Monday, December 27, 2010

RPG Now Publishing

Monday marks the official release of the Print on Demand service by RPGNow. They did a soft release over the weekend to iron out any last minute issues. Meaning anybody could have bought PoD products but they didn't advertise it until Monday.

This post is about choosing between Lulu and RPGNow.

The great thing is now the two major PoD Competitor are easily available to RPG Publishers. The first is Lulu and the second is Lightning Source using the RPGNow front end.

The are pros and con for both. In general it is easier for a publisher to setup to print on Lulu. Being easy to use is Lulu's hallmark. It is also a webstore which means not only you can get stuff printed but also sold. All of this means that Lulu's has been the place to goto for small press publishers.

Lightning Source as a larger range of choices and better prices for color. The combination with RPGNow means now we have a webstore to use Lightning Source with and not just any webstore but the goto place for RPG PDFs.

But it is not the same and you going to have to look at both to see what is right for you. The biggest difference is the setup. Lightning Source is more finicky, RPGNow does a good job in preprocessing PDFs to let you know what the problems are. However unlike Lulu you won't just be able to post something and have it ready to print that day. It going to take time and for the first timers you probably going to need to go through a handful of back and forth before you get a print worthy pdf approved. Note approval is purely technical. My particular issues were image format and font embedding.

I will go into detail on this when I prepare Scourge of the Demon Wolf for publication. Part of the reason I haven't gotten it out is that I really really wanted to try printing it on RPGNow first. I am not happy with the half tone process used in b/w printing for Lulu (or Lightning Source) and want to try color with my greyscale maps. RPGNow/LS prices win hands down in color.

As for the site cut of the prince it is a wash between Lulu and RPGNow. They calculated differently and it not big enough to make a difference. The nice thing about the prices is that there is a fixed cost for the smallest sizes for a 8.5 by 11 b/w books up to 44 pages that cost is $2.18, up to 104 pages it is $ 3.46. A good deal to lulu's $5.34, publisher grade for 104 pages. Shipping costs seems reasonable even to countries outside the US.

The range of page size can be found here.

I will give further details as I find them. Note to fans of the Majestic Wilderlands who are outside the US, MW is available in PoD from RPGNow. Check it out see if you can get a better deal than Lulu. Let me know as I want to make by product easily available worldwide in print.

I will end to say that the availability of PoD publishing through RPGNow could mark the beginning of a revolution in our hobby. Off of the top of my head nothing now needs to go out of print as the availability of the Great Pendragon Campaign (and other Chaosium products) now show. What would be interesting is companies drawing on their fanbases to make print ready files of beloved older editions and making them available in print again.

In addition the cost of small publishers drops again. While Lulu in of itself is nearly the same, RPGNow is oriented towards gamers and has a much higher visibility among the community. Another interesting features down the pike may to allow confirmed retailers to order books at a lower cost. Turning RPGnow into a quasi-distributor. While the number are not as good as a offset printing it would allow smaller publishers to get their products distributed into brick and mortar stores. The problem in the past has been retailers don't have the time to order from dozens of publishers. They need distributors manage the flow of products for accounting. Now with RPGNow in the printing business retailers may finally have that one spot to order small press products from.

As the development of the internet continues we are going to continue to see interesting times for our hobby.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I wish everyone and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A special thanks to all my customers and kind words that people gave me throughout the year.

While not as productive as I hoped to be I do have several project nearing completion so there will be more.

Finally I want to say a special thanks to my wife Kelly Anne for being supportive of my efforts. It been a good year for being creative for her as her hair accessory business is moving along nicely.

To the New Year I am looking forward to seeing what everybody comes up and excited that the OSR is still growing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Print on Demand at RPGNow

One Bookshelf, the managing company for RPGNow and DrivethruRPG, has been working with Lightning Source to setup a print on demand service for RPGs. I am not sure if they are out of their select customer phase yet but they are finally out of their long development process.

A while ago I uploaded a print version of the Majestic Wilderlands to RPGNow. So if you have access to the print on demand feature you can buy it in print.

I ordered a test copy and it was nearly the same as Lulu. Also because of the different page count cutoff* I added some more material as an appendix. Basically some more general maps (wind, current, climate). The short price list, and Calender. I posted both here and here for those of you that doesn't have them.

I also set it up so that the PDF comes with Softcover if you choose. Note that you HAVE to select this option explicitly. I don't have the option to remove the Softcover only option.

Unfortunately I didn't enable this right away and somebody already bought the softcover prior to this date (12/24/2010). So if you are that person and want the PDF email me and I will get it to you (by a comp copy on RPGNow).

For a buyer's perspective, the Great Pendragon Campaign, see Chicago's Wizard blog post. Finally I can get a copy of the Great Pendragon Campaign.

While it is was a bummer that their b/w wasn't any better than lulu (because they use half toning for greyscale like lulu) I am excited at their color prices which are WAY better than lulu's prices. Which means I can offer affordable books with full color maps and the like. The Lightning Source connection means they have different formats options than Lulu and best of all for the smallest page count they have a single fixed price.

*Printers work in units of 4, 8, or 16. When you get print on demand done if your manuscript isn't the multiple they use then there will be a bunch of blank pages at the end. Mind you are not paying for those pages but I like the more professional look of having the book completely filled. So for the RPGNow print I modified the Majestic Wilderlands to include material on those pages.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Starting Levels for older editions.

Tim of Gothridge Manor has some interesting comments on why he bought a Red Box Set. He is gaming with his wife, Ivy, and they just tried Swords & Wizardry. While it is simple to learn, characters die rather easily at first level. To newer gamers trying learn older editions this may be frustrating while learning the game.

D&D 4th edition in contrast beefs up hit points and has more options for a 1st level character to do things in combat. It is smoke and mirrors as the monsters likewise are beefed up and a 1st level characters will die just as horribly. But it will take longer, and the players will feel they have done more things before dying.

If I ran into a novice player or novice players that are not having a good time starting with 1st level with older editions, I would be to start off at 3rd or 5th level. The options are still manageable and you are a lot more survivable. I would also do this for a campaign that is esstentially solo play with a referee that has a single player.

I also recommend the XP charts found in Jeff Rient's Tower of Xylartarn. I use these for new players coming into the Gold Star Anime game in Edinboro. I also like how they take into account the prime requisite bonuses.

In the end the RPGs we used are tools to play a fun and exciting campaign. These are just are few more options.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dungeon Crawling in New York City

I was on a recent business trip to New York City. A couple of years ago I stopped at the Compleat Strategist but only had 15 minutes to shop. This time I had a little more time.

They only have a few old stuff. I will tell if you anybody want Chaosium's Superworld supplement they have about two each of an adventure and a companion on one of the bottom shelves. The store is packed with all manner of games and miniatures. With more time I went through carefully and found a pack of HUGE graph paper. FOUR double sided 21" by 32" sheets. Note the graph itself is 21" by 32" the sheet is slightly bigger. It made by SJ Games and it great. I am going to share two of them with Tim of Gothridge Manor.

You want the mega dungeon, I will give you the mega dungeon with these.

In addition I finally found a copy of the Dungeon Tiles Master Set: City. All I have is the wilderness set to complete the run. It pretty good and has a mix of scenery tiles (furniture, table, etc), building geomorph, shady part of town tiles, sewer tiles, and city wall tiles. The box is also used this time depicting a roof top area.

Once again my dungeon skill came in useful in navigating the NYC subway system. Although I did screw up the return trip by getting on the express instead of the local. I also put my new kindle to use and found a bead store a few blocks away from the game store. Boy there are a lot of people in Manhattan.

An interesting thing I encountered was when I was making a transfer and had to go up an escalator. The ceiling was really low I could have touched it if I stretched. Well it was so low that when I looked ahead it looked like I was level and everybody was leaning forward. When I neared the top it looked like it was dipping down.

It was extremely disconcerting and at first I thought I must have been tired from travelling. But I looked down and then up again and there it was again! So it got me thinking whether this would work in a dungeon. Basically have a staircase going up fairly steeply but have a really low ceiling. When people enter describe how now everything is level but you are leaning forward walking across a zigzag floor. With a gradual slope before the actual stairs I bet it would be a plausible trick.

