Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rob Conley's OSR Maxims

Defining the OSR, you don't need too unless you feel need to express an opinion. Either way it OK.

Play stuff, can't find people in person or like your local gaming community, try Google Plus, Fantasy Grounds, or Roll 20. They are not computer based roleplaying games but function as super enhanced chat programs oriented toward RPGs.

Promote something you like or found useful. We can always learn something new every day.

Make stuff, more power to you if you label what you do as part of the OSR. Or don't, Either way the larger community benefits regardless of the label you place on yourself. But if you making material for a classic D&D edition, feel like it ought be for a classic D&D edition, or just old school in general don't get upset if people start talking like you are part of the OSR.

If you wanted have your stuff printed the most economical way is to do it through print on demand on Lulu RPGNow/DrivethruRPG, and other places. If everything goes right you are getting hundreds/thousands of sales then you probably need to ask around and see about getting into distributions and doing print runs.

Make sure you credit everything you use that is from somebody else and that you have the proper license to use it. Please ask folks for help if you have any questions. Be generous in your credits, For many, people using their stuff and acknowledging it is what fuels their involvement in the hobby.

Ask for help if you need it. Somebody will reply. One of the nice things I noticed about the general community. You especially need to this when you have something new to get the word out. Just remember not everybody is interested in everything. But the OSR is diverse enough that usually there is somebody out there. Most folks I know will at least point somebody in the right direction.

The above applies even if you are just doing stuff at home..Myself and everybody involved are just gamers playing games they like. Have a question? Ask it.

If you feel to need to speak up on something then do so. Everybody has the right to express their opinion. Just everybody has the right ignore said opinion, or agree with it. Between the forums, blogs, social media (faceboox/google+), and twitter there are a lot of places one can be heard.

The OSR is kaleidoscope of people doing their own thing centered on classic DnD and old school in general. It only natural that people in the attempt to wrap their head around it to try to it fit into a nice set of definitions or a particular "story".

But it is bigger than that, much much bigger.

My advice on dealing with it? Embrace the craziness, enjoy what you like and have fun.

Until next time
Fight On!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Showdown at the Orc Corral, this week's exciting 5e episode.

This is a report on the last two session. The search for the Lost Mine of Phandelver was continued. The group is up to six players +Tim Shorts , +Daniel McEntee+Chris C.+Joshua Macy+Ken H, and Josh +Rhandom A.

The Ongoing Story
We last left the party outside the Redbrand Hideout having escaped the dungeon of Iarno Allbek/Glasstaff. They are clad only in loincloths and some rusty weapons liberated from skeleton. Along with a 500d (sp) gem in the skeleton crypt. Squirrel, one of the party's two elven wizards, lies dead inside.

The Roster
  • Ara (Joshua Macy) - an Elven wizard dwelling in human lands in order to return to his people's lost cities that lies in ruins within Dearthwood. 
  • Keyar Nailo (Dan McEntee) - an High Elven Archer seeking to keep the elven refuge of Losthain safe.
  • Vognur (Chris) - a warrior armed and ready to take his place in the world and to pursue the mystery of the box left to him by his family.
  • Sidwin the Sharp (Tim) - a native of the City-State, the human rogue senses opportunity in Phandelver and positioned himself to be hired as one of the caravan guards. 
  • Aevin Steelhand (Ken) a former solider who doesn't back down from anything looking to make his mark in the world now that he out of the Overlord's army.
The Hirelings
  • Lanar - a down on his luck miner who was hired as a torchbearer by the party.
  • Martha - with her debt to a unpleasant manor.
  • Mirna - wife of the slain woodcrafter, hired to manage the party latest acquisition the Sleepin Giant Tavern. 
The Majestic Wilderlands
I elected to set the game within my Majestic Wilderlands. I am more familiar with the setting and by taking the original adventure apart and reassembling allows me to master the adventure better. On the map below each small hex is one league and takes one hour to walk. Each large hex is 5 leagues.


After the zombie attack, the party bedded down for the night. Fully rested everybody awoke and debated their options.

From the hilltop that Old Owl Well was on they could see Wyvern Tor rising out Dearthwood 10 miles away. It was decided to complete the last of their mission and take out the orcs there.

Just before reaching the rivers they found evidence of striges in the area.  Sending Sidwin out ahead to scout while the group made their down the slope to the river. A good thing they did because they found a flock of 8 stirges feasting on a slain deer and elected to swing around them.

The river crossing was made without incident and in the early afternoon they came across the orc encampment on the slopes of Wyvern Tor. It was a cave entrance buried into the steep slope of the Tor.

There was a single orc standing watch outside.

With the time on their side the party planned an ambush. With the group fully healed and ready with all spells, it went off without a hitch. There was a surprise with a Ogre bursting forth from the cave but the orc leader fell within two rounds.

The following shows the last of the orcs being killed.

 After the fight the party ransacked the cave and found 500d (sp) in supplies, along with a check with a brass plate labeled DK. In the chest was 300d, 3 vials of perfume worth 100d each, and a single 1 gold crown. A 1 oz gold coin worth 320d.

They also had one live orc. Under intense questioning by Sidwin and the rest of the group, the orc broke and starting blabbing. He was a member of the Death Head Tribe and the main encampment was a half day travel east. His chief was Mogoth Ironhide. After a brief discussion, the group elected not to check out the encampment and kill the orc to prevent him from warning anybody.

