Wednesday, November 13, 2019

old school PC fragility

So, I don't think I've ever written a blog post in response to a tweet before.


Now personally, I love the razor-sharp nonsense players come up with when they only have a hit point or two to their name.  Levels 1-3 are a pretty sweet, as far as I'm concerned. But sometimes folks don't want to play such feeble characters. Here's two quickie solutions.

The Old Solution

Start above 1st level. You are allowed to do this! It's your dang campaign! As a kid I played in numerous campaigns where we just started at 3rd or 4th level. The sly did not fall. Later we wised up and realized that with the various XP charts, the smart way to do this is to start everyone out with the same XP amount. We usually went for 10,000 or 15,000 XP. Obviously, this robs the game of the initial rat-killing ogre-fleeing terrors, but we had a lot of fun this way. We didn't alter starting money or give anyone free magic items, but there's no reason why you couldn't sprinkle a few goodies among the party.

My New Idea

This is a new concept that popped into my head when I read Fiona's tweet. The point is to give lower level characters a little extra survivability, while still requiring players to grub their way through the basic levels.

When death comes knocking for a PC, the player is allowed a roll to save their bacon. The roll is over you level on a d6, so after level 5 this won't help anymore. If you save, then either pick or randomly determine from this list:

Lucky Coincidence
Equipment Sacrificed
Debilitating Injury

A Lucky Coincidence means the final stroke fails to land at all, but the DM is free to introduce some sort of new complication, like you were saved at the last moment by a bounty hunter who wants to take you in alive. Equipment Sacrificed means your shield is shattered under the blow, your magic sword breaks, your backpack full of treasure ends up in the acid pit instead of you, etc. The player must give up something of actual value here, not just some random stuff they purchased. Debilitating Injury means the PC was struck down, but is severely wounded rather than killed. They won't be of much use to anyone until they have 2d6 weeks to recover someplace safe and even then they will have a lasting injury, either an ungly scar or a limp or something.

DMs trying this method may want to track the players' use of these three escape routes. Maybe you only one to allow one of each type per level or something like that.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

One liners

Today I thought I could squeeze a blog post out of a bunch of undeveloped ideas that are scrawled into my current DM's notebook. Make of them what you will.

  • New aphorism: The DM is always free to introduce a new complication.
  • Pledge-object: an object of value given by the higher status party as part of a negotiation; if the higher status one breaks the pledge, the object is forfeit.
  • Nullset Jones: a hypermathematician who specializes in Zero Theory, the math of zeroes, null sets, etc. Real first name is Larry.
  • Spell Focus: a class of magic items in a material components heavy game. Non-exhaustible replacement for components. Examples: Wand of Sleep Focus, Staff of All First Level MU Spells Focus
  • OK, but what if mounts and pack animals were intelligent, speaking NPCs for hire?
  • Jean-Luc Marion uses the term "saturated phenomenon" to describe an "absolutely unique, irreproducible, and largely unpredictable event." I.e. any old RPG session.
  • Undead skeletons are heavier than you'd think because of all the dark matter in their bones.
  • "Every man must create his own system or else he is slave to another man's" --William Blake
  • Mustardface, Agent of SLIVER (Sovereign Locus of Investigation & Vindication for Extradimensional Realities)
  • Cyclops lost his eye in the war, got a beholder eye replacement.
  • Inhuman Miscellany of the Underpeople - An MU with access to this tome is double effective at researching any spell castable by a Derro savant, but each success 1 in 6 cumulative chance of devolving into one of these wretched creatures.
  • Torture Lantern (no clue why I wrote this down)

Friday, November 08, 2019

What does infravision look like, anyway?

Here are the entirety of the infravision rules as they existed in 1981, per page B21.


PET PEEVE: I have never seen a computer game that attempted to simulate infravision. If you have, please leave a comment!

Here's some random dungeon art I googled up. A background from the computer game Darkest Dungeon, maybe? This is what your normal torch- or lantern-bearing crew would see.


With infravision,  color is determined solely by temperature. And things left laying about a dungeon for centuries will tend to be at the same temperature. Without a proper light source, the party elf or dwarf might see something like this:


It's a subtle difference, but that weird rock formation on the left no longer pops out, and those wine (potion?) bottles will be a little harder to find. Now let's add some monsters to the scene, first by normal vision:


The red dragon, skeleton, and troll are all pretty easy to see. Not quite the same scenario using infravision:


The internal heat of the dragon makes him almost too bright to look at. The troll is basically unaffected. The skeleton has become the same grey as the walls and floor. Undead are hard to spot via infravision because of their tendency to be the same temperature as the background.

Note that my interpretation here is the most generous one I can make, based on the rule above. You could argue that infravision is in fact must worse at picking out details than normal vision, hence the 'no reading' clause. Maybe infravision actually looks more like this:


a creation myth, part II

The clerics, fighters, thieves, and magic-users grew so numerous that they met again where they started at the Center. Suddenly, they could recognizing the missing parts of themselves. Half reunited joyously with half. Thirds came together and embraced. To celebrate this happy event, they held a great celebration, inviting the elves and dwarves and gobble-folk. The halflings were already there.

This event was the first marriage feast. Everyone was happy, except the demons. They were displeased that their gobble-folk slaves  were invited to the feast while they had been snubbed.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

a creation myth, part I

Back at the start of things all was possible, all was present, all was mixed up. There was no thing separated from any other thing. No one knows how long this pile of allness lasted, for the past had yet to be divided from the future.

But somehow, something became divided from nothing. East split off from west,, north split off from south. Heaven floated upwards as hell sank to the bottom. Laughter became distinct from lament. Gods and demons parted ways. The land dried up and the waters pools. Animals moved about and plants grew in one place.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Watch Out for Bucket Bob

Here's a random chart from my D&D notebook.

Bucket Bob is some type of humanoid, fairly large (a bugbear or a troll, maybe?) but sneaky as heck. When he shows up on the wandering monster chart, he will usually (4 in 6) surprise the party. His normal procedure is to throw the contents of his bucket at d4 members of the party, then run like hell.

