Sunday, November 25, 2012

Missing Dwimmermount

Today (mid-day Sunday here in Korea, Sat. evening in Canada), James Mal was planning on running a session of Dwimmermount on G+.  Dean, who plays the Venerable Karl in our Vaults of Ur game, had played a few sessions of it already and when I mentioned that I'd love to get in on that game, he asked and I was invited.

Then, due to technical difficulties, James wasn't able to run the game. 

Dean suggested I pull out my megadungeon and we run through that instead.  So Dean, playing a level 1 version of Elder Karl (hey, time travel happens in the FLAILSNAILS multiverse), and two gamers I was unacquainted with until today, Nathan Easton - who quickly rolled up an Elf, and Roger Brasslett who had a spare Druid lying around, ventured out from the town of Silverwood into Yeffal's Great Dungeon.

Here's Dean's recap:
In his youth Elder Karl had a memorable spirit quest into a strange world of elves (very like his companion from the other world, Maya Culpa) and short bearded dwarves. There he met a Druid of the wilds named Elethea and a shifty-eyed shadowy elf who called himself the Black Lotus. In the town of Silverwood these adventurers hired two stout spearmen named Geissler and Kessel, and then all five of them ventured into the huge ruins of the castle of the Mad Wizard Yefal.

The outer courtyard contained a two-storyed building which showed both the signs of recent occupation and of recent intrusion. A room with a suspicious grate yielded only parchments with the scribbled false starts of a frustrated epic poet and an attack by razor-sharp blades from the grate.

The party started to head downstairs but was discouraged by the sight of mysterious magical runes. Going upstairs instead they found the after-effects and skeletal remains of a mighty battle. Investigating the smaller rooms revealed a thieves’ map of Silverwood, a book of prayers and rituals to the Chaos God Loki as well as a dangerous and cursed statuette of the same in a shrine.
The shrine itself was guarded by a ward which made the viewers either flee in terror or think to see their heart's desire. Finally! A hobbit wrapped in a mithril shirt and left to soften for later ingestion. Elder Karl desecrated the shrine with prayers to the Bear and improvised blessed water. There were also two beautiful suits of nobleman’s clothes which we gave to our two retainers to wear. Elder Karl also insisted on laying to rest the corpses of three victims of the bandits who had recently met their just desert.

In the midst of our plunder, three elves stumbled upon us and asked us if we had seen any hobgoblins. The heroes decided that a joint expedition against the hobgoblins would be good, and they also hoped that the elves could get them past the runes on the stairs going down. One of the elves had memorized Read Magic and was in fact delighted to find that the runes were a record of Tenser’s Floating Disc, which he hastened to inscribe into his book.

The now larger party descended en masse into another room filled with the after-effects of battle: this time, three hobgoblins. A search revealed a burlap pouch containing an electrum necklace. Thus without a single fight, the heroes had successfully explored part of the castle and won much treasure, and so all returned to town before any disaster should reverse the day’s good fortune.
 So the lucky buggers got off with only springing a couple of non-lethal traps and only encountering friendly wandering monsters.  They did this by following in the footsteps of an earlier adventuring party, unbeknownst to them (read about it here and here).

It was a fun, impromptu session, and it wasn't even until we were almost done that I realized that I'd only brought my dungeon maps/key/supplementals to the desk.  I didn't have a rule book at all.  Guess my DMing skills haven't atrophied after all!

Anyway, it was fun to be back in the DM's chair, but I'm still looking forward to playing in Dwimmermount with James M.  Hopefully in two weeks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Beast of the Week: Horned Serpent

Yesterday being Thanksgiving (I'm American if you didn't know), I was thinking of doing another monster from my traveling pocket notebook, based on the "turducken" (a duck stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a turkey and baked), sort of a "kill this monster, then a smaller one pops out of it, and when it's dead a third monster pops out" but that was just too involved. 

Instead, how about going back to Native American mythology and writing up another NA monster? 