The group then used the remaining daylight hours to journey west towards the ruins of Coynberry on their way back to Phandalin. They set watch for the night. Unfortunately around 11 pm during first watch the party was ambushed by goblins!

To be continued next week...

After the previous two sessions which ended between 10pm and 11pm this one ended after 9. Everybody was tired and elected to stop right here at the beginning of the fight.

The session was a good example of when the party was well prepared and executed flawlessly their plan. They never lost control of the Orc battle and even the unexpected appearance of the far tougher Ogre didn't change things much.

I felt that as abstract combat is in 5e that it reflects real life considerations better than 3rd edition and 4th edition. The raw power of the Ogre and the bonus moves of the Orcs could not overcome the fact the party held a superior tactical position.

The Stirges and Goblin attack were the results of the random monster encounters found on page 27. I felt I was able to make the Strige encounter particularly evocative.  One nice thing about 5e is that for now the mystery is back as to what the monster can do. It not like they been totally reworked from their classic counterparts but the addition of one or extras is enough to give them a different spin. This probably contributed to why the party elected to avoid the striges.

Finally I do have Roll20 tip for those you planning to use Phandelver. This will work with any other system with wandering monsters.

I have a wilderness map setup.  I went through the wandering monster charted and added maximum number of monsters for each encounter on the hidden GM layer. That way when an encounter occurs I can just move the right number to the token area and everything is setup.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Once again,the deal with the Old School Renaissance or OSR.

The Pundit goes off on Tenkar series on the OSR for the lapsed gamer. Accusing +Erik Tenkar  and +Guy Fullerton  who compiled the Hoard and Horde spreadsheet of having historical blinders.

The Pundit is wrong. Tenkar and Guy are just focused on their hobbies.

Guy Fullerton explicitly states at the top of the spreadsheet what it is about.
The list is for print and pdf products published since the year 2000 (approximately) for Gygax-era flavors of D&D: ODnD, Holmes Basic, ADnD, B/X, and BEMCI. So nothing for 2nd edition ADnD or later editions. Clone/simulacrum systems and related products count, but only if they remain true enough to the actual Gygax-era flavors of DnD. Castles and Crusades, for example, is not included. (But the Castle Zagyg products are included because of their strong thematic relevance to Gygax-era DnD.)
As for Erik Tenkar he explains it in this post what his series on the OSR for the lapsed gamer is about.

What the issue is really about is the term OSR or Old School Renaissance/Revival/Revolution.

My viewpoint from one who adopted the term early.

It was a never a perfect term. Then most terms that grows organically rarely are. That the first thing you need to understand. OSR or the expanded Old School Renaissance lives or dies on the sufferance of those using. It is not anybody's trademark, or brand name. It wasn't created by a single company or individual to promote something commercially. It grew because people didn't want to have to type something like,
I want to talk about  those who play, promote, and publish for classic editions of Dungeons and Dragons. 
Instead this is what caught on.
I want to talk about the OSR.
Really that it. And I documented it in this blog post so you don't have to take my word for it.

Of course there was a problem. And that problem started once it grew out of the confines of Dragonsfoot and other forums dedicated to older editions of DnD.

Old School.

Because old school means a lot more than just classic editions of DnD. It encompasses a lot of other games like Traveller, the Fantasy Trip, etc. It encompasses some newer games like S John Ross Encounter Critical and Mazes & Minotaurs. Both of which were new games created in homage to how older games were written and structured.

And that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

Then there was the other problem. The fact that some who played, promoted, or published for classic editions of DnD. Didn't like to be labeled. Some despised labeled, others did not want to be associated for a variety reason with other people involved in playing, prompting, and publis... screw it... with other people involved in the OSR. Despite the fact they were doing similar things.

For example over on the Lord of the Green Dragon, Rob Kuntz one of the original Greyhawk campaign players wrote a post on the issue.

So now we know the backstory what is the deal with the OSR?

It what you make of it. It always has been that way. The OSR exist because of the confluence of

  • Open Game License
  • The ability of the Internet to support niche communities.
  • Cheap and powerful computers
  • Affordable Print on Demand
  • The acceptances and commericalization of electronic text (PDFs)
All these combined in a perfect storm to allow any gamer with an interest to reach a wide audience. More so it lowered the barriers of entry considerably and eliminated gatekeepers. Anything that gained widespread popularity has to do so on the merits. 

And the merit of the term OSR was when you told somebody that for the most part they thought you either published, promoted, or played a classic edition of DnD.

But because it so easy to get involved and do something, the OSR rapidly spread out from the initial core of those specifically interested in classic editions of DnD. Some of the things it grew into was

  • Games that changed a classic edition to the author's taste (Majestic Wilderlands, ACKS, LoFTP)
  • Games that used classic edition mechanics but in a new genre (Stars without Numbers)
  • Games that felt like old school games but were completely new (Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG)*
*This is arguably is not new thing for the OSR because of Castles & Crusades. But the DCC RPGs was deliberately marketed towards the OSR. +Joseph Goodman+Harley Stroh and rest of the DCC RPG development team went all out to get feedback from the OSR.

And because the OSR is comprised of gamers who are human beings with a broad range of interests other games got roped in from time to time. For example Traveller, Runequest, the Pacesetter series of game acquired by Gobliniod Games, etc. 

