Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Free RPG Day

I ran two games for Free RPG Day on Saturday, 16 June 2018. The venue was 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto.

The first game was Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer, by Terry Olson, which had been released as part of Goodman Games' Free RPG Day content for this year. This game ran from 11 am to 3 pm, with 8 players. At the end of the game, there were only 4 characters left, and that did not include the party cleric! A good time was had by all. The "DEAD" stamp saw use. The party never found Odag's secret stash, as they used the shanatium ingots to smash his soul receptacle without any hesitation. All in all, brutal but fun.

Some highlights included: A naturally-occurring slippery-slope passage (and hole!) divide the party, leading to the first "recover the body" check of the day, proof once again that ropework is a useful spell, Ekim's mystical mask with a maximum result, massive Mighty Deeds, and fantastic rolls for good or ill by all concerned. You're checking to recover the body, and now that natural 20 comes up?

The second game was the first playtest for Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren, an adventure in which Radu, King of Rabbits, has a task for the characters. Five PCs went in, with a slight change of player roster between games, and four came out.

This one was fun, but it still needs considerable work to be publishable. Nonetheless, the first playtest was a success.

Swag for the event included black plastic DCC logo cups, print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third Party Compendium (which was also available downstairs), and a zine-like sampler from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between featuring Radu and Mulferret, Queen of Weasels. I also gave away two sets of my two-part Crawljammer adventure: The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn and The Vault of Ash. Bookmarks and a DCC notebook completed the swag giveaway.

I am very much looking forward to the next one!

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Death Cart


The Death Cart
By Daniel J. Bishop

For his cart comes down the lane,
And his lanterns burn with greed,
Race you away, your soul is screaming.
Bone rolling wheels.
O! old people choke with ashes!
O! Children weep with fear!
Shelter us from his fast reaping!
One more day to exist here!

The Death Cart rolls down the night-dark streets of Ur-Hadad. Its wheels are made of bone, and it is pulled by two black horses whose breath and eyes are fire. Old Edward the Great lets the horses take him where they will, for his un-dead hands are concerned only with the scythe he bears, and the reaping that it does. Lanterns swing wildly behind the Death Cart, whose wheels rumble like thunder. The lanterns are lit with the burning souls of the reaped. The more he reaps, the brighter they blaze.

Old Edward: Init +0; Atk scythe +5 melee (1d8 plus soul drain); AC 15; HD 4d12; hp 30; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, sense living 100’, soul drain, death throes; SV Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +10; AL C.

Any creature hit by Old Edward’s scythe must succeed in a DC 10 Will save or take 1d3 points of Stamina and 1d3 points of Personality damage as the scythe drains a portion of their souls. The lanterns swinging from the Death Cart flare dramatically when this occurs! (See the Death Cart, below.)

When Old Edward is reduced to 0 hp, his body is consumed in a gout of emerald flame. If horses remain, the cart careens off down the streets; if the horses are slain, the entire cart is apparently consumed in flames. The next time that the Death Cart is seen, Young Edward is seen driving the infernal vehicle. Over the next few months, Young Edward ages into Old Edward. There is always a younger Edward, so long as the cart itself endures.

Edward’s Horses (2): Init +5; Atk bite +2 melee (1d3) or hooves +5 melee (1d5); AC 17; HD 2d12; hp 15 each; MV 50’; Act 2d20; SP breathe fire, cannot move and attack with hooves, immune to mind-affecting, death throes; SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +3; AL C.

Each of these horses can breathe fire in a 10’ line, causing 2d10 damage (Ref save DC 10 for half), using an Action Die. A horse can only breathe fire once every 1d5 rounds. If the horse uses its hooves to attack, it cannot pull the cart that round. This means either that the cart must come to a halt (if both horses use their hooves), or that the cart is pulled in a tight circle for one round (giving Old Edward and the Death Cart a -1d shift for their next attacks). Each horse has a 1 in 3 chance of using its hooves on any given round.

When one of the horses is reduced to 0 hp, it explodes in a burst of emerald flame, doing 1d10 damage to all within 10’ (Ref DC 10 for half damage, plus Ref DC 15 to avoid catching fire if the first save is failed). If one horse is slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 20’. If both horses are slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 0’. If both horses and Old Edward are slain, all is consumed in emerald flames, as described for Old Edward, above.

When the Death Cart is next seen, it is pulled by two horses identical to those which were slain.

