Sunday, 7 October 2018

Questing in Elfgames V - back to backgrounds

I posted this in my campaign's Facebook group some time ago:

OK peeps, I've had an idea that I want to try out. It's about character backgrounds.

I want you tell me (by PM) something about your character's background. It could be utterly prosaic ('my character comes from the north', 'my character doesn't like rats' or whatever) or it could be a family secret that has been handed down to your character (in which case it could be anything to do with famous ancestors or your character's parentage or magic heirlooms or ancient feuds or debts of honour or hidden powers or anything).

The thing is, if it's a family secret, your character doesn't know if the substance of the secret is true - so it can't be something they would know, like 'my character is secretly a bear'. It can be something like 'I was told my Uncle Colin saved the life of the King of the Bears'.

Your PC and therefore you will know the family story. I'll work how much of the story is true and what the consequences might be. The 'something prosaic' option is there for any players who don't want to get too involved in this - just tell me something completely unremarkable about your PC.

Unfortunately, it's caused some confusion. I obviously didn't explain it as clearly as I thought. What I thought was the players would give me a sentence about their character - either something simple that meant they didn't want to get involved (I gave the examples of being from the north and not liking rats because they're fairly trivial, but may have minor consequences in gaming terms) or something that was a family story with potentially significant consequences, but the PC didn't have first-hand knowledge of the events (like the 'my Uncle Colin saved the King of the Bears' example).

The idea was to use some of this stuff to try to link in the epic plots I keep talking about. I have a way to generate some epic content due to the Narrative Generator that Jens pointed me at some time ago. But this was going to be a way that the stories actually span out of what the players themselves said. I'm trying (in a fairly unstructured way to be sure) to anchor the PCs in the world and to give them motivations and connections that relate in some way to the world they're inhabiting. Due to the structure of the campaign (open table, shifting party composition, relatively high PC death-toll) some of the things I've previously discussed for creating background don't really apply (such as methods to use each individual die to determine moments of the character's life).

Some of the players  have given me some great things to work with. Some haven't given me anything to work with at all, or suggested things that fall way outside of what I'm trying to get (hence me saying I obviously haven't explained it very well). A few gave me feedback along the lines of 'my player is secretly a bear'.

Since then I also read (and now I can't remember whose blog it was I read it on) about using the Reaction Tables with rumours. The idea is pretty simple - in the same way that the Reaction Table gives a graded series of negative/neutral/positive results, rumours can have negative, neutral or positive developments. In this way, rumours are not static but can change over time. I've decided that I can apply this to the information that the players have given me about their PCs.

We'll see what happens I suppose. I have some things to work with, and maybe, just maybe, some of the stuff that comes up in the dungeon will refer to the snippets and titbits the PCs have given me (sotto voce, I'm working it in, I really am, just don't tell the players...).

Monday, 1 October 2018

Subverting setting expectations I

This post has been bubbling away for a while. It's partly to do with the stuff that led to the post a while ago about creating Kobolds as a viable class (here), partly to do with the notion of the implicit setting of D&D and what can be done to tinker with it, of which more to follow.

I'm aware that this little more than thinking out loud at the moment; I'm fairly confident that there is a point to it though. The short version of this is something like, "flipping alignments produces a very different implied setting".


Eventually, the standard Tolkien-meets-King Arthur-and-Conan-at-the-Medieval-Fair setting of D&D needs something to shake it up a little. I was wondering about changing the alignments for some common monsters as well as the PC races and working out the implications in terms of setting.

