Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hedley Lamarr, High Priest of Evil Chaos

I've been thinking about Raggi's advice (in both the LotFP rpg and the Random Esoteric Creature Generator) that we should use real people more and humanoids less for our cannon fodder.  It's a concept that has real possibilities.  It adds a little dramatic oomph to encounters with 1 hit die goobers that might otherwise degenerate into "oh, more orcs" and increase interest in actual monsters by reducing the volume of encounters with such weirdies.

But if you knock kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls and bugbears off your standard encounter lists, then who the heck will man the Caves of Chaos?  This might seem a minor point to you, but when pondering big changes to the game I often think about The Keep on the Borderlands as something approaching as Platonic ideal in the realm of D&D.  If a proposal renders module B2 unplayable, then I'm not sure I want it.

But then I thought about Blazing Saddles.

I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

The Borderlands are basically the Old West redacted to Mythic Caucasia anyway, so why not draw on a source like this?

Wizardly Wednesday

The evil wizard Kelek, from the D&D cartoon.  Also available in action figure form.
Dig that classic look. 

Kelek rode around on a dire wolf, which I think is pretty badass.
He also had a sweet secret hideout and a siniser plan to gain magic power by stealing unicorn horns.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blessed Saint Emmet

Artist/cool guy Jez Gordon (also responsible for the new DungeonFu thing-a-ma-bob for G+ gaming) hooked me up with a photoshopy of St. Emmet, the patron saint of the monastery where most of the Caves of Myrddin PCs chill out at between adventures.  (Since Hugo the Bastard bought his own manor house a few miles away, some adventurers have been staying there instead.  As I understand it to get an invite you have to speak French with an outrageous accent.)  Thanks to various shenanigans, one of my Wednesday crew officially owes St. Emmet two personal favors.

Ol' Emmet here is the lesser known and more apocryphal brother of St. Perran, patron saint of tin-miners and Cornwall in general.  Why St. Emmet has the head of an ant is subject to a wide variety of conflicting local tales, some of which cannot be repeated in polite company.

Thanks, Jez!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

two quick thoughts

1) Here's a new skill idea for Lamentations of the Flame Princess weird fantasy yadda-yadda: Jack-of-All-Trades.  Defaults to 1 in 6 for all adventurers, maybe 2 in 6 for whichever of the demi-humans in your campaign are likely to have a lot of jobs during their extended lifespans.  The basic deals is that J-o-T works like the language rules. You need to know if your PC can help sail the ship or make a horseshoe?  Roll JoT.  If successful, add "sailor" or "blacksmith" to your list of secondary skills. Not suitable for all campaigns.

2) Is wizardry systematic or ad hoc in your campaign? (Or maybe there once was a complete system of magic in the golden age and the present MU rules represent a fragmentary understanding of that system.) Are spells part of a metaphysical schema or are they just the list of known effects caused by certain words, gestures and cogitations? Do your NPC magic-users tend to have ability outside the core system of spell memorization?  Can PCs gain similar special abilities? One of the neat things about the feat system in 3.x was its potential to give individual MUs different relationships with the spell system.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No Caves of Myrddin tomorrow morning

Sorry, folks, but it looks like the car will be packed so tightly I'm going to have to choose between taking my game crap or taking my school crap.  The end of the semester looms large and I got stuff I got to get done.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wizardly Wednesday

Most wizards need spellbooks or wands. Not this guy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

emergency Caves of Myrddin session special guest report

It was a wet and overcast morning as I Zaunn the Mage departed for Nightwick Abbey. I was accompanied on my third expedition to Nightwick by Redwall the scoundrel, who insists I call him "Boner", two fighters called Donal and Agnes the Average. We also had Agnes's torchbearer and our dogs. We had a total of 5 dogs with us, since I had replaced Riddler and Lemming with "Steve" and "Thingy". Gentle Ben decided to stay behind and celebrate, I mean drown his sorrows at the loss of his master last week.