WHAT IS IN BUCKET BOB'S BUCKET? (d20)

  1. Acid
  2. Rats
  3. Blood
  4. Spiders
  5. Web spell
  6. Hot coals
  7. Trilobites
  8. Caltrops
  9. Broken glass
  10. Rot grubs
  11. Green slime
  12. Oil, flaming
  13. Raw sewage
  14. Lava
  15. Dust of choking & sneezing
  16. Evard's black tentacles
  17. Ochre jelly
  18. Gray ooze
  19. Black pudding
  20. Venomous snakes
Is the bucket enchanted? Does Bucket Bob know some magic spell that can allow a normal bucket to suddenly contain lava or whatever? Heck if I know.

Friday, November 01, 2019

All weapons do d6

In the earliest versions of D&D individual weapon types were barely distinguished from one another, mechanically speaking. All weapons did d6 damage, from daggers and clubs to two-handed swords and lances, at least until Mike Mornard pestered Gary about it. Weapon speed and armor type adjustments came later as well. My beloved Basic/Expert version included variable weapon damage (i.e. daggers d4, swords d8, polearms d10, etc.) as an optional rule, but it is an option that I've always used, as has everyone I've every player with. (S. John Ross doesn't use it, as I recall. But he is exceptional in many ways.)

Anyway, I want to consider here what it would look like if I went back to all weapons do d6. Why would you choose the weapon you choose, assuming no specific mechanical advantages or disadvantages attach to them? Below are two possible answers, which I think are completely compatible with each other.

[Note that I am ignoring the rule that two-handed weapons strike last in initiative, as that rule is directly attached to the variable weapon damage option (see page B27).]

Answer 1: Aesthetics

From a certain point of view, this is the first, best reason to do anything in an RPG. You're exploring an imaginative space, you might as well populate it with things that come together in an aesthetically interesting way. Taking away specific weapons rules means I no longer feel guilty about choosing a suboptimal weapon (I sometimes worry about not pulling my weight when I'm a player). If I want to, say, bonk the bad guys with a rude wooden club, the d6 rule doesn't actively discourage that behavior.

Answer 2: Narrative-style Advantages

If you are making effective use of your head-brain, there are lots of ways that a specific weapon impinges the gameworld that don't necessarily need mechanics attached. Need a small back-up weapon that can be stored securely but also drawn in a flash? A dagger or shortsword makes a lot more sense than, say, a warhammer. Want to hold off the touch attacks of some creepy ass monster? A spear or a polearm will get the job done a lot better than a club. Need to hack down a door that no one can open? I hope someone is carrying a battle-axe. If all weapons do d6, I suspect it would encourage more people to start thinking about their weapon choices in this way.

Final Note

Sometimes when you float All Weapons Do d6 rule on the internet, some joker will come back with something like "Well then, I should just spend 1gp to buy 12 iron spikes and hand them out to all my friends. No need to spend the money on anything better, since everything does d6." My response to that is twofold: A) All Weapons Do D6 is not the same concept as All Objects Do D6. Prepare to encounter mechanical penalties for wielding a non-weapon in combat. and B) There's a fine line between clever and stupid and you are are nowhere near that line.



Thursday, September 26, 2019

Lost Tombs postmortem

Let us start with the observation that more campaigns fail than succeed.  If longevity is your measure of success, at least.  I believe my lifetime average of campaigns exceeding 20 sessions has hovered reliably at around 1 out of 3, which makes keeping a campaign going roughly as difficult as hitting a fastball from a pitcher in major league baseball.

On the other hand, running any number of sessions is a success in a world that seems designed to feed us numbing pablum for popular entertainment.  And since so many campaigns flop at session one, even making it to a second session is a bit of an accomplishment.  And to the extent that role-playing games are a sort of folk art/performance art (which I deeply believe, but will not argue today), even an incomplete draft of a work of art has virtue in the making.

None of the above is said by way of excuses for my inability to keep the game going.  If you signed up but didn't get a chance to play, I apologize.  Rather, the first two paragraphs are written for those gamemasters who beat themselves up when a campaign goes to pieces.  You don't have to do that.  Mourn if you need to, think about why it happened, and decide what you're going to do differently next time.

So what went wrong with the Lost Tombs, such that it fizzled out?  I think there were four key factors at work:

Timing - While working on my dissertation I haven't gotten a lot of gaming in.  It reached a point where my wife told me that one of the reasons I was such a psychological mess was that I hadn't run a game in such a long time.  So during a lull in the dissertation process, I through together the campaign concept and started it rolling.  She was right (as she always is): playing again was very helpful in me keeping my overall shit together.  Then whammo!  The chair of my dissertation returned three chapters for further revisions in a single day and I had to focus entirely on that.  The lesson learned here is perhaps an obvious one in retrospect: if I organize a new game to take advantage of a temporary hole in my schedule, it should be a short-term project and not a new ongoing campaign.  Duh.

(By the way, I have a full draft of my dissertation and hope to defend it next month.  I am almost done with this self-inflicted intellectual torture-thon.)

The Sliding Schedule - I thought I was being really clever proposing that the game would run each weekend, but sometimes it would be Friday night, other times it would be Saturday morning/afternoon/evening or Sunday morning/afternoon/evening.  You would not believe the number of times people have said to me in passing "Yeah I would like to play your game, but your 4am start time is ridiculous."  Basically, I wanted to reach those players without giving up all the wonderful people who were available for my last two campaigns.  This is one of those things that works better on paper than in practice, as it turns out the fetid goblin in my skull responsible for keeping my schedules refuses to take seriously a moveable target like that.  On Thursday, I would say to myself "I guess I'm not playing Friday night, as I should have started player recruitment on Wednesday."  That would be the end of my thought.  Then the next day I would say to myself "Whoops. I should have started recruitment yesterday in order to play on Saturday."  Then the next day...