Hobbit - Tibboh (or Gnilflah) - L becomes C
Dwarf - Frawd - L/N becomes N/C
Gnome - Emong - L/N becomes N/C

Kobold - Dlobok - C becomes L
Goblin - Nilbog - C becomes L
Orc - Cro - C becomes L
Hobgoblin - Nilbogboh - C becomes L
Gnoll - Llong - C becomes L
Bugbear - Raebgub - C becomes L
Ogre - Ergo - C becomes L

Hobbits (Tibbohs or Gnilflahs) become evil forest-dwelling imps: Gnomes and Dwarves (Emongs and Frawds) are evil (or at least ambivalent) tribes of subterranean nasties. Dwarves and Halflings are no longer playable races, Instead, players may chose the lovable Nilbog (OK, I know AD&D has Nilbogs but I don't have any rules for them so my Nilbogs are not those Nilbogs), then advance up to Nilbogbohs and Raebgubs, probably; or they may opt for the superficially more martial Cro(s), which become Llongs and Ergos, maybe.

Elves, mostly because of the (at least implicit) existence of Dark Elves and a firmly Neutral alignment, will probably remain Elves - maybe Fle(s) - as a playable race but also a magic-using monster antagonist.

Travs(es)/Travx(es) are another question. Most of my early involvement with D&D was via WD in the 1980s - I'm not sure how much Svarts (and Xvarts) were merely a product of my rather British experience because I've never owned either the MM or the FF so I don't know if they're 'real' in other people's versions. Since, as far as I'm concerned, Svarts as fantasy monsters come from The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (where they equal Goblins pretty much) and The Fionavar Tapestry (where they pretty much also equal Goblins, maybe Orcs, though there are also monsters called Urgach which seem larger and more Uruk-hai-like) I never really had a problem fitting Svarts between Kobolds and Goblins, and treating 'Xvarts' as a wanky spelling of Svart and mechanically no different. Really just playing them as the weakest Goblin-type I suppose.

Svarts hate Hobbits, sorry, Halflings, Kobolds hate Gnomes, Goblins hate Dwarves and Orcs hate Elves. So, Tibbohs must hate Travses (if Travses exist in this new version), Emongs must hate Dloboks, Frawds must hate Nilbogs, and Elves (evil ones) must hate Cros. If a Cro makes it to Ergo-level (about L4 I suppose) they are suddenly also hated by Lahtrednaens for some reason, But they can probably also specialise in magic from there I think.

The PCs, if they don't play humans, will probably live underground and spend their early careers hiding from the sun, as their well-developed infravision means they suffer a -1 to hit when at low levels - both Nilbogs and Cros, but not Dloboks, have -1 to hit at their lowest 'Level', so restructuring the 'to hit' tables along the lines of Thieves or MUs makes sense. Not sure if Dloboks should be a PC race or not. I got on fine without Gnomes (the counterpart of Kobolds), but maybe expanding the Dlobok from a 1/2HD basic monster into a character option could be fun - a sort of affable gremlin that does sneaky and tricksy things (to that end, see the Kobold notes linked to in the first paragraph).

Nilbogs then would be an 'equivalent' to Halflings (though the racial antipathy makes them the enemies of Dwarves) while Cros would be equivalent to Dwarves (though their race-war opposite is Elves).

That might work, but it's the setting implications I think that are most bizarre. The woods and wilds become dangerous places infested by diminutive sling-using humanoids that are excellent at hiding. They're probably at war with the Elves (or maybe not, since a lot of Elves might be evil).

The daytime would be dangerous: the time that right-thinking cavern-folk (Nilbogs and Cros) would hide from the evil Frawds and Emongs, before venturing forth at night to pacify the vast and frightening forests (full of evil Elves and Tibbohs, maybe Lehtrednaens too, with their gigantic leaders) and bring civilisation to them. So thinking of the Nilbogs and Cros as living in well-ordered underground cities and being unused to the uplands might start to suggest something of a potential setting; descendants of those who fed to the underground tunnels when some really bad apocalyptic event happened in the upper world, perhaps (this goes down a rabbit-hole of running a post-apoc D&D where the Orcs and Goblins are the descendants of the survivors in their bunkers, and the 'humans' and everyone else on the surface are the descendants of the unfortunates who were affected by the radiation/bio-chem warfare/nanobots and became mutants).