Friday, December 10, 2010

GURPS Low Tech in Print

For you GURPS fans out there the GURPS Low Tech Hardback has been released.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why the Third Imperium is going to kick your low tech a**

Traveller has always been known for it use for slug throwing weapons in preference to energy weapons. At times it doesn't feel very futuristic. I mean how many ways can we deliver a high projectile target down range.

Well now we know.

The Army's XM-25 rifle.

The basic idea is that the rifle has a range finder and shoots a 25 mm (1 inch) shell. Inside the shell is a cheap computer chip that can track how far it goes before it detonates. This allows the shooter to cause the shell to explode BEHIND cover like a wall or embankment.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where is a good referee when you need one?

Ryan Dancey was the brand manager of Dungeons & Dragon during the 3.0 era. He moved on since then but from time to time posts his thoughts on roleplaying games. I am paraphrasing here, but in recent years he has grown to feel that focus of current RPGs is wrong. That it too much wargaming. And that it needs to be more of a collaborative game where the groups creates a story. That the main issue is that wargaming audience of D&D has gone away and along with other groups and RPGs need to change to adapt to the new market.

It is a nuanced view and one that doesn't preclude many of the traditional mechanics we like. You need to read his posts to get a full picture of what he is talking about.

And he misses the point.

The key to a successful RPG campaign is a great referee. That always been roleplaying game Achilles heel. If the referee doesn't do his job the campaign and group will fall apart. In the 30 years I been playing roleplaying games I seen many solutions to try to "fix" this. There the quest for the perfect set of mechanics. I consider D&D 4e to be the epitomize of this. This the quest to have a simple set of rules Risus and Microlite are good examples of this. There are quest to make RPGs more of collaborative story creation game.

And for 30 years these efforts including Ryan Dancey's miss the point.

In my opinion the fundamental rule of RPGs is this.

The player will describe or act out the actions of his character to the referee who will then proceed to inform the player and/or the group of the results.

This is what sets RPGs as a game apart from other types of games. Change this you may have a fun game but it is not an RPG anymore.

Like any creative endeavor you can't manufacture greatness. Either a person has it or doesn't. But you can teach anybody who has the interest how be a good referee. How to maximize the chances that a campaign is fun and compelling to play.

The leaders of the hobby and industry should focus on this rather taking solace in the quest for the perfect set of mechanics.

This is why I continue to write on sandbox campaigns and how to manage them. It not THE technique but I think it is a useful one as well as being one that I can hopefully teach well. Many of you reading this have developed other useful techniques. By continuing to share and learn we will make roleplaying games a lasting hobby and industry.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mongoose Publishing Annual Report

Mongoose release their annual report you can read it here. I am glad Traveller is doing well for them and I pick up various products in the line from time to time. Because of past and continuing editing problems their stuff is not an automatic buy for me. I mostly stick to the small format books.

I find the release of GDW's 2300AD exciting. I always like the line. For those of you don't know what it is; 2300 AD is a separate sci-fi RPG from Traveller. It is a continuation of the Twilight 2000 timeline. Mankind recovers and expands to the stars. What make it's different that it's tech feel more like Aliens, and other 80s/90s sci-fi movie than the classic sci-fi of Traveller. It also notable for using the best data for it's star map and for using three dimensions. Earth is still fragmented into nation-states which until then wasn't commonly used in Sci-fi RPGs. The leading power is France, following a by several second tier powers like the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Manchuria and so on. The empire France rules is the result of a federation of territories that France united after the Twilight War and spans the globe. As of 2300AD they are on the wane.

Another interesting point about 2300AD is that it's background wasn't created arbitrarily. GDW created what became known as the Great Game moderated by a referee. Each player play one or more countries. Turns were taken until the timeline reached 2300 AD. I guess the French player did really well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More D20 Hairstick, The Crimson Adventure

My wife, Kelly Anne, sells hairsticks. From time to time she sells game related items. The most recent is the D20 Crimson Adventure.

She also takes custom orders through her Etsy Store and Artfire Store. Just use the contact link to send her email with an idea of what you want.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lulu Sale for Monday Only

There is a Lulu sale going on for Monday only. You can get the Majestic Wilderlands at 25% off if you use the coupon code CYBER305. There also report of the code HOLIDAYREADS gets you 40% off.

While you there check out some of the other publishers in the Old School Renaissance.

Ryan Dancy on the Open Game License

Ryan Dancey was the main advocate of the Open Game License and D20 SRD at Wizards in 1999-2000. On this forum post at the Paizo Messageboard he reflects on it's legacy. The release of the d20 SRD under the OGL is a seminal event in the history of Dungeon & Dragon and I thank Mr. Dancey for it. It is also the foundation of countless games including the various retro-clones we now happily play.

One of the things that makes the OGL well suited for what we do is that works can have Product Identity. Product Identity are elements of a work that are unique to the publisher and allows each of use to protect what is uniquely ours but still keeps the common rules elements free for anybody to use.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Free Traveller RPG

For those of you wanting to try out Classic Traveller you can download Starter Traveller for free!

This post is a good summary of what the differences are between Starter Traveller and the full books.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part III
(The final reckoning)

I am not going to get into a lot of detail about the rules. It is still in early playtest and while the general outline is clear the details are in flux.

First it is in the D&D family of Roleplaying and has elements of both older D&D and the D20 system. But it is not a retro-clone more like Hackmaster Basic, True20, and Castles & Crusades. It is deadlier and more bloody as represented by subsystem involving fumbles, and critical hits.

The spell system is not vancian, although some of the general ideas like spells books are still present. Spells require a roll to see if you get the spell off and what the results are. There is corruption which result from rolling a 1 on a failed spell rolls. High level mages pay a palpable price for their power. You do spellburn which exact a toil on the body but allows you give a needed boost to your spell in a critical moment.

Luck is very important to the DCC RPG and effect everybody differently. Like Spellburn your luck can be used to turn the tide in a critical moment.

Alignment is also important. In the DCC RPG alignment are not just philosophical ideas but represent fundamental factions of the DCC universe. You are not just choosing a belief but who your friends and allies are in the natural and supernatural world. Behind all that are things that man is not meant to know.

Throughout this is the simplicity of original Dungeons & Dragons. Class dominates, and your abilities are 3d6 straight down the line. Some rule subsystems are more complex than OD&D but they are clearly there because these are rules for Swords & Sorcery.

And even at this early stage the writing shines with Joseph Goodman's love of the novels and stories that make up Appendix N of AD&D's Dungeon Master Guide. The playtest adventures I received shine likewise and feel much more like a Moorcock or Howard Adventure than a D&D adventure.

The DCC RPG is going for a specific feel and tone both in it's writing and it's rules. This means that it not going to appeal to all players of the Old School Renaissance. It not D&D but instead is a Swords & Sorcery RPG. But given the what I seen so far I think it going to develop into a game to keep an eye on. That fans of the Dungeon Crawl Classic Modules are going to really like this RPG.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part II
(It would like wearing somebody's else underwear)

Robert Conley Referee
Running The Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer written by Joseph Goodman

Al Krombach
Bing the Witless, 2nd lvl Dwarf
Figin “Not a thief”, 2nd lvl Thief

Tim Shorts
Richard of Greyhorn, 2nd lvl Fighter
Dilgar, 2nd Lvl Dwarf
Chuck, 0th Lvl Peasant

Greg Hofmann
Wilfred, 2nd Lvl Fighter
Erik the Scoundrel, 2nd Lvl Thief

Jason Sholtis
Danidrun, 2nd Lvl Elf
Derillus the Enchanter, 2nd Lvl Wizard

John Larrey
Brother Bombast, 2nd Level Cleric
Bazul the Mad Cleric, 2nd Level Cleric
They decided to take the northeast door. There they were best by another emerald guard, one that was finely crafted. The fight was over quickly and when the guard was shattered it transformed into the broken body of a peasant from the village. Brother Bombast, and Bazul tried to save him. They failed. With his dying breath the peasant uttered “Ask Thesdipedes to save my wife”

In the aftermath of the peasant’s death the party noticed the skulls entered through a round hole high on the ceiling. They looked around and spotted similar holes next to many of the doors in the corridor. After a quick huddle they determined that the wizard is using them to watch them and decided to launch a surprise attack. In a single round they shattered both skulls.

The party then decided to check the first door. After carefully checking it over they opened it revealing a small library with eight round book stands. Only two books could be seen although there was clearly room for more. When approached the books disappeared, only to appear in a nearby stand. After a few minutes of fruitlessly chasing the books the party positioned themselves so everybody was next to a bookstand. This only caused the books to repeatedly teleport across all the stands. Teleporting so fast they were a blur and could not be grabbed.

