12 August 2014

Rest in Peace, Robin.

This is a sad day for me. Probably because I, too, struggle with depression lately. I don't have the words.

I guess that's not quite true. I do consider myself literate and I am a  Magister de Artibus. But in times of great emotion, I lose them. I have only cried over "celebrities" or people that I do not know personally three times.

The first was Pope John Paul II. It was like I had lost my grandfather all over again. The second was when Gary Gygax died. Now admittedly, I had corresponded with Gary for about 12 years before he died, but I never met him in the flesh. And now, Robin.

I really don't have the words. He always seemed so full of energy but there was always a sadness behind those eyes. The Fisher King will remain my favorite movie of his. Well, I guess I'll let Whitman speak for me, although everyone else is today as well. It is appropriate and it is how I feel.

Rest in peace, Robin.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

18 July 2014

D&D 5E: Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle: Session Two (16 July 2014)

~From the private journal of Belgareth of Waterdeep~

(translated from the Infernal)

Mounted on horses from the town, we set out for Cromm's Hold. Shortly after leaving Daggerford, we came across a hooded, dusky-skinned being of some undetermined type who spoke in commanding stentorian tones. Probably a cleric of some sort as he said that it was fated for him to travel with us or somesuch other nonsense. We continued onward and, after a couple of hours in the drizzling mist, we arrived that the keep.

Apparently there had been more than a dragon involved. There were dead lizardmen piled around the ramparts and some even within the keep. A stern-faced woman that we would learn to be Baroness Wynn, was barking orders at the soldiers and restoring some little order to the aftermath of the attack. One of her underofficers had been poisoned and the place was stirring like an anthill after a child pokes a stick in it. The dragon called off its attack in exchange for a ransom--Lord Floshin's family altar?!! Odd, this; why is the connection between the elf and the dragon? After the dragon left, the lizardmen attacked from the marsh.

We spent the afternoon searching for clues--with the exception of the knight Corrwynn who inexplicably volunteered for burial detail. Apparently the lizardmen are infected with some mind-rotting plague that makes them even more bestial and violent than is their common want. I can make nothing of the symbols on the altar as described by the baroness, although I must say that clouds and lightning seem like odd iconography for an Elvish altar. We spent the night at the keep and set out for the appropriately named Lizard Marsh.

Incidentally, we also picked up a trio of militia for our foray. There's an elf ranger, a halfling archer, and a battle-scarred female veteran. the woman is our guide and supposed knows the marsh like the back of her hand. I just hope she knows how to treat leeches. As we meandered through the marsh, we were attacked by a pair of maddened lizardmen who we quickly dispatched with little effort. I think the dragon-elf was attempting to parley with them as she was shouting in Common about being their god. I actually put one to sleep and he slipped into the water and drowned. Apparently, lizardmen cannot breathe underwater while asleep; who knew?

As we meandered through the bayou we came across an upside down ship! Apparently a typhoon or hurricane sent it inland and capsized it where it has remained to this day. I would have loved to have stayed and explored it for a bit, but the rest of the party , especially our insolent guide, were in a hurry to get...somewhere in this gods-forsaken wilderness. Oh, and did I mention that there were frogs, giant frogs? I shall have to reevaluate the prowess of the knight as he was almost eaten by one!

As night feel we finally arrived at our apparent destination. However there was a fire ahead. To make a long story short, suspected treachery on the part of the guide, we sent the Hobbit ahead to scout and he returned with a report of orcs, half-orcs, and a stolen dragon egg! We had meanwhile discovered that tour guide was actually the Elflord Floshin in a magical disguise! He wanted to parley with the beasts to gain the egg as a bargaining chip. Of course, negotiations did not go smoothly....

{At this point, gentle reader, your eyelids droop and you fall into a light sleep.}

[End of the night's session}

13 July 2014

GotPB Session 2: Back to the Moathouse

Well, the gang got together again for a foray into the Moathouse's lower levels.