I love having a large list of wonderful people who I get the privilege of playing silly elf games with.  But the sliding play time was a step too far for my brain to manage.  Furthermore, I am wondering if maybe for the next campaign I should have a public list of players and just designate a single player responsible for recruiting the rest of the team.  Just an idea I am kicking around.

Too Many Cute Ideas - This is an absolute rookie mistake and of all the goofs I made this is the one I am slightly embarrassed about.  I had some Very Big Ideas for this campaign.  The one about futurehumans that made it into the player's handout, as did some of the ideas about the relationship between people and the gods.  The big problem is that none of these ideas were in direct service of the players and their PC's dungeon escapades.  In other words, they were a distraction from the main event of the kind of game I like to run.  If I had been blogging regularly, I would have done what I normally do: write a blog post about my idea and hope that some more sophisticated DM can do something with it.

I sometimes use a pro-wrestling analogy when thinking about my DMing style: I am never going to be the Ric Flair of DMs.  I can't pull off that level of flash (read: high concept), so I shoot for being the Arn Anderson of DMs.  For those of you not in the loop, Arn Anderson was, perhaps, the greatest professional wrestler of his generation not to wear a world heavyweight title belt.  He was great in the ring, he was convincing on the mic.  Most importantly, he did a superb job of making the other wrestlers in a match look good.  But he didn't do flashy.  In an era of face-paint and ten thousand dollar sequined robes, he sometimes wore a windbreaker to the ring.  When other wrestlers hooted and hollered and carried on, he would just look into the camera and give the most credible, most articulate "I am going to beat you up" promos.  That's what I want.  I want to be the best DM of players going into dungeons and beating up orcs.  Any new idea has to be in service of that cause, or it just doesn't fit me and my play style.

(Note to fellow wrestling aficionados: I like Ric Flair, too.  He's just doesn't speak to me the way Arn does.)

Something About the Dungeons - For over a decade now I have been working off of something I call the Collage Theory of Dungeon Design.  In short: I steal levels that other people have already published and you mash them together.  My job becomes building interesting connections between these levels, and, occasionally, erasing the evidence that I'm using a well-known dungeon level.  The Dungeons of Dundagel in the Wessex campaign included levels from the Temple of Elemental Evil, for example, and no one caught on because A) I rotated the maps 90 degrees and B) I swapped out a few key, recognizable encounters for ones that better fit the campaign setting.  And as far as I know, no one has identified the singular publication that nearly every level of the Vaults of Vyzor comes from.

For a long time I found stitching together and editing other people's dungeons to be much more fun than sitting down and making/stocking my own dungeon maps.  But this time I just wasn't feeling it.  I still don't know what the exact issue was.  Did I choose the wrong levels?  I've used some fairly crummy levels in the past with no problem.  Heck, one time I had to add a staircase to a level in the middle of a session because the published map hadn't bothered to include one.  But I just wasn't grooving on these dungeon levels.  Maybe I'm over the whole collage concept and need to come up with a different approach.  Either way, the dungeons themselves, my absolute favorite part of running Dungeons & Dragons, were noticeably less fun than usual.

So there you have.  What I am pretty sure are the key contributing factors to the collapse in my enthusiasm for this particular campaign.  Again, apologies to all concerned.  Let the record show that at no time was the issue the players.  They were all fun people who I would gladly sling dice with again should opportunity arise.

I bet you weren't expecting an Arn Anderson tribute in the middle of a campaign autopsy.  Well, neither was I.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

final Lost Tombs update

So the last run of the Lost Tombs campaign occurred at the end of July.  I'm hoping tomorrow to write about why the campaign fizzled out (hint: it was my fault), but I thought in the name of completeness I'd first post the final player reports.

Illo by Matrox Lusch, player of Kung Pao

Journal of Ruslan Radu (from Vance)

Welp.. I wandered into town a few days back, my purse and gut empty, looking for some hearty folk to roust up some coin with. I don't cotton much with these southlanders. Life's much better up in the north woods. But here I was.

Slept rough and found the Happy Hearth Inn, where folks said explorers tend to congregate. Slim pickins on partners, I ended up with a couple of chaps claiming to be clerics. Some hulking brute calls himself KungPao Chicken and a preacher of one of the local gods named Tony Shinobi. Well, guess you can't really choose your friends... Friar Chicken hires us a torchbearer from the local porter's guild, which was pretty generous of him. Scrawny elf named Ekain. Even the elves down here don't look healthy.

So we head upriver and take a left at Iaqet. I kept everyone on the “path” as it were, and we soon found a chasm that KungPao said he could see some stairway peeking out. He climbed down the bank to the stairs and listened. Not hearing anything, we scrambled down and left a handline in case we needed to retreat fast.

The stairs spiraled down to an empty room decorated in hieroglyphs and runes. Neither of the holy men saw much in them, so we tested the one door leading out.  Friar Chicken took a close look at the door – didn't know that priests around here were students of architecture. After a bit, he shouldered it open cautiously. Which let fly three critters. One latched onto poor Ekain, but Tony and I dispatched the others. KungPao powed the last one with his mace, too bad it was still attached to Ekain. Oh well, that lost nose will make for stories to tell the kids.

Second room was a big affair, with only a fancy canopy bed in the center. Being prudent, I shot an arrow at it. Nothing happened. Being less prudent, I pulled the curtain back. Nothing but a couple of dead. We relieved them of their jewelry, and Tony found a clutch of eggs under the bed, which he collected for his coop or omelet later. There was a blocked stairway with a sulfurous smell in a corner, so we took the one exit out, another door.

This was an abattoir of horror. Some skinned soul hung dripping from a hook in the center of the room. His discharged dripped into a grate in the floor. After a bit of fussing about, Chicken glowed up a piece of rock and tossed it down the grate. It fell down a shaft before splashing into some chamber. And awakening something. We backed away. The remains of a door surrounded by debris exited to the south. Creeping through we came to a narrow room with another south door. KungPao checked this one too. He's a cautions one, this priest. Or maybe just obsessed with doors. Must be part of his religion.

