Saturday, May 28, 2011

Prison Break Successful

Old School gaming isn't dead as long as there are Old School DMs.  I had 10 players last night, a personal record.  Two were relatively new to gaming.
Why are those two dudes over there eating instead of excitedly taking part, Telecanter?!
These youngsters and their technology, videos were on Facebook and receiving comments before our session was even over (There were dramatic morality play distractions involved in the session). 

Of course, there were several things I could have done better.  I don't feel like writing it all up now.  I'll just give you one clear example: reconnaissance should probably be a session of its own.  Thinking about it now, many heist movies start with the crew knowing all the info they need already, Ocean's 11, for example.
My heist map and record sheet in a report cover
Jenga didn't get used, prisoners were saved, but the 12,000 in silver was left behind.  With that, I think I'm taking a little blogging vacation folks.  Take care.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Heist, The Con, The Special Mission

Take the idea that D&D can be heist-like, add in the idea of a wary location where an alarm can be raised, a clock, and the idea that at every tick of that clock something might go wrong, and you have the recipe for a badass subgenre of D&D.  Think Ocean's 11, The Sting, The Dirty Dozen.

This Friday may be the last I get to play with some of my best and nicest players (one couple is moving to Arizona, one to Indiana).  I thought it might be good to end things with a bang-- A heist to free some prisoners and all the coin that was confiscated from them.

So, I've tried to assemble all the great ideas from the bloggers above into a simple system.  Think of this as a draft.  Here's a pdf.
The Event Clock is used to schedule events like guard changes and executions.  The Trouble Meter goes up when PCs do things that draw attention to themselves.  You can use paperclips to track movement on both of these.

The pips in the Trouble Meter represent the chance that complications occur.  So, for example, if PCs drop a piece of clothing, the chance of something going awry goes from 1 in 6 to 2 in 6.  If the result says there's a complication, you roll on the chart to see what kind.  I left them general and tried to think of the most obvious/important.

If a roll came up "Obstacle Harder" you might decide a wall PCs knew about is actually taller than they thought. Maybe they couldn't see its base from where they were observing.  I realize it doesn't make logical sense that leaving out a piece of clothing would make a wall taller, but I think it models the way bad breaks or sloppiness can snowball.

I also think this is a good place to use the Jenga mechanic.  Any time the Trouble Meter is incremented all of the team involved need to pull a block.  You  could actually disregard this if you wanted to simplify things, but I like the way it will make the likelihood of general alarm more apparent to players.  Plus it's tactile and dramatic.

Should there be ways to lower the Trouble Meter?  I'm not sure.  I like the idea of tension building and building.  If you did allow for it, it would probably be based on context and require a DM ruling.  For example, the guard who spotted you is neutralized before he let's anyone else know.

I tried to leave spaces on the form for you to adjust these things to your taste.  Now, the hard part is setting up the detailed system that the players will attempt to crack.  I want to brainstorm here what kind of things I might want to include in a heist scenario:

Teams: players separated, vulnerable and dependent on each other succeeding at their sub-tasks.  What can I include that would require teams?  Raising portcullises, multiple objectives, distractions of patrols required to stall them.  Chgowiz had a post recently that suggested handling multiple parties by switching focus at cliff hangers.  I think this might work, although it would give players in tight spots more time to cogitate on solutions.  Which could be good if the goal is to help them be awesome.

Specialists: Assemble a team.  Determine what needs to be done and get the best for each job.  This might apply less to us because all the PCs will presumably be involved but they might hire help.  But, then, parties in D&D are already very team-like.  Thieves are the obvious example; forgers; high charisma persuaders; MUs with sleep, charm person, knock; Clerics with command, hold person, sanctuary; shape-shifters; the invisible.  The DM should probably design it so that some obstacles are obviously suited to certain specialists

Interesting Environment: Having to dig a tunnel under something, swimming in the sewer, scaling walls, hiding in wagons of goods, disguised as common passers-by, smoke, darkness, fog.

A Time Crunch: A limited window, a one-time chance to make this happen.  But not too rushed because preparation, scouting and planning are important parts of the genre.  Maybe give the players one in-game week to do all this and then they get one shot.

Predictable Systems: For complications to work, they need to be exceptions to an expected routine.  For planning to matter there need to be things that can be learned with some certainty.  Guard schedules, lights out, meal times, deliveries, vistors, local weather patterns.