Beth: Brandy, Fighter 1, N
Katherine: Camelia, Assassin 1, N
Rene': Br. Bob, Monk (of Rao) 1, L
Will: Jason, Magic-User 1, N
Joey: Thelian, Hobniz Thief 1, N
NPCs: Elmo, Zert, Spugnoir, Sidron

Godsday, Planting 4

On Greyhawk, Godsday is a day of rest and spiritual worship. The weather also turned for the worse with a total rainfall for the day measured at about 1.5". The monk spent the day meditating, and  Brandy went to services at the Church of St. Cuthbert. After lunch, a guardsman came and delivered an invitation to the Castle to have dinner with Sir Rufus and his mage Burne.

Rufus questioned the party about their attacks against the bandits and offered to end two of his men with them in the morning.

Waterday, Planting 5

As dawn broke, the rain continued and the party waited until the rain broke to set out. Arriving at the Moathouse, they went down the stairs to the lower levels. The astute Hobniz noticed the green slime at the bottom and measures were taken. The party then ventured into the dungeon area and managed to take care of the zombies although it got hairy at several points. They then searched the torture chamber and failed to find anything of note. In the attack against the ogre, one of Rufus's men was taken out; the secret panel was found as was the secret stairway leading back up. The gnomes were rescued and the armory found. It was decided to return to Hommlet and try to find a farmer with a wagon to hire to bring all the rest back as a donation to the town's militia. A farmer was found who hired out his wagon and two older sons (militia members) to haul the weapons and armor back.

A blurry photo of a dead ogre, after the party had moved on.

Earthday, Panting 6

The party set out with a light rain that broke after an hour or so. All of the booty was secured and, as the party set out for Hommlet, a group of six gnolls, led by Turuko and Kobort attacked from ambush! Rufus's other guard dropped (unconscious at 0 hp), and Brandy was fighting hard, taking hits. The Mage Jason fell, unconscious but not dead and Spugnoir was able to cast sleep and drop 3 of the gnolls. During the thick of the fighting, Zert tuned on the party, back-stabbing Sidron the Elf cleric!Eventually, all are felled save Kobort who surrendered.

The party bound their wounds and returned to Hommlet. Kobort was turned over to Rufus as was the gains from the armory. Rufus said that he understood that it was a donation, but he was once an adventurer as well and gave teh party a black pearl for the haul as well as permission to whatever Zert, Turuko, and Kobort might have left behind in their rooms at the Inn (that would be Zert's lockbox of monies).

And that was all for today.

06 July 2014

GotPB Session One: Return to Hommlet

Well, the Guardians of the Polar Bear are up and running again! This is my home-game with my wife, kids, and stepbrother. We're using the Swords and Wizardry Complete rules. And I'm running the original T1: The Village of Hommlet. Things went pretty well, all told.


Beth: Brandy, Fighter 1, N
Katherine: Camelia, Assassin 1, N
Rene': Br. Bob, Monk (of Rao) 1, L
Will: Jason, Magic-User 1, N
Joey: Trillion, Hobniz Thief 1, N

I like to give my players a bit of backstory. So, for this game, the Hobniz thief was sent by the Guild in Verbobonc to check into the bandits that have been hitting caravans along the trade routes to the north and east of Hommlet. Several envoys have been sent to "bring them into the fold" but all have disappeared. The assassin was hired from the Assassin's Guild's as muscle for him. 

As for the monk, I have enlarged the Paladins of Rao to include monks and clerics in a Holy Order of Rao. They wear brown and tan robes like the Jedi and are famed as negotiators. (Sue me; it's my Greyhawk!)

Starday, Planting 1, 579 CY

The party all met on the road from Verbobonc and decided to travel together, striking up a friendship while on the road. Groups are more profitable and safe than lone men or pairs, they reasoned. Arriving in the north of the village, they stopped in at the Temple of St. Cuthbert and inquired about any help that might be required. A testy Calmert informed them that the Church's business is its own, and if they can take care of the bandits, then great. And good day!

The party then traveled on down the road to the Inn of the Welcome Wench for a lunch as it was a little past noon. The party sat down to table and enjoyed themselves taking note of the different people around the room. The monk of Rao noticed a fellow monk in Turuko and, due to an INT check identified the robes of a member of the Brotherhood of the Grey Hand. [Note that with a three alignment system, I am defining Hextor as Lawful, if tyrannical.] Not allied but not necessarily hostile, the two exchanged pleasantries while Kobort grunted into his ale. Br. Bob let slip that he's looking to end the bandit depredations; Turuko, naturally, let nothing out.

