Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Illegal Passengers - Combining Troll Lords The Starship Warden & Empire of the Petal Throne With Gary Gygax's S3 Expedition To The Barrier Peaks

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 11/05/2021 - 03:41
 The alien races aboard the Warden have been there since the mid point from the interstellar journey. If we're crossing Troll Lord Starship Warden rpg  over with  the early past of  The Empire of the Petal Throne' rpg. The Human Space Empire was on a jag of exploration & discovery as well as colonization. This jag of exploration also brings up the Warden's science vessel from S3 Expedition To TheNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventurer,Conqueror, King.. Stormbringer?!

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 11/04/2021 - 17:45
 While searching around for ACK's material, I stumbled upon an ACK's Stormbringer character sheet?! This changes everything! Seems like someone used the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg for a D20  Dragonlords of Melnibone campaign. So this brings up a fine campaign point about the hanging adventure issue that still lingers even today. The fact that the animal headed forces of the empire of Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Level Up Advanced 5E preview: the sea serpent, an encounter for any level

Blog of Holding - Thu, 11/04/2021 - 13:34

I want to tell you about one of my absolute favorite monsters I put into the Monstrous Menagerie, which is available for two more days as part of the Level Up 5E kickstarter. (Go back it!)

That monster is… the sea serpent.

Kind of a weird favorite monster, right? It’s kind of a fringe D&D monster. As far as I know, it hasn’t appeared in a Monster Manual (unless the first edition giant sea snake counts?). It was mentioned as a homebrew possibility in OD&D, and it’s been in a few adventures and supplements and adventures across the editions, including Fizban’s, but it’s never been a core monster. It’s always puzzled me that the sea serpent, arguably the most well-known oceangoing monster in popular culture, has had so little D&D traction.

This won’t do at all. The sea serpent is an iconic and instantly recognizable threat. Furthermore, ocean encounters are sparse enough in D&D. I’m running a high-level nautical campaign and need all the monster variety I can get beyond dragon turtles and marids. I want every sea captain to be just as wary of sea serpents as they are of storms and sea hags.

Before we start talking about design, we should think about the question: why IS there no core sea serpent in D&D? Is there a design pitfall I’m not seeing?

Well, one problem is that sea serpents aren’t adventurer scale. They threaten ships. In the fantasy sea serpent battles I remember best – Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and even Gary Gygax’s Gord the Rogue series – the serpent is trying to destroy the ship, ignoring the crew for the most part. Any monster that can smash a ship to flinders is just the wrong size to fight PCs, right?

Ehh, maybe. But the 5e kraken and tarrasque beg to differ. In D&D, no monster is too big to fight.

In fact, I see sea monsters’ size and tactics an as an opportunity to make them unique among monsters: they can be useful opponents at any level. While most monsters are threats to characters, sea serpents are primarily threats to ships. Since ship statistics don’t change much between character level 1 and 20, that means that serpents are perennial threats. After all, even first-level characters take ship rides. And in D&D, a shipwreck is the beginning of an an adventure, not its end.

Our usage of sea serpents will change over the course of the PCs’ career:

At low levels, sea serpents are a force of nature, like a storm at sea, that threatens shipwreck on the coast of the Isle of Dread. Low-level characters don’t own ships, and they’re too weak to get the sea serpents’ attenion, so all that’s imperiled is the characters’ mission. Still, even the weakest character can point a ballista or score a critical hit that saves the ship!

At medium levels, sea serpents are still primarily a threat to the PCs’ ship, not to the PCs. It’s a chance for a “safe” battle where the stakes are a setback (shipwreck or ship damage) rather than character death. However, since mid-level characters might own their own ship, these stakes can still feel meaningful. And at this level, victory is possible: while the heroes might not be able to kill the monster singlehandedly, they should have a good chance of driving it off with the help of the crew.

At high levels, the sea serpent is just another monster to be killed, like the dragon turtle or kraken. High-level characters can deal enough damage to get the sea serpent’s attention, so it’s likely to be a battle between the sea serpent and the characters, with the ship an afterthought.

I think this could be a good model for ship-bound combat in general, from the high seas to astral piracy to space and beyond: the monster is tailored to fight the ship at low levels, but its attention can be claimed by the characters at high levels.

Now let’s stat out the beast!

First of all, let’s look at ships in 5e D&D: the strength of a typical ship will determine how much damage a sea serpent needs to do. Ship hit points range from 300 (sailing ship) to 500 hit points (warship). If a sea serpent deals 50 damage to a sailing ship each round, that would mean that the PCs have 6 turns to drive the serpent away in order to save their ship. If they can’t do it by then, it ain’t happening.

Here’s what I imagine a sea serpent doing in a turn:

  • Most importantly, it makes a constricting attack. The serpent wraps up the target in one of its coils and squeezes it. The target is grappled (if it’s a creature) or stopped from sailing (if it’s a ship). This attack is primarily used against ships, not characters.
  • As a reaction, the serpent bites a creature or object that angers it by dealing more than 15 hit points of damage. That means it ignores crewmembers and low-level characters. High-level characters, though, and ballistas (which deal an average of 16 damage), draw its wrath.
  • I’m also going to add a tail attack as a second reaction: a second character or ballista that angers the sea serpent might get crushed or swept right overboard.

    surviving an attack

    I want to add a bit of detail to the sea serpent that most monsters don’t have. The serpent is a high-CR beast which can be used against low-level characters. I want to make sure that those low-level adventurers have a way of interacting with it.

    Here’s my idea: If a serpent is hit by a critical hit, it uncoils from around its prey and at least seriously considers retreating.

    Low-level characters might not be able to kill a sea monster, but anyone can score a lucky critical hit. Whether that critical hit is from a fighter’s sword against a scaly coil, or a ballista bolt aimed by the NPC captain, such a moment would be a high-drama event, sure to elicit cheers from the crew – and players.

    If a sea serpent is bloodied (reduced to half its hit points), it decides that a ship isn’t worth the trouble and it leaves. That’s a victory for low- and mid-level characters! High-level (or foolish) parties that attack a fleeing sea serpent can cause it to go into a frenzy, thrashing around and becoming even more dangerous. This is a design pattern that I also used for the tarrasque. It allows a single monster to offer two win conditions: survival and total victory.

    Now that we’ve talked that through, here’s what the final monster looks like.

    If you’d like to get this monster and about 600 more, plus a comprehensive update on 5e, go back Level Up 5e! You’ve only got two days left. (Morrus delivers quick, so you’ll have the PDF version that day.

  • Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Conquered Setting

    Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 11/04/2021 - 11:00

    I've thought about this before, so I find it a strange I haven't blogged about it, but I can't seem to find the post if I did. Anyway, tt seems like one way to ameliorate problematic nature of of D&D and related fantasy game characters killing hapless humanoids to clear them from their land and take their stuff is to have the PCs being the ones fighting off the invaders. This is not guaranteed to free a setting of racist stereotypes (just take a look at Nowlan's Armageddon: 2419 AD), but it's perhaps a start. It at least makes the PCs freedom fighters rather than conquistadors. 

    Inspirations abound (I'll list some below) but something like the set-up of the 70s science fantasy comic from DC Starfire would work well. Two warring factions invite armies from other worlds to fight for them and wind up getting conquered by them. The mercenaries-turned-conquers might be orcs and drow, or something more exotic. Ideally, there should be a difference between them, but not a difference that makes one side particularly preferable as allies to the other. You could also have the remnants of the two native blocs (elves and humans. maybe) that called in the outsiders still be mistrustful of each other.

    I think it works best if the invading forces lost cohesion due to infighting or to fighting with the other invaders, and are now only slightly more powerful that the indigenous folk, but not enough so that they can really mount a concerted effort to destroy them. Perhaps in many places the native people are allowed to live out their lives relatively peacefully as second class citizens in the alien-order (like the humans in the Planet of the Apes tv show--or any number of real world examples). There could also be some weird artificial cultures like the various *-men groups in Vance's Planet of Adventure.

