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 Áereth 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.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Gary Con X Recap

Gary Con ran from March 8th to 11th 2018. This post is a little bit later than that because I was visiting family in Wisconsin until Friday the 16th. My son and I drove down from Toronto, and then drove back, arriving in Toronto on the 17th.

I ran seven games at the convention, six on the books and one off. I was also afforded the opportunity to play in Allan Grohe’s Castle Greyhawk game on Thursday night. That was the first time, ever, that I sat on the same side of the screen as my son. Because I ordered my playing times a little better this year, I managed to spend more time socializing and less time running between games or playing at odd (or late) hours. I was able to make it to the Cultural Exchange, but failed to get in any Dog Storm or Flammable Hospital.

Swag-wise, this was a pretty good convention. In addition to the freebies available on registration (which included lite versions of Swords & Wizardry and Bunnies & Burrows), The Tower of Faces came out, as well as the newest printing of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos. I was able to acquire copies of Crawl-thulhu #1, Inferno Road, and Country Crawl Classics, as well as the second Doug Kovacs sketchbook (The Drain Chamber 2017). Marc Plourde handed out a “The Alphabet of Outer Beings presents…” containing C is for Corruption and D is for Disapproval, printed on white cardstock. I handed out a few “Raven Crowking Presents Gary Con X Special”s. I also picked up both issues of the Hobbs & Friends of the OSR zine. Almost all of this will appear, or be updated, on the DCC Trove of Treasures, because most of it is for DCC.

We pulled into the Timber Ridge Lodge at about 10 am on Thursday, and were very graciously allowed to check in early. This is one of the overflow  areas for the Grand Geneva, and is part of the same resort complex. A trolley takes guests from one area to another, so when parking is strained (as it was on Saturday) the trolley is a better way to go.

Apparently, the DCC crowd had a party on Wednesday night to open the Con, which I did not attend. Next year, however, we plan to arrive on Wednesday…both for socializing and for starting earlier on Thursday.

On to the games!

I ran this on Thursday, when the convention was still a little slower and my voice wasn’t yet wrecked!  The group did very well, although if the charmed victim carrying the Sword of Truth didn’t draw it to attack his friends (as PCs often try less drastic effects against other PCs first), the adventure probably would have ended in a TPK. Even so, the group was visibly shaken by facing the Rose Dragon, with its multiple Action Dice and effective attacks. Playing with the Mirror of Truth was a lot of fun, too. This is the only time I have run this adventure that Doctor Chapman did not make an appearance. It was also the first time that any group has ever freed the demon in the Mirror of Truth.

A warm Thank You to the players: Chris Zank, Brenda Wolfe, Dave, and Richard Mundy. Jim Skach was also scheduled to play, but managed to get into a game he was on the waiting list for instead.

This was the first of three games that I ran on Saturday. Despite some glitches (on my part), I think it went pretty well. The changes to magic in the adventure setting seldom came up, but at least they did so enough to be noticed.

For the games I was running, except funnels and The Thing in the Chimney (which is 1st level), I printed a group of magic items that characters might have. These were printed on card stock, and included items from last year’s Raven Crowking Presents Gary Con Special, as well as items from published adventures and this blog. They were printed on card stock, cut apart, and (depending upon the level of the game) each player got a number of sight-unseen picks. They could then trade amongst themselves if they so desired.

The halfling in the group obtained the Ring of the Sand Djinn, and once the gems from the Falcate Idol were recovered, destroyed it to teleport home. Of course, the players agreed that they would sell the gems, and I did a brief narrative epilogue about the Falcate Idol returning to plague them in the future.

We used the Fleeting Luck mechanic from DCC Lankhmar in this game, as it seemed appropriate to me.

Many thanks to the players for making it a fun game: John Jesse, Mike Glim, Paul Doran, Lucy Duff, and Stuart Goheen.

(I had been dutifully collecting tickets, and continued to do so, but it was during this game that I first noticed that no one was collecting them. Last year, volunteers collected them during games. This year, you had to turn them in to the registration booth yourself. Because no one had mentioned this when I checked in, all of my tickets were turned in at the same time, after my game on Sunday.)

(Speaking of tickets, the Black Blade/Goodman Games booth supplied me with tickets to give my players for a draw on Sunday. They have done this both years I’ve been at Gary Con, and it is a pretty classy move. The prizes they gave away were not insubstantial!)

Silent Nightfall

This was my second game on Saturday. As no one chose an elf PC, I didn’t run with the “Return the Whispering Stone to the King of Elfland” goal included in the game blurb. Instead, I sent the PCs to investigate the source of weird mutations and attacks on nearby villages. This group did not include a cleric, which they certainly felt.