Bazul the Mad Cleric squeezed himself into one of the stands. It took him a while and he got hit with a book twice. When he pulled his last foot in, he started teleporting across the various stands. It was all he could do not to throw up Finally several the party members stepped away from the book stands bring Bazul to a stop and he shakily crawled out of the stand.

At this point the book also came to a stop in other stands. Bing hoisted his 10’ pole and found he was able to touch one of the books. With some more effort he knocked it off the shelf. Then he did the same for the second book. Upon examination the books proved very interesting the first was Thesdipedes’ Book of Transmogrification and the second was set of blueprints and instructions for creating the emerald warriors. At this moment the floor started vibrating slightly and they heard the hum of machinery revving up.
The party continued down the corridor and found a bedroom behind the second door. They threw a golden bust of a dragon head and a sack of silver coins into Erik’s Large Sack. At this point the corridor turned, and turned again. At another turn, Bing fell nearly into a 10’ deep pit with spikes. After debating about what to do the party went back to the bedroom and grabbed the bed to make a bridge with.

After a shaky crossing the corridor continued before ending in a short turn with a door at the end. After a careful check they opened a door to reveal a strange corridor with dark grey stone. Also the party found another secret door leading back the way they came. It was the way the Sorcerer used to avoid the pit.

After looking they could see something moving within the walls. Sending Richard of Greyhorn and Danidrun (with bow drawn) the motion became more frantic and human shapes started to emerge! The two quickly moved back into the corridor but not before Danidrun noticed a secret door next to the door they entered in.

Danidrun shoot one of the creatures while Bing threw an ax at it. They appeared to have killed it and were aiming at the others when they withdrew into the wall. The party then decided to make a mad dash to the secret door. They succeeded and found themselves in another corridor when a finely crafted emerald guard attacked them. After a quick fight they succeeded in shattering the guard which formed into the broken body of another villager. This time Brother Bombast was prepared and dashed to heal him.

While he was working on the villager’s broken body, three other doors opened up the corridor and six more emerald guards came pouring out. Two of them were crudely misshapen and the other four finely crafted. While the party engaged, Brother Bombast was able to bring the villager back from the brink of death.. But the fight grew more desperate. Dilgar went down, then Danidrun, even the last minute aid of Chuck, the revived villager, (Tim rolled him up as a zero level character), could not turn the tide as Bazul died. Bing and Figin fled. Wilfred and Erik both went down and when Chuck left with Bombast, they saw Richard of Greyhorn going down fighting midst a hail of blows from six emerald warriors.

Using the secret door as a shortcut they spiked it shut and fled the citadel. The last thing the survivors saw was new emerald warriors taking up guard positions outside the citadel’s entrance.
That where the game was called at the convention. If this was a campaign we would have undoubtedly recruited new characters among the villagers. Character generation for 2nd level characters was fast, zero level character is even faster as Tim was able to roll up Chuck the Peasant up in between rounds of the fight.

Note that during the fight when Danidrun when down, Jason was offered the use of one of the other characters. He waved it off. Stated he was OK with it and that how the dice rolled. Tim quipped, “No problem it would like wearing somebody else underwear anyway.” It took a while before the table stopped laughing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

D&D 4e Virtual Table

Since it was announced several years ago I thought that a D&D 4e virtual tabletop hosted by Wizards would a major change in the hobby. If probably done it would make it easy for D&D 4e players to find each other and play when it convenient for them. Especially if it had on a server/meeting room front end where players could browse and find games to play.

This benefits the rest of the hobby as this helps keep the network of D&D players healthy. Which is where most other RPGs get their players from. Also by popularizing Virtual Table Tops this will draw attention to this type of software. Making it slightly easier for us who play other RPGs, like Swords & Wizardry, and use VTTs to find players. It will also spur innovation as other VTTs strive to exceed what Wizards offers.

After a long period, we have some news, a FAQ, and a Screen Shot. Of course nobody has a lot of respect for Wizard's programming team so we wait to see if they can actually pull this off right.

To me it looks like they are going 2D and integrating their token and tile art into the product. The earlier incarnation was going to be 3D which was going to be too big of leap. I think going the 2D route will leverage the advantage in art that Wizards has and provide an achievable goal.

The things Wizards will need to get right to be competitive in the long run will be
  1. Integration with Character Builder and Compendium.
  2. Use of Dungeon Tiles and other art assets,
  3. good game lobby to find other players.
  4. A regular release of precanned modules similar to encounters or delves so that even the most time pressed DM can get involved.
If they get these right they can be "good enough" in other areas compared to their competitors.

The Silver Standard

Michael Curtis ask his readers about using the Silver Standard.

I used it for over two decades now including in my current Swords & Wizardry campaign.

The basic coin is a silver penny abbreviated as d or denarius. The old roman term for the coin. So 20d is 20 silver pennies.

The silver penny weighs 250 to a pound.

I have two large value goings. The first is the gold penny worth 20d. It's weight is also 250 to a pound. The second is the gold crown. It is worth 320d and weight 16 to a pound. The gold penny is not a common coin. I generally only use it for ancient hordes found in the ruins of past civilization. The gold crown is the common high value coin used both as a unit of accounting and actual coin.

There is another rare form of currency which is the silver mark. It is a 1 lb bar of silver stamped with a mint mark worth 240d. If you wondering about the discrepancy in weight is because the silver penny is debased slightly to produce a more durable coin. Hence you get 250 of them out of a lb of silver. The gold crown is heavy enough that this is isn't an issues so it is a nearly pure coin.

There is also the farthing. There are 4 farthings in a silver penny. It could be a copper coin but in the Majestic Wilderlands (like Harn) the silver penny is minted in such a way to make it easy to divide into quarters. Things like a mug of ale are priced in farthings.

The cornerstones of my silver system are silver penny and the gold crown. I find having single standard unit of currency paired with a really high value gold to be ideal. Price lists are simple with everything in a single coin. While when gold is found in the form of crowns and sometimes pennies it is appreciated by nearly every players for it's value.

For example in the last session of my S&W campaign the players have a stock of valuable art they gained on an adventure. Tim of Gothridge Manor taking Dwayne's security measures a big lightly until the appraiser came in. When he told them that the lot could fetch up to 800 crowns both Tim and the Rusty Battle Axe were on-board about making sure it is secure. Back when I was running AD&D, 800 gp didn't have same draw dropping result as 800 crowns.

The basis of my price list is from Harn which is based roughly on prices of 12th century England. You can download a copy from Columbia Games here or from the War Flail here.

You can download the version I use from here. It also include a herb list adapted and expanded from the list of herb Harn has. The effects are written for use in Swords & Wizardry.

I also found that the prices in Swords & Wizardry and similar clones are in the ballpark with the Harn List. Simple multiply by 10 to get the value in silver. For things priced in copper I just round to the nearest copper. Where this helps is not so much the ordinary items but when you get into building castles and magic item prices.

For gems the prices are it's weight in carats SQUARED times a factor based on the gem type.
For example Quartz the factor is 5d. So a 10 carat Quartz gem is worth a 100d. Amber is 2d, Agate is 10d, Diamond is 800d, Emerald is 700d, and Ruby is 1,000d.
I been busy with work related matters this weeks and plan to resume regular posts on Saturday with finishing up the Dungeon Crawl playtest and getting another "How to build a Fantasy Sandbox" post up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part I
(First time I seen somebody killed by a door)

Robert Conley Referee
Running The Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer written by Joseph Goodman

Al Krombach
Bing the Witless, 2nd lvl Dwarf
Figin “Not a thief”, 2nd lvl Thief

Tim Shorts
Richard of Greyhorn, 2nd lvl Fighter
Dilgar, 2nd Lvl Dwarf
Chuck, 0th Lvl Peasant

Greg Hofmann
Wilfred, 2nd Lvl Fighter
Erik the Scoundrel, 2nd Lvl Thief

Jason Sholtis
Danidrun, 2nd Lvl Elf
Derillus the Enchanter, 2nd Lvl Wizard

John Larrey
Brother Bombast, 2nd Level Cleric
Bazul the Mad Cleric, 2nd Level Cleric
The Adventure
Everybody was scattered throughout the Kingdom of Zamora and heard their home village of Greyhorn was in trouble. They gathered at the village and found out that the Emerald Sorcerer was kidnapping villagers with his minions.