This time we headed to the South Tower, noting as we went that a series of ruined arches had appeared over the week. We're sure they weren't there last week but appeared to have been there for centuries.

Entering the south tower we discovered that it's interior was pretty much identicle to the north, right down to the trapdoor with a rusted ladder beneath it. We repeated last week's plan of using a rope spiked into the floor and lowered down the trapdoor. Beneath was small room with a door to the west, a long staircase that corkscrewed down and a corridor with a door in the eastern wall, opposite the stairs, and a door in the western wall. We headed to the western door and Boner caught a strong wiff of mold. We were debating if we should try it or the easter door when across the astral plane, in the distant mystical realm of South Knoxville some arcane structure called "The Internet" collapsed.

Suddenly Boner and I, along with out loyal hounds, found ourselves transported to the world of Wessex. There we met with the rogue Blixer, who talked us into aiding him in hunting some vampires. He and his talking dog, Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter led us into the Caves of Myrddin where he tied up a thrice blessed donkey and the dogs. He and Boner hid behind a secret door while I sat in a nearby tunnel with Steve and Thingy.

In time misty forms drifted into the cavern and solidified into four vampires. One of them decided to feed off of the donkey and a moment later I heard Abe say "Woof woof", which was the signal. I flung out my holywater soaked net and was able to cover three of the four undead. Boner and Blixer both missed with their nets but I was able to upend the bucket of holy water we'd soaked the nets in over the uncaptured vampire. He and the vampire who had tried to feed off of the thrice blessed donkey were destroyed while the other two turned into fog and escaped.

Boner found a vampire fang and intends to make it into jewellery while Blixer found a treasure map to a location nearby. On our way there we met a friend of Blixer's, Philip the Black (or something) the four of us were able to locate the treaure cache in an unexplored area of the dungeon. There we found a pile of treasure including a magical flaming sword which Boner claimed, and a scroll of spells which I took. We shared the gold amongst us and headed back into town to celebrate. 

This is where everything went terribly, terribly wrong. In our drunken stupor Boner was transformed into a pig, Philip became the property of the Castellan's wife and I was married off to Kerra, the pox-faced daughter of the local alewife. It's a dark day, a dark dark day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

another Caves of Myrddin

Hi!  Abe here again! Me and Blixa and a donkey and some other people just got back from the stinky hole.  Well, the donkey and one of the people didn't make it back. The donkey was killed waiting for the rest of us to get back. He couldn't fit through a hole we went in.  The people was stabbed by a boney man with no meat.

I got a boney man legbone to chew on!  I also ate a spider that I found in a goblin house. It was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside! Before that I tried to catch a big rat, but it went down a rat hole before I could get it.  All the people made a giant stick out of smaller sticks, but when they were finished they didn't throw it for me even once.  Instead they used it to poke the Magic Chair of People Talking.

Two of the people got into an argument over another stick they found.  I thought they should have given it to me!  But instead they split it.  One guy got the hard part and the other the paper inside it.  The guy who got the paper is dead now though.  The guy who got the hard part was sad when his donkey died.  I was sad too.  Donkeys aren't stuck up jerks like horses.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

brief Caves of Myrddin update

Dang I'm bushed tonight but tomorrow's group needs to know some of this stuff.

Wednesday night at the Armored Gopher I had seven players, which has been about the usual number lately.  Good guys the lot of 'em, too.  Here's the roster:

Tom and Nick played the elves Lankii and Vithujin
Louis and Wheelz ran the fighters Gomma the Ugly and Will Die Too
Carl was the cleric known as Ethelred the Unready
Dane as Finn O'Malley the thief, with his personal chef Jaan.
and Chris ran Frederick the Dwarf, with his three henchmen