When he yanked this one open, we were beset by a couple of ghouls. Tony and I stuck one, and Friar Chicken proved his religious qualifications by doing the holy explody thing to the other.

This room at least had options. A door in each wall and another blocked stairway. Someone doesn't want something to come out of the basement. We go west.

KungPao does his door absolutions again. This time he finds a trap, and pulls out his holy tools... waitaminute... 

Trap disarmed, we enter, finding an irregular room with a bed and chest. No dead this time, but the chest is tempting. KungPao pokes around at it and declares it to be protected by a glyph of some sort. After some consultation between the priests, they agree that their respective tenets are cool with calling up some help. So Friar Chicken pulls out a wand and goes and gets poor Mr. Skinned Dead Guy from a couple room back, wakin' him up as a trap-finder. I really don't know what these priests have going on down here...

After Mr Skinjob fails at sliming open the chest, KungPao pulls out his holy tools and picks the lock. Old Skinny finally slops the chest open, releasing a black smudge. We run.

After slamming the door closed, we consider our options. The room is surely full of deadly gas. But chests are often full of good things.... We go through our packs and scratch our heads. 

KungPao comes up with this old trick he either tried once, or maybe saw at a carny show. He takes a spell of water breathing, then borrows my waterskin to breath thru to filter the gas. Sure, whatever, big guy. We throw open the door.

To find out that the gas has congealed to some demon thing. Well, it was a good idea, Friar. The demon and priest slap-fight a bit, and I whiffed an arrow. The holy men get their acts together, pull out their symbols and start up a holy racket. Something works, because ol' fog demon backs up. I grab the chest and we slam the door again. Good haul this time. 4000 silver and a 1000 gold. Brother Tony gets a scroll of demon protection (too late for that, eh) and I pick up a potion of speed...

Ok, south door. Chicken does his thing, we wrestle with it a bit before letting poor Ekain have the honor of opening it.  Another blocked passage, but someone has tunneled into a wall. KungPao and Ekain investigate. They say it's too narrow for a good fight, and it dives down after 30 feet. We don't play that.

East door. Another irregular room with some cloaks on hooks. What the hell. Costume party. We put them on. Bro Tony says they are cloaks for the Cult of Shoom, his god. So there's that. Opening the next door we surprise a bunch more ghouls. But they stand down, seeing as we are wearing them robes. All right then. A few doors exit off this passage. Keeping and eye on the ghouls, we choose one on the left.

Its just a bunk room. Must be cultists around somewhere. But Bro Tony decides to do a reverent thing. Instead of tossing the place, he just lights a candle and says a few good words. Don't know quite what happened, but he said old Shoom gave us a boon.

Thinking that the sun was moving fast across the sky, and that we'd found a good haul, we decided to back on out with our gains. The trip back to town was uneventful and we counted coins. Friar Chicken offered his share to us in good faith, which was big of him. We tipped good ol' Ekain, who scuttled off in search of some elf surgeon. Brother Tony and I hit the town. Tony can't hold his liquor. Not sure what he was singing in the middle of the street, but it was funny. 'Course, not sure what's in this southern booze, 'cause I woke up with a helluva hangover. And a new tattoo. Looks like I tried to convert to the Cult of Shoom last night. But whatever illiterate worked the needle misspelled it Shroom.

Oh well...

Ruslan Radu''s map

Kung Pao's map

Friday, July 12, 2019

Lost Tombs update

No game last weekend or this coming weekend, as I am travelling the highways and byways of America with my family.  I might be able to schedule a weekday session or two next week, though.  In the meantime, here's some more stuff from the previous nail-biting session.  First we have a full-color illo of Giuliano Pereira's character Coco the Cat Warrior:
This lovely pic is by Sam Mameli, who, in addition to being a great artist with a distinctive style, is also an all-around cool guy.  Need someone to illustrate your next big project?  Consider Sam.  Or at least check out his redbubble store.

Additionally, we have a report on the session by Maxim Golubchik's PC Edwin Cool:

Sup my hip cats. Y’all might be wondering what a fly guy like I is doing, standing on this street corner all covered in blood. Well wonder not my man! Before you stands Edwin Kool, the last man standing of the cult of Prynock-Drop-Kicks-Damrak. Here’s the skinny.

My and my gang worship Prynock - god of music, death, shepherds, and shepherds playing death metal. We heard through the grapevine that wererats had gotten their hands on the holy relics of the rocking god. Rats where? In the lost tombs! So I got the gang together and we went to the forest. Joining us was Little Albert, mageling in training, and a truly cool cat called Coco. That kitty worships a little thing called the Red Star. Not our god, but hey, why can’t we be friends? As long you’re not down with that devil Damrak you’re alright us.

Now we’d never seen this tomb before, but for Coco this was journey 2: electric boogaloo. That cat was clad in plate and armed with maps! He busted some doors down, but the locals weren’t down with unsolicited calls - they left a crossbow trap to make the point clear. We were at the wrong time in the right place, so Stinky Pete got a bolt to the face. Dude died with a grin - whadda way to go! 

Next room in we found the culprits - two tall ass yetis with pointy heads. But PDKD makes love, not war. Cause war, what is it good for? So I shouted “Stop, in the naaaaame of Prynock! Before you breeaaake our ribs!” Turns out the dudes were into breaking ribs. Sometimes it be like that. 

Well PKDK ain’t no strangers to death. We like it like that! Real quick six of ours and both of theirs all got to jam out with Prynock in the great beyond. Little A took a yeti leg, and we suggested grabbing that soft yeti fur - not like the yetis we’re using it anymore. Coco said no - we should come back for it later. I said man, that’s not how dungeons work. Nobody leaves all calm like, you’re always running away while screaming, but Coco wouldn’t budge.

