Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Secrets of Myrddin Q&A

I just wanted to make sure everybody saw the questions and answers from the two Secrets of Myrddin posts:

Q: So when are you going to post the Kickstarter for The Caves of Myrddin?
A: That doesn't seem feasible given the number of other products I rehash.

Q:Were you kidding about [ripping off] level 3 of the Temple of Elemental Evil?
A: Only in that I haven't ripped off that particular module.  Other modules?  Totally ripped off.

Q: Does this map [the vertical geomorph] reflect all the interlevel connections?
A: No.  There are plenty of staircases, shafts, etc. on the level maps.  And a couple of 'secret' levels that can't be accessed via the vertical geomorph.  Philip the Bloody discovered one of these and later led an expedition specifically to loot part of it.

Q: Does horizontal distance on this map always correspond to distance on the horizontal levels?
A: Only sort of.  Any attempt to construct a complete iso-view map of the dungeon would probably discover areas that just don't work right.

Q: I'd really like to get a better idea of how people translate from the vertical layout to the overhead, especially for some of the more complex ones like the one pictured. Obviously some of the early ones where each level is just a box with interconnecting stairs and passages, it's easy to translate since on the vertical map the level is just a featureless box. But on these more detailed ones?
A: Not sure that I follow this question.  Is it the same as the next one down?  If not, please restate.

Q: What kind of cues were you given that you were mapping vertically? Did you have to figure that out, or was it made clear "you may want to switch to another sheet of paper to represent a vertical map"?
A: When you reach one of the standard dungeon levels I just tell people to switch to overhead perspective in their mapping.  I don't really do 'subtle' well.

Q: So then the vertical map was run as a separate map? Like it's own floor, but instead of horizontal vertical?
A: Yes.  Whole sessions were spent crawling that map.  Some seriously epic fights have happened there.  It has a few layers and some hidden loot right on it.

Q: Is this [the vertical map] actually it's own ant-farm style dungeon level? If so, do you think of it as being 2 dimensional?
A: Yeah, it is run as its own level.  I tell people "This map has up, down, east and west.  I might mention north and south occasionally, but don't take it too seriously."

Any other questions at this point?  What else would you like me to talk about?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Secrets of Myrddin, part 2

So about this time last year I pitched the idea of vertical geomorphs to the carto-dungeon-graphic portion of the OSR community.  The basic idea was to take all those side-view maps that show the relationships between levels in a dungeon and actually use them like you do the level maps.  The geomorph artists came through in spades, so I decided to make a vertical map the centerpiece of my new dungeon.  Here are the parts that have been pretty well explored.

Because I actually wanted to use this map I decided that all the initially available entrances to the dungeon would lead onto this map, rather than directly to one of the horizontal (i.e. 'normal') levels.  Later one party excavated the Great Heap in the center of the courtyard of Castle Dundagel, opening up access directly to a medusa-infested Level 2.  But the majority of visitors to these dungeons have spent part (or all!) of each session slogging through this map. 

This behavior amused me greatly, because I originally envisioned the vertical map as sort of an underground Wilderness Area, where random encounters aren't tied to any sliding difficulty level.  Hence the vicious metallic spiders (Dave Hargrave critters, in fact) and the vampires.  I honestly expected the players to spend less time scouting the vertical access once some decent routes to various upper levels were discovered.

But I guess I didn't count on the twin fascinations caused by the Last Dragon in England and the Great Spiral Stairs.  When first assembling the geomorphs to form the vertical level (The above map is not a product of the random generation of Dave's Mapper.  When first assembling this thing the vertical randomizer wasn't fully implemented yet, so I stiched this thing together in MS Paint.) I decided on two things:  1) I wanted to use four "top border" geomorphs that had towers on them, to give a simple four-towered castle.  2) I wanted to see how deep of a spiral staircase I could get away with.

The latter was important to me because I wanted to give a quickie way for high level or daring low level characters to get down to deep levels.  This has come up in threads at places like Dragonsfoot and OD&D Discussion.  Don't just connect level 1 to level 2 to level 3.  Give the players some options so they can influence how big of a challenge they'll be facing.  The Great Spiral Staircase gives direct access to level 8 as well as a chance at finding the lair of the Last Dragon, labeled '11b' at the bottom of the map.  The two holes leading off the bottom of the map are the known Hellmouths.  One of them is under a trapdoor.  So far no PC has fallen to Hell.