It has grown to the point that literally what the OSR is depends one who is doing the looking. Nobody can keep it up with it all.

Now I am pretty harsh on the Pundit's post. I will point that that he did put his money where his mouth is and released an OSR product, Arrows of Indra. What what you do if you want to change the OSR or think something wrong. Get your stuff out there and show the rest of us how we are doing it wrong. 

Because in the end that is what makes the hobby better. Getting more material out there to increase its diversity to the point that anybody can find something to enjoy about classic dnd specifically and old school gaming in general.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How much rules are enough.

I am approaching my thirty-fifth year with the hobby of tabletop roleplaying, having started in the fall of 1978 with being killed by a bunch of skeletons in the Porttown dungeon found in the Holmes Blue Book of D&D. Interestingly enough I can't remember the first game I dungeon mastered.

+Peter V. Dell'Orto and +Douglas Cole  posted articles about role of mechanics in RPGs.

This quote from Peter's post bears looking at
It repeated something I hear a lot - in old school DnD, you can attempt anything.  
 This is true, but the way I see it, the sentence should be, "in tabletop RPGs, you can attempt anything." It's not a rule set benefit,
I very much agree with this statement. However it party of a larger truth about tabletop roleplaying games. They are not games, they are an experience.

Bear with me on this. Lets take SPI's Freedom in the Galaxy versus WEG's Star Wars the Roleplaying Game. They are both about the same thing, rebels liberating the galaxy from an evil empire. They both feature individual characters and mechanics to resolve their actions. They both feature a grand strategy level of fleets clashing.

So why is Freedom in the Galaxy a wargame and Star War the Roleplaying Game a tabletop roleplaying game?

Because you play Freedom in the Galaxy, and you experience Star Wars the Roleplaying Game.

When you read Jon Peterson's Playing at the World and Kent David Kelly's Hawk & Moor on thing that leaps out is how much of the Blackmoor mechanics were evolution of what wargamers in the upper Midwest were doing. Initially Blackmoor was a medieval themed version of what was being done with Wesely's Braustein and Diplomacy-Napoleanic mashups campaign that were being run at the time.

What set Blackmoor apart that campaign rapidly became about the experience of being in Blackmoor rather than playing Blackmoor as a game. Notably the Blackmoor dungeon. Even Dave didn't quite get at first as shown by the ancedotes about when the Blackmoor players were exiled to Lake Gloomy because they focused to much on the dungeon and not enough on defending the town from the players playing the bad guys.

But thankfully the Blackmoor players didn't learn their lesson and rapid development of the RPG continued unabated.

This focus on a experience is the dividing line between wargames and tabletop RPGs. Wargame mechanics are a tool to be used by tabletop referee to help them remain consistent and to make various aspects of tabletop campaign interesting notably combat and magic. But the wargame that lies at the heart of many RPGs is not the point.

For me the implication of this is that the only rule that matters is that tabletop roleplaying is about player interacting with a setting as individual characters with their actions adjudicated by a referee.

The rest is a matter of personal preference;

I use mechanics and other elements of the game because I like them or because helps make the above easier. And if none of my rules or tools cover exactly what a players wants to do, then the burden on me to come up with a ruling.

Because point of the game of the game is the experience. If the players wants his character to do something that would be able to occur if he was physically present in the setting then the attempt should be allowed.

The trick is of course is making a ruling that is accurate, fair, and consistent to how the rest of the campaign works. And sometimes that not easy.

I will close with that none of I said makes the choice of RPG mechanics any less important. You and your players need to use something that you all enjoy and will have fun with. Use rules that click for both a referee and for your players. It will be different for everybody. It will be different at different times in your life.

Remember if you are refereeing a campaign, the point is for your players to experience that campaign. Even if it means going beyond the book, if a players does something that logically would happen in that setting, find a way to make it happen that is accurate, fair, and consistent.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It is a Mad Mad 5e World

This is a report on the last two session. The search for the Lost Mine of Phandelver was continued. The group is up to six players +Tim Shorts , +Daniel McEntee+Chris C.+Joshua Macy+Ken H, and Josh +Rhandom A.

The Ongoing Story
We last left the party outside the Redbrand Hideout having escaped the dungeon of Iarno Allbek/Glasstaff. They are clad only in loincloths and some rusty weapons liberated from skeleton. Along with a 500d (sp) gem in the skeleton crypt. Squirrel, one of the party's two elven wizards, lies dead inside.

The Roster
  • Ara (Joshua Macy) - an Elven wizard dwelling in human lands in order to return to his people's lost cities that lies in ruins within Dearthwood. 
  • Keyar Nailo (Dan McEntee) - an High Elven Archer seeking to keep the elven refuge of Losthain safe.
  • Vognur (Chris) - a warrior armed and ready to take his place in the world and to pursue the mystery of the box left to him by his family.
  • Sidwin the Sharp (Tim) - a native of the City-State, the human rogue senses opportunity in Phandelver and positioned himself to be hired as one of the caravan guards. 
  • Aevin Steelhand (Ken) a former solider who doesn't back down from anything looking to make his mark in the world now that he out of the Overlord's army.
  • Fosco Chubb (Josh) a gentlemen halfling from Limerick Shire. When asked about his business, he will give you a 24 point dissertation on the varieties of mutton. 
The Hirelings
  • Lanar - a down on his luck miner who was hired as a torchbearer by the party.
  • Martha - with her debt to a unpleasant manor.
The Majestic Wilderlands
I elected to set the game within my Majestic Wilderlands. I am more familiar with the setting and by taking the original adventure apart and reassembling allows me to master the adventure better. On the map below each small hex is one league and takes one hour to walk. Each large hex is 5 leagues.