According to the various accounts of the the henchmen the party launched two expeditions, the first to locate the magic chair that turned Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter into a talking dog.  Everybody who sat in the chair got magical stat boosts, but two guys also melted.  Their gooey remains had to be hauled halfway across the land to get raise dead spells out of the Bishop of Cornwall.  The second expedition focused on exploring a magical portal to the fairy realm of the goblins.  Several goblin lairs were looted of magical goodies and a giant attack platypus was slain.  A goblin was captured by the group after several others were slain in a fight.  Turg the Goblin is now Frederick's fourth henchmen, the limit allowed by his Charisma.  (It's been a long time since I've seen anyone run up against that rule.)  The party also rescued a fighting man named Thurstan.  He was party of a small party scouting out the upper levels on behalf of a wizard.  Thurstan now serves Finn.  They never encountered two known threats: a giant spider lurking in the north-west section of the dungeon and some sort of diabolical tiger-man.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wizardly Wednesday

Gemini the Wizard here is one of the few badguys to live long enough to tangle with Thundarr the Barbarian in two different episodes.  I love the wizards in the world of Thundarr.  Almost all of them are mutated techno-monsters who left their humanity behind long ago.  Gemini's particular deal is that he has two faces and a spinning neck.  Most of the time you can deal with the friendly, benevolent, soft-spoken face.  But piss him off and his head rotates 180 degrees and the angry, yelling, zap-you-with-eyebeams persona emerges.

Sniderman has D&D type stats for Gemini over at The Savage AfterWorld.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fleet Captain: what the hell is wrong with this crate?

I'm going to try to get back on track with this spaceship game. If you recall from earlier posts, one of the key ways ship classes in Fleet Captain differ from one another is how they suck.

Ship Design Flaws (roll d20 for each class of vessel)
  1. Tends to Explode - Every turn of live comba the ship has a 1 in 20 chance of exploding for no apparent reason.
  2. Fast Decompressor - The first hit to do Hull Damage also causes one point of Crew Casualties as redshirts are sucked out into space.
  3. Torpedo Jams - Any roll of a ‘1’ on a torpedo attack disables torpedoes for the rest of the game.
  4. Rustbucket - 1 in 6 chance of a critical with every hull hit.
  5. Simply Mediocre - All die rolls at -1.  A ‘0’ move is a normal Drift.
  6. No Safety Rails - All Crew Casualties are doubled.
  7. Poor Fire Control - 1 in 6 chance of targeting ship adjacent to foe, whether adjacent vessel is friend or enemy.
  8. Unstable AI - On any turn this vessels does a Full Drift (neither moves nor fires) there is a 1 in 6 chance the main computer gets bored and murders sufficient crew to cause one Crew Casualty.
  9. Psychosis-inducingly Bad Decor - If the Captain is eliminated from play the crew mutinies; ship takes no action but Full Drift for rest of game unless Boarded and Captured by a friendly vessel.
  10. Weapons Blind Spot - No fire possible along one hexline (see chart).
  11. Shield Flaw - Shields one die smaller along one hexline (see chart).
  12. Engine Imbalance - All vessels in this class tend to pull either to the left or right (determine randomly).  All non-turning Forward movements must drift in that direction.
  13. Dubious Aerodynamics - Automatically take d4 hull damage whenever passing through an atmosphere.
  14. Convenient Airlock Access - Boarding attempts are +1 against you.
  15. Excellent Broadcast Antennae - All mines, seeker missiles, drones, etc., are +1 to attack you.
  16. Faulty Astrogation Sensors - Rolls are -1 to avoid asteroids, black holes, etc.
  17. Puny Retrorockets - 4+ on d6 that any Drift move marker must be treated as a Forward Move at smallest die engines.
  18. Insufficient Lateral Bracing - Any maneuver involving more than one hexside’s worth of turns does d4 hull damage.
  19. Flame Protardent Materials - Fires roll 2 dice each turn.
  20. Roll again twice.

Why 13th c. Japan?