One other factor I hadn't fully counted on: players just love climbing shit.  Seriously, most of my players love spelunking around this map, pounding in spikes, lowering ropes, dropping torches to see how far they go.  In some sessions the sheer joy of exploration really seemed to trump any concern for finding loot.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Secrets of Myrddin, part 1

Okay, so some folks here and on Google+ have convinced me to let folks peek behind the screen just a bit at the Caves of Myrddin campaign.  I'm going to start with the original caves levels.  I was in a big hurry to start DMing this campaign, but the upper levels of the ruined castle weren't ready to go so we started with these nearby caves.

Castle Dundagel is vaguely based upon the real Cornish ruins of Tintagel, which really does have a nearby Cave of Merlin.  I picked Tintagel as my model because of its Arthurian associations. It's the castle Uther besieges in the first part of Excalibur, where Arthur is conceived.  But the ruins there today were actually built in the 13th century, the century after the Wessex campaign is set, almost as an early example of a lord's architectural folly.  Key changes I made to Tintagel when I made Dundagel:
  • I put the whole thing on a spit of land, rather than an island just yards off the coast.  I didn't want to deal with boats every single expedition.
  • Based upon this photo of Tintagel I decided I needed three 'Merlin caves' rather than the single one I'd read about.
  • Since the modern understanding of Arthur and all that stuff only begins to congeal with Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is alive during the campaign, I decided that much of what we know as the standard Arthur narrative is just plain wrong.
  • To whit, Arthur and Merlin weren't contemporaries.  Merlin (a.k.a. Myrddin) is a generation or two later, as is Morgan le Fay, queen of Tintagel.
  • Also key: Myrddin was an evil wizard and Morgan a benevolent queen.  This got flip-flopped in later legend mostly because the only thing everyone clearly remembers from the period is how the queen used to dress like a tart.
The Caves became named after Myrddin because he used them to tunnel a backdoor into the family crypts below the castle.  The original monsters to move into the dungeons were part of Myrddin's army of evil.  For a time the good guys beat back these creatures and sealed them below, but they only dug more dungeons.  Eventually they dug so deep they reached the uppermost level of Hell.

The dragon moved in three or four generations after all this muck.  The House of Fay had spent its energies and lost many of its bravest sons and daughters trying to contain Myrddin's mess. (That guy was long dead, thanks to a vorpal sword to the neck.  Neither head nor sword have been recovered from the dungeons.)  So the dragon didn't have to do much to seize control and set up shop in a hidden lava-filled cavern just slightly above Hell.  But it got lazy and sleepy and soon it only ruled the monsters in name only.

Later, a trandimensional meteor crashed into Goblin Land so hard that it punched a hole through straight through to level 1 of Dundagel.  But that's not what we're talking about today.  Here's some maps.

Each cave corresponds to a dungeon level in terms of difficulty.  Most of the early parties stayed the hell away from the Wet Cave (see below), but no one ever figured out that the monsters in the Small Cave (pictured above) were noticably easier to beat than the other two.  Notable features include the broken teleporter in area 4 (that circular thingy) which the Gnome Submariners used once and the Spaniard tried to repair, the Stirge Nests in the stalactites of area 6 (the line across the tunnel mouth just south of the 6 is a gate of iron bars, a tar-baby sort of monster was fought there) and the chasm between 14 and 15 which may lead to something deep below.

The Wet Cave is one of my most complicated dungeon levels to DM, because the tide washes in twice a day.  Areas labeled A, B and C flood to different depths based upon the time of day.  I have a turn-by-turn tide chart for this.  Some parts of the dungeon completely flood.  At high tide a bunch of sea water pours into the chasm at area 9.  Other neat features are the magical cloud of poisonous gas (recently dispelled) at the location 5, the sinkhol in area 15 (which fascinated the sea ghouls that previous haunted much of the level) and the small tunnel (big enough to crawl) leading up out of area 3.

Here I must give Special Mention in the Dispatches to Nicholas Mizer and his elf Celumir the Bald, who led the first party into this level.  He did a fabulous job of scouting out the place before time.  It was he who first learned of the Curse of Blue Nellie.