Other common inhabitants of the forests would probably included evil Nrocinus (I love that word, mostly because it looks like it's pronounced 'Nnn-rocky-nooz'), tricksy flying/invisible Eixips and Etirpses, and the odd Dayrd and Tnaert. As well as Ruatnecs maybe. Many of these would be Neutral so maybe not so different to the rules as written.

Allied races would include the somewhat solitary Ruatonims and Asudems, as well as the flying Yprahs and Elyogrags. I like the name Elyogrags. Later, PCs may be able to befriend a Nogrog or Aremich, which would be something. Then there are the Etydolgorts (another great name), whose ability to blend into their surroundings and fascinate their opponents (causing a -2 penalty to hit unless a save v poison is made) sound like pretty sound guys to have around.

Maybe the easiest way to do this is to list everything with a monster listing and a specific non-Neutral alignment (alignment 'any' will still be alignment 'any' of course) in order and then put it all backwards (so far I've only done the list for Basic)...

Bandit - N/C = Tidnab - L/N
Bugbear - C = Raebgub - L
Doppelganger - C = Regnagleppod - L
Dragon - Black, Green, Red - C = Nogard - Black, Green, Red - L
Dragon - Gold - L = Nogard - Gold - C
Dwarf - L/N = Frawd - N/C
Gargoyle - C = Elyograg - L
Ghoul - C = Louhg - L
Gnoll - C = Llong - L
Gnome - L/N = Emong - N/C
Goblin - C = Nilbog - L
Halfling - L = Gnilflah - C
Harpy - C = Yprah - L
Hobgoblin - C = Nilbogboh - L
Kobold - C = Dlobok - L
(Living Statues come next, and they come in various flavours, but I don't see any reason in particular to alter their alignment)
Wererat & Werewolf - C = Tar-erew & Flow-erew - L
Medusa - C = Asudem - L
Minotaur - C = Ruatonim - L
Neanderthal (Caveman) - L = Lahtrednaen (Namevac) - C
(Normal Humans would mostly be Chaotic according a strict flipping of alignment)
Ogre - C = Ergo - L
Orc - C = Cro - L
Shadow - C = Wodahs - L
Skeleton - C = Noteleks - L
Thoul - C = Luoht - L
Troglodyte - C = Etydolgort - L
Wight - C = Thgiw - L
Zombie - C = Eibmoz - L

What to make of the transforming Eporhtnacyl races (though only Tar-erews and Flow-erews move from Chaotic to Lawful) or the Daednu types - Eibmozes, Thgiws, Notelekses, Louhgs, Htiarws, Ymmums and Eripmavs, I'm not sure. Or Wodahses, which aren't Daednu. Having Clerics able to turn or control Daednu doesn't really seem that useful if they aren't going to be a major opposed monster type.

It's pretty obvious that most monsters listed would go from Chaotic to Lawful; the only real exceptions to this are Gold Dragons, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings and Neanderthals. It all becomes a mad mess really. There are far too many C - L swaps there to make this a worthwhile method, but maybe that's just because I took a worthwhile idea and beat it to death (almost literally, moving the undead from Chaotic to Lawful makes no sense and not doing it would reduce the catastrophic effect on balance; also, Bandits pretty much by definition make no sense as a 'Lawful' monster... unless they become some kind of anti-chaos guardian type)... I'll put some work into the Nilbog and Cro classes and see what can be done with those. But it's the setting implications that are the most peculiar result of re-imagining these relationships, I think -  they point in strange directions indeed.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rift City session 14 report - perils of the free-range party

A few relative regulars couldn't make this session but the 6 players who could constituted a party of:

Bonjella the Elf,
Galan the Elf,
Gene the Fighter,
Gibbet the Thief,
Karensa the Elf,
and, making a welcome return, Marl the Halfling.