The party went up the ridge and scouted the entrance to the Sorcerer’s citadel. The spied two strange emerald statues one carved into a perfect likeness of a guard and the other a misshapen lump of a man. Danidrun the Elf fired at the door but missed badly and hit one of the statues. At which point they came to life and attacked the party. The party moved in to fight the statues and within three rounds dispatched both of them. The final blow struck by Figin “Not a Thief” with a massive backstab. When the finely crafted statue was smashed it was transformed into a body of a dying villager. While healing the party Bazul the Mad Cleric found that his patron god, the God of Riddles, had taken personal interest in the adventure and commanded Bazul to unravel the strange mystery of the statues.

The party then examined the strange pewter door that stood as the entrance to the citadel. Dilgar checked for traps and strange constructions. After some discussion it was decided to let Derillus the Enchanter burst the door out of the frame with his Enlarge. As the spell required the wizard to touch the object the party tied a rope around Derillus. At the moment of casting they would yank him back if the door burst forward. Then Derillus cast the Enlarge spell.

Unfortunately, the door burst towards the wizard. While the party succeeded in yanking the wizard back it hit him hard and killed him. After a moment of stunned silence, Dilgar quipped “Well I can say this is the first time I seen somebody killed by a door.”.

After the party collected themselves and buried Derrilus under a rocky cairn they looked inside. There they found a hall with tiled mosaics lining it’s walls depicting a green skinned sorcerer and his deeds. Carefully probing their way through the hallway they came to another pewer door like the first one. Once again Dilgar looked it over carefully not realizing that behind him tiles starting flying off the walls and forming into a humanoid monster!

The tile monster attacks the rear of the party only to stumble. The tiles making up its arms whirling away. The party won initiative and started attacking the creature smashing chunks of tiles away. The creature roared and more tiles come pouring out of the wall forming themselves into 4 dog like tile monsters. One of them leaps on Figin “Not a Thief” and smashes into his head leaving him deafened and gravely injured. However despite the reinforcement the tide turned against the monster and two rounds later the party emerge triumphant amid littered and smashed tiles. Danidrun noted some strange peepholes near the ceiling and investigated them. Behind which he could see narrow corridors.

Angered by the cowardly magics thrown against him Dilgar attacked the door with his crowbar. It took a few tries but he wrenched it open revealing a ornate lounge with a 20’ long table made of solid emerald! Danidrun was second in the room and started searching. Quickly finding secret doors they find the entrances to the corridors behind the peepholes in the entranceway.
No sooner after finishing exploring these corridors when the emerald table started glowing. Out popped two emerald skulls sporting wings! They flew crazily around the room out of reach. Then the Emerald Sorceror himself stepped out. Brother Bombast told everybody to stand their ground and turned to the sorcerer. “Please stopping stop taking villagers. What has angered you so?” . The Sorceror replied “No.” After making a gesture towards the skulls, he stepped back into the table and disappeared. At first the party was on their guard with the skulls. But the skulls just hovered there not attacking.

Bazul the Mad Cleric, carefully examined the table and found that it was a variant of portal magic. With enough effort he could wrest enough control to send the party to wherever the sorcerer went. However it was decided that they would be better off using one of the doors leaving the room.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Off to Erie!

Eries Days of Gaming is happening this weekend.

First up is that I will be playing some GURPS Friday Night

Then on Saturday running Scourge of the Demon Wolf with S&W and Majestic Wilderlands at 1 pm.

Then at 7 running a playtest of the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG.

Finishing up on Sunday with another S&W/Majestic Wilderlands running the Elf Lord's Temple.

Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From the Attic: The Solo bites the dust and other Cyberpunk Stories

Over on the theRPGsite this lively thread on the Cyberpunk genre ensued.

CyberPunk to me always felt goofy even if it is being fun to play. A version of Urban Fantasy using technology instead of magic. Still Cyberpunk provided me with some of the best roleplaying moments ever.

I was playing a game of Cyberpunk 2020 and I was a Tech. We had an obnoxious player who was running a Solo with a lot of tweaks and mods to make him a virtual killing machine. The player was known to be a backstabber and a "All for me and none for you" type. The two other players were playing a Decker and a Corporate.

So early in the game we were able to upgrade to our weapons. Of course the Solo rudely insisted that I modify his weapons first. I did this and then I worked on everybody else gear.

So we go on the adventure which involves some breaking, entering, and stealing. Along the way we not only grabbed our target but some additional valuable tech and loot. The Solo is a combat monster blowing our opposition away.

Then at the end of the session we talked about dividing what we found. Of course being the combat monster Solo pulled out his big ass guns and stated that everything was his. Everybody groaned as nobody could even hope to match him in combat.

I said "I don't think so. I got a 9mm that says different". Mine you I haven't pulled out anything and he had his weapons out already. The Solo player laughed and told me to back down or he will kill me. I then told the GM I am drawing." Of course I lost initiative and the Solo goes to shoot me.

And nothing happened. The guns wouldn't fire.

Then I got the 9mm out and blew him away.

What happened was that when the players handed me their weapons to modify at the beginning of the game I slipped the referee a note. I put image recognition software on their sights. Then I programmed them not to fire if I was the target.

The look on the Solo player's face was priceless and the rest of the room burst out laughing. Shortly after he gathered his things and left muttering to himself.
The second story involves Tim of Gothridge Manor. We were playing a game of Shadowrun at Dwayne of Gamer's Closet's house. There were some new players there which made for an interesting mix for the game. Tim rolled up a Solo type with big ass guns and one of the new players rolled up a Decker. The Decker player had diarrhea of the mouth and just could not shut up about anything including how cool his Decker is.

During the game we were all riding in a limo going to a meeting with the Decker player yakking the whole way. He started to talk how tough his character was and how we better watch out or he will Null us and we be left with nothing as we be locked out of our accounts and the Net.

At this point Tim's Solo had enough; he was chipped with a lightning reflex mod and before the Decker could react he snatched the Decker of the character's hands.

Coldly he looked at the players. "So you think to threaten to Null me? Well I am telling you different." He proceeded to exert some of his augmented strength and cracked the case on the deck. The Decker's player literally turned white. "Now I need to squeeze only a little more and this Deck is toast. Are we clear on this demonstration?"

The Decker player quickly nodded and Tim's Solo tossed the deck back to the character.

This incident came in handy for me a few month's later when I sat down to be another Hero System Cyberpunk game at a convention. I didn't know anybody at this game but it seemed to start smoothly. I had some type of fixer with an electric stun stick. But there was another player that had diarrhea of the mouth and just could not shut up about anything and everything. Everybody was getting annoyed when I said

"I reach over and jab his, the annoying player, character in the body with the stun stick."

Everybody stopped and stared at me and the GM in silence. He had both of us roll and I hit. Rolling damage, it was enough to cause the annoying player's character to fall unconscious. I turned to the rest of the players.

"That will shut him up."

The annoying players was so mad and he tried to start protesting but the GM ruled he is unconscious and can't talk in-game. The rest laughed and gave me a round of applause. For the rest of the game anytime the annoying player started to act up I just said "I pull out my Stun Stick and rest in my hands.". The annoying player then shut up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From the Attic; Before there was Hexographer

I never was a big fan of the "Mystara" style of mapping. But in the 80s Mystara was just as popular as Greyhawk if not more. I did one large map using the style. It wasn't anything related to any of my campaigns at the time I drew it just because. I believe I was thinking of 30 or 60 mile hexes here.

The circular sea to the west was meant to be a meteor strike or a big magical explosion. In the northeast is a complex coastline that is meant to be fjords a viking home. One of the large southern islands was supposed to be the X1 Island of Dread. The center area of the southern continent suffers form rainshadow, very arid and has lots of deserts.

If it inspires you feel free to use it for your own game. If you want to clean it up a bit try Hexographer which is one of the best mapping software out there for the Mystara style.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Traveller: The Adventure

This is the age of the Third Imperium. In the year 1105, the Emperor Strephon rules over an empire of eleven thousand worlds. On the far reaches of the empire lies the Spinward Marches, the frontier of the Third Imperium. A crossroads for humans and aliens it is a dangerous place, but for those who dare to cross the abyss between stars, fame and fortune waits.
And that was the opening paragraph of the handout I created for campaign I ran using the Traveller Adventure. You can download the entire handout from here. It contains a one page summary of the Third Imperium setting, two pages of information on the Aramis subsector, one page on how to decipher the UWP. A trade route maps created using GURPS Far Trader rules. Finally two pages of deck plans for the March Harrier redrawn by me.