Gameblog reader Quibish asks:
I'm curious why the time around the Mongol invasions appeals to you more as a campaign setting. Were you wanting to avoid the firearms of the later years, or is there something going on in 1274-1281 that is just too good to pass up?
This question is in response to the chart I posted last week listing possible pseudo-historical campaigns to run.  I've settled on 13th century Japan, particular the southernmost of the 4 big islands, as the site of my next campaign for a couple of reasons.  I've picked Japan off of that list because I'm hoping to lure my nephew into a game or two and at any given time he's obsessed with Naruto, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Bleach, etc.

The Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281 make interesting bookends to a campaign, especially if you center the action on Kyushu, where the Mongols actually landed.  Any political equilibrium on the island is disrupted by the first invasion.  This attack on the status quo creates a space for PC action (and by action, I mean "bad behavior").  The second invasion was seen as inevitable.  You don't send the troops of the grandson of Genghis Khan packing and expect that to be the end of the affair. That means official attention was directed more towards preparing the coast against a new Mongol landing and less in the direction of protecting tombs and ruins from PC predation.

The firearm thing Quibish raises is another issue.  Gunpowder is rare and mainly takes the form of Dodongo-disliking Batman-can't-get-rid-of anarchist-flinging bombs. Most days I'm just not keen on arquebuses in my D&D.  Ray guns, yes.  Historical firearms, not so much.  That's just the way I feel about these things.  Though there is this one great scene in a Zatoichi film (I forget which one) where some peasants want to rescue their friend from the cops.  They're peering over a ridge and one of them says the equivalent of "Holy crap!  They've got two guns!" That amused me.

Also there's a bit of an advantage to picking a more obscure period. You aren't going to find a ton of players with fixed opinions about the Anarchy, the way you might by running a game set in the War of the Roses.  Running a game set in the same period as James Clavell's Shogun creates a set of expectations.  I'd rather spend the campaign filling in a relatively blank slate than fighting preconceptions.

Finally, I'm enchanted with the idea of ending a campaign with the PCs giving Kubla Khan the finger or dying in the attempt.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Caves of Myrddin update

Hi!  My name is Abe!  What's your name?  Do you want to sniff my butt?  I already smelled yours.  You should do something about that.

Anyway, I just got back from the stinky hole that smells like rat poop and lizard breath.  It was so much fun!  I went with my master Blixa and some other people, one of which was very small and had furry feet that smelled like mushrooms.

We fought a big lizard!  Was that the dragon everyone is so worked up about?  I got to bite it but it wasn't very tasty.  Do you have any food?  I like cheese and sausages best.  We found some cheese in a goblin house and my master gave me a piece of it.  It was yummy!  But then a storm blew in.  The thunder scared me.  But before that we found a magic chair.  I sat in it and the magic made all the people smarter so they could understand me.

Then I found a rat hole but the rat was too deep in it for me to bite.  You know what's even better than biting rats?  Chasing them!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

draft Wessex romance rules

These mechanics are based on Emmet F. Milestone's "Kirk on Karit 2" for Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier, originally published in Different Worlds #4.  You can read the original rules here.


When characters of appropriate gender and orientation encounter each other for the first time a Romance Roll must be made for each of them. Romance Rolls are made in accordance with the following procedure:

1. Romance Rolls are made in order of the character's Charisma scores, with the most Charismatic character rolling first. In the event of a tie, Wisdom is used as a tie breaker, but with the less wise character going first.

2. A potential beloved is identified. Generally this will be another character present of appropriate gender and age. Characters with higher Charisma scores will be favored. The player of the character identified then rolls 4d6, which is adjusted by their Wisdom modifier. If the sum obtained is less than the Charisma of the potential beloved, the character identified in step 1 is smitten, i.e. you are trying to roll high to save versus emotional complication. 

3.  Whether a  Romance Roll results in physical lust, tender affection, dumbass puppy love, Princess Bride-style True Love, etc. is up to the player, as is what their PC will do about it.