Session 9/8/14

Hearing of opportunities for guarding mines and shipments, Aerin Steelhand heads to Phandalin. Along the way he met Fosco Chubb, a gentlemen halfling from Limerick Shire. The two travelled together to Phandalin and stopped at the Stonehill Inn to get some lunch.

Vognur, Keyar, and Ara emerged from the Redbrand Hideout into the ruins of Tessander Manor. Accompanying them was Mirna and her two children. Mirna is the wife of the woodcarver that was murdered by the Redbrands and was kidnapped. The group rescued her from being sold into slavery, along with themselves. Squirrel's body remained in the hideout.

The group headed down the hill to the secret tunnel entrance where they found Sidwin in the midst of constipation trouble. Appears the injuries he sustained and the food he ate was not a good mix. The group checked for pursuers and headed back to the village.

There they stumbled into the Stonehill Inn. Toblen and his wife Trilena quickly called for Elder Gisela, a priestess of Mitra residing in Phandalin. As the group was getting healed and patched up they discussed what to do next. Their fortunes were greatly boosted when Fosco Chubb and Aerin Steelhand offer to join and help them. Feyar was the only one of the group unable to continue so he stayed behind at the inn.

After a quick trip to Barathan's Provision to reequip themselves, the party decided to collapse the south tunnel entrances and seal up the basement stairs in the manor ruins. Then wait for Glasstaff to try to leave.

By late afternoon they returned to the manor. While checking the tunnel area for traffic they found evidence of a hasty retreat. Sidwin and Fosco scouted the hideout and found it abandoned. Iarno Allbeck aka Glasstaff had fled! Luckily they found some better equipment in the gear and stores left behind and gave chase.

Heading east from Phandalin, the brave party entered the orc infested Forest of Dearthwood. They made their way through a forest fire. avoided a snake infested thicket, and resisted the lure of sleep in a ancient grove of elven standing stones. Here they found one of the Redbrand bandits fast asleep and quickly dispatched him. But alas while following the wizard's trail through a ravine, one of the side collapsed in a avalanche! The party managed to get out of there without any permanent harm but the trial was lost.

After camping out for the night, the party elected to continue to head in the last known direction of the trail. By mid morning, they heard noise, A very large creature was ahead, grunting and groaning. The group slowly made their way closer by stealth. And spotted an solitary ogre doing his err business. (Point O)

After a brief discussion, the group decided to grant the ogre some release. Arrows, bolts, and magic spells were unleashed. After a fiery eruption from its behind, the ogre indeed found release his final release. The party found 30d (sp) in the Ogre's sporran. Luckily since the fiery burst erupted out of the other business end it was in touched. Well untouched by fire that is.

Afterwards the party continued to head north until they ran into the Limerick Trails without any luck in finding the Wizard's Track. At this point the group decided to head back to Phandalin.


I used Pazio's chase cards to handle the tracking of Glasstaff. I need to work on my delivery but it was smoother than the last time I used them.

Session 9/15/14

One the return to Phandalin, Fosco immediately dove into supper. While the rest welcomed Feyar back, who is now fully recuperated. Mirna stopped by to thank the group and told them of valuable heirloom of her family that could be found in the ruins of the village of Thundertree to the north. At first the party thought she wanted them to retrieve it for them but instead she was offering all her claims on it as a form of repayment. Everybody was left a bit speechless.

Later after the party got the title to the Sleeping Giant from the town for their aid, Fosco understood her desire to avoid charity and offered her a job to work with Martha to rehabilitate the tavern.

Elder Gisela came by to check on the group. She also had a proposal for them. To ask a question of the Banshee Oracle Agatha near the ruins of the village of Coynberry. Her superiors needed to know the location of the spellbooks of a mage named Bowgentle. The banshee would not speak to her. While directly looking at Sidwin (18 charisma) she thinks the group can get her to answer the question. She offers three healing potions for the job (1,500d!). Sidwin turned on the charm and got her to agree to turn over one as down payment. Gisela also gave Sidwin a jeweled comb to use.

After breakfast the group decided to talk to Sildar Hallwinter who is staying over at the town hall with the Reeve Hedrin Westrin. There was some trepidation as they know Sildar Hallwinter was in the employ of Iarno Allbeck, the real name of Glasstaff. But their fears were unfounded as Sildar quickly condemned Iarno's actions as Glasstaff. Sildar talked with the Reeve Westrin, they decided to grant the party 2,000d out of the money the Overlord gave Iarno for his budget. Sildar also told the group if they found out where the Troll Skull's castle was, rescued Gundren Rockseer and eliminated the Troll Skulls, that there a 5,000d bounty that they were authorized to grant. The Reeve, Hedrin Westerin also offered the group a 1,000d to rout out a group of orcs near Wyvern's Tor.

That night the town give the group a party and in a feast at the Stonehill Inn, something that pleased Fosco to no end. During the party the group learned from Qellan Alderleaf, a local farmer, that if they were going find Gundren they best to seek out his friend Reidoth, a Trehaen (MW druid) that been exploring the area. He was last seen heading to Thundertree. He could help with Mirn'a heirloom. They also learned from Daran Eldermath that there was some undead seen near an old ruined tower known as Old Owl Well near Coynberry.