And here's the Big Cave, a.k.a. level 3.  Monsters here were mostly unintelligent beetles, slimes, wobras (winged cobras), etc., with the notable exception of a couple appearances by Joe Mama, the trollish psycho with a chainsaw.  The corkscrew/sprial/whatever of the main corridor really made mapping this level a giant pain in the ass.  The criss-crossing in area 10 is spider webs.  No giant spiders though, just a zillion regular sized ones.  No one knows where the the corridor at the top of the map leads.

I think I got all these maps from Paratime Design.  The Caves/Dungeons complex is a Frankenstein of stitched stuff.  Some levels are entirely swiped from published modules.  Others I just used the map.  One level I use the map from one module with the key from another.  A lot of Dave's Mapper brand geomorphs get used all over as well.

Riffing off of other people's work is great for several reasons:
  • I can recombine stuff for interesting new effects.
  • I enjoy the challenge of presenting old material in a fresh way.
  • I like secretly daring the players to blurt out "Hey, this is level 3 of the Temple of Elemental Evil, you fraud!" So far I've gotten away with a LOT with no one calling me on it.
  • I'm a lazy ass.
  • Besides, there's a lot of good stuff out there.  Why not use it?
Next installment I'll talk about the big vertical geomorph.  I'll even show you some of it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

troupe Traveller

So I made this super-simple Traveller character sheet that holds five PCs per page.  Eight of them come with one of the pre-gens from Adveture 4: Leviathan already filled in for the first character.  Like this:

Stupid red squiggly lines.  Anyway, the eight pre-gens fill out the command staff of the ship nicely, putting the players in charge of the ship.  The other four slots on each will be generated randomly using the normal methods and then jobs on the ship found for them.  So, for example, if you put together a character with the skills Admin-1, Computer-1, Gunner-1 they could be assigned as the Boat Deck Officer (Admin-1, Comp-1 required) or as the Fire Control Officer (Comp-1, Gunner-1) or as one of the Computer Operators (Comp-1).  Or anybody can wash dishes and chop onions as a Galley Hand, no skills required.

Each player operating a stable of up to five characters on the ship is advantageous in the following ways:
  • Cuts down on my work fleshing out the rest of the crew.
  • No need to send the whole dang command crew down with every landing party.
  • Makes it easier to switch scenes "Meanwhile, back on the ship..."
  • By running different PCs with different jobs, we all will get a better sense of how the ship operates.
  • Combat in classic Trav is pretty brutal.  It's good to have some back-ups ready.
  • Gives the players a sense that there are people on the ship they can trust to handle things while they are planetside or whatever.
Since we're using the basic generation system I don't think it will take too long to fill up the sheet.  As is typical for games of this period, buying equipment will probably take the longest.  I ought to figure out how to streamline that.

So which player gets to be the captain?  Hell if I know.  I think I'm just going to fling the charsheets down on the table and let the players work that out among themselves.  If they can't figure it out that have no business flying a fifty billion credit starship into unknown space.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

one more Caves of Myrddin update

So Carl (Bishop Aethelred), Louis (Sonoma the Psycho Elf), Tom (Lankii the Diabolic Elf) and Nick (Vithujin the Necromantic Elf) were discussing a plan of action at the beginning of the session last night.  There was a bit of himming and hawing over what to do with this, the last run of the campaign, when in walks Chris (Fred the Dwarf).  He announces that he had a shitty day at work and that he intends to take it out on the Vampire Lord of Crows.  Everybody agrees that icing that particular mofo would be sweet.  And they have someone who can guide them to his lair: Billy White-Paw, the Bishop's cat.  Aethelred can communicate with Billy and once asked him to tail a couple vampires back to their lair.

So after stocking up on holy water and other provisions and Aethelred using the spell commune to get some intel from God hisself, they follow Billy into a section of the vertical map that no previous party has penetrated.  They end up spelunking like you wouldn't believe, pounding in stakes and attaching ropes, climbing mysterious chains, falling in pits that are at the bottom of other pits, abandoning their hopeless losers when they become a burden and generally clanging about the dungeons.  Billy is just leaping from ledge to ledge effortlessly, smugly waiting for the rest of the party two or three dooms ahead of them.