The Rift is a megadungeon. Levels 1 and 2 constitute - at the moment - 472 rooms. As I've just worked out that 200 of those are on Level 1, the other 272 are on Level 2. Levels 3-10 exist mostly as ideas, but there are some things that exist in a more concrete form. The party has some evidence that suggests there's an Ogre colony on Level 3 or 4, as well as having  picked up rumours of a 'horned giant' somewhere around Level 3 and a Vampire perhaps around Level 6 or thereabouts. The PCs don't actually know which if any of these things are 'real'; I do, but I'm not about to confirm or deny what's real here.

The Rift also a sandbox. Not a hexcrawl for sure, but a bit like a dungeoncrawl built like a hexcrawl. There are multiple ways into the caves in the Rift. The caves themselves are sort of geographically organised - different areas have rooms of different types  (some are actual dressed-stone rooms, some are either natural caverns or chambers hewn* from the living rock) or may have different monsters (some areas are infested with Kobolds, others with giant spiders, for example) and so on. These different areas are connected together through multiple paths horizontally and vertically, as well as many of them having access to the outside. I've also detailed some areas away from the Rift in case the party goes exploring elsewhere. So there's a whole bunch of 'nodes' to go for.

Sketch-map of the edge of the Rift, about 2 miles west of Rift City

Not sure how easy it is to make out the detail, but the fat line is basically a road that zig-zags down the side of the canyon from Rift City off to the east; the thin line that crosses the eastern portion of the road is the edge of the Rift itself; two thin lines branch off the comparatively well-built (and -travelled) road, representing paths or trails through the rocky scrubland; one is marked 'path down' (I don't think I'm giving anything away here to say that there are more caves down there), and another starts with a question mark and ends with a cave; also marked are the bulge of the rocky outcrop, the 5 caves the PCs explored originally and, past the outcrop, the limit of their exploration at the cave with the question-mark near it. The area that the PCs are exploring is effectively the top of the canyon which is itself cut into a relatively-flat plateau-area... that then stands in huge mountain massif that I know as 'the Mountains of Abomination' but possibly other people call 'Rockhome'. Something like this...

An even more schematic diagram looking vaguely from west to east
Over the period of the campaign, the party has been exploring the caves on the left of the trail. These are on the uphill side of the road, they're conceptually the Level 1 caves. There are 5 entrances near the point where the trail passes into the Rift proper. The PCs spent, I think, around 10 sessions in this area (sessions 2-11, though probably four or five of those sessions were actually taken up with exploring the area under the rocky outcrop, a complex of rooms that connects the caves accessible from entrances 1-5 with those accessible from entrance 6). In that time, they've explored maybe 50 rooms (some they've visited more than once). Then, round a rocky outcrop, there's another cave entrance. The PCs have been there twice (sessions 12 and 13). The question-mark in the first diagram was the limit of the PCs exploration after 13 sessions. From these 6 cave-entrances, 161 Level 1 rooms are directly accessible.

So... what do you do when the party ignores the 161 rooms you have laid out for them, and heads for the 39 rooms you've only just sketched in? For Session 14, the PCs decided to go on past the areas they'd been before. What I don't know is, if they know they have probably only explored about 1/3 of the rooms in that area. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Pushing on past that cave they came to the fork in the trail where a rough path lead off to the left, up and away from the main road. Essentially, from somewhere round there, the road began tending downwards, and the cave entrances would potentially be on Level 2.

The cave they eventually came to was well away from the main paths and the party's hope I think was that these would have not been cleaned out by other adventurers quite so much. So, anyway, how did they fare?

The first room they came to was apparently shut with a locked wooden door. The PCs listened at the door, and having heard it was definitely occupied they decided to knock on it and see if the inhabitants would open up.