After the argument we took a look around. Turns out the room was all torn apart by a giant crack, and if there’s one thing the gang is all about it’s crack. So the lot of us tied some ropes and got down on it. Halfway through what do we find? Rat tunnels! When you need him in a pinch your man Prynock comes through! 

My man Lump Bizkit took point, crawling with a torch in his mouth. First thing he found was a room full of bats - that freaked him out so bad dude shit his pants. And a few rooms later, when we met some eye guys upstairs? He got so freaked out he threw his shit at them! But Little A cast a charm person on the big man and that calmed everybody down. Coco offered to share a meal with our new friends - chowing down over centipede soup and yeti leg ain’t gonna hurt nobody.

So these guys had set up a jumpin’ little pad in the middle of the tomb. Since their entire heads were one giant eye they talked to each other by honking little clown horns! We didn’t know the honk code so we wrote messages instead. Turns out these clowns work for a guy named Space Bat Omega! Now that sounded like my kinda jam - space is the place! So the eye guys offered to introduce us.

Everybody did the hustle down a secret passage, where our friends gave a secret knock. And the inside of that pad was even nicer than the last - those eye guys have some real flair. Sweet tapestries everywhere, and in the middle were 24 sarcophagi, each with a letter. The last one opened up and out came a man-bat thing with big freaky bug eyes. The eye guys honked at him and he says sure, the new meat can join the cult. His voice was so foul I could feel my spine sliding strait out of my bum!

Well with everyone awful jittery, Coco freaked out. Shone that crazy red light of his straight into SBO’s eyes! Soon enough everybody was kung-fu fighting. Eye guys were stabbing, the gang were smacking, I messed up a turn undead, it was chaos. Little A found the door was stuck shut right before an eye guy stabbed his guts. Rock out Little A; Prynock’s got a place for you.

Coco finally wrestled that door open and we made a break for it. What did I say? Coco and I left that place running and screaming. When I finally turned around I found it was just the two of us - all my friends were dead.

So that’s my story. And by Prynock my friends, this will not stand. PDKD will have its revenge! So that’s why I’m here, talking to y’all in my time of need. I’ve got other cultists friends, but the lot of us are broke. Any spare GP helps guys, and when I go up their to meet Prynock I’ll put in a good word. Just as soon as we got some cash PDKD is coming back. Those space bats haven't seen the last of Edwin Kool and his gang!

The irrepressible Edwin


Monday, July 01, 2019

Lost Tombs, session #4

From the journal of Coco the Warrior Cat
(Terrible handwriting with all the typos you could possibly imagine)
Dear diary, today I almost died! But thankfully the Red Star has provided.

After my last rather uneventful foray into tombs, I found myself yearning to scratch the itch for gold.

I found 2 willing companions, or rather 1 companion and an entire cult. Yes dear diary, we somehow convinced over a 12 fools to throw their lives away [Maxim ran Joseph Manola's The Extras class -Jeff]. They seemed to worship some sort of false god, with its scriptures making some sort of allusion to what some humans would call WRESTLING.

Nevertheless, the fools proved worthy as they helped me carry my newly purchased armour until we reached the tombs themselves.

We traced back my last expedition, finding a measly trap (barely a graze on my lustrous plate mail, although it did kill one of the foolish cultists) which we quickly deactivated. Then on the room with the crack on the floor, we actually found a couple of Cone headed monstrosities. They were no match to my sword (and a mob of almost 20 fellas). Little Albert, the kind mage apprentice took one of the creature’s legs, for possible carnivorous ill-intentioned creatures beyond.

There we decided to check the hole which held the mould which almost killed me. The cultists seemed eager to find “wererats”, as if measly rats could amount to anything. They convinced us it was a great idea to crawl into a foul tunnel into the unknown. Dead diary, crawling over 100ft. in plate mail is not something I would wish upon my most dreary enemy.

Eventually we found ourselves at what we presumed was the second level of the dungeon. Bats swirled upon meeting our torchlight, scaring the cultists (one of them surely soiled it’s breeches). Within we found a set of doors and stairs going up. In the hopes of leaving here with our lives I suggested we go up and look for a path back to entrance. Upstairs an unfamiliar corridor led us to a room full of Eye headed armoured man, which weren’t very happy about my sudden entrance.

Little Albert then used his magic to charm the biggest of these fellas, whom took out a horn and sounded some sort of “cease-fire”. After “parlaying” with the creature they actually invited us for dinner, a bowl of squirming centipedes each. Little Albert used his amazing intellect to communicate with the creatures, mixing dirt and wine to create some sort of ink upon which they could write messages. The Eye people were able to understand us and healthy cultural exchange began.

The Eye people mentioned some sort of “Space Bat Omega”, motioning us to follow them. Thinking we had made some friends we followed suit. They led us back to the chamber beyond the tunnel, using their horns to tame the bats, then opening a set of secret doors. Soon enough, we found ourselves what we could only presume were the creature’s lair. 24 sarcophagi with strange letters adorned this room, upon which one opened on our arrival.

Dear diary, it saddens me to say, but I think I might have soiled my pants at that point. A gaunt bat headed creature (wearing only a loin cloth) rose from the sarcophagus, it’s eyes like that of bugs. Hanging from it’s ears were a set of dangling earrings. We could not gaze at it for long before IT spoke. Oh my dead Red Star, it’s voice shook my entire body, my teeth rattled and my tail felt like it wanted to snake away from my body. Around the room we were surrounded by dozens of Eye people, some even had guns! They talked with their master, about which I assume was some sort of foul ritual we were going to be a part of.

We had to escape. I whispered to the cultists that I could use my holy lantern to distract the creature while we ran, but they were actually eager to throw their lives away (fools). I pointed my lantern at the Creature’s eyes, and just like the stories my people told, the Red Star provided! It blinded the Creature momentarily, the stream of light reflecting at it’s eyes, spiralling out of control. While the cultists launched their suicide attack, me and Little Albert ran for the door (which the damn creatures had locked). We struggled to open it while fighting back the Eye people. When I managed to open the doors I looked back only to glimpse one of the creature run their blade through Little Albert. He wouldn’t make it out alive.

