being omnipotent -- was able to cast those who rebelled against him into the Pit.  Thus demons were created.  There were some angels who neither warred with the God of Law nor supported him.  For these, he made the World as a prison.  These entities, as is common knowledge among the clergy of the Church of Law, became the Elves and Fairies that now linger in the World.

Some theologians though have used this story to explain the origin of the Old Gods as well.  According to this theory, the Old Gods are simply the most powerful of the Fairies.  Humans worshiped them in order to appease their fickle natures and to avoid being pulled into their terrible gullets.  However, not all of the Old Gods neatly fit into such categories.  Their alignments vary wildly, as do their appearances.  It is possible that some are demons or angels whose alignment has changed after years of being away from the God of Law or due to contact with the Material Plane.  Their forms remain the beautiful visages of heavenly creatures or the twisted and bent shapes of infernal monstrosities, but their form no longer matches their function.

These issues, oddly enough, are one of the few places where magicians and clerics agree.  According to several magical models of the universe, such an omnipotent being would have to exist.  Also, despite the fact that the Old Gods are infinitely more powerful than an average mortal they can be slain by a being of equal power.  This would mean that none of them are the divine entity necessary to fill the whole in the magical model.  Most members of pagan cults are too busy with other matters to dispute these ideas.  To them, it does not matter if the thing in the woods is really a "god" all that matters is that they need to make sure it doesn't eat them.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Question for those of you well versed in D&D history

Does the old Castles & Crusades society map that Gary and Dave supposedly built their games around still exist?  I've always wondered what it would look like.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hill Cantons' recent post on the possibility of a set of online Tekumel games got me thinking: what if this is the place where the old style of campaigns gets resurrected?  

I'm not telling those involved how to organize their game, but if they wanted to set up several referee's with their own sections of the Jakallan Underworld (or with various underworlds in various cities through the Empire as Barker suggests doing with multiple DMs) with an open pool of "barbarian" characters to slum around in each that would be pretty metal.

EPT is one of those things that I marvel at from afar.  I'm not one of those guys whose loved it forever but never played that Chris describes here.  I just found out about it a couple of years ago from this OS thing we've got going.  As glorious as Barker's creation is I'm more interested in using it to fuel my own project like Ilion* or Uz.  I must say though that I am looking forward to seeing what these groups who have caught the Tekumel bug are going to do with it.  I'd probably tinker with it myself if I didn't already have a game going.

Maybe they'll get enough referees that I could get in a slot as a player.

* I take slight offense at Barker's lumping in "Greco-Roman" with the Medieval aspects of a standard D&D fantasy milieu.  Outside of my own interpretation of the Wilderlands, I haven't found a setting that has enough mystery cults in it.

What do you think it says?

click to embiggen

I'm not the first person to post this picture or to notice the oddness of his key.  Rob Conley has discussed minimalist dungeon keys before and my notes more or less look like what he describes, but they're verbose compared to what Gygax has in front of him there.  So my question to you is, what the hell could those say that would allow him to run the whole level?

this blowup doesn't help

It's interesting to note that he more or less does what I've been doing with Nightwick Abbey: he fills a sheet of graph paper full of rooms and corridors until they won't fit anymore.  Mine isn't quite as crowded, but it looks like more or less the same scale of graph paper (6 to 1").  This makes the fact that he can run it with so little even more perplexing to me.

Someone in the comments of one of Jeff's old posts suggested that those maps -- which are very similar and also from Gygax's hand -- might only list "important rooms" but that seems strange to me since it's not like this is In Search of the Unknown where the DM is expected to fill out the rest.  This is it being run by a DM.

On a tangentially related note, I've been working on some new maps for Nightwick Abbey and I'll try to post some pictures of the first three levels in the next few days.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Great Dice Divide

I've noticed a number of my players (read: all of my players) don't like GameScience dice.  They claim that they always roll terrible.  I know a number of OSR types swear by them, and I certainly own more than my fair share, but I was wondering if anyone else had met people with a similar reaction.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nightwick Abbey Session 23

We were missing one player so the roster for this session consisted of...