When a Kobold gingerly opened the door a crack, the PCs shot it in the face with arrows. Bonjella and Karensa flung the door open and Marl leapt in brandishing his short-sword. The Kobolds weren't surprised but they were somewhat overwhelmed by the PCs' onslaught, which wounded several more. However, that party failed to capitalise on their position and two of the PCs took injuries as the Kobolds fought back. Another round of combat however reduced the Kobolds from an initial 6 to 1, who turned tail and fled to another door but died with Galen's dagger in its back. The PCs stripped the bodies but only found coppers. They then searched the room that had a shallow pool and a 15' statue of a naked humanoid female with lobster head and claws. This is of course a reference to Blibdoolpoolp the Sea Mother, AD&D goddess of the Kuo-Toans. This room-complex was created using the WotC dungeon generator found here, that includes all sorts of creatures I don't have rules for (like Kua-Toans). She's in my copy of Deities & Demigods from about 1981 and I have always referred to her as 'Biddlyboop' as it's much easier to say than 'blib-dool-poolp'. Why she has a shrine up a mountain in a landlocked country is not necessarily easy to fathom. Fathom. It was a joke. Anyway, moving on...

The PCs searched the room but were unable to find anything significant, and some of the doors were locked. They tried using a Kobold as a battering-ram but were unable to break down one of the doors, so they continued in the direction the Kobold had been fleeing. The door it had been heading towards led to a room with a fountain and some depressions in the floor which may have served as baths. In the corner was a well and some rope, but no bucket. Fearful that something might come up, they quickly moved on.

The party came out into a wide corridor that had several branches. Taking the rightmost, they came upon several doors at the end. The first they tried was locked, so again a dead Kobold was used as a battering-ram. Gibbet was unhappy with the room, fearing a trap, so the Kobold was thrown into the room to test things out. Now, in the description it says 'anyone stepping into the room is teleported...' and it's definitely arguable that a dead Kobold, even if granted 'personhood' while alive (ie the room would have teleported a live Kobold) might not be a person when dead, so the room might not teleport a dead Kobold (or other person). But that's not what I ruled.

"The Kobold flies into the room... and disappears."

"Oh, is it a sphere of annihilation or a gelatinous cube, or something else nasty?"

So after a bit of discussion, the PCs decided to test the floor with a 10-foot pole. Now, I don't really know how this teleporter works. There are other teleporters that I know about (let's say, in other dungeons, the PCs don't know them, they live in Canada and I met them one summer etc etc) that work for example when the PCs are inside the room and the door closes. But with this one, it works while the door is open. Things can be both in and out (which isn't so likely with a closed door). And, having said that a dead Kobold set it off, I couldn't see any reason why a dead tree (ie a wooden pole) would not set it off. So, when Gibbet said that he'd stand outside and poke the floor with a 10-foot pole, the only thing that made sense was that the spell effect took hold of everything inside the room boundaries, which included the door frame, at the point that something touched the floor. So, the end of Gibbet's pole fell off.

Next, he started sliding the pole towards the door. This has the effect of a very small bit of the pole being in the room while the magical effect is working, which I think would produce an effect a bit like grinding away the end of the pole, so again a little bit came off the end.

So, having done all of this and then deciding it must be a teleportation rather than a destruction effect, Gibbet jumped into the room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

Gibbet found himself in a room very like the one he left (the same size at least) - but the door was locked. In the room with him were a dead Kobold, and some sawdust. Listening at the door he heard voices on the other side. They sounded like the party. It turned out (after the party battered the door down for him, they're better at smashing than he is at picking door-locks) that the teleporter had taken him (and the dead Kobold; and the pile of sawdust shaved from the 10'-pole) a whole 8'5" away. There were a few other things in the room, including a kind of strange drum. Gibbett decided that he may as well take it.

The world's most pointless teleport trap (the diagram has a scale and north-arrow so is a proper map)
I asked the rest of the party to step back in - and Galan then said he stepped into the teleporter room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

I'm not going to reveal why the teleporter doesn't take everything to the same place. It might be random. It might be a sequence. It might depend on age or race or sex or armour type or be influenced by any number of features. But for whatever reason, Galan was definitely transported quite a long way away.