The thief went to talk to an obviously non-local sellsword and met Zert, a caravan guard out of work and looking for some employment. Zert dropped several hints that he's looking for pay, and Trillion said he'll keep him in mind if needed.

The mage Jason noticed someone else dressed in scholar's robes and writing in a book while nibbling at his food and drinking some ale. He struck up a conversation with the talkative Spugnoir who went on at length about the Battle of Emirdy Meadows, the Temple War, and the wonderful epic that he's writing! Eventually getting a word in when Spugnoir stopped for a drink, Jason told him that they're looking into the bandits in the area and that their information (from Calmert) is that most of the raids have been to the north and east. Spugnoir mentioned that there was a small keep of the Temple nearby that was taken out at the end of the Temple War and that the commander was a warlock! For first crack at any magic scrolls, he'd be more than happy to join up.

Meanwhile, the monk arranged to rent the "noble's suite" for the party. Since the obviously heavily armed fighter wasn't paying for anything and everyone else was running around on errands, Ostler and the staff assumed from this point forward that the party was a noblewoman (obviously third child or some such, but still!) and her entourage!

After Jason informed the rest of the party about what Spugnoir had told him, the monk then wandered over to the boisterous, heavily-drinking Elmo. He related to him what they're about, and Elmo mentioned that he knows where that moathouse is, and that his brother Otis was a soldier in the Temple War and offered to show them for a full share of the loot. [Note here that I feel that buying Elmo maille, a big axe and 100 g.p. to join the party is a tad excessive.]

After lunch, the thief and assassin went over to the smith to inquire about weapons. He pointed that while he can do shields and simple metal caps, anything beyond an axe- or spear-head is a little beyond his skill. The smith directed them to the Traders Establishment. Looking around, the pair quickly determined that things were way overpriced although the Hobniz bought a single dagger. Noticing the symbol of the three globes, they then went over to the money-changer. After a use of Thieves Cant, bona fides were established and the money-changer took the thief in back for a private discussion. He related that nothing has been heard from the emissaries sent to the bandits, and the best option is probably to just go ahead and eliminate them. He also related that he's uneasy; none of the missing goods have come through Hommlet at all; no new caravans with suspicious goods or the like. The large ones have been left alone, but anything with fewer than a dozen guards has been hit. Nobody has approached him to fence jewelry or anything small and valuable. Before Trillion left, the money-changer offered to fence anything he finds at normal Guild rates (80% of value as opposed to the 40-60% he offers to most adventurers) and will also change money at no cost (within reason).

After dinner, Trillion went up to Zert's room and offered him the same deal that the monk offered Elmo: full share in the company. [As an aside, money is split up evenly; magic items are given to whoever can use it most effectively or party vote if disputed. It makes more sense; yes, sometimes people lose out, but what use is a wand of magic missiles to a fighter, for instance?] Of course, he readily agreed.

Sunday, Planting 2, 579 CY

The next morning, everyone gathered and set out early for the moat-house. No giant frogs attacked them in the swamp, nor did kobolds or bullywugs ambushed them. The halfling lead the way across the drawbridge, the rest staying well behind. He checked out the drawbridge tower and went in alone. The huge wolf spider dropped down and surprised him, but a miss! He yelled for help, and everybody sprung into action. The spider was defeated, the only damage being 1 h.p. on the mage Jason who did not succumb to poison.

They then proceeded to the Moathouse proper and decided to clear the west wing first. The thief went in again alone and was attacked (but not surprised this time!) by a giant lizard! The party again sprung into action and the lizard was taken down; however, Br. Bob was dropped to -2 h.p.! [I'm using a house rule that death does occur until -1st level hit points are reached.] The party decided to hightail out for town, putting the Jedi, er monk, on Zert's horse. [Note also that the bandits were watching them the entire time but was unsure. They did take down the spider and the lizard pretty handily.] First, though, they recovered the box of armor, and the mage (who is 12 in real life and has never played this or the video game before) found the magic shield by cutting open the lizard.

They arrived back at the Inn with a near-dead monk, and Ostler sent one of his potboys for the druid Jaroo. Jaroo performed a CSW on the monk fully healing him. Payment to help the needy was discussed and the party finally decided to part with the ivory box that they found in the spider's lair. Jaroo accepted and was off. At this point, the party decided that they need healing and bad.