I haven't play tested this but, hopefully I'll get the chance tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Jenga Mechanic

Apparently, using Jenga as a mechanic was pioneered by an indie game called Dread.  I've never played it.  I first heard about it on Playing D&D With Porn Stars.  I instantly thought this could be a useful tool for a DM and want to brainstorm a little on when and how you might use it.
So, I went and bought two sets, the official and the off brand.  The off brand is about half the price but not as good in quality.  They cleverly stacked their blocks to obscure the fact that they are actually smaller than the standard Jenga block.  But, I really don't think it's going to make a difference for our purposes, hell, you could use your own wooden blocks if they are uniform enough.

Some Things I Like
1) It's likely to be lying around somewhere like old monopoly games and checkers so can use what you have (rather than buy it like me).

2) It's a very social mechanic.  I can't think of any other resolution system that is quite as showy and dramatic.  So, it's easy for everyone present to watch and be interested in the results.  Harder to achieve that with dice.

3) It's interesting because it's a different kind of mechanic.  It's about seeing how far you can push your luck, not diminishing returns, but a dimishing chance that the risk you just took won't blow up in the party's face.

So, When do we use it?
Seems like, because of #2, it would be best with something involving the whole party.  Yes, you might use it to determine when an individual player makes a lycanthropic switch, but it wouldn't be capitalizing on the group aspect.  So what then?  It seems it would be best where the actions of any of the party would affect all the party.  So maybe:
  • Reputation or trustworthiness in a place - caught in lying or stealing
  • Going incognito or not/fitting in - breaking taboos
  • Raising an alarm - individual noises
  • Overusing a resource - rubbing the lamp too many times and the djinn is freed, how many chests can you load on the barge before sinking it (in a way it's a greed mechanic isn't it?)
  • Come to think of it, lycanthropy or going berzerk might be well suited - one pc's transformation will affect the whole group.  Have a list of things that set them off (challenges, being hurt, hurting someone else) and make them pull each time one of them happens.
One thing that would be necessary is to know about how many pulls until failure. I have probably played this game once in my life.  I'm guessing 15-30 moves?  Anyone with more experience please weigh in.

So, for example, if the role playing situation is scoring political points against opponents at court by making cracks about them without pissing off the monarch, each pull gives you something good but means you're closer to getting thrown out of the court.  30 wisecracks seems like a lot in that case.

Using Color
You might utilize the colored blocks somehow here, if a jibe is red and a compliment to your allies was blue, the courtiers would soon be shifting their verbal strategies as all the easy to pull red blocks are pulled.

By giving a certain category of trigger a color we limit the amount of those triggers that pc's can get away with before calamity.  How much we limit depends on what pattern you stack the colors in, but if you stack them randomly (say, drawing them from a bag) I think it would divide that number by three.  So, from 15-30 down to 5-10 red blocks.  Does that sound right?

Who Pulls? You might make the person who caused the pull to do it as a kind of punishment, or allow the players to nominate someone to pull for all of them (although this might soon lead to one person pulling every time).

Other Considerations
I don't want to keep setting the blocks back up, so this mechanic should represent something dramatic and consequential.  It should be the focus of the rest of the session if not, multiple sessions after.

But . . . not campaign-ruining, because my sense is if you set the blocks up, people are going to keep pushing until they fall, especially my drunkie players.

Other ideas about when or how you might use Jenga in your old school games?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Into the Pilgrim City

Toral -- Divine-Petitioner stripped of power
Mollie-- Divine-Petitioner stripped of power
Z - Fighter

So, last session left the party in kind of a jam.  I was stressing about whether the players would fight to the death or go into custody and then only three players showed up Friday night.  You just can't predict as a DM can you?

The players ended up going into custody quietly.  In preparing for the session I needed to know how to handle the legal aspects of the situation.  I know that the Waterdeep boxed set and the City System boxed set had legal systems in them (or at least I think they both did), but mine are in storage.

I have the Judges Guild Ready Reference sheets, which has a few pages on the outcomes of crime. But, and this is one of those rare instances, I think it is too simplified.  What I mean is, the punishment for all crimes is rolled on the same table with modifiers for the severity.  So, you can be drawn and quartered for peeing in the road or merely be fined for murder.  Now that might fit the chaotic, random character of certain fantasy cities, but I wanted something that fit more with the context.