Surprisingly, as I was running back to the tunnels, one of the cultists actually showed up! They managed to fight whatever was that thing and ran away! Thankfully the creatures had some sort of aversion to the tunnels, lagging behind us, giving us our only hope of escape.

Through what I assume was most strenuous amount of running I ever did, we both managed to reach the stairs back to the surface.

As I write this in my warm bed, I can only scarcely believe that I breath. No alcohol tonight, as I fear I might hear IT’s voice again.

The Last Cultist's map (done using Google spreadsheet)

Little Albert's maps, somehow miraculously recovered



Saturday, June 22, 2019

more on session #3

From the Journal of Sapphean Gratchit, the wandering blue mage:


It is so great to be out of that stuffy library. Teaching is hard. I do love my compatriot Mr. Sleet and his enthusiasm for collecting spells. No matter how much I try it is just so exhausting to use spells that others learn from books. It is so much easier to just steal the abilities of monsters. As I was pacing the walls of my room the other day, I decided that it was time to move on. Riff Raff, my only student, was intent on following me even after explaining that we may never make it back from wandering the world and possibly other worlds.

We headed South for a long time. After a rather uneventful journey, Riff Raff and I found ourselves finally at the Happy Hearth Inn where we heard tale of a nearby Tombs that seemed just like the sort of thing we were looking for. I was ready to leave right away and as luck would have it a group of would-be delvers were gearing up to go in the morning.

My companions were as follows: Javert the Mage, Ms. Jovivi the Mage, Xergal the divine mage, Coco the Cat Person( who I assume is also a mage but could not be bothered to use any spells during this dungeon delve), and there was a hireling Illya Viktorovich, who proved to be quite useful with her treasure chest opening magic.

Our group of mages made its way up the nearby river and then headed into a dense forest. After a short travel, the entrances to the Tombs Lie before us. We had set out to continue the looting of the second Tomb, which I will henceforth call the Tomb of Bugmen and Yellow Mold, or ToBY for short. AS we ventured into ToBY it was made known that there was already a map of some of the northwestern area and so I decided to lead us eastward toward what was probably more likely to be treasure since it seemed no one had been there yet. After failing myself to open the door and Illya apparently unsuccessful some sort of door magic, someone else opened the door but I had moved to the back and was looking through my pack to see what I still had on me from my previous adventuring, so I am not sure who it was. The door opened into a room where half a dozen small bug men seemed to be in the middle of playing a game of card stacking. The bug men could not speak but we decided to join them in their game after realizing that we could possibly win some coin from it and with the help of Ms. Jovivi’s telepathy of sorts were able to comprehend slightly what the bug men were thinking. The game was quite fun and involved stacking the cards up as high as possible without someone knocking it over. I believe it was said that it resembled a game from someone’s youth called Jenga. This went on for a few rounds and the bug men who were knocked out of the game served us refreshments that tasted quite bitter but was enjoyable. This continued until Coco the Cat Mage tried to cheat with what he calls his “holy lantern”. Although I must say it did not seem that useful of a lantern really as it only lit up a small dot way across the room. He pointed the dot directly in the eyes of the bug man who was going which disrupted his turn but it was sort of obvious he had done it and then after a quick and angry few chitters from him to his friends we found ourselves at small knife point. The bug men got in a few slices before I decided to try to daze them all with something I had gotten from some fox person long ago. I placed the dazzling display right above 3 of them who had surrounded Coco successfully stunning them, but I also ensnared my new partner as well. I ran as fast as I could to his aid for I know what people do to those who cannot defend themselves, and then I stabbed a bug man in the neck killing him instantly. I managed to stave off an attack headed for Coco in the following fray and after a terrible blunder by one of the bug men slipping on his own cards and being rushed by everyone the melee was quickly over. We tossed the room now that there was no one around. There wasn’t much, just a cask of the bug ale and the betting money. In the pile of money though there was a fire maker that had “FUCK VECNA” inscribed on the side. I swear that I have seen that before in my time around Vyzor. Someone from there must have made their way here as well! I also tied up one of the bug men because we wanted to see if we could use him later. He proved to just be a hassle. I did contemplate about consuming the corpse of one of the bug men to see if they had any interesting innate qualities, but they also seemed rather weak, so I thought better of it. Also, maybe not the best first impression to make in a new place.

