Monday, 16 July 2018

A few more Fortunate Isles...

I was doing this ages ago (here and here). But I haven't really kept up with it, partly because there doesn't seem much chance that the PCs will be travelling to the coast, boarding a boat and heading for the 1,000 Fortunate Isles in the south-west of the 'Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness', which is the default world of the campaign, at any time in the near future; partly, because I thought it would be cool to build the Thousand Islands collaboratively, but no-one seemed to want to join in and submit any entries.

In my setting, divorced from the later 'Gazeteers' and suchlike which I never owned, The Kingdom of Ierendi (where the Fortunate Isles are located) is an Arthurian, pseudo-Celtic-Twilight sort of place, where doomed Knights, sorceresses and witches, fay-folk and such like inhabit a mist-shrouded land- and sea-scape of a destroyed Elven kingdom. That's the kind of feel I want for this - Excalibur meets The Odyssey.

A while ago I was on a 'weird landscape' tip that didn't really go anywhere. I was I think starting to fall under a Carcosa-y spell and generating hallucinatory terrain seemed like an interesting thing to do.

What I've realised is that some of the one can inform the other. If I'm already generating weird and hallucinatory seascapes, then combining my attempts to generate hallucinatory landscapes may make sense. So, to that end, I decided to combine the notes for one into the other and make these islands.

So, here are seven more islands in case my PCs do indeed go to the seaside this year.

Island 009 - the Isle of Rippling Hills - small island
This island is small and circular, about 3 miles in diameter. It is composed of concentric rings of earth. The undulating ground looks like waves on the sea. Ridges resemble breakers. Perhaps over a million years the waves will break. At the centre of the island a spire reaches up two miles to an impossible bulb of earth, like a droplet suspended in time. Powerful magic must be present here.

Island 010 - the Isle of the Red Plains - medium island
Here, the coast is rocky and there are many cliffs. Only small boats can approach and parties must climb up to the cliff-tops. Predatory birds and other flying creatures live on the cliffs. The flat ground at the tops is like red marble, with veins that change colour as you observe them. Sleeping here restores spells and promotes healing twice as fast as usual.

Island 011 - Isle of the Red Trees - small island
The red earth sprouts fleshy trees that produce red sap and inviting fruit. Three of the fruit should be enough food for a day. This fruit is mildly addictive - anyone trying it needs to save v spells or continue to consume it (save once per day to try to break the addiction and have the will to flee the island). Anyone killed here will produce a new tree in 3 months.

Island 012 - Isle of Mists - large island
The rocky ground is streaked grey and yellow. A dull green fog hangs over everything – visibility 50 yards. A castle, hidden in the hills at the centre of the island, reputedly houses a fearsome guardian but also a portal to another world.

Island 013 - the Isle of the Towers - large island
Towers of black glass dot the landscape. Some of these towers contain ancient magical items. Monster encounters are more common near the towers. Though the sun is shining, the sky is black and stars can be seen.

Island 014 - Isle of the Spectral City - large island
It is difficult to be sure of the size of this island - it seems when one circumnavigates it to be around 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. However, when journeying across the island, it seems much bigger, taking at least 3 days to cross at the narrowest point, and at least 5 days from end to end. There is a mirage of colossal city on a mountain in the distance. The city is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to access, but reputedly contains ancient wonders.

Island 015 - Black Rock Isle - medium island
This island of black rocks has little to recommend it except for clear water springs that can replenish the ship's stores. Storms of black lightning are common – every hour from the PCs' ship approaching within 1 mile of the island, roll a d6: on a 1 or 2, a storm blows up that lasts lasts d6 hours, save v death ray every hour or take d6d6 damage. If the PCs return to their ship they will need to stand a mile off from the island to escape these effects.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Rift City Session 12

Has it really been a year? Not only have we managed to keep running a genuinely open session on the second Sunday of the month for the last year (except one Sunday when I was busy and the guys said they'd rather wait a week for me to DM than have someone else run a 1-shot 😍 - or maybe no-one else was prepared to do it!) at the same venue (except one month when the Comedy Festival was on and we de-camped to Galen + Berg's house), I've actually managed to blog about it after every session too (even if some of my reports have sometimes been a bit sketchy). No way are those last reports of the other two campaigns (Naked Gaming and The Tower of Zelligar AKA New Old Campaign) ever going to see the light of day. This is the one I've put the commitment into - because in theory at least, it's the only one any of the people who read this blog might turn up at (I'm looking at you JensD!).

So, Session 12...

Slightly reduced party this week - no Berg, no Gene, no Gwynthor... so the roster looked like this:

Bonjella the 1st Level Elf (this was the new character that Polly's player brought to the table this month, and like most other PCs she's in plate - unlike other PCs she's also completely skint, couldn't even afford breakfast);
Cnut the 1st Level Fighter;
Galen the 1st Level Elf;
Gibbet the 2nd Level Thief;
Karenza the 1st Level Elf;
Shazam the 1st Level Elf.