Death Cart: Init +3; Atk trample +3 melee (2d5); AC 20; HD 8d12; hp 60; MV 50’; Act 1d20; SP sense living 100’, DR 5, soul regeneration, spell resistance, death throes; SV Fort +15, Ref +4, Will +10; AL C.

The only way that Old Edward can be destroyed is for the Death Cart to be reduced to 0 hp, but this is not an easy task. First off, at least one horse or Old Edward must be allowed to continue attacking, or the cart disappears. Secondly, every attack against the Death Cart reduces the damage done by 5 points. Third, the Death Cart regains lost hit points equal to the attribute damage done by Old Edward’s soul drain. Finally, spells which target the cart are suppressed, having an effect as though they were cast with a -10 penalty to the spell check (this does not change the actual spell check result, just the effect).

If the Death Cart is reduced to 0 hp, there is a clap of thunder, the joyous singing of trapped souls set free, and a distant sound of electric guitars. The streets of Ur-Hadad open to drop the cart into a flaming pit (anyone on the cart must succeed in a DC 10 Reflex save or be lost forever), before crashing shut with a shudder that knocks everyone prone. There is a lingering smell of sulphur and an echo of the wailing of the damned. Everyone involved in destroying the Death Cart gains a permanent +1 to two randomly determined ability scores, a gift from grateful spirits and gods alike.

End Note

This was originally a submission to The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. Did I kill The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad by submitting this? I am not sure. However, it is the first "album cover" write-up I did, similar to others in this blog, and it is time now to make this material available to the world at large.


Free RPG Day Reminder

This Saturday, for Free RPG Day, I will be running two Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures back-to-back (with a brief pause for food between them). 

They are Terry Olson's Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer from 11 am to 3 pm, followed by the first playtest of my own Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren from 3:30 to 7:30 pm. The venue is 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto. Seating is "first-come, first-served", but I will try to accommodate as many as necessary. You don't need to play both to come out, but characters can be transferred from one game to the next with whatever treasure (etc.) they may have gained. Characters are provided, and I have funky dice to spare if you don't have enough.

Yes, I will be taking names for a playtest credit with Lettuce-Gardens

Yes, some lucky players will be going home with extra swag.

401 Games has print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third-Party Compendium on hand, so you should drop by for that, and for the Goodman Games release(s), at the very least. 

The game will be in the upstairs game lounge area.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Appendix N Alert - Doug Miller Books

I just came back from Doug Miller Books at 650 Bloor Street West in Toronto. If you live in the city, and are looking to fill in some of your Appendix N collection, they are currently having a sale. 

I noted several authors...lots of Burroughs, deCamp, Moorcock, and Norton, but also a bit of Fox and others. Some of the specific titles were also on the shelves - The Fallible Fiend, The Compleat Enchanter, The Carnelian Cube, Lest Darkness Fall, and The Broken Land.

Possibly worth a look. 

Even with my extensive collection, I was able to pick up four volumes that (I believe) were heretofore missing from my shelves.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Free RPG Day Double Feature


If you are in Toronto on June 16th, come and join me!
401 Games @ 518 Yonge Street Toronto!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

If you failed to get CE 9: Both Foul and Deep through the Go Fund Me campaign, you can get it in both print and pdf at RPG Now.

Here is an Endzeitgeist review.


Appendix N literature is filled with cities, glorious or decaying. Beneath the streets of these urban centers lies a region dank, foul with the effluvia of countless generations, flowing through crumbling brickwork in the malodorous darkness. If your players are anything like mine, sooner or later they will wish to have their characters delve into these fetid morasses.

This product is intended to ensure that you are ready. To that end, a small area of sewers is described, with several hooks to entice PCs into investigating. Three appendixes supply added content to expand the original area or to create sewers of your own. The last appendix is an abbreviated patron write-up of Squallas, Mistress of the Night Soil Rivers, whose domain is the sewers.

Campaign Elements 9 - Both Foul and Deep is a campaign element to designed for 4-6 level 1-2 PCs, with the tools to help you create a rich campaign environment for PCs of any level.

Monday, 26 March 2018

No Safety in Dancing

Every man wears a hat in the village of West Kingston, and those approaching the village without hat or helm are liable to be set upon...and perhaps even killed...for West Kingston is haunted by the Doroschuk. Although these creatures look much like mortal men, their heads are so sensitive that they cannot bear to wear anything upon them.