It so happened that I had just received Vornheim in the mail.  And I wondered, hmm, does he have anything in there about crime and punishment.  And lo and behold he did.  Now, it amounts to a single chart to roll on, so it doesn't really solve the problem of crime severity above, but it tackles a problem I didn't even know I had.  In a nutshell, Zak says that playing in a city your players are likely to get into trouble with the law and that punishments should be fun and interesting because they are part of the game.  That was new to me and made great sense.  So I decided to roll on the table.

If I might digress a bit.  I don't really grok cities.  I'm thoroughly suburban. In fact, I would argue that the boring surroundings of my youth contributed to my desire to explore imagined worlds.  This doesn't mean I don't like cities, I think I would love to live in Krakow, but I don't intuitively get them.  This is probably why Nidus, my first city after coming back into the hobby, is completely abstracted and also probably why I have had weeks to prepare and I still don't have a map of the city my party just docked at.

So, I rolled on Zak's table of legal situations and got 6: the defendant is set free to run for an hour, after which the militia comes after them, unless they find a hidden sanctuary stone.  Zak also provides a technique elsewhere by which you can create city streets as you go.  But . . . I chickened out.  I was wracking my brains on how to make that hour of searching abstracted streets exciting for my three players.  I couldn't think of anything because the city is still nebulous to me.  (I think maybe what I should do is grab those old Lankhmar city geomorphs and build a map then randomly decide what each neighborhood consists of.)  Hopefully I'll get better at stuff like this.

But don't fret, friends, because right under 6 was entry 7 which requires the defendant to put on a play.  I knew that was exactly perfect, both for this smaller player count-- they would be more comfortable being goofy, and for this city-- it is a very important religious pilgrimage city so the play could be allegorical or a morality tale.

And I was right.  I gave my players 15 minutes to create a play they would put on for a throng of pilgrims and if it was good (read: amused me) they would be freed.  The beautiful piece of art that they came up with was called Why You Shouldn't Have Sex With A Whore and met with great jolliment from the crowd (read:me).  They were released.

It was awesome to hear them stressing about the political and religious implications of their little drama, stuff like: "No, we can't have the whore burned at the stake we don't want to encourage that kind of behavior."

Now, I might want to try and produce a system of laws that would deter players from doing really heinous things (say automatic execution for burning down a neighborhood) but allow for Zak's chart to handle everything else.  I have to give you props sir, your experience and insight into city play made for a better night for me and my friends.

As far as events went, I'm twisting things a little as DM-- the party did something pretty drastic to a member of a holy fighting order, how could they get off with so little punishment?  I decided that there is some friction between the Holy Order of St Letholdus and the regular Church hierarchy.  Seeing as Roger wasn't harmed in the assault, the release of his assailants is a poke in the eye from the Church.  And the Church got to confiscate all the cargo which was about 12,000 sp  ; )

This Friday we'll see if they decide to do the right thing and rescue the laodah, his crew, and the heretic.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Public Domain Images II

Spawn of Endra asked how I found some of the pics I do. I posted about a year ago about that.  It's been so long that changed the interface of their online reader.  But for the most part I think the steps hold up.  A few more thoughts, especially if you're bypassing OBI and going straight to

Finding Cool Stuff is Mostly Just Luck
If you want to find generally interesting pictures the best way to start would probably be to search for "Fairy Tales" or "Arabian Nights" in the search bar of the texts section.  A lot of the great illustrators did work in those spheres and they are subjects that are far more likely to have illustrations.

If you want to search for something specific like a knight or a shield, you'll need to be clever with the key words you use and get lucky.

For example, Gorillas were apparently unknown to Westerners until around 1860, with scientific study not taking place until the '20s.  Good luck trying to find a nice gorilla illustration in the public domain.

You can improve you specific search luck if you can come up with keywords in different languages that's good, there are a bunch of great French, German, and other language books up.

Tracing a Pic's Source
Theoretically, if you like a picture I post, you can find more like it.  I try, as a practice, to leave picture file names as I found them so you can figure out the original source.  (In a perfect world I would post source and artist information for every picture, but that seems so much like work I doubt I would post much).  So, for example, the first pic from the last post is called:


What do you think I was actually searching for? : ) I'll give you a hint: its a creature in OD&D.  Hopefully, you can figure out from that info that the book is: The Giant Crab, and Other Tales from Old India (1897) and there might be other illustrations in it that you like.