The room Galan found himself in - he didn't know where it was - was larger than the one he had stepped into. It appeared that it was being used as place to cure animal skins. However there didn't seem to be anything of use or interest to adventurers, and nor were there any ways out except the door he'd come in by, so he exited, at which point he found himself in a corridor he didn't recognise.

Trying some other doors, one was locked but the room behind definitely seemed to have occupants. Another contained what appeared to be a smashed-up wine cellar. No other exit was visible to Galan so he turned round. Heading in the opposite direction, the corridor ended with another door, this time opening into a mouldy old library or study - with two doors this time. This room however was occupied. Some scorpions the size of cats headed towards him, but he made it to the other exit (it was unlocked) and he got out without injury. This door too opened into a corridor. Reasoning that the rest of the party was standing in a corridor, and finding a way through without going into rooms was preferable, Galan kept going.

Sure enough, round a few corners he came back to the wide corridor with several branches. Taking the right-most, he approached that party from the rear. All the while I had been rolling for wandering monsters but nothing showed up. After a quick conflab with the rest of the party it was decided to head for the library and wine-cellar - by the conventional route.

So first off (still no wandering monsters) the party headed for the library. It didn't take long to dispatch the scorpions, whereupon, channelling the spirit of Polly (who was the player's previous character), Bonjella cut off their stingers to take to Gisuintha back in town. Deciding that they'd also have a look for any interesting tomes on the way out, the party headed on to the corridor that Galan had found himself in earlier.

They couldn't open the locked door but they did make it into the wine-cellar. There they found that most of the bottles had been wrecked but there was one amphora and a barrel that were still sealed and had their contents intact. Scooping these up, the party headed back for the exit.

Stopping only at the library to pick up some of the less-mouldy scroll and books, and to make a find of 100gp stashed behind a cache of scrolls, the party made their way out. At last, I rolled for a wandering monster. Consulting the list, it turned out to be a party of three Elves coming into the caves. There was no reason to assume that the Elves were going to be hostile (and the reaction dice said that there was no immediate hostility), so conversation ensued and information was exchanged. Marl, knowing that a silver-haired Elf had been asking questions around town, tried to find out if these Elves were involved; and Gibbet lifted a purse from one which contained a couple of dozen silver pieces, but otherwise both sides went about their business unmolested.

And that was it - home to sell the bits and pieces they'd picked up (a lantern, a mirror, the wine) and divide up the gold and then off to bed for another hard day's adventuring tomorrow...

*My spellcheck doesn't like 'hewn', I wonder why? As far as I'm aware it's the normal past participle. Maybe it's one of those British/American English things.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

A map for my players...

Currently, with a mostly-1st Level party (only Gibbet the Thief has reached 2nd Level) the party is exploring some Level 1 caverns. I used the donjon dungeon generator for this area. It's an AD&D generator but fine for my purposes - I just have to change the odd monster details here and there. I use donjon's generators a lot - there are dozens on the site - and heartily recommend them to one and all.

So here is part of the map of the area - I've called this cave-system 'the Caverns of Ulfang the Black'. The players probably can't even remember who 'Ulfang the Black' is, but never mind. Perhaps they'll be reminded at some point.

Heavily redacted are the tunnels the players haven't gone down yet - just marked with arrows.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Happy Birthday to the Wandering Monster Table - Rift City Session 13 report

We reached something of a milestone on Sunday 12th August - our 13th monthly session and therefore our first birthday as a open table campaign (technically, our first session was Sunday 13th August 2017, but I can't help how calendars work - we were back round to the second Sunday in August, that's the important bit).

Apart from me, we've had at least 15 players and something like 20 PCs (RIP Fighter Bob, Fish Eye Len the Thief, Sven the Dwarf and Polly Pepperoni the Magic-User) as well as a few NPCs (RIP Vortigern the Cleric and Keith the Orcish lantern-bearer) going down to the caves to kick monster-butt.