Horned Serpent*
AC: 0 (20)
HD: 6**
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 horn, 1 bite or breath
Damage: 1d10/2d6+poison
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Save As: F6
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 725

Horned serpents are 50' long giant snakes with iridescent scales and one or two crystalline antlers protruding from their heads.  They live in lakes and rivers and may attack those that stray too close to their underwater lairs.  A horned serpent's bite is poisonous; those bitten must Save vs. Poison or die in 1d6 Turns.  Instead of biting, the serpent may spray poison in a 15' diameter cloud around it.  All within the cloud must Save vs. Poison or become sickened, suffering a -4 penalty to attacks and saves, for 1d4 hours.  The horned serpent can also use its horns to lure creatures near it.  Three times per day, the serpent can send out a signal.  Creatures within 120' must Save vs. Spells or approach the serpent and stand enraptured by the call for 1d4 Rounds.  The antlers of horned serpents are prized by Magic-Users and alchemists, and each horn can fetch 2d4 x100gp.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

That urge to tinker

What's going on inside my brain?  Not exactly sure.  With three more weeks to go to finish up my Masters of TESOL (read, final projects/papers to prepare/write), I'm in the middle of the Busan Gamers' storm of character creation for potential games (Dean's looking to run 4E or maybe his own take on Jeremy's "Super Simple d20" game - and with Dean at the helm, I know it won't be 4E as just a series of tactical battles one after another, it'll be about story and consequences with the battles serving a purpose other than having them because someone wrote them), Jeremy had a zombie-hunting 40k inspired session of another system he calls Para Bellum that he'd like to continue, Justin just had us redo our Ur characters as Stars Without Numbers characters, and um, well, there is a Pathfinder game that I don't have time for as well but would like to get in on if I did have the time.

Add to that the fact that I've got work to do on Presidents of the Apocalypse.  I've also got the title for the first adventure I'll run with it (although other details of the adventure are rolling around in the back of my mind and haven't coalesced yet).  The title shall be either "Assault on Castle Hasselhoff" or "Escape from Castle Hasselhoff."  Maybe I'll do both as a series?

Oh, and Flying Swordsmen could use another editing pass if I ever want to release it in physical form.  A module or two for it wouldn't hurt either.  And there's the RPOL game I created and have recruited players for, but haven't done much beyond that yet thanks to the above mentioned grad school.

Yet what was it that I decided I should do last night, and am tempted to start working on tonight? 

Go through the AD&D 1E and 2E PHBs and start making some notes about how I'd do separate race and class in my "D&D Mine" rules.  I'm not planning on using them any time soon (want to get that RPOL Flying Swordsmen game running smoothly and also playtest PotA).  Yet the urge is there.  Dwarven Fighter/Thieves.  Human Paladins.  Half-Elf Rangers.  Gnome Illusionists.  Yeah, I could just use LL's AEC, but where's the fun in that, when I could do it myself instead?

I think there's something in the back of my mind that really wants to get back in the DM chair of a good old fashioned D&D game, instead of being a player (although as a player, I could really go for some space opera or supers gaming).

And I'm writing this blog post instead of writing the other Ur session report.  Oh well...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ur: A new beginning

On Saturday, we played Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign, but with a new twist.  Justin had been wanting to try out the Stars Without Number rules, so we adapted them, using Sine Nomine's "Dungeons Without Number" variant spellcaster rules to do so.  Jeremy and I created alternate characters, while Dean just converted the now Venerable Karl (5th level thanks to some trips to Dwimmermount in James M.'s G+ games) to the new system.
Jeremy created Burg the Orc, a former pit-fighter, while I actually did a conversion of my backup PC that I'd never gotten to play, Thomas the Visionary, a non-battle oriented Magic-User.  I used the Mage option from the DWN rules linked above.