4. The DM may modify or disallow Romance Rolls based upon the species of either party. Halflings and humans might fall only in love with a 5d6 roll, for instance. And then there’s that whole mess about dwarven women and beards...

5. A character will not fall in love with more than one character during the course of a single session.

6. Once any character has already fallen in love, the DM rolls 1d6. A result of 3+ indicates that no more characters will fall in love during the scenario, except as the result of a successful wooing. Wooing uses the normal NPC reaction charts, modified by myriad factors including such things as social class, needing a bath, gifts offered, etc.
These rules are obviously incomplete.  Their main function is to get PCs into trouble, and I believe they may be sufficient to get that ball rolling.

Wizardly Wednesday

This fellow is Beorht, a wizard from "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court", an old episode of the original Transformers cartoon.  I dig his natty old patchwork of a green robe.  If I recall the cartoon correctly at one point he uses rat tails as a spell component.  Here's a close-up of Beorht with his owl familiar:

Six Gods of Mangalla

Based upon nearly five minutes of research I decided that Mangala, the Sanskrit name for Mars, was one of the better-sounding names for the planet in an ancient tongue.  So now Mangalla with two l's is the name of the ancient Martian setting I mentioned earlier in the week.  I don't have any real plans to pursue this campaign soon, but I woke up early with a desire to write a pantheon for Mars that was non-anthropomorphic to the point of abstraction.  Here we go.


1. The Benevolent Lightning
Other names: The Holy Thunderbolt, The Electric Ecstasy
Holy symbol: jagged lightning bolt, usually displayed horizontally
Clerical restriction: must pass through doors and archways backwards
Clerical bonus: cast lightning bolt as a 3rd level cleric spell

2. The Authorless Glyph
Other names: The Rune at the Five Corners of Time, The Self-Inscribor
Holy symbol: transparent amulet (usually glass) with cleric's personal rune on one side and the rune of their home temple on the other, so that when held up to the light it casts a shadow superimposing the two characters
Clerical restriction: must obey all written communications signed with the personal rune of a High Priest
Clerical bonus: use magic-user scrolls provided they can cast spells of a comparable level

3. A Suffusion of Yellow
Other names: An Amber Void, A Jaundice Upon the Cosmic Flesh
Holy symbol: A body part painted yellow or made of gold, yellow gems, etc. The specific body part varies by individual church (e.g. A Temple of A Yellow Eye, A Cathedral of A Golden Hand).  A piece of yellow clothing or golden jewelry covering the appropriate part also functions as a holy symbol (a yellow eyepatch, a golden gauntlet).
Clerical restriction: All clerics of 2nd level or above must consult one of the Seven Yellow Oracles at least annually and follow their crazy-ass dicta.
Clerical bonus: All henchmen/hirelings are +2 loyalty/morale.

4. The Dancing Sky
Other names: The Celestial Promenade, The Eternal Embrace of the Moons
Holy symbol: a bell inscribed with astrological symbols (must be rung vigorously to turn undead)
Clerical restriction: Cannot eat red meat except for certain holy feasts
Clerical bonus: knock once per day (3 times a day for clerics of 9th level or higher)

5. The Circle of Circles
Other names: The Universal Circumscriptions, The Sphere of Spheres, The Point of Points
Holy symbol: a series of linked circles of differing sizes
Clerical restriction: cannot take the same route back to a place as they took going there
Clerical bonus: +2 saves vs. poison and petrification, a result of 20 or higher on such saves reflects the venom or stoning effect back onto attacker

6. The Vital Center
Other names: The Heartbeat of the World, The Bottom of Down
Holy symbol: arrows converging on a point, the number of arrows usually indicating the level of the owner
Clerical restriction: must greet every stranger with a brief blessing
Clerical bonus: half damage from falls

The restrictions and bonuses are linked; failing to abide by one forfeits the other.  Getting the bonus back probably requires penance or an atonement type spell.  No attempt has been made to balance each restriction against its bonus or to balance the restriction and bonuses among the various priesthoods.

