Thursday, July 26, 2012


This town sucks.  Things were going great; been hiking everyday for a week and a half trying to get in shape, felt like I was on a roll with the blog (had 2 more cool posts in mind), the folks I played D&D with camping liked it so much that I'm running them again Sat.  In fact, I came back down so I could prepare tomorrow.  But I found out someone had robbed our apartment when I was gone.  They didn't take much, shouldn't complain.  But they took my PS3 which is how I watch Netflix (we don't have cable).

This means more if you know my last vehicle was stolen multiple times and the last time, when I'd given up on ever getting it back and bought a truck, they found it.  I had to pay a ~$300 towing fee to tell them "keep it."  Hell, buying the truck set me way back.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong here except living in the armpit of America.

I probably shouldn't even post this, but I don't think I'm going to blog for a while, might as well give you a heads up of why.  Alright, I'm going to go drink 1d12 beers and listen to Electric Wizard.  Peace.

Five More Fireworks

I'm trying to shoot for enough of these to make a One-Page document like I have for drugs and potions.  I envision most of these as being developed by Dwarves for use underground:
  1. Fulminating Ash - Looks like ash.  Place in cold fie ring or forge, when a fire is lit and hot enough temperature reached Boom!  Not enough of an explosion to damage stonework, but great for distractions.
  2. Emburr Tube - Hand-held tube lit and aimed at target.  Tiny embers stick to clothes and hair, glowing green for 20 minutes or until the target stops-drops-rolls for 1d6 rounds.  Great for tracking foes trying to escape into dark tunnels.
  3. Whistling Shepherd - Similar to bottle rockets with a barb.  Sticks in hair and fur and emits a high-pitched whistle for 1d6 rounds.  Meant to scare off animal intelligence creatures.
  4. Smoker - Fills 10 cubic feet with thick, grey smoke in three rounds.
  5. Bjarni's Bolt - Basically a flash bang grenade.  One round to light and throw.  A bright flash of light and noise.  Unprepared targets save or stunned.  Night denizens save or blinded for 1d6 rounds as well.
I know the last two might seem especially modern and out of tone for a fantasy game (for me anyway).  I'd probably make them reeeeeaally expensive.  Like, it takes a 100gp diamond to make one flash bang.  Finding one would be a treasure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fighter Knowledge

I eventually want to give players little booklets specific to their class.  Not brand new players, and maybe it could wait until 2nd or 3rd level, but I want them to know their options.  So MUs would have info on copying spells, material components, and magic research.  For fighters I wasn't sure what I'd put, though.  Other than splintering shields and maybe some fighting orders they can join, there isn't much fighters know outside of combat.

So here are some ideas of bits of knowledge fighters might bring to an adventure party.  This assumes a first level fighter isn't a bumpkin straight from the village, they at least participated in some raids, some hunting parties, and battles (or you could just hold off and give these to players at a higher level):

Hone a Weapon - You know your weapons.  Spend one night in camp, no healing or watches, and you can ready a non-fighter's weapon to perfection.  This means sharpening blades, fixing grips, even whittling staves to improve balance.  This will give the owner a non-magical +1 while using that weapon for one battle.

Quiet Armor - You've had some experience with stealthy assaults.  Spend one night in camp, no healing or watches, and using rags and a little lantern oil you can make one suit of metal armor as quiet as leather.  Lasts one battle or one day whichever comes first.

Experienced Packer - You've spent time traveling with gear.  Spend an hour and you can rearrange someone else's pack to hold a bit more (another line for simple encumbrance, or ~10 pounds) with no added effect on their movement.  This lasts until they add or remove something from their pack.

Hunter's Stew - You know how to cook one type of game excellently.  If you cook it, everyone that eats in camp will heal an extra hit point that night. Only works two nights in a row.

Defensible Camp - You know a good place to set up camp when you see it.  Once a week you find one that makes your party less likely to be surprised and more likely to gain initiative if attacked (+1.+1).

Rouse a Comrade - You've been in hard fights before.  When someone is knocked unconscious in combat you can take a round to get them on their feet and moving toward safety (pcs at 0 will be raised to one hit point).  You can only do this for them once a battle.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nine Knots