After sleeping off the party, the group met around breakfast. It was decided that the first thing to do was head out toward Coynberry, as three of the tips they got were all in the vicinity.  (Banshee, Old Owl Well, and Wyvern Tor). The party gather their supplies and headed out.

They arrived at the ruins of Coynberry (point C) by noon and found the track to Agatha's lair. (point A) They drew their cloak closer as the air chilled when they arrived at the grove containing the Banshee's hut. As Sidwin carefully looked around he noticed that everybody else in the group was staring at him.

With a sigh, Sidwin entered the hut and within moments his breath came out in ragged fog as the chill deepened. The banshee Agatha manifested in front of him demanding to know why he has disturbed her.
With his disarming smile and clever wit. Sidwin was able to present her with the jeweled comb Elder Gisela gave him. Pleased the Banshee answered.
A necromancer virdiian named Tsernoth in the City of Gormmah
As she dismissed Sidwin to leave, the rogue asked her if can have her answer one more question. Angrily she retorted that she only answers one of anybody who seek her and that he used his chance. Again putting his best smile and turning on the charm. He replied that his question is one that she wants to her. Temporarily mollified she gave him permission to ask. Giving no promise that she will answer. With the party collectively shaking their head no, waving negatively, and several getting reay to run. Sidwin asked
What will free you?
Stunned, the banshee was left speechless. The party stopped in mid gesture. After a long moment, the the air warmed and the banshee replied.
I will never be free again until they sing in the silver halls again.
After a somber pause, Sidwin looker her in the eyes.
Will I ever be able to return home again?
She started to fade through the walls and leaving a whisper of her voice in the air.
You will be able to. But there will be two paths; one of power or one of sacrifice.
With a collective sigh of relief the party left the grove and returned to the ruins of Coynberry. The group proceeded eastward along the Limerick Trail until they spotted the tower of Old Owl Well to the north and Wyvern Tor to the south. After a very brief discussion the group decided to check out Old Owl Well. Fosco stated, "That sound OK"

When the group got there, (point T) from a distance they noticed that there was a large tent pitched outside of the tower. Feyar decided to scout it out. While sneaking around the tent. The mage heard him, fortunately Feyar heard the mage moving out as well and was able to attack first. The mage grunted in pain as Feyar's arrow sunk into his thigh.

Seeing this the rest of the group started to sprint towards the camp and Old Owl Well. Unfortunately the mage held out a small straight piece of iron towards Feyar who felt a iron grip wrap around his body and limbs. The mage shouted
Attack, my minions!
Summoning his mental reserve, the elven ranger fights through and strings an arrow. Keyar aim is true as the arrow pierces the mage's heart downing him. But as the elf turn his head towards the ruined tower, to his horror a dozen zombies come shambling out after him.

Running back, Keyar made his stand with the group. At first the zombie appeared to be going down under the skill attacks of the party. However to their horror many just got back up and continued to attack. They surround Fosco, and while the halfling showed surprising agility it wasn't enough to beat off a horde of shoving and clawing zombies.

Aerin tried to beat zombies off from Fosco but was surrounded himself. The rest broke and ran, taking shots at the zombie as the undead started their relentless pursuit. The fight took most of the afternoon, with each zombie requiring several arrow or bolts shots to be put down. The group despaired when they heard Aerin screams as he fell against his opponents.

But when things were at their bleakest, Fosco recovered and was able to run away drawing the zombies off of Aerin. Soon after Aerin recovered. By this time the rest of the party managed to down the last of their pursuers and was able to make their way back to Fosco and Aerin. Together the group downed the last remaining zombies.

After a quick search of the mage's tent yielded some decent treasure, the party camped down for the night. Keeping careful watch for any more of the undead.


So far I refereed Phandalin like I do most of my campaigns. The players are in a sandbox free to choose to do whatever they like. The initial portion of the module worked out because the starting circumstances was that the group were hired as Gundren Rockseer's bodyguards. Most of the ensuing events resulted from the group natural responses to what was happening.

As it worked out, their victory over the Redbrands was done in a spectacular fashion. While the party may have suffered a lot of material loss, it was obvious to the villagers they gave it their all. And with the rescue of Mirna, the group have won the hearts and minds of the locals.

The only back effect of all this is that all the subsequent information came in a rush due to everybody wanting to talk to them a once. Between what the party was doing in the town and the subsequent party and feast, the hooks has a bit of World of Robquest feel. Everybody agreed it made sense but given today awarness of tropes and long experience with MMORPGs, the Robquest jokes went flying. I laughed just as hard with everyone and the game moved on.

The choice of going after the stuff around Coynberry was the party's decision. The whole Agatha's encounter was a blast to run and Tim really did an outstanding job of roleplaying. Especially at how he managed to parlay his one question into three with the final one the one he really wanted answer. It should be interesting to see how he handles the answer.

Now the zombie fight, at first I thought it was going to be a cakewalk. When I ran this encounter for the Gold Star Anime crew they had it down cold with clever use of fire and the party's cleric. That group, because of 10 PCs, faced a much larger group of 30 zombies. The Monday night crew got to face the book number of 12 zombie and 1 mage.