Note that alignment and religion do not map to each other on Mangalla.  One may encounter a lawful Patriarch/Matriarch or chaotic Evil High Priest(ess) of any god.

Monday, November 07, 2011

here's a chart I update periodically

This is my working list of vaguely historical D&D settings I might like to try.  Some of them I've talked about here before.  Since finally giving one of these a go and running my Wessex stuff I find I really like the groundedness of using a real piece of history as a launching point.  It makes the crazy stuff D&D adds all the more ridiculous in comparison.

Friday, November 04, 2011

things to talk about

Noisms at Monsters and Manuals things we need to talk more about some stuff.

Book binding. (I can't be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).   I've all but given up on buying game bookss that aren't stapled in the middle.  That limits me to smaller books but I'm okay with that.

"Doing a voice". How many people "do voices"? Should they? How do you get better at "doing a voice" if that's your thing?  I do voices.  I'm pretty sure they're terrible and have no idea how to improve other than listening to Billy West, John DiMagio, etc. discuss the craft on the commentary tracks for Futurama.  They often discuss starting with a known voice and layering in the emotional tone of one or more additional voices to reach an amalgam.  So don't shoot for just Merlin from Excalibur, try mixing it with the exasperation of Bones from Star Trek to achieve a new character.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?  I run short sessions, usually no more than three hours.  One five or ten minute break seems sufficient.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions? I try to keep it minimalist.  My feeling is that if you suggest rather than explain the player's imagination will do a better job than I will.

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?  Most the PCs in my games are dickheads in various ways.  I only care when the players are being dicks to each other.  My personal rule of thumb is that the DM gets to be the biggest dickhead at the table.  Anyone being more dickerly than me is asked to tone it down or leave.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?  I don't ban it, my games actively discourage though.  If the world is dangerous enough smart players will figure out that the other PCs are their only allies.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, "What are you playing?" "[We answered.]" "Sounds kind of gay.") Do people really need to explain what D&D is any more?  I guess I once explained to an old lady it was like doing an action adventure series on the radio, but with dice instead of a script.

Alchohol at the table?  Never really played with booze on the table.  I run at a gamestore and I'm sure it wouldn't be legal.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?  I don't take attendance.  If you don't show up the game goes on without you.  No big whoop.

Caves of Myrddin Friday update

Seven went into the dungeons below Castle Dundagel today: four Frenchmen (the fighters Hugo le Bâtard and Beaumont, the magic-user Philip the Black and Beaumant's servant Benoit), the Welsh cleric Cadfael and two Flemish mercenaries. All but the unnamed mercs made it out alive. No one caroused (we ran out of play time) and Benoit is not the kind of henchman who runs his fool mouth, so information is sketchy. Here's what you manage to learn about the expedition:

Cadfael is sporting a puncture wound on his neck. The party maintains it was stirges and not a vampire that left this wound. They insist that no vampires were spotted, but Benoit is covered in blood and filth upon the party's return. Way more blood than the henchman himself could have spilled and lived.

When they arrive back at the Abbey the party is lugging a large rolled-up tapestry. Hugo installs this tapestry in the hall of a manor house a couple miles away, which he recently purchased from an absentee Norman lord. The tapestry depicts a woman dressed in white, albeit not very much white, and wearing a crown. Imagine Emma Frost from Marvel comics but with a big red tiara with a giant ruby set in it. This lady stands between Castle Dundagel (in its glory days before it fell to ruins) and an army of vaguely humanoid monsters, her hands raised as if throwing a spell at the badguys.