Why should the skulkers and scholars get all the love?  Here are some tools for your rangers and sailors:
  1. Ackley's Map - This knot records a 3-dimensional map of an area.  Folks with exceptional dexterity can make one surreptitiously, one-handed, as they traverse the place they're mapping.
  2. Decoy Snare - Resembles a small varmint and either helps in securing game or secures bigger game.
  3. Wet Cinch - Moisture will cause this to tighten
  4. Wet Release - Moisture will cause this to release completely
  5. Hour Hitch - The weight of the rope will cause this to release in one hour, also a half hour variant.
  6. Hour Cinch - Will tighten and pull up slack in an hour.  Constriction strong enough to suffocate or crush creatures smaller than man-size.
  7. Songbird - Releases on a particular whistle note.
  8. Knassi Stopper - The Knassi learned knots that certain animals hate to cross.  By stringing them in lengths of rope they could effectively make fences to channel or keep out bear, wolves, deer, etc. Different knots for each creature.  Requires twice the amount of rope you would need for the distance you want fenced.
  9. Brinley's Script - This knot is meant to inconspicuously leave messages.  Depending on how it'is tied it can mean several standard small messages: danger ahead, go north, watch for orcs, etc.
  10. Corliss Loop - This will let a weight slowly and evenly down a vertical rope.  Allows a person to descend without climbing or being lowered, and thus remain alert and ready.  Good for invalids.
Okay, that's more than nine but I just go ape for that alliteration, baby! ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thief, Organ

The Tale of Xedec the Unspoken Of
We figured Xedec came from the great slaughterhouses of the Southern City, sickly-thin and with that long black hair, but thinking now, it was more likely from the Anatomist-Poets that haunt the ports of the East.  Xedec never said.

When we cleared the udercrypts of great lizards Xedec worked a razor in them, pulling out yellow sacs and glistening blue orbs like fruit.1  We were thick with coin.  And when I lost my hand in a fray, Xedec sewed me another, just like new, if a bit paler.  I didn't care where it came from and Xedec never said.2

Later, after we'd lost hope and all our mules in the Caverns of the Screaming Men, Xedec worked a dark harvest on the small people we found there.3  They earned their name those hot nights.  We earned enough coin to buy more mules.

But the party bickered, leery of what they'd seen, saying that to open up the living is a foul deed.  Whether the cuttings would stop or not, Xedec never said, just made us tea.4  Those who talked of splitting up, woke hunched and pale the next day and then kept their word.5

With less of us it was hard fighting.  In the Halls of the Drowned Dead the wide stairs went on and down, on and down.  We fought for days, until finally, we were stumbling in our hunger.  And one morning we just slumped and wondered aloud what we should do.  Eat the rocks, Xedec said.  So we did.6

We found twelve rubies at the end of those stairs.  Well, thirteen, with that biggest, odd-shaped one that sat among the others like a mother.  Back in the Old City, we lost them one by one by one.  Where they got to in those sour taverns, as we made our way through rooms of laughing women--Xedec always close -- none could say.7,8

We finally went our seperate ways.  But that last night, while I thought on my dog's luck of a life, Xedec found me and asked my aid in working some small wound he'd got.9  And now I'm with him on a slant-sailed ship heading deep into the Southern waters.  I'll get my rubies-worth of coin when I do my job, and my job is to protect Xedec, which I'm now well suited to do.  I never asked how I came to have this huge, white frame, a head taller than before, all hair and mighty thews.  And Xedec never said.10

Now, play your own Organ thief.  As my Choose-Your-Own Rogue with a few additions:

Experience to reach level 2 is 1500 and doubles each level after.

An Organ Thief starts with an obsidian razor and no scruples.  They can identify the species, type, and health of any organ as well as judge wounds for severity.

An Organ Thief also gains a new ability at each level:
  1. Harvest 1d6 x100sp worth of organs from carcasses
  2. Replace amputated limbs
  3. Harvest organs from restrained victims
  4. Produce 1 dose of the drug Numb per session
  5. Harvest organs, unnoticed, from the slumbering
  6. Implant organs or objects in restrained victims
  7. Produce 1 dose of the poison White Honey per session
  8. Implant organs or objects, unnoticed, in the slumbering
  9. Implant organs or objects in themselves, with the aid of one assistant
  10. Remove, preserve, and replace brains
For the effects of removing organs on victims see here.  For the effects of adding organs see here.

Hope you like it Charlatan75.  Also, everyone should check out this, part of my brain-swapping inspiration.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dice Drop Charts