Very strong on Elves this party. Bonjella (apparently it's pronounced something like 'Bon-haya') and Shazam, AKA 'Bonj and Shaz' went up front, the humans in the middle, and Galen and Karenza at the rear.

Making it to the cave entrance that the party went to before, there was some discussion about where next. To the left, the caves that the PCs have been to before. To the right, a path down to another entrance that would likely get them to Cave Level 2. Ahead, a rocky outcrop blocked sight what was further down the path.

This has been causing me a few problems. While I have something like 200 rooms on the First (and part of the Second) Level fully detailed (they just require upkeep to make sure the Orcs that the party killed yesterday are removed and something new may or may not take their place, instead of the PCs turning up to find an identical bunch of Orcs to the ones they killed 'yesterday'...) the next 400 or so rooms are not so well sketched-out (they may say '9 Orcs' with no other details or they may just say 'MONSTER'). I haven't created the whole megadungeon, just the bits that I thought it most likely that the PCs will visit. Deciding to go off-piste means I have more creation to do. So I spent a couple of days working on new rooms, new maps, new connections, new wandering monster tables... just in case the party turned right instead of left, went into Cave Number 6 or 8 instead of 7.

The multiplication of possibilities means I can't accurately predict what I have to work on, so I pretty much have to work on everything in a reasonable radius. This is one of the problems of a non-railroad, non-quantum structure. Would the players know if I'd just done one second-(sub-)level and dropped that in? No, but if they find the treasure-map then they'd know I cheated. So now the four closest parts of Level 2 are done. Would they know if they went into Cave No. 8 but got the content from Cave No. 6? Probably not, but the passageways and staircases would line up with things that weren't there, and not with the things on Level 2...

Anyway, they decided to go past the area they've been exploring the last few sessions and push on down the path to Cave No. 6. This is ironic as it's the one part that I'd done months ago, so the extra work was unnecessary for Sunday's session anyway - kinda. It helps me get my head around what's where though, and I found a few bits that needed tidying up.

So Cave No. 6... this was a section originally generated using Donjon's Random Dungeon Generator here. What I do with these is generate the dungeon, but use this only as a skeleton (as it were); I change monsters and rooms as seems most sensible, knowing what I know about the rest of the dungeon, and delete room descriptions that are obvious enough for the players to remember they've had it before ('this room is hot' or 'a mist covers the floor' is OK to be repeated I feel; 'a set of demonic war masks hangs on the north wall', not so much).

So, anyway, Cave No. 6... who lives in a cave like this?

This Donjon generation was where the name 'Temple of the Wraith Princess' came from. It's a great name - it became the name of the area immediately to the east of here, and indeed inspired the necromantic cult that hangs out in that vicinity. Bits of stuff pertaining to necromancy gravitated that way and viola, I had a theme for that area.

There's still some undead in this area, but the name has gone. Now, these are the Caverns of Ulfang the Black (not in any official way, just because I needed to call them something). Ulfang has been mentioned a couple of times in the city as a Kobold warlord on the rise, who lives in this area. The PCs did run into some Kobolds - but more of that later.

The PCs explored a bit and found some skeletons hanging on a wall (there was a big discussion as to whether they were 'skeletons', as in bits of dead people, or 'Skeletons', nasty bony adversaries that surely should have realised that they had already died). But they were the first sort and didn't do anything more sinister than hang manacled to a wall (thereby demonstrating that they weren't completely skeletal, they must have had some connecting bits too... as some of us are archaeologists, there was a danger of this degenerating into a discussion of disarticulation of human remains). There were plenty of tracks in the dust, of small humanoid feet, animal prints, and parts where it looked like something or things had been swept over the floor.

Venturing further into the caves, the PCs disturbed a rats' nest. The party went for the rats, and mostly missed them (except for a single spectacular rat death). The rats then swarmed at Bonj, but the quick action of Gibbet with a torch scared them away again.

After the rats fled, the party searched the room. Among the bones littering the floor, they found 600 silver pieces, a lump of crystal that turned out to be worth 30gp, and a broken metal box, which sadly turned out to be pretty worthless.

Very shortly after this however, they became aware of a noise behind them - Orcish voices! Quickly hiding, the party staged a highly-efficient ambush and slaughtered some wandering Orcs who sadly had little by way of loot. Some swords went into backpacks and that was that (the Orcs came from a source that specifies that they were 'scavenging for food and treasure', rather than say 'patrolling', which to my mind says they were not so much a military unit as a working party - I decided that they had probably come hunting the rats for the pot back in the Orcish kitchens, wherever they are).

The party didn't seem terribly impressed with the loot so far. Thinking that perhaps more riches were to be had further on, they pushed further into the caves, ignoring multiple side-passages. After a short time, they came upon an area where the caves were lit with torches and someone actually seemed to be living there, with a tapestry hanging from the wall, attached by iron spikes. Going a little further, they triggered what turned out to be the main encounter of the day.