Well Dan's character, Keyar, took out the mage character easily enough. But OMG the zombies were killer. Their ability to return to 1 hp if they made a con save of DC 5 + damage suffered that round made this ordinary monster that we dealt since OD&D into something out of a horror film.

The basic tactic I used was that if more than one zombie attacked, the first one would shove the target PC. If that didn't work I went down the line until half of the zombie tried to shove. Then the rest would just attack. But if a shove was successful this meant the remaining zombie's attacks were at an advantage. And this in combination with the damage save is what put terror in the hearts of the PCs.

It also dragged the combat out forever because with a +3 on their con save and the party doing 8 or 9 damage on average the zombies were not going down fast. I am not sure how I would handled this at a physical table as I had to keep expanding the map in Roll20. In the end the party was victorious and now zombie are not longer the 2 HD chumps they were in ADnD.

It started with this.

And ended up with this. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another D&D 5e and Harn Day!

It is a D&D 5e and Harn Day all in one.

First off the D&D 5e Monster Manual. Reading selected entries it is pretty awesome. An A+ Monster Manual regardless of editions. While it a pricey for what I about to suggest the text is such that it useful as an idea generator for older editions including the OSR rulesets.  But if you were going to get it anyway you going get more utility out of it than just for 5e. There even one set of mechanics you can easily adapt to an older editions the various Lair Actions and Regional Effects caused some of the more powerful or distinct creatures.

This happens to be my favorite section which is the NPC listing in the back. Combine with a specific race or creature and you got a easily made distinctive characters for your campaign.

The downside of the Monster Manual? Well despite the shear quantity of creatures there are some obvious gaps. For example Fay creatures like brownies, leprechauns, and spites are not present. But given what they did put in there and the added material that is useful I can forgive them in exercising some editorial judgment. Also there is a focus on first tier creatures (1st to 5th level) 

Next up is the latest Harn release, the Kingdom of Orbaal by Columbia Games. While Orbaal is not the largest Harn kingdom in terms of population or power it is the largest in the shear number of settlements. The original article was terse even by harn standards due to the need to pack everything into a small number of pages.

For those not familiar with Harn, the northern coast is a broken mountainous regions where the coastline features numerous inlets and fjords. This was the home of the Jarin people, a vaguely gaelic people who were the first human settlers of Harn. This region was the last where they dominated that is until 60 years ago when vikings from Ivina (Harn's version of Scandinavia) discovered their realm. Within two decades all the coastal settlements where conquered leaving only of a handful inland settlement controlled by the Jarins. The Ivinians renamed the realm to Orbaal from the original Jara.

Flash forward a couple of decades you got a realms that is riven with factions, and potential rebellions.

With this release, Orbaal has been upgraded to the standards of the other new Harn Kingdom modules (Kaldor, Kanday, Rethem, etc). As you can see above each settlement has a full page entry that lays not only the basic details but talks about the ruler's personality and goals along with local personalities or details of note.

They did an exceptional job in local detail this time around. Despite Harn's reputation for low fantasy there are hooks to insert a traditional dungeon adventure as numerous ruins and strange locales are briefly described. You can play them straights or up the fantasy when detailing them.

If you like History Channel's Viking series then Orbaal will provide a ready made back drop for a similar campaign. Like all Harn products it is priced at a premium but it is a quality product and at 68 pages packed with a lot of material.

Good week for gaming stuff.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

First bits and pieces of a 5e Majestic Wilderlands

Primarily I am doing this for when I run the Majestic Wilderlands using the 5e rules. Since I got this published book with everything nice and summarized. So I figured lets see how it works with 5e. It not like 4e were I have to come up with an equivalent of a Magic the Gathering card set (4e powers) to make a class.

So here is the result

The first class converted was the first class in the book, the Berserker. Wizards had a Berserker sub class for the Barbarian. Much of this duplicates that combination. But I went through and modified things here and there to turn it into a holy warrior from Thor whose orders are to kick some monster ass.

Also I though about the formatting and decided that it would be me more useful if I start at the beginning and list everything in order of level. 

The second is a reskin of the Monk-Way of the Shadow. If you read the account of my last 5e session you know that +Rhandom A's character Squirrel died. When we talked about a new character he was torn between playing a Halfling and a Monk. I said "Why not both." We brainstormed together and the result is the Halfling Shadow. Now there is nothing different mechanically between this and the PHB Monk. But by rewording everything, Josh and I found that was resulted was something altogether different then the Mystical Ninja of the PHB Shadow Monk.

So enjoy and I am interested in feedback especially in the format. Hopefully Wizards has a generous third party license and by this time next year you will all have Majestic Wilderlands for 5e in your hands.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Great Escape of 5e

This week the search for the Lost Mine of Phandelver was continued.  +Tim Shorts  wasn't able to make it but Josh returned. He joined +Daniel McEntee , +Chris C., and +Joshua Macy in their adventures around the mining village of Phandelver.

The Ongoing Story
We last left the party inside the Redbrand Hideout debating over whether to take a short rest to recuperate or run down Glasstaff. In addition the murdered woodcraver's family hasn't been located yet.