The subsector map was a JPG generated by using Galactic one of the best mapping programs for Traveller. It is a dos program but it greatest feature is the ability to easily manage an Imperium worth of maps and data. I have a 75% complete conversion of Galactic into a Windows program which you can download from here. Just grab Galactic 2.3c and unzip it. Then copy my Galactic.exe into the same directory and run. The interface hasn't changed other than the fact it now runs in a regular window and uses notepad as an editor for text files. Like I said it is only 75% complete but but should be adequate for browsing Galactic sectors. Anybody wants the source code just email me. It is written in Visual Basic 6.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

XBox Warning

I don't talk much about computer gaming stuff. But something came up with the XBox 360 that all of you should be aware of. Especially those of you with kids.

The basic issue is that the Xbox 360 support downloadable content purchased with Points you buy from Microsoft. If you bought an XBox last year you have the option of blocking purchases and still allow access to all other on-line services like Netflix, or multi-player games. This is typically a wise choice with children and teenagers who are still getting a grip that they just can't spend $$$ without earning it.

The problem is that Microsoft recently updated the console with a new operating system that support the Kinectic. In doing so it disabled the ability to block downloadable purchases. The update throws the gate wide open for any Live account to make purchases with the credit card associated with the account. The agents recommend that the only thing you can do is take off the credit card and use prepurchased cards to enable your access.

The Warden is declaring a medical emergency!

Jim Ward, the designer of Metamorphosis Alpha and many other early TSR works, is facing huge medical bills. The Greyhawk Grognard has a full report. It would help if you can take a look at his RPGNow store and see if there is anything there you like and buy. I particularly recommend the original Metamorphsis Alpha as a fascinating look at Gamma World's progenitor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bat in the Attic Status update.

Time for a quarterly update on what going on with my various project.

I haven't made as much progress as I liked with Scrounge of the Demon Wolf. The problem is mostly in that my hobby time for writing/gaming is limited and I didn't manage it well over the summer.

The product is in two parts, the adventure and a small sourcebook for the surrounding region. Both are not extensive It looking at being 48 pages 8.5 by 11 at most. I consider the sourcebook an esstential part as I think it makes it reusable for more than just adventure. It details a village, a hamlet a conclave of mages, a short gazetteer (1 or 2 page) of a barony, So I am pushing myself now to get it done. The adventure is 90% done and the source book is 75% done.

My thoughts on minimal dungeons have come together. I am thinking of formatting it similarly to how I do a Points of Light style setting. With each level having an overview, a paragraph devoted to a large inter-related area along with wandering monsters, and the dungeon key with a few key rooms detailed. The dungeon map itself would be detailed and labeled descriptively (think Tegal Manor). Along with plenty of referee notes sprinkled throughout.

I feel this will make for a useful product in a minimum amount of pages. Because I am shifting away from putting everything into a numerical list of keyed room, It should be easier to get a feel of how the dungeon works overall. Where the referee can change or insert stuff to make it work better with his campaign. I will be using the Elf Lord's Temple as my first test of the format. You can see the Points of Light format with this free download of Southlands.

I continuing work on the big map of the Main Campaign Area. So far coast lines, hills, mountains, and swamps are done. Now I am placing settlements and roads. After that I will do the settled area/cropland vegetation, then the forest/plains/etc. Finally after that will be the labeling. This map is being done Harn style where a fill texture represent the terrain type (swamp/hill/mountain) and color vegetation.

I am still in the midst of some paid projects that will be done soon. They are fun to do, help others in the OSR, and help fund all the future stuff.

After I get the map done, it will be time to write the gazetteer of the Main Campaign Area. Like the campaign section of the MW Supplement this will contain lots on notes on why various regions work the way they do. This should make the product useful as a source of campaign ideas as well as a traditional setting product. For example the Bernost region will be a good example of a region in rebellion to central authority. You could use it as inspiration or yank out the details for use in your own setting.

Aside from being a minimal dungeon The Elf Lord's Temple will the piece of a series detailing the Dearthwood Forest. I think that big gloomy orc-infested forests haven't been done well in the past.

Hope to see some of you at Erie Days of Gaming.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing Swords & Wizardry and a special sneak preview!

I am running three sessions at the Erie Days of Gaming, a convention being held in Erie PA from November 12th to 14th.

The first is on Saturday the 13th at 1:00pm and features my upcoming release of Scourge of the Demon Wolf. You get the roll up your own characters and are free to pick from the options from the Majestic Wilderlands as well as Swords & Wizardry. I have loads of aides so you don't need either rulebook to make a character and play. Note this is not a first level adventure I use a random xp chart that could start you out as high as 5th level.

The second was originally going to be the Ruins of Ramat for Swords & Wizardry but I have an opportunity to play the upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG from Goodman Games. It not a retro-clone although some of D&D is in it's DNA. The aim is to replicate the swords & sorcery fantasy found in Appendix N of the Dungeon Master Guide wrapped in a system that is easy to use as original D&D. I think it worth looking at and I am glad to have the chance to help Joseph playtest this. This will be on Saturday the 13th at 7pm.

The third session is on Sunday the 14th at 12 noon. It features my second run through the Elf Lord's Temple my attempt a creating a minimal dungeon. The first group had a lot of fun with it.

The convention itself is primarily focused on Board Games and they have all the classics and a few new ones. If you look at their website you will see their wall of games that they lend to convention patrons.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Resource for Refereeing Terrain in your Sandbox

The best supplements I seen for adjudicating terrain in any type of campaign are the three environment books written by J Andrew Keith published by Game Lords in the 1980s. While written for Traveller they are generic enough to be used for any game system. Of the three like the Mountain Environment. It has a simple but effective system for representing the terrain complexity of a mountain peak.

It is easy to get lost in the details and make the experience a grind for the players because of too much detail. The way I learned to handle it is distill the challenge into a couple of key decisions that a player can reasonably make.

Most of the time it is time versus difficulty. Do we swing to the north and skirt the Dune Sea or do we try to cut across and risk sunstroke and dehydration? Do we climb the sheer cliff wall or take the exposed ridge line up to the peak? These books help in coming up with some creative choices.

From RPGNow
The Desert Environment
The Undersea Environment
The Mountain Environment

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tabletop RPGs and the Future

James as Grognardia has a good post musing on Tabletop RPGs and whether they are a transitional technology.

I agree with James that hoping that RPGs will be as it was in the 80s is dreaming. There may be some fab waves in the future but they will burn out in a year or two as something else catches on.

But I don't think that RPGs are a transitional technology. Take computers for example. In the late 70s the market in personal computers started flourished. There was an excitement and energy in the air about the technology and hobbyists groups flourished throughout the country and world.

Today you find just about everybody using computers in all kinds of forms. Your phone is a computer, your tv is a computer, and so on. However to many of those active in the later 70s the it doesn't have the same energy and feel. Oh there plenty of groups like the old 70's groups but they are involved with different hardware or technologies.

For that 70's era enthusiast the world has left him behind wistfully thinking of older days. The ironic thing that if you poke around long enough you will find that groups liking older technologies still exists. In some cases even picked up where the original left and and developing for it. But unlike the 70s you have really look for them.

I experienced this somewhat myself as in the late 80s I was involved in the local BBS (Bulletin Board System) scene in Meadville along with a group devoted to learning about the changes in computers with Windows and OS/2 first being widely sold. If you poke around you can still find some of the old BBS system around.

This is what happened to tabletop roleplaying. In the 70s anybody potentially interested in roleplaying only had one source, tabletop. Now in the 2010s we have multiple alternatives to choose from, the original tabletop, MMORPG, live actions, and so on. Each with advantages, disadvantages, and social networks.

As each new form developed the tabletop audience shrunk. Those that remained are those that the specific features of tabletop were appealing despite it's disadvantage.

Every form of entertainment has appealing features and disadvantages. The ones that endure are able to play to their strength, and adapt to using new complimentary technologies. The classic case is movies vs television.