I'm up in the mountains.  Spent the last several days with a bunch of family so my mind is kind of muzzy.  But here are some ideas for dice drop charts for someone feeling more ambitious than me right now:
  • body locations - use it for locating hits in combats, where tentacle mutations emerge from, or even where you got your carousing tattoo
  • ship locations - what the meteorites disabled and how badly, or where the Greek fire is burning
  • fortress locations - which walls the orcs are swarming and how many of them
  • fortress creation - how many troops of various sorts, type of lord etc.
  • village creation -type of lord, number of families etc.
  • city locations - robberies in a hero game, plague outbreaks in a fantasy setting
  • quick and dirty pantheons - have all the domains (war, love, death) drop d4s for lesser deities d8s for the biggies
  • random rituals - gems, plants, and other ingredients needed to make a spell work this time-- for chaotic magic systems or simulating absent minded wizards ("Oh yes, I need some rosemary")
  • character creation - yeah it's more fun to see your character reveal itself before you, but could you make a single sheet of paper that would do it all at once?  drop 6 dice for stats, one for $, one for HD, and maybe even equipment or at least starting wizard spells
  •  demon/monster generation - you've seen plenty of them, now do it in one dramatic role 
  • animal mash-up - chart has tons of animals dice dropped are different colors for different body parts- so if the blue "head" die falls on elephant your creature has an elephant head
  • treasure hoard determination
Hmm, I guess most of those "locations" entries would need a schematic first so they're more a short cut than actual universal chart.  I think I want to do the pantheon one for own campaign.  Maybe that animal mash-up too, that seems fun.. What would you like a drop dice table for?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mysterious Miracles

Jeff asked a question about cleric spells on G+, the normal Vancian system being too much like "a snap-your-fingers-and-God-comes-running affair."

I agree wholeheartedly, and if you've been following my blog you probably know I have my players draw dominoes to see if petitions for aid are answered.   I've spent a lot of brain cycles on this, trying to make it simple enough for even new players.  And just when I think I have the system as simple as it is going to get, I find I'm not really satisfied with it.

Sure, the ways of the gods, or your ancestors, or your totem, are mysterious.  They know more than you and are wiser.  How can you know whether a petition will be answered or not?  But as a mechanic it really sucks when in the heat of need, your petitions go unanswered again and again and again.  I've seen more players disappointed than helped by this system.  And I'm pretty sure my players have little interest in playing the class because of it.  So what to do?

A New Approach
I want to keep the mystery in divine aid, but not in whether prayers will be heard or not.  So maybe I can shift the mystery to how prayers are answered.  What if I made a more general spur-type chart of aid granted?  Clerics will get a certain # of petitions answered a day, but how they are answered is up to the divine power (or in this case our interpretation of the chart).

This will require more work, but could be potentially cool.  I'd want the aid to come in a form that fits the power where possible; Zeus tends to send lighting & thunder, the wolf totem- a wolf.  But I'd also like to have a bit of choice for the petitioner so that the miracles will fit them, maybe they like little animals coming to their aid, maybe they are more of the persuasion of melting enemy faces off.  Either way, pc clerics would begin to resemble distinct saints as they grew in power.

I need to think more about how I'd construct this "Aid Granted" chart, maybe for any dangerous situation it would have general entries of the type: "smite enemies," "escape granted," "unharmable," "hidden," etc.  I guess it takes away some of the strategy if miracles just become get-out-of--jail-free cards.  Then the player's choice becomes: when do I ask for help because I can only ask a few times.

Another possibility that could work in tandem with the mysterious miracles above are random boons clerics would get at the beginning of each game session (this idea comes from Jeff's question).  This would make for miraculous powers that are more useful and tool-like for players-- "I've been granted the ability to walk on water, lets go to the sunken dungeon!"  But I would want a big list, at least 100, so that it would always be fresh and interesting.  Probably should have room for the flavor of their divine power too.  Hmm, I wonder if I could just use my Spell-Like Effects spur for these boons.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What They Left Inside of You

Is that a lump?  A bruise?  I had bad dreams, dreams that someone was cutting me open, dreams that they took something that should be there or left something that shouldn't.  Oh god, it's moving . . .

What They Left Inside of You
Some are new organs intentionally installed, some foreign objects forgotten or left . . . as a message?  It seems to be a(n) :
  1. key
  2. egg
  3. clump of dirty rags
  4. Tactile map - you can read the bumps through your skin
  5. 100gp brooch
  6. tangle of hair
  7. Downy Pinkus - 1d4 inches long, you are able to cast spells as a wizard of that level
  8. Dwarvish Carbuncle - you can detect slopes and altitude flawlessly
  9. Sleestak Somatophore - you can detect minute gradients of heat now
  10. Single rune inscribed on a clay chip
  11. 1 stone lead weight
  12. Extra Heart - gives you an extra HD when you should be dead
  13. Extra Lung - You can hold your breath twice as long, not affected by fumes as much
  14. Extra Stomach - you can subsist on plants now
  15. Gizzard - you can subsist on gravel and rocks
  16. Extra Liver - immune to poisons and potions
  17. Extra Spleen - you can spit acid once a day
  18. small rodent that is moving under your skin
  19. bulb that grows into a rare drug plant
  20. tiny, iron, locked box
  21. brass sphere that plays a sweet melody when rolled
  22. tumor that will grow into an Unborn in a week
  23. vial of rare poison with a person's name on it
  24. tightly scrolled piece of tin with never-seen scriptures scratched in it
  25. voodoo doll (someone else)
  26. magic ring
  27. rusty knife blade
  28. slim tube of light, unknown metal (beacon?)
  29. pocket of grey liquid that sloshes as you move around
  30. your own organ thief, sneaks out at night and brings you back, then installs, one of 12-17