The Roster
  • Ara (Joshua Macy) - an Elven wizard dwelling in human lands in order to return to his people's lost cities that lies in ruins within Dearthwood. 
  • Keyar Nailo (Dan McEntee) - an High Elven Archer seeking to keep the elven refuge of Losthain safe.
  • Squirrel (Josh)  - by all appearance a no-account street rat, but his cunning intelligence and a chance encounter with the possessions of a unlucky mage has allowed him to master arcane powers.  
  • Vognur (Chris) - a warrior armed and ready to take his place in the world and to pursue the mystery of the box left to him by his family.
The Hirelings
  • Lanar - a down on his luck miner who was hired as a torchbearer by the party.
  • Martha - with her debt to a unpleasant mano0r.
The Majestic Wilderlands
I elected to set the game within my Majestic Wilderlands. I am more familiar with the setting and by taking the original adventure apart and reassembling allows me to master the adventure better. On the map below each small hex is one league and takes one hour to walk. Each large hex is 5 leagues.

Thoughts on the Session
 +Chris C.  has a post with thoughts on the party splitting up.

The Game

Having waken up from his long night's rest at the Stonehill Inn, Squirrel learned that the party has entered the hideout of the Redbrands through a secret tunnel in the forest south of the ruined manor. The elf mage wasted no time in throwing his gear together and rushing out to join the rest of the party.

As Squirrel made his way through the tunnel, Ara, Keyar, and Vognur debated whether to take a short rest. (point A). The group decided that with the woodcraver's family yet to be found and the mage still running around that it would be best not to take a short rest and continuing exploring. Stepping out into the cavern area, Keyar decided it would be best to climb down into the chasm. Ara went ahead to the wizard's quarters to see what could be found. Vognur stayed at top to guard.

Squirrel meanwhile was stealthly moving from the tunnel and checking out the body of the wierd creatures that was slain along with dead bodies of Redbrand Ruffians. (point B)

Recognizing his companions, the elf mage revealed himself to Vognur and Keyar. Continuing his investigation Keyar found the murdered remains of the woodcraver along with a old wooden chest. (point C) At this point Vognur heads to the Wizards Quarter to see what Ara was up too.
Rob Note: I have what I feel is a very effective technique to get the players to act naturally out of combat. It starts with me going round robin around the table asking each player individually what they are doing. Unless the group has a strong leadership, more often and not it results in the group milling around doing whatever catches the individual players eye. After a minute or two of interacting with a player there generally comes a pause point where I can move on to the next player. The general effect is to keep everybody involved but in this particular case it had some unpleasant consequences in-game. 
While Keyar and Squirrel were wrestling the chest up to the chasm, Ara was systemically searching the Wizard's quarters. (various point Cs) Along with valuable alchemical components, the elf wizard found an interesting letter written in a elvish hand.
Keyar carefully opened the chest. Lying on a pile of coins was a strange and beautiful swords with a hilt in the shape of a bird of prey with the wings outstretched. Inscribed on its blade was the runes for Talon. Taking hold of the blade, Keyar could feel it magical nature. In addition over a thousand silver pennies were found along with a scroll, and two healing potions.

Keyar gathered the treasure and Squirrel headed down the quarter. Keyar soon joined Vognur standing in the hallway just outside of the Wizard's quarter. (various point Ds). Ara gave the alchemical equipment another look over and determined that Glasstaff was making invisibility potions. Squirrel investigated the room to the south and found the table with the remains of a card game and a poker pot amounting to several hundred silver.

By this time Glasstaff and the remaining Redbrands have regrouped and reorganized. Collecting Redbrands from other areas of the hideout, the wizard decided on a counter attack. The gang moved to the cavern (point E). There was Glasstaff and seven ruffians. Knowing about the rigged southeren bridge (point G) Glasstaff had two of the ruffians leap across the chasm to the otherside. They easily made the jump and made their way to the south hallway (point F). Unfortunately they ran into Squirrel investigating the slain bodies of orcs and ruffians from last session's fight.
Rob Note: What actually happened is that I was tracking time while the party was search and executing moves and actions for Glasstaff and the ruffians. I just rolls for the ruffians jump and placing the two in their final position when Josh announced he was moving to explore while simultaneously moving his token to the southern hallway. Because I was using the LoS feature of Roll 20 he didn't see anything until he dropped his token. His next words were. Hey Rob, do I see those? I replied "Yup, roll initiative." Both sides were effectively surprised. 
While both sides were surprised at the encounter, the ruffians were quicker to recover. The one closest to the mage launched a vicious strike, cutting open the elf upper arm and then on the backhand swing driving the point of his sword into the elf's belly. Squirrel immediately collapsed to the floor.

Squirrel's screams alerted the rest of the group along with Glassstaff and the remaining Ruffians. Their cover blown the ruffians in the southern hallway bolted to the Cavern and attempted to leap the chasm. One made it, the other tripped and fell head first into the chasm. The fall didn't kill him but left the Redbrand battered and bruised.

Hearing his friends' cries Vognur quaffs a healing potion and rushes into the southern corridor (point F)  Seeing Vognur explode out of the southern hallway, Glasstaff shouted for two of men to head to the armory (point H).

Vognur continued his charge right across the southern bridge which promptly broke underneath. Glasstaff having rigged it to collapse as precaution against invaders. Vognur feel 20 feet to land in front of the Redbrand below. The Redbrand missed his blow as the warrior thrusts straight through the ruffian's chest. Keyar runs out of the northern corridor and shoots at the Ruffians. Unfortunately the shoot was wide and bounces harmlessly off the cavern walls.