We continued on to the west as we had travelled some way east and perhaps we could connect the parts of the map that were missing to where we currently were. This seems to be true although we never confirmed it wholly as I explored with my ability to see in the dark the room appeared to be identical to the room on the map that Javert and his first expedition explored. He was certain of this as he stared at the walls which he said described a ritual of burial rites. Finally, we came to the large crack in the floor that looked like it went down into the next level, but it smelled of rotting flesh. Someone had the magnificent idea to toss one of the bug corpses down to see if there was anything in the hole. That was a bad idea because a yellow spray came gushing out and everyone stepped back in time except for Ms. Jovivi who inhaled a heaping lungful of the foul stuff. She almost immediately collapsed and being someone who has intentionally poisoned myself before I was luckily carrying some of Pete Loudly’s Anti-Venom on me. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work but it was worth a shot over a life. I popped the stopper off with haste ran to her and forced her to swallow it. I think I was just in time as a mixture of yellow and green got spat up all over her fine clothing. What an amazing woman she is because she got right up and started discussing how we ought to get down into the hole. I volunteered as someone who can easily traverse vertical surfaces, thank you very much weird spider dwarves. I climbed down to see that it was a room full of terrible yellow mold there was a door and in the corner, A CHEST! I quickly hurried back up to my comrades and was able to procure several oil flasks from Javert. The yellow mold was quickly dispatched by tossing the oil onto it and burning it away quite quickly. Now that the mold wasn’t a problem, I foolishly dropped my guard for a moment and set foot in the middle of the chamber to walk over to the chest. Immediately many skeletons rose and started to come after me. I turned to flee, and they got a few claws in my back before I could make it up the wall to safety. After emerging at the top, the divine mage Xergal cast a wondrous exploding bones spell and the skeletons were no more. I would love to be able to do that myself, but I am not sure that I could survive getting my bones blown apart while they are still inside me… perhaps we will come back to that another time. With the skeletons dispatched I went down and threw my arms around the chest so that I could be pulled back up with our loot. The hireling Illya stepped out of the shadows for a moment to do her thing with the chest magic. Alas, I am unable to learn things like that because they can’t be used on me. Perhaps, I could have someone transform me into a locked chest sometime and then I could know how to do it. I will have to ask Barnabas about that sometime. Or maybe even Pete Loudly, he seems to be quite knowledgeable, and has few moral qualms, I think… Anyway, the chest opened to reveal a massive pile of gold. A great haul for our first adventure into the tombs. However, that was not all. There was also a black wand with a skull on top. I really don’t care that much about gold but I wondered if any of the other mages wanted to use it. After all, I was just a stranger here for the first time. What luck I have though none of these mages wished to touch what they thought might be an evil relic. I snatched it up and could feel the power that it contained. Score. I felt bad though so I let them have the rest of what my share would have been of the coin. After that, we thought it best to return for the time being to the Inn where we could refresh ourselves and get a good rest so that we might try again soon. A rather uneventful return later I wanted to celebrate and went on for a night of drinking. I brought along the Cat Mage Coco and paid for his night out as well, for he seemed to need it after the shock from getting dazzled by my spell. All is well though and Coco even went off at the end of the night with a pretty, young cat lady. I hope he had a good time. I myself went back to the room that Riff Raff and I are staying in and slept a good long sleep until midday. This place seems like it is going to be quite lively and I just can not wait for the next time we get to go. I think I will try to let Riff Raff go and figure things out on his own. He needs the experience.

Javert's Maps of Tomb 2, levels 1 and 2




From Javert's journal:

In seeking another expedition, our companions rejoined the call to journey to Tomb No. 2:

· Xergal, the Acolyte the Temple of Damrak-Against-Rodukal.
· Sapphean Gratchit, the blue mage
· Ms. Kallisto Jovivi
· Coco, a Cat Fighter
· Javert the Mage

Prior to the trip, Javert the Mage spends fifty of his gold on the services of one expert lock pick, Ilya Viktorovich. Then, under the vermilion skies of morning, the brief expedition arrived upon the burial spot of Tomb No. 2.

After descending the slight cyclopean stairs of the tomb, the party decided to proceed east and explore the dark passages that proceed into the void further, led by Sapphean Gratchit. Some distance through the ancient tomb work, the party encountered a room occupied by bug people. Chittering wildly, the bug people seemed singularly engaged in a competitive round of precarious card stacking.

Some coin lay close by on a table, clearly unguarded.

Through Ms. Jovivi’s telepathic auspices, the party requests to join in the game. After a brief bug deliberation, the party is allowed to make bets. After a couple successful passes, Coco grows restless and decided to liven things up. Using a laser pointer, the Cat-Person distracts a Bug-Person stacking cards. Predictably, calamity ensues, and with knives drawn the Bug people turn hostile.

After stealing coin, a freak-out suffered by Coco induced by the Blue Mage’s color spray spell, and a brief melee that resulted in the death of most of the bug people, the party sets off through the double doors to the west...


The party then finds a large room cut by a cynosure crack in the floor, out of which surges strange noxious fumes. By dropping a bug body down the crevasse, the party discovers it’s infested by yellow mold. Sapphean saves Ms. Jovivi from a moldy death in the nick of time with an anti-poison. Wiping the spittle from her yawning chin, Ms. Jovivi presses forward undeterred.

Upon further investigation, the party finds the crack leads down to an undiscovered level of the tomb. Sapphean, clears the vault below of yellow mold through fire, then spider climbs down to investigate a seemingly unguarded treasure chest. It is then suddenly animated skeletons, clearly perturbed into restlessness by Sapphean’s feet, set him upon. Fearing for his life, the Blue Mage escapes with his robes tattered by bony claws ready to rend. Sensing an opportunity to demonstrate the power of his god, Xergal destroys the undead with potent magics.

Having hauled up the chest and made their escape, the party returns home. Coco and Sapphean look forward to a hard earned night of carousing and the party is left to contemplate their next move.

Earned Treasure:

· Sappheon acquires a wand! Clearly evil of black obsidian and a yellow skull, it enables him to command the undead.
· Ms. Jovivi takes two plain daggers from the haul.
· Javert obtains an ancient Zippo brand lighter with the words ‘FUCK VECNA’ stamped on its side.
· Each of the party procures 161 GP from the loot they obtained.

Lost Tombs, session #3

So last night Javert the Magic-User led a second expedition to Tomb #2.

The mysterious mage Kallisto Jovivi, Ms. Jovivi if you're nasty. 

Ms. Jovivi's addendum to the map of Tomb #2.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

more illos from Nick!

The delightful and talented Nick Kuntz has contributed two more illustrations to the story of the Lost Tombs.  Thanks, Nick! 

Eyeri the Young riding her ambulatory brain
(No horses in this setting, if you purchase a mount you roll on a d30 chart.)


Skullmak the Sorcerous, hireling slain in session #1

Lost Tombs session 2

No session recap from a player yet, but here's a map by Perttu Vedenoja:


And here's a sweet illo depicting an encounter with some sort of purple thing, courtesy John Sarracino:




Saturday, June 08, 2019

Lost Tombs session #1

So I've decided that I am not going to attempt a recap of my own after every session.  I'm not sure I have the time to do that sort of work justice.  However, I have put a bounty of your PCs current level x100 xp on any of the following items:

  • a session report written from the PC's
  • an illo relevant to the session (even just a PC selfie)
  • a map to share
So here's what I have to share on behalf of the party, at least so far:

Eyeri the Young Magic-User and their familiar Slith


Grenthor the Half-Dragon's Account


Tumero Uno
[It is a known fact that there are multiple tombs in the region. The party declared the one they visited "Tumero Uno." -Jeff]

[Shoe: Magpie; Nick: Iree; Matt: Ricky Prosecco; Adam: Grethnor]

Immediately after entering we have a birthday party for Magpie! She
levels up! Loooong stair to misty room, feel our way to NW corner.
Magpie heads out holding string into circle of six swordsmen(?) in metal
armor with torches, who hear her. We avoid them and south there are are
double doors.