For reasons I don't intend to divulge at the moment, I placed a low-level Magic User in the caves. I generated a MU character using an online NPC generator (again from Donjon I think) and copied her stats over. She's Chaotic, wears blue robes (this is what had been sweeping the floor), and has a CHA of 17. I thought she'd be a bit of a change of pace from the usual - in this part of the dungeon, that's mostly humanoids, some undead and lots of crawly things. Maybe someone with a bit of magic would be a different challenge for the PCs.

Things turned a way I didn't expect. The first unexpected thing was how completely the PCs got the jump on her. The dice completely went their way - all the dice. She was surprised, they weren't; that led to my second surprise.

Instead of attacking, one of the two female PC Elves (can't actually remember if it was Bonjella or Karenza, the former I think) said 'hello, are you a prisoner'?

OK, I thought, reaction dice it is then... oh, 12 (I did say all the dice went their way), 'Enthusiastic Friendship' - didn't expect that...

Shazam: 'I hit her with Charm Person.'

OK, roll for Save... missed it (do I need to belabour the point about the dice going their way at this point?)

Ningal the Chaotic MU: 'Helloooo! Lovely to see you all! What can I do for you? Come in, come in, I'd say sit down, but I don't really have any chairs, I'm not used to visitors really, I say you're very handsome aren't you...?'

In the end she told them a bit about the caves, how she'd found some interesting things in the tombs to the east (she showed them a kind of stretchable rope that the Ancients had left, and a kind of powder that fizzed and flashed when flame was brought near it), drew them a rough sketch-map of the caves (luckily I had one of those on standby for an as-yet-unrevealed purpose), and generally acted as a lovely but slightly absent-minded host. She ended up giving them the fizzing powder when they left.

Ningal's dungeon sketch-map - her cave is in the top left between/beyond 'rats' and 'spyders'
This then led to one of the weirdest bits of the evening. In a brief out-of-character moment, I said to the PCs that they'd been very lucky that the encounter hadn't gone differently, if she'd been hostile and got to use her Sleep spell on them it would have been very different.

'Not really,' says one of the players, 'Elves are immune to Sleep.'

Silence. Like actual hear-a-pindrop silence.

'What?' says I.

'Elves are immune to Sleep,' says first player. 'Elves don't need to sleep, so they're immune to it,' says another player.

'OK,' says I, flipping through my battered copy of Moldvay, having never heard any such thing. 'Shadows are immune to Sleep and Charm, says so in the monster description... Skeletons are immune to Sleep and Charm, says so in the monster description, let's check the monster description for Elves... nothing about spell immunities there... let's check abilities of Elf PCs... immune to the touch of Ghouls... nothing about Sleep there. Right, I don't know where you've got this from but Elves are not immune to Sleep.' Apparently (because the player who originally said it looked on his phone) in AD&D Elves had something like an 80% immunity to Sleep. Not to my knowledge in any game I ever played though, and certainly not this one. But this seems to have come as something of a surprise to some of my players. Who knew? Not me for sure.

So in the end they said goodbye to Ningal the Crazy Magic Lady, promised to give her professional greetings to Gisuintha back at the city, and went on their way with their flashpowder. They encountered some Kobolds when they did, but the firepower of the party, both physical and magical, is pretty heavy, so the Kobolds didn't really stand a chance. A Sleep spell from the party put them down to have their throats cut, but again these chaps weren't carrying much - the biggest treasure was a handful of coins. I used the table from '20 Things to Loot from a Dead Kobold' here from Raging Swan Press. As there were six PCs and six Kobolds I used the 'treasures' (I use the term loosely) numbered 1-6. Bonjella, who has no money for food or equipment, was happy with the dead rat I think.

And that was it - three short fights, a little bit of treasure, and an actual role-playing social encounter that has - unless they do something to jeopardise it - made them a new ally in the caves. All in all, a very curious session indeed, that raises a lot of interesting questions. Primarily - will the PCs want to capitalise on their good relationship with Ningal to get as much info/leverage out of her as possible? If so, how will they do it? I'm interested in how this plays out for sure!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Getting Freaky

Went back to 'Build a Dungeon From Me'. I do from time to time. It's a great resource, it's a great idea, and it's a pity that it isn't updated any more. It's also a pity I really can't work out how to do something like that with Blogger. I'd love to be able to add random pictures from Pinterest (for example... I don't care, I'd do it with Photobucket if I could) to the blog as a gallery like the 'Build A Dungeon From Me' gallery. Apparently adding a gallery like that to a Wordpress blog is easy, but not Blogger. Ho hum. - and now, in a week, every time I try to go back to it it redirects me to a dating site. If I've inadvertently broken 'Build a Dungeon From Me', I really am sorry.

Anyway, I've been messing around with 'Build A Dungeon From Me'. I generated a bunch of random images. I wrote a short description of each. I fed the descriptions into a randomiser to mix the order again. When I first encountered 'Build A Dungeon From Me', I had the idea that the basic concept was to take three images to make an adventure from them - I don't know why, the number three isn't mentioned on the site, maybe the suggestion came from whichever blog it was where I found out about it: anyway, I've grouped the descriptions in threes and started expanding them to make encounter zones. I'm thinking hexcrawl, like Carcosa.

