Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Surfeit of Lampreys, session #5

So we lost 3 PCs last night and it's pretty much Jamie Mal's fault. Last night I ran his dungeon "The Ruined Monastery"  from issue #1 of Fight On!, the fanzine for degenerate OD&D malcontents.  (Incidentally, if you like fantasy fiction the folks at Fight On! have put out a little anthology called Roll the Bones that you can purchase here.  I'm not a fan of modern fantasy genre literature, so I really can't comment whether any of it is good or not.)  Anyway between the yellow mold in one room and the poisonous [REDACTED] in another room, it was a night for missing saving throws versus poison and keeling over dead. 

That dude on the ground?
The original Wat Tyler.
Even the Thumac the Ram, the first and last dwarf PC of the campaign, couldn't resist a hearty dose of venom.  Ryan, who ran Thumac, has had a pretty rough streak in the dungeons of Wessex.  That dwarf was his third PC killed in only 5 sessions of campaigning.  Next time he'll be running a bagpiping bard using the rules out of Best of Dragon, volume I, which are almost as crazy as those in the 1st edition PHB but not as ridiculously powerful.  In order to help come up with a name for his new dude, I handed Ryan my copy of volume 35 of the Harvard Classics (Froissart, Mallory, Holinshed).  I bring it and an modern English version of Beowulf to sessions for just such situations.  Flipping around a bit he settled on naming his dude Wat Tyler.  Between this and his mention of the Templars earlier in the evening I'm now suspicious that either he reads whackjob books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail or else he is a Freemason or both.  Personally, I'm a both.

Her: Are you sure this is worth XP?
You ever have one of those nights when the players arrive at seeming random intervals?  Right around start time I had three players (include new player Kirk, who seems to fit right in with this bunch) with 5 PCs between them.  I picked up two more as the night progressed, but before that happened the party's meat shield fighter bought the farm.  That left the player's with two thieves, a magic-user and a newly-minted 1st level changeling with only 2 hit points and a squeaky voice.  So they went and dropped a bunch of gold to aquire some spear carriers just in time for the rest of the players to arrive.  That cracked me up a little, as hench-recruitment under Holmes D&D is expensive: d6 x 100 gold apiece!  Between that and some carousing for the two thieves I think we managed to bleed off quite a bit of gold in the party's coffers.

more cool pics here
While I like the delightful Mister Maliszewski's dungeon just fine as-is (and have run it that way), for this particular campaign I decided to spruce it up to better fit my fako-historical* Wessex milieu. So some of the goblins got cute little red caps to wear, like out of a fairy tale.  When a fight broke out between the party and some book-wreckers in the library, they pulled full sized swords out of their tiny hats like Bullwinkle stage magicians.  Boy, were they disappointed when they found out that the magic was inherent to the goblins and not to the hats themselves.  Apparently they really wanted some Hats of Holding, even if they were much too small to wear without looking like maroons.  As an aside, I was really impressed with how viscerally the players reacted to the goblins shredding books with malevolent glee.  Good job on that encounter, J-M.

Another thing I did was try to merge the dungeon background with the campaign background.  So the ex-monastery was looted and destroyed by rowdy Norman knights during the tumultuous period immediately following the conquest.  And the villainous NPC in the dungeon became the grandson of one of those knights, a bastard with no inheritance of his own trying to enrich himself by following up on grandpa's tall tale of a lost treasure still lurking in the cellars below monastery ruins.  I also changed the villain's stats quite a bit, since he's written as a cleric and I don't use that class in this campaign.

I also changed one of the monsters Jamie Mal uses in more than one encounter, but I can't reveal more because the altered baddies remain unused and some of my players read this blog.  Hi, guys!  I also added a monster my daughter created while in one of her "Must Draw The Crap Out Of A Whole Sketchbook In One Sitting" fugues.  I'd love to post the pic, but she has forbidden me from sharing it.  I don't think she likes the way it turned out, but the concept is totally useable. Again, I can't tell you any more because the party hasn't encountered it yet.