We were based in the old Alchemist's Tower, which we had cleared out and then sold to the authorities in Fort Low, now a walled settlement named Crossroads.  Bandits had attacked and stolen a McGuffin...I mean amulet called the Pendant of True Heart.  We were charged with its recovery.

We set out and found the bandits' stronghold.  walls had been built incorporating two relatively intact buildings, with wooden watch towers also put up at the front of the square compound.  We were approaching from the rear, and spent some time scouting (Burg taking the duties since he's lightly armored and had some skill there thanks to the SWN skill system).  There were two pack-lizards milling around in the ruins.  We suspected a trap, but they were just as they seemed.
After clearing a way through the pole-spiked moat, Burg climbed the wall and busted his way in through a window.  We all climbed in and found a bunk-room.  Thomas picked up a book of pornographic woodblock prints and some dice, and we scooped up a few coins.  There were weird moaning and whimpering sounds coming from below.  Karl investigated the roof, and we found lots of dead bandit bodies and a lone, living octo-ape making the noise.  Below was a food storage room.

Using speak with animals, we found out that a "great dark" had attacked, causing burns but also making the bandits fight each other.  The octo-ape wanted to go home to the "jungle" (we assume he meant the zoo), but was anxious to find his "friend" who had been drug below by the Great Dark. 

We investigated the ruins a bit more, finding a tunnel into the sewers, but also a strange branching path that appeared different.  Thomas had heard rumors of an ancient base in this area, and we thought that whatever the Great Dark was, it must have come from there.  It was getting late, though, and afraid that the Great Dark would emerge come nightfall, we quickly headed back to Crossroad.

The session ended there, but we picked it up again Sunday, with a few more players.  To be continued...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beast of the Week: Trogdor

Trogdor was a man. Then, he was a dragon-man.  Maybe he was just a dragon?  But he was still Trogdor!!!

Yes, everyone's favorite Strong Bad email from Homestar Runner serves as this week's beast.  Can't wait to unleash some trogdors in my megadungeon!

AC: 2 (18)
HD: 8**
Move: 120 (40) fly 60 (20)
Attacks: 1 weapon, 1 bite
Damage: by weapon+3/2d6
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: F8
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: H
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 1750

Trogdors are dragon-kin with long, serpentine bodies, stubby wings that allow for slow flight, and a single muscular humanoid arm.  Trogdors attack with a weapon (doing +3 damage due to their great strength) and a bite.  They can also use a fiery breath weapon at will.  The breath is a cone 60' long and 20' wide at the far end.  All in the cone take 4d6 damage, but may Save vs. Dragon Breath for half damage.  Trogdors love nothing more than burninating every peasant and village they come across.  There are rumors that some trogdors can shape-shift into human and half-dragon humanoid forms, but this has never been confirmed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Progress on Presidents of the Apocalypse

With the election just over and Thanksgiving around the corner, I'm plugging away at the latest revision of Presidents of the Apocalypse.  We've always measured the special abilities and powers of the game with "stars" (up to five).  But some powers needed more than one level of ranking, so in this version, I've added "stripes" (also up to five) in addition to the stars. 

Of course, now I've got a bit of a problem that a few non-combat powers don't really need two ranking scales.

Anyway, the change in focus from trying to design a silly post-apoc game to trying to design a silly super-hero game with a post-apoc setting is working well for me.  I've got a better idea now of what the game is supposed to be about.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beast of the Week: Golgothan

I've got a little pocket notebook that I carry around with me (usually in my backpack, rather than my pocket, but sometimes it makes its way there as well).  I use it to jot down mostly gaming ideas I have while I'm commuting or at work, but it's also handy for keeping information about my various private lessons sorted out.  Way back in the spring, I think, I made a list in this notebook of creatures I thought I would write up for this Beast of the Week series (nearing completion!).  After using a few of them, I mostly would find other inspirations to use during my week, so it became sort of the fall-back option.  If I had no other ideas, I'd write up one of the creatures from that notebook page.