Many images on 'Build A Dungeon From Me' are quite 'Carcosa-y', at least how I see Carcosa. It is by turns epic, bleak, decadent and barbaric (my version of Carcosa has more than a hint of Barsoom about it). I think it has helped me to see what Carcosa (the setting book by Geoff McKinley) can be in relation to my current campaign. I'm trying to make Carcosa a parallel world, exactly mimicking the campaign world the players are adventuring in - except it's Carcosa, so maybe not 'exactly mimicking'. It may be in the unimaginable future (but there's a problem in the theoretical possibility that our world is in the PC's future) or it may be in the unimaginable past (at the moment, this seems more likely, though it might also cause 'continuity problems'), but it should certainly be in the same 'landscape'. Either the PCs should be able to find faint traces of Carcosa in their world, or they should be able to find faint traces of their world in Carcosa.

Simply put, there is a region of the world (maybe more than one?) where Carcosa is bleeding through, into the world the PCs know. It may be that the PCs can 'bleed back' and end up in Carcosa. If I map them one-to-one, the correspondences should be obvious and will both suggest sites in the PC's world (because for example, 10,000 years after Carcosa, there should still be remnants of that horrific and brutal time, even if one of the suns has vanished), and it  should give me suggestions of places where it might be possible to cross from one reality to the other (by accident or design).

I've found part of the world the PCs are in where I think I can add 'Carcosa' as I envision it - a weird wasteland where decadence and barbarism collide. The campaign-world is a stripped-down version of the 'Mystara' setting, or maybe, a version starting from the same roots as Mystara, the map of 'The Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness' from 1983, but not quite the Mystara that was later elaborated. The potential resting-place of Carcosa is somewhat to the west of this area, which is where most of the action has been concentrated so far (The Rift, and with it Rift City, is more or less in the centre of this map, in the south-west part of Rockhome).

This version from Thorfinn Tate Cartography - link here

As a result, I've been working out details of the horned Forest Witches; I've been mapping a city built on spires of rock, with a palace - or maybe a monastery, I haven't quite decided - at the centre; I've been wondering where the Prince is going on his boat on the Black River; I've been trying to determine who was the skeleton sitting on the throne, with a headdress and a giant sword?

Perhaps the PCs glimpse some towers across a lake. Perhaps they even find a scroll that refers to lost Carcosa or the King in Yellow or the Yellow Sign (oh, yeah, my Carcosa probably has more reference to R.W. Chambers' short stories than the Carcosa sourcebook does). However I do it, Carcosa needs to bleed into my players' reality. It's really just too interesting not to.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Creating a PC Class for Kobolds

Don't often post things so close together, but there's a discussion going on that I thought I'd record. This is a (slightly edited) series of my posts from the B/X Facebook group, where the topic of creating a PC Class for Kobolds (a B/X 'Race-as-Class') is discussed. The main point is that someone offered the opinion that Kobolds should be pretty much limited to what is in the 'monster' entry for Kobolds. I disagree and try to set out my reasoning below.

...

A Kobold chief has an average of 33 followers in his lair. Not sure that's really comparable to a 9th-level Fighter establishing himself as Lord of the Manor.

If you wanted to invent a 'Thief' class, and used Bandits as a base, you'd assume that max level for a Thief would be Level 2, but if you went above Level 1 you could retrain as a Fighter, Cleric or MU.

If you extrapolate from Acolytes to higher-level Clerics, you find that the maximum level for a Cleric is Level 5 and leaders fall in a curve of 40% L2, 30% L3, 20% L4 and 10% L5.

Max level for a MU ('Medium') from the Monster Lists is L3 (there are no L2 MUs).

My point here is that entries in the Monster Lists, for 'monsters that are also classes', are very sketchy as well as being underpowered (ie, what is statted is 'low level').

So if 'Kobold' is a class, then the 'Kobold' entry in the Monster List is not the whole range of what that class can do, and higher-level Kobolds are not provided for (why should they be? Your DM wants higher-powered opponents, that’s what Gnolls and Ogres are for).



PC Thieves are much more detailed and have more options (and different options, a PC Thief can't re-class as a Cleric at 2nd Level) and have much a greater level maximum than 'monster' Thieves, ie Bandits.

See also Mediums (Media?) and Acolytes and Veterans ie 'monster' MUs, Clerics and Fighters.

You can do the same for Elves and Dwarves and Halflings.

In all cases, the Monster List options are much more limited than the PC Class options.

Therefore, PC Kobolds will be much more detailed and have more options and have much a greater level maximum than 'monster' Kobolds. Their PC Class options will far exceed the Monster List just as the options and levels for PC Clerics, Dwarves, Elves, Fighters, Halflings, Magic Users and Thieves far exceed those of 'monster' Acolytes, Dwarves, Elves, Veterans, Halflings, Mediums and Bandits.

PC = complex. Monster = simple.