    Anyway, other genre works that could be inspiring:

    De Camp. "Divide and Rule." Aliens conquer Earth and enforce a neo-feudal culture on mankind.

    Burroughs. The Moon Men. Men from the Moon have long ago conquered Earth and reduced North American civilization to a more "primitive" state. Not dissimilar from the Star Trek episode "Omega Glory" if you replace the Communists with Moon Men--and Burroughs' original draft had Communists!

    Killraven from Marvel Comics.

    Of course, the original Planet of the Apes films and tv shows are also good.

    Megapedes Adapted From Godzilla The Series Season Two Episode 9 Episode 'Metamorphosis' For Cepheus Atom & Those Old School 2d6 Science Fantasy Role Playing Campaign

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 11/04/2021 - 05:55
     Megapedes have been appearing across the American bread basket since 1948 & are believed to be a last ditch fifth column weapon created by the remaining Nazi post World War II. The megapedes rampage both corporate & civilian farms of all crops. These kaiju present a clear & present mutational hazard to all with whom they come in contact. Megapedes have only one overwhelming desire, to consume asNeedles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Balrogs & Valpyr - Two monsters of Old School Evil For OD&D, Adruin, & the Adventurer, Conqueror King rpg

    Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 11/03/2021 - 19:54
     Looking into my campaign notes, there were several notes about Balrogs from the 'In The' blog.  And these horrors lured adventurers into traps when they were in the line for wilderness encounters. My advice when using Balrogs is to be very careful. There are were several TPK's in which Balrogs were used. Oilpainting. Original art by Justin Gerard Glorfindel Against The Balrog. Used Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    This Blog Turns 10 Years This Month ... Let's Celebrate!

    The Disoriented Ranger - Wed, 11/03/2021 - 18:20

    Alright, so this happened: I'll be doing this for 10 years come November 7th. For me, that's huge. It's something that had helped me countless times with all kinds of stuff, be it discussions about games and game design (being able to point out that I had done a post about a subject is priceless) or even getting a job (it shows dedication, if nothing else, but people can also get an idea what you are about, if they are willing to take the time). I'd say I got at least one date out of it, too :) So while The Disoriented Ranger never was among the really popular blogs out there, it was useful and has been read and interacted with. I'll take this month to look back a bit (and maybe even forward).

    Partytime, excellent ...

    This will be a short little post about what I'm planning to get done this month and what else is in store. Looking back I found that while it short-term never helped the blog to stay clear from day-to-day blog-politics (click-bait and controversy drive a lot of traffic, I've seen it happen elsewhere ...) and keep it long-form instead of, say, posting little things daily, the material gathered that way is still very much readable regardless of when it was written. Most of it, anyway. And one thing I always wanted to have (you know, for my own book-shelf) was a nice little compilation of the blog.

    I've spent most of last month going through all that, collecting and sorting what I think would make me happy. It's not done yet, but I have a cover to show you and I aim to get at least the pdf out there on the 7th. Not for free, but dirt cheap (as I learned a lesson there: free/PWYW just don't track with OBS ... it needs to cost at least a buck to be useful on the site). I'm thinking 1.99 USD for a pdf that will amount to round about 300 pages A5. Behold a cover:

    I'm happy with that cover. Thoughts?After that I'll prepare that for PoD and order the test print. Depending on how fast that will turn up, the print version should be available at the end of the month (I really hope so!).

    One thing I'll really miss in the book will be all the great memes I used on the blog over the years, so I think I'll do at least one post about those. And I guess I have to talk about  unfinished project, since that was a big thing here as well ... It's not the "disoriented ranger" for nothing.

    So expect a more lively blog here this month!

    While we are at it ...

    To mark the occasion, I've put a heavy discount on that dystopian/cyberpunk role-playing game I wrote with the very obscure name Ø2\\'3|| (hint: it's leetspeak ... the whole game is all sorts of innuendos and easter eggs, very much in the spirit of the setting). I'll keep that discount up for the whole month.

    Not sure what I can tell you about it that you might not already know. It's an original system and, if I may say so, solid design. With a huge theoretical part for the aspiring gamemaster as well. It wouldn't exist without the work done here on the blog.

    If you already checked it out, I'd be happy to hear about it!

    Let the festivities commence!

    10 years, friends and neighbors! It's been a ride. If you joined the blog at some point and stayed, I appreciate you. This has been a hobby endeavor, unedited at that, rambling at times, opiniated about game design, but unheard. Ha! I really love the opportunity to put down my thoughts about playing role-playing games and get an audience for it, too.

    Google meanwhile shanked exposure at least two times in the last 10 years and who knows how long blogger will last. The OSR (which was what got me to blogging to begin with) didn't ... as such. Ruins left to explore, as another blogger said the other day in an interview. I like that. True too, if somewhat sad.

    Met lots of people, have seen people disappear, die even (Dreams of Mythical Fantasy is still dreaming, people ... James is dearly missed and yet I get traffic from his blog every now and then as if nothing significant had changed). Some ended up being 'internet friends' for the blink of a screen just to be gone again, others stayed friends.

    The beauty of insignificance is that the trolls seem to stay away. Mostly. Either way, I had some great interactions here on the blog, basically from the beginning. Not sure where I'm headed right now or where that spark is that carried so much of it up until a couple of years ago, but I'm glad I made it up to this point and I'm sure something will come up in the future ...

    Anyway, I'm rambling. Love you all. Stay tuned for more (maybe even more substance)!

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Child Thieves

    Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 11/03/2021 - 11:11
    By R.J. Thompson Appendix N Entertainment OSE Levels 3-5

    Several years ago a piper happened along the poorest district of the city during the midst of the plague of rats and with his magic flute rid the people of the rats. Every year since the rats have come again, and so has the piper. In recent years the price of his services has risen, but the money of the poor has not. This year they could not pay. The angered piper left the district, cursing its residents. The next morning the people woke and found the beds of their children empty. Large rat-like tracks were found in the district leading from the homes of the missing children to the storm drains. With so little to offer for the return of their children, will the people find anyone to attempt a rescue?

    This 27 page adventures uses nine pages to describe two levels of a sewer system with 22 rooms. It’s heavily rat themed, in terms of monsters. Lots of rats, giant rats, and were-rats. Surprise! It’s a daily non-offensive thing, doing nothing really interesting or overly bad. I guess it’s boring? Sure. It’s boring. 

    Oh, the jaded reviewer, pity him! Dwelling in his pile of shit. Eating his pile of shit. Seeing the same thing time and again. Oh, why can’t his icy heart appreciate the thing for what it is, now, in this moment, and not make the comparisons to all of the joys of the part, president, and possible futures to come? Because I don’t want to run a boring game, that’s why.

    There is a joy to D&D. In it’s best moments a mirthful glee to the situations the party find themselves in. The world is straight man to the characters, but you need to give the party something to work with. You need someone asking who’s on first base. That’s the adventure. And an adventure without those opportunities gives us less room to create that unbridled glee that is D&D. 

    So, rats in a sewer. A million billion adventures written about rats in the sewer. And, here’s another Rats In The Sewer adventure. Of course, there’s wererats involved. No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense. So, the towns kids are missing and the tracks lead to the sewers. The same sewers that, yearly, a horde of rats come out of. *sigh*, ok, let’s go down in to the sewer. Why is there a sewer? Who knows. Is there any “sewer” like things in the swerve, like grates to the above? No. There’s some water 3’ deep. 

    And a lot of rats. A LOT of rats. Like, encounters with 50 of them. And then giant rats swarming out of holes in the walls. And the required wererats, who never alert anyone else and just wait in the rooms to die. There is, in the back, an art piece I thought was cool. It had a sewer place and some wererats in combat and one of them was holding a revolved at the ready! Cool! Then I saw I misread the art piece and it wasn’t a revolver. *SADZ*

    Map has some water on it. Map has some loops. It’s not a bad map for what it is. I mean, it’s not good either. One room mentions a pile of dung sticking out of the water, and that’s not on the map, so, you don’t get major room features like that. Or, only rarely do you get them. 