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prize Wheels

Did you know you could get these wheel-of-fortune type spinners that you can write on with dry erase markers?
You know you want one for carousing rolls.
Unfortunately, the cheapest one I saw was ~$130, way too pricey for me.  But, hey, maybe if you're running a minicon you can justify buying one to run prize give-aways and in the meantime let the DMs use it for horrible fumble tables, kung fu moves, or spell backfires.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Organ Thieves

They are said to look like black leeches the size of squirrels.  They seem to slip into camps after everyone has drifted off to sleep (move silent 3-6 on 1d6).  The sleepers awake with flower-shaped bruises and . . . things missing:
  1. heart -- nothing really matters, does it, no levelling up
  2. lung -- can't get your wind, -2 to all rolls from now on
  3. intestines -- you are constantly hungry, eat a ration/hr or -2 on all rolls
  4. kidneys -- you are constantly thirsty, drink a skin of water/hr or -2 on all rolls
  5. liver -- put that drink down, brother.  Any alcohol=save vs poison
  6. just bruises - no organ gone, but what was it doing there?
The thieves slither off with their prizes and assemble them into a . . . thing.  The Viscera.  Viscera are 10 organs from different organisms that levitate and rustle wetly.  They are powerful hypnotists (Rank 6) and will convince visitors to go fetch more organs to create more viscera.

Note: if players can find their organ, certain healers should be able to open the wound and return them . . . otherwise the dwarves are said to make interesting replacements.

Note 2: Alchemists and unsavory types might be able to render the thieves down into St Petruccio's Spit, Seep, or just a powerful anaesthesia.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Dwarves' Gift

After the Elves gifted them, it became a joke to guess what the Dwarves might gift back.  They will build a fortress of obsidian where we will dwell like the dead.  They will craft us diamond coats that will prickle us when we dance.  But Dwarves are patient and love beautiful things so much that they spent lifetimes thinking on what the Elves might love.  When the Ambassador finally arrived all he had was seven tiny, jade leaves.  Cast on stone, these struck seven separate notes.  At this music the very mountains would shift, making paths for the Elves, who were chastened and pleased.  And it was these leaves that saved their families in the Battle of The-Dead-Like-Reeds.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Five Fireworks

I got the idea for these on the 4th of July, but just didn't get it done.  I really like the idea of giving clever players more tools to string together as they try to survive the Underworld.  Yes, it brings the horrible possibility of explosives into your campaign world.  To combat that I'd make these both rare and highly unstable.  Oh, they're safe and reliable in small quantities, but the moment players start getting big ideas, say anything more than a backpack full of these, they have a 1 in 6 chance each turn of blowing up as a fireball.

1. Dwarven Braids - Cords of various diameter have been soaked in spirits.  Will burn at varying rates per yard. Used as precision timers. (ft/yrd per round, turn, hour etc.)

2. Mine Light - Two powders that flare up brightly when in contact.  Little heat or noise.

3. Dragonflies - Essentially slow, quiet bottle rockets.  Used most often to carry messages over siege walls.

4. Fire Mud - When mixed with water this paste becomes so hot it will melt metals, even put divots in solid stone.  Used mostly to burn through locks.

5. Cow in a Tavern, or Skräll - Clear liquid brushed on a surface.  When it dries anything that touches it causes it to pop and crackle loudly (think nitrogen triiodide).

Heck, with these and Dwarven mortar, you've got some interesting stuff to put on storeroom shelves in your Dwarven Outposts besides rope and tools.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Couple Questions

1 Has anyone tabulated monsters from various old D&D versions into spreadsheets?  I've noticed a few differences and I'd like to track what changes there are-- mostly HD and damage dice going up or down.  That's a lot of typing, though, so if someone's done it, it would save me work.

2 Do you know of any discussions in blog posts or forums about multiple attacks by monsters, like 1d4/1d4/1d8?  I thought saw something a year or so ago.  I'm curious about why these show up at the HD levels they do, whether they're intended to help monsters have a better chance of hurting higher level characters, or take on groups of pcs, etc.

Thanks.  I hope you're all avoiding heat stroke.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2 Cents for Raggi

I think it's safe to say that of the whole OSR I am least concerned with selling products.  My love of DIY is so strong I'm almost anti-commercial publishing.  But I have always admired your drive to make the best products you could and your energy and passion.  Now you've got this LotFP Grand Adventure Campaign going on with less than 20 days left to fund.  For whatever it's worth, here are my two cents:

1 Tell me, as a DM what these adventures are.  Some of the descriptions do better than others, but most give me no idea what I would be getting if I dropped a $20.  Jeff Rients' Broodmother Sky Fortress is a perfect example.  The original blurb is quirky, terse, and cocky.  Only when I had seen his video explaining what he was trying to do with giants in this adventure did I get interested, almost excited.  And even now, that video is hidden under the "Updates" tab.