Kobolds as monsters are simple, just as 'monster' Clerics (Acolytes), Dwarves, Elves, Fighters (Veterans), Halflings, Magic Users (Mediums) and Thieves (Bandits) are simple. Kobolds as PCs need to be complex, just as PC Acolytes (Clerics), Dwarves, Elves, Veterans (Fighters), Halflings, Mediums (Magic Users) and Bandits (Thieves) are complex.

In short - the Monster List entry for 'Kobold' isn't equivalent to the PC Class 'Halfling', it's equivalent to the Monster List entry 'Halfling'. That can then be compared to the PC Class Halfling to show you what the PC Kobold class is missing. The Monster List entries are sketches nothing more. The detail comes in comparing Monster List and Class entries for the same categories.



... so in light of the comments above, comparing the Halfling Class with the Halfling monster entry, we see that Halfling PCs have on average 0.5hp less than monster Halflings, but there is no mention of their abilities re. large opponents, initiative bonus, missile bonus, hiding, or penalties on size of weapon for 'monster' Halflings. Also, though the 'Number Appearing' (ie, 'lair size') is 5-40, there are also Halfling villages with L2-7 leaders and 30-300 inhabitants, including 5-20 militia at 2HD each.

As for Kobolds, the monster entry ONLY details lairs (6-60, analogous to the Halfling lairs of 5-40, NOT the villages of 30-300). There is no mention of Kobold settlements like the Halfling villages. Why not? Because Kobolds are enemies and Halflings potential friends. PCs need to know about Halfling villages if they're travelling in Halfling areas, but needs to know about Kobold lairs if they're raiding them.

So what is missing from the Kobold monster entry compared to the Halfling entry is Kobold 'warrens' of (say) 50-500 Kobolds, each presided over by a leader of L2-7, and militia of 2HD each (importing directly from Halflings). This makes the guards of the Kobold settlements equal to the leaders of Kobold lairs (ie level 2) ( - actually, if the base for Kobolds is 1/2HD ie d4hp, a '2HD Kobold' should theoretically be L4).

Comparison of the Halfling entries would also suggest that what is 'missing' from the monster entry is: bonus against large opponents; bonus to hiding, bonus to missile weapon, bonus to initiative, restriction on large weapons, slight hp penalty, opportunity to go higher than highest listed level.

So, a reasonable way to stat Kobolds would I think be as Halflings with slightly worse hp (ie d4 base) and saves (Kobs use Fighter Saves) - still the same bonuses on missile fire, initiative, v large opponents, and hiding, and restriction on large weapons (Kobolds are 'small').

As extra bonuses, they have 90' Infravision, and I would also give them some Thief skills. 'They prefer to attack by ambush' so hiding and backstabbing seem appropriate. Traps... maybe, if that's how you see Kobolds (I do, I think they're sneaky but that's mostly from AD&D).

No way would I give them 'Thief' experience progression. They would be Thieves with 90' Infravision and initiative and missile bonuses and with a bonus when attacked by large foes - their only penalties would be they can't use Longswords and Longbows,  and they have worse Saves (80 total for Kobolds v 71 total for Thieves - low is good for saves). So the Thief progression would be ridiculous I think. They're 'better' than Halflings in terms of their abilities, but have a lower HD base and worse Saves (80 v 60). I think that would even out and I'd peg them to the Halfling experience levels.

I'd also make NPCs Gnomes attack them on a 1-2 on a d6. The Gnomes don't know if these Kobolds are 'good guys' (ie PCs) - they're just wandering Kobold scum as far as the Gnomes are concerned.

So, for what it's worth, that's how I'd stat up Kobolds.

I also think level limits are stupid but then again PCs so rarely reach higher levels it's pretty academic I think.

******************************************

I have to at this point put in a recommendation for Erin D. Smale's 'Building a More Perfect Class' - running the numbers on this might be a way of trying to pin down Kobolds as a class.

http://breeyark.org/building-a-more-perfect-class/

Friday, 15 June 2018

Rift City Session 11

The roster for the latest session of our open table, on 10th June:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gibbet the Thief
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Shazam the Elf (and Keith the Orc),

and joining us especially for this session, two new players with their PCs Brüna the Dwarf and Bunny the Halfling.

Maybe there will be some comment about over this at the Disoriented Ranger blog, because Brüna's player, in an amazing coming-from-a-foreign-country-to-play-games-with-you situation, was JensD of that very blog, who's been visiting the UK and made time to come to our open table. It was lovely to show Jens and his partner something of our city, and Mrs Orc and I hope they enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed showing them around. Maybe we'll get to pay them a visit in the near future too.

The first thing the party did was try to return to the area of well-dressed stonework that they have recently been exploring. Unknown to them, one of the rooms that they had recently cleared, where the strange blobby creature lived in the dark, had been re-populated, by Orcs this time, as they seem to like to take over rooms in this area.

They managed to avoid too many wandering monsters on the way, the only disturbance being a crowd of bats that were agitated in the corridor. Something had disturbed them, though what that might be was not clear. The bats didn't really bother the PCs much, and the noise didn't summon any other monsters. The PCs have been bothered by enough bats to know they're a distraction and are best ignored. The worst they do is potentially cause enough noise that more wandering monsters might be summoned.