    There’s a water valve puzzle, because all sewers have those. Like, I don’t know, twelve possible combinations? Including them drying out a room that you already have to be standing in in order to get the treasure in that room. So, leave someone behind in that room while you go elsewhere to work the vales. There’s no real indication of what the valves do, other than going back to look at all the rooms to see what happens after each time you make a change. This seems tedious to me? Like something I would handwave. 

    I don’t know. At one point a trap drops a bunch of staves on the floor, which has a sticks to snakes spell on it. I can’t stand this kind of rube goldberg type traps. Just fucking drop some god damn viers on the party. Like a carboard box full of them. Why the shit with the staves and “the floor has the spell on it?” 

    I’m just bored. Bored of going in to room after room and fighting rats. What’s in this room¿ Oh, more rats. Nice. Said no one ever. Maybe two thousand copper coins also? 

    There’s a kind of D&D drudgery here. An ennui, as an adventurer, that makes you wonder why you are doing it all. I mean, yeah, saving kids. That’s a reason, right? I mean, the parents didn’t even try to save them, so, youknow, if they don’t give a shit … And, you know, infant mortality rate in towns was pretty high already. I guess we’re going down in to the sewers, again, because we want to hang out with our friends tonight and play D&D. But, really, what’s the difference? Sitting home alone. Playing boring D&D with friends. Same thing.

    No, I’m not a member of the cult of the new. And no, I’m not overly attracted to gonzo. And no, I’m not a jaded reviewer. I just have absolutely no interest in things like this. Things that all fight Fight FIGHT. Yeah, there’s a time and place for combat, Mr 4e, but it’s not all the fucking time. There need to be evocative places of wonder to explore. And the descriptions of the sewers don’t bring the filth required to qualify as a place of wonder. Or even a place of Mild Interest. There is essentially no interactivity, other than the valve puzzle and talking to a giant turtle. The designer has also “Made the adventure replayable” by giving you five different locations the children could be. Seriously? Who the fuck does that? Replay an adventure like this? 

    It does, to its credit, do an ok job with mundane treasure. Holden bracelets with opals, a silver tiara, a gold pendant in the shape of an oak leaf. Note that is my threshold. It takes almost nothing to impress me and yet here we are. Again. “Silver tiara” gets a nod from me. It also has some little rule about rumors, where a 13 WIS, and a divine background, lets you know which “cult” rumors are false/true, etc, and something similar for INT. Pretty common sense stuff ,but nice to see it called out. 

    So, it’s an adventure. I guess you could run it. If you had nothing better to do with your life. Like watch the paint peel or take up coke or shitty Italian aperitifs. Want an adventure? Here’s one. God, nothing about this would make me come back again to a DM who ran a session like this. Is this really how people play D&D?

    Gavin’s OSE has now ARRIVED; the market is flooded.

    This is $5 at DriveThru. Two ratings, both five stars. The preview is six pages. Only the last one is any good, showing you the first five rooms. Oh, and the fourth one has that rumor shit on it, if you want to see that mini-rule.–S1?1892600

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Wednesday Comics: DC, February 1980 (wk 1 pt 1)

    Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 11/03/2021 - 11:00
    I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  November 13, 1980. I've been traveling the last couple of days, so I got through fewer comics for this first installment.

    Batman #332: Wolfman and Norvick pick up from where last issue left off. Robin leaves the Batcave convinced that Batman is making a mistake by trusting Talia. He goes to find a sympathetic ear: Catwoman. Meanwhile, Batman is focused on finding out who is sabotaging his company. He figures out that Bruce Wayne's secretary is working for the opposition. Before she can tell Batman everything, a hulkin, a slightly coneheaded mutate attacks and nearly kills Batman. Bruce Wayne confronts Falstaff who practically gloats over his involvement. Talia attempts to drug Batman with a kiss and goes to meet with Falstaff herself. Batman feigns being drugged to follow her. More mutates show up, but this time Batman is ready for them. Falstaff seems about to spill the beans about who he's working for, but then Talia swings in and kicks into a shimmering bubble (there's a rover from the The Prisoner thing going on in the background of this issue). Still, villain defeated, Batman and Talia lock lips just as Catwoman shows up to get jealous. 
    The backup is Wolfman and Newton continuing the story with Catwoman doing her own investigation of all this. The issue ends with Talia laughing at Catwoman from the shadows.

    DC Comics Presents #30: Conway and Swan bring us a Black Canary team-up. Canary parachutes into the arctic to drop in on Superman at the Fortress of Solitude. She wants him to use Kryptonian science to prove the dreams she has been having that suggest her dead husband Larry Lance is actually alive are true. Turns out it's really all Dr. Destiny's doing (he's a go-to villain for Conway, it seems), and the heroes enter a pocket dream realm to stop him. An interesting thing on display here is the convoluted backstory of Black Canary of the JLA being the Earth-Two character (active in WWII) who migrated to Earth-One after the death of her husband, then took up with Green Arrow on the rebound. The contemporaneous New Adventures of Superboy would suggest that Clark was a teen in the early 60s. If he's the same age as the other Earth-One heroes, then Black Canary must be like 20 years older than them. Also, Kryptonian science is apparently like magic. It can pretty much do anything. Black Canary might as well be visiting a wizard's remote tomorrow.
    The "What Ever Happened To..." backup is about the Earth-Two Atom, as the conclusion of the Atom story last month. I still do know how swapping their powers briefly restores the cosmic imbalance of them not having the same power set, but that's why Mallo is a cosmic entity and I am not, I guess.

    Flash #295: Solovar, leader of Gorilla City, is worried the concept of leisure time the gorillas have learned from humans is making them dumb and lazy. Also, there's an attempt by a sort of Symbionese Liberation Army-esque group to hold the gorilla delegation to the UN hostage that the Flash has to thwart. Solovar hatches a plan to make the whole world forget Gorilla City, and the Flash agrees to power the device. Meanwhile, Grodd escapes from gorilla jail by trickery. He co-opts the device to make everyone forget him! Fairly standard Bates/Heck stuff, but not bad. I like how they are running through the Rogue's Gallery.
    The Firestorm backup has Professor Stein calling a 2 week moratorium on turning into Firestorm so he can actually go on an ocean expedition where they need a nuclear engineer. Robbie agrees, though he's frustrated going cold turkey from superheroics. Meanwhile, things go badly on the ship and Stein summons Firestorm.

    Ghosts #97: The cover story by Kupperberg and Adams/Blasdell has Dr. Thirteen encountering the Spectre, and it blows his ghost-breaking mind! After exposing a seance's fakery, Thirteen is present when a rich soiree is crashed by the People's Freedom Army (that's two of these this week!). Intent on taking hostages, they wind up shooting some people. Eventually, the Spectre shows up and delivers a gruesome reckoning to the murderous revolutionaries, causing their bodies to run like water! Thirteen is appalled by the grimness of the punishment and confronts the Spectre, but the ghost of vengeance merely fades away. Thirteen swears to bring him to justice.
    The other stories are lackluster. Mi Mai Kin and Mike Nasser have a famous "ghost-chaser" invited to a Civil War museum he has snubbed before by a Confederate ghost intent on improving museum visitorship. Mi Mai Kin returns, this time with Don Heck, for a story of a murder via bridge demolition. Ironically, the murderer is involved in the construction of the new bridge--and more involved than he could ever want when the ghost of the man he killed buries him alive in the concrete of one of the support pillars. Kasdan and Estrada bring us "Deep Six Phantom," a tale about a U-boat captain who kills one of his officers who threatens to reveal his smuggling, but then the ghost leads the boat to destruction at the hands of Allied warships.