Skullmac uses his Read Languages to discover "The Death of Ten Thousand
Dooms Be Upon Him Who Disturbs The Tomb of Lysoc the Conqueror."

Another double door with a witch (striped leggings, buckled shoes) with a
soup that smells awful. But it tastes good! Grethnor drinks a bowl and
introduces himself. She gives Magpie a lime candy. Magpie sneaks off
to heist a taxidermied cat and we find exit door behind tapestries. The
witch is apparently named Granny now. Ricky drinks a potion of heroism
and has extra sleep spells.

She says Lysoc is very grumpy and on the third or fourth level. LRR:
gnomes; LRL: skeletons. All skeletons look alike to her. Watch out
for the skeleton king.

We find three gnome janitors following the instructions (past an
upstairs with a glowy magical light at the top), and Ricky puts them to
sleep. We steal a belt buckle and two rings. Then we find some giant
rats whom Magpie befriends. She discovers that Granny gave her a magic
glove! It dispels illusions and if it can be protect-from-evil-ed she
can become invisible to it.

Then she and Iree's pseudodragon head down the rathole. They do some
exploring, find a nest (no babies), a tunnel leading down to "spooky
levels", a round room with a black column of eeeevil and four steel
skeletons. We go exploring some more and Grethnor uses an "Abstention
Of The Written Path" to find a secret door. Skullmac opens it and is
immediately eaten by some horrible lumpy furry beast with a skull face.
A short combat ensues and Grethnor buzzsaws it in half.

Sumptuous bedchamber behind the secret door. Painting of an arrogant
wizard with a safe (which we cannot open) behind it. Time to get out.
The gnomes are fighting, and Ricky puts them to sleep again. We get out
without further incident, bearing Skullmac's body; we pay double to the
guild for his burial and each end up with 200GP and 388XP.

Grenthor's Map



One Other Thing

Nick has kindly started a PC roster like we used in the Vaults of Vyzor game.  This helped everyone keep track of the adventurers lounging about the base area.  It's not a requirement that you use it, but I think it's a good idea.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S9SOVxffVY5eJu5e_HEpnZdIrWeubi1sYLZ2PP0lcTs/edit?usp=sharing


Thursday, June 06, 2019

Quick Campaign Update

So forty people have signed up for the campaign.  That was fast.  This means it might be several sessions before your turn comes up.  My goal will be to get everybody a chance to play as soon as possible, but in order to maintain some continuity from session to session, I plan to invite a person or two from a previous expedition.

Emails inviting people to the first session (which will be the early Saturday slot) will be going out shortly.

In the questionnaire I asked "Are there any particular concerns, needs, or questions that need to be addressed in order for you to enjoy the game?"  I'm going to respond to some of the answers here, without naming names as to who asked them.

I'd expect that things like bigotry and explicit sexual violence are pretty much verboten at any open table, but I'm pretty comfortable with most stuff.

Yeah, that sort of thing is definitely not my scene.  But if anything in play ever crosses a line for anyone, just say so.  The point of the campaign is to have fun times, after all.

My schedule is flaky because of kids and also OK to sign up if I'm not sure about my availability? Weekends are harder to plan for weeks/months in advance and similar concerns

No prob.  If you can't play when your number comes up, efforts will be made to ensure you get another opportunity soon thereafter.

I have small children, so I cannot guarantee that I will never have to respond to the occasional small scale disaster during game time. I would absolutely try to minimize the impact on game play.

Again, no big deal.  Parenting takes priority over a silly game.

I have not yet played a game online.

If you've got a stable internet connection, a microphone and a camera (even just the built-in stuff in a laptop), you should be fine.  I don't use a virtual tactical display or even online die rollers.  It's really just video chat with dice rolling.

Trying to tone down my intake of heavy violence lately... obviously not asking for a toothless game, but it'd be nice if we stayed a bit short of Death Love Doom territory...

I do use some somewhat graphic critical hits, but they are usually less like a Lamentations of the Flame Princess illo and more along the lines of the Black Knight from Monty Python.  Feel free to remind me to tone it down at the start of a session and I'll do my best.  (True story:  Once I showed that Python scene while teaching a unit on King Arthur and it didn't even occur to me that it might shock some of the students, none of whom had seen it before.  I apologized afterwards for not warning them.)

Can I be human variant who's a hermaphrodite, can change sex over a period of a couple of hours? Thanks

Yes, please do!  I want that character in my game!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Arise from your grave!


Guess who has a full draft of his dissertation and a hankering to play some D&D?

The new campaign is called Lost Tombs of the Western Kingdom.  As with most of my previous outings, it will be a dungeon-centric FLAILSNAILS affair.  You can read more details here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PsgKQE53nV0_Os528rOvdpE33w3JNCaVq5VMqaWjBVI/edit?usp=sharing

The game will be run on google hangouts in 2 hour sessions.  What exact day and time will vary from session to session, with morning, afternoon, and evening possibilities.  If you'd like to sign up to play, please fill out this form:

https://forms.gle/igzbAoFJLs9LvmN76

I hope to start this coming weekend.  Please join the fun!

Unrelated:
Over the weekend I was reading S. John Ross's tweets about his Encounter Critical campaign at the same time I was wondering how hard it is to set up a storefront on drivethrurpg.com.  Turns out it is not very hard at all.  So now you can download my Encounter Critical module Asteroid 1618 from drivethru: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/278526/Asteroid-1618.