Meanwhile I'm throwing dice to see how many of the remaining vampires are in their lair and how active they are.  Turns out Billy is leading the party to all seven of the bloodsuckers and six of them are resting in their coffins.  So when they arrive in Coffin Central they quickly dispatch Alice Cooper's Vampire Snake.  Thanks to careful planning, casting a ton of spells (including haste), bringing along a bag full of sunshine and my crappy rolls they manage to kill every single fangy bastard in the place with no casualties.  I almost laid vampiric hands on the throat of Fred the dwarf, but then somebody remembered that Fred's henchmen hadn't acted yet and one of them put a magic crossbow bolt right through the vampire's heart.  Sweet.

It was neat how hard the party whupped up on the bad guys.  We had discussed anti-climactic boss fights in D&D earlier in the evening.  I offered my opinion that the fight against a big boss should be totally one-sided: if the PCs do their homework, they ought to win.  I didn't mention the corollary out loud.

For the record, here's the list of the vampires they murdered:

Alice Cooper (treasure: Hat of Protection +2)
Alice Cooper's Snake
The Skipper from Gilligan's Island (Gilligan was staked in a previous expedition)
Zed Zardoz (treasure: Zardoz mask of protection from gaze attacks)
Vampire Donkey (poor beast was left behind by a previous expedition)
The headless body of Spiro Agnew (treasure: iron collar of no head required)
Trevor, the Vampire Lord of Crows (treasure: unholy crystal ball that allows two-way communication with another unholy crystal ball)

After the fight in Coffin Central they located a secret door that they hoped would lead to more vampire treasure.  ("Where are these jerks' gold?")  Billy White-Paw was sent in to scout the area.  He came running back very quickly.  "There's a huge fucking spider in there!"  Sonoma wanted to throw a fireball into the room to kill it, but was talked out of it.  That's too bad.  The fireball would have blasted back into the PCs' faces and the spider, being one of those metallic Arduin jobbies I like to use, probably would have come out unscathed.

After getting their items identified the party pitches in a crapload of gold they've been saving up to build a kick-ass stone castle in Goblin Land.  Carl is leaving for an intership at the University of Versailles, so in a fit of sentimentality I decide that papal legate Alberic of Ostia makes Aethelred the legit Bishop to the Goblins.  Lankii and Fred declare themselves the elvish and dwarvish Moses respectively and lead bands of their fellow demihumans out of the realms of men into a new life under the twin suns of Goblin Land.  They seal up most of the routes between Goblin Land and Wessex, but leave one way open for those future adventurers who might want to join the good fight against the monsters of their adopted homeworld.

All in all, not a bad way to end things.  After the run is over, I pull out my vertical map and we compare it to the one Chris has made.  He did a pretty dang good job, as have several other online cartographers.  At the urging of several folks on Google+, I'll be scanning a few of the better-known parts of the dungeon and doing a sort of designer's notes thingy with them, maybe starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wizardly Wednesday haz a sad

Poor fellow just found out there'll be no magic spells in my next campaign.

Goodbye Wessex, hello outer space

Tonight's tabletop game is going to be the last Wessex game for a while.  I don't know if anybody has noticed or not, but I haven't run my Monday morning game for a couple weeks now.  School has gotten kinda hectic and I've needed my Monday mornings for homework.  I don't know when I will next run an online game.  It may be a spontaneous thing, with those of you on Google+ at 4:30am my time getting a "Hey, anyone want to play a game of ______?"

Meanwhile, I'm going to pitch to my Wednesday group a few session of Traveller.  I've long wanted to run Adventure 4: Leviathan, which involves giving the party command of a big merchant explorer and sending them into an unknown subsector.  Since it's a commercial interest providing the ship the scenario is an interesting hybrid of Star Trek's exploration/first contact ethos with Traveller's more grubby economic bent.