Beauregard E. Beauregard (Beb for short) -- Wreckless paladin in the service of Paladin Lord Fitzgerald
Yim "Falcon the Killer" Yimsley* -- Pagan Ranger whose alignment is "Neutral Mysterious"
Anges the Average -- a Fighting Woman who seeks to get a more interesting title
Rory Ledouche -- brother of the deceased Roger who chafes under the weight of his vows
And their assorted hirelings

The characters began buy renewing their contract with the various hirelings they had acquired in the previous session.  Two of them, Mudd and Benjamin, became irate as they had been hired under a different contract which provided less benefits.  The characters, having acquired a goodly amount of gold in their last excursion to the dungeon, agreed to bring the two in under the new terms.  They then set about purchasing new armor from Duncan the ignorant blacksmith and other supplies from Rupert's cart.

In desperate need to get rid of some of their coinage, the Paladins set out for the small shack turned church that services the village.  Three robed figures greeted them when they arrived.  They soon fetched their master, Roderick, who seemed to be in a state of distress.  He informed them that the townsfolk largely blamed him for the cruelty of the mercenaries who have taken up residency in the village to look for Bishop Notker's ring.   He also told them that while Lord Eckhard was not himself a wicked man he was unable to keep his ill-disciplined men under control. 

The two paladins gave him large sums of money to help refurnish the church and help the poor.  Beb did this on the condition that Roderick openly denounce the bishop and join some other sect of the Church of Law.  Roderick stated that if he were to do so armed men would likely remove him of both his position and his head.  Beb understood and inquired if there might be some way to catch Lord Eckhard's men in their terrible acts.

Meanwhile, after coming off of his more or less successful bender (I'll let the Rangers roll on the carousing tables occasionally), Yim Yimsley, alias Falcon the Killer decided to donate what was left of his funds to the Woodsmen's Lodge.  While there he learned that the fogbound forest is a strange place filled with many mysteries including giant animals and people who were odd hats.

Beb and Rory enlisted the aid of lawful fighting woman Agnes.  She had come to the village in order to win fame and fortune, but was willing to stop tyranny also.  They then set out together to find the ne'er-do-wells who were harassing the villagers.  At around sundown they found a set of seven armed men, one of which had a surcoat bearing a badger (the symbol of Badder's Boys, a mercenary company based out of Lichegate), rutting through a pagan couples house and smashing their pottery.  

Beb told them to stop this injustice.  The mercenary sergeant informed him that this couple was suspected of  being in league with the PLF.  The ignorant Beb pointed out that there was nothing wrong with working for "Paladin Lord Fitzgerald."  The guards then showed him the families pagan shrine which was adorned with a deer skull.  A stag's head just so happened to be the symbol of Paladin Lord Fitzgerald, and so Beb continued to see nothing wrong with the situation.  Growing tired of all this, he began shouting various nonsensical prayers and making threats against the guardsmen.  The paladin's psychotic zeal was enough to chase them away, but not before he informed the sergeant to stop with the regular raids.  At this point Falcon -- who had just left the Woodsmen's lodge -- also appeared and told the guards that Yim Yimsley had returned and is looking for what is rightfully his.

The party then went to sleep.  Awaking at dawn, they proceeded of to Nightwick Abbey.  The once again entered the North tower and returned to the catacombs where they had faced the Wight's in the previous session.  They found another waiting for them, but he was quickly burned to a husk and the party (or rather Beb) began to investigate the sarcophagi.  One of the more interesting tombs contained a mummified gnome who had apparently converted to the Church of Law before his death.  The embalming or mummification process had turned his skin a strange bluish color.

Beyond they found a strangely shaped sequence of chambers and hallways, causing one player to note that FRP architects are universally insane.  In these they defeated a number of zombies, and later found a small group of mites in tiny chamber.  They opened with a flask of flaming oil, a favorite tactic of this party, and the mites almost immediately surrendered.  They decided to offer one the choice of becoming a scout in return for not killing him.  He agreed.  With that the party returned to the surface without incident.  

This I think was one of the better sessions we've had so far.  It's going to be interesting to see how the Mite hireling turns out, especially since he can only communicate using hand gestures.**

During the part with the guards, I had the other players go ahead and set out marching order and other such nonsense so that everyone had something to do.  This seemed to work out fine.