Probably the worst I've seen is Anna Kreider's.  Don't get me wrong, it might be a fascinating adventure, but with a blurb that has language like:
"A desperate village looks to you to be their salvation. Beset by bandits and murderers, they have invoked legend and unleashed a horrible force upon the world - one terrible beyond mortal comprehension. Without your help, they will surely be consumed. But how can you save them if you, yourself, are dragged into insanity?"
I have to wonder who you think the audience for these are.  These aren't fantasy novels or solo adventures (as far as I know).  I'm not going to be saving anyone, I'll be running this thing for my players.  Why aren't you talking to me, the DM?  Here are some things I'm interested in knowing:
  • What genre of adventure is it?
  • What power level does it expect players to be?
  • How many sessions will it probably take to finish?
  • What kinds of terrain does it require-- desert, jungle, a big lake?
  • How much landscape does it require in my game world?
  • Is it a location I can use more than once or just a one-time twist ending thing?
  • Is it trying to do anything innovative as  far as adventure design goes?
2  If the most interesting thing about some of these is the celebrity that wrote them, flaunt those celebrities.  I knew the guy from Gwar was involved but I didn't know his name so I had to look through every adventure in the "About the Author" sections to figure out which was his.  I have never heard of Aeron Alfrey, but I saw in his section that he runs Monster Brains.  I know Monster Brains!  I became a whole lot more interested.  I'm assuming that his blog is why you even knew to ask him to be involved.  Why not make that connection more apparent?

Maybe Indiegogo constrains how much you can do with their pages, but man, can't you trumpet who these folks are and what their accomplishments are more prominently.  If they've got a well known blog maybe put an image of the banner somewhere on the front page.  Maybe blurbs of people hating on them.

Anyway, I wish you the best.  Keep on trucking.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Into the Dwarven Outpost II

I was lucky enough to be invited camping with my friend's friends. This is the third time, but I'm still getting to know them.  While they read and there is some college experience among them I would consider them more doers-- drinking, physical fun, pop-culture consuming-- than folks that enjoy sitting around navel gazing like myself.

I would never imagine them to have played D&D (and turned out to be right. They don't really even have any video games experience).  In fact, like most of the population, I would expect them to mock D&D players (which they did when it was brought up).   I was surprised when they knew what LARPing was, but then was less so when it was followed by "lightning bolt, lightning bolt, lightning bolt."  So, LARPing was the easiest niche of our hobby to know because it is easiest to mock as a YouTube video.

Because of all this I would never have suggested playing D&D while camping with them.  They had plenty to do, with hiking, fishing, swimming, and eating good food.  But my friend Jeff who invited me shook things up a bit.

He's played with me before and knew I had a dungeon with me (the one he died in on the trip up).  So he suggested to them that we play sometime during the trip.  I was also inspired by the way he printed up lyrics for sing-a-longs around the camp fire even though he's still learning to play guitar.  If he was willing to get up there and perform in front of everyone why shouldn't I?

Several days of camping passed.  Fishing and hiking was done.  We cooled of in a small pool with a waterfall, drank, and sang songs.  On the last night we ended up in a situation where there was nothing to do but wait for a tri-tip to cook and the idea came up that we play.  So we did.  And it was a great success I think.  Here's what happened:

When I asked who wanted to play I was very surprised when Jeff's 66 year-old dad said yes.  He's a stoic, no-nonsense kind of guy.  I think he said yes because when I asked his girlfriend right before him she had enthusiastically said yes.

Later, when I was trying to establish classes he said he wanted to be King Kong.  I hesitated a bit and said "King Kong won't fit where you're going, do you want to be a gorilla?"  He said "yes."  "Do you speak? Are you a talking gorilla?"  He said "yes."  She wanted to be The Green Mosquito.  I wasn't sure if she meant like a fairy or a tiny super hero but I asked her if she could fly. "Yes."  Ok.

There were seven players in all.  My buddy Jeff, his father and father's girlfriend, another male-female couple and two ten year olds, one female one male.

I knew that, because six were brand new to the whole concept of D&D, and we were basically playing in the dirt that I would have to keep things simple and get them moving as quickly as possible.  I hadn't brought any character sheets, but was able to bum one of the song lyric pages.  I folded that into 9 parts and tore it apart.  I wrote a space for "Name," the six stat abbreviations, "life," and "armor" on these before handing them out.  I didn't have enough writing utensils (In the future I should get a handful of those Ikea sized pencils).