Search for Artists you Like
You can also look on the title page to find the artist listed as W. Robinson.  That's too common a name to help, but a search on Wikipedia brings up W. Heath Robinson. Put that in the search box and Bingo!, a list of books to check out.  ('Course this only works if the uploader was diligent enough to tag the illustrator) Searching through all those, I found a couple quirky pics:
But check this angel with five-o'clock shadow out, it appears to be by his brother Charles:
And, coolest for me, I found a nice silhouette of this "very distinguished lobster":
If it were a Crab, the cyclical serendipity would have been perfect, but it's still pretty cool.

Enough of that.  One more tip:

Google Sucks
They kinda do these days.  They go to the trouble of digitizing thousands of books and then upload images so contrasty I don't know what people even do with them.  The illustrations are too jacked up to be useful to me.  Project Gutenberg is a great project but doesn't handle images well.  MSN or any named university claiming a digital upload means it will suck.  Also, the same books are often scanned and posted multiple times, which, inexplicably don't always show up in searches.
Pop quiz, in the image above which link do you follow to find good illustrations? First one is MSN, no.  Then two by the Google, nope.  The last two should be okay.  I gravitate to the last one with more downloads.  This seems trivial, but if you are looking for art on it will save you hours and hours.

Hope that helps.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Serendipity VI

I actually got called in to work today, not fun.  Had a funny session Friday I'll write up soon.  In the mean time, have some interesting art I've trawled up from the public domain.
Have no idea what's going on there, but love the design.
The best representation of a sphinx I've ever seen.  Love it.
This one's got everything: 1001 nights style giant with delusions and a human slave.
And, umm, you tell me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Silhouettes XVII

Have a faun first because I particularly like it and feeds will pick up whichever pic is first.  But here are some more classic monsters from the encounter tables of OD&D:
Wooly Rhino
The unicorn is very heraldic, I'll be on the look out for something more dainty and antelope-like.  The wyvern was really a fairy tale dragon, but I think it will work out okay.  Here's an alternate centaur:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Four Ideas

I want to highlight some cool ideas from other blogs that keep resonating in my head:

1) Summon Library
This wasn't Oddysey's intention, but the way she worded her post was still the spark of the idea: A magician casts a spell that summons something bulky, awkward, and incredibly useful at that precise moment.  What things would you want to summon? An alchemical lab, a troupe of actors, a font, a barge, a forge?

2) Hirelings Shall be Splintered
-C's idea is actually more sophisticated with its options of Strong and Weak forces too.  Go read it.  It seems like it might be a more elegant way to get the same benefits of the Shield Wall house rule. I may try this in my campaign.

3) Everything's a Dicemap
If you've been following The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms or bought Vornheim you know about dropping your dice to generate things.  Tsojcanth takes it a step further and drops dice on campaign materials or maps.  The idea is to generate rumors, but I think it could be for more than that-- locations, spell effects etc.  Yeah, it's like the old-stick-your-finger-in-the-Bible-to-find-a-relevant-verse trick, but I haven't heard people taking D&D to this level of improv and I find it exciting.

4) Toss and Trace Islets
Here's one from me to try to add to the conversation.  Take a handful of d4s, throw them on hex paper, and trace outlines.  The result of each die is the topographical height.  Adjust topo scale to taste.  Just like the method I suggested for campsites, but now usable for generating quick and dirty islets for the Sea of OS'R

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Page Dungeon Contest 2011

If you haven't seen yet, you should check out the One Page Dungeon Contest for 2011, the winners have been announced.  Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who entered. 

There were two things I really liked about the way the contest was run 1) the way all entries were made available even while the judges were reading them, that seemed very democratic and I saw several blog posts where the blogger weighed in on their favorites, and 2) the way they find the dungeons that stick out to them and then come up with a category to contain it, that seems like the best way to find innovative stuff. 

Special congrats to Stuart and Mike Monaco, the winners I'm most familiar with.

Talos Exsanguinated

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Silhouettes XVI

I've been trying to add at least two classic monster silhouettes for each of these posts.  I don't have any this time, but rather than go silent, I'll post what I have.  Ze Bulette mentioned wanting a polar bear:
There is also a black on white version in the zip file. And here is a black bear:
Here is something I think would make a nice city icon:
I also added an alternate hydra to the zip file, with heads spread apart for better recognition at small sizes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Thoughts on Tumbling Your Dungeon

Keeping Track of Things
I talked a little with my most veteran player (and sometime DM) about his experience inside the Tumbling Dungeon and what he would need to run it.  His first idea was to have a separate map of each state of the dungeon.  I told him this is actually what I started with; four maps in my DM folder.  It turned out to not help.  One reason was that I wanted all my notations (monsters, treasure, corpses) on one map for ease of use while DMing.