Thanks to all the super-cool players who made the Caves of Myrddin/Dungeons of Dundagel a hoot.  That dungeon still has a crapload of unexplored nooks and crannies (whole levels, in fact), so I will probably return to it some day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

DDG monster list

There been some chatter among some old school bloggers about the cool possibilities of a campaign world where the Fiend Folio is the primary monster book.  I still think that's a super-nifty concept.  As an alternative, what would a campaign's monster list look like if we focused on the non-unique monsters found scattered through the various pantheons in Deities & Demigods?  Here's the list:

Average Knight of Renown (Arthurian Heroes) - basically a fighter level 8-10 with social clout
Knight of Quality (Arthurian Heroes) - fighter 10-13 with clout
[By the way, my research for the Wessex campaign suggests that in AD 1140 England's population was maybe 2 to 3 million total (Wessex itself was probably less than a million.)  And there were maybe 2 or 3 thousand knights.  So these guys would comprise about 1 in 1,000 of the populace.]
The Pack of the Wild Hunt - 8 hit dice spooky dogs
Spirits of the Air (Chinese Mythos) - 11HD, 8' tall dudes with wings and tusked monkey heads, neutral in alignment
Byakhee (Cthulhu Mythos)
Cthuga's Flame Creatures (Cthulhu Mythos)
Deep Ones (Cthulhu Mythos)
Great Race of Yith (Cthulhu Mythos)
Mi-Go (Cthulhu Mythos)
Primordial One (Cthulhu Mythos) - a.k.a. Elder Thing
Shoggoth (Cthulhu Mythos)
[You haven't lived until you loosed a couple of Shoggoths on your PCs.]
Flame Snake (Egyptian Mythos) - Tiny 1 HD fire-breathing snakes that guard treasure and hate the gods
Minions of Set (Egyptian Mythos) - black-clad jerkwads who can turn into giant scorpions, snakes or bears
Air Maiden (Finnish Mythos) - basically Lawful Good winged valkyries with Princess Leia hair
Cyclops, Greater (Greek Mythos) - the good ones who make magical weapons and stuff
Cyclops, Lesser (Greek Mythos) - Gronks with rocks
Marut (Indian Mythos) - invisible wind spirits, pretty kick-ass too
Clakar (Melnibonean Mythos) - winged apes!  hot damn!
Dharzi Hunting Dog (Melnibonean Mythos) - bloodhounds with hawk heads
Dragons of Melnibone (Melnibonean Mythos) - brief write-up of how these beasts differ from standard D&D dragons
Elenoin (Melnibonean Mythos) - extraplanar naked berserker ladies with sharp teeth
Grahluk (Melnibonean Mythos) - extraplanar ape men who hate the Elenoin
Mist Giant (Melnibonean Mythos) - four armed weirdos made of mist
Myyrrhn (Melnibonean Mythos) - hawk people, like in Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon
Nihrain Horse (Melnibonean Mythos) - magic horses kinda like the ones they ride in Krull
Oonai (Melnibonean Mythos) - shapeshifters that turn into various monsters to kick your ass
Vampire Trees (Melnibonean Mythos) - pretty much what it says on the tin: trees that want your blood
Vulture Lion (Melnibonean Mythos) - cool-looking wingless griffon variant
Astral Wolf (Newhon Mythos) - ghosts of wolves who starved to death
Behemoth (Newhon Mythos) - killer whales with stumpy legs
Bird of Tyaa (Newhon Mythos) - extra smart ravens that will put poison on their claws
Devourer (Newhon Mythos) - alien wizards who will sell you useless junk
Ghoul, Newhon (Newhon Mythos) - cannibals with transparent flesh
Gods of Lankhmar (Newhon Mythos) - grumpy mummies who serve as the local gods of the city
Leviathan (Newhon Mythos) - basically a kraken or giant squid
Snow Serpent (Newhon Mythos) - white-furred snake
Salt Spider (Newhon Mythos) - giant spider that lurks in salt swamps, can spin webs and its strange feet allow it to walk on water, quicksand (quicksalt?), etc.
Water Cobra (Newhon Mythos) - poisonous aquatic snake with chameleon ability
Fossergrim (Norse Mythos) - sort of male dryads who are attached to waterfalls instead of trees
Valkyries (Norse Mythos) - like Bugs Bunny in that one opera cartoon

That's forty critters, which sounds to me like plenty with which to build a campaign world.  The knights suggest a standard pseudo-medieval feel but based on the number of the winged creatures on the list I'd want to make sure that cloud islands and/or floating cities figured prominently in the setting.

The DDG would also be a great place to get all your magic items from.  Open the book to a random page and there's bound to be a god with some sort of ridiculous item you can borrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

OA event charts

The subject of random event charts came up on Google+ last week and I thought this might be a good time to look at the yearly, monthly and daily event charts from the original Oriental Adventures.