Having passed the place where the bats were, the PCs continued on to the spot where they'd fought some Orcs at the last session. The bodies were gone, seemingly having been dragged away, if the smears of black blood were any guide. Again, it wasn't clear what might have moved the bodies.

The octagonal room with the way down to the lower levels was as before - nothing has taken up residence there lately. The armoury room was also unchanged since 'yesterday'. Beyond that was a short corridor with a somewhat tricksy secret door. The party knows it's there, but it was closed, so I figured it's still invisible. There are 10 of them, and three of those are Elves, so rolling 7d6 trying to get a single 1 and 3d6 trying to score a 1 or 2, was bound to produce a result sooner or later, so they did find the secret door when Gene remembered it was the second brick over that needed to be pressed, not the third.

Opening the door, they discovered the room was still unnaturally dark. While hanging around trying to decide what to do, a guttural shout from inside alerted them to the presence of Orcs, who began shooting arrows at them.

Brüna set a flask of oil alight and tossed it into the room. It briefly illuminated some Orcs standing around. Brüna also asked one of the Elves to tell him some Orcish insults so he could shout at the enemy (he doesn't speak Orcish). A confused firefight ensued, with the Orcs shooting through the flames towards the door, and the party shooting into the room. trying to pick targets by the flickering firelight.

After a few rounds, where Karenza took an arrow (but didn't die), it was decided to charge the Orcs. The party definitely had the advantage as their better AC was turning the Orc attacks while their own attacks, though made into the low and flickering light, were taking a toll on the Orcish numbers. However, the Orcs passed a morale check and held firm. Bunny and Gibbet snuck in to find good firing positions as the rest of the party charged towards the now dying flames and engaged with the Orcs. The sudden charge and brutality of the assault, on top of the withering shooting, broke the Orcs' morale and persuaded them to surrender and throw down their weapons.

At this point the Orcs started trying to buy their lives with promises of treasure. The PCs decided to kill one of the Orcs to make sure the others knew they were serious. Gwynthor the Cleric dissented but he has a CHA of 3 so everyone is used to him being annoying and no-one took any notice. Brüna stabbed the Orc in the back of the neck as he was lying on the floor and the other Orcs, now deciding that they had no chance of surviving and were better off fighting for their lives, attempted to snatch up weapons and attack the PCs again. However, it didn't go well for the Orcs (they were lying on the floor, with weapons out of reach) and the party butchered them pretty quickly.

This was all too much for Keith, the charmed Orcish lantern-bearer. I figured that this was an event traumatic enough to give Keith a shot at throwing off the spell, and he did so. The result was that he remonstrated with his 'friend' Shazam asking how he could support murdering Keith's other friends after they'd surrendered. It seemed to be news to the party that these Orcs are from Keith's tribe. To be fair to Shazam, he'd taken no part in the butchery but he hadn't done much to stop it either. Keith anyway 'woke up' from his illusion that the PCs were his friends, threw his burning lantern at Bunny (it missed, smashing spectacularly on the wall near her), and launching an attack on Gwynthor (ironically one of the PCs not involved in the murder of prisoners, but Keith doesn't speak Common and Gwynthor soesn't speak Orcish) who was close by.

Keith fumbled his attack. There are no actual fumbles in my rules, a 1 is a 1 and a fail, a 20 is a 20 and generally a success, that's all, but given the darkness effect (not to mention Keith's blind rage) I decided that Keith's 1 should genuinely represent a catastrophic failure at this point, and he tripped over one of the corpses as he launched himself at Gwynthor, going sprawling at the latter's feet. Gwynthor decided, probably quite sensibly, that sitting on Keith's back was a viable way to keep him under control, while he called to Shazam to come and subdue Keith somehow. Deciding that disposing of Keith was the only option, Shazam killed his one-time 'friend' (dupe? pet? slave? I'm not sure really, Shazam did seem to have some sort of fondness for him) with a swift stab. That's how it goes sometimes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs were looting the Orcs, snaring some money-pouches containing several hundred GPs and a couple of gems. This turned out to be a considerable haul in the end worth around 950GP. I don't make the party bargain for gems, I can't see the point. If the gems are worth 350GP they get 350GP. Turning treasure into GP to turn into XP is a tedious enough business without requiring them to constantly check their CHA against the Morale or Reaction Rating of a bunch of NPCs, in order to determine what percentage of the value they are given. If they want to up the 'town game' element they can, if they want they can spend their entire time buying and selling gems at the various establishments around town, but that really isn't D&D for me. D&D is fundamentally an exploration game, not a trading game. I'm sure there are other games with more advanced trading systems. But if the players want to do that they can - there is no 'wrong fun' so it's up to them. I don't think they want to at the moment. Kicking in doors and robbing monsters is more fun.

Having looted the Orcs, Brüna suggested nailing Orcs to things as a warning to others. He volunteered to attach various Orc corpses to some of the doors and weapon-stands in the armoury. The rest of the PCs agreed and gave him some iron spikes to help.