But the more fundamental reason was that I had no problem keeping track of how the dungeon moved, but of the orientation of the fixed things within the dungeon.  One example is the pedestal in the center of the dungeon that contains the constantly mixing golden elixir.  It would be much easier to say it is levitating, suspended in the very center of the dungeon's central room.  But if you are saying the whole reason of the dungeon is to mix this elixir, then it needs to be attached to a wall.  And then you need to be able to tell the players the pedestal is now on the ceiling, now in front of you, etc. 

Party faces unexplored chambers
The primary non-tumbling feature in the dungeon is the party.  So, as a DM needing to tell the party what is front of them everything changes.  This became most boggling when some PCs entering the dungeon to join the party late came from in front of them, because the parts of the dungeon that were near the entrance had rotated around the original party.
Party needs to turn around to explore

I'm sure the ease at which any DM can manage this varies, I had a hard time of it.

I don't know any solution to this other than a digital map on a laptop or a physical model the DM can manipulate behind the screen.  I contemplated and almost made a little index card-origami model for myself.

The Sand Room
I would revise the sand room if I ran another party through it.  The cool thing about sand is that, unlike water, you can walk across the features it hides and you can't see them.  You might hide furniture, daises, thrones, etc.  The problem is, that the sand will always find the floor, so these features will only be apparent when they are on the wall or the ceiling, not a very useful place for thrones.  What I did was hid a world map, meh.  The party wasn't very excited by this and it didn't seem to utilize the full potential of the sand.

Now, I think I would make it hide work benches, anvils, sorting tables-- things that would be useful for thirty minutes at a time and could be attached to the wall.  You could have shelves too, as long as they were shuttered and the items inside well-secured.

Again, the whole point for me in tumbling the dungeon was not to try to confuse players, which seems like a much easier task, but to pack more exploration and wonder into the same amount of dungeon space.  Having a workshop appear where before there was only a sandy-floored room seems to get at this.  Especially if players begin suspecting something interesting might be hidden under the ten feet of sand.

Because the dungeon is consistent and only has four states it isn't too hard to figure out.  My players figured out how to get out in about 30 minutes to an hour of real time in which they were paying close attention to things and trying to map.  That being said, with about 15-30 minutes between rotations, it can take some time to ride out the tumbles until the exit becomes usable.  So this can play havoc with the idea that a party needs to end a session outside of a dungeon.  This didn't cause a lot of problems for me-- I just used dreamlike logic to warp different players in and out of the party when they were present to play.  But it might be a hitch if you are using Jeff Rients' table of Dungeon Doom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Save a Heretic

Last night's session:

Toral DP
Mollie DP
    Janis hireling
    le bouche hireling
    Pita hireling
    Mika hireling
    Fabrino hireling
Derick F
Jimbo hireling
Zigfried trained baboon

Several days aboard the junk Haiyan.  The wind freshened.  Mermen swam alongside serenading the ship the first night.  A sea hydra was spotted a long way off and avoided.  Toral managed to Heal Pita (lesser miracles had failed previously).  When he did she vomited a huge spider.  The party dispatched it with little trouble.

They finally determined that the wolf pelt allows a person to turn into a wolf.  Then things started turning sour.

G and Z took turns turning into a wolf and tormenting the prisoner Isabelle.  This almost caused a confrontation with Roger.  Z also took the dead spider and threw it into her cabin.  G snuck in and bled her then healed her with his obsidian blade.

Finally, at all the terrified screams of the prisoner and the howling of a wolf, the laodah refused to pilot the ship, the crew refused to sail it.  The ship was adrift.

The party hatched the fabulous plan of drawing the laodah away from Roger.  He wouldn't go.  Toral commanded him to go.  Once away, G attacked Roger to subdue.  Mollie Held him.  He was taken below and tied up.  The party had just come into view of Mont St Brise, City of Terraces, City of Pilgrims, City of Bells.  The harbormaster's ship is coming out to meet them.
Some Thoughts

What a train wreck.  I have no idea why the few players instigating this waited until just before reaching the destination city before physically assaulting all NPCs involved.  If they'd wanted to take this course of action, why not before, when Roger was sick with the plague?  I can only think they were panicking, thinking they had to save Isabelle before they got to the city.  But they could have talked with Roger and found out more about what would happen with her.  It wasn't like she was going to be burnt on the beach, immediately.  I think they are used to getting their way and feel entitled. There was a childishness to it.

