Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Office of Scientific Investigation

Working for the OSI can be quite dangerous.

1945: the year that changed the world. An act of war that unleashed destruction on a cosmic scale also ushered mankind into a new age. The Atomic Age! Understanding this same destructive force could hold the key to unlimited energy and an understanding of creation itself. At the same time, scientific discoveries about the nature of outer space have opened mankind up to the possibility of a future among the stars. Still other new developments of the age reveal unguessed secrets about the ancient past and even about the nature of time itself.

With these new advancements come new threats. Scientists dabbling in forces newly unleashed create hideous mutations or strange intelligences never before conceived of. Foreign agents seek to steal advances in engineering using their own strange devices. Mankind's use of atomic power may also have attracted the attention of beings from other stars with technology far in advance of anything seen on Earth, if the contactee movement is to be believed. Given the stakes of these new discoveries, any or all of these potential threats could not only spell doom for the country but also the entire world.

With these threats in mind, the member states of NATO decided to create a new body - the Office of Scientific Investigation. From its offices in a secure bunker within the Nevada desert, members of the OSI act as a combination of research, law enforcement, and espionage agency. Its membership is composed of academics, soldiers, law enforcement officers, and secret agents from NATO member countries. Their task is to investigate and contain the new threats of this new age.

The year is 1952, and the OSI has already been involved in a number of classified cases. From what has leaked to the press, agents have foiled a Soviet plot to fake an interplanetary invasion, discovered an island populated with pre-historic life in the Pacific, and investigated the remains of what some believe to be an ancient spacecraft. Fighting enemies both foreign and domestic, wherever science goes awry there you will find the OSI!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Nightwick: The Continuing Adventures

Map by the man himself

If you haven't yet, head over to I Cast Light! and check out the adventures of the Thursday night Nightwick group. Warren's been summarizing them and even includes an info graphic illustrating how many characters have died!

It's been real good to run it with OSE.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The DM is a Shut Eye

post on Prismatic Wasteland recently outlined, fairly well I think, the basic procedure of playing an OSR or Classic style of game. However, I have some problems with their prescription for a "modified procedure," and unfortunately to get at them I have to do some theory. This is going to be my most pretentious post to date.

The dungeon master, or at least my ideal one, is what Orson Welles referred to as a shut eye. As Welles explains here, a shut eye is a psychic who has forgotten its a grift and begun to believe in their own "powers." They have entered a state of self delusion because of the advanced nature of their process. They are able to apprehend the factors that used to be consciously thought about so quickly that they can begin the grift without thinking. But what is the grift a dungeon master is pulling?

They are trying to convince the players of what Matt Colville calls the secondary world.* Many players, myself included, want the experience of interacting with a fantasy world that feels real and that reality is a trick. However, like the shut eye, the trick works best if the dungeon master is practicing a self delusion. All of us do this to a degree, because it is necessary to the very act of imagining. 

Nightwick regular and former blogger Cole calls the imaginative self-delusion "my dog barks some." To borrow the example but make it D&D specific, the DM rolls on a table and sees that the PCs have encountered a dog. From having the vibe of the setting and the scenario they are running, the DM just upon seeing the existence of this dog in the table knows the type of dog but does not consciously choose it. Colville in his video above talks about looking in on an imaginary dragon and seeing what it's doing. The incident of the adventure, the way a particular question the players ask is answered, the actions of an NPC are thing the DM "knows" without consciously deciding. Some, or indeed all of us because we are mortal, may need to take some processing time to "reveal" this unconscious answer, but it is important that the answer be unconscious or, at the very least, decided beforehand.

If you, like me, want the experience of this kind of violent fantasy tourism, the fictional reality of the secondary world must be maintained for engagement. If it no longer feels real, I get bummed out. Obviously it was never real, but my ability to pretend its real for the purpose of the game requires the self delusion of a shut eye.

One of the easiest ways for that to become punctured is for the DM to ask me, the player, questions about the setting. I locate the secondary world largely in the DM's head, and if they are suddenly asking for my input it reveals the artifice. They are not looking into an imaginary world that is locked in some portion of their midbrain, they're just making it up. The modified procedure, where the DM questions the PCs back about in fiction details, would cause me to be less engaged because I have stopped treating the secondary world like a world and started to treat it as something that is fake. I'm asked to operate the strings on the hubcap that was, moments ago, a flying saucer. I do not take joy in the co-creation of the fiction. Rather, my actions are revealed to be meaningless.

Maybe this is why I studied history instead of english. 