Anyway, this week the inspiration was tied to one of the creatures on that page - the Golgothan excremental, or shit demon, from Kevin Smith's movie Dogma.  After last week's Vaults of Ur game involving a strong fear of a poop monster, I think it's time to unleash this critter on the fifty or so people actually still reading this blog.

AC: 7 (13)
HD: 9**
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d8/1d8+special
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d2)
Save As: F9
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 2300

Golgothans, or excrementals, are demons created out of human feces culled from places of execution or slaughter.  They stand roughly as high as a man, and have a humanoid form, but their body is a slimy mass of dripping dung.  Those within 30' of an excremental must Save vs. Poison or be unable to act for 1d4+1 Rounds due to the strong stench emanating from the demon.  Even those that save suffer a -2 to hit while within the noxious cloud.  In combat, golgothans can make two slam attacks, or fire off a blob of their own substance up to 60' away as a ranged attack.  Anyone struck by a golgothan or one of its fecal blasts becomes coated with crap, and must Save vs. Paralysis or be slowed (as the spell) until the dreck is washed away or dries (in about one hour).  Once per day, golgothans may use any toilet, latrine, chamber pot or dung heap as a dimension door, appearing out of a similar location within 1 mile.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Disney, hmm?

Just cogitating on some things in the news besides Obama's victory (qualified yea!) [That's about as political as I'm gonna get here, don't worry.]

Disney bought up Marvel a while back, but pretty much have left Marvel to do their own thing. 

Disney repurchased Pixar, but pretty much leave them to do their own thing.

Disney has just purchased ILM, including Star Wars.  After thinking about this, I say good!  At worst, anything they turn out won't be any worse than something Lucas might have done were he inclined to do so.  And thinking about the general quality of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (first and fourth were good, middle two were decent enough) and the John Carter movie (movie was fine, Disney just stuffed it up on marketing and accounting), they'll likely do a good job with any future Star Wars movies.

And getting things away from the Skywalker story would be a good thing, IMO.  We don't need movies about Leia and Han's kids or old Jedi Master Luke, there are novels that already cover those if you care to read them.  Give us some awesome new stories in awesome new parts of the Star Wars Galaxy, please!

Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning as Conan!  King Conan of Aquilonia!  Awesome!  Looking forward to this, even if they don't use one of Howard's original tales (although the Scarlet Citadel or Hour of the Dragon would both make good movies, IMO).  I'm cool with letting original Conan be Original Conan, the comics Conan and the movie Conan being alternate universe things, like how the comic book, old Fox cartoon, and movie X-Men are similar but not the same.

And now Disney is thinking of picking up Hasbro, and WotC.  Well, at least I guess we know who will be making any future Star Wars CCGs and RPGs if this goes through.  Again, if Disney takes a fairly lax hand with WotC the way they have with Marvel and Pixar, this could be good.  If the Mouse House tries to micromanage the gaming business, well, at least we've got the OSR.

Plus, a Bargle movie, or something in the Star Frontiers or Gamma World universes would be cool.  You know Disney will be in charge of future D&D movies, maybe we'll get one that doesn't suck!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beast of the Week: Witch

What the heck, Halloween is past, but it was still this week.  One more Halloween monster.  Plus, with the U.S. election nearing, and Thanksgiving, and myself working sporadically on Presidents of the Apocalypse, my mind is on things Early American, including the Salem Witch Trials.

So this week, I present a Witch for old school D&D, one a bit different than just a Magic-User or Cleric, or any of the various Hag monsters found throughout D&D.