Moving on from the Orcs' room they came to the last room that they have already explored. This was a room with a large statue, where they had found a secret compartment at the previous session containing a treasure-chest. No treasure-chest this time but only because I remembered that they'd found it - I'd forgotten to cross it off my list. Must get better at that, in fact I might go and do the paperwork before I get any further with the write-up. That dungeon won't master itself, I have to accept! I may have some simple systems, but it isn't yet fully-automated.

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So, I've done my paperwork. Next session is prepped. Back to the report...

Brüna, busy trying to attach Orc-corpses to things in the armoury, met a strange wood-like beast. I have an image of I am Groot in my mind that I now can't shake. The thing was a Wood Golem, but I'm not sure Brüna knows that, he's never met one before. It seemed to approve of Brüna's treatment of the Orcs, not to mention his own polite greeting to it, and his lack of hostile action. In the end it decided it would be friendly, but Brüna, his task done, left to find the rest of the party.

The rest of the party meanwhile were exploring the next room, which seemed to be a trap-room, with spikes and blades all over the place from rusted traps. None however appeared currently dangerous. The room also contained some doors. Gibbet listened at the closest and heard noises from behind it. The party opened the door, and yet more bats were the result. There was also an old campfire (with some cold rat on a stick) and some bed-rolls. Ignoring the bats (they're little more than room-dressing really), Bunny decided she would play up to a Halfling stereotype, and ate the rat-on-a-stick. There was also a leather satchel with cash in it. It seems that someone had left not only their dinner but their treasure in something of a hurry, in the relatively-recent past.

Brüna rejoined the party at this point, not realising that there was a large crowd of Fire Beetles on their tail. Seven of them had come along, perhaps summoned by the sound of the bats, perhaps following some other instinct, and the party decided to try to take them out.

In fact it was a short and bloody combat. Some good shooting by the party on the one hand, and some hand-to-hand work, left the Fire Beetles dead pretty quickly. I ruled that some had been killed so convincingly that their glow-glands were ruined; any beetle who took more than twice its hp in damage I reasoned had been pulverised rather than surgically dispatched, and I diced for a few others, so only 11 out a possible 21 glands were available in the end. These were collected for sale at 5GP a pop to Gisuintha, the MU back in the city who fancies herself as an Alchemist.

After this encounter, the PCs decided to be on their way rather than explore any further. They nearly made it back without incident too. However, they did run into a couple of Skeletons, but Gwynthor compelled them with the power of the Mighty Yrt, He Who Manifests in Pinecones (according to what we understand of Gwynthor's weird theology anyway), and the bony undead ones were backed the wrong way down a passage while the party made its way towards the exit, Gwynthor bringing up the rear in case of further undead harassment.

Scampering from the caves, the party made it back to town to divide up their hard-gained loot, and that was another session wrapped up...

I think that was pretty much what happened anyway!

EDIT: except I forgot possibly the most important part, at least as far as the long-term progression of the table, the campaign and the PCs go - Gibbet the Thief, who has attended approximately 8/11 sessions (it might be 9 I can't remember but I know he's missed 2-3 sessions) has now made it to the dizzying heights of Second Level! WHOO-HOO! (Cue: small fireworks, bunting, a marching band playing a stirring fanfare and speeches by civic dignitaries, before we all have cake.)

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Rift City Session 10

Unfortunately I started writing this then got distracted. It's several weeks ago now, and I can't really remember much of what happened - so at a certain point, details become very sketchy! But as the next session will be coming up soon, it's probably best to post this up in its somewhat-truncated state.

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We had our 10th session of the Rift City campaign on 13th May. This time the party was composed of:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gibbet the Thief
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Polly the Magic User
Shazam the Elf (and Keith the Orc)

and a new player, running Flenzack the Cleric.

The game started with the party assembling at the inn where they met a new chap called Flenzack who was looking for adventure. They teamed up (naturally - that's kinda the way the game has to work) and went off to the Rift together. Entering the cave-complex at the now-traditional fifth entrance they made their way through to where the finished stonework in the area run by the alliance of Orcs and Necromancers, disturbed only by some bats that were themselves disturbed by the party's lights. Instead of attacking the bats and making the situation worse, the PCs stayed calm and let the bats settle down again.

Continuing through the caverns to the nicer bits of dungeon, the PCs spied some Orcs ahead. Berg the Dwarf immediately threw a handaxe at them and charged. The handaxe missed (it was pretty extreme range) and the Orcs ran back round a corner. Taking a little while to charge after them Berg, Karenza and Flenzack rounded said corner to be met with a hail of Orcish crossbow-bolts. Karenza sustained a fleshwound but otherwise the party was OK and made short work of the Orcs. Looting the bodies turned up some gems for the which the party was quite grateful.

A little further on and the party came to a door. Listening revealed the fact that there was something inside making a rustling, scrabbling noise. So they knocked. The noise stopped.