* I do not actually condone things he talks about in the video such as rebalancing encounters on the fly or quantum ogreing, but hopefully that is also clear from this post.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Running Nightwick on Start Playing

Art by Chris Huth 

Starting next Thursday, I'm going to be running my world famous megadungeon Nightwick Abbey on Start Playing. If you want to try OSE or do an old school dungeon delve into a Doom Metal Mega Dungeon, consider signing up!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Tales from the Rattlebones Tavern: You've Got to Find the Demon...

 ...Way Down in the Hole!

Holes can be dangerous. You go first.

I've been somewhat neglectful in relaying the adventures of both of my parties. The amount I've missed in terms of the Howling Kommandos has been enormous and I'm hoping Huth will soon have a catch up post I can put up here so that I may resume the Kommando Kronikles. The patrons of the Rattle Bones tavern, too, have been having adventures but I think I can summarize a bit at the beginning of this session report and then get back into the swing of things.

The short of it is, after burning the bodies of their viridian foes and giving Beerbane a proper burial, the party was approached by three new members: the pirates Snogmar and Kleftis and the barbarian Baran the Blade. They too mislike the Shah of Effernath, who seems to be looking for the "eye" the party now seeks. They agreed to work together, but after searching the black-metal dungeon they found no sign of the eye. They decided to head to the nearby village of Gashmu so that they might lick their wounds and consider their next move.

In Gashmu Annapurna learned of a nearby dungeon - said to be a bottomless hole in a nearby bog - that would house a demon whose sinews she could use in the construction of a magic bow. Sobek-ra managed to anger the wizard in charge of the village by too openly praising his foul serpent god. Kleftis, angered that someone would slight his compatriot, began to plot a robbery of the wizard's keep. After this had all transpired, the party decided to detour from their current quest for the eye/roc egg and instead investigate the hole in the swamp. This they have found to be seemingly actually bottomless and to have been constructed during ancient Kelnore by remnants of the city of Thracia. 

The hole is lined with ancient tombs* and as of yet the party has not found the one which is purported to contain the demon. Navigating the hole has been somewhat difficult as its presence in a swamp means that a waterfall covers each side of the square aperture. The noise from this also makes some forms of perception and communication difficult. We pick up at the beginning of last session where the party had just slain a group of wights guarding one of the tombs.

Characters Present
Annapurna, 5th level Altanian Ranger
Ion Skamos, 4th level Tiefling Cleric of Set
Sobek-Ra, 4th level Orichalan Sorcerer (of Set)
Hjoldahr Braveflight, 3rd level Dwarf Fighter
Baran the Blade, 3rd level Viridian Barbarian
Kleftis, 3rd Level Ghinoran Rogue (only there for the wights)
  • The party found themselves at the entrance of the fourth tomb they had as yet begun to explore. The waterfall behind them raged and the corpses of 3 wights lay at their feet. They pondered what to do next.
  • Sobek-Ra, ever curious, plunged onward into the tomb beckoning Baran to follow. Annapurna cursed to herself at their recklessness.
  • They soon found themselves in a large chamber decorated with the triumphs of various Ghinorans led by priests in black robes. These depictions showed the Kelnoran empire, or perhaps some other entity, vanquishing and enslaving various forms of bestial humanoid - gnolls, strange dogheaded things that were clearly different from gnolls (Sobek-Ra posited they were flinds), lizard men, and the first men.
  • Beyond this chamber where two small tombs, one of which still contained its occupant (and his associated treasure) and the other of which had been smashed by an unknown agent. The treasure amounted to a fine black robe and 2 platinum pieces placed over his eyes. This they had found was common in the bottomless tombs.
  • The inquisitive and perhaps reckless pair of Sobek-Ra and Baran again led the party down a corridor, this one ending in a door.
  • Upon Baran's attempt to open it, they found that the other side was but a small alcove meant to house a hideous ooze which attempted to fall upon them once opened.
  • Battle was joined with this black ooze, and while they initially panicked at its ability to split into smaller beings, they soon overpowered it through the proper application of spells.
  • The way beyond offered no egress and seemed merely to be a house for the strange being which had tried to absorb them. 
  • This tomb looted, they  made their way back to the surface and took a short rest.
  • Sobek-Ra after careful study determined the black robe was not magical, but liking its synchronicity with his dark god he dressed himself in it before they returned to the interior of the tombs.
  • Lowering themselves down on a rope affixed to the roots of a nearby cypress, the party entered yet another tomb. 
  • This one contained an altar to Thanatos at its very entrance. Ion Skamos and Sobek-Ra debated for some time whether the prominence of Thanatos in these tombs, and an earlier statue of Ares they had come across, meant these gods were one and the same. Unfortunately Kleftis was not there to way in on the gods of his people.
  • Beyond they found a number of niches containing skeletons. Sobek-Ra used the power of his draconic blood - that extends all the way back to the Kings of Orichala - to empower Baran and Hjoldahr with the ability to breathe fire. This they used to quickly clear out the large number of skeletons.
  • The niches lacked symmetry and a large section of wall which, given the other side, should've contained skeletons was instead flat. The party decided this must mean that there was a secret door, and soon this was confirmed by a test using Sobek-Ra's supply of water. Unfortunately, none could find the way to open it.
  • After some debate over whether Hjoldahr or Baran should knock the wall down, Ion Skamos decided it would be best if he called on the desert winds of Set and cast shatter upon the wall. This allowed them access to a tomb hidden beyond.
  • One of the stronger party members entered to crack it open and loot it, but upon touching the lid it was thrown off by its occupant who revealed himself to be a hideously preserved mummy!
  • Battle again ensued, and though the party was able to vanquish the creature they spent a great deal of resources doing so. 
  • Inside they found yet another robe, more platinum, and a strange scimitar from ancient Kelnore. Hjoldahr called "dibs" on this weapon.
  • This treasure in hand, and fearful of fighting more creatures after having spent so many spells, the party returned to their rope and climbed back to the surface to make their way back to the village of Gashmu.
  • Once there, Sobek-Ra cast identify on the newly found scimitar, finding that the runes named it Mournblade. It provided both a +1 to hit and damage as well as a +2 to initiative due to the quasi paranoid thoughts it constantly subjects its wielder to. Hjoldahr was also able to ascertain that, due to its great age and poor human craftsmanship, it is perhaps more vulnerable than typical magical weapons to destruction.
Monsters Defeated
3 Wights, 1 Black Pudding, 7 Skeletons, 1 Mummy