At the thirteenth session, the party consisted of:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Shazam the Elf

As a result of the proclamation from the Mayor about 'diverse Undead' and the necessity to burn corpses, the PCs decided to load up with flasks of oil before their expedition. No problem, oil is a fairly common commodity in Rift City. So they ended up with about a dozen flasks between them.

They decided that they would continue to explore the caves in the same area where they were at the last session. Ningal 'the Mad Witch' (as the PCs keep calling her) had given them a rough map with some locations marked on, including a ring of standing stones. As these are underground it's unlikely that they are for astronomical observation, but perhaps they are really ancient and the mountain grew over them..? Anyway the PCs were intrigued and decided to check out the location.

First however, they had to deal with infestations of spiders. The wandering monster table for this area included several listings for swarms of small spiders, as well as the notions on the map claiming that different areas were the home of 'spyders' (Ningal's spelling is not necessarily standard). Rolling on the wandering monster table for the party's first encounter, I came up with a spider swarm. They discussed briefly whether small spiders were really all that bad, and then, having decided that they could still be poisonous even if small, with a combination of missile-fire and burning oil, the PCs wiped out the spiders. After this, the party headed vaguely south again through the caverns.

Shortly after this, I rolled for another wandering monster. OK, let's see what it is this time... oh, a spider swarm. This time the spiders were following down a (fairly) narrow tunnel. Shazam poured a flask of oil on the floor and Cnut lit it with a torch. That stopped the second spider-swarm fairly well.

Shortly after this, heading vaguely south through the caverns, the PCs came to a wide cave inhabited by Giant Rats - four of them. The PCs made pretty short work of them to be honest, there are seven of them at the moment and I think everyone has plate mail (Gibbet the Thief wasn't here, he's about the only one that doesn't wear plate). They didn't search the room however...

Pushing on, the PCs came to the cave where the standing stones are. Big black slabs deliberately set into the floor, and of a kind of stone unlike the stone of the caves. But not, apparently, set up to any purpose that the PCs could find. Should the stones have a purpose? It's difficult to know what to say really (especially as my players are now reading the blog). Sometimes, things that look significant will be just window-dressing. Sometimes, things that don't seem to have significance will be important but you missed a clue or don't yet have another piece of the puzzle that helps to understand why they're important. Should eight huge monoliths (yes, we did decide it was an 'octolith') in a cave have a significance, and if so, what? Answers in the comments, or if you don't want my PCs to see, to redorc01 at please...

While there, they became aware of a faint glowing in the east. Not the dawn, some Fire-Beetles. So, the PCs hid in the stone circle and shot the beetles to death. Of course they harvested as many glands as they could, ready to sell them to Gisuintha the Mage.

Then it was off to see if the Undead marked on Ningal's map had any treasure. It turned out that there were a several caves of Undead, one of Ghouls, and two of Zombies. I found some more clerical errors in my file here, repeated room descriptions including a repetition of the standing stones. Oops. Must get better at spotting those sorts of things. And despite having 'Zombies' marked on the map for the second Zombie room, there was nothing in the room description. Never mind, it's easy enough to generate a stat-bloc of monsters using the Labyrinth Lord monster generator here. The Ghouls and Zombies were down two different tunnels next to each other; the Ghouls (with another cave beyond them) in one tunnel and the Zombies in the other.

So anyway, three rooms, containing three Ghouls, eight Zombies and 11 more Zombies - the party fought them, Gwynthor tried to turn them (he succeeded in turning some of the second group of Zombies), and the party managed to avoid Ghoul Paralysis while taking a couple of minor injuries from the Zombies. These are for the most part fairly big caves, so the party is usually able to utilise missile fire fairly effectively - especially on slow-moving opponents. In the end even 11 Zombies didn't cause them much problem.