    Jonah Hex #45: Jonah Hex is getting married, and of course, it doesn't go smoothly. Town busybodies disapprove of Hex's reputation, his looks, and his Chinese bride. They try to get the realtor to stop the sale of property to Hex. Mei Ling's family doesn't approve of her marrying a white guy. Old enemies of Hex's see it as the perfect time to ambush him. The marriage goes off though, but Hex has to break his promise to Mei Ling and pick up his guns to shoot it out with his enemies who are threatening to burn down the town. Despite saving the townsfolk, he's now refused the property he was going to buy, and he and his new bride must move on.
    Brian Savage, Scalphunter, returns as a backup feature by Conway and Ayers/Tanghal. Scalphunter meets an old buffalo hunter who know his father and talks to him about finding a place where he belongs. Then, he saves a Sioux youth from plunging over a cliff to his death with a rampaging buffalo heard. The young man invites Scalphunter back to his village. Maybe Savage will fit in better among the Sioux than the white men? We'll see.

    Arduin's Cailban & Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Secrets of the Nethercity - An OSR Commentary

    Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 11/02/2021 - 15:21
     So it looks like the Emperor's Choice site is back in place & we've got Arduin coming up in our Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg campaign. And it brings up the fact that Vault of the Weaver is one of the foundation books for our setting. This is a collection of the Arduin adventures & dungeons including: – Caliban– Howling Tower– Citadel of Thunder– Death Heart– and a couple of more books thanks Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Level Up: wizards and dragons

    Blog of Holding - Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:51

    Over on the Level Up site, I’ve written previews of some of the most complex and high-level monsters in the Monstrous Menagerie: spellcasters (including the lich!) and dragons.

    From Spellcasting Monsters in Level Up:

    One of our goals with the Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Monstrous Menagerie was to make enemy spellcasters less of a pain to run. With an updated stat block format, we’ve made it possible to run a complex battle without looking up spells in another book or online resource–-all while working as expected with existing spells and features like counterspell and antimagic field.

    From Dragons in Level Up:

    The Level Up: Advanced 5e Monstrous Menagerie has dragons–-lots of dragons. With 85 pages of true dragons (about 90 stat blocks and variants) and 15 more pages of dragon turtles, sea serpents, and so on, we have a full source book’s worth of draconic friends and foes.

    Along with the usual chromatic and metallic dragons, we have gem dragons (sapphire, amethyst, and emerald dragons) and a new category of dragons, essence dragons (earth, river, and shadow dragons).

    Check out these two blog posts for lots of details and stat blocks! And then head to the Level Up kickstarter, where there are 3 days left. (I really want to get to $750,000, which is the level where I write a jabberwock as a stretch goal!)

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Narrating Your D&D Game: The Essentials

    DM David - Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:10

    Everyone can describe things, which makes narration seem like a skill everyone does naturally, but we have all played with dungeon masters who fumbled the task. I’ve been that DM, although I hope not recently. After decades of running games, my narration skills have improved, even in the last few years, and I plan to keep learning and improving. This post starts a series that shares what I know.

    In a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, the characters’ experience—what they see, hear, and otherwise sense—reaches the players through the DM’s descriptions of the game world. Vivid description encourages immersion, a sense of living in the fictional world. That makes strong narration a vital part of a great adventure. But books of game mastering advice rarely give the topic much attention. Perhaps the authors include a paragraph urging descriptions that include five senses, and then move to fudging dice. Narration seems to defy advice, but no source of GM advice lacks an opinion on fudging.

    Nonetheless, if description falls flat, heroic adventures in wondrous locations feel dull. If narration goes wrong, players wind up confused or frustrated.

    Good narration goes beyond revealing how the dungeon smells. (Pretty bad, I suppose.) What deserves description? How much time should a DM spend on description? In what order should DMs describe things? All that matters, and I have answers.

    Spare but steady narration

    Nobody sits for a D&D game hoping the DM as narrator will spend most of the session yakking. Recorded books talk nonstop better. Instead, players relish the times they talk and their characters act.

    Model and photo by Java Cat

    So as a DM, make your goal to wring the most vivid, evocative narration from the fewest words.

    Overlong descriptions lead the players’ attention to drift. Rather than visualizing the eons of weathering that mark the vermilion masonry, players consider their next move. For the biggest impact, fit concise, evocative descriptions between the characters’ actions.

    On the pages of a screenplay, the shape of text gives a sense of how a scene will play. Scenes with monologues feature unbroken rectangles of text. Scenes with back and forth between actors have short lines of text with whitespace between. Rather than dropping overlong boxes of DM dialog into the screenplay for Your D&D Game—the Movie, try for shorter bits with more back-and-forth. Don’t test your players’ patience as they wait to talk.

    I used to take brevity too far, rushing to describe locations and skipping descriptions to reach the next turn. The habit came from a good motive: I wanted to spend less time talking so the players do more playing.

    Fewer words speed play, but something like a battle with no description feels flat. Spare but steady narration keeps the game alive.

    I fight an urge to hasten narration by speaking faster, and I see plenty of other DMs suffer from the same tendency to hurry. But fast talk just makes the description seem lifeless and unimportant. If you recite descriptions like the legal text at the end of a drug ad, players will pay as much attention as they do to dry mouth and palm sweat. The best DMs adjust their tempo, often slowing to give their words weight. They pause to emphasize, their tone expresses emotion, and it captures attention.

    Tools for clarity

    In D&D, players make choices based on description, so clarity matters as much as immersion.

    To help make the players’ vision of the game world clear enough for (imaginary) life and death decisions, go beyond verbal description. If you have pictures of non-player characters, locations, and monsters, then show them. No one listens for 1000 words, but everyone looks up to see a picture. You can print pictures, load them on your phone or tablet, or load them online for a virtual game.

    Think of yourself as an expert instructor with chalk in hand. To help reveal the game world to the players, I use my dry-erase grids as white boards. I write key names and critical details for players to remember. As I describe complicated scenes, I sketch maps and location features. Even if you plan to skip a grid in favor of narrative combat, the visual aid of a sketched, abstract map helps players understand. Beyond the map, a rough diagram of, say, a statue of Moloch can remind players of its gem eyes and the fire-filled bowl it it’s hands.

    Next Tuesday: Two comparisons of description to comedy. Plus, the stuff about describing for five senses is required by the Roleplaying Advice Regulatory Board (RARB). Can I make that content brief and entertaining? To avoid missing out, sign up to get my posts by email using the box at right.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    [BLOG] Hex-crawls: A Simple Guide

    Beyond Fomalhaut - Tue, 11/02/2021 - 10:10

    A slice of the WilderlandsIrony: no longer just a diet rich in ferrous metals. Old-school gaming is now officially old, having lasted way longer than the period of gaming it looks back on. The line loops back on itself again; we are not just old, we are double-old, and with age, accumulated wisdom is lost, formerly self-explanatory ideas become objects of mystery. This constant erosion is unsurprising. You can fight back, but never win. Still, at least we can go down swinging, and that’s better than nothing. Today, we shall endeavour to do so by restating the idea of a great, simple game structure that surprisingly many people fail to understand, or pretend to fail to understand: the hex-crawl.

    If Bryce Lynch doesn’t get it, others might be utterly lost. Perhaps what many of us considered obvious, isn’t. Perhaps so much detail-oriented guidance has been published that the basic, simple idea is getting lost in the discussion. But the main issue I am seeing – something even people like Justin Alexander have fallen into – is that people present an idea of hex-crawls that’s much more convoluted and hard to follow than what most of us actually need for our table. There is scattered wisdom in those pieces, but the maximalist approach they are advocating is not practical for most, especially beginners. The basic hex-crawl, in comparison, is dirt simple to understand, design, and run. Hence, this post. A simple, concise guide can explain the essentials – and if you would like, you can later expand your own procedures in a modular fashion.