In local news unrelated to today's expedition, an old magic-user named James of Dillington has been seen in the vicinity. Gossip suggests he's currently the guest of the castellan of Castle Bouttreaux, the nearest Norman stronghold. James of Dillington sometimes associates himself with a band of mercenaries, drunkards and leches known as the Brotherhood of the Golden Scabbard.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

quickie Myrddin update

I'm super busy, so I can only hit the highlights, mainly for benefit of the next group visiting my dungeons

Two expeditions, each 11 or 12 men strong, entered the dungeons, one from the East Tower (a.k.a. the Gatehouse) and one from the West Tower.  Lenny and Squiggy were not sighted. 

Loose-lipped hirelings suggest that a previously unexplored level was accessed via both routes. 

The level contained robed ghouls with a penchant for lighting torches, minotaurs playing Twister and spiders emerging from mirrors.  The party sold a mirror along with some other ancient furniture and Twister is now a past-time for adventurers staying at the Abbey guesthouse.

Lankii the Elf is now waging a one elf war against the mocking crows that alight on the tower tops.

The grey mold seems harmless.

Operational instructions for a strange machine were found written in chalk in an out-of-the-way place.

A strange hatch was opened, draining a pool that had a rotting goblin corpse floating in it.

Frito the Halfling was killed messily by a ghoul and William of Didol had his throat cut open by a minotaur.

Frederick the Dwarf now sports a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Power.

A carousing mishap involing a goat and the castellan's wife landed Lankii the Elf in the dungeons below nearby Castle Bouttreaux, but his elvish friend Vethusian (which I am horribly mispelling) was able to get him released.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Everything shall be splintered

If my read of the OSR is right Trollsmyth's "Shields Shall Be Splintered" is one of the more popular houserules the scene has come up with in the past few years, though not everyone approves of it.  E.G. Palmer makes a case for broadening the basic concept, while over on Planet Algol people who show up after the session starts may end up being splintered.

I haven't used Trollsmyth's specific rule much, but the thinking behind it resonates with me. The basic concept behind the Shields Shall Be Splintered rule is dirt simple: instead of dying, you offer the DM a sacrifice of some sort.  A substitute.  A scapegoat for your sin of getting killed, if I want to be egomaniacal about it.  Blood for the blood god lurking behind the screen.  Whether that means your precious magic sword just broke blocking the deadly blow or you pushed your shield carrier in front of the monster matters little to me, as long it has actual value to the player and the escape is at least slightly plausible.

Thinking about this leads me to one of the key reasons some players in my groups tend to always end up with the highest level characters.  Some players take "You are dead" as a reason to immediately crumple up the old charsheet and reach for a fresh one.  I respect that.  But the canny players see the declaration of their demise as a challenge, the opening salvo in a high stakes negotation.  I won't stand for outright bickering with the DM, but I'll gladly listen to brief argument outlining special circumstances I might have overlooked.  And I love any clever excuse to give a PC one last die roll to save their necks.

So next time your DM tells you that your PC is dead take a quick mental survey.  Is there anything, anything at all that could save your PC?  Look over your equipment lists and magic items.  Double check your spell, class and racial abilities.  Think about clever ways to use those resources.  Find an NPC to take the fall.  Hell, suggest breaking the rules as you understand them.  For example, by the rules there's no way you could cast a Fly spell in the brief period it takes to fall 30' onto some poisonous spikes.  But why not try "I mumble the Words of Flight as fast as possible before I hit the bottom of the pit"?  Even if you only get a 1% chance of success out of the DM, you've at least turned death into a chance for life.

the other Mr. Wizard

"Drizzle, Drazzle, Druzzle, Drome, time for this one to come home!"

This Mr. Wizard is the Lizard of the Great Forest.  He served as the deus ex machina for Tooter Turtle's adventures in one of the earliest color cartoons in the U.S.  In some ways he's similar to Phineas J. Whoopee of the Tennessee Tuxedo show and Mr. Peabody, the canine inventor of the Wayback Machine.

There's a Great Forest on my Wessex campaign map.  I should stat this fellow up.