Most of the annual events look like they would work in nearly any campaign.  An isolated realm might not have an actual ambassador visit, but some sort of outsider VIP could become a factor to the game.  Tsunamis might need to be replaced if your campaign is entirely inland.

 Note how the monthly events are skewed based upon the annual event.

The daily events don't directly connect to higher level events, rather they are a function of the party's location.  I like how in Rural areas 15% of all encounters are with ordinary bandits or criminals.  "Special" on the court indicates someone in the party receives a message from their lord with some sort of mission or instructions.

There's not really much on these charts that won't work in an occidental setting.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meet my racer! (NSFW)

Since my FLAILSNAILS pc Donnal MacDonnal is off fighting a war in the Hill Cantons, I decided to make a new guy to participate in Richard's Carcosan Wacky Races.  I used these weird Carcosa chargen charts made by some sadist who hates players. This guy below has not been approved tot play yet, so consider him a first draft.

Oogah was kicked out of his tribe of naked ultraluddite cannibals for using a stick as a tool.  He still hasn't adapted completely to modern Carcosan society and its use of the strange technology known as 'pants'.

This is Oogah's ride before his mechanic tricked it out.  It's a standard model Carcosan motor-trike with radium-emission headlights.  Snoo added jet fins for aerodynamic stability, a rusty old hand-crank gatling gun, a buzzsaw armature, an infernal engine that burns the souls of cute little bunnies and a cup holder.  She calls the complete vehicle the Hate Beast.

This is Snoo, Oogah's grumpy mechanic.  Her turn-offs include long walks on the beach, cute little bunnies and riding on motorcycles behind naked savages.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

complete versus sufficient

For years I was of the opinion that the D&D Rules Encyclopedia was the best everything-you-need-in-one-book version of the game ever produced by TSR.  It has lots and lots of stuff: Classes beyond the BX 4+3 in both core and prestige varieties, rules for play up to 36th level, craploads of monsters, an optional skill system, weapon mastery rules, the War Engine mass combat system, maps of the Known World of Mystara, rules for becoming Immortal, etc, etc, forever and ever Ah-men.

But at some point I turned a corner on wanting all that stuff spelled out for me.  Nowadays I think Dr. Holmes's rulebook is the shiniest one-book approach to D&D that TSR put out.  Why?  Because it is woefully incomplete.  There's just enough D&D there to play some D&D and hardly anything more.  The rest of it is on the DM.  How do the gods work?  What does the world look like?  How do I run a whole war?  I'm not sure I want my D&D corebook answering those questions for me anymore.  The Rules Cyclopedia is still a great book.  I'd call it a star in the crown of TSR.  But I'm pretty sure it's way more D&D than I'll ever need.

Wizardly Wednesday plays hard, fair

This is Dizzy the Hun.
He is a wizard.
He was present at the secret origin of the superbeings known as KISS.
He is from Latveria.
No foolin'.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

here's a thing I made

Click for a bigger if not necessarily clearer version.

I call this thing the Orrery of Sarpedon.  Sarpedon is a Saturn-like ringed gas giant in the center of the concentric circles.  The concentric circles are the orbits of Sarpedon's moons, with the partial arc showing the closest approach of a rogue moon in a particularly eccentric orbit.

Let's say that Sarpedon is in the habitable zone of its star so we can posit a science-fantasy/planetary romance style D&D campaign set on moon E, the next-to-outermost of the regular circles.  That orbit corresponds vaguely to Titan's orbit around Saturn.

In lieu of keeping strict time records and tracking orbits at the beginning of each session you can roll d4, d6, d8, d12, d16, d24 and d100 to place the moons in position around Sarpedon.  If two or more moons are placed in orbit segments that line up, like say a4 and b6, then you have a Conjunction of those two moons.  This allows for all sorts of astrologically based magical effects, like the moons in the Dragonlance books.  If the Conjunction is with moon E, the campaign homeworld, then the other moon(s) involved loom extra large in the sky and it's called a Close Approach.  Moon G becomes involved in these celestial shenanigans only when the d100 roll comes up between 37 and 68.  The rest of the time that moon is just a distant point of light.