    * * *

    Why run a hex-crawl?

    Hex-crawls are a great way to run games based on wilderness exploration. Their main strength lies in turning a wilderness map into something you can describe and play with ease. Hex-crawls offer a good value for the effort that goes into creating them. Even a relatively small wilderness area described as a hex-crawl can be used and re-used several times. You can easily expand them both outwards (describing more of the map using this method) and inwards (adding more features and deeper detail). Hex-crawls can be developed piecemeal, and they are easy to scale to the interests of your adventuring party.

    * * *

    The basic principle

    You might remember a common way to describe RPGs to outsiders: “This game is all in your imagination, played without a game board.” Hex-crawling is a lot like that game, but with a game board added to it. This board shall consist of two map sheets with numbered hexes. One of the maps is for the Gamemaster, and like your usual dungeon map, it is marked with terrain features, and an encounter key. Unlike dungeons, the key is not numbered sequentially, but by hex coordinates: a certain number of hexes may have varied features in them, while some are “empty”, consisting only of terrain. The second map is the one the players actually see: while it conforms to the first in most respects, this one is much more sparse, usually showing coastal outlines, a few major geographic features, and maybe a section of the “known” lands. The rest is left blank for later discovery.

    Over the course of play, moving around and exploring the wilderness map, filling in its blanks, and coming across the keyed encounters shall be the focus of the game. The exploration process may be complicated by random encounters, navigation hazards, the depletion of food and equipment, and other complications like bad weather, or events keyed to the passage of time. Like dungeon adventures, hex-crawls are a combination of keyed encounters, random events arising from game procedures, and emergent gameplay created by GM–player interaction. A good hex-crawl is a lot like a good dungeon – reasonably open-ended, challenging, accommodating of player decisions, yet not overwhelming at any single decision point, since every given hex allows only six directions of travel from it.

    * * *

    Constructing the GM map

    The Central MarchesMany game world focus on the big picture, the world at large. In a hex-crawl setting, we will be doing the exact opposite, by describing the micro-world. Our main concern is not the extent and ancient history of empires or the cosmology of the gods, but the local lord acting as an agent of the distant imperial seat, or the secretive monastery hidden in the woodlands. It may be useful to have a very general framework for the sake of style and internal consistency, but what really MATTERS is local detail and variety. The scale of the maps itself should reflect this. We are not making continents, we are making provinces or baronies. Many hex-crawl games use the six-mile hex (which became the default for Judges Guild’s Wilderlands setting), which is really fine-grain, and lets characters move through a lot of hexes in a single game session. I usually go with twelve miles (or around 20 kilometres). Greyhawk’s30 miles per hex, as seen on the classic Darlene Pekul maps, is generally too large for the details we want – Greyhawk is definitely a big-picture place.

    Accordingly, map a small corner of the larger world. A starting campaign can easily exist on a stretch of land measuring 12×12 six-mile hexes. Instead of large expanses of homogenous terrain, I would suggest making things varied in terms of both topography and land cover. Starting out with a random-generated map and adjusting it a bit to make the geography slightly more realistic works surprisingly well – there is a random terrain filling method in the AD&D DMG (Appendix B), and Hexographer comes with a default random generator, which I used for the example map here. You will notice a few features which tend to be desirable:

    • a single terrain type tends to cover 8-10 hexes, and rarely more: this makes the land mass varied and distinct;
    • there is a balance of easily navigable, challenging, and generally impassable terrain: choosing where and how to travel becomes an important player choice;
    • water is used prominently, forming seas, a lake, and river basins;
    • prominent features – castles, dungeons, settlements and temples – are distributed logically, but sparsely: travel is a necessity in the setting;
    • roads might link the most important centres of civilisation, but adventure lies off-road: we have a proverbial “points of light setting”, with relatively safe areas along the roads, and dangerous wilderness beyond them.

    Not every map has to follow a similar structure, but this combination should make for a good mini-sandbox. If you would like to construct a larger region, Volume 4 of Seven Voyages of Zylarthen (on which more in a later post) describes a semi-random Hexographer-based method that shall create an entire campaign’s worth of terrain.

     * * *

    Stocking the GM map

    This is the meat of the hex-crawl. Interesting locations, lairs, and the more complex sort of encounters can be seeded across the hex map, waiting for the players to come across them during their explorations. After placing a few important locations by hand, it is most useful to turn to a random generation method. Establish hex locations via this method:

    • roll 2d6 for each 12-mile hex (or 2d12 for each 6-mile hex) with two different-coloured dice for each hex (this can take some time);
    • a “1” on the dice indicates either a ruin (usually marked with an “x”) or a lair (usually marked with an “L” or “·”) – mark these on the map;
    • for hexes with mixed terrain (e.g. forests meeting mountains), check both terrain types;
    • you may want to re-check hexes which have a feature to see if they may have a double one.

    The Central Marches, with
    locales of interestThe exact content of the hexes is written into the hex key, where entries are identified by the four-number coordinates. This is similar to a dungeon key in scope and detail, focusing on the essential and leaving the rest to improvisation. Like with dungeons, random idea generation tables can be useful for stocking a wilderness, at least beyond a range of initial entries which establish the mood and challenges of the place. Once you have a general idea for the region, the details shall fall into their place. For example, using our previous map, we may begin our hex key like this (stats and most treasure values not included):

    0306 ANTZUN, village of 100 goblins eking out a miserable existence, and paying tribute to the orcs of Castle Gardak (0203). Some of them know a way through the mountains, and may be hired as guides, but 1:6 to be treacherous.

    0310 FELL, village of 100 men, regularly suffering hobgoblin raids from the west (0109). Foreman Valumbe the Provider (Fighter 4) throws miscreants and evildoers into a dry well to starve, but some of the dead come back from the walls to claim the living.

    0311 Fallen palisades surround a crumbling villa, inhabited by 35 bandits. Their companions and leader, Felso the Humble, have been captured by Valumbe the Provider (0310), and are in need of rescuing. 1200 sp, 100 gp.

    0406 Lair of 60 brigands raiding the road from their temporary camp. They are led by Eilakolin the Merry (Fighter 8, treasure map) and his lieutenants, Priago the Fighter (Ftr 4) and Ethy the Quick (Ftr 4). They have buried their coins at a secret location, and currently have 1000sp, and a box of gems from a captured merchant (10 gp, 2*50 gp, 10*100 gp, 4*500 gp, 2*1000 gp).

    (and so on, see the end of the post for the starting area)

    The hex-crawl, of course, is not the complete campaign, but a component of it. Add a starter dungeon (and start thinking about one or two more – they don’t have to be large affairs), a few rival power centres and organisations, and you have a full landscape of adventure (see this post for a general idea). A hex-crawl is a great place to stick adventures written by other people, too, and it is one of the frameworks where mini-dungeons, even the better one-page dungeons can find a good home.

     * * *

    Managing the crawl

    Once we have the hex map, the key, and a few places with more detail, the campaign is ready to play. To start the crawl, set the players down on their version of the map, which can be as sparse or as detailed as you wish (the less detailed it is, the stronger the sense of discovery, but the more time will be spent with mapping). At this point, it is important to establish some basic context – where they are, what they have known or heard of the surrounding territory (a rumour each player may be a good way to accomplish this), and approximately where have they heard of capital A Adventure. We can begin!

    Much of the hex-crawls occurs through simple procedures. Here are the essentials:

    Descriptions: describe what the party sees in the surrounding hexes in a brief way. This should include terrain, visible landmarks, and maybe a little detail. For example, using our sample map, and starting from the castle home base at 0608, the GM could begin thus: “Day one breaks as you ride out through the gates of Krakhal. It is still misty, but you can see the roads meeting here: the Winding Way crossing the river to the NW and going through farmlands towards the mountains where stands the tower of Breezehall  to a day’s journey; the other direction heading SE and disappearing in wooded hills. A more narrow cart road crosses the river to the W, then heads SW through grassland. In this direction lies Fell, a village where you have heard of troubles with raiding humanoids and brigands. To the N and NE stretch thick forests, and to the S, you see tall peaks.”From here on, the descriptions can be even shorter: “You cross the grasslands into 0509, along the river running SW. NW lie woods, SW and S are flat grasslands, and SE are the mountains. The road continues SW.”