So, they collected the treasure from the Ghouls - including a really useful magic item I think, a Bag of Holding - and those Zombies that had loot, and Galen and Shazam searched the room beyond the Ghouls but didn't find anything. They also saw that in one of the Zombie rooms, a shaft went down into darkness. The party dropped a torch down there, then threw some oil after at - I decided that it was effectively a 'to hit' roll and not disappointing, Berg - I think - rolled a natural 20. So, the oil flask hit the torch and exploded in fire. Unfortunately, the PCs couldn't really see much of the room down there, as they were still looking down a narrow shaft. They decided not to venture down.

By this point is was getting fairly close to the end of the session. Discussing what should come next and whether they should go and murder Ningal, I decided to remind them that they hadn't searched the room where they killed the Giant Rats. I occasionally allow them a check against Intelligence for things like that. So the PCs remembered and decided that it may be a good idea.

Heading back they ran into a Shrieker, but they managed to Sleep it enough so that didn't summon anything else. Then they chopped it into bits. It didn't seem right, Sleeping a giant mushroom, but I couldn't find anything in the rules to prevent it. They also came face to face with yet more spiders - so the again party used fire against them. They are very easy to drive off.

After that they ducked down the side-passage to where the Giant Rats' cave was, and there was the loot they'd left. The Rats had been nesting in a rather nice shield. There was also a gem there. The party picked up the loot and stuffed everything into the Bag of Holding.

The PCs finally got back the entrance, where they noticed a Green Slime, but managed to avoid it (as they only move 3' per turn). And that was pretty much it - they were out the caves and heading for the city, ready for an evening's drinking and generally mollocking about Rift City, organising whatever needs organising - presumably, including selling the Fire Beetle glands to Gisuintha the Mage.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

'Minimum' D&D

There's a discussion in the B/X Facebook group about introducing young kids, in this case aged 5-7, to D&D.

I've been finessing the idea of a stripped-down character sheet - I started here:

... where anything in blue is just book-keeping by the DM and not necessary for the PC to know. Why should a player be bothered about a save against Death Ray if they never encounter a Death Ray? What does it matter?

Eventually, especially due to discussions with someone else on the thread, I started adding pictures, and arrived at this (where the 7hp in 'Health', and the 43 on the bag of gold, are pencilled in):

So I guess the question is, is this really D&D? Is the minimum information presented on this 'character sheet' enough to play something that's recognisable as D&D?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

By Order of the Mayor

It is the evening after the PCs return from the caves, and several of them are wandering around town trying to fulfil various tasks (getting a shield, trying to get hold of healing potions and such like). While doing so, they see a group of people affixing the following printed poster to various walls around town (which must logically have a fairly literate population, or they wouldn't bother... I presume that there will also be some sort of town crier-type announcement too, possibly in Common, Dwarvish and any other languages that might seem appropriate).

Oh, and it appears from the name that the Mayor might be a Halfling. I realised I hadn't named him (or her) and then I did and hey presto, Jasper Grubbily, a thoroughly respectable member of the Halfling business community, is now the Mayor...

The Eve of St. Sha-Un is taken from the Labyrinth Lord calendar of the Church of Law and Order in the city of Dolmvay, which I'm patterning the Church of Issek on (as detailed in a post from a couple of years ago here). It's the 20th of Fish-month, more or less our 12th March.

The deliberate use of 'f' instead of 's' is basically a joke. In Early Modern English (and German until they stopped using Black Letter in about 1920 I believe) the letter s was often written ʃ - which looks rather more like an f to a modern English-speaker. Cue lots of hilarious jokes about people reading old documents and getting stuck (or maybe 'ftuck') when reaching the word 'suck'... as in 'where ʃucks the bee, there ʃuck I...'.

So, I thought I'd ʃtick it into my ʃilly poʃter too.

But as the text is written (or maybe carved?) in three hands, not all of them show, or even ʃhew, this trait... either that or I got tired and forgot to make it all consistent. Jasper, at least, knows how to do an 's'!