Anyway, Toral's player was trying to hold back the fighters in their chaos and finally gave up and went along with them.  I think he will be disappointed when his golden halo disappears and he loses all petition ability.  He's going to have to atone for this somehow.

I did think the point when Mollie Held Roger was pretty badass.  She's a petitioner like Toral, but more of a pagan.  I asked her what it looked like when she did it, she said "Black rainbows."

But the party is going to be in for some trouble now, they're about to be inspected and have a dude tied up below decks that is in a holy order of which this city is the seat!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Silhouettes XV

Okay, that Blogger outage was disturbing, showed me how much time I spend reading your posts, commenting, and posting myself.  I need to fix my sea charts for tonight and try to prepare something for the city my players are heading to.  Here are more silhouettes in my attempt to povide one for every OD&D monster:

Oddly, like bears, there are no wolves, but maybe this could work as:
Dire Wolf

And here is an Irish Deer to poulate your hollow worlds:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Serendipity V

For those of you less interested in the silhouettes you might be interested in the ton of cool art I run across looking for them.  Here are a few.  I've featured John D. Batten on my blog.  I probably should do something similar for M.J. Ford, because he created some great stuff.  Here are two by him, the Valley of Serpents:
And Hannibal's Elephants:
This one reminds me of Zak's work somehow (I think it's the creature's eyes and the princess's attitude):
This one is more playful and feels right in line with some OSR artists:
And this one has been mocking me for weeks:
Look at the insouciance of that pig, he has something on me, I'm sure of it.  Anyone want to stat him up and give him some dire-pig power? Bastard, you will not defeat me!

Silhouettes XIV

Here are a few more classics:
Oddly, those original tables don't have bears, but maybe this can be of the prehistoric persuasion:
Cave Bear
And this isn't very intimidating, maybe I can find some different varieties later:
Finally this guy is the result of extensive plastic surgery:
Does that work for you?  If not we could re-purpose him as a caveman I guess.

Monday, May 9, 2011

How Dangerous the Sea?

Had a session on Friday and the party barely survived the Expert book's ocean encounter table. That thing is populated with multi-HD, giant monsters! I thought the ocean would facilitate sandbox-type play by making travel to various destinations easy, but not if it's deadlier to travel on than dry ground. Hear the tale of this journey and let me know what you think:

Athydas MU
Mollie DP
Toral DP
"G" F
       Le Bouche hireling
       Janis hireling
"Z" F
      Pita hireling
     Mika hireling
     Fabrino hireling

The party is sailing North to the city of Mont St Brise to deliver a heretic to be burned at the stake (well, to help her escape). They know the prevailing winds are against them. The laodah told them that tacking into the wind like this, it will take 6 days to reach the city.

The first day out the wind died in the morning. Becalmed, they saw a giant crocodile slithering off the shore and heading toward them. It appeared as if they would have no chance against it. Having a vase full of potions that allow the control of water, several members of the party drank these draughts simultaneously, creating a wave surge to push them away from the beast. When things still looked dicey, Athydas cast a spell called The Story of the Wind which is meant to answer yes/no questions, but does so through wind. The breeze from the spell was enough to put the creature behind them.

The afternoon of the first day the wind freshened again. G and Z stripped of their armor and began learning to help the sailors with the sails. They are also trying to learn some of their language. In the dusk an odd wave was seen by its bioluminescent outline. It turned out to be the end of the tentacle of a Giant Squid.

A tentacle shot from the water and plucked Toral off the boat so expertly he dropped his mace and shield. G climbed the mast with Janis. Z helped Roger up from the hold (his feet were damaged by torture). Together they formed a circular shield wall with the rest of the party. The potions of water control were brought out again. Several people drank simultaneously and forced the water to push the tentacle clutching Toral out of the water. While hanging in air, Janis and G peppered it with arrows and it released Toral to the deck. Toral proceeded beneath decks, kneeled, and began Chanting.

Athydas tied himself to the mast with a rope and dipped his darts in giant scorpion venom. A tentacle swept him over the side. He managed to jab his dart into it several times. The great tentacle let go and slid down into the darkness. Toral came out of the hold with a glowing, golden halo that seems permanent. Perhaps his god wishes him to live.