    Here be giantsMovement: let the players declare the directions they are moving, and calculate how much terrain they can cross at their movement rate. As a rule of thumb, 4 6-mile hexes of terrain (plains, wastelands, coast), 2 hex of medium terrain (forest, hills), and 1 hex of hard terrain (mountains, swamp) can be covered on foot, or 6/4/1 while mounted. For 12-mile hexes, just halve this rate. For mixed terrain (likely), it is sensible to divide the day into a morning and afternoon stretch and see how much distance the characters cover. There are movement systems which use “movement point costs” to enter a hex of a specific terrain type, which are more abstract, but a bit easier to calculate with.

    (Getting lost): This is a probability used in various A/D&D editions to see if the party veers off course or becomes lost while moving in the wilderness. It is not a rule we are actively using, but it adds a layer of uncertainty to exploration, and unless the party is moving along the roads, it may lead them to unexpected places of interest!

    Encounters: the characters shall come across the fixed encounters on the hex key. There is also a good reason to use random encounter charts to vary things a bit. Generally, roll random encounters once per two six-mile hexes travelled with a 1:6 probability, or twice per day and thrice per night if camping (this can be reduced if the characters have discovered or created a safe shelter). Not all encounters will be fights to the death: hunting animals may avoid the party, while intelligent denizens may want to trade, negotiate, ask for directions, or provide the same… if the reaction checks are good enough.

    Supplies: assume one ration per day of travel, and separate water rations where needed. Hunting and foraging may be a way to find food on the way. For a simple system, roll 1d6, with a +1 for skilled outdoorsmen and +2 for rangers and druids, and -1 for frood-sparse regions like high mountains. Food will be found on rolls of 4+, with an extra ration per point over the threshold.

    Weather: this is simple and fun for situational variety. Just roll 1d6 per day to establish the dominant weather, from 1 (sunny, clear) to 6 (heavy rains, strong winds, heavy fog), add a situational modifier or two if needed (e.g. by terrain or season). If daily rolls make the weather too “swingy”, assume that stretches of weather will last 1d3 days or even more, or that changes will be in increments of one point at a time.

    This is (more or less) the simple system we are using at our table. It is not completely realistic, but it is in keeping with the complexity of dungeon procedures, and makes for a rewarding procedural package which does not slow down play, works out fine, and can be messed with from time to time to shake things up a bit.

    * * *

    Details which are a matter of taste (but here is my opinion anyway)

    Should a terrain type fill a whole hex, or not?

    My hex maps are usually more organic, and the hex grid is simply overlaid on a map. This is also the way Judges Guild did things. Hexographer (which I used to illustrate this post) fills every hex with a discrete terrain type. This is okay, too, and slightly easier to adjudicate.

    Some people suggest the hex map should be the GM’s tool only, and this “layer” should be hidden from the players. Which one should I pick?

    This is the approach advocated by Justin Alexander for reasons of deeper immersion. For ease of use reasons, I would personally recommend the exact opposite, the use of identical player/GM maps with a different level of detail, like in the original Wilderlands products. This translates wilderness navigation into a game board you navigate and gradually fill in with terrain and points of interest. It is a game, and there is no harm in revealing most of its rules, including the hex numbers. In our campaigns, I rationalise the latter with the assumption that hex numbers represent astronomical navigation schemes, or (in science-fantasy campaigns) data from orbital GPS systems.

    Do I have to create an entire map’s worth of content before beginning a campaign?

    This actually matters! There is absolutely no need to create a whole setting in one go. Create a kay for a relatively small area, then expand outwards as it becomes necessary. Everything you need to know beyond the initial area can be handled as a simple rumour. “North of the Mountains of Fum lies a ruined city inhabited by ghouls. The Crown of Power lies underneath!” or “Monkeys are a delicacy in Katang, but sacred in Pand; and the two towns are almost at war over this matter.” – this much would be sufficient.

    How detailed should hex entries be?

    For personal consumption, as detailed as your average dungeon room. Some, like major towns and power centres may deserve a little bit more, maybe a bullet-point list. But keeping things brief and versatile is usually the for the best.

    What if I have a map, but they don’t start exploring?

    A handful of rumours with promises of adventure and treasure can be enough to get the characters going. It is also advisable to place adventure sites in out-of-the way corners of the world, so discovering their exact location requires travel through strange lands. Various quests and missions can also take characters to these fa-flung corners of the milieu.

    What if they never go off the road system?

    Many such cases! That’s why there should only be few roads, and many places the company has to visit should lie beyond them. This is best caught in the planning phase.

    Since hexes cover a lot of territory, shouldn’t adventurers have a chance to miss keyed features?

    This has always struck me as bad advice, since the point of hex-crawling is to find cool, interesting stuff, not walk by it. It is in both the player’s and GM’s interest to bring these encounters into play while travelling through the wilderness. You could rationalise it with the understanding that a given hex probably has multiple interesting features, and your party will find the one being described in the key. But generally, unless a feature is deliberately hidden, it is best to let the characters find it. You can always add secondary and tertiary sites later, if needed, although it is also vital to expand horizontally, and encourage players to seek out new lands and sights.

    What about three-hex/seven-hex/hex-flower wildernesses?


    * * *

    The Central Marches: A sample starting area

    This is the slice of the region you might describe before the first session. You will note that there are 19 locations being described, including a few hubs of civilisation (the "points of light", with simple adventure hooks), seven ruins, and 6 monster lairs. You can place a larger starting dungeon somewhere close to the centre (this could be beneath the strange garden at 0407, two hexes from KRAKHALL), and a smattering of smaller ones all around: perhaps beneath the well in FELL (0310),  the buried passage in the ancient shrine (0506), the secret treasure cave (0610), the eccentrics' tower basement (0707), the Pavilion of Engadrok (0710), and the emperor's undersea villa (0808). If this sounds too much, that's because it is: you do not need to do it all at once, and many of the possibilities may never enter play (they are well hidden, the entrance is buried or enchanted, etc.).

    It is also likely that the campaign will move beyond the initial area in some direction. Perhaps the players will want to visit the city at 1108, follow up on the humanoid raids originating from the advance hobgoblin camp to the west (0109), or travel north beyond the mountains and see what lies in that direction. Do not waste too much work: it does not hurt to be a little lazy in a hex-crawl campaign. If something is particularly important for you, link it to the players with multiple rumours and adventure hooks, and they will likely find their way there.

    Once you have the ideas for the hex-crawls, connect, leverage and reuse them: let the brigands at 0406 start harassing merchants along the road, or the hobgoblins send a shipment of captives to the orcs in Castle Gardak (0203). Perhaps the greedy merchants ruling the city want to depose the incompetent Lord Fumme in WOOLBERG (0810) by kidnapping his daughter. A trail of investigation leads to the lawless village of WYRHOLM (0611), and at that place, the characters hear of a treasure-hunting expedition across the mountains (0610). These links and leads make the setting alive and interconnected, and will soon serve as an organic substitute to the rumour table. The campaign will be, to an extent, self-sustaining within its geographic and thematic boundaries.

    The Central Marches:
    Initial Scope0305 A few walls and a collapsed tower remain from a wizard’s mountain stronghold, now inhabited by 4 griffons. In their nest, they have collected 3000 sp, an efreet bottle, and Helmbrand, a Neutral sword +1.