But Radio vs television is a better example. Most of the original programming disappeared or transferred to TV. Only news, sports, and music were retained. Radio found it's strength and began to thrive developing things that worked for it's format like talk radio. The development in electronics may gave rise a small boon with the advent of digital and satellite.

The key for the future for tabletop RPGs is understanding their strengths while minimizing their disadvantages and employing complimentary technologies whenever we can.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Cape

On NBC a new series the Cape is slated as a midseason replacement. I watch a couple of the preview video on it's website and looks fairly decent. Unlike Heroes it looks like it fully embraces the conventions of superheroes. I like the backstory as well and the motivation it give the main character. The full series works as good as the preview looks.

Also I recommend No Ordinary Family. Potentially it shares some of Heroes problem in that it ditches comic conventions (i.e. no costumes, etc) in favor of personal drama. But there is a tighter cast of characters that are likeable and well acted. I find it interesting they give the dad all the original powers of Superman (1939).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Those Sneaky Thieves Part II

So now you have everything laid out and what happens when PC comes into conflicts with his rivals?

The basic gist is that the PCs buddies are going to kill or beat the crap out of his rival's buddies with the minimum amount of attention from the authorities. This continues until one of the two submit, or die. And losing leader likely will die no matter what and the loser's flunkies will be run by a new lieutenant appointed by the winner.

There is a lot more stupidity going on with turf wars. If they were that smart probably they wouldn't be thieves in a turf war in the first place. The exception is somebody younger who just starting out. Note this is a general observation that if you look at the everybody involved they are not as organized, not as smart, etc, etc as say the nobles, merchants, etc.

However the dividing line between what the thieves do and the rest of medieval/fantasy society does is inches. A war between two barons can have all the elements of a turf war.

What really counts is loyalty to your buddies. It will be defining element of the conflict. It will start for any number of reasons, greed, lust, or plain stupidity. But it will be fueled by revenge and the desire not to fail in front your peers.

It also about relative status. Conflicts that are not to the death are fought until one side acknowledges, by whatever custom dictates, the other is better/bigger/badder/boss.

Plus since we are dealing with the criminal element the relationships within and between the faction are distorted, twisted or plain abusive in any number of way. For example part of a lieutenant's loyalty to his boss may involve the fact his boss is supplies his girlfriend lotus power (a drug) for free. These connection can be exploited by the other side or be a source of a conflict.

Your character finds this out and destroys their supply of Lotus Powder making it look like the Boss' screw up. Now the Lieutenant is unhappy and you come along offer him an alternative supply for a few "favors".

The City-State of the Invincible Overlord has been one of the centerpieces of my campaign and I run several campaigns where thieves and the criminal class were the focus.

One of the most memorable was when two of my players played a pair of brothers. Thugs for the most part. They were given a job and fed inaccurate information. It got screwed up and they go blamed for it as well as not getting paid. They went chaotic and started with their boss and killed him, then killed their bosses boss and so on. Working their way up the hierarchy. They were given some information about the Prince of the Thieves Guild. When they followed up they found themselves in a trap and were killed.

The players weren't upset as they acknowledge they shouldn't have trusted the contact as much as they did. About midway through their killing spree one of the rival Princes, through intermediaries, started feeding them information and using the chaos they caused to advance his position. When their usefulness ended he laid the trap and killed them.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Those Sneaky Thieves Part I

Not everybody is keen on the Thief/Rogue/Specialist/whatever class in original D&D. But I think they are a vital part of the game. Along with being a classic source of conflict which means Adventure!

So your refereeing a Thief/etc and he hits 9th level. Unlike Fighter or Magic Users they don't build strongholds but instead buy a tower or house and his fame attracts followers. In most campaign the thief is not going to be existing in a vacuum. Likely or not there will be one or more other "name" levels around that PC is going to be horning into their action.

I recommend rolling up a 9th to 12th level thief and using Appendix P in the Dungeon Master Guide (pages 225-227) to equip him. There are also useful charts on page 194, Remember that he part of hierarchy and that he survived X years and Y adventures to get to that position. If he been established for any amount of time there going to be a little society of thieves with a hierarchy.

What I would do is create this background and introduce the players to through the normal course of the campaign. Realize that now the character is "name" level he is developing a reputation and people will naturally flock to him. That what the stronghold rule in AD&D about. It isn't about that you can't establish anything before 9th level but rather when you do reach 9th level your reputation is known.

Of course with this comes new problems. Ones that his adventuring career may not prepare him for. And it will draw the attention of other like him (which you already noted). The game becomes more about the society and culture in which all of them exist. Society and culture will form the battlefield on which these two fight. The focus will not the high level view of Kings and Princes but the underbelly of society.

For two concrete (and free) example I posted two writeup from my long running campaign. The Brotherhood of the Lion and the Beggar's Guild. The Brotherhood is a resistance group several generations after the conquest of City-State. The Beggars are dishonored descendants of the conquerors.

I also recommend tracking down any of the old Thieves Guild Supplement from Gamelords. What particularly valuable are the dozens of scenarios for thieves they include in each book.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Integrating commerce into your D&D game

The best merchant system for any edition of D&D I've seen is A Magical Society: Silk Road by Expeditious Retreat Press. It is exhaustive in its treatment of trade and trade goods. The best seafaring system I've seen is the Pilots' Almanac by Columbia Games. While for Hârnmaster, it is really a sub-system of its own that can be adapted for d20 use by remembering 5% = +1 on a d20. Silk Road can be found on RPGNow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gold Star Manor Part III

Ending our series of actual play reports at the Gold Star Anime is the in-game journal of Lady Janus, elven cleric of silvanus. This was submitted to me by Big Jerry and I thought you would all like to see a player's view of the campaign.
From the journal of Lady Janus.


Human Thug “Hazar”, Elven Cleric “Janus”, Halfling Fighter “Hunter”, and the Dwarf Runecaster “Heimdell” are now traveling back towards Oakwatch.

When we hear people rushing through the brush. Followed by people running out of the brush through a clearing and entering a rocky area off to one side of our position.

We soon see the reason for their flight, as a large band of Orcs rushes into the center to the clearing!

To our surprise, we recognize the other party as consisting of the Human Assassin (Claw of Kalis) “Leon Shadowwalker”, the Gnome Wizard “Typhon”, and the wizards Orc servant.

Battle is fierce, Janus casts sleep, Typhon casts sleep, Heimdell casts a fireball and takes out most of the first Orc attack wave, at least one Orc is so disheartened that he flees the battlefield, but remaining survivors continue to attack the party.

A second wave of Orcs enters the clearing! The will be close enough to attack in minutes!

A few of the first Orcs overwhelm the Wizard, he is down and at –4.

The Orc servant is leaning over the Wizard – Hunter thinks he is going to cut the helpless Gnome’s throat, so he rushes over with his Orc-slaying sword, and decapitates the Orc with a mighty blow!

Janus tries to heal him – but only manages +2 – Wizard still down.

Hazar attacks a large Orc with his sword, but trips over the Wizard and manages to slash Hunter for –7 damage! Janus heals Hunter for +7.

Hunter launches into a series of 7 lightning fast blows, striking 5 Orcs, and killing 3!

Then Janus heals Typhon to a +4, so the Wizard is back in the action. Even though the battle is still raging, Typhon is enraged (understatement of the year) at the death of his Orc slave! A natural 20 reveals that “his” orc was not cut down by his enraged fellows, but by one of the party members! Typhon and Hunter nearly come to blows, but the battle demands they put this aside until later!

Leon casts “Suggestion” and entraps 3 Orcs.

Typhon casts “Sleep” and 2 of the 3 Orcs go down, but one large one is still standing, and still under Leon’s Suggestion. A search of the fallen Orcs finds 400 silver.

To placate Typhon, (who nonetheless is still furious!) Leon even threatens to kill Hunter in his sleep for upsetting his close traveling companion so, but is convinced to stay his temper for now. Hazar suggests that the wizard should just take the still mesmerized large-sized Orc along as an improved replacement for his lost servant. Hazar even suggests that a larger sized Orc could be more useful to the party – being able to carry more than an ordinary one. After much glaring, a liberal round of threats from Leon, and a great gnashing of teeth by the Dwarf, the party agrees to continue their trek towards the village of Oakwatch.

Nearing the town, another familiar face is met on the road! The Human Thothian Mage “Alaghazar” has completed his magical studies elsewhere, and is also on his way to Oakwatch!