The thief Trillion went off to talk to the Canon Terjon and, after a 9 g.p. offering to the poor box, got to meet with the Canon. The talk centered around the possibility of healing and possibly accompanying them on their quest. Terjon made it clear in no uncertain terms that would not happen as no one in the party was a member of his flock. Healing could be available at the temple, but no promises. A very upset Hobniz left back for the inn.

Jaroo by Yannick de Guedart

Meanwhile, the assassin went to talk to the Druid. Coming to the end of the trail at his shrine and house, she noticed a bowl set beside a gong. Putting 5 gold in the bowl and then striking the gong, Jaroo appeared.They discussed briefly the cycle of life in the village and eventually, however, the assassin got the same answer as the thief did from Terjon.

The mage took the shield that he recovered over to Brother Smith for inspection. The smith confirmed that it was well-made and then grasped an amulet around his neck and muttered a prayer while passing his other hand over the shield which began to glow. He smiled and said that it appeared to have a minor magical enchantment on it. The mage asked if he needed any repairs, and Smith answered that it could use some polishing and maybe some new straps. A couple of silver would handle it and he could have it ready by evening.

[This is the point where I informed the players that Churches in my campaigns just don't hand out healing. Especially since the clerics and druids have congregations to care for. Things like Brother Smyth (who is a minor initiate) casting minor magic like detect magic, well, that's no big deal.]

That said, there was a bit of deus ex machina on my part. Black Jay arrived at the Inn during the evening meal, much to the surprise of the locals. The party noticed the whispers as the grizzled, black-cloaked man came in with a figured hooded and cloaked in forest green. The assassin asked one of the barmaids what the hubbub was about. She mentioned that Black Jay was a ranger during the Temple War and, while he was gone with the militia, a goblin raiding party hit the village. Jay's wife and infant child were killed. Since then, Jay was withdrawn and garrulous and kept to himself, tending his sheep on a hill above the village and making extra money by selling arrows to Smyth to resell. It was rumored, however, that the elves that he knew never abandoned him and still occasionally visited him. The barmaid wondered if that was one of the Olve with him.

After having a mug of ale or two, the pair made their way over to the party. Black Jay introduced himself and his friend Sidron, a cleric of Ehlonna, and then awkwardly excused himself and left. Sidron related that a vision from the Lady had instructed him to seek out those who were coming to fight the Dark Power now rising and placed himself at the party's disposal. [Yes, I'm a softie, but they need a cleric in this.]

There was some minor bookkeeping, but everyone went to bed to prepare for the next day.

Moonday, Planting 3, 579 CY

Again the party set out for the two-hour trek to the Moathouse. Some discussion ensued on the way. It was decided that the thief should check the doors and then move back for the fighters to break in the doors.

This time, the first door kicked in was the bandit lair. First thing, Jason dropped a sleep spell that took out 8 of the 9 bandits, leaving the leader standing alone. He quickly surrendered in the face of overwhelming odds. The assassin and mage dispatched the bandits while the monk was interrogating the prisoner. Roleplaying it out, basically he refused to say anything about the rest of the bandits except that were more below and if he said anymore, he was surely a dead man. In exchange for showing the party his stash, he wanted his weapons and a walk out of there. The party agreed and, yes, he will keep his word.

The party then decided to call it a day (and we as players a night).

As the astute reader might have noticed, I'm not only drawing from the original, but also from the video game and the two novels (The Temple of Elemental Evil and The Deed of Paksenarrion). This allows me to add more depth and color and to throw out some curves as well.

Until next time, gentle readers, think of the possibilities!

03 July 2014

D&D Next: Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle: Session One

~From the private journal of Belgareth of Waterdeep~

(translated from the Infernal)

I seem to have fallen into an adventure. Allow me me to explain.

My name is Belgareth the mage. I recently completed my apprentice work in Waterdeep and have set out as a journeyman mage to learn more about the world, its environs, and its secrets. The festival at Daggerford, just south of Waterdeep, seemed like a most excellent place to begin. I was not entirely sure why I headed this way; perhaps I was driven by Fate, although consciously I was thinking that the market might have something of interest or there might be rumours of something to follow up on. However, such was not in the cards.

As soon as I arrived the weather turned positively dismal. Rain, rain, and even more rain for every day of the festival. I found myself huddled under a leaky makeshift pavilion outside the local inn dicing for coppers with a varied lot of strangers. I am terrible with names; I blame a certain preoccupation with arcane lore and the like; such mundane trivia does not interest me. 

First off, there was a charming, loquacious chap of intense curiosity and obvious literacy. He seems determined to write an epic. By the Dark Father, I hope it's not in verse! He obviously has designs on becoming as famous as Volo or maybe even Jain Farstrider. Only time will tell. I must say, however, that his enthusiasm was a refreshing beam of light in that dark place.

Sitting across from me at the table was a stout, untalkative warrior. Apparently, he's a pit fighter from Waterdeep who goes by the charming sobriquet of "the Typhoon," apparently due to the fact that he is trained in chain fighting. I have not, naturally, heard of him because my final studies for my prentice work preventing indulging myself in attendance at the games. A pity. I would have liked to see this bruiser fight. Of course, I might yet, from a much closer vantage point. I'll have to keep him between myself and trouble.

Next to him was an elven wildling of some type. Perhaps she is what some dwarves call a "doo-ad;" I think the Common term is druid, but I'm not sure; my studies have only briefly touched on religion. She is more imperious of mien than the wildling elves of the forest glades, however, more like the so-called "high" elves in demeanor. As the evening progressed it came out that she claims to be a dragon stuck in mortal form! Fascinating, if true. She shall bear watching.

Finally, seated next to me was a human knight from Cormyr. At first I took him for an impoverished sell-sword, maybe a jumped-up hedge knight. But, apparently his family has fallen on hard times; there was some story about an idiot brother allowing a barge full of iron to sink to the bottom of the sea followed by a very expensive salvage operation. He's not a bad sort, really, although his old-fashioned gallantry is somewhat amusing. Definitely not material for a shield warrior for me. He'll probably want to run this potential adventuring company that appears to be coalescing; that is perfectly fine with me. The one out front gets to take the slings of fortune right on the nose.

On a side note, the knight has an old family retainer, a dwarf named Darius. I hope he doesn't get in the way. Incidentally, it's odd that I can remember the names of servants and rulers, but not my "peers." Huh.

Apparently, there was an orc attack on some sun elf noble's house here in the town recently, a Lord Floshin or some such. Supposedly a Red Wizard of Thay was the plotter and had disguised himself as a gardener in the lord's employ.  He also might have had an accomplice as he was seen talking to a stranger prior to the attack. That I take with a grain of salt as the humans say; it was, more than likely, just a chance encounter. But with the red-robed ones of Thay, one can never be sure.

I spent a miserable night huddled with humans and their squalling brats in a tent erected for the town's overflow (as there was no room at the inn). Fortunately,  they appear to have noticed my deific blood as they did not crowd me and afforded me more space than others; still insufficient, but it was the best to be hoped for.

The next morning, the red wizard was hanged. It was still depressingly wet, but it was the typical human spectacle. The sun elf was there at the scaffold as was a paladin, shining like a beacon in the darkness of the early morn. The town's duke arrived, Madwyn or something like, maybe Maelgwyn. Blasted humans and their mewling monkey tongue! As the appointed time approached, the tattoos on the Red Wizard began to glow. It was quite amusing to see the humans start to panic; even the paladin began to draw his greatsword. They always fear what they know not. But, it came to naught as the Thayan got the short drop.

The crowd dispersed and, as it did, I noticed the impoverished knight approach the nobles at the scaffold and followed by the dragon-turned-elf. I began to make my way in that direction when a rider appeared and reported to the nobles that a nearby keep was under attack by a black dragon! The knight, naturally, offered his assistance. I decided to throw my lot in as well; who knows what secrets I might unveil?

I am writing this in haste as we ride on the nonce. 

03 April 2014

C is for (Sandbox) Campaign

It should be apparent to anyone that's read my blog for any amount of time that I prefer sandbox settings. My favorite module for any system is GW1 The Legion of Gold that outlines the Barony of Horn for Gamma World followed closely by B2: Keep on the Borderlands that outlines the surroundings of the Caves of Chaos. And, of course, who can forget T1 The Village of Hommlet? Adventures that have add-ons, such as the wilderness areas for Rappan Athuk or Freya's Crucible (both originally by Necromancer Games coincidentally; RA was recently upgraded to Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder editions by Frog God Games, the successors to NG) fall into the sandbox category to some extent as well. The focus of these modules is, of course, on the megadungeon or the plotline respectively, but sandbox material is provided as well. While I've stated in the past that Greyhawk is my favorite campaign setting, the Wilderlands/City State of the Invincible Overlord by Bob Bledsaw and the Judges Guild runs a very close second. The setting is very sandbox and gives sparse details on the campaign maps for the DM (Judge?) to develop.

The best thing about sandbox adventures is that it's a lot like a buffet. The DM sets out the food, and the players choose what they want. Admittedly, it is a lot of work for the DM, and he can't be a control freak. The players just might take their characters completely off-script. Now, occasionally, the DM will have had a busy and no time to think, much less plan for a game. The players might want to head off for Greyhawk City when the DM has only prepared adventure hooks (weeks before) around Hommlet (where the players are). In a case like this, there's nothing wrong with telling the players, "Guys, I've had a week from Hell. I know you really want to go to Greyhawk, but I'm not prepared at all for that. Could you go after a hook in town? I'll work up plans for Greyhawk City for next week." Most players will understand and go with it; we've all had those weeks.

The ability to improvise is a key skill as well. Maybe the DM is good enough to roll with the journey to Greyhawk and can come up with something on the fly that fulfills the players's expectations. If one can do that, great! Go for it. If the players feel like their choices and input influence the game, they become invested and interested in the setting and will want more! If they don't have that feeling and instead feel like they're on the Plot Wagon (TM), well, they may as well be playing EverQuest 2. Or, worse yet, WoW.

Another ability to keep in mind is recycling and I'm not talking about newspapers and aluminum cans, either. In this instance, it refers to using adventures that the players have bypassed; this is not railroading, either, but a labor-saving device. Let's assume that in the Hommlet setting mentioned above, the Judge had worked up a goblin warren to the southeast of Hommlet; however, the players have elected to take that journey to Greyhawk. On the journey overland, Fate intervenes and a wandering monster check indicates an attack by goblins. Rather than just randomly rolling the goblins up, the party is attacked by a patrol or raiding party from a goblin warren. The players decide to follow fleeing survivors and find the lair. Recycling in action. And note that this goblin warren is not in the same location; this could be three weeks out on the way to Greyhawk. It has been transplanted, and the DM has a week to work on Greyhawk! Also, be careful not to MAKE the players go where you want. If the players killed the goblin patrol or let the fleeing survivors go and don't look for the lair, so be it. But you were ready if they did!

Another good example of this is reusing vintage modules. When I first started the Guardians of the Polar Bear (my God, was that 2004 when Kat was nine and Rene' was seven?!!), I placed the Necromancer's mansion from U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh on a rock atoll about a mile-and-a-half on the road north out of Hommlet. The caves at the bottom opened into a forest clearing. The necromancer had disappeared about the time of the Battle of Emirdy Meadows. The pirates became a detached group of bandits and gnolls from Lareth's moathouse and thus tied into the overall setting in a different way than before. Recycling; learn it well.

Finally, the sandbox DM should learn to use communication with his players. Help them determine a real background for their characters. Ask for their input after a game; see what goals that have and what they plan to accomplish. One can see this in the Hommlet campaign with the NPCs. Elmo mentions his brother Otis long before the players ever go to Nulb. A PC's family can be the source of new characters if the original character falls in battle, such as poor Kane Deathchant. Maybe the character is the young scion of an Elvan noble family from Celene. Upon reaching 4th level, news of the character's exploits have reached Celene and the character's family (or maybe even Queen Yolande herself!) sends the character a gift in the way of a Quiver of Ehlonna with 6 +1 arrows. Deus ex machina? Maybe a little; but it does help the characters in game and also helps keep them invested in the story.

Overall, sandbox settings are a lot of work to set up. However, properly executed, they can create a world that feels as vibrant and alive as anything in the works of fiction and definitely better than a static MMO.
Until tomorrow, gentle readers, dream of glory and adventure!

02 April 2014

B is for Bob

. . . .and not just any Bob but Bob Bledsaw!

One of the most heated debates in the OSR is who the true Father of Dungeons and Dragons truly is. Is it Gygax or Arneson? The thing that always disturbs me about this is that Bledsaw gets ignored quite a bit it seems. I realize, of course, that he's not in the running for Father, but (no offense to Rob or Ernie or Luke) I feel he deserves the title  First Son of Role-playing. Why, you ask?

1975, not long after D&D was released, Bledsaw created the Judges Guild. Now, that doesn't seem like a lot today with all the gaming companies out there in the wake of the OGL, but at the time, it was revolutionary. He was a man of vision. Judges Guild received permission from TSR to put out adventures and other supplements for D&D. TSR would not put out an adventure module until 1978! Even then, if reports are to be believed from those in the know, Gary was somewhat bewildered as to why people would want to use prepared adventures rather than create their own.

Another good thing was that JG added some organization to the mess. If one plays 0E today, there is no resource more valuable than JG's Ready Ref Sheets. Some collected charts, sure, but the majority was new material for the Judge to use in making his campaign come to life. And the adventures, maps, and settings! Wilderlands, the City-State, Thracia, Duck Tower! Both Kevin Siembieda and Jennell Jacquays started out with JG as well. Imagine what we would have lost without Bledsaw. Don't get me wrong; I love me some Hommlett and some B2. But JG's adventures are somehow better. Much as I love Gary, part of the creativity was channeled into balance and polish leading to what WOTC and Hasbro have become--souless.

And, as an aside, CSIO is coming back. Please support the Kickstarter here.

Until tomorrow, gentle readers, dream of troublesome strumpets in the City-State!

01 April 2014

A is for Aardvarkian

Inspired by the comic hero Cerebus the Aardvark, Aardvarkians were included in the Hackmaster RPG's Hacklopedia. An enterprising Hackmaster DM, Jan Monk, wrote them up as a PC race in Hackjournal #7. Therefore, in the interest of spreading this race for OSR play and also in the spirit of the day, I give you the Swords & Wizardry Complete stats!

Aardvarkians are short, furry humanoids with features similar to that of the common aardvark. They love foraging for insects and gain +2 to hit insects of any kind/size. However, they also have poor eyesight and have -1 to hit targets in ranged combat at medium range and -2 at long range.  They gain +1 to hit with spears and javelins due to its extensive use among their tribes.

Aardvarkians tend to be somewhat misogynistic; however, their lack of contact with other races and poor eyesight means that they have a base 50% chance (-5% per level above 1st) to mistake females as males. They also tend to avoid water because a wet Aardvarkian smells horrid; until he dries out, the Aardvarkian cannot surprise any being or creature with  a sense of smell. They are twice as susceptible to alcohol than humans; this is left to the individual referee to adjudicate.

Another feature of their physiology is their sharp claws. They can attack in melee with these claws for 1-3 points of damage. The more important feature of these claws is their use in burrowing. An unencumbered Aardvarkian can burrow through soft earth at 1/4 of their walking movement rate. In their lands, Aardvarkians use this skill to burrow into the earth and attack trespassers by surprise (3-in-6 chance).

Aardvarkians adjust their stats as follows: -1 Strength, +1 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma. They can become Fighters (9th), Rangers (6th), or Thieves (12th). If the referee has a Barbarian class, that is an option as well (unlimited advancement). They are not able to multiclass. Aardvarkian thieves make the following adjustments to thieving skills: Hear Sounds +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, and Open Locks -5%.

2014 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge

Well, here we are again; time for another Challenge. I've done this twice: once in 2011 and again in 2013. And, as much as I've wanted variety, I'm doing fantasy yet again! This year I'm going to focus on Swords and Wizardry Complete by Frog God Games the successors to Necromancer Games.

In last year's challenge, I might have come across as too harsh on the OSR in general and retro-clones in particular. However, as I later posted in "E is for Editions," I don't really have much of a beef with retro-clones but in their marketing and presentation. Besides, how can anyone say something bad about a company that gives their core rules away for free? Definitely not a money grab.

When I get home tonight, I'll post my first blog that, while serious in content, is somewhat of an April Fool's post. E

Until later later, gentle readers, do not confused by today's news stories!