The Doroschuk are alien creatures from another world, who seek to abduct those which exhibit even the least bit of frivolity. If they can induce their victims to dance (Will DC 10 avoids, but the natural inclinations of their victim determines the die rolled from 1d14 to 1d24), they are drawn into the world of the Doroschuk after 1d5 rounds of dancing, leaving the real world and their friends far behind.

A wizard or elf trying to learn planar step may have to intentionally join this dance in order to watch and learn the patterns made by their hands, which may be part of casting that spell.

Whether the world of the Doroschuk is a realm of never-ending dances and merriment, without any social requirements as to how one acts, or whether the Doroschuk consume their abducted victims, is open to speculation. At this point, the world of the Doroschuk is one that none has ever found. There are even some who claim that, in some ineffable fashion, the Doroschuk are capable of devouring the very rhythm of youth.

Doroschuk: Init +3; Atk fist +1 melee (1d3+1); AC 13; HD 2d8; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP dance, abduction; SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2; AL C.





Wednesday, 21 March 2018

In Which I Contradict Harley Stroh....

Hopefully, my readers are veteran listeners of the Spellburn podcast. If not, I recommend it. The most recent podcast, Episode 66: Life on Aereth, featured the awesome Harley Stroh as a guest. I like Harley, and I am a big fan of his work, but I think he's wrong on two counts. This blog post is my rebuttal.

The Warrior, The Wizard, The Elf

Player Characters are always agents of change, and I can completely support the idea that the arrival of the party is going to shake up the status quo. If you can't change the world through game play, what is the point of playing? Dungeon Crawl Classics, both in its core rules and in its adventures, exemplifies this concept. Adventuring changes the characters, and changes the world around the characters.

However, the importance of the characters to the narrative in play does not imply that they are the only agents of change, or that they are the only characters of their class in the world...or even in the immediate area.

The rules for character classes are designed to allow players to have a somewhat structured means to interact with the game milieu. They do not imply that every NPC is created the same way - indeed, it is explicit that they are not. NPCs do not need to follow the rules, in the same way that monsters do not need to follow the rules, but that is not the same thing as saying that they cannot follow the rules.

It is definitly true that, when Jake the Gongfarmer comes back to his home village filled with divine power after Sailors on the Starless Sea, his fellow villagers have never seen a real cleric before. Likewise, the ex-ostler is probably the only wizard the villagers have ever seen. The PCs are the focus of awe and terror in their little settlement.

Sooner or later, though, those same PCs meet the wider world. And that can include encounters with fighting-men, spellslingers, thieves, and divine servants more powerful than they. It is part of the nature of the game that the PCs should not assume they are the most dangerous people in the world. Conan might always win in the end, but he doesn't always come out on top in every battle. Conan has been captured, he has been forced to flee, and he has faced opponents who were nearly his equal. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are not necessarily the two best thieves in Lankhmar.

Most importantly, the roster of characters is likely to change. If The Warrior dies, and the player is allowed to bring in another warrior, I guess The Warrior wasn't as special as he seemed. What if two players run clerics? The clerics? And if two more players join, also running clerics? What if a player is The Wizard? Should he never get to join in a spellduel because there are no other wizards around?

How would you run Enter the Dagon?

Every Monster is Unique

Unique monsters are great, and there is every reason to run a game where every monster has the potential to have unexpected properties. But, in the Spellburn podcast, Harley suggests a world where there is, for instance, only one Dragon. The Dragon.

This is an idea that I have written about once or twice before. Note that I don't think that this is a good idea.

You can read the earlier blog posts (and I encourage you to do so), but the short version is this: Appendix N fiction, like the real world, has a large number of persistent creatures within the milieus presented. The lemutes of Hiero's Journey are not one-off creatures, nor are the orcs of Mordor, the banths of Barsoom, or the shoggoths of the Cthulhu Mythos.

This is not to say that unique creatures do not exist in those literary milieus. The Dweller and House in Hiero's Journey are unique, for instance, as is the Watcher before the gates of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. If these unique creatures had appeared in a setting where every creature is encountered was unique, they would certainly have had less of an impact.

I am going to put it another way: Imagine Peril on the Purple Planet with only one Kith, only one Death Orm, and only one Strekleon. Now imagine Journey to the Center of √Āereth without a consistent ecology that you could learn, and profit from your understanding of, once you got there.

The persistence of certain creatures makes the uniqueness of other creatures stand out.

You can certainly play up how much better they are than the average gongfarmer, but PCs are agents of change because of player choices, not because they are The Cleric and The Warrior.