I only had three six-siders and the cardboard bottom from a case of water bottles to roll in, so bless Jeff Rients for giving me the tool of party-style stat-rolling.  Although, since I didn't have a lot of dice (or even a table) I just let them put the stat wherever they wanted rather than randomizing as he suggested.  The first few rolls were good, a 15, a 14.  A lot of folks ended up with high strength and dex because they didn't really understand what stats were for and put the first rolls in the first stats.  But not all of them, the Green Mosquito put her 15 in intelligence.  The last few rolls were not great, a 6 and 5 if I remember correctly.

I told everyone to put a +1 next to stats with 13 or higher and -1 next to 8 or lower.  This was very confusing to all.  They thought it was a math equation that was altering their stat ("You mean I add one to my strength?")  Next time I'll just say "put a plus sign/put a minus sign."

Class choices were my regular Fighter, Wizard, Cleric.  I almost eliminated Cleric to keep things simpler, but was afraid of cutting the game down so much it didn't resemble itself anymore.

The Green Mosquito chose MU as well as the 10 year old girl.  The young couple both chose clerics, Pandora and Parsifal.  Somewhere around here Pandora's player seriously asked "Wait, if you don't know what you are going to be until you roll, how do you know what kind of costume to wear?"  To my exasperated "Arrgh, we don't wear costumes!"

The rest of the folks played fighters.  I thought the crew was big enough to not mess with hirelings.  As much as I was tempted to try out my new simple mental powers sub-system, folks were having enough trouble taking everything in as it was.  I didn't even want to mess with equipment and armor.  I just told everyone but the MUs that they had chainmail and shields and what to write next to "armor."  (Yeah, chainmail was probably too much.  I could have made it leather, but it was a snap decision and since I was denying them choices in choosing equipment I erred on the side of their safety)  No messing with equipment.  I just told the MUs what spells to write down.  I gave the clerics the little booklet with miracles and told them they could ask for anything but these were some ideas.  I didn't even mention weapons until the first combat, because this was all taking long enough.  They kept asking me things like: "Are we all on the same team?" "What are you playing?"  "How do we win?"  I tried to answer these as briskly as possible (don't die, find the treasure) because I wanted to get rolling.

I will say that I didn't expend as much energy as I normally would trying to make sure the two younger players got spotlight and understood everything.  They both had some comprehension issues, I didn't realize until much later that the girl was having language issues- English not being her first language.  I think now that she didn't know what "cast," "spell," and maybe even "wizard" meant.  I didn't know that then.  I was also thinking that these 10 year olds will have years to try D&D again, but these older, D&D mocking folks, I had to win them over.

The final crew:
Old Long Johnson - F (played by Jeff, the only one with experience)
.com - F (*inside joke)
Big Black - talking gorilla F
Parsifal - DP
Pandora - DP
The Green Mosquito - fairy? MU
Opal - MU

I asked the party for a marching order and explained that those with higher life should probably be up front.  Also a good rear guard.  They entered the dungeon.  I had seen that the nearly identical barracks rooms were confusing to Jeff when we played on the way up, so I gave each a unique carved mural theme this time: mountains, forest, mountain lake, foothills.

They pretty much followed door priority, choosing open hallways over doors.  The second room held Sol's corpse and two little naked gopher things eating on it.  Those won initiative and both preceded to miss.  The Green Mosquito was quick to want to cast sleep.  I told her she could, but reminded her it was like a shotgun shell, she only had one.  She held off and the two toughies in the front rank, Old Long Johnson and Pandora, engaged.  They both hit.  Then I asked "What weapon do you see yourself having?"  Battle axe for OLJ, though I reminded him it couldn't be two-handed if he wanted to use his shield, and machete for Pandora (yeah, not a blunt, sue me, I was trying to make it fast and exciting).  I described back to them how they sliced the little buggers in half.  Everyone seemed engaged and happy about that.

We broke there for tri-tip.  I'm guessing all of character creation and play up though that first combat took close to 30 minutes.  I was pleasantly surprised when after dinner people were eager to get back into the game and see what would happen.  I think the natural curiosity of exploration is an easy one to take advantage of.

They didn't really investigate the brass mech suit.  They continued on until they opened the door that held two ratipedes devouring Sol's dead hireling.  The creatures got initiative, attacked, and both missed again!  This time the front two pcs missed, though, and two other players got to cut these things in two, Parsifal and .com getting their first ever rpg kills.

At this point OLJ with his 5 intelligence suggested they search the body, because Jeff knew she had the magic ring on her.  I know some DM's might be a stickler about preventing this kind of meta-game information use, but I think it is kind of amusing watching the player try to come up with some in-game justification for why we should do this thing all of a sudden.  Also, I am sympathetic with players because there really isn't any way for them to purge that meta knowledge.  They found the ring but no one tried it on.