This was another game for firsts – one of the PCs listened to the enticements of Silent Nightfall and triggered a TPK that was felt in a 20 mile radius. Good times.

This was also the first game where I realized that I should be taking pictures.

Many thanks to the players who made it worthwhile: Jeff Scifert, Marc Plourde, Shyloh Wideman, Jon Hammersley, and Clayton Williams.

My last game on Friday was a vampire funnel based off a map by Shyloh Wideman, who actually played in the game. The players ran their characters intelligently for the most part (although having multiple characters means that someone will eventually try something they know is unwise), so that the death toll was actually fairly low. Yes, my dice betrayed me time and time again. Yes, I rolled a disproportionate number of “1”s. But, even with those things taken into account, the survival of so many zeros to 1st level was a testament to player skill, not poor rolling on the part of the judge.

You might notice that I made signs to identify each game that I was running, with graphics unique to the scenario. I also had a model of the Goodman Games Arch that held the gong for their tournament in 2017 at Gen Con. The arch was constructed for me by the good people at Deep Dungeon Games.

Thank You to all of the players who did so well: Shyloh Wideman, Jeff Bernstein, Marc Plourde, Dwayne Boothe, and Clayton Williams.

Apotheosis in Green and Gold

My one off the books game was a playtest for an 8th level “epic endgame”, wherein the PCs have the potential to become gods. Because this is still in development, I am not going to say too much. Hobbs the porter was slain, and replaced with an Oltomec porter who the party renamed Hobbs (not even bothering to learn his actual name). Giants are pretty tough, even against high level PCs. The giant critical table, and crit range, made for some memorable play. A thief with a good Luck score is a living terror when he backstabs.

Thank you to Paul Wolfe, Brenda Wolfe, Mike Bishop, Mars, and Julian Bernick for playing. Only Julian failed to become a god. Perhaps his erstwhile companions will rename his character Hobbs?

(The room we are playing in is our room/suite at the Timber Ridge Lodge. It doesn't offer instant access when rolling in from the Cultural Exchange at 2 am, but it is comfortable and offers enough room to game in!)

My on-the-books Saturday game was a lot of fun, and had the unusual property of being a funnel adventure ending with each player having a single character. There are a lot of “fairy tale logic” pieces to the adventure, which went over well at the table. There are some good encounters for role-playing, which also went over well at the table. Players made choices I didn’t expect, which is always fun, and actually tied their survivors into the social fabric of the NPCs they encountered. This was probably the most successful game I ran this convention.

Thank you to the fantastic players! They are: Travis Primmer, Jeff Bernstein, Dale Ehinger, Sarah Ehinger, and Tim Loughrist.

On Sunday, I ran the original DCC holiday adventure. The players were engaged with the material, which made it a lot of fun. 

Highlights: The Naughty/Nice list had all the Lawful PCs as Naughty and the Chaotic PC as Nice. One player was running late, so his PC showed up inside a gift-wrapped box. A PC ate the fruitcake. The players instantly realized that knocking a top hat off a snowman would have an effect. A high roll on a sleep spell put a snowman into an enchanted slumber (it became a normal snowman during this time). The PCs moved it to the hot part of the main hall to melt.

The final battle with the Cinder Claws was a bit anticlimactic, but fun nonetheless. A successful sleep spell, with the wizard spellburning down to a bare nub, put both the Cinder Claws and the party to sleep. The wizard’s unfortunately worded awakening condition saw the party and the Cinder Claws all awakened at once. Before combat could ensue, another sleep spell put the Cinder Claws (and only the Cinder Claws) into an enchanted slumber. The PCs then cut off his head!

Because the Cinder Claws is a patron-level entity, this need not be the end for him, but it is certainly the end for this adventure. The PCs are in the Great Hall (which now loops back only to itself). It is getting colder, and the Cinder Claws has not whisked up the chimney, so no portal is opened for the PCs to escape.

The cleric petitions his god, who he has just blasphemed against to satisfy the fruitcake. He offers his own life as a sacrifice to transport the party anywhere. And he rolls high enough that I give it to him. Moreover, I offer a Luck check that the god spares his servant rather than leaving him behind to freeze to death. The cleric has burned his Luck down to 1. “Well, you can try to roll a natural 1” I say….and the cleric’s player does it!

Many thanks to the wonderful players: Haley Skach, Jeff Sparks, Scott Swift, Jeff Bernstein, Richard Mundy, and Clayton Williams.

Overall, the convention was a real success. In addition to the gaming, I got a chance to meet some people in person for the first time, renew old acquaintance with those I had a chance to meet last year, and receive a "free beer" that turned out to be a growler!

Barring some form of catastrophe, I'll be back in 2019!