If you feel like doing the extra work, you can advance each moon on a daily basis as time passes during the session.  Personally, I'm liable to forget to do so and would probably just reroll whenever I remembered that time had passed.

I've been thinking about this concept for a long time.  I finally made a draft of the chart in the wake of the recent death of Moebius, who would be one of the inspirational artists for a campaign set on Sarpedon E.

Monday, April 09, 2012

You are the Unknown

All y'all should go to this page at Snorri's joint A Wizard in a Bottle and check out the pdf Searchers of the Unknown.  It's a one-page D&D house rules thing-a-ma-bob and I think it's pretty great.  Searchers isn't exactly new, but over on G+ the other day Chris McDowell of SoogaGames reminded me of it's existence, with his comment "Anyone that runs or plays D&D should be required to play Searchers of the Unknown for at least one session. It should come packaged on one sheet with every version of the game."

Please, seriously, if you haven't read it take the few minutes necessary to do so, then come back and answer these questions.

1) Is it still D&D if your character doesn't have Str, Int, Dex, Wis, Con and Cha scores?  Are the presence or absence of those stats dealbreakers for you?  This is one of the big humps I would have to get over to run this great little game.  Those six rolls of 3d6 matter a lot to me, even in editions where they don't do that much mechanically.

2) Having a character class seems like a pretty core part of the D&D experience to me as well.  On the other hand, everybody starting out as some jerk with a spear and no particular skills seems like a pretty good match for my usual "down-and-dirty" approach to starting a D&D campaign.  What if the only character classes available were Prestige Classes?  You want to play a wizard?  You absolutely must seek one out in play and apprentice up.  That's a bit similar to the WFRP approach, except you wouldn't necessarily hop from class to class.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Caves of Myrddin update

Fred the Dwarf, the elvish trio (Lankii, Senoma and Vithujin) and the cleric Aethelred the Unsteady have returned from an expedition to the dungeons below Dundagel.  Most folks in the area assumed they were dead, because they were last seen heading to the ruins several weeks ago.  But today they return and buys many rounds of drinks for the folks staying in the Abbey guesthouse.  Though tight-lipped at first, eventually a few details of their expedition begin to slip out.
  • These guys have built some sort of permanent outpost in Goblin Land, which can be accessed via a portal somewhere in the dungeons.
  • Their ally the fighting man Will Die Too is now chieftain of the Tricloptic Vikings, having defeated the previous chief in single combat.  He's sorta gone native and doesn't seem to show much interest in coming back.  That may have something to do with his two new beautiful triclops wives.
  • The party may or may not have started a war with these total jerkward four-armed humanoids that ride pterodactyls.  These guys have some serious mad science mojo going on in this grand canyon-esque hell-rift.
  • Aethelred has declared himself Bishop to the Goblin Lands.
  • A coldalisk works just like a basilisk, except you freeze solid.
  • One of the party members traded away an interesting item to Dremelza the Witch: a little four-armed fetus-mutant in a jar.  Not like pickled or anything, a live specimen that bangs on the glass and seems to really want to be let out!
  • You know how Blixa the Thief likes to travel with a magic doggy?  He has apparently set a trend of sorts.  Lankii has a pet bat-winged cobra and Bishop Aethelred is often seen talking to his cat.  Of course, Aethelred may just be off his rocker.  Dude thinks he's the Bishop of Goblins, after all.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

minor trivia

So my back end site stats tell me this is the 3,000th post published here at the blogspot version of the Gameblog.  (I did 300 posts on the first version of the blog, begun in February 2004 and hosted by Tripod.)  Other stats stuff I find vaguely interesting:

Current Followers: 612
Hits/Day: Between 1,000 and 2,000 typically
Published comments: 19,586
Total hits since I started keeping track: 1,954,265

the world's oldest cocktail?