Oh, also something I forgot from Jeff's run through of the dungeon.  When he, and also Pandora in this excursion, encountered the ring's inscription he asked if he could read it.  I asked him, and Pandora now, "Is Latin a language you want to know?"  And they both thought about it and said something to the effect "yeah, as a priest I would probably know that."  This would mean more if we had a continued campaign, but I liked handling languages that way.

The party found a storage room and decided to get some tools.  It was interesting to see these total neophytes limiting their own encumbrance; "You're strong you can carry a pick. I'll carry a shovel."

After some confusion about which way to go the party had some excitement at finding a secret door, only to realize it led into a room they'd already seen.  They ended up heading down a hallway with a stench like wet dog.  They encountered a long piece of scat with what looked like a fingerbone in it (this and the smell was me trying to warn them that they were getting closer to something dangerous-- the troll).  Pandora decides to taste the crap.  I loved it, here was someone who'd mocked D&D and yet instinctively got the fun of goofily interacting with stuff in the world.  Going along with my desire to tap in to player experiences and memories I asked her "What is something that tastes really nasty to you?"  She eventually said, "cottage cheese."  I said "Ok, it tastes like cottage cheese . . . and there's a human toe nail in it." hehehe.

By this time it was getting late and I knew the encounter with the troll was going to end our session one way or another.  I didn't imagine they could take it out, but hoped someone might be able to flee and survive.  On encountering the troll, the party managed to get initiative.  Both clerics asked for miracles to command the creature, first "Stop", then "Go,"  Neither miracle was answered.  Opal tried casting Sleep on it, nothing happened.  OLJ tried to hit and missed.  Next the gorilla attempted to grapple and succeeded.  Hmm, I thought, maybe they will manage somehow to survive this.  The Green Mosquito cast Charm Person.  And here I'll probably be stripped of my DM certification.  I hesitated, is a troll a person?  In my world I consider them able to speak.  They are smart enough to be cunning and are humanoid in shape  (hey, the 1e version works on lizardmen, troglodytes, and hobgoblins!).  I decided to let the spell work on it, but warned her that it had a chance to shake it off.  The troll failed its save.  It became friendly toward the Green Mosquito.  She asked it to lead them to the treasure and they would feed it.

So, the troll, did just that, hugging the walls past pit traps, going through secret doors, heading straight to the old Dwarven treasure chamber.  The whole time I was trying to creep them out with improvised dialogue, and acting like each secret door was a dead end.  Finally at the chamber, they found nothing but a pile of cinders.  A little discouraged, they started to dig through it to find beautiful, glistening diamonds. 

When requested, the troll led the party back to the entrance room.  Pandora finally searched a pile of trash in that first room to find a warm, pink potion ("It's Pepto-Bismol") and drank it.  She was shrunk to 6".  Finally Big Black tried the ring, but nothing seemed to happen.  Pandora but it around her neck to the same effect.  The party left the dungeon.  Everyone lived.

There were some comments about how it was easy.  I tried to explain to them how lucky they had been; that the troll could have killed them all.

Pandora's player was really intrigued about what I had written down and what I was improvising (I had so little in front of me).  The younger players were fascinated by the map and my little encounter book with silhouettes.  I heard Parsifal's player say "That's not how I'd imagined D&D to be at all," and several folks say "I'd play that again."  Cool Deal.

I think I like playing with first time players more than anything.  I like introducing them to how fun and easy this game can be, especially when they have negative preconceptions.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Into the Dwarven Outpost

Before I go on to the camp-fire game I should tell the tale of my solo player.

Sol (Divine-Petitioner)
   Cirrus - Hireling

Rumor said villagers were going into a cave and coming out with gold coins, until recently.  Anyone going in lately hasn't come out.

Sol entered with his doughty hireling Cirrus.  She is 60, constantly plucks at her short hair, and carries a spear.  They have little gear between them except a 10' pole and a lantern.

On entering the first room Sol chooses to take take the open hallway to the left.  In this room there is something that looks like a brass set of armor lying face-first into the corner.  Someone has hastily barricaded an open hallway to the north.  Sol is leery of the brass suit and only gives it a cursory examination.

Sol backtrack goes through several doors and finds himself in a room full of bunkbeds too short for normal humans.  He searches the beds and finds a strange ring of mercury that has letters inside that read "Invictus Maneo."  He gives the ring to Cirrus for safekeeping.

Another room, a few more doors and they encounter creatures that resemble a cross between serpents and rats.  Sol manages to slam the door before the bulk of them get into the hall, killing one.  But after some deliberation he decides to open the door again and engage.  Cirrus falls in the combat.  Sol manages to slam the door but flees the rat-things biting Cirrus.