As this point Glasstaff steps up and unleashes a full volley of magic missiles on Vognur who collapses onto the chasm floor.  In the meantime Ara comes across Squirrel and attempts to bandages him. With the fallen mage's lifeblood pouring through his hands there was nothing he could do to save him.

Seeing Vognur fall, Keyar scrambles down to the chasm floor and successfully administers a healing potion to the warrior. Vognur tries to scramble up the chasm to charge Glasstaff while Keyar scrambles up to use the cavern as cover. But a vicious attack by a ruffian downs the warrior again. Keyar's plans are defeated by the arrival of the two Redbrands from the armory (point H) armed with Light Crossbows. They quickly overwhelm the elf and the ranger falls. Ara attempt to use what magic he has left after seeing his friends fall. But Glasstaff's final volley of magic missles convinces the elven mage that he had no alternative but to surrender.

Ara was quickly bound and gagged by the four surviving ruffians. Strangely, Glasstaff ordered Ara not to be harmed and administers first aid to save the elven ranger. When reminded of Vognur values as a gladitor slave, Glasstaff allowed the fighter to save. The party's torchbearer Lanar was also captured.

The party was taken to the cells (point I). Keyar, Vognur, and Lanar thrown in with the woodcarver's wife, Minar and her two children Nilsa and Nars. Ara was left in the southern cell bound and gagged. The ruffians locked the outer door and slightly later the sounded of spikes being driven into the crypt doors could be heard.

After several hours, Keyar and Vognur came too, some what rested but stripped of everything but their underclothes. Quickly taking stock their situation, Keyar revealed that he some magic powers of his own. He used Mage's hand to free Ara. Unfortunately the wizards had little in the way of any spells useful to the situation. However after a quick discussion the Ranger and Warrior determined that the cell door was just old enough to be pried loose. After several tries both cell doors were wrenched free.

In a minor miracle none of the Redbrands came to investigate. Investigation of the outer door (point J) showed it be locked. But with some brute force and judicious use of Ara's Ray of Frost the lock was shattered.  However thanks to Keyar exploration from last session the party knew there were some undead skeletons out in the crypt.

A plan was devises where Area opens the door, steps out into the crypt then retreats. Vognur and Keyar will pick up a cell door and hold it against the open doorway as a barrier. Ara will then use his cantrip to take out the skeletons one by one.

The plan was put into actions and despite the determined effort of the first skeleton it was quickly killed. Ara revealed that he still had more than just cantrips in him and unleashed Burning Hands severely damaging the remaining skeletons. However he got too close to the doorway and a skeleton managed to pushed his way into the room landing a vicious slice of his sword on Ara.
Rob Note: Although the monster stats said shortsword and short bows, the room description clearly indicates the skeletons rises with only swords in their hands. 
However Vognur and Keyar pushed with all their might and managed to barricade the doorway again. Ara's Ray of Frost managed to finished off remaining two skeletons.

Emerging into the crypt they find both the northern door and the southern door to have been spiked shut.
Rob Note: The redbrands are down to a depleted mage and four ruffians one of them injured. They simply don't have the manpower to effectly guard their prisoners. Glasstaff elected to so what he can to shut the group into the cells and hole up elsewhere. What he didn't count is Keyar having magic spells nor the party being able rip the cell doors off.
Keyar searched the crypt and found a platinum ring worth 500 sp. After discussing their options the party elected to open the southern door. (point K). Using a cell door as a battering door they busted down the double doors. In fact one of the door flew far and wide enough to activate the hidden pit trap down the hallway (Rob Note: Chris rolled a natural 20 for Vognur's Athletics check.)

Making their way to Manor's celler (point L) they quickly investigated the surrounded area. They found a backpack with the discarded remains of a healing potion. After finding the secret door in the southwest corner the group determined this is where Glasstaff regrouped.

Despite their desire for revenge, the group thought that discretion was the better part of valor and left the manor via the cellar stairways.

I need to stop refereeing 5e. Oh there is nothing wrong with the group, the game, or the campaign. But I am rolling hot, so hot that it is draining the luck out of the rest of my life. Namely due the fact that in the space of one week I went from two well operating cars to zero. The first lost on the way to the airport with a busted front axle gear. My wife and I decided to scrap it due it having over 200,000 miles on it. Then on the way way home, I rolled a natural 1 and the left rear tire shredded all over the highway. Like Kelly Anne, my wife, rolls a natural 20 and manages to get the van safely to the side of the highway. In fact she did so well that the rim remained undamaged and ultimately only needed a new tire put on. And kudos to +Daniel McEntee for going above the call of friendship to fetch us and take us home after the tow.

As for 5e, now that I am five session in already, I have to say this is an awesome edition. The way that characters and monsters are stated makes it very easy to master them both in terms of roleplaying and combat. More importantly they work the way I prefer them to work. You think of action as if you are there and rules seamlessly translate that into specific die rolls and details.

For example at first glance you still got the D&D funkiness with hit points. But they really emphasize that hit points represent fatigue and experience as well. And more I used he whole hit point/healing system, I can go "Yeah I see what they are getting at.".

So with Squirrel's death +Rhandom A is making up a new character. From our discussion it looks like one of the first pieces of a Majestic Wilderlands supplement for 5e will emerge. We see how it works out for next week and share some details.