    0306 ANTZUN, village of 100 goblins eking out a miserable existence, and paying tribute to the orcs of Castle Gardak (0203). Some of them know a way through the mountains, and may be hired as guides, but 1:6 to be treacherous.

    0310 FELL, village of 100 men, regularly suffering hobgoblin raids from the west (0109). Foreman Valumbe the Provider (Fighter 4) throws miscreants and evildoers into a dry well to starve, but some of the dead come back from the walls to claim the living.

    0311 Fallen palisades surround a crumbling villa, inhabited by 35 bandits. Their companions and leader, Felso the Humble, have been captured by Valumbe the Provider (0310), and are in need of rescuing. 1200 sp, 100 gp.

    0406 Lair of 60 brigands raiding the road from their temporary camp. They are led by Eilakolin the Merry (Fighter 8, treasure map) and his lieutenants, Priago the Fighter (Ftr 4) and Ethy the Quick (Ftr 4). They have buried their coins at a secret location, and currently have 1000sp, and a box of gems from a captured merchant (10 gp, 2*50 gp, 10*100 gp, 4*500 gp, 2*1000 gp).

    0407 35 gnolls are picking through the ruins of an extravagant garden. Brass idols of various animals on top of standing columns have magical effects: bull – save vs. spell or berserk rage, serpent – offers healing fruit bearing strange curse, wolf – save vs. polymorph or contract lycanthropy, swan – gives feather to most beautiful character, touch heals 1d6 Hp, bear – save vs. spell or sleep 1d6 days, pelican – gives key in exchange for a fish. Buried under a large pile of rubble is the villa of a magic-user, now a repository of mirages. [Ideal for a mini-dungeon]

    0409 Crude rock monuments of a preshistoric people stand painted by the grassland road. 18 prize horses (2d6*100 gp each) are grazing nearby, belonging to Bobend the Bastard (Fighter 7), who lives nearby in a filthy tent with 5 wives and 9 mean, unruly children.

    0505 BREEZEHALL, tower of the Lord Yverr the Silent (Ftr 9), served by 90 men-at-arms patrolling the mountain road, and Dalco the Orphaned (M-U 5), the descendant of a forgotten king. Lord Yverr is obsessed with five stone thrones on a nearby mountaintop, each struck through with a sword that shall not budge. He is welcoming to guests demonstrating nobility, but has been known to capture and fleece the soft and squeamish.

    0506 6 brown bears live in a cave near the mountain road, and have 1:3 to venture out to prey on travellers who do not outnumber them 2:1. The cave is decorated with ancient cave paintings, and ends at a buried passage between two crude statues of snarling bears.

    0507 There are giant trees near the road with 8 hippogriffs lairing in the branches. They are only 1:12 to venture out for men (1d4+4 coming), but horseflesh has 1:6 to draw all eight. The giant nests are strewn with bones, and a dagger +1, 3 vs. orcs and goblins is entangled in the branches.

    0511 2 fire-breathing giant lizards, particularly colourful in their resplendent hide (worth 800 and 3000 gp intact), enjoy the sun on flat rocks. Their lair, a crack between the enormous boulders, is the source of a spring, overgrown with healing herbs (2d6 doses, +1 to nighttime Hp recovery if prepared as a tea).

    0608 KRAKHALL, castle of the Lord Sinds the Righteous (Ftr 9), 90 men-at-arms, and 3 champions (Ftr 7) who serve him enthusiastically. Lord Sinds is the mortal enemy of Lord Fumme the Unlucky (0810), and even his foe’s name can send him into an uncontrollable rage. The moat has been populated with killer frogs as a form of defence, but this plan has not been thought through, and the beasts have become pests in the countryside.

    0609 18 zombies wearing the garments of pilgrims shamble in an endless circular procession on a road that terminates shortly afterwards.

    0610 Tajah the She-Wolf (Thf 8), noted robber, has come here with a retinue of 30 fighting men and 10 labourers to seek a cavern outlined on a treasure map, found somewhere near the lake coast. Their camp is overrun by small monkeys which prey on the supplies and gradually strip away their equipment.

    0611 WYRHOLM, village of 300 men who resent taxation and outside interference, and have become a nest of outlaws and bandits, including armsmen from Woolberg (0810), and good but unscrupulous forest guides. Stolliviss the Eternal (Clr 2) is trying to convert the people to the worship of demonism. The Hack Rack Tavern caters to loggers and fighting men, featuring a bear pit; proprietor Klaint the Incomprehensible is a Thieves Guild man who buys and sells valuables “no questions asked”.

    0707 A tower, once the retreat of rich eccentrics for their debauchery, now lies in a decrepit state, inhabited by Klaro the Tall (Fighter 6) and 70 bandits. The weird things the former occupants were into are safely locked down in the basement, while Klaro has converted the top room into a personal weapon and armour collection.

    0710 The Pavilion of Engadrok lies in the middle of Lake Oopag, where a magic door leads to a fantastic maze created by a djinn, and the prison of an enchanted princess.

    0808 The terraces of a fancy, submerged villa complex can be see beneath the waves here, the former coastal estate of Emperor Nobendses. 200 mermen inhabit the structure, and guard an undersea dungeon with the emperor’s treasures.

    0810 WOOLBERG, castle of the Lord Fumme the Unlucky (Ftr 9), 150 men-at-arms, and Father Hsitisolodie (Clr 5). Lord Fumme’s incompetence and bad luck have brought him low in the eyes of the court and his neighbours, and placed him near ruin. The garrison is ill kept, and the men are often away on private ventures involving brigandage in Wyrholm (0611). Father Hsitisolodie is eager to have Lord Fumme’s daughter, Abigh the Mad married off to a worthy suitor to preserve an important prophecy.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    'Beastmen. The savage swords of chaos, are unleashed! ' From Axioms Compendium 1-8 From Autarch For Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg

    Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 11/01/2021 - 13:32
    The hordes of chaos are unleashed in Adventurer, Conqueror, Kings rpg as the warriors of evil become an infection on the face of a campaign! The Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg has a number of rpg options thanks to the Axioms Compendium & one that comes to mind is unleashing  the hordes of Chaos! 'Beastmen. The savage swords of chaos, are unleashed' is a great mini sourcebook for ACK's.  BeastmenNeedles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Infected Village

    Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 11/01/2021 - 11:19
    By Marcus Lock Parts Per Million Worlds Without Number/OSR Levels 5-6

    No movement, No sound, barely a wisp of air. The village appears empty, with no sign of struggle, no violent death, in fact, no sign of the villagers at all. All there appears to be is an empty space as if the people were teleported away and, in their absence, in the time they have been gone, strange shapes seem to have almost sprung out of the ground. Growing upwards getting bigger, the shapes are familiar, but the size is wrong. Mushrooms just don’t grow that big. 6’, 8’, some as big as trees, almost blocking out the sun. Multi-colored and grouped together around the village. The strong earthy smell of growth is almost overpowering. There is a mist filtering through the tree-sized mushrooms…

    This thirty page digest adventure features 15 “locations”, using six pages to do so. It makes me question all of the life choices I’ve made to bring me to this point in my journey. 

    Look, I’m a happy go lucky kind of guy. Live and let live, Bryce always says. You see that hill over there? That very next one? Right behind it is a shining city under blue skies. We merely need to stretch our legs and walk the distance and we’ll be there! Rage, my cynic friends! Rage against the dying of the light! 

    A magnificent adventure today! Look at that cover! How could there not be a shining city under it?! Blue skies await! 

    Look at that product description! Joy! Oh, no … wait, it’s not joy. Hmmm, it’s pretty much telegraphing what is going on. I mean, the villagers turned in to mushrooms, right? That’s obvious to everyone? It’s not just me? So … it’s going to be obvious to the players just as soon as they step in to the village … or even see it from a distance? “No signs of life in the village, no dogs or fires or anything, but there are clusters of 6-footish tall mushrooms scattered around in clusters.” 

    What follows is a study in tedium.