Upon entering the room he found the ring in, he notices a glossy-grey crab-like thing scuttling toward the noise of their battle.  He heads down the hall and dismantles the barricade.  The creature follows.  It opens up like a clam shell revealing three naked fleshy things like gophers.  Sol fails to smash them with his mace.  They clamber onto him.  He dies with them tearing at his throat.

Some Thoughts
My friend was a little rusty, he hasn't played in probably a year or so.  I knew he would have a hard time of it solo but I think he would have fared better if he had tried some miracles.  His hireling was only dropped unconscious, if he had cast sanctuary he might have managed to save and revive her.  Also, that ring was a ring of regeneration (I rolled that).  If he had held onto it and put it on things probably would have gone differently.

A couple interesting DMy things.  He asked Cirrus' advice several times and I as a DM had to act her part and try to do it while knowing everything about the place.  Kind of a weird position to be in.  As I always do when I find the game puts me in a weird spot I just rolled dice.  If the result of 2d6 was high she was confident and aggressive, if low she was not.

And, it looks like another data point for Door Priority.  The un-doored hallway was chosen over a door.  The barricade was a little scarier than a door.  the first part of the Dwarven escape route is a bit of an anomaly because I had a hard time describing it to him while he was driving.  That little plus sign shape with a corridor heading up to its left is not an Easy-Map Dungeon

Actually, a map you can describe to someone who is driving is probably a good touchstone for an Easy-Map dungeon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

D&D in the Car

I went camping for a few days.  My buddy was driving us there and since it was a 2 hour trip he asked if we could play D&D on the way.  I said sure.

Now, I've never played D&D in the car but I knew I would want to minimize my stuff as much as possible-- essentially have everything fit in my lap.  And I'm not a master of improv, I need certain things nailed down to feel comfortable running a dungeon.  So I needed to generate a dungeon and streamline what it would take to run it.  These two processes are interrelated for me because in simplifying to avoid confusion for me as a DM, it also ends up allowing for a low footprint.

I think, for the amount of experience/confidence I'm have now, the absolute minimum I want to run a dungeon is:
  1. a definite map with rooms, corridors, and where things are located in relation to each other
  2. a wandering monster chart weighted for probability and details on the monsters-- mostly HD, AC, and the amount of damage they do
  3. monsters located on the map
  4. treasures located on the map
Pretty much all I needed
I've used dominoes and dice tossing to generate #1 in the past, this time I just used the example from the Dwarven Outpost Kit.  I wanted a little depth to it so I printed it, cut it, and overlapped the two parts to give it two levels.  For #2 I used Jensan's cool web app.  I don't have silhouettes for all the monsters possible, but this time it sort of worked like a creative constraint.  I picked a few mundane images and then tried to imagine a more disturbing monster they might represent.  So the centipede, for example, became a ratipede- little bones moving under its fur, hundreds of pink feet pattering on the stone floor. When my buddy first encountered one he said "That's filthy," which I consider a sign of success on my part.

As for the what monsters to tie down to locations I still use the guidelines here.  Basically one really dangerous encounter a few lesser ones, at least one toy-like trick item and at least one trap.  The dwarven dungeon already has pit traps.  I decided the puzzly thing would be a brass mech thingy that a pc could get into and use like a battle suit.  I also envisioned the forge on the lower level would require some figuring out to get working.  Both of those, the suit and the flame of the forge I put as possible ways to defeat the worst monster in the place, a troll.  I wasn't expecting my friend to use either, but I like to at least have a few things I know players can utilize to their advantage lying around.  I also made sure to do it this time because I figured he'd have a very hard time surviving as a single pc even with his one hireling.

For treasures I decided to put a ring, a wand of detection and a couple potions.  I rolled up which of each randomly using my charts.  As to where the stuff is, I just rolled dice, counted off rooms, and placed.

All I really needed to run this little dungeon then, was the map with annotations, the wandering monster booklet with pre-rolled hit points for all the beasties, and dice.  I also brought a mini-booklet of miracles because my friend's pc is a cleric and some tiny travelling dominoes for him to see if his requests for miracles were answered.  The dice I brought were 3d6, 2d20s, 2d10s, and one of d4, d8, d12, and d30.  To roll the dice in, I brought along part of some fancy watch packaging I found somewhere.  It's only about 4"x5" and has a velvety lining.

It worked great.  The only downside was that after about an hour of playing I started getting car sick.  I never really get car sick, but the combination of imagining the map in my head and the winding mountain roads was enough to start making me nauseous.  We had to put the adventure on hold for a bit and finish it up when we reached the campsite.

Tune in next time to see how I fared when I suddenly had to use this minimal set up to DM six D&D mocking newbies around the camp fire.