Treasure Gained
4 pp, 2 priestly black robes (200gp each), a priestly diadem (200gp),  Mournblade

Kleftis: 175
Everybody Else: 518

* I'm using Dyson's bottomless tombs (players don't click that link) for this. The players seemed genuinely surprised that I had it be for realsies bottomless.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Product Half the Nightwick Regulars worked On

a portrait of the author('s character)

Michael, better known to Nightwick aficionados as Frederick Bull and those who follow the Tales from the Rattlebones Tavern as Annapurna, has recently released the adventure Oakfell Vale. It is published by Abraham Nermal Zzarchov Kolowoski and is dual stated for NGR and OSR games. It also features art by Uein Mundi/Konrad von Hexenzitsen Chris Huth, who y'all may remember as the guy who does the art and layout over at my patreon.

I also play-tested it with a lot of the other Nightwick Regulars (and Huth double dipping). It's about druids and its got bees!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Tales from the Rattlebones Tavern: Six Against Viridistan...

...or Beerbane's Bane!

Characters Present
Annapurna, 4th level Altanian  Ranger
Beerbane, 3rd level Altanian Berserker Barbarian
Ion Skamos, 4th level Tiefling Cleric of Set
Sobek-Ra, 4th level Orichalan Dragonblood Sorcerer
Waq Awaqa, [3rd] Level Viridian Warlock
Hjoldahr Braveflight, 3rd Level Dwarf Fighter