AC: 9 (11)
HD: 1* to 5*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d10)
Save As: C1 to C5
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: E (U)
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 13, 25, 50, 125, 300

Witches are Normal Men who have made a pact with a powerful unholy creature in exchange for supernatural powers.  Witches have access to a number of spells, which they use to sew chaos and distrust in their communities, and harvest souls for their diabolical patrons.  Witches have access to the following powers (each as the spell of the same name): Cause Fear, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Blight, ESP, Hold Person, Locate Object, Speak with Animals, Cause Disease, Clairvoyance, Curse, Fly, Speak with the Dead.  At 1HD, a witch knows one of these powers that is usable once per day, and also gains three castings per week, which may be any of the spells on the list.  At 2HD, the witch has two spells usable daily, plus four castings per week.  At 3HD, the witch has one spell usable three times per day, three usable once per day each, and four weekly castings from the general list.  At 4HD, the witch has two spells usable three times per day, four usable once per day, and five weekly castings.  At 5HD, a witch has one spell usable at will, two usable three times per day, five usable once per day, and five weekly castings from the full list.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poop Loot!

Oh, so many potential titles for this post, on our most recent Vaults of Ur game last (Friday Korea time) night. 

"Crabs are a man's best friend"
"I thought you were dead"
"You lose it here, you're in a world of poop"
"Getting the monkeys off our backs"

Anyway, as always, Vaults of Ur games are run by Justin, and we were down to the minimum core crew of Dean as Very Elder Karl, Jeremy as Ripper the Werebear Orc, and myself as Thidrek the Sleestak.  With only three PCs, we decided to hire some extra help.  Karl hired a falconer (animal trainer) and two bowmen (and I forgot all their names).  Thidrek bought four more attack beasts - a war beetle, mini-tyrannosaurus, battle crab and war flamingo) and a potion of speed.  Ripper bought two more mini-T-Rexes and a potion of giant strength.  Mongoose Lissken, the NPC we rescued, bought himself some better armor and weapons.  Elder Karl also commissioned the creation of a stone bow, a crossbow that fires sling stones, so he could have a d6 ranged weapon instead of a d4 one.
I should add these to Flying Swordsmen

Jeremy was a bit late because of his work, so Dean and I roleplayed a short trip back to The Hive.  We went down to the tunnels beneath, checked in with Zizzik and Forager, and then gathered some of the healing waters from the hidden spring we had discovered there.  We gathered two waterskins each (including two for Mongoose). 

When Jeremy finally joined us, our quest to finally slay the apes at the behest of the Great Bear cult finally resumed.  If you have been reading these play reports all along, you may remember that Ripper was killed, and we went on a dream quest to escort his soul back to his body.  We didn't have enough cash for the Raise Dead spell, so we were given a quest by the High Yogi of the Great Bear to kill these carnivorous apes that a heretical Bear Cultist had created.  We got side-tracked and ended up captured by the harpies and their vulture-men, so the past many adventures have revolved around us trying to deal with the ape/vulture situation.  Last time we finished off (so we think) the harpies and their chicken-men, so the vulture men are leaderless.  Now it was time to finish off the apes.

We headed south through the ruins, and used the falcon and Karl's speak with animals spell to get a bit of reconnaissance done.  There was a high hill, forested, with the ruins of a manor house on it.  In a dream sending, the Great Bear had shown Karl that silver apes were the leaders that needed to be destroyed, and they were somewhere in that manor.  At the base of the hill, a shrewdness* of apes attacked.  We sent our attack beasts charging in, and we sat back and fired missiles at the apes (Thidrek drinking his potion immediately to be able to get more shots off each round).  Our beasts did a fair amount of damage, but only the beetle survived the melee.  None of the apes survived, though.

We headed up the hill, and found the manor house ruins, and outbuildings, and a very large tree atop the hill.  We saw some apes, and in an attempt to lure them out, Thidrek got pelted with stones, but they didn't come out.  We headed towards one of the buildings, and then both the white apes and silver-back apes attacked.  There were six silver-backs and seven white apes.  Ripper took his potion then.  We made a tactical retreat into one of the buildings, but our beetle and one of the archers were slain before we made it into cover.  With Karl's bless spell, cures and magic stone fist, Thidrek attacking twice per round and Ripper doing double damage on his hits, we were able to just barely hold our own.