Some Thoughts

First of all, they have way too many of about five types of potion. I randomly determined these when they were in the Black Pyramid (where they messed with Time). The room they got the potions from pipes they dis-respectfully called the Soda-Shoppe, haha. Anyway, I thought the uses for the potions were creative and awesome, so I allowed it. Also it was burning like five of the potions at a time, so seems as good a way as any to use them up.

Also, another DM might have ruled differently on the poison killing such a large creature, but I thought it was smart, exciting, and the only way they would keep from getting TPKed, so I allowed it. How are you supposed to fight a giant squid from a ship?

One thing I had players do at the beginning of this session was take stock of all their items. I know Ben from Ars Ludi has said that the time players pay attention the most is when they get treasure, and I took note of this bit of Dming advice and tried to utilize it. But . . . uh, for my players if it isn't coin they throw it in a sack until I remind them of it sessions later (because it's something cool I made and want to see them use it!). They seemed to care not a whit that there were Arabic phrases on a bolt of cloth (Turban of Climbing) or the coracle in the dungeon (C'nor's Collapsible Coracle).

So this stocktaking is how they remembered they had all the potions. Also they had two identical rings. Playing around they finally figure out they are Rings of the Joined and seemed pretty excited about them.  It was fun to describe to them what it felt like as they pushed weight and intelligence back and forth at each other, Mollie even feeling the muskiness of G's gender that she could pull toward herself and vice versa.

Remember all that blah blah blah about how I run my clerics, well, Toral just turned 4th level so I allowed him to take a permanent miraculous effect. He now has that halo. May be too low of a level to give it to him, but it seems pretty cool. Can't wait until they walk into the city with that glowing on his head.

But what the heck, a giant crocodile and a giant squid on the same day! There is no way they will survive 5 more days of this.   Umm, now looking back at The Expert book, I see it only calls for one encounter check a day.  So maybe the party can handle 5 more mega-monsters :)

I'm going to have to make my own sea encounter chart I guess, but how dangerous should it be to keep it challenging and yet not keep players from wanting to travel on it at all?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Silhouettes XIII

Here are three more classics:
And the charts have Brontosaurus (now Apatosaurus, right?) but here is a Brachiosaur until I find one of the former:
And then my brother the esteemed mixologist who is partaking of some cocktails, saw what I was doing and suggested I give it wings.  That seemed like a good course of action to me, so this:
And then things got weirder:
And weirder:
See all the fun you can have with silhouettes. :)

Five Rings

Swords seem ripe for tactical possibilities, but rings seem more personal to me.  Here are five rings that might be interesting to your players:

One malady will but darken it, any more rebound on all in sight.

Ring of Flight
Shatter it with a word, and foes, blinded by shards, will let you flee.

Ring of Extrication
Taken off, it transports you to the place you put it on, but the ring stays behind.

Martyr's Ring
The awkward thing will never come off your hand, but when you end, they'll all know how-- family, guild, or clan.

Ring of the Eight States
On each finger it reveals another facet of your nature: slumbering, drunken, fearful, meek, bold, tireless, serene, unswerving.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Leaving the Tumbling Dungeon

Acch, I'm three play reports behind.  Here's two:
"G" F
    Le Bouche hireling
    Janis hireling
"Z" F
    Pita hireling
    Mika hireling
    Fabrino hireling
Darkyo F
Hugelina F

The party intended to re-enter the dungeon to look for Zhang Ziyang who holds the knowledge to cure the crew of plague.  Entering the first room they found a leather satchel with a root and a recipe signed by ZZ.  They followed the recipe, administered to three of the crew members, two of which died an agonizing death in front of them.  G feeling the accusations of the rest of the crew, drank from the concotion himself to show it wasn't intentional.  He lived. (he rolled the Big d30)

They pushed into the dungeon recovering ground previously explored.  There was a tense moment where G miscalculated turn time and was caught in the well room's cylindrycal passage as the dungeon turned.  With some scrambling, a rope was thrown to him, he walked along the bottom of the water and survived several attacks by creatures that look like giant tadpoles-- with lots of teeth.

Then a lever was surely and firmly pulled.  They found their way to the Alchemists Sleeping Chamber just as the dungeon was turning a way it had never turned before.  The frantic party jumped to the gimballed bed.  Pita, she-of-the-ever-bad-luck failed a roll and ended up in a squirming mass of grubs.  The party pulled her out.  And then realized someone was in the bed!