  • While resting at camp, Annapurna was able to spy a dwarven noble and his small entourage of three dwarven commoners walking through the Vapor Hills. She brought him back to camp and Waq Awaqa quickly took to this fellow noble, whose name was Hjoldahr Braveflight. 
  • They all agreed that a second attack on the Viridian camp was in order, with Hjoldahr's servants guarding the camp in the meanwhile.
  • They waited until dusk and again made their way to the strange cave which provides a back entrance to the complex the Viridian soldiers were exploring. 
  • Again Ion Skamos used the stormy  powers of Set to clear a path that they might pass through the room filled with poison gas.
  • They first attempted to explore beyond where they had fought the men of living metal, finding a room that appeared at first glance to be empty, aside from some strange discolorations on the floor and some ancient bones.
  • Sobek-Ra soon found the source of these discolorations, as a strange mechanism in the ceiling shot a beam of energy at him, nearly killing him. Annapurna, acting quickly, destroyed the mechanism with a carefully aimed bowshot.
  • Listening at the door exiting this chamber, the group heard the sounds of nearby Viridian soldiers searching through the complex. Not wishing to alert them they decided to double back to the poison gas room and take another route.
  • From this new route they soon found themselves in a grand hall marked by columns of the same dark metal found elsewhere in the complex. These pillars it seemed housed a similar trap to the earlier chamber, and one must know the proper direction to walk in order to pass them without being vaporized.
  • The party then used this to their advantage as they attempted to lure the soldiers they heard earlier into the trap. Unfortunately it seems the Viridians were already aware of the trap, though with some cajoling Sobek-Ra was finally able to convince one to get himself killed.
  • Battle was joined, and during this battle Ion Skamos used the thunderous power of his dark god. Unfortunately, this alerted the other Viridians in the complex and soon the whole unit was upon them, including trained Viridian archers, the captain Sobek-Ra had encountered earlier, and a conjurer of some skill.
  • The party retreated into a hallway in hopes they would bottle the enemy up, and at first this strategy seemed to work; however, when the conjurer came closer he loosed a fireball which incapacitated half of their number.
  • While the survivors were able to recover the body of Hjoldahr and even revive Ion Skamos, the conjurer then summoned great black tentacles from the depths of some nether hell, which rent Beerbane limb from limb.
  • Annapurna, realizing the situation was dire, produced the lamp which contained Salassim, and bade him to stop the Viridians. He responded "I shall try, Master. I shall try" and then flew into the grand hall.
  • Much of the ensuing battle was unseen by the survivors, though the combat could be heard as great blasts of flame leapt through the air.
  • Annapurna attempted to find the entrance on her own but soon was walking blindly without torchlight.
  • However her flight proved in vain as soon Salassim had routed the Viridians and flew into the air to smite the ones which fled into the sun from the heavens.
  • Soon the soldiers were dead and the survivors were able to lick their wounds. They agreed that they should commandeer the Viridian camp and its supplies. They hoped dearly that no reinforcements were on their way...
600gp, salt fish (300gp), Jeweled turban (150gp), jeweled dagger (150gp), wand carved with image of Yezud
XP per Surviving Player 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Tales from the Rattlebones Tavern: Men of Living Metal...

... or Dungeons are a Gas!

The Men of Living Metal

Characters Present
Annapurna, 4th level Altanian  Ranger
Beerbane, 4th level Altanian Berserker Barbarian
Ion Skamos, 4th level Tiefling Cleric of Set
Sobek-Ra, 4th level Orichalan Dragonblood Sorcerer

  • Sobek-Ra returned to his compatriots and described the situation about the strange complex the Viridians were investigating. They debated what to do for some time, but the horrible thunderstorm they were in precluded their initial plan of setting fire to the Viridian camp, though each flash of lightning seemed to set off a cloud of methane within the Vapor hills in mockery of this fact.
  • Sobek-Ra also told of a side passage which led into a cave. They agreed that they should scout this out to see if it could lead to the rear of the Viridians, or perhaps to the "eye" they sought.
  • Using the cover of the pouring rain and the onset of dusk, the four made their way into the cave, which Annapurna was disturbed to find covered in a reeking fluid like the runoff from a mine. It seemed this fluid occasionally burbled up methane, which made the journey perilous and also meant that Ion and Sobek-Ra had to led their human companions closely.
  • Soon they found a large hall made of an opalescent black metal. This hall also contained a noxious gas, created - they soon learned - by the mixture of the methane and some strange components held within large metal boxes. This gas, unlike that of the cave tunnel, was not flammable, but burned Sobek-Ra's nostrils as he held his breath and tried to explore the room without suffocating.
  • Eventually it was decided that this room should be passed by, and the four all covered their mouths and hoped for the best, moving through it at great speed.
  • Further down the tunnel they came to a large chamber... filled with orange crocodiles! They seem to have been changed by bathing in the impure water of the cave.
  • Ion Skamos called upon the Slithering Lord of Darkness to cloak them in a cloud of fog, and they fled from the crocodiles, whom they worried would prove too much for them.
  • There was then some discussion of if the poison gas from earlier could be blown out onto the waiting Viridians, but Ion knew his spells well enough to know that by the time they made it to the camp he would've merely dispersed the gas until it was harmless.
  • So they decided to do a variant of this instead, blowing wind down the chamber to clear it of the gas. This was done easily and the party preceded to the first door within.
  • Beyond, they found a section of cavern with stairs added of the same opalescent black metal as the gas chamber.
a re-enactment* of the action
  • These they ascended and soon found themselves in combat with strange men made of the same metal! They knew quickly that these were no suits of armor, as blows through landed on neither flesh nor bone and no blood spilled from these strange beings.
  • Beerbane rushed forward to face them but soon found himself surrounded. Luckily this was quickly rectified by Ion Skamos who used a thunderous blast to send one of the metal-men flying backwards into a metallic chest which spilled silver coins everywhere.
  • Soon the metal men were defeated, with comparatively few resources used by the four adventurers; however, now that they had a fair amount of treasure, and since this was only meant to be a scouting mission, they decided to exit and make camp in the swiftly approaching night. 
the party's location at the end of the session
  • The terrible storm gave way in the night to an unbearable mugginess, common in the subtropical lands of the World Emperor.
  • Knowing that they would be unlikely to return to civilization any time soon, they decided they should bury the treasure they currently had. Since Annapurna is better versed in forests than in hills, they descended back into the Elsenwood for the burial. There they marked the spot by means Annapurna would remember.
  • They then made their way back into the vapor hills and set camp in mid afternoon, hoping to wait until dusk to again plumb the strange structure the viridians had found.
4200sp, 2 black jade "crab men" statues (150gp each), 2 metal crates (100gp each)