*"Pseudo-historical", "alt-historical" and even "faux historical" just seem way too serious for  a term to describe to what I am trying to do, so today I made up my own.  But then I go and have no problem with straight-facedly deploying the word "milieu" in the same sentence.  Like I told my players at one point last night, I have no problem with shamelessly contradicting myself.


  1. Jeff,

    You just made my day on a day where I needed it made.



  2. That sounds excellent, and I've always preferred the word milieu over "campaign setting" or some such. Ok not always... ok just now...

  3. Fun game, thanks! If the changling survives to test your leveling mechanic (or another session), I will be shocked.

  4. Great recap! A couple of things particularly caught my attention:

    1) Failing saves versus poison. I'm running an old-school game right now (but it's using 1st Edition AD&D rules) and the only character who has died so far did so because he failed a save versus poison. It made me remember how brutal earlier editions of the game were.

    You can read about it here:

    2) Players showing up at random intervals. Yep! That's pretty much par for the course for our games (I'm involved in three right now), to the point that at minimum the first hour of "game time" is really "catch-up while waiting for everybody."

    3) You're a Freemason?! I wasn't sure if you were being funny. I'm an alumnus of the Order of DeMolay myself, and got my 1st Degree in Freemasonry, but I never returned my proficiency so I haven't moved on. My dad keeps bugging me about it. I'm sure I'll get around to it one day.

  5. You're a Freemason?

    Yep. Western Star lodge #240 A.'.F.'.&A.'.M.'.

  6. I'm from Marin #191 F. & A.M. myself, because that's the Lodge my dad and uncle both belong to, although I don't love up there any more.

    Nice to meet a fellow Mason online! That doesn't happen very often. :)

  7. Yep. Western Star lodge #240 A.'.F.'.&A.'.M.'.

    This makes so much sense that I suspect something devious is afoot.

    Word Verification: matel. I'm getting secret messages from toy moguls.

  8. Interesting! My father's a Mason; he always wanted me to get involved, and I probably would have joined DeMoley except that I already had Boy Scouts and roleplaying games taking up all my spare time.

    When I found out you could become a Knight Templar, I was strongly tempted.

  9. Charles Matel?
    Now I'm curious to know what significance Wat Tyler has for Masons.

    Veriword: Pariona. One of the main forces behind Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

  10. Also interesting/curious: in general I've found roleplayers to be very interested in history... Is that something that maps to Freemasonry for you?

  11. Also interesting/curious: in general I've found roleplayers to be very interested in history... Is that something that maps to Freemasonry for you?

    My experience, which is based solely on masonry as it is found in mid-central Illinois, is that at any lodge meeting you can probably find one or two guys who can tell the Battle of Bannockburn from a hole in the ground and several more who know a crapload more than I do about the American Civil War.

    RE: Wat Tyler. The idea has been floated for at least a couple of decades now that this guy Wat did not lay tile for a living. Rather he was a Tyler, which is an office in the lodge. Nowadays in many parts of the world it is mostly a ceremonial job, as the Tyler's main duty is to keep non-members out of the lodge room during meetings. But you can imagine how important a gig that would be in ages past, or in countries where masonry is still suppressed. I've heard second hand that the Tylers in Saudi Arabian lodges pack heat.

  12. I hate to derail your original thoughts into a discussion on Masonry but it is kind of interesting.

    Regarding the comments about role-players being interested in history and how that connects to Freemasonry, just based on my own firsthand experience, I've found that to be true. When I joined the Order of DeMolay at age 15 (it's basically like a Masonic youth group), the lodge where I was initiated had all kinds of pictures and statues of knights around, and there were also the Knights Templar costumes from the York Rite that had real swords. As I was heavily involved in D&D at the time, all of that seemed so cool that I got really into it and began to study things like the history of the Knights Templar and the history of the Masonic Lodge, which inevitably became infused into my campaign worlds.

    I actually blogged about this a little bit here:

    A lot of the teachings in Masonry involve at least cursory discussions of history, or as Mr. Rients would call it, "fako-historical" information that involves everything from ancient Egypt up through the European Middle Ages.