Arriving at Oakwatch, the party must pass two guards at the gate. They will not allow an Orc, even one under a wizards control, to enter the town. Janus loans Typhon some shackles and the rest of the party enters Oakwatch, leaving the wizard outside the gates, and the Orc further retrained by the shackles to a stout tree.

Party again decides to stay at the “Laughing Rabbit” inn while in town. 40 silver each suffices to gain rooms and meals for a week, and then the party separates to pursue various individual matters and re-supply. Janus arranges to purchase several rune stones from the temple of Thor. She pays the temple priests 14 gold for 6 runes to be completed, however, it will also take one week to cast the proper spells for each rune. Only one rune (cast fireball) is completed before the adventures depart on their next adventure, she will have to return to Oakwatch at some point in order to claim the others.

Others visit temples, or local thieves guilds, or magic sellers, the assassin buys poison.

Around this time, the Wizard and Assassin go off on an errand of their own, leaving the other 5 to continue adventuring together.

Meanwhile, back at the Laughing Rabbit, Hazar has been approached by a suspicious individual who claims to have some land for sale. Hazar being a gullible looking sort.

The man claims to be a nobleman down on his luck, and offers to sell his family’s estate and home. Checking around reveals that others have purchased this same land, but are presumed to have perished trying to occupy it.

While checking on the deed’s authenticity, we happen to learn that it is presently the year 4453 in the Wilder lands, and the estate was granted to the Noble Rump family in 4024.

So Hazar buys the Big Rump House from the former Noble Rump owner, Gains a fancy-shamancy title, and enlists the aid of the rest of the party to help him deal with the house’s apparent pest infestation.

Alaghazar thinks this would be a perfect time to guild our group of adventurers, talking Hazar into starting something they are calling “Acquisition Incorporated” Janus reluctantly joins also – not certain why a band of crooks need a name to steal from each other under?

Nearing Hazar’s new home, we see that it is incredibly large, and is in an unusually good state of repair for as long as it has been empty.

Janus asks the plants growing along the path about possible dangers they may have seen.

Plants tell her of the presence of Undead, Orcs & Spirits!

It is decided to check out a detached gazebo first.

Two statues stand near it, both appear also to be in a remarkable well preserved condition!

Janus casts “Detect Evil”, seems that the statues are merely under preservation spells, not evil. The spell does reveal that there is something evil located just behind the nearest windows of the house!

Alaghazar peers through the window – and spies a miniature red dragon sleeping on a couch!

Hazar tries to sneak in the front door, but makes a LOUD noise! He enters a huge room, and finds 3 corpses lying on the floor near the door. Along with the title to the place, Hazar now has a huge map showing the general outline of the structure, but lacking details. Hazar attempts to add maps of the areas we explore as we travel through and under the huge structure. Presumably, the corpses were previous owners that also bought it from Rump! Hazar beheads them just in case they are actually undead lying in ambush. Large painting on the side walls of the room. Hazar goes up to the first one, but before he even gets there, a very large reptilian creature approaches him.

Hazar bravely tries to run back outside of the house, but Alaghazar has already bravely run out before him and barred the door! However, the creature simply asks Hazar if he would like it to take his cloak? Hazar attempts to hand it his cloak, but it drops right through the creature’s hands – revealing that it is actually a spirit and not a living creature at all. At which point the ghost rapidly runs away into the building

Josh goes up to the first painting on the wall. Suddenly a scythe strikes Hazar in the back, does 2 damage.

Alaghazar checks out another painting, a small rain cloud forms over his head and starts following him around – while is raining only on him!

Janus casts “Detect Traps”, 4 more painting now show an evil glow!

Hazar loves trying to set off traps, so he approaches the nearest glowing painting and tries to disarm it by throwing daggers at it from a short distance away. One of the daggers hits the painting – and all of a sudden Hazar turns around and starts attacking Hunter! Hunter takes 6 damage, before Heimdell web’s Hazar to stop him from moving, and Janus casts 4th level “Protection from Evil” spell, it surrounds Janus and extends over Hazar, breaking the evil influence connected to Hazar from the painting!

Alaghazar casts “Invisibility” on himself, but thanks to the rain still falling on him, he still is visible as a kind of clear outline of himself! Alaghazar looks down a hallway leading off from the side of the room closest to where the dragon had been seen sleeping from the outside. Suddenly he screams and falls unconscious! He is awakened by the rain falling on his face.

Incidentally, the DM’s (Rob’s) real scream is so loud that it makes both physical Jerry’s and John to jump! D&D with Rob is really like being there with your characters themselves! Josh however seems unstartled – for him it was probably no louder than one of his usual farts!

In a hurry to activate more traps, Hazar ignores the hallway that caused Alaghazar to scream and pass out, and opens another door. No sooner has Hazar opened the door, than he is seen to slump down to the floor vomiting for several minutes. (Must have been a large mirror on the other side of the door?)

Alaghazar, now recovered from whatever he saw, opens an opposite door, and sees what must have been a jail. 3 skeletons hang from manacles on the walls. Janus is detecting evil from several places nearby behind the walls the party has already passed, and a VERY LARGE evil behind a door at the end of the hall! Alaghazar enters the room with the skeletons, and finds a ring of keys on top of a decrepit old desk, but nothing else, so he tries opening some manacles and cell doors (they work) part of a false ceiling collapses just inside one of the cells. He then opens a third door and finds another room looking like some titanic struggle had taken place in it sometime in the past. Alaghazar explores and finds a bottle labeled “Red Raven” in a trunk. He also finds a dug out hole with chewed edges.

Back at the room Hazar opened, Hunter tries to go in, there is a strong stink, and Hunter is also on the floor puking! Alaghazar tries to look in, and runs away! Not able to abide such evil near her, Janus calls upon Sylvanus to aid her in purifying the room, holding Sylvanus’ silver symbol before her, and averting her eyes from some pictures hung on the walls. The pictures are so evil, that the anger the God Sylvanus! Suddenly they all burst into flame, destroying the evil images of obscenities and abominations that merely looking at had defeated three men!

The room is not yet totally clear however, as from the back corner an evil demon-headed staff rises into the air and attacks her. Janus throws holy water on the staff, doing 4 damage to it, but not destroying it. Suddenly the staff stops as it hits the edge of Janus’s still active protection from evil spell. It can not pass through, and so Janus uses it to push the staff back into a corner where it can’t move, and Heimdell hits it with a magic missile – shattering the staff! Opening another door, and continuing into the next room in pursuit of the evil she had sensed behind the wall earlier, Janus sees a pool of darkness in one corner near the floor. She then cast “Light”, and revealed the hidden spirit to be the same one that had appeared to Hazar when he first entered the building. Janus tries to “Turn” the evil shade, and luckily casts a magic 20 – causing the ghost to be shredded! This type of spirit could have caused major bodily harm if it had not been so quickly dispatched. Nothing else found in the room.

Hunter now opens the door behind which Janus has been sensing the truly large evil energy! (Alaghazar is bribing Hunter to open things and test things like manacles and this door for him!)

Revealed is a large torture chamber with pits in the floor and torture equipment and tools scattered about, and a large statue of Kalis sitting behind an alter at one end of the room.

The evil seems to be coming from above the pit in the center of the room, where chains dangle down from above. The chains start to move towards us and lash out at Hazar. Surprisingly he dodges, then Janus repeats the move with the evil staff, and moves up so that the party is shielded from the questing chains by the circle of protection centering around her. Hazar then goes over to the evil goddess Kalis’s statue, and using a rope, he manages to topple it onto the floor where it shatters without touching it. Nothing happens? Still ignoring the evil in the center of the room, Hazar goes down a trap door he finds on the other side of the room from the statue (dodging past the chains on the other side of the pit this time) Before Hazar reaches the bottom, something grabs his legs and pulls him into the room below and hurls him to the floor! Somehow Hazar gets lucky and wins the sudden fight with an Ogre! Janus hears Hazar’s initial cries for help, and she and Hunter rush to climb down to help him, but when they get there the ogre is already dead. Hazar is badly wounded, partly from being thrown to the stone floor at the beginning of the fight. Janus heals Hazar. Then Hazar goes looking for traps on another door, but amazingly none activate and strike him!