* Yim Yimsley is an obvious corruption of Slimey, the only PC who survived the TPK from session 20.  He did so by not being present.  This was a fake name he used when founding the PLF in order to create a mythical figure behind it all.  Falcon's name is, according to his player, purely coincidental

** The god of the mites' name is that rude hand gesture where you shove your fist up and slap your hand on your biscep.  That's the best I can describe it.  Writing articles on their culture would be very difficult since it is physically impossible to write down their language.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts on My Recent Poll

It's been very interesting to see my poll change over the past month.  At first it appeared as though Name Level NPCs wouldn't get any votes, but in the last leg they got several with lower level classed NPC rulers just barely edging them out.

This is a question that I'm still unsure as to what my answer is.  The idea for the poll came to me while skimming the Cook expert set which pretty firmly states that NPC rulers must be name level or higher.  Since this was really my first exposure to Cook, this struck me as odd.  It shouldn't have.  The random castle inhabitants results for OD&D create rulers who are above name level, though it never states that these same rules should be used for determining town officials.

The reason it struck me as odd is that my first real experience with "old school" was Necromancer Games' version of the Wilderlands.  That setting introduced me to sandbox play, hexcrawling, and broke me of my earlier rail-roading habits.  One of the things that most intrigued me about them was the ability for player characters to carve out their own bit of land from either the wilderness or the cruel despots that currently possessed it.  In it, a town might only have a fourth level fighter to look to, and a castle might have a sixth level wizard in it.  Of course some of the NPCs are in fact higher level, and the CSIO is infamous for its high level blacksmiths and beggars.  Neither the 3.5 version of the setting nor the original incarnation follow the name level rule.

I've more or less followed that example in the Dark Country.  I can think of three name level NPCs on my wilderness map off the top of my head, one of whom is more or less a monster anyway.  Based on my poll I would think many of you have designed your worlds similarly.  So I have a question for you: what made you decide to ignore that particular rule?  Were you similarly following that example, or did you just think the rule got in the way of the players?

For those of you who do want your rulers to be named level, why?  Aside from the fact that there is a rule on the matter is there some philosophical principle that helped you make that decision, or do you just think NPCs should follow the same rules ans PCs?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quick Book Recommendation

If you're looking for some inspiration for your D&D campaign it's hard to go wrong with The Art of Ray Harryhausen.  My (then future) wife gave it to me as a birthday present a couple of years ago, and it has largely served as the inspiration for my Hollow Earth stuff.

As a fan of his movies (particularly 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts) I can't help but wonder at what his unmade works would have been like.  I'm especially intrigued by his adaptation of The People in the Mist and the unmade King of the Genies both of which involve lost worlds with dinosaurs.

Nightwick Village Ephemera: Weather & Hunting and Gathering

This is some things I've been playing around with in my current full write up of Nightwick Village.  I've been using a utility made for WFRP (no offense to Mr. Raggi, but the real WFRP) for my campaign's weather, but I wanted something that more fully integrated weather into hexcrawling.  The percentages were completely pulled outta my ass.  If anyone can provide better information for how to figure out the percentages for precipitation I'd love to have it.

The hunting part is based off of the (heavily discouraged) system provided in B2

Weather & Climate

The Dark Country possesses a wet, continental climate.  Temperatures range wildly depending on the season, being extremely cold in the winter and quite warm in the summer.   The large number of rivers and wetlands attest to the high amount of precipitation that occurs in the region. 

Each game week the judge should generate the weather using the information below.  The result dictates the weather patterns for the following week, barring magical upset.
To determine the dominate weather for each week roll 1d6.  On a 1-3 the weather is typical for the season in which the week resides, if the result is a 4 it is typical for the season preceding, 5 the season following, and a 6 represents freak weather.  If the week is early or late in the season the judge may modify this table.  For example, the judge may rule that in the first two weeks of spring a result of 4-5 represents winter weather, while a role of a 6 represents summer weather.  It is recommended that season take up entire months in order to simplify things for the judge.  For example, the entire month of September would be considered part of autumn.