Zhang Ziyang.  He said he couldn't remember anything.  Under the bed were 6 drawers which revealed 2 silver rings, a bolt of folded cloth with an inscription in Arabic, a wolf's pelt and some gold.  We stopped there, with the party having a slumber party.

Mollie DP
Toral DP
Athydas MU
"G" F
    Le Bouche hireling
    Janis hireling
"Z" F
    Pita hireling
    Mika hireling
    Fabrino hireling
Zhang Ziyang NPC

We started out with Toral and Mollie heading into the dungeon alone (the rest of the players were late anyway) to search for the rest of the folks, the sick crew was getting worse-- a few more days and they'd all be stranded here.  Toral, who had grown a familiar with the Tumbling Dungeon's ways noticed at the first tumble that something was off.  They soon found themselves faced with something new, the Component Library was open for browsing.  Athydas (who joined the two above when his player showed up) decided to explore the shaft heading directly down with floating stone spheres in it.  He was very aware that if the dungeon tumbled he would be in bad shape.

Eventually the party below saw the lantern light and yelled up.  Ropes were rigged and the party all came up into the Component library.  ZZ was consulted and the appropriate root was found.  While this was happening Toral and Darkyo scouted out the central, spherical chamber to find a huge sphere of water slowly rotating in mid air.  Within it were darting black shapes and a pale, teenaged body.  Toral's hireling.

The party got the root and got out of Dodge.  The concoction brewed and administered, the crew began to show signs of relief.  Z administered some to the Knight of the Order of St Letholdus, who he seems to be trying to become friendly with.  Just as the party sailed Zhang Ziyang said he was staying behind.
Some Thoughts

I need to do these sooner so the things I learned are more fresh in my mind.  I improved my descriptions of the dungeon as they became more clear in my head.  Poor Toral and Gail might have found the treasure trove if I had described the bed in its gimbal better.  The brass library with all the spells embossed was never described well by me, I still need to clarify that one in my own head.  I did figure out a simple way to fix my stair problem: floating, buoyant steps that stay where they are as the room rotates.

The session with all fighters was sort of boring, you need some magic to give players a wider range of options.

You can see how my constantly shifting player attendance can wreak havoc with any sensible narrative.  But I make it dreamlike and let people join the party and leave it without making a big deal about it.  When I go up a level as DM I think I'll try to implement Jeff Rients' table of Dungeon Doom to make sure partys aren't left in a dungeon at the end of a session.  This dungeon would have made that a little harder of course, because finding the exit would have been a tricky.

This sucks for players too, though, Because Gail and Toral basically mapped the whole dungeon out and then, when they couldn't play, G and Z had to figure it all out again for themselves.

Giving the spell transcription costs has made a huge difference for the magic-users.  They've been trying to kill seagulls to gather blood and quills, they are moving spells from scrolls to books and seem empowered in general.

Oh, I almost forgot, in that first session it was everybodies' birthday (or near it) and since it has been my tradition to give Boons to folks as gifts, three people wanted one.

"Okay, okay," I said.  "Two of you can pick a hard core perk the other has to pick from the animal perks."  Dice were rolled and Darkyo had to pick an animal.  She chose a trained ferret.  G chose the Obsidian Blade and Z chose the Iron Hammer, though I don't think he understands how, even as simple as it is, it works.  Interestingly, G was speculating later whether his blade might have killed the grubs. Yes, it would have worked if he tried.

Some things my players never found out: Pita has been infested with a parasite and will start vomiting monsters soon.  There were two witches.  Zhang Ziyang was charmed.  At the center of the dungeon, the reason for the tumbling, is a golden elixir.  Zhang Ziyang knows this.  He intends to drink it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Silhouettes XII

Here is a list of creatures I'm trying to cover:
I expanded my goal past just terrestrial monsters.  I think this list would cover almost all encounters in OD&D.  Except for some Men types (Lords, EHP, etc), but those will likely be very similar to character class archetypes, which I've also been collecting.

If you would like to help by pointing me to a source image or even making a silhouette yourself, feel free.  I'd like to keep the big package of silhouettes public domain, though. If you want to have a different license maybe we can include a link to point to your individual work.

But, I'll keep making these regardless.  It relaxes me in the way Dyson mentions mapping does for him.  It also lets me use that down time, where my brain isn't really engaged, to still make something.

Here are two more for your trouble: