Monday, 19 February 2018

Rift City session 7

The party was joined by two new members for this session - one the result of Sven's player needing a new PC (Daisy, a Halfling) and another as a result of a new player joining us for this session (Karensa, an Elf). So that meant the party this time around was Daisy (Halfling), Karensa (Elf), Berg (Dwarf), Gwynthor (Cleric), Galen (Elf), Gibbet (Thief), Polly (Magic User), Frost (Fighter) and Cnut (Fighter).

First thing was trying to get back to the general area where the party was before. Their map, because these caves aren't in straight lines and 90° angles, is 'a bit wonky'. Corridors don't necessarily join up when they should. But it was OK, they got there.

The first encounter they had was with some Kobolds. There have been several groups of Kobolds in this area before now. This is because this area of the cave-system is the base of two groups, the Orc-Kobold alliance, and the Death Cult with its undead minions. These two factions are in alliance, though neither really trusts the other. They are united however against another dungeon faction that the PCs haven't really encountered yet, the Goblin-Drow axis. Of course there are no Drow/Dark Elves in B/X or BECMI, but that doesn't really matter. These Drow are Chaotic Elves who live underground and like spiders. They have corrupted the local Goblin leaders to their spider-cult, and formed an alliance with them against the Orcs.

The Goblins that the PCs have met so far refused to accept the new Elvo-Arachnoid order and were driven out. They have in fact been exiles eking out a marginal existence in the spaces between the other factions. The Orcs don't really care however if the Goblins worship Maglubiyet or Lolth, they regard both groups as enemies. The Death Cult (the Cult of the Wraith Princess, centred around necromancy and ancestor-worship) is also opposed to the cult of Lolth.

So what it boils down to is two main groupings: Orcs-Kobolds-Acolytes-Undead against Goblins/Hobgoblins-Elves-Spiders. If the PCs venture further south they will probably run into the Goblins. If they go further west, they'll run into Cultists and Undead, then more Kobolds and Orcs.

Going down a level inside the caves will lead (from the Goblin caves) to more Goblins and some Bugbears, and also some weirdness that I've barely started to comprehend at the moment... a re-skinned evil Treant that is controlling some of the Goblins via its drugged fruit. From the Orc caves going deeper is liable to lead to more undead but also some Ogres.

However, there are other ways in - the cave-system is built into the side of a valley and has maybe 30 entrances, with those nearer the bottom of the valley being the more dangerous. The PCs have so far entered about 5 of these entrances, all on the 'left' (uphill) side of the road. There are more caverns to explore on the left, but there are also caverns below the road to the right. Further on, the road loops back at a lower level, providing access to the lower-level caves where it's rumoured a Minotaur (possibly, in this campaign world, a 'Minrotaur', as it may be named after the legendary Minros, once the king of the Minrothad Islands) and a Dragon dwell, among other powerful monsters.

But at the moment, the caverns the PCs are exploring are Level One caves on the left (South, up-hill) side of the road. So, Orcs, Kobolds, Skeletons and Acolytes are going to be what they run into up there. and indeed this is pretty much the roll-call of monsters that they encountered.

First, the Kobolds: skirmishers moved back by the Orcish chief into the previously-cleared caves. They didn't wait to be massacred and when the party dropped a few, the rest ran off after a very failed morale check. The party pursued - but the Kobolds were tricksy, leading them to a guard-room of Acolytes. The Kobolds vanished - somewhere - while the PCs fought the Acolytes. It wasn't ever going to be a fair fight - there were only 5 of the cultists (in plate and shield to be sure) but there were 9 in the party, also for the most part in plate and shield. And the Acolytes had no missile weapons or magic. So the party managed to see them off pretty quickly. They then stripped the bodies and piled up the armour hoping to take it home to sell.

In a nearby room - Skeletons! This is part of the complex patrolled by the Death Cult after all. Necromancy isn't just a fun family pastime for these guys, its their sacred duty. Until all the cultists are driven off the undead will just keep coming round here. This is something like the 5th encounter with undead the PCs have had in 7 sessions, and like all the other groups of Skeletons, the party made short work of these too. Skeletons are much less likely to fail morale checks of course, but that just means they are stupider than Kobolds. They haven't got any brains you see.

After smashing the Skellies it was back to the job at hand. The Kobolds however had fled, so the party made the quite sensible decision I think to go a different way - away from the part where everyone was warned they were coming. So, they crept down a corridor they'd not explored before - a properly-constructed straight corridor this one, running due west. After about 80' or so, there was a turning to the right and just past that a door to the left. They checked out the door to the left first - Orcs! Several of them! I can't actually remember off hand how many, 5 I think, but enough to cause a temporary headache anyway. Particularly to Berg, who got herself killed. Luckily the party dispatched the Orcs and tried first aid which meant Berg's condition was upgraded from 'dead' to 'very poorly'. Daisy was also injured in the affray. She and Berg stayed in the room with the dead Orcs while the rest of the party went round the corned to check out the other passage.

There was another door there - Skeletons! In a room with some stone coffins and a few more dead bodies (luckily not more undead). The PCs smashed these Skellies too, and looted the room (including a stash of silver hidden under a flagstone), then went back to Berg and Daisy.

Finding out that Berg was at least conscious they made the decision to leave while they were all still alive. Pausing only to pick up the armour, they were attacked by Fire Beetles (not part of the factions in the dungeon amazingly, just some wandering wildlife)!

Fire Beetles have been on the party's hit-list since hearing a rumour that a MU was paying cash for 'interesting monster parts'. So they harvested as many fire-glands as they could and took them home too. Polly the Magic User was particularly pleased as she's been trying to find some monster parts for weeks to trade with Gisuintha the Magic User. As a professional courtesy, I suppose.

Just time to divide the loot back at the city and tally up the XP, and the session was over... who knows what will happen next time?

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Happy Birthday to Me...

It was my birthday recently. One never asks an Orc their age, but I saw the Bakshi Lord of the Rings in the cinema (probably in 1979, the year I first read it) and started playing D&D in 1981 with the Moldvay Basic Set. That's a pretty good indicator.

I got some game-related stuff. From my awesome parents, I received the Eldritch Horror game. I have no idea what they would made of it (they're religious, in a very tolerant sort of way), but I think it looks pretty groovy. It's certainly heavy. I have punched out all of the counters but am yet to persuade Mrs Orc to play: we'll get there soon I hope.

My brother, his amazing wife and incredible son gave me the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System hardback book. I have read a lot of it and I'm very impressed at the production values and way it joins stuff up. I still think that the ACKS was the wrong way to go but they made such a brilliant job of it. I think - maybe - it would have achieved more sales if it had not just substantially repackaged B/X with some great additions, but if instead it had been released as some supplements - one for the 'domain game' stuff, one for character creation. Both of those sections are really good and will I think soon be making appearances in my ongoing campaign. Some of the rest is... stuff I already own but slightly reworded. I dunno, maybe I wouldn't have bought a 'campaign system' for 1/3 the price and an 'expanded character creation system' book for 1/3 the price and all the other ways this could be done, so maybe I'm wrong and Autarch are right. I don't have any games company, let alone one that releases such well-made stuff so am I really a good judge? I just have a feeling I'd have invested sooner if the initial price-hump hadn't been so high. But something like a 64-page soft-cover dealing with Chapter 10 would have been good.

From my lovely wife, who really doesn't know what she's done, I got the Carcosa book. It is of course great, I think there will be some memorable adventures that leap from its pages in years to come. I have form here, please see some posts from the middle of last year by following the 'Carcosa' label - but man oh man I hate 10-mile hexes. So, I've hatched a plot. It's a stupid plot, but right up my ally as far as making things harder for myself by not adapting to change is concerned (which I do a lot... I am still playing B/X-BECMI D&D after all).

Geoff McKinley says that the descriptions are only a small part of what is actually happening in the space covered by the map. That's fine. Adding extra encounters is OK. I have a bunch of hexes that I have already mapped. I think there must be a way to smash my map in the map as already exists and see what happens. I imagine it as being a sort of fractal process.

I think the way I am going to attempt it is to turn Geoff's 10-mile hexes into my favoured 6-mile hexes. This will mean that the number of hexes will increase 3-fold (for 10-to-6 hex-theory, please see this post in particular). This will slightly increase the area being mapped but to be honest I don't care. I don't think it ever says 'it's 480 miles from Carcosa to the Bottomless Lochs' or whatever so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

There are currently 400 hexes and 800 descriptions: this will become 1,200 hexes with 800 descriptions. My hexes (currently 200) will become 400. I will double the numbers of each terrain type and apply them to the map... I'm not entirely sure how but I'll think about it. I suspect I'd kind of interpolate my hexes, by adding my 20 columns and 10 rows (not forgetting to double them) to the existing 25 columns and 16 rows by some kind of proportional process. If my hex doesn't fit the general theme of the map at that point, then so what? There's a tiny little (6-mile hex) mountain in the ice-field or a bit of desert in a lake (erm, an island maybe?). Or even a series of small lakes in the desert. I can live with that.

Some of the hex descriptions I have are already directly lifted from the Carcosa preview, so I need to find these and eradicate them as duplicates. One, though not lifted from the Carcosa preview, in that it already existed as part of John Stater's Kepler-22B project 'Strange New World', was swapped for a Carcosa preview description; the red vitrified ground in Sector G9 (from 2014, before I even remember having heard of the Carcosa book) was very similar to a description of vitrified white ground in a hex in the Carcosa preview. I swapped mine for Geoff's in my mapping is all. I guess the idea of vitrified ground can occur to more than one person.

But anyway, I have something like 136 descriptions, of which maybe 12 were from the preview. That leaves about 124. I need to add 400 hexes. It's fine, 124 more locations (including something like 30 settlements, a couple of them largish for Carcosa) will fit in that space with hardly anyone noticing. Maybe I should fill in all 400 new hexes? That would be a challenge!

But perhaps, in line with the advice for peopling the map from ACKS I could just interpolate the hexes and keep some of the locations back: when the PCs stumble on them, that's when I add them to the map... I need to read that bit again and think how it applies to Carcosa, the world, and Carcosa, the book. And I need to work out the maths of thing. That may take a little while.

In essence it's simple - in the first hex in the top left of the Carcosa map is an area of plains with trees. In the top left of my map is an area of barren plains. Making one hex into three means there are two mostly-forest-hexes and one barren plains hex. But making that work when I have to also increase the 'sides' of my map from 10 to 16 and the 'top-and-bottom' from 20 to 25 is less easy. The proportions aren't the same so my hexes will have to be taller than they are wide (conceptually at least).

The total number of hexes needs to be divided so that north-south and east-west proportions are round about right. My map, of 200 hexes, was 20x10. The Carcosa map, of 400 hexes, was 25x16. The new map, of 1,200 hexes, probably needs to be somewhere between 40x30 and 50x24 to keep something like the right 'aspect ratio'. Maybe 48x25 is right. They seem to be the only ways of dividing 1,200 hexes in a reasonable ratio anyway. My map is at 12:6 EW:NS. The original is about 9:6 EW:NS. Somewhere between those looks to be about right. 50x24 is just over 12:6 so goes too far in having its EW dimension greater than twice its NS dimension. 40x30 is at 8:6 so goes too far the other way and has an EW dimension less than 1.5 times the NS dimension. 48x25 is just about 11:6 and at the moment looks like the best fit.

Meh, I'll get there. Then I can go mad and do a 24-mile hex map based on the map from Carcosa, which is what I really want!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Rift City Session 6

The sixth (wow yeah count them) of our open gaming sessions happened on the 21st, a week late because of huge scheduling conflicts - in the end, the rest of the players decided they'd rather have it at another time so that I could DM, rather than anyone else volunteering to run a game. Next month we're going to have to change things again, as our usual venue will be occupied - the Leicester Comedy Festival is on in February and most of the places we could meet in the city will be hosting gigs. So, we're having a night off from meeting in public (I know that kinda defeats the point of an open gaming session but it's only one month) to meet at one of the players' houses.

Anyway, the session started in the inn frequented by adventurers coming to Rift City. There, Sven the Dwarf, Frost the Fighter, Gwynthor the Cleric, Gibbet the Thief and Poly the Magic User were breakfasting and discussing their assault on the caves when they were approached by Berg, another Dwarf and Cnut, another Fighter, asking if they could join the party for a bit of dungeon-delving. 

While they were still breakfasting, they were also joined by Galen the Elf, who (being a bit richer than the others as the only PC survivor of the successful raid at the last session) had decided to take up more salubrious accommodation and had taken a room at the Scoundrels' House, a more up-market place all together.

I also supplied the players with a map of the main parts of Rift City; apart from their inn, I've marked on four of the main drinking establishments, the main market area at 'The Circus', a couple of temples and a few other locations of note. Some of these turn up in the large rumour-table I have (100 rumours culled from a variety of sources - the inns and rumours are bound together if you get them from the Donjon site, but not from Inkwell Ideas - which is fine, I need more than six rumours per inn). Some of them have adventures attached all of their own. I won't say which.
Rift City map, including several sites from various random rumour sources...
So anyway the party got itself together at last and set off for the caves. They decided that they might as well go after Orcs - rescuing the poor enslaved Gnome had obviously touched the conscience of... well Galen probably, he was the only PC to have gotten out alive, but he must have been dashed persuasive.

So, they ventured in: they passed the body of Bob the Fighter (who died in sight of the exit last time); no Kobolds this time but in one of the rooms that had been emptied last session, a Crab Spider attacked Galen.

Galen is approximately as armoured as the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz. His nose may count as a vulnerable location but I'm not sure. Whatever, even with dropping from the ceiling with surprise, the Crab Spider was unable to bite Galen before the rest of the party made it into Spider jam. Polly was desperately trying to save any interesting parts to take back to the wizard in town who's collecting such things, but couldn't really identify enough bits in the mush to be of use.

A bit further on - Ghouls, two of them. There are a lot of them around, in 6 sessions there have been at least 3 encounters with Ghouls. Gwynthor tried to Turn them but failed, and they moved to attack. Again, 8 party members made short work of them. No-one was bitten. No-one was paralysed. They were lucky.

They were lucky with Wandering Monsters too. I kept rolling high. No monsters.

They pushed on, looking for the Orcish slavers. But they found some Elves, three of them, a party like themselves out for the killing of monsters and the liberation of treasure - for noble purposes of course. Not only was Galen an Elf, but Sven the Dwarf also speaks Elvish, so the Elves weren't immediately hostile. Some information and wishes for a successful quest were exchanged, Sven was declared to be a noble comrade who would be remembered in the stories of their people, and then as the Elves went past, Gibbet pick-pocketed them, gaining a handful of coins for his trouble.

Several empty rooms, recently cleared - by the party, 'yesterday' in fact. There was some discussion about whether to turn left or right at the furthest point - they turned left but just to do one last room before turning right for home again. And the room happened to be one in which there was some actual treasure. A locked chest, with a poison needle trap - and Gibbet managed, the dice-gods alone know how, to get it open without killing himself. The loot was counted and divided - 300SP, 20GP and two huge gems - and the party decided to high-tail it to the exit.

And then, in the distance, more figures. This was it turns out another NPC party. The only wandering monster in the whole session was basically friendly. They propositioned Berg (the leader of the other pary was a male Dwarf, and Berg a female - they arranged a meeting later that evening), wished the PCs luck,  and warned them the Orcs and Skeletons lay between them and the exit before heading off to the south-east, further into the cave system.

Indeed, a few moments later, the PCs found the cave where the eight Skeletons were. Gwynthor again began trying to compel them by the power of Yrt (a god who mostly manifests himself through pine-cones, or this at least is what Gwynthor believes). Gwynthor shouted at them and commanded them by the power of Yrt not to resist; the rest of the party then battered them to death... or, more to death.

One more room and one more room... after the Skeletons, who were disappointingly short of treasure, the two Dwarves entered another room, that smelled bad and had piles of droppings on the floor - from bats, probably. But the party didn't care, they were treasure-hunting. Unfortunately Sven set off a floor-trap and fell 10'. Lowering Gibbet down on a rope to see how Sven was, the PCs realised their Dwarven comrade was going to soon bleed out. Alas, Gibbet was unable to staunch Sven's wounds and the noble Dwarf died of a broken beard (or something).

Then... the party decided to argue for ages about how to divvy up all the loot. Eventually I rolled a few dice and said "your argument is interrupted by an axe smacking into the wall above you". The Orcs they'd been looking for, merely a few tens of yards up the corridor, had come looking for them having heard the commotion. But, the Orcs were attacking superior numbers of better-armoured foes. They threw their hand-axes as they charged, but they never even made it into hand-to-hand. By the time Polly used her 'Sleep' spell on them more than half were already dead. The rest had their throats cut and their possessions looted, and then it was off home to sell the weapons and gems and divide up the gold, another successful day of murder-hoboing accomplished, the only fly in the ointment the death of Sven Olafson, noble Dwarf and friend of Elves, not to mention wolves everywhere.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Rift City Session 5

I don't remember too much about this I'm afraid. There was bad weather in the UK which somewhat curtailed people coming out to play. At least one of the regular players (maybe two?) and one irregular player had to work. Also, it being winter, there was a certain amount of illness about. As a result, there were only three of us at the session.

Apart from me, the only adventurers were Galen the Elf and ... damn I can't even remember. There were also a couple of NPCs, a Cleric called Vortigern and a Fighter called Zanok. The NPCs were both pregens from old-time White Dwarf AD&D adventures - from WDs 93 and 49 if I remember correctly. Galen had spent time out of the dungeon trying to track down the wizard who was offering a reward for 'exotic animal parts' - the light-glands from Fire Beetles and the honey of Killer Bees for a start, and in general other interesting or magical parts. But in the end they didn't harvest any organs or secretions at all.

The party fought Kobolds (some more had moved into the caverns cleared of Kobolds in the previous session), and undead, and some giant lizards. At last the party (minus Vortigern, who had died fighting the lizards) had some serious money though, the looting had been good with some bags of gold and some jewellery.

And then, on the way out of the tunnels, the party disturbed a flock of stirges (not the 1980s electro band) and one attacked Damn I Can't Even Remember full in the face. And he was dead, really dead, because Elementary Staunching failed. This was the new character of the same player that was 'Lucky' Fisheye Len last time. This was his 3rd session and 2nd PC fatality.

That did however leave Galen and one NPC - Zanok the Lawful Fighter (there are no Paladins in this game) holding all the loot. Well, Galen gust got a bit nearer 2nd level and is scoping out a higher class of accommodation on the nicer side of town.

Session 6 should already have happened, but unfortunately I was unable to attend. The current players decided they'd rather wait a week until I have a free Sunday rather than go ahead with a gaming session that I wasn't running (maybe no-one else wanted to run a game, I don't know). In some ways that's pretty gratifying. Anyway, next session will be on Sunday 21st January. Watch this space...

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Rift City session 4

Well, we're still at it - Rift City has now been running for 4 months... which means 4 open tables and so far nine (I think) different players... apart from me only one player has been to all the sessions.

The party (a strangely flexible beast it is, a bit like Grandfather's Axe) is still exploring the upper caverns, but I feel there is a certain lure of some of the deeper, darker passageways, where things are likely to get much stranger...

I feel I need to re-read stuff about running open tables and sandboxes. I've never quite done things like this before and I need to check I'm doing it right. I've been reading 'The Alexandrian' for hints and tips - particularly the stuff on open tables.

The last session was again packed with incident - including the irrevocable death off "Fisheye" Len. Poor Len, he suffered in his short life. He was eventually killed by a falling ceiling-block. I have a houserule called 'Elementary Staunching' that says if your companions can do some battlefield first aid you have a chance of surviving even at 0hp. But, Len was unlucky and missed his CON roll. Farewell Len, we hardly knew ye.

Other notable items of incident - fighting Kobolds! Quite a lot of them, two rooms of the pesky little blighters. The first room was mostly taken out with the judicious use of a 'Sleep' spell from Polly the Magic-User, and many Kobold throats were slit. The second room I don't remember, though as the party had 2 Elves as well as the MU it may be that they hit that with 'Sleep' too.

They explored a few more rooms: they collected as much treasure as they could including a set of Kobold swords that I allowed them to sell back at Rift City, probably for more than they were really worth. We'll have to see what happens next session (only a few days now) when a new constellation of adventurers decides to brave the Rift...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Rift City session 3


Cave Locusts!

A Killer Bee (that the party decided not to kill)!

Some Ghouls (that really wanted to eat the party)!

A flashing light trap!

And even, shock horror, some actual treasure - about 60GPs stashed under a pile of rocks in the cave.

A much depleted party was joined by 'Fisheye' Len the Thief for some cave-raiding action: along with Len went Sven the Dwarf, Frost the Fighter and Gwynthor the Cleric. They managed to avoid losing anyone but the fight with the Ghouls (2 of them) was the hardest part - things looked bleak as Len was paralysed and the second Ghoul attacked Sven, but Plate Mail saved the day and the tide turned.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves ... my impression of the distant noise of a Killer Bee certainly caused some amusement. No, it wasn't beatboxing or even playing a didgeridoo, thanks peeps, just bumbling about looking for pollen. What was it doing in a cave? Perhaps this post might have some of the answers...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Rift City session 2

Second session of the Rift City open table was a couple of weeks ago (I've been really busy so haven't done a write-up until now).

The party managed to expand itself for this session, Gibbet the Thief, Gwynthor the Cleric, and Polly Pepperoni the Magic User being joined at this session by two Dwarves (Sven and Redvers), an Elf (Shazam), a Halfling (Ays), and a Fighter (Frost).

They actually managed to find some Dungeons (or at least caves)! They explored a bit (with torches, lanterns and infravsion, and Gibbet checked for some traps)! They killed some Wolves (with Sven trying to catch and subdue them, and Redvers trying to murder them all)! They killed, drove off and Slept some Goblins! Then they decided to bugger off out of the dungeon and go back to Rift City*

And some of them are even planning on coming back next time!**

*If I run an open table I need a way of easily integrating new party members. My way of doing this is to tell the players straight, 'it's better if you get back to town at the end of the session'. This way the next party can start out with whoever is available. So far they have done this - it's been easy, they only explored about 6 caves and some tunnels in this session, so they were still close to an exit. It will get harder as it goes on and they're further into the dungeon I guess.

**Not reported on here: not having prepped this part of the dungeon properly, resulting in me hurriedly flipping through pages of rules and printouts for some goblins I could use and getting the number appearing wrong; mistaking rooms 61 and 81 on my tiny map, resulting in reading a far less interesting room description; fudging the timekeeping resulting in a suspicious lack of wandering monsters; mistaking the room where the wolves were for the previous room the PCs had been to, resulting in a less interesting combat (because the pace wasn't as interesting)... generally not having my shit together is what I'm getting at here. I need to be more on the ball. I promise I'll be better next time...