    Essentially, there are no encounters in this adventure and there’s nothing to do. I’m not counting fighting. There’s plenty of fighting. The DM text does say “role-playing within a village environment”, but, I don’t think we’re using a common language at least as far as it applies to the term roleplaying. I’m cool with other play styles. I mean, I don’t want fuck-all to do with them, but, hey, if you like them then engage all you want. But I despair over is the loss of meaning. “I like to play D&D” means nothing any more. It could mean literally anything. And this adventure is NOT my definition of D&D.

    Basically, you walk in the village and get attacked. You fight some mushroom people. You can look around in some buildings, but, they are all empty, with minimal descriptions. “Roberts family, 4 children.” a great many of them say with a generic description above them all of a dusty building not lived in for quite some time. There’s no specificity. And it wouldn’t matter if there were because there’s nothing going on in the village. Some giant mushrooms to look at. “Giant mushrooms.” is about all the description you get for them and there’s no interactivity. Get attacked by some mushroom people. Yeah! Find a hole in the ground. Great. There is absolutely NO interactivity in the village. No mystery to solve. Nothing to find. Nothing to explore. And then the “dungeon” starts with it’s eight-ish rooms. Again, no interactivity. You can go right or left. If you go right you find guard mushrooms and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. If you go left you find mushrooms that attack you and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. Each location is essentially just a description saying “There are X mushroom people of type Y at this location.” with a long stat block then mixed in and a note at the end reminding the DM to agro all of the mushroom people. 

    There is no treasure.

    The hook is that the rumors are that the village is empty. Or a merchant hires you because no caravans have come. And the village is at a cross-roads. But no one has explored it all. Cross-roads is not out of the way. But weeks of dust, and un-looted general store implies that it is. Giant trees spore you once you get close. Maybe. Or maybe they don’t? They take weeks to develop. The text says hey are not developed. And then it says they spore the party. None of this shit makes any sense.

    Wandering monsters contains such evocative entries as “small pack animal” and “herd beast.” 

    This is D&D. This is what a large number of people think D&D is. Because it IS that to those people. Just like Critical Role. That IS the definition of D&D for a great many people. The majority, now, I assume. Or D&D is “the DM is telling a story through the adventures” bullshit. Or D&D is mini’s combat and combat-as-sport. But this isn’t D&D. You might have fun doing one of those things. I’m genuinely glad you do. But, at some point, we must agree on the meaning of the word “egg.” If you offer me poached eggs and serve me dried maggots for breakfast then I think it’s fair to assert that I have a right to be disappointed. 

    I find adventures like this so perplexing. How do you put something like this together, with the obvious quality in layout and art, and NOT know what a D&D adventure is? Surely you’ve seen them before? But I guess not? I mean, otherwise, why would something like this exist? Do people care so little for what they attach their names to? I mean, I’m an asshat and too much of a perfectionist, having attached my name to nothing, but this is the other side of the spectrum. 

    I weep. 

    Day after day. Week after week. People who don’t care. On a good day I’ll tell myself that they just don’t know what they don’t know. I don’t understand how they don’t know it, but, it’s clear they don’t. Why else then? 

    Because there is no shining city just over the next hill. All the clouds are grey. It’s just people. People muddling through life. Doing the best they can. Which is substandard 99% of time. And no one really gives a shit, one way or another. There is no hope for a brighter tomorrow.

    And yet, we must imagine that Sisyphus is happy. 

    This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. So, at least there’s that.–A-Worlds-Without-Number-Compatible-Adventure?1892600

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Horrors from the Past

    Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 11/01/2021 - 11:00

    I really should have posted this on Halloween, but entertaining horror is still entertaining horror, right? All last week the Radio Classics channel on satellite radio was a running a series of horror episodes from the Golden Age of radio. Here are a few of the best I heard:

    "Three Skeleton Key": A lighthouse off French Guyana is overrun by thousands of rats from a wrecked derelict. Stars Vincent Price.

    "House in Cypress Canyon": A strange tale of something bestial lurking in a new, post-war subdivision.

    "Poltergeist": No relation to the film of the same name, other than being a tale of a malign spirit moved to horrible vengeance by a desecration of a graveyard.

    "Behind the Locked Door": A sort of Lovecraftian horror story about some discovered in a cave near Lake Mead.

    "The Shadow People": They can't be seen in the light, but a young woman finds out their deadly reality. 

    Pyramid Scheme One Shot Session Report - Halloween Hostile rpg One Shot

    Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 11/01/2021 - 01:54
     DM Steve's Hostile rpg session tonight went very well except my Ranger PC died rather badly tonight sliding into a vat of acid. We started out out of Pleaties station a rather disputable looking space station orbiting a colony world. Our team consisted of 2 Bert & Ernie Rangers, a Spacer named Roger, a rather attractive rogue named Harley, & two roughnecks named Genie & Doralie. We were Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Doc Stalwart 259

    The Splintered Realm - Sun, 10/31/2021 - 16:35

    Well, that's some serendipity.

    I finally finished worked on Doc Stalwart #259, and it is posted to the comics archive on the Doc Stalwart blog.

    This ended being a Halloween-themed issue of sorts, so it's appropriate that it is released on Halloween. However, it is also one of the earliest Doc stories I wrote; I had about half of this done for the past two years, but never could figure out how to work it in to the larger narrative I was working on, or how to work all of the various pieces in that I wanted. I think this one has had more drafts and revisions than any Doc story I've written; I spent the last several days changing just a few words at a time until I got it right where I wanted it. 

    SPOILER ALERT: Read it first before continuing below. Unless you don't really care, then keep reading, I guess :)

    This issue is the culmination of several stories; Jynx and Zirah were never going to be permanent residents in the comic, and I always expected them to fade into the background at some point. This issue ends one part of the larger narrative I've been working on, and the next issue is (in my head) more of an epilogue to the larger story here. I see 261 as starting a 'new' storyline, where Doc will go in search of his daughter and he and Mikah will be traversing the Null Zone. I don't know what is going to happen there yet, like I only have the broadest of strokes done, but I have a few beats I need to hit. Next issue (260) I hope will be a payoff of a few other threads I have lingering, and I hope that it feels like a complete arc when it's done. I don't know that it will be long enough to release as a 'graphic novel without all the pictures' (or whatever I'm thinking of it as), but I do want to find some way to gather the whole thing together in some meaningful way.  

    On a Definitive Table for Avoiding Death

    Hack & Slash - Sun, 10/31/2021 - 09:30

    Hit Points are abstract. 

    Do you feel that your games might like more realistic combat wounds and damage without losing the ease and abstraction of hit points? Would you like critical hits and wounds that create gradations beyond down at 0 up at +0? One that takes into account all types of damage?

    Go ahead and download the free Pandect if you are already interested.

    The core of this system doesn't change default gameplay, it just creates a space between 0 hit points and dead, where damage results in actual wounds and permanent damage instead of death. Perhaps you'd like a less lethal and a more gritty setting—this isn't for all games. It's a poor fit for super heroic games like 5e and Pathfinder at level 7+

    The other advantage is that it makes players significantly more resilient in low level games. Once your hit points are gone, instead of being dead you are subject in increasingly severe wounds. It helps character survival, adds character (people dig scars), and creates more realistic consequences for adventure for games like AD&D, OSE, and other low fantasy settings!

    If you like posts like this, support me on Patreon!

    Hack & Slash FollowTwitchNewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Touches of Chaos & Depravity - Using Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg & its Variants For Interstellar OSR Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 10/31/2021 - 03:49
    Tonight I've been investigating the idea of possibly using 'ACK's & Crafts' written by Matthew Jarmak to help fill out the space sector belonging the ancient Dwarven interstellar empire. These sectors have mostly a late Roman Empire technological level.  'ACK's & Crafts'  has the Dwarven Dynamo PC class which uses cybernetic items integrated into their bodies. And this relic technology has some Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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