Eventually, Shazam went in and poked about a bit. It was very dark. A thing moved, and he stabbed it. Turns out it was a sort of giant centipede, which didn't manage to bite him as he's somewhat tank-like (plate is the armour of choice for these guys, they didn't even bother starting with chain until they'd made some cash, they all just bought plate from day one). Not knowing whether the darkness was due to the centipede or the room itself, Polly came in and suggested cutting its head off to take back to Gisuintha the zooicidal Magic User back at the city.

Unfortunately, on going into the room, Polly set of the room-trap (a large pit) that Shazam had not, and failed her saving throw... shinning down a rope to try some elementary staunching, the party wasn't able to save her and unfortunately Polly, one of the the three PCs from the very first session, gasped her last on the floor of a 10'-deep pit. Then Gibbet, who was down in the hole but had tied up everything to the end of the rope to be hauled up, slipped as he was climbing out and fell back in, injuring himself rather... it was a bit of a comic catastrophe. But what can you do? There he was, trusting to his 87% climbing skill or whatever it was. It wasn't enough.

Gibbet, however, survived, and made it out with Polly's equipment. Apparently she's made a Will leaving all her worldly goods to the Home for Retired Cats or some-such. There isn't one of those in Rift City but there is a temple to a southern cat-goddess (which is infested by strays as the priestesses keep feeding them) so that will have to do.

Leaving the room where Polly died (I do need to find out what they did with the body as I now can't remember) they went north towards the room (also pretty dark) where the shambley squishy blobby dwarf-thing was. They found it and they killed it quickly. They also managed to get a little more treasure, but not much.

They tried to search of some of the rooms about, but ran out of time, I'm not sure how, as they didn't seem to do much. Some Robber Flies, and some Skeletons, may have been involved, but I may be mixing up the month before. Anyway, hell-for-leather out of there (fortunately not setting off any wandering monsters) and back to town for them, ready to adventure out another day...

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Two things are becoming clear about the area the party is currently exploring. First, the monsters aren't tough enough. The party generally consists of 7-10 PCs, of which maybe 6-8 are around AC2. That makes it hard for monsters to hit them (as they're also mostly around hp4 though, it means anything that does hit them stands a good chance of killing them). Often the PCs outnumber the monsters too. For party that averages at 8xAC3 (let's say, it's a bit wibbly-wobbly) then 4 Orcs at AC5 are not a significant threat.

The second thing is that there isn't enough treasure. There have been 10 sessions so far. Gibbet and Gwynthor did 8, Galen has done 7 as did Polly, Shazam 4 I think. Sven did about 6, and other characters who died also did a fair amount of sessions. Only Gibbet is even close to Second Level at this point. So I need to offer more rewards, I think.

Too often encounters are brutally short and offer no challenge to the party, then the rewards are paltry, barely covering the cost of food for the day. Then once in a blue moon, for no good reason, a massive load of gold arrives. There's just too much faffing around for too little result.

Probably need to toss a bit more magic into the pot too. Healing potions, scrolls and whatnot.

I need to find a way of balancing all that out a bit better. This week I shall try to work on the balance a little more carefully.




Monday, 14 May 2018

Guardians of the World-tree... perhaps some progress

Some lore and other ancient history...

In the distant past there were only Elves. Some myths say that Eru created the Elves but they slept until Eru had made the stars; then the Elves awoke beside a lake. Some myths say that Corellon Larethian fought the demon Lolth and the Elves sprang from the drops of Corellon's blood shed in the fight (in one version, the Drow from Lolth's blood, the ancestors of the good Elves from Corellon's).

I don't know other Elven myths, but certainly in Azeroth there is (or was rather) a 'World Tree' that the Elves lived around. They're supposed to be the oldest race, and they have split into different kindreds, primarily the Night Elves and the Blood Elves (the Blood Elves, originally High Elves, were the ruling class of Elven society).

Whatever the version, the Elves are divided. In at least some versions, there are World Trees.

Malekith the King of the Dark Elves (Marvel) is certainly the inspiration for Malekith King of the Dark Elves (Warhammer). The Marvel Dark Elves also imply 'Light Elves', and obviously, these are all derived pretty squarely from nordo-germanic myths with the 'svartalfar' and 'liosalfar'. Why have I never realised Malekith of Marvel's Dark Elves are blue? This might explain those blue Citadel Dark Elves that used to pop up in the late 1980s. They weren't 'Drow' per se, they were Marvel Dark Elves not TSR Dark Elves.

Anyway, I've been painting Elves again. Maybe they'll see action in Warhammer or Kings of War someday soon. Maybe they won't in the end but hell I like painting Elves. And not those camo-clad guerrilla-fighters that GW have been pushing for the last 10 years or so. No, proper guards-of-the-Fairy-Queen type. They wear blue, and red, and white, and bright green, as well as cloaks of dappled green that hide them in the forests. Some of my Elves are Blood Elves, some will be various kinds of Dark Elves, some will be Night Elves and so on.

Some of my Elves
It's only about 10 years since I started on this idea of a united force of Elves. That's probably slow even by my standards!