Our first position was inside a two-story building.  Our falconer and archer went upstairs and the archer fired down on the white apes while Ripper and Karl held the doorway, with Thidrek and Mongoose firing past the two for a round, then having to deal with the silver-backs, who flanked around to another door.  I'm glad Thidrek now has a magic sword!  This was a very tense battle.  Ripper was battered but resisted the urge to go were-bear.  Thidrek lost one shield due to a fumble roll, and another due to silver-back.  Elder Karl dropped to negative hit points but Mongoose used Hive healing water to get him back on his feet.  He also loaned Thidrek his spare shield.  Everyone ended up in single digits by the time the white apes and the silver-back in the other door were destroyed.

Group Initiative rolls were tense, just the way Zak describes them.  Hit rolls were tense.  Monster hit rolls were even more tense!  Man, this was a touch and go battle.  And it still wasn't over. 

Given a breather by the remaining silver-backs, we retreated up the stairs to where our retainers were.  Ripper healed up a bit, Thidrek tried to repair his shield, and we waited for the apes.  We heard them banging around on the walls below, so Ripper used his giant strength to bash some of the wall blocks down on them.  A few missiles fired from the hole he made managed to slay one more silver ape. 

Then the remaining two dropped in from the ceiling, knocking out both the archer and Mongoose with rubble.  We began to fight, and then the floor fell through due to the load and the additional structural damage we'd inflicted on the building.  Poor Mongoose and red shirt archer, they didn't survive the fall.  The rest of us did, and took down the apes.  And as the last ape fell, Ripper felt the spirit of the Great Bear leaving him.  Elder Karl had the feeling that his church-imposed quest was at an end.
Mongoose Lissken, R.I.P.

But the adventure wasn't over.  We still weren't sure if there were any more apes or not.  We were also curious if there was any loot to be gained in the manor.  So we did what murder-hobos are wont to do, and went further exploring.  In the manor house, the main entrance hall had caved in, and the apes had used the pit as a dung-heap.  Discussion of what to do followed.  Karl insisted there must be a poop-monster in the dung-heap.  Ripper, still at reduced agility due to a vulture-man inflicted crit, was leery of balancing acts to get around the pit, but also didn't want to get his armor dirty.  Thidrek decided to do what he always does, and used his grappling hook to scale to the roof and look around. 

Despite Thidrek finding that we could go across the roof and down to avoid the shit pit, Karl decided to wade through it.  Ripper decided to tip-toe around the broken edge of the room (and despite his lowered Dex, managed it well).  And just as Karl feared, there was an outyugh in the ape shit.  Just as Ripper opened a door and a crossbow bolt flew past him, the outyugh attacked.  Karl went down (again), and Ripper, after taking a crossbow bolt in the back and finding a Fort Low guardsman with broken legs was firing at us, jumped into the pit to save Karl.  Thidrek, still high on speed, kept firing with his crossbow.  Ripper made short work of the outyugh due to giant strength, and he hauled Karl out of the pit.  Thidrek helped the guardsman out. 

Ripper, already covered in shit, went back to search the pit while Thidrek washed out and tended Karl's wounds.  Ripper found some jewelry and a magic scroll, and a few loose coins (we didn't bother to count to see if there were exactly 2000 coppers in the ape shit, but to be honest it wouldn't have bothered me if that was the number).

Lacking all of our hirelings and pets, and with our cleric down but our quest completed and some loot in hand, we headed back to Fort Low.  Along the way, we found out more about Thidrek - his chemical dependencies like bug powder and potions are a way to deal with the existential dread of sleestak existence; about Fort Low society - orcs may be genetically engineered super-soldiers, but they're still discriminated against by the humans; and about life as an old school adventurer - it's short and hopefully sweet, but mostly full of blood and shit.

*apparently the group name for apes can be this or troop, but a shrewdness of apes sounds cooler to me.