When Nestor and Machaon had reached the tents of the son of Neleus, they dismounted, and an esquire, Eurymedon, took the horses from the chariot. The pair then stood in the breeze by the seaside to dry the sweat from their shirts, and when they had so done they came inside and took their seats. Fair Hecamede, whom Nestor had had awarded to him from Tenedos when Achilles took it, mixed them a mess; she was daughter of wise Arsinous, and the Achaeans had given her to Nestor because he excelled all of them in counsel. First she set for them a fair and well-made table that had feet of cyanus; on it there was a vessel of bronze and an onion to give relish to the drink, with honey and cakes of barley-meal. There was also a cup of rare workmanship which the old man had brought with him from home, studded with bosses of gold; it had four handles, on each of which there were two golden doves feeding, and it had two feet to stand on. Any one else would hardly have been able to lift it from the table when it was full, but Nestor could do so quite easily. In this the woman, as fair as a goddess, mixed them a mess with Pramnian wine; she grated goat's milk cheese into it with a bronze grater, threw in a handful of white barley-meal, and having thus prepared the mess she bade them drink it.
-from The Iliad, Book XI, prose translation by Samuel Butler (the novelist, not the poet Samuel Butler, nor the classicist Samuel Butler)

Bronze Age carousing was weird, man.  Cheese and barley in the wine?  I've spent a bit of time trying to figure out if anything resembling "Pramnian wine" is still available for purchase today.  Μethymneos wine, from the island of Lesbos, might be a good match.  The Hungarian wine Tokaji Eszencia, which is Baron Munchausen's favorite vintage, if I recall correctly, might also work.   I've heard that Tokaji Eszencia is one of the priciest wines in the world, so I'm not sure anyone would actually put feta and barley flour in it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wizardly Wednesday

The American Wizard by John Allison,
author of the nifty webcomic Scary Go Round.
EDIT: Forgot to thank Jason Kielbasa for sending me this.  Thanks, Jason!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

draft poison rules

This is offered as a slightly more complicated, slightly less lethal alternative to "save or die" poison:
If you save the poison is not in you.  If you fail your save, the poison has entered your blood. 
On the first round after failure, you take 1d6 damage.  You are -1 on all actions.  There is a 1 in 6 chance you fall prone, either unconscious or writhing around in agony (50/50 chance). 
On the 2nd round after failure you take 2d6 damage, you're -2 to act and have a 2 in 6 chance of incapacitation. 
On the 3rd round you take 3d6, -3 to act, 3 in 6 KO. 
Etc., etc., up until 10 rounds have passed, when you take 3d6, -10 to act, 10 in 6 chance of incapacitation.
The idea here is that being poisoned will kill almost any character in a few rounds, BUT you have some time to try to pull some shenanigans, like sucking the poison out or overcoming the hit point damage with cure spells and potions.  And you get an opportunity to maybe kill the sumbitch who poisoned you, only to fall over dead a round or two later.  How awesome is that?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Caves of Myrddin: Everybody get out your d20.

What happened this morning in +Jeff Rients' Wessex campaign?

Roll 1d20
1 - Ool the Dandy, loyal henchman to +Taurus Hell's Heart, was imprisoned.
2 - No one is quite sure, but +Philip the Bloody has a new hydrocephalitic goblin mounted outside his cabin.
3 - +Sir Hugo le Bâtard now bears a hideous scar on his back from one of +Philip the Bloody's infamous phaser blasts.
4 - The party returned with a huge pirate-style chest filled with treasure. Some of it even had the mark of King Arthur.
5 - There are now two less vampires in the dungeon (both were pro-wrestlers).
6 - Several of the party members have horrible acid scars covering their face. They don't want to talk about it.
7 - +Philip the Bloody's new tattoo reads "True Stanist" under a picture of a golden orb spider.
8 - The party encountered strange, mummy-like creatures encased in glass.
9 - The party did battle with a mighty dung-golem. There were no survivors.
10 - Ooluu tested the power of Dagon over the undead. The results were inconclusive.
11 - The dragon has returned, and he is angry.
12 - Rakshasas were actually encountered on the Rakshasa level.
13 - +Philip the Bloody's trusty phaser ran out of batteries.
14 - The goblin henchmen of +Sir Hugo le Bâtard now possess strange, steel gloves mounted with dental equipment.
15 - They party actually entered the caves deep below the castle. There they encountered hideous crabmen.
16 - The party killed a gargoyle using a clever trick.
17 - The things without a face are highly susceptible to fire.
18 - A magic item was discovered (1-3 Excalibur itself 4-5 Merlin's wand 6 something far more stange)
19 - Add moving rocks to St. Serpentor's list of posthumous miracles.
20 - Roll twice, disbelieving both results.

Evan Elkins wrote this in lieu of a standard session report.  Some of it is even true!