XP Per Player

* I neglected at the time to take a screenshot, so I recreated it with the tokens I had to hand later. I also didn't make the tokens you see for the metal men until after the session when I found a Krull comic I could use.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Tales from the Rattlebones Tavern: The Story So Far

Today's post is from longtime player in my game Michael. He has helpfully provided an account of the campaign so far so I don't have to write it.

The wood-elves of Khaled, hearing tales of Annapurna's care in returning the body of her friend and compatriot Sweetleaf to the wood-elves living in the shadow of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, sent word requesting her help. They asked that she and a party of adventurers follow one of the now-frequent Viridian patrols that pass through their territory, perhaps signalling a coming assault on their beleaguered people.

Arriving in Viridistan, and finding rooms at the Rattlebones Tavern, Annapurna and her associates were approached by a strange man offering gold in exchange for one of the mummies of Ancient Kings vouchsafed in coastal cairns to the east of the city. Returning with one of these mummies, or a considerable part thereof, the party has now agreed to meet the strange man in a mysterious region to the west, where he posits to utilise the mummy in procuring an ancient stone of strange powers.

Annapurna believes there is a possibility that the Viridian patrols may lead to this same place in the west, perhaps with a corollary purpose. Thus, not wanting to delay their request further, and hoping to combine two tasks in one, the party has gone north to Khaled to meet with the wood-elves there and pick up the trail of one of these patrols.

Leaving the small woodland village of the elves, known as Khaled, Annapurna began tracking the Viridian soldiers who had passed through the forest the previous day. While she was gathering food as they travelled beneath the trees, the others were set upon by a fearsome demon. When she returned, the demon had moved on, but laying there, nearly slain by the creature, was someone she had not seen since her time in the distant City State; Waq Awaqa, the magician. Quickly reviving him, he told the travellers he had been following this demon when it attacked.

They bent their attention again to the trail of the Viridians, and were led from the forest out into open hilly plains, redolent with clouds of noxious gas. The journey was also plagued by a rolling thunderstorm, and they soon discovered the clouds of gas were highly explosive in the lightning. They gave the clouds a wide berth.

Scouting ahead, Sobek-Ra discovered the terminus of the Viridians tracks. Some thirty of their soldiers were camped on the weirdly spongy ground, their tents arrayed near a stark, blocky archway of square black stone set into one of the hillsides. Disguising himself with sorcery, Sobek-Ra approached the camp, and spoke with the leader. He revealed that they had sent at least one group of soldiers through the archway, delving into the depths below the hill. They sought for something the leader would not discuss; clearly the same so-called 'eye' we were seeking ourselves.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Concerning the Wilderlands

I've been thinking about making this post for a while. Some of you may be aware of the extremely vile statements made by Bob Bledsaw's son. As Rob Conley noted his attempts to clarify or apologize have not been any better. For this reason Conley has decided to terminate his business connections to the Judges Guild. Last I heard Goodman Games was still working them to publish works by Jennell Jaquays in order to do right by her even if the Judges Guild is run by a shit, and I respect that decision.

I have no financial ties to the company and merely have talked about how I like the setting (in both it's original and d20 forms) on this blog numerous times. I also often run it. For a while I thought I'd never run it again but as summer approaches I find myself again in the mood for Sword & Sorcery adventure in lieu of or in addition to my normal spooky affairs. I have, in fact, restarted a Wilderlands game (with at least two of the characters from the old Cutthroat Inn campaign returning). I've decided my connection to the setting outweighs my feelings on Bledsaw II's racism. I would likely feel different if I had been involved with the business as the aforementioned people had been.

Anyway, I wanted to start posting about the campaign here but I thought I should clarify that my still using the setting is in no way an endorsement of anything Robert Bledsaw II has said or done.

Oh, and if you want to read a post about how to handle social justice issues in your tabletop rpgs I highly recommend this post by Humza.