Behind the door is a maze of tunnels. The party tramps along the tunnels for what seems like a long time without finding anything. Finally Hazar finds a room, containing undead of course! Four Skeletons and 2 Wights attack. Hazar and Hunter took out the skeletons, and Janus “turned” both wights! Then back into the tunnels! Find stairs leading upward, find ourselves back inside the house, but not sure where inside! Janus is detecting evil behind the walls on both sides!

We locate a huge dinning room, with statues located all around the side walls, remains of magnificent tapestries along the back wall, and two huge tables around each of which are seated 12 skeletons! Here Hunter decides to pull a Hazar-like stunt, and instead of trying to determine a plan or course of action, Hunter starts throwing rocks at the nearest seated skeleton! The first stone misses – nothing happens?.. He throws again and hits the helmet of one – BONG! Now ALL the skeletons leap up and attack Hunter, and KILL him in the first attack! (I said it was a stupid move, only surprised it wasn’t Hazar who did it!) Heimdell casts a fireball into room, and manages to do so with such accuracy, that 23 of the 24 skeletons are destroyed! Janus then turns the final one. Just inside the room we find an active teleport circle! Alaghazar is overjoyed! While they are standing there examining it, Hazar suddenly attempts to push Hunter and Alaghazar into the circle! They manage to catch their balance, but what was Hazar thinking? Oh Wait, WHEN does Hazar ever think!!! Alaghazar is still excited though, so he ends up stepping onto the teleport circle along with Hunter after all, unable to resist seeing where it will take them!

Now we have Alaghazar and Hunter fighting 5 giant rats in a chamber they have no idea where it might be at! They killed the rats, and decided to explore further before trying to return via the circle.

Meanwhile Hazar wanders over and pokes one of the statues in the dinning room, and immediately starts screaming! His eye is blinded and in pain! Janus tries to “cure” him to no effect, then tries “Remove Curse” and the screaming stops! Cured – Hazar starts looking for more death traps to try.

Heimdell notices that around one of the pillars are triggers set to make it fall on the unwary. For some reason Hazar doesn’t go and step on these?

Investigating further, Heimdell notices a secret door hidden behind the tapestry.

Hazar and Janus join him, then they open the door.

On the other side they discover a courtyard that is open to the sky, like nothing that is shown on the map of the estate Hazar has! Statues line both sides of the courtyard, and one is set so close to the secret door, that one has to touch it in order to pass by it. Janus casts detect magic, and discovers that the near statue, and one other are enchanted.

Hazar pokes the first one. - it looks at him – then it utters something that sounds like a prophecy that might have come from Sylvanus. So Janus thanks the statue for sharing it’s wisdom. Then Hazar goes up to the second enchanted statue and SLAPS it! This releases a spell that puts Hazar under a geas – to seek out the bride of the coven and slay him. Hazar thinks it is unimportant, and goes back to exploring. Although the statue also told him that if he fails to fulfill the geas he will die!

Hunter and Alaghazar find another room, and 2 more giant rats. After dispatching them, they proceed down a 5 foot wide passage, passing more rooms, plus a bedroom with a statue at one end (The floor looks badly corroded, as if by acid, so they decide not to enter it). Looking out of a window, they are able to a small courtyard about 5 stories below them.
This was where we ended this adventure for this week.

Next Adventure sets out from Gold Star Anime on November 20th!

This being the “Gilligan’s Island” of Gaming…

New (And Old!) adventurers are still welcome to join in our quest to “De-Louse Hazar’s House!”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gold Star Manor Part II

Part II
Cast of Characters
Jay - Heimdell - 4th level Dwarven Runecaster
Josh - Hazar - 6th level Human Thug
John (“the other John”)– Alaghazar, 4th level Human Thothian Mage
Jerry (“big Jerry”) – Janus, 5th level Elven Cleric (female)
Jerry (“little Jerry”) – Hunter, 6th Level Halfling Fighter
In the last post we left the party in the crypt of the Undead. They wandered the dungeon for a few more turns and found a flight stairs leading upwards. Halfway up they discovered a rathole leanding south and decided to continue up. They reached the ground floors. Peering down Footsteps Hall they see ornate doors and tapestries.

After carefully checking for traps and not finding any they opened the door to reveal the Great Hall of Tegal Manor! Amid six gigantic pillars were two banquet table each with a dozen skeletons One were dressed in blue tunics and the other Red. (I used my Official Guards, Red, and the Official guard, blue, that Tim of Gothridge Manor gave me).

Hunter the Halfling thought to be funny and chucked rocks at the skeletons. When it got up his next throw beaned it in the head. At this point ALL the skeletons got up and marched in formation to the party. As they were wielding spears the second ranks was able to attack and the halflings fell after being impaled by a half dozen spears.

Hemidell the dwarven runecasters quickly cast after Hunter's fall and activate his run of fire and casts a fireball in the midst of the skeleton leaving only two. They were quickly dispatched. Fortunately despite multiple stab wounds Hunter was only unconscious and was healed after a half hour of rituals.

Investigating the room they find an active teleport. After almost being pushed into the circle by Hazar, Hunter and Alaghazar, the human Thothian Mage, decided to try it anyway and promptly disappeared from sight.

Hazar wanders away from the circle and looks at one of the statues and fall down screaming as he is blinded in one eye. Actually one eye was made extraordinarily sensitive to light to the point he had darkvision in that eye. But with it being daytime who knew the difference. Janus had a Remove Curse handy and lifted the blindness.

After evading a few traps scattered about the hall, Heimdell found a secret door behind the tapestries hanging from one end of the hall. It opened into a strange courtyard open to the sky. Janus uses Detect Magic spell to determined which one are magical. Of course then Hazar goes up and investigates each in turn. The first gave him a prophecy about the prices that yet to be paid and the choice that will be made. Janus recognized the voices of being of the god Silvanus. The second unleashed a Geas on Hazar. He must seek and destroy the Night Bride Coven or die!

Investigating the north door Janus, Heimdell, and Hazar discovered a corridor that connected back to the Torture Chamber. Hazar happily filled in his map.

Meanwhile Alaghazar and Hunter found themselves in a giant rat infested maze. Including rats of unusual size (Monstrous Rats from S&W). They were easily dispatched and they found several holes leading up back to Ground Level.

They emerged in a bedroom with two more giant rats which were quickly killed. They looked out the windows and saw a courtyard with several statues. They looked at the next door which opened up into another bedroom. However there was strange statue in there and the floor was badly corroded so they decided to leave that room for later.

So here it was ended for the next. I never ran Tegal Manor before despite owning it for nearly 30 years. It is definitely the original crazy ass funhouse dungeon. I really like how the map had notes all over place and I think it is a style that can be explored more. James at Grognardia had a recent post on the topic.

The room descriptions are really sparse and all the statues are randomly rolled on the startling statues table. For example the bedroom at B19 is written like

B19 40'x30'20' H Two Giant Rats; 2 HD, 9-3 HTK, AC 5, 1-3/bite.

Refereeing this meant I had to combine the map description with that short entry to come up with something interesting. It is a challenge but a lot of run. I don't if it would be viable as a commerical product, you paying good money not only save time but get a different vision of how an adventure can go. The authors simply can't communicate in such as terse description.

An exception perhaps when you are trying to do something of a grand scope and Tegal Manor is certainly grand.

But for the referee preparing his own material I think the terse format is all that is needed. The rest can stay in your head to use as needed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Indirect Bow Fire

Most wargames and a few RPG games use a scatter diagram and relative degree of success to represent indirect fire.

You roll to see if you hit a designated area. If you miss you still hit an area but at some distance from the target. You roll to see if you hit armor class 10 modified by bow's range. If you can't see the target you are at an additional -3. For every one you miss by you shift one hex or square.

If you are using hexes roll a d6 to see which hex face you shift.

If you are using squares then roll a d8 to see which direction you shift.

If there is a target in the square Then make another to hit roll. You are looking to beat the person's AC or roll a natural 20. This represents the chance whether the arrow penetrates the armor and is basically pure blind chance. If the arrow magical then apply that bonus to this roll.

If you are using Ascending AC and the to hit bonus for levels then this is a straight roll against the target's AC.

If you are using Descending AC and the level charts you roll as if you are a o-level human against the target's AC.

The chances stink if you are single archer trying to use indirect fire. However if you have some retainers and the party coordinates their bow fire the result can be devastating if target are otherwise hard to get at.

Again the first roll is to see whether you hit the target area. The second whether the arrow penetrates the armor.