Weather Effects Table



% Precipitation





Temperature: 50 % chance river is frozen over and capable of being crossed without a ford.   Swamps harden and a party on foot can now cross two swamp hexes in a day.

Precipitation: Snow.  Mountains become impassable.  All other terrain penalties increase by one.




Temperature: 5% chance river is frozen over and can be crossed without a ford.

Precipitation: Rain or snow flurries.  Swamps become impassable without a boat.




Temperature: None.

Precipitation: Rain.  Swamps become impassable without a boat.




Temperature: 5% chance river is frozen over and can be crossed without a ford.

Precipitation: Rain or snow flurries.  Swamps become impassable without a boat.

Hunting and Gathering

There may come a time when the party is stranded in the wilderness without food.  If this is the case, the party may wish to send out scouts to forage or hunt.  Most characters will find food for 1d6 persons on a roll of 1 out of 1d6.  The roll to find food is modified by the quality of the hunting grounds in which the character is foraging; however, it can never be brought below a 1 in 6 chance. 

Rangers find food 50% of the time (3 on 1d6), modified positively if the hunting grounds are good.  They find twice as much food as non-Ranger characters.

Nightwick Village Minisetting Part IV: Wilderness Travel & Encounters

Each hex on the wilderness map represents an area roughly equivalent to 6 miles.  It is recommended that movement should be based around hexes instead of miles, thus simplifying matters for the judge considerably.  A party on foot should be able to cross three clear hexes in a day, two forested or hilly hexes in a day, and one swamp or mountain hex in a day.  At the judge’s discretion, crossing a river may take an entire day without a raft, boat, or access to a ford.  If a road passes through a hex, it counts as one category above it.  For example, if a road runs through a mountain range the party can cross two mountain hexes in a day.  If a road crosses a river it is assumed that a bridge is present.

Roll for a random encounter each time the party enters a hex.  On a roll of 6 in a clear hex, 5-6 in a forest or hilly hex, a 4-6 in a mountain or swamp hex, roll 1d8 and 1d12, consulting one of the tables below.

The Fogbound Forest
2 – Zombie
3 – Worg
4 – Shadow
5 – Wolf, Dire
6 – Hobgoblin
7 – Bugbear
8 – Men, Bandit
9 – Wolf
10 – Orc
11 – Bear, Black
12 – Goblin
13 – Bat
14 – Troll
15 – Rat, Giant
16 – Irish  Deer
17 – Lycanthrope, Werewolf
18 – Harpy
19 – Gnome
20 – Wolf, Winter

The Great Swamp
2 – Greenhag
3 – Death, Crimson
4 – Zombie
5 – Mongrelman
6 – Larva
7 – Worg
8 – Wolf
9 – Centipede, Giant
10 – Men, Pirate
11 – Orc
12 – Toad, Giant
13 – Ogre
14 – Ghoul
15 – Will-O-Wisp
16 – Men, Bandit
17 – Irish  Deer
18 – Men, Merchant
19 – Haunt
20 – Mites

The Mire of Princes
2 – Zombie, Monster
3 – Skeleton, Animal
4 – Skeleton
5 – Specter
6 – Will-O-Wisp
7 – Ghoul
8 – Rat
9 – Rat, Giant
10 – Raven, Normal
11 – Ogre
12 – Dog, Wild
13 –Hobgoblin
14 – Volt
15 – Zombie
16 – Irish Deer
17 – Goblin
18 – Coffer Corpse
19 – Fly, Giant Horse
20 – Wight

The Witchwood
2 – Displacer Beast
3 – Hangman Tree
4 – Giant, Firbolg
5 – Owlbear
6 – Lycanthrope, Werebear
7 – Sprite
8 – Owl
9 – Orc
10 – Ogre
11 – Stag
12 – Boar, Wild
13 – Bear, Black
14 – Boar, Giant
15 – Bugbear
16 – Choke Creeper
17 – Elf, Wood
18 – Shadow
19 – Gnome
20 – Dryad

These tables are for the various wilderness regions near Nightwick Village itself.  If the characters wander into a region not discussed above, use